Bad Reputation [release date 14.05.21] Kik Tracee were one of the fallen in 1992′s Grunge assault on the Sunset Strip/Glam/Bandana/Sleaze (delete as appropriate) Rock’n’roll supremacy. A young band, clearly “inspired” by Guns’n’Roses, you can hear they had something to offer, … Continue reading →
3CD boxset looking at pure 1970s rock music, with contributions from big names like Thin Lizzy, The ‘Orrible Who and The Faces, plus lesser lights such as Babe Ruth, Hard Stuff and Trapeze. Ian Canty is on loon pants duty for this one…
Classic rock. There I said it and for the the few that didn’t immediately click off from this page after seeing the phrase, thank you for remaining to read some more. After all, it wasn’t all bad. Take the track that kicks off this new Riding The Rock Machine boxset, which is Rainbow’s Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll. Yep it may well be more than a bit cliched, but it is also pretty exciting as well. I know after punk’s year zero schtick we weren’t meant to enjoy this kind of stuff ever again, but all these years on it seems more than a little daft not grant the music a fair hearing. If one enters with an open mind, there is a lot of fun to be had on this collection which highlights rock in its basic form.
On disc one of this set after Rainbow’s bombastic but pleasurable opener and the racing, organ-led Easy Livin’ by Uriah Heep, we get the “everything but kitchen sink” production rush of The Moody Blues’ mad I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band). Yes, it may be a bit “on the nose” lyrically, but that is what Riding The Rock Machine is about, a no nonsense celebration of riff power. Foghat’s Slow Ride, which I had previously encountered whilst trying my hand unsuccessfully at Guitar Hero, is really the basic rock thud as an attitude. A nice funky bass-line sees the verses through, in what elsewhere is a textbook case of heads-down relentlessness. Something that is surely one of the touchstones of classic rock.
The Who and The Faces were perhaps at the top of the tree as live acts went in the early to mid 1970s (though The Stones and Led Zeppelin would no doubt have contested that) and it is only right and proper that they both feature on Riding The Rock Machine. The Faces are represented by their big hit single Cindy Incidentally, which grooves along in a lithe but chunky fashion. Ian McLagan’s keyboards on this one are a real delight. Success Story, a John Entwistle song from The Who By Numbers, is one-time High Numbers’ jangly country rock contribution here. Trapeze were Glenn Hughes’ pre-Deep Purple act and appear in a similar mode to The Faces and Free on Black Cloud, an archetypal and fab hard-nosed rocker.
Coming at things from a more glam angle were Birmingham’s Blackfoot Sue, who supply us with a mighty stomper in Standing In The Road, false ending and all. They sound like Slade’s little brothers, which is not a bad thing at all. It makes sense to mention Sweet’s sparky Action single here too, though they had moved away from the glam slam by the time this was recorded in 1975. Fancy’s She’s Ridin’ The Rock Machine is a catchy, funky tune with a nicely cynical lyric and gives this boxset its title. You can’t really highlight UK rock in the 1970s without mentioning The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and they shine on their rhythmic classic Boston Tea Party, with soaring guitar adding to the fun.
I have to admit though that I found the second disc of Riding… not quite as satisfying as the first. There are some good moments, but there is also a lot of middling AOR without the sheer rock power that marks out the better examples of the form. Nazareth’s edgy, slip-sliding rhythm of This Flight Tonight is enjoyable though despite some daft lyrics and Wishing Well by Free has, as one might suspect, plenty of hard rock hammer to spare. Out Of Your Head by Welsh band Man is good stuff too with a neat touch of psych fuzz mixed into the rough and tumble, something which only adds to its appeal.
Hawkwind aim their space rock more towards glam/punk mode on the super and louche Quark, Strangeness And Charm. The tune sits a little incongruously on this disc, nevertheless it is always good to hear. Joining the Hawks in the proto punk stakes on this disc are Silverhead, represented by the lively and infectious motorbiking song Ace Supreme and the cool Only After Dark by Mick Ronson is quite wonderful. Curved Air prove there was far more to them than Back Street Luv on the imaginative U.H.F., which moves playfully in and out of a standard rock format with lovely more serene sections and Rococo’s Hoodlum Fun is full of rough riffing and attitude.
Stray are usually good fun and so it proves on their raw and rocky take of Cliff’s Move It and Maggot, Opportunity Knocks winners under the name Strawberry Jam, give us an inventive demo in Shoelace that was unlucky not to lead anywhere. There are some great harmony vocals and a real drive present here, showing plenty of promise that wasn’t realised. A shame. In the interest of fairness punk’s bogeymen ELP’s disc closer Lucky Man shimmers coolly. Perhaps it doesn’t truly chime in with Riding The Rock Machine’s classic rock remit, but what the hell it is totally charming.
The final disc of this set beginning with no-one’s idea of classic rockers, Roxy Music. You probably don’t need me to tell you Street Life is right out of the top drawer either. Be-Bop Deluxe, always sliding all over the shop in a brilliant and exciting manner, give us the fine Maid In Heaven, with Bill Nelson at the peak of his game. Family sound as unusual and special as ever on their deserved UK top five hit In My Own Time and horns and guitar meld well on Atomic Rooster’s single Devil’s Answer. Their spin-off band Hard Stuff do good things on the raging funk rock of Monster In Paradise and National Flag impress with the unissued at the time effort Blowing A Million, cocksure boogie par excellence.
Thin Lizzy, another top live draw at the time, feature with Jailbreak. Though people have rather cottoned on to the weakness of the chorus’ lyric conceit over the years, musically it remains a fine example of muscular hard rock. New York City Groove, a big hit for Hello, gets another run out and pop boffins 10CC have an album version of their pure pop nugget Life Is A Minestrone featured. Smokestack Crumble, an obscure group from South Shields with drummer Paul Thompson in their line-up who would later join Roxy, grant us the perky and pleasingly nutty Got A Bad Leg.
The Winkies, again with a Roxy link but this time through Eno who used them as his backing band, offer us a cool rejigging of Peggy Lee’s Fever. Mott The Hoople could always kick up a rock & roll storm with the best of them, but the thoughtful Ready For Love/After Lights adds another layer of interest. It’s good to hear a few female voices on here as 70s UK rock was very much a boys club unfortunately. Babe Ruth’s uptempo, freewheeling rocker Jack O’ Lantern provides a fitting showcase for the great Jenny Haan’s powerful vocals. The set ends with Argent’s God Gave Rock And Roll To You, which some may know from the Kiss cover that was in the film Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey. The groovy organ swirls of the Argent take that is presented here, for me give it a decided edge.
Riding The Rock Machine skirts around glam, progressive, art rock and even a little proto punk occasionally, with the only possible unifying thing appearing to be elements of gung-ho attack. Even that fades at times, but the upside of that is that it makes for variety. This collection fits in a jigsaw-puzzle fashion with Grapefruit’s other boxsets from the same period and there is unavoidably a certain amount of overlap, with some bands putting in an appearance on a few of them. Still, for anyone who enjoys this kind of sound but can only imagine classic rock through UK radio’s narrow definition from their “set in stone” playlists, this boxset should broaden your horizons nicely. If, like me, Riding The Rock Machine is outside your usual listening habits, it makes for an entertaining way to start exploring.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here
2CD collection of all the single sides recorded in the 1970s by glam rock act Hello, who are best known for big hits Tell Him and New York City Groove. This set also has as a bonus three tracks taken from drummer Jeff Allen’s early 1980s solo singles….Ian Canty says Hello again…
Unlike the majority of glam rock pretenders, Hello actually qualified by age for a teenage rampage. The four band members Bob Bradbury, Jeff Allen, Vic Faulkner and Keith Marshall first came together in Tottenham, North London under the name The Age in 1968, when they were all just 12 years of age. Initially they acted as the backing outfit for singer Carol Hall, the daughter of their booking agent and in this form they put in an appearance on the ITV kids show Magpie. Parting company with the Halls in 1971, they celebrated this change by switching the band name to Hello.
Soon afterwards, they were taken on by the team of Russ Ballard and David Blaylock, the latter taking up the management duties and to this end got them a deal with the Bell record label. For his part Ballard, also a member of ex-Zombie Rod Argent’s rock band Argent, was a budding songsmith. Though Hello wrote their own songs, Ballard would supply most the a sides for their singles as they attempted to make a breakthrough on the UK charts. The band themselves had to be content with writing the flipsides.
It was a struggle to begin with, as the pretty listenable and dynamic You Move Me, C’mon and Another School Days 7-inches all flopped. The latter was a particularly engaging rocker, a tough and loveable version of The Troggs reset for glam times. Combined with the energetic drive of C’mon Get Together on the flip, it all made for a tasty disc that really should have done better.
The Bert Russell song from the early 1960s, Tell Him, was resurrected by the band for their fourth single. Enhanced with a contemporary racing beat, it slowly edged its way up the charts until it finally found a place in the UK top 10. Again it was furnished with a good self-penned flipside in Lightning. Going into 1975 everything looked bright for Hello, but for some inexplicable reason their excellent follow-up Game’s Up floundered. It did however makes a reasonable impact in Germany, a country that took the band to their hearts. Faced with this misfire, they fell back to the tactic of modernising another well worn cover, releasing an unsuccessful and fairly duff version of the Amen Corner hit Bend Me Shape Me.
After this second setback in a row, Hello struck big again with the Russ Ballard song/blues stomp New York City Groove, which made number 9 in the UK pop charts. This hit was the end of their success in their home country, but Germany remained fairly receptive to their brand of youthful glam stomping, with Hello charting there into 1977. New York City Groove’s cool, understated follow up with a nicely sly lyric Star Studded Sham possibly deserved to emulate its predecessor, but didn’t. Next the Teenage Revolution/Keep Us Off The Streets 7-inch release was pulled at the last minute by the record label, which couldn’t have done much for Hello’s confidence. They were two perfectly good if not earthshattering tracks off the band’s debut album, even if spring 1976 was late for their glam sound.
The next single given a proper release, Love Stealer, was their final one for Bell, as the imprint itself folded and parent company Arista picked up Hello instead. This had a far more laidback sound than before, one which recognised the need to revamp themselves in a rapidly changing music scene. Unfortunately, it was another record by the band that did well in Germany and stiffed in the UK. The song was later covered by Cliff Richard. On the other side of this disc was Out Of Our Heads, more of their standard and by now a bit dated glam beat.
By the time we reach the second disc of The Singles Collection, Hello were firmly in a downwards trajectory, with even Germany beginning to lose interest. The fairly standard rock-pop of Seven Rainy Days was issued on mainland Europe only and may have listeners recalling Smokie. It is pleasant enough, but you can see why it didn’t make a huge splash. B side Rebel is a touch more imaginative though. By the time of its March 1977 issue, New York City Groove knock-off Let It Rock must have seemed like it belonged to a different age, but it did at least make the German top 30.
Shine On Silver Light, in quite a different style, came hard on the heels of Let It Rock and did nothing. To be honest it wasn’t a strong record, MOR pop with strings really and not even that catchy. On the other side, galloping rocker Gotta Lotta Soul was a slight improvement. The more upbeat blues-rock of the Good Old USA/Midnight Strangers single did however restore them to the lower reaches of the German charts.
For their final UK 7″ Hello offered Heart Get Ready For Love, a limping pop-rock song that didn’t really suit a band that were much better off when making a pleasing racket. The tougher Slow Motion was an improvement that again tapped into blues rock and b side The In Place isn’t bad either. That the German follow up was an update of Hi Ho Silver Lining says it all about Hello’s standing in the late 1970s. Their final single was Feel This Thing, a good effort that had a danceable disco backbeat and an insistent hook. The longer DJ version is especially fine, so at least Hello went out on a high.
The band’s career ground to a final halt in 1979. Keith Marshall opted to go solo while Hello was in its death throes and he scored a UK hit single with Only Crying two years after the split. Drummer Jeff Allen also tried his luck with a single called Horoscope under the name Local Boy Makes Good in 1981. It’s an interesting enough new wave/electropop curio that isn’t a million miles away from what his brother Chris Cross of Ultravox was doing at the time. The flipside Hypnotic Rhythm is an epic sounding synth thing and Jeff must have been suitably emboldened to issue his second (and final) 7-inch Good Times under his own name. But this tune was far different in style, sounding like a throwback to glam in fact, with handclaps and squealing sax sat atop a big beat rhythm.
I reviewed the Hello – The Albums release in 2016 (you can read that review here) and while you’re not missing much if you already possess that set, The Singles Collection gives one a full rundown of most of their better moments at a reasonable price. The Jeff Allen single tracks are good to have, but hardly essential. Hello’s b sides were generally worth a listen, which makes this set of more value. For example, The Wench is a neat freewheeling rocker and Game’s Up had the brilliant flip Do It All Night, which is positively punky and really catchy. I couldn’t help thinking it possibly was a little wasted as a flipside, as it would have made a good single in its own right.
Hello never had the success of Bowie, Bolan, Slade or The Sweet, but were a good second string glam act. Game’s Up was a real gem and though their self-penned efforts were often consigned to b sides, they were more often than not equal to the outside songs foisted on them. I had fun listening to this and Hello certainly had their moments, far more of them than their “two hits wonder” status might suggest.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here
SPV/Steamhammer [Release date 26.03.21] Suzi Quatro is back with her new album ‘The Devil In Me’, which kike 2019’s ‘No Control’ album is a joint effort between her and son Richard Tuckey. As Suzi Quatro explained “Starting spring 2020, almost … Continue reading →
Sonic Bond Publishing Roy Wood: The Move, ELO & Wizzard by James R Turner The ‘On Track…’ series gets to one of my musical heroes, Roy Wood. An interesting musician to cover, as although he still tours, Roy Wood has … Continue reading →
2CD reissue of the final Be Bop Deluxe album from 1978, presented in both the original stereo version and a brand new mix, along with 14 bonus tracks. The album is also being made available in a deluxe (sic) six-disc limited edition, with 4CDs and 2DVDs. Ian Canty probes the final works of Bill’s Be Bop…
In an almost undercover fashion, Bill Nelson and Be Bop Deluxe glided through the rules of Year Zero like they did not exist. With some incredible sleight of hand, he/they managed this enviable feat, something only a few pre-punk acts managed to achieve. If I were to hazard a wild guess into exactly how this was done, I would say that Nelson/Be Bop were helped by the fact they continually updated their outlook and sound. The band were tireless in their pursuit of the new and, for the most part, rounded off any excesses with an irresistible infectiousness that few of their contemporaries could aspire to. They also endowed their sometimes challenging material with an accessible, no-nonsense rhythmic base. They were as tight as a gnat’s chuff, to coin a phrase and this gave Bill a solid framework on which to fire off his full range of unorthodox and often revolutionary ideas.
By the time of Drastic Plastic’s release, however, it appears that Nelson began to feel uncomfortable with how Be Bop Deluxe were perceived and wanted them to move forward in the much-changed world of 1978. In the run-up to the recording of Drastic Plastic, punk was happening and his outlook was not that far removed from the young hellions. He apparently wanted to split the band after the Modern Music LP, as he felt stifled by the complacent attitude that was rife in the music business. As ever with his ear to the ground, he was aware of these massive changes that were percolating and the new mood that prevailed. He wanted to be in on this new flush of experimentation and not merely seen as a rock ‘n’ roll antique or cash cow for the record label.
Nelson relented after much soul-searching and persuasion, but this feeling would intensify as things went on and ultimately lead to Be Bop Deluxe ending not long after Drastic Plastic. It might be said the album was a dry run for Bill Nelson’s Red Noise, but it clearly has such merit of its own that it deserves separate recognition.
He may have been conflicted at the time, but Drastic Plastic feels like he was genuinely seeking to reposition Be Bop as a viable concern in the wake of post-punk. It could even be said that this process began back on previous album Modern Music, which just goes to show how far Nelson was ahead of things. Having no fear of technology or the new influx of talent that was dramatically rearranging UK music set him in good stead and this final version of Be Bop Deluxe sound at least up to the task of moving on up into the future.
The band duly assembled in the early summer of punk at the Chateau Saint Georges studio in France, in order to record their new material. It seems a trifle odd that such a lush setting (Bill calls it idyllic in the sleeve note) was used as the background for putting down on tape the album’s mainly edgy material, but that’s how it was.
Opening track Electrical Language sets out their stall with some weird but catchy modern pop music. It still sounds fresh now with alternate guitar thrashes/gleams and synthesiser flutters. This forms a neat and unique beginning to the record and presents the band as recast anew for the late 70s. Then follows New Precision’s guitar growls and watery keyboards, which forms part of a very accessible sound that gives Bill a chance to blast off some of his show-stopping guitars runs. Third track New Mysteries has a classic Be Bop intro and then goes into a chilly, almost funky rhythm, which has echoes of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy.
Piano leads the way on Surreal Estate, which shuffles along otherwise in stately fashion, right up to a gloriously realised chorus. This is a packed production which seems almost like a look back to psychedelia, but is really charming and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, ending with a whimsical note with Whistle While You Work. Definitely odd and the punky thrash of Love In Flames that comes hammering in straight afterwards gives the listener some idea of the variety to expect contained among Drastic Plastic’s grooves. This number is furnished with a Farfisa organ that strengthens the ties back to the garageland of punk’s 1960s roots.
Next comes Panic In The World, which a good choice for the first single from the LP. It failed to hit the charts, but is really tuneful and has a kind of Velvet Underground drive to it which would have fitted into the UK hit parade of early 1978 well. Dangerous Stranger is stop/start Buddy Holly fed through the new wave, choppy chords and a decidedly arch delivery, think a punky 10CC with skinny ties and you’re in the right neighbourhood.
Superenigmatix (Lethal Appliances For The Home With Everything) is a great title and a hyperactive rhythm that appears to be right on the exact spot where art rock and post-punk meet. It is where urgent Wire-esque verses give way to more expansive keyboard sections and vice versa. This song segues into the short reflective guitar meditation Visions Of Endless Hopes, which gives the listener a chance to take a breath after a raft of more upbeat and powerful thumpers. Perhaps the most throwaway track on the album, it does however provide a necessary buffer. Possession then kicks things into gear again, there’s more great guitar work and bundles of energy on this tune, one that builds from a basic start into something brilliant.
Final track Islands Of The Dead is a wistful ballad and a strangely low-key but tuneful way for Be Bop Deluxe to go out on. With Drastic Plastic the band managed to provide a fine collection full of adventure and above all some cracking melodies too. It is a shame that they finished so soon afterwards, but, given the circumstances, it appears an inevitability.
On disc one, we have 9 bonus tracks. The first two of these come from the Japan/Futurist Manifesto single, the release of which preceded Drastic Plastic in the summer of 1977. The former makes such good use of synth that it is virtually a forerunner of electropop and taken with Futurist Manifesto’s mix of piano chords, synths and spoken words, must have bamboozled a few long term fans. The more easy-going melodic pop/rock of Blues Is The Jewel was the flipside of Panic In The World and is an ace tune that may have been wasted as a b side.
The final section of this disc presents six songs recorded at the same time as Drastic Plastic, for an EP which in the end never surfaced. Though all have their positives, the picks for me were the classy Speed Of The Wind, which begins with a guitar and vocal intro and then has a rum but pleasing excursion to a near-reggae rhythm, plus the sad and anthemic Lovers Are Mortal. Having said that, Blimps, a menacing drone mood piece, was a sign of things to come.
Disc two has the new stereo mix of Drastic Plastic. I know it is sacrilege to say but it does sound just a touch crisper. I think good work has been done and having both mixes means if you remember it better as it was, you do not miss out. Bonus tracks on this disc are the single edits of Panic In The World, Electrical Language and Love In Flames, plus two previously unreleased offerings in Take 4 of Islands Of The Dead and The Saxophonist. The latter is a reflective jazz instrumental that is totally unlike anything else on this set, but it is nice and gives Bill ample opportunity to display his guitar chops outside of the rock ‘n’ roll sphere.
Though Drastic Plastic was in effect the sound of a band without a future, what an alive and enthralling picture they painted in their death throes. This new 2CD set does the record justice and the new stereo mix gives one further insight. Added to this, the detailed sleeve note in the accompanying booklet from Bill Nelson himself puts you right at the heart of the action. Esoteric have done sound work on their Be Bop Deluxe reissue campaign and this final instalment is right up to the high standard they have set.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here
Subtitled Glam Queens And Street Urchins (1970-1976), this new set is loosely a follow up 2019’s well-received RPM 3CD box All The Young Droogs. This time round Roxy Music, Mott The Hoople and The Troggs rub shoulders with lesser-known combs like Streak, Rococo and Rosie. Ian Canty ventures to a land beyond the valley of Devil Gate Drive…
On first inspection this new compilation Oh! You Pretty Things seems to explore the shiny and brash glam explosion, which became the first true UK pop craze of the 1970s, plus its more “serious” and diverse “older brother” underground rock. But in between we have talented singer-songwriters, proto-punk maniacs, would-be natural heirs to The Small Faces and a boatload of opportunists, among the many other shades of early 70s pop. This does seem to me to be squarely a follow up to the All The Young Droogs 3CD set of a year or two ago and includes some of the same artists too. That isn’t really a big deal as far as I’m concerned, because that was an excellent selection box of the era (read the review here). It does, however, give Oh! You Pretty Things a lot to live up to.
Naturally inhabiting the same terrain to All The Young Droogs, this new set adds vital detail to what has these days become something of a glittering myth. Glam has become as much a 1970s cliché as dark, foreboding streets, terrible interior design, rumblings of industrial discontent, power cuts and three tv channels that shut off at midnight. Really just an overfamiliar trope purpose-built to be mocked on We Love The 70s-type clip shows. Yet despite this it had real, lasting value and revitalised what was becoming a very dull music scene. Glam only made a limited impact in America, despite being the place pioneers of the style like the Velvets, the Warhol crowd and The Stooges initially emerged from, but in Britain, it was big news.
What isn’t often recalled is that even though thousands of kids all over the UK embraced glam as their own, virtually everyone else in the country hated it and weren’t exactly backwards in lambasting the whole thing. Much like punk, which couldn’t conceivably occurred without glam, all-comers from the Peter Pan of pop Cliff to the NME, from guardians of the nation’s morals to “serious” rock fans, lined up to vent their collective loathing for the glitter pop scene which occupied centre stage.
Old duffers were outraged (and perhaps a bit turned on?) to see bands in wild outfits and pretty boys in make up, whilst hip music journos sneered peevishly “they can’t play” and “it’s all a money-making con”. Ring any bells? Even though many of the glam ranks came directly from the 1960s generation, a good few of their contemporaries weren’t happy with the situation either. Perhaps being usurped as no longer being the bright young things upsetting the oldies, but becoming the “oldies” themselves, is what irked them. The passing of the years matured the 60s rebels into the new establishment, whereas the glam rockers were just toting some frothy, pure fun for a generation too young to enjoy the fruits of the swinging decade. Even some of the bands codified under the glam label weren’t too happy about it, witness Blackfoot Sue’s scathing Glam Obituary on disc one of this set
But we’re only getting half or possibly three quarters of the story of Oh! You Pretty Things by focussing on solely glam, because a lot else was happening too, with underground rock not a total thing of the past and would-be proto-punks making their first steps. So let us delve into the music, which when all is said and done will determine whether or not you choose to pursue this set further.
The first disc certainly comes out swinging with four big-name acts. Roxy Music open things up with Pyjamarama and there’s probably not a better scene-setter than could have been selected, still sounding otherworldly and like a future yet to be discovered, but also zeroing the listener into the sense of wonder and imagination of the best of the early 1970s UK pop scene. ELO follow with the atypically tough Ma-Ma-Ma Belle and Sparks seems well on the way to inventing new wave a couple of years early on Barbercutie. Here they weld Eddie Cochran riffs to The Who’s original power-pop attack but, aided by the strangeness intrinsic to the Maels, it becomes something completely of their own. Given the boxset’s title it is natural that The Pretty Things are here and the tuneful and assured Joey just goes to show what a valuable outfit they still were.
Front cover stars The Hollywood Brats could have gone on and become one of the UK’s top bands of the time, They were bold, brash and trashy with great tunes, but being ahead of their time and the chaos that surrounded them didn’t help. As it was, they laboured away in obscurity, which doesn’t make Tumble With Me any less great. There’s so much on this disc of note, but space dictates this will have to be a whistle-stop tour. Hopefully most people know how fabulous Be Bop Deluxe, Ian Hunter, The Kinks and Hawkwind are and their contributions here, respectively Teenage Archangel, One Bitten Twice Shy, Powerman and the punk soul Kerb Crawler, all cut the mustard.
Mick Ronson’s spirited cover of White Light White Heat was a cast-off from the Pin Ups album sessions and it would be inaccurate not to mention that the considerable shadow of David Bowie hangs over this set. Most obviously, Simon Turner covers The Prettiest Star, Dana Gillespie does a cool take of Andy Warhol and DB’s underlying influence is usually somewhere to be found in the background.
Among the lesser well-known artists are Peter Perrett’s pre-Only Ones band England’s Glory. Their Bright Lights may have a bit of VU influence, something that is strongly suggested in the sleeve notes, but this song is heart-breaking in a way only Pete could do. Peter Meaden proteges Streak reimagine The Stooges as a pop act on the fine On The Ball and Blue Movie Star, an unreleased song by obscure five-piece Rococo, is a fast and explosive effort which wouldn’t shame Sparks. Gary Holton’s Heavy Metal Kids give us the tearaway anthem The Cops Are Coming and Send Me The Bill For Your Friendship is a bitter, brilliant song right out of the top drawer by the late Duncan Browne, a visionary artist who thoroughly deserves more acclaim. The Pink Fairies rough and ready Street Urchin finishes things off for what is a top quality platter from beginning to end.
Moving on to the second part of Oh! You Pretty Things, you would think that this disc would have trouble following up its predecessor. But when you open up with Slade’s grandstanding breakthrough number one Take Me Bak ‘Ome, Thin Lizzy (with a fuzzy and tough rocker Little Darling), Lou Reed And John Cale as four out of the first five offerings, you know the standard set is not going to drop. Lou is represented by the peerless Satellite Of Love and Cale goes back to his VU roots on the menacing chug of Gun. It is the mix between the bigger bands/singers of the time and new discoveries unearthed which makes this set so appealing.
After this initial blast (and one shouldn’t forget Zior’s infectious stomp Cat’s Eyes among Noddy, Phil and the Velvets), we enter a run of proto-punks. The mighty Jess Hector is a nailed-on certainty for this kind of collection and his Hammersmith Gorillas rarely failed. They certainly don’t on Shame, Shame, Shame, where a mid-60s mod pop number is kitted out with prime 70s raunch and solid playing. Knox of The Vibrators crops up in Despair, who provide us with the busy and pleasing Lady Easy Action and the excellent Doctors Of Madness, who give us a demo version of B-Movie Bedtime, show here how far ahead of the crowd they were in 1975. Iggy crops up with Mainman demo Gimme Some Skin and Third World War get bluesy on the class conscious Rat Crawl.
There is so much to dig and excite here, one is tempted to write about every track. Curved Air are alarmingly punky on The Purple Speed Queen and Agnes Strange (a band from Southampton, not a female singer) seem to anticipate The Pistols’ Did You No Wrong on Give Yourself A Chance. Rosie, a spin-off band from Streak, are a real discovery, appearing like a slightly restrained Hammersmith Gorillas on their decidedly non-PC Rosie’s Coming To Town (it was a different time, as I think I once heard someone say) and The mighty Troggs bump and grind on Strange Movies. Tim Curry’s cast recording from The Rocky Horror Show Sweet Transvestite hits the sweet spot betwixt spoof and authenticity and Wayne County, who was another huge influence on all things glam and punk, shows again why his/her work should be more lauded with the fast and funny Queenage Baby.
We arrive at the final disc of Oh! You Pretty Things with The Dolls’ Personality Crisis, the album version with producer Todd Rundgren’s flowing piano part. Then Slough’s Tina Harvey does a more or less straight cover of I’m Waiting For The Man, a record that arrived just that a few months early for the punk crowd. I know I’m biased but to me John Howard is one of this country’s best songsmiths and early recording Small Town, Big Adventures shows his muse already fully formed. It is stuffed full of great lines and cut with a breezy, elegant style. Brett Smiley’s Space Age is full-blown glam mayhem and this opening salvo makes Leo Sayer’s actually quite pretty tune The Dancer seem inconsequential in comparison.
A Raincoat, a pseudonym for studio boffin Andy Arthurs, cut an irresistible camp gem in I Love You For Your Mind (Not Your Body) and Duffy’s The Browns is the kind of 1960s character study The Small Faces and The Kinks specialised in, updated for glitter rock times. Who knows who the berk was at Chrysalis who decided not to issue The Winkies’ superb freewheeling rocker Last Chance as a single. Given a chance it may well have given them a much deserved leg-up. Then The Flamin’ Groovies prove with their back to basics sound Dog Meat they were helping to prepare the ground for punk, prior to jangling themselves right back to the sixties with Shake Some Action.
Spiv, from London, veer close to heavy metal on high energy rocker Little Girl. So much so that it is no surprise that drummer Tony Church later played in NWOBHM band Shadowfax. Jesse Hector returns with more brutal and beautiful sounds in High School Dropout, cut with his pre-Gorillas outfit Crushed Butler. If this is the sound of “three ugly heavy musicians making music to match” sign me up right now!
The Hollywood Stars were put together by Kim Fowley as a LA version of the New York Dolls, though the premeditation doesn’t harm the slightly bluesy rocker King Of The Night Time World. The set finishes with Alex Harvey’s semi-autobiographical The Last Of The Teenage Idols and Mott’s eternal Saturday Gigs – it’s hard not to think The Clash may have got their start as a combo of these two, they are such brilliant snapshots of the early 1970s you can almost touch it.
I’m not going to be making any apologies for raving about this set – it is brilliantly put together and sequences top-notch better known material with rarities in a way that had me jumping out of my seat with joy. As usual with these kind of sets we get nuggets of information and pictures of the artists in the accompanying booklet and the clamshell box it comes in for me gives it that touch of quality the slipcase simply doesn’t. Oh! You Pretty Things is as good a survey of the glam times as we are likely to see and massively enjoyable to listen to.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here
Nancy has arrived on the scene with a blast of wobbly acid glam that stands out from the rest. Keith Goldhanger was first on the scene for LTW back here when he reviewed the glorious first single lifted from this fuzzed up gem of a debut mini album. Wayne AF Carey is loving it…
Last year was not normal so why try be normal? Warping into psychedelia land from the ashes of Brighton band Tigercub, two EP’s in and he’s nailed it with a mini album that drags you into an Alice In Wonderland of wobbly warped sound that is weird and wonderful as fuck. He explains…
“7ft Blues is bi-polar”, NANCY explains. “The tracklist swings from suicidal, to cartoonishly happy, to self-deprecating, back to Alan Partridge pretentious (my spiritual home)… I think it’s a full portrait of me in that particular moment of my life, warts an’all. Before NANCY my main thing was writing songs for a rock band called Tigercub. In Tigercub I feel I had a tendency to hide my true self under a borrowed alt-rock, slacker introversion. It’s a pose that is easy to adopt and can easily trick you into a false sense of security when expressing yourself, wearing Kurt Cobain’s angst as a mask if you will. Striking out on my own has given me nowhere to look but inside, I think with 7ft Blues I’m really being myself, I’m actually talking about me now, what it’s like to be me, and I have never done that before, and it’s terrifying”.
Kicking in with the brilliant single that was in our top ten singles of the year, 7ft Tall just wobbles like a warped vinyl being played under water. Proper glam with a twist, a hint of MGMT and an amazing chorus straight from the bible of 70’s pomp, with a modern slant that excites. Pleasure Pen is dark and mesmerising with it’s swirling keyboards and drum mantra that hypnotises you. This guy is on a serious trip. Check the video below where he looks like the bastard brother of Jesse Hughes from Eagles Of Death Metal. Happy Happy Happy sounds like a woozy trip and the lyrics are a dark loop of coming up and down in a matter of minutes from reading social media.
The whistling kicks in with Leave Your Cares Behind, a proper step into Bolan territory that takes you back in time to those strange T-Rex times. I’m just loving that trippy warped sound throughout. It’s fuckin’ brilliant stuff that gets better with every listen. Genius. Never Gonna Wake (Up) is a one minute stomp of lo-fi fuzz that swirls full of psychedelia and and swamp rock.. Dear Life Give Me A Sign That I Am Not Alone is a mellow affair that glides along. A floating love song that flirts with dirty romance and has a Mark Lanegan at his best feel.
Don’t Pass Me By is back in Bolan territory, an amazingly written glam tune that has a killer chorus which floats in and out. A spine tingling piece of work full of fuzz and some great guitar work that has hints of Santana without the noodling bollocks. Class. Clic Clac is a speeded up lo-fi bit of madness with dark lyrics I presume are about suicide? I may be wrong. It’s a fuck off slab of pysch madness that resonates. Psycho Vision is an acid tinged slice of madness yet again. Insane whistling, loads of fucking about with that wobbling sounding. It like listening to glam rock when you’ve necked 100 mushies and having a 50/50 good/bad trip. I keep thinking a clown’s gonna fucking jump me from behind the telly! Deathmarch ends the album in style. He’s defintely influenced by Lanegan on this one. Funereal keyboards with some great guitars and dark lyrics of the end of your life. An excellent foreboding track that is dark yet sounds fuckin’ massive. A song that Lanegan would easily put his name on if he heard it. Duet in the future? We hope! A great album that raises the bar.
Frontiers Records [Release date 22.01.21] Much of today’s melodic rock’n’roll has degenerated into pro-tooled, prefabricated, flatpack assembly blandness. So it’s a genuine joy to hear Wigwam’s Never Say Die, their first release since reforming in 2020. It’s a relentless powerhouse … Continue reading →
The complete recorded works of female fronted glam/hard rockers Fancy, including their cover of The Troggs’ Wild Thing, which reached the top 20 of the American charts in 1974. This set has their two albums plus bonus tracks and a live section recorded at the famous Ronnie Scott’s in London. LTW’s Ian Canty sees if a little of what you fancy does you good…
Like many musicians who rode the glam wave in the early 1970s, Fancy had roots that ran far back into the previous decade. Guitarist Ray Fenwick had been in Joe Meek’s beat sensations The Syndicats and also later joined The Spencer Davis Group after the Winwood brothers had exited in 1967. Bassist Mo Foster had been a member of prog act Affinity and was a long-term sessioner, as was Welsh drummer Henry Spinetti (the brother of actor Victor). Library music magician Alan Hawkshaw was called in to add keys and Mike Hurst, the producer the band were a brainchild of, pitched in on backing vocals. Hurst brought Fancy together in order to cover Chip Taylor’s Wild Thing, which was of course best known by The Troggs’ 60s hit version, for the UK’s burgeoning glam market.
He reasoned that Fancy should make the song sexier and to this end recruited Helen Caunt as the band’s lead singer. Though Caunt’s vocal limitations soon became apparent, she was eventually coached through Wild Thing and recording of the record was completed. Soon a deal with Atlantic Records was agreed and Wild Thing was released as their debut single in the spring of 1974 with the self-titled Fancy, which has some good guitar moves over a barely audible vocal, as the flipside.
The suggestive nature of the performance hampered UK radio play, but the record took off in America, where it was issued on Atlantic’s Big Tree imprint. In Australia it made the charts as well, but it was the success on the Top 20 of the Billboard chart in the summer that meant soon the US end of Atlantic/Big Tree was asking for a follow up in the form of both an album and single.
At this point Caunt was eased out and, after a long series of auditions, Anne Kavanagh was recruited as a replacement. Les Binks also came in for Spinetti on drums as Fancy looked to become a more serious proposition on the back of the single’s favourable reception in America.
The first Fancy album commenced with the throbbing original single version of Wild Thing, but Kavanagh’s superior vocal attributes are soon brought into play on the tough, guitar crunch of Love For Sale. The LP is firmly based around Fenwick and Hurst’s compositions, apart from the the Leiber and Stoller song I’m A Woman and blues oldie One Night, which was recorded by Elvis Presley in the 1950s.
The four Fancy members here are augmented by a brass section and producer Mike Hurst again gets in on the act too. He was really the fifth Fancy member and contributes vocals as well as writing the songs. A good balance is struck between pure glam hammer and hard rock chops on the LP. Having said that, inevitably their r&b roots show on a lot of what they do here, particularly on their version of I’m A Woman which gives Kavanagh abundant scope to really grandstand. But there is more than enough no-nonsense, unpretentious fun to see us through the album’s 10 tracks.
There are one or two more pedestrian moments (Move On plods a bit), but overall Wild Thing the album has a good deal of energy, a rough and ready sense of purpose and a real joy de vivre in Anne’s singing talents. It came wrapped in a classic “down and dirty” glam rock picture sleeve too. Second single Touch Me also reached the higher echelons of Billboard and is a cool rocker and seductive turns from Kavanagh on I Don’t Need Your Love and U.S. Surprise both hit the sweet spot. This disc includes three bonus offerings. Firstly we have Wild Thing’s b-side Fancy, which is a nicely rhythmic glam stomp and then Bluebird, a sedate guitar instrumental in the mode of Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross. Finally we have Ray Fenwick’s brief guitar Sidewinder, a new recording.
By the time of the second Fancy long player, Something To Remember (issued under the title Turns You On in the US), the band had gone a long way from their “chancers thrown together in order to produce a quickie single” beginnings. They had moved from Atlantic, who had little interest in Fancy apart from as a novelty act and signed to Arista in Britain and RCA Victor in America. Their new sound here was far more slinky funk/hard rock, with horns and string arrangements not blunting their energy a jot. A very danceable brew and Kavanagh’s voice excelled in the lengthy funk workouts. Also, an American tour in support of their two hits stateside had lead to the band locking together even more firmly.
Weighing in with only seven selections, Something To Remember even tweaked the new Fancy formula a little towards disco on the title track. The final single released by the band, She’s Riding The Rock Machine, is a wonderfully cynical look at the music industry and very accomplished. A full-on driving funk monster that goes for nearly three minutes before the vocal even comes in, this is possibly my favourite tune of the whole set. The remainder of this platter presents Fancy as a band of imagination and variety, for example the jazz ballad style evoked on Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy and a fast dance thrust in The Tour Song, a real honey of a tune.
Even so the album didn’t connect with the public on either side of the Atlantic, which more or less spelt the end for Fancy. As bonus tracks on this disc we get the single and instrumental versions of She’s Riding The Rock Machine, a short version of I Was Made To Love Him and funky b-side Music Maker, one of a couple of times over this set where male vocals take centre stage. This track isn’t bad, but on the whole I prefer Fancy when Anne is singing lead. This section of the set concludes with Driving Home, a country recording from Mo Foster. It’s okay but sits a little incongruously alongside the album or singles, having little sonically in common with them.
The final disc of this set documents the band’s last ever gig at Ronnie Scott’s club in London, for a performance which showcases Fancy’s second album. The sound quality is pretty good and the band is tight and feisty too. The sole glance back to their first LP, Love For Sale, is elongated by that old 70’s live standby, the drum solo and Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy has some Peter Frampton-style talk box action courtesy of ancillary member Jo Partridge. But elsewhere there’s precious little wastage, with short and sharp versions of The Tour Song and She’s Riding The Rock Machine, plus a rollicking I Was Made To Love Him. They clearly put on a good showing in concert, which makes the fact it was their final one difficult to process.
We finish things up here with a 10 minute interview with the US radio station WLYX in Memphis, from December 1974. This touches on their experiences on the American tour which included Ray toppling into the orchestra pit at a gig at Chicago and Mo falling off stage at LA’s famed Whisky A Go Go. They also marvelled at Earl Scruggs very laid-back performing style and enjoyed the general good reception at the gigs. It’s a nice, relaxed snapshot of the band to end with, they were clearly enjoying their time in the US greatly.
Though Fancy began as a strictly studio project for the aim of recording Wild Thing, it quite unexpectedly developed into something with a life of its own through quite unexpected success. They gradually mutated into a more serious and talented outfit with a hard rock basis and firm funk leanings, before coming to a sudden halt after the Something To Remember LP in 1975. This set shows they had worth beyond being a two hit wonder and if that second album didn’t score with record buyers at the time, it sounded pretty darn good to me in 2020. A bright and listenable collection which ties up everything by a band that was a bit of a enigma, but showed constant development throughout their existence.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here