Focusing on unique and non-generic exponents of guitar heroics, Eyeplug’s rock pages are a cliché-free zone, dissecting the classic and bringing you the latest sounds.
Focusing on unique and non-generic exponents of guitar heroics, Eyeplug’s rock pages are a cliché-free zone, dissecting the classic and bringing you the latest sounds.
Dream Filled Nights
An EP of four highly varied works from Mohair Sweets, the eponymous title track has a languorous opening, but soon settles into the sort of hard, gutsy driving blues/rock riff and throaty vocal MS fans will be more familiar with. ‘Black Leather Jacket’s traditional rock ‘n’ roll will please the no-nonsense heads down brigade, but where the EP really hits its stride, is in ‘Blues For Bobby’, a churning vortex of sound with bongos and trumpet rounding out this funk/jazz maelstrom, that even takes on techno – and wins – before its crazed keyboard demise. With this hard track to follow, ‘Mr. Sinclair’ manages it pretty well, the muted staccato guitar barking over frantic drumming, evoking the spirit of arch 70’s space-rock.
The Hollywood Brats: Probably the best band you never heard of…
I got a few questions about The Hollywood Brats and your new book but we do not have to follow the script, we can just see where the conversation leads us.
AM: ‘Scripts are rubbish, let’s just trot, let’s go crazy. I am at the Dorchester actually having a little bit of a bash for The Hollywood Brats as the album came out last week and a paperback version of the book came out yesterday, so we have been knocking them back so please forgive me if we go off base here.’
So it’s an album and a book launch?
AM: ‘Indeed and it’s sponsored by Grey Goose so we have had a few vodka’s here. Oh by the way if you want a nice Vodka go for Grey Goose.’
Firstly, I would just like to talk about your memoir ‘Sick On You’, which is your failed attempt to turn The Hollywood Brats into rock n roll stars. It is a hilarious read and it has been almost impossible to put the book down. Did you find writing the book difficult?
AM: ‘It was not difficult to write at all the whole story is insane it was completely bonkers. I mostly worked from diaries, Brady (Euan Brady, Brats guitarist) and yours truly kept meticulous diaries although I did have to amend them somewhat as they were a bit salacious.’
What was you inspiration for starting a band in the first place? In the book, you talk with great humour about your hatred for music that was around in the early 1970’s. It would be fair to assume that this was one of your inspirations for starting a band?
AM: ‘Exactly, hatred is one of the purest emotions and I still have banks of it I really do. I absolutely detested music at that time, it was denim, it was old, bald guys, it was drum solos, guitar solos that went on forever and played by people who could barely play and it was bloody gongs, do you remember gongs? That music drove me nuts and still drives me nuts to this day and something had to be done and I thought I was the man to do it’.
Speaking of ‘gongs’, a man who did occasionally play one was Keith Moon and apparently he delivered a tray of drinks to you and the band after a gig at the Speakeasy?
AM: ‘Yes he did and he was a really lovely man and also a bit of a champion for us in the ensuing weeks until he forgot who we were, (laughs) but he was very nice to us and what a gentleman too and he was one of my heroes – and what a brilliant drummer.’
The Brats were originally called The Queen and you hit Freddie Mercury at The Marquee over band naming rights.
AM: ‘You hit Freddie Mercury you are going to have your knuckles scarred by those teeth right? Actually, I just gave him a backhand and I was just trying to swat him away as one would with a Middle Eastern fly. It wasn’t anything you can consider a fight let me tell you.
I want to talk a little about the debut album, which was recorded at Olympic Studios.
AM: ‘What a fabulous studio that was probably the best studio ever and probably is to this day, the types of characters that were there when we were recording was astounding too, The Eagles, David Bowie, The Bee Gees, Donovan.
Didn’t David Bowie walk in during one of your recording sessions and said he loved one of your songs. I think the song was ‘Nightmare’?
AM: ‘Yeah, Bowie did come in and he also let us listen to what he was doing at the time and it was the brilliant ‘Rebel Rebel’, (Hums the guitar riff) brilliant riff and then he came in and heard what we were doing, because that was the norm at Olympic, you know you could just wander around and listen to what each other were doing etc. Bowie liked what we were doing, he nodded his head like mad and tapped his stack-heeled toes and said ‘luv it! luv it!’. He was a lovely man and a low-key gentleman as well.’
The album did not get released at the time. How did you feel about that?
AM: ‘I immediately looked for a razor blade to slit my wrists (laughs) and not finding one. It was heartbreaking because I knew we had delivered something. But alas timing is everything and to quote from the Bible (not that I read one) is that ‘to everything, there is a season’.
It has been argued that the album is a Proto-Punk classic and listening to it now it has not aged a day.
AM: We delivered what we wanted to deliver and that is a good thing but nobody at the time wanted it at all. Everybody hated us and the closest we came to a deal was with Bell Records or some such idiotic label like that, who had people like David Cassidy on it and then they heard the Brats and told us they did not want anybody who sounds like that on their label. That was just the prevailing attitude at the time.’
Well the album was delivered with attitude and it is a dirty gritty in your face record and it could be argued that it was an influence on Punk Rock.
AM: ‘There was no Punk Rock when we actually made it and we recorded it in a vacuum. Everything was so vacuous at the time and all we knew was that everything needed to be shaken-up, grabbed by the lapels and driven mad. I mean you did not want your parents or your older brothers liking what you were into too. Rock n Roll had gone off the beam at that time, so we were trying to address that core problem’.
I would just like to return to the book, which has been critically acclaimed. Are you flattered by the positive response to your memoir?
AM: ‘I am very happy about it and people have said such nice things about it. It is a bit difficult for me to answer this question but yes I am very pleased at the way it has been received. It has warmed the cockles of my soul let’s put it that way.’
Well it is an incredibly funny book and it has the humour of Spinal Tap except The Hollywood Brats were so much poorer.
AM: ‘(Laughs) so you have a sense of humour? I like that’.
I hate to mention this but I would argue that too many comparisons have been made between yourselves and the New York Dolls. It is clear from the book that any musical or aesthetic comparison was a coincidence only.
AM: ‘It makes good sense to mention it and it is just one of those bloody weird things that happens in this world. When we first saw their picture in the NME, we were aghast as they were doing a similar thing to what we were doing. I respect the New York Dolls, but we wiped the floor with them musically’.
You were given a copy of the Dolls debut album and you were not that impressed by what you heard.
AM: ‘No, not at all because we had built them up in our minds so much and we were like, oh my God how can there be another one of us? When we heard their music we wiped our brows and went phew. We didn’t dislike the Dolls or anything like that, but we thought this was serious competition until we dropped the needle on the record.’
Cherry Red Records have recently reissued the album with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material, and after four decades since the album was recorded do you think The Hollywood Brats are finally getting their dues?
AM: ‘Well I don’t think there are any dues. You do what you do and you just put it out there and the devil takes the high most. You put something out in the marketplace and let the marketplace decide and if they were not ready then but ready now, so be it. I am not bothered in the slightest by the way, I am having fun and what is happening now has engendered loads of new opportunities for me. I am having a blast. For God’s sake I am at the Dorchester having a party and if you want Vodka then make it Grey Goose.’
I have heard a rumour that the BBC is making a documentary?
AM: ‘They are and I am being filmed right now as we speak’.
Really? Are you involved behind the scenes? What part are you playing in its production?
AM: ‘I am the boss of everything that is being recorded by the BBC except your show. You’re the boss of that.’
You recently appeared at Glastonbury. How did that go?
AM: ‘Glastonbury was absolutely amazing. I had never been before and it was utterly amazing, the people were fantastic and it was as muddy as I had been told it would be.’
How did a dapper man like yourself deal with all that mud?
AM: ‘They told me I would have to wear wellies. Can you imagine me wearing willies? I told them no chance and I managed to get to the stage looking immaculate.’
So you were there to promote the book?
AM: ‘Yes I was applauded on and applauded and cheered off and they gave me drinks throughout the talk, and that is how I judge the standard of how things are going (laughs).’
Finally, I have heard that the Brats have reformed. Can we expect a tour soon?
AM: ‘You know what? I read that in Mojo recently and I thought is that right? I better get singing or something. We have had offers from all around the globe and who knows. We are all alive and well and we all have our own hair, which is essential for me and if you’re going to reform and one of us were bald I wouldn’t allow it. To answer your question yes I think it might happen and you will be the first to know.’ ‘Oh and by the way, if your’re thinking of having a Vodka then try Grey Goose’.
Longjohns recent Hollywood Brats LP review is below
In 1971 an 18-year-old Andrew Matheson arrived in London with just a guitar, a few quid and a head full of ideas about forming the perfect Rock n Roll band. Matheson drew up a five-point list that these band members would have to adhere to and the rules were simple. You had to “think like a star’’, have great hair (preferably straight hair), must be slender, young, and absolutely no facial hair and above all no girlfriends.
Matheson found his kindred spirits in the shape of Norwegian Stein Groven (Casino Steel), Euan Brady, Wayne Manor and Lou Sparks. These members would form the nucleus of The Hollywood Brats and Matheson’s attempts to turn these disparate bunch of Brats into bone-fide rock stars failed abysmally, and this glorious failure is told in hilarious detail in his recent memoir, Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of Britain’s Great Lost Punk Band.
The Hollywood Brats also recorded what might be considered one of the first British Proto-Punk albums of the 1970s, and it has been re-mastered and re-packaged by Cherry Red Records as a vital 2-CD set, which includes their one and only long player, plus a bonus disc of “Brats Miscellany’’, featuring, rarities, a few cover versions and a number of tracks that were muted for a second album. The set also includes detailed liner notes with written contributions from Matheson and Casino Steel.
As this album suggests The Hollywood Brats should have carved out a niche for themselves, but the tale of the Brats really is a tale of starvation, struggle, comedic bad timing and bad luck. Whatever momentum The Brats were starting to build-up was then quickly thwarted, when Matheson opened up the NME one morning in 1972 and what looked back at him was a band that were the total mirror image of themselves.
The New York Dolls were another tough Rock n Roll band with an equal amount of androgynous glamour, but they had the added bonus of having a record deal, a publicity machine and (sadly for the Brats) a tour booked for the U.K. The comparisons visually and musically are obvious, and although both bands ploughed a similar musical furrow it is a mere coincidence only as Matheson explained that he had never heard of the Dolls until he picked up the NME on that fateful day in 1972.
The Hollywood Brats debut album is played fast and loud and has the swaggering attitude of the Rolling Stones and T-Rex thrown in for good measure. However, the Brats were amplified just that little bit louder, and took the gender-bending pretensions of Glam that little bit further by smearing themselves in “Cleopatra Eye Liner’’ and “Cherry Blaze Outdoor Girl Lipstick’’. One can only imagine Matheson preening on stage in his glam rags, puckering up his ruby red lips to sing The Crystals classic “Then He Kissed Me’’ (featured here) to the baying violent mobs that frequently attended their live shows.
It would be too easy to get side-tracked by the doomed failure of The Hollywood Brats but two things should be remembered. Firstly they looked great and steered well clear of food encrusted facial hair, “upper lip fringes’’ and the dirty denim, which was so prevalent in the 1970s. Secondly, they recorded a lean, mean, muscular album that had songs that were full of bravado, wit and spades full of nihilism.
The album never saw the light of day in the U.K but was subsequently released in Norway before Cherry Red Records happened across a copy of this ultra rare album in 1978. It is largely thanks to them and Matheson’s brilliant memoir that The Hollywood Brats have not been confined to the dustbin of musical history. Although the album may not be an out and out classic there are still a handful of great songs on it, plus it has the added bonus of being played by glamorous lady boys draped in feather boas and dripping in lipstick, mascara and red nail varnish.
The album has attitude and it sounds lean, raw, and dirty and as Matheson explains in his memoir he was “driven by the purest of all emotions, which was hatred’’. Matheson made no attempt to hide his complete disdain for music that he considered was full of it’s own self-importance and he argued that “music needed to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken up’’.
Matheson steered these London ‘belles’ away from standard boring guitar noodling and dull drum solos and the ubiquitous Prog Rock pretensions that were so prevalent at the time. Instead The Brats aimed for something much more visceral, efficient, tough and above all sexy and provocative, but sadly for the Brats no one at the time was listening.
Listening to the album will probably draw the listener to the conclusion that The Hollywood Brats sound like a hybrid of the Stones and the New York Dolls. However, the album should be taken on it’s own merit, and there are a handful of great tracks, including album opener, Chez Maximes, Nightmare, Courtesan, Zurich 17, and Tumble With Me, which are all Glam rockers, have tough guitar riffs and sound equally trashy and vicious.
However, the album has the one stone cold classic and it is the hate-filled closing song Sick On You. The vitriol poured out by Matheson towards a girl he no longer loves is delivered with such snarling venom and when he spits the opening words “you wanna know what it’s like condemned to live with you, it’s some kind of suicide, some phase that I went through’’, the moniker “Proto Punks’’ may indeed be fully justified.
There is definitely a correlation between The Hollywood Brats debut album and Matheson’s memoir that they are almost mutually dependent on each other, and should be enjoyed together. This album has the swagger and attitude you would associate with the Brats Glam Rock peers but, has the added impetus of rage and frustration thrown in for good measure. The Hollywood Brats were condemned to failure and obscurity but their combustible anger filled music would inadvertently manifest itself in Punk Rock, so perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies.
“Another Splash of Colour (New Psychedelia in Britain 1980-85)’’ is arguably the first comprehensive overview of the British psychedelic revival of the early 1980’s. Cherry Red Records have put together a 3-CD set featuring 64 neo psychedelic tracks that span the first five years of the 1980’s. This compilation expands on the original ‘‘A Splash of Colour’’ LP, which was released in 1981 and this new edition comes housed in a clamshell box with a 34-page booklet containing exclusive pictures, and a mammoth 9,000-word essay written by former NME journalist Neil Taylor.
The artists who featured on the original album are included here, and The Mood Six, The Times, Miles Over Matter, Icicle Works, The High Tide, The Barracudas, The Earwigs and The Marble Staircase, were all heavily influenced by 1960’s British psychedelia. What is rather nice about this new expanded version is that it now includes some big hitters who are rubbing shoulders with some lesser-known artists, including The Soft Boys, The Television Personalities, The Dream Factory, The Legendary Pink Dots, Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope, Playn Jayn, The Attractions (minus Elvis Costello) and The Prisoners.
The expanded box set is a timely reminder that psychedelia was a broad church musically, and Cherry Red Records have used the original “A Splash of Colour’’ LP to form the basis of this new collection. The envelope has been pushed even further by the inclusion of post punk and new wave acts that were influenced by 1960’s pop and psychedelia but without being slavishly devoted to a 1960’s sartorial and musical aesthetic. It is clear that psychedelia was a much looser musical concept in this period, than the original ‘A Splash Of Colour’’ LP suggests, and this collection is a nicely rounded overview of bands and artists that were not quite carrying the psychedelic freak flag but obviously owed a small debt of gratitude to the pioneers of psychedelic rock music in the late 1960’s.
A special mention should be given to some of the artists that graced the original “A Splash Of Colour’’ LP as without them this box set would not have materialized. The High Tide, The Marble Staircase and The Mood Six have two songs apiece on this collection and these artists in particular were not afraid to doff their velvet fedoras to Syd Barrett Era Pink Floyd, Tomorrow and Traffic, and the result is pleasing but the studious approach to recreating the past leaves these artists sounding somewhat derivative. The Barracudas also appeared on the original album and were ironically an English band that was clearly indebted to the USA’s surf music scene of the 1960’s. “Watching The World Go By’’, and ‘’Inside Mind’’ feature on this collection, and clearly demonstrated their bias for 1960’s sunshine pop. However, these days The Barracudas might only be remembered for their top 40 novelty surf song called “Summer Fun’’ which was released in 1980.
Robyn Hitchcock features on Disc 1 with a solo effort “It’s a Mystic Trip’’, which came out as a flexi disc 7’ in 1981, but it is the scorching “Only The Stones Remain’’ with his group The Soft Boys that almost steals the show on the first CD of this box set. It is no secret that Hitchcock was a big admirer of his Cambridge compatriot Syd Barrett, and The Soft Boys did a remarkably brilliant version of Barrett’s “Vegetable Man’’, which can be found on the expanded edition of their second album “Underwater Moonlight’’. The two songs included here showcase Hitchcock’s surreal lyrics as well as his knack for making brilliant hook laden tunes, and as these two songs demonstrate Hitchcock and The Soft Boys are criminally underrated.
The Monochrome Set have one song included on this collection, and “On The Thirteenth Day’’ taken from their third album “Eligible Bachelor’s’’ demonstrates that they could combine a macabre sense of humour, hooky melodies and bristling edgy energy to make effortless pop songs and it is baffling that The Monochrome Set remain nothing more than a well kept secret. “On The Thirteenth Day’s’’ surreal and grotesque lyrics about corrugated horse flesh and venus fly traps hint at an acid trip going awry, and the Kafkaesque imagery is possibly the only explanation for the inclusion of this brilliantly quirky song’s inclusion on this collection.
It would be doubtful if no more than a handful of discerning souls have heard of Nick Nicely, and if that is the scenario then this artist thoroughly deserves to be rediscovered on the basis of the two tracks included here. “Hilly Fields’’ and “49 Cigars’’ take the experimental nature of psychedelia and electronic synth pop and combined these two elements together to almost breathtaking effect. “49 Cigars’’ in particular, is eerily psychedelic and sounds like it owes something of a debt to those late 1960’s psychedelic pioneers The Factory, and it is about time that both of these acts in their respective time period were given the recognition they richly deserve.
No collection like this would ever be complete without acknowledging the influential Medway garage scene that sprouted up from around the pubs and clubs of Rochester and Chatham in Kent in the first half of the 1980’s. The Dentists first single from 1985 the effortlessly catchy and jangly “Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden’’, has an obvious 1960’s dreamy West Coast pop influence with harmonies and tambourines galore, and this little known gem of a song is a welcome inclusion on this box set.
However, it is the roughly hewn music made by The Prisoners and The Milkshakes that have overshadowed other Medway acts like The Dentists and both of these bands are arguably the most celebrated and influential acts that came out of the Medway scene. The sheer effortless power of The Prisoners, which is demonstrated by the inclusion of ‘’Reaching My Head’’, that ably demonstrates what a popular live draw they must have been around the Medway and London in the 1980’s. Graham Day’s crunching, spiky guitar riffs, soulful vocals, and James Taylor’s masterful swirling organ, combined to create a somewhat rough garage sound that was also dripping in obvious pop melodies, which make it baffling why The Prisoners never broke out from their status as a critically acclaimed cult act to wider recognition.
There is not too much that can be said about legendary punk band The Damned, however, a little mention should go to their alto ego’s Naz Nomad and the Nightmares, who covered the Electric Prunes psychedelic classic “I Had Too Much Too Dream Last Night’’. Legend has it that it was originally thought that Naz Nomad and the Nightmares were a lost 1960s Garage band, and it is easy to see why fans of Nuggets era garage were salivating over the thought of uncovering some obscure 7’ records by a long lost 1960s act. Naz Nomad and the Nightmares covered a number of garage classics to such stunning effect that they were genuinely seen as the real thing, and one can only assume that The Damned adopted this pseudonym so they could completely immerse themselves in the garage and psychedelic records that they so clearly adored.
Julian Cope is another artist who really needs little introduction as the lynchpin and creative force of The Teardrop Explodes. However, Cope also released two overlooked solo albums straight after the demise of The Teardrop Explodes and included on this box set is “Sunspots’’, which is taken from Cope’s second album “Fried’’. “Sunspots’’ was released as a single in 1984 and it is easy to see why this particular song has ended up on this box set as the “Arch-Druid’’ is a unique pop star, who easily churned out great Psychedelically pop inflected tunes with consummate ease. Cope ploughed his own artistic furrow to such an extent as to pose naked under a turtle shell for the front cover of “Fried’’, and this eccentric pop star’s inclusion on this collection makes it an even greater well rounded listening experience.
Three bands from Creation Records feature on the third disc, and co founder of the label Alan McGee has never denied his utter devotion to 1960’s psychedelia. His fascination with 1960’s pop was such that he even named his fledgling label after cult British psych pop art band The Creation and named his own band Biff, Bang, Pow after one of their songs. The inclusion of Biff, Bang Pow, The Jasmine Minks and The Revolving Paint Dream demonstrate that a new musical beginning was just around the corner that was introspective, self-deprecating, amateurish and sonically ragged. This new musical movement it could be argued was a natural evolution from the music included on this box set, and it would eventually become christened as “Indie Pop’’ and this fleeting moment was crystallized on the NME’s C86 cassette tape.
“Another Splash Of Colour’’ is such a brilliantly diverse and varied collection of somewhat obscure neo-psychedelia that it could be a contender for one of the compilations of the year. The collection ably demonstrates that their was an alternative listening experience in the early 1980’s that was to some extent lysergic, and was the absolute antithesis to the ubiquitous and slickly produced synthesizer pop that was polluting the FM airwaves with alarming regularity in this period. If you are a discerning soul whose preference is for obscure psychedelic tinged music that has slipped under the radar then there is simply no excuse for not buying this box set. BUY HERE!
The Album (Anagram Records CDPunk143)
Among the many punk originals, Eater had something on their side which few others had; youth. Drummer Dee Generate was just fourteen years old, the rest not much older, when they first played live, and went on to be supported by such luminaries as The Damned and Johnny Moped.
Eater did not go on to have the stellar careers that some of the originals did, and split in 1979 after just one LP and five singles. This compilation CD has the lot, and some live tracks to boot. Opinion was divided about the young band at the time, some feeling they were standard punk fayre, some pumping them up as the true voice of the movement. However you feel about this rough ‘n’ ready artefact, at least you’ll be spared the sanitisation of remixes and remasters.
From the word go, ‘The Album’ is a primitive affair, the no-frills plicking guitar and threatening voice on ‘You’, an early challenge. ‘Public Toys’ takes on a more energetic, rangy riff, with a ringing guitar that might just have picked up a few stray fans from the Buzzcocks camp.
‘Room for One’s hard, fast, pub-rock opening, bursting into strident rock ‘n’ roll is an early standout track, in a surprisingly reflective relationship song. It’s not long before the boys are back into basic punk chug along mode, however, with ‘Lock It Up’, one which holds hints of the aforementioned stage-sharing Mancunian band.
Their totally scuzzy cover of ‘Sweet Jane’ gives the song a harder, faster treatment than might be expected from such a youthful bunch, and fails to please this reviewer, but their cover of Alice Cooper’s ‘Eighteen’ (retitled here ‘Fifteen’) encapsulates the adolescent frustration in its primal riff and does not neglect Alice’s schlock-horror overtones.
‘I Don’t Need It’s snarling delivery and dual note start-up, masks a bit of a departure, construction wise, later in the song, with a (gasp!) guitar solo being smuggled in. ’Anne’ continues the trad r ‘n’ r theme, with a decidedly Chuck Berry style riff that proves that Eater were no line-toers in the punk universe.
The nasty, fuzzy riff, heavy breathing and resentful vocal tones of ‘Get Raped’ would have won few prizes for sensitivity then, let alone today, but only make this listener wonder what future generations will make of late 90’s, early noughties rappers and their own particular attitudes.
The predictably basic ‘Space Dreamin’ holds no surprises, despite the interesting title, and the too-fast cover of ‘Queen Bitch’, which also pays scant regard to key or atmosphere is another that should possibly have been worked on more.
‘My Business’ fine opening riff, rising tune and better than usual lyrics is a strong contender for best track, but followed, disastrously, by their cover of ‘Waiting For The Man,’ its opening, a baby’s toy squawk, and its ending a sudden death playoff that comes as a merciful release. ‘My Business’ fine opening riff, rising tune and better than usual lyrics is a strong contender for best track, but followed, disastrously, by their cover of ‘Waiting For The Man,’ its opening, a baby’s toy squawk, and its ending a sudden death playoff that comes as a merciful release.
‘No More’ shows the band back on form in this driving riff, with its classic punk two-note guitar solo, and ‘No Brains’ comes on like a totally demented Beach Boys parody, achieved by a roaring vocal, ringing guitars, speeding up to a more conventional delivery later on.
The LP closes with the jokey, join-in of ‘Luv and Piece’, starting out as a Velvets-lite, turning into a wild rant.
‘The Singles Plus’ takes us on a more concentrated study of the period, the snotty urgency of ‘Outside View’ and the pointed threat of its close cousin, ‘You’ as good an opening duo as any.
‘Thinking of the USA’s churning, psyche-like riff and sneering lyrics ironically typifies punk singles of the period, and the slight echo on ‘Space Dreamin’ improves it no end.
‘Michael’s Monetary System’ leans once more into psyche-territory, albeit one inhabited by a cockney Syd Barrett with a world weary view, tempered by a no-frills cover of ‘Jeepster’, falling firmly into the ‘shouldn’t have bothered’ camp.
The live tracks, ‘Debutante’s Ball’, tightly riffed and with a typically angry vocal, is a lost gem, and together with ‘No More’, deserve a place on the punk curriculum. The slicing guitars of ‘Thinking of the USA’ complement the vocal perfectly, and the MC5 – a-like ‘Holland’ careers about like a runaway car.
‘What She Wants She Gets’ has a great 70’s riff and singalong chorus that raises it above much of the rest of the collection, and ‘Reach For The Sky’ continues the lively, rising theme, pointing toward a post-punk career path for these boys, which did not, in the event, pan out.
‘Typewriter Babies’ pitches a descending riff with great positive upturns and scathing lyrics, and ‘Point of View’s opening maelstrom of hard, driving guitars suggest that Eater may have been born a little too late for their strong, early 70’s rock leanings.
‘I Don’t Need it’ takes us back to basic punk scowling, (but it is very good punk scowling), and ends with a shaking, thumping ‘Fifteen’.
Punk’s present day mainstream status was unthinkable in those far off days of the late 70s, when the trappings of the style were enough to get you beaten up by your local Neanderthals, but it does the soul good to recall what early punk sounded like, in all its flaws as well as its glories. BUY HERE!
Planes & Never Even Thought (Cherry Red CDMRED665)
Available for the first time on CD courtesy of Cherry Red Records, Colin Blunstone’s fourth and fifth solo LPs, originally recorded for Elton John’s Rocket Records, surfaced in 1976 and 1978. The John/Taupin connection doesn’t end there, as the unbeatable song writing team’s ‘Planes’ is the title track of the first mentioned LP. There are plenty of self-penned numbers here, however.
The soft rock and country sound of mainstream mid-70’s is very evident here, with ‘Beautiful You’, its country feel fleshed out with brass and drum, and its robust beat giving a country/soul tinge to this piece of whimsy.
Title track ‘Planes’ is easily the best track here, a gentle swinger with subtle orchestration, light touch keyboard and sensitive singing by Colin, and small wonder it became a single.
‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ starts with a tense note, contrasting with the lyrics, a gentle roller with a little slide guitar, slightly reminiscent of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Dead Flowers’.
‘Ain’t It Funny’s piano backing reinforces the wry humour of this give-and-take meditation on happiness.
Dennis Wilson and Mike Love’s maudlin ‘Only With You’ is an interesting choice of cover from ‘Holland’, and benefits from the lush orchestration.
‘I Can Almost See The Light’ is another high spot, a good soft rocker with tweaked guitar sound, and a rousing chorus.
‘Good Guys Don’t Always Win’ continues the jaunty soft rock theme, this time with a hint of soul in a very free and easy treatment.
The Kiki Dee classic ‘Loving and Free’ is given a subtle string and guitar treatment and Colin’s voice handles the song well, if a little hastily delivered.
Colin’s own ‘Dancing In the Dark’s private sort of love song is wistful and nothing profound, and ultimately fails to engage.
‘It’s Hard to Say’ has flute and guitar to evoke the right atmosphere in this song of relationship breakup.
‘(Care of) Cell 44’ is a welcome return to a bouncier sort of tune with a more carefree atmosphere, and some great harmony backing that show Colin’s voice at its best.
‘Tell Me How’s galloping, plucky guitar and ‘50-‘s style harmonies make for an insubstantial closing track.
‘Never Even Thought’
‘Never Even Thought’ opens with a lightweight but nevertheless pleasing soft rock number, ‘I’ll Never Forget You’, with some good, soaring verses.
‘Lovelight’s gentle guitar arpeggio and high, bright guitar notes lay out a strolling number with a sweet finish.
‘Ain’t It Funny’s initial solemnity gives way to relaxed chords, a lush string backing and a plaintive vocal from Colin.
‘Who’s That Knocking ?’ has a ‘30’s shuffle figure to it, a sweet sax break and some ‘gurly’ vocals, but all a little insubstantial for this listener.
Title track ‘Never Even Thought’s gentle love song, with a good vocal, a light touch guitar and slightly ominous piano chords gives in to a maelstrom in the middle, leading to a surprising funky break that makes the backing far better than the actual song.
‘Touch And Go’s supper club vibe does Colin’s sensitive vocal no favours.
‘You Are The Way For Me’ is far better than its predecessor, with its exciting, bouncing beat, good chorus and lead out.
‘Photograph’ sees us back in late night club territory, all lush piano and organ, with some deft guitar/piano interplay, but the effect is largely wasted on this lightweight song.
‘Do Magnolia Do’s pumping, military beat and soulful organ work is a fine closing track, but it’s doubtful whether anyone would still be listening, after the paucity of engaging tracks on offer here. BUY HERE!
Gavin Chappell-Bates is a singer, guitarist, songwriter and live looper from Cambridgeshire, England performing effervescent emotive yin/yang indie pop. His music shape shifts from acoustic balladry to punk to Britpop to anthemic alternative rock. He sings songs about growing up, politics, suicide, love, hope and determination.
Gavin features regularly on BBC Introducing, and other radio stations worldwide, and has been played nationally by Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music and XFM and Amazing Radio DJ Jim Gellatly. He was nominated for Best Male Solo Artist in the 2015 NMG Awards.
After playing in various local bands, Gavin decided in 2014 to embark on a solo career. He released his first EP – ‘Black Holes’ – in February 2015, followed by second single – ’95’ – in July. His third release – ‘We Are The Ones’ – was released on 5 October 2015. His debut album, recorded by James Coppolaro at Mix 66, will be out early 2016. Friends, family and fans voted for their favourite songs to appear on the album.
We caught up with Gavin recently on his travels…
01. How did you get started in music?
I picked up the guitar around the age of eleven inspired by some of my friends who were playing and from being introduced to The Beatles. I had a couple of lessons from Ezio’s Booga to begin with but then I began to teach myself, both to play the guitar and to sing.
02 .Where did your direction come from?
I think a lot of my early musical direction came from trying to prove people wrong. My family didn’t think I’d stick with the guitar and then, once I’d been playing a while, I was a figure of fun at school for my ability and passion. I suffered with depression and anxiety and would often just lock myself away in my bedroom with my guitar. It, therefore, became my way of getting through dark times. It was my solace and my only real friend so my playing and song writing stemmed from that.
03. Who were your major influences and inspirations?
The Beatles were my first major influence, and that followed into some other rock ‘n’ roll artists such as Buddy Holly. I then discovered rock music and became a big Aerosmith fan. My ambition was to be able to play the guitar like Joe Perry (I’m still working on that!). I was then lucky enough to be growing up in the 90s so I was surrounded by Britpop, alternative and grunge music. I was, and still am, heavily influenced by bands like Placebo, Suede and The Smashing Pumpkins. My biggest influence, however, has been Manic Street Preachers. When I was a teenager and I first discovered their music so much opened up for me. I heavily related to their music, lyrics and style. I knew from the first seconds of listening to ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ that they would be my most important influence now and forever. That is still the case.
04. What inspires you to make your current type of songs and sound?
All of my influences and experiences go into the music I make but I am very determined to write songs that are uplifting, positive and emotionally resonant. Whilst there are darker elements to my forthcoming debut album, I hope people can find some kind of cathartic experience in them. It is all about letting go, moving forward and turning things into something positive. My current single ‘We Are The Ones’ is a good example of that.
05. What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your shows?
Because my songs are written and recorded as full band arrangements and I am a solo artist, I live loop on stage. I transform my songs and play variations of what people will hear on the recordings. I layer things up to create a big sound and so I can covey that same feeling of euphoria that is on the recordings.
06. How do you begin writing your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?
Sometimes I just sit down with my guitar and play around until something happens. Mostly this is completely unintentional (i.e. I am not trying to write a song). With lyrics, I have a pad that I keep close by and I am constantly jotting down ideas, themes and lyrics that come into my head. I am already starting to write my second album which will have a clear theme running all the way through so I am constantly adding bits to that musically and lyrically.
In terms of themes; as mentioned earlier, I want my songs to be positive mainly, but I am looking at the whole cycle of life. Birth, death, love, loss, our place in the universe, society, politics, etc. I studied philosophy at university and am therefore heavily interested in politics so that comes out in some of my music. I am, however, more interested in the ability of human’s to achieve greatness and push ourselves on to better things.
07. How has your music evolved since you first began playing?
I hope it has evolved quite a lot. When I read back through my early lyrics they were very adolescent and highly influenced from the pain and anguish I was feeling at the time. My lyrics are a lot brighter now and (hopefully) more mature. Musically, I understand a lot more now about the structure of songs and melody. I have also stopped trying to rip off my favourite artists and instead am just writing songs that come naturally. I am sure their influence can still be heard in my music but in a non-deliberate way.
08. What has been your biggest challenge? How were you able to overcome this?
Anxiety and depression. That is not the friend of a performer. It meant for many years that I didn’t get on stage. When I did it was almost physically unbearable. It also meant that I didn’t engage with the audience and I probably came across as quite rude. Whilst I still get nervous I understand that the most important people in the room are the audience and I am there to make them feel good. Engaging them is such an important part of being a musician, and that includes talking with them after the show and finding out what they thought. I faced up to my mental health issues a few years ago and since then it has become a lot easier to perform. Not only that but I was holding myself back musically. When I finally released myself was when I started my solo career and planning my debut album, something I’d always dreamed of doing.
09. If you could pick any song, what would you like to cover most and why?
The one song I often cover at gigs is ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E King. It is such a beautiful song, lyrically and melodically. I have put my spin on it though and I am hoping to record that in the near future.
10. Where do you envisage being in five years time?
I currently work part-time to pay the bills so I hope that in five years’ time I won’t have to. I’m no longer a 12 year old boy looking for fame and adulation, I just want to be playing music to people that enjoy what I do. I hope to have a core fan base and be touring and recording regularly.
11. Who would you most like to record with?
I don’t think I’d cope in the studio with many of my major idols, the pressure of recording is hard enough as it is. I am thinking about quite a few collaborations for my second album however. There are so many talented musicians in the Cambridge scene who I would love to work with. So that may include people like Bouquet of Dead Crows, as well as some Taiko drumming, choirs, orchestras and possibly even some rapping (not from me)!
12. What should we be expecting from you in the near future?
My debut album will be out in spring 2016. This will be accompanied by a full UK tour. I’ll then be hitting the festival circuit before looking to tour Europe later in the year. I’ll see where that all takes me but then I’ll be looking to record album number 2 as I have lots of ideas and demos bubbling away for that!
My next tour will be in Spring 2016 to support the release of my debut album but I have a few local gigs dates before Christmas:
31 October – Norwich Arts Centre
6 November – The Portland Arms, Cambridge
7 November – The George, Huntingdon
26 November – The Oliver Cromwell, St. Ives
19 December – The Pembroke Arms, Biggleswade
All gig info can be found here:
*Link to buy the current single: ‘We Are The Ones’
The Runaways (Cherry Red Records CDMRED 237)
Girl groups are nothing new, and this was also true back in the mid-70’s, when a gang of teenagers kicked their way through the walls of the male-dominated music industry and staked their claim to rock immortality. Managed by the notorious Kim Fowley, equal parts Svengali, hustler and guide, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, Joan Jett and Sandy West strapped on their guitars and took the boys on at their own game. Numerous line-up changes followed in their brief career, but it’s the first US LP our friends at Cherry Red have reissued here, and it’s this CD reissue I’ll confine my comments to.
The girls hit the ground running with ‘Cherry Bomb’, a lurking, threatening rocker that refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer, turning from a slow tease in the first three verse lines, to the haggard screech of a crone in the last. Ecstatic moans punctuate the song, ending on a glorious, Sweet-style metallic echo.
The hard, aggressive blues opening to ‘You Drive Me Wild’ leads into a straight ahead rock ‘n’ roller penned by Joan Jett, full of one-on-one sexual promise, an alternating riff and spiced up with plenty of yelping vocals and more and more ecstatic moans.
The glam racket of ‘Is It Day or Night?’ is another winner, from the pen of Kim Fowley, portraying the low-life ennui in the aftermath of a night – or a lifetime – spent pursuing life’s more hazardous pleasures. With lyrics like ‘Novocaine Lips’ and some great, crashing false endings, what other decade could this song have come from?
Proving that the basic rock riff always holds good, ‘Thunder’ takes us on a classic journey through love, drawing on age-old imagery of natures’ indomitable powers, held together with an insistent bass riff and Cherie’s voice handling the melody well.
Mention 70’s sleaze and the blue mask of Lou Reed makes its spectral appearance on the studio wall. The Runaways’ fine take on Lou’s eternal ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ has some surprisingly funky elements thrown in for good measure, nice bass runs, cowbells and some dry-throated screams to take it far enough away from the original to make it a true cover version, and not the usual obligatory tribute.
Cherie’s voice is loaded with suggestion in ‘Lovers’, a demanding, teasing song from Jett and Fowley, with a kiss-off that demands a reply.
Lou seems to have been implanted into the band’s DNA, if ‘American Nights’ is anything to go by. A distant relative of ‘Sweet Jane’, with fuzzy guitars proving a nice touch, in a characteristic song of youthful, dangerous adventure.
The basic two-note riff and Joplin-style shriek which opens ‘Blackmail’ gets your attention without any effort. A hard and nasty fuzz guitar solo in a song as literal as it is effective, Cherie’s voice ranges from a rough growl to a hacking cough as she spells out the terrible fate her former lover will face.
The Rolling Stones’ style opening riff of ‘Secrets’ sets the scene well, a tale of deceit and double lives with a whiff of the forbidden about the relationship. The feedback lead out is subtly handled, and a first on the LP.
A great, chugging bass line and a nasty/sexy voice opens The Runaways’ ‘Dead End Justice’. Basically a 1950’s style female juvenile delinquent film script, set to high-octane 1970’s rock music, with lyrics as hard as cheap nails; it’s the perfect (getaway) vehicle. Even the imaginary film title hides in the lyrics, ’Dead End Kids In The Danger Zone’ as our teen protagonists go from teasing the boys in their skin tight jeans and provoking fights, all in one brew and pharma-fuelled night. The inevitable come-uppance lands the pair in jail, at the tender mercies of police, wardens and other prisoners. Our girls plot their escape their voices a low whisper, but… Well, I’ll let you guess the rest if you’re too mean, or too snobbish, or just too plain dull to buy the LP. It’s a magnificent way to end, full of the 70’s ambitious stage-stylings, youthful swagger and later, the desperate nostalgia for an era they were too young to remember, and the girls bring it off brilliantly for the age it was minted in.
Born in San Diego, California in 1987 and raised in Tecate, Mexico until the age of 8 when he then moved to the United States – producer/singer/songwriter, Michael Jack Dole, lived somewhat of a nomadic childhood. His vast array of early life experiences laid the foundation for Dole’s lyrical creativity which he vividly captures and illustrates in his somber, yet beautifully raw crafted lyrics.
The name ‘Empire of Gold’ was inspired by a homeless man Dole met on Venice Beach who, after listening to him play a few songs, told him “keep doing what you’re doing kid – it’s like you’re building an empire of gold!” Even though the man seemed to be poking fun at the idea of such a grand dream, Dole found encouragement and challenge in the man’s words and decided to do just that. Some of his many early inspirations include Kurt Cobain, Elliott Smith, Green Day, John Lennon and specifically Conor Oberst – mostly for his lyrics and his ability to ‘make poems come to life!’ Eyeplug shot some Questions his way recently…
01 How did you get started in music?
I got my first guitar as a present when I was 14 and took lessons at a local music store for a year. After a year I felt I wasn’t learning anything worth spending money on, so I stopped and just started playing by ear. I didn’t get serious about writing music until I was a freshman in college. I had moved from Chicago to California all by myself and I would play and write music when I felt depressed or lonely. That is when I really started accumulating a huge catalogue of songs – from summer of 2005 till 2014; when I started recording and taking music much more seriously.
02 Where did your direction come from?
My direction came from a dark, depressing time in my life. I had a rough childhood in which I lost both my parents and moved to America from Mexico at the age of 8. I was then raised by my aunt and uncle until I was emancipated at 18 and made the decision to move to California. This was initially my starting point of all my creative writing.
03 Who were your major influences and inspirations and who do you despise?
At first my major influences ranged from metal (Slipknot, Mudvayne) to punk acts of the 90’s (Green Day, Offspring). But at the heart of it all, it was musicians like John Lennon, Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst that really inspired me to get creative with my writing. I started off completely as an acoustic artist, with 90% of my songs written in this form. The musicians and bands that I would consider my major influences today had completely slipped under my radar when I was growing up; those being Nirvana, Melvins, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains and just the grunge movement in general. When I finally came into contact with these types of acts, they sparked something deep within me and just catapulted me into a whole new level from then on.
I don’t really despise any artist. Even the genres that I don’t enjoy listening to (Pop, Country, anything having a commercial or heavily processed mainstream sound), I still have respect for as artists.
04 What inspires you to make your current type of songs and sound?
It really boils down to the changes we have seen in the music business in recent times. I’m just a guy that feels he was born too late and missed the great explosion of early 90’s rock; that being the musical revolution that took over and made MTV a channel full of greatness instead of the crap is showcases now. If I can just somehow, some way, bring a little piece of that back, I will have succeeded as a musician in my own eyes.
05 What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your live shows then & possibly even now?
As of right now, I am a one man band. I don’t necessarily like doing acoustic sets, so I don’t perform live. I want to keep Empire of Gold as a solo project so I don’t expect to be doing any live sets until I can acquire some session players. Which costs some pretty Dollars of course!
06 How do you begin your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?
I grew up listening to melody instead of lyrics. As a kid I didn’t think lyrics were important. It was all about the melody and movement of the song. So when I started writing music, that’s what I would focus on first and still do to this day. When I can get a song to “move” me and make me feel emotion with no lyrics, then I know I have a song and then begin to write lyrics. While I’m in the process of writing the melody, I always get a sense of what type of a story or emotion would fit the song and that is what I base the subject matter on.
I will say it’s usually a depressing tone. I don’t like, or I guess am just not good at, writing happy go-lucky songs.
07 How did your music evolve since you first began playing?
Lyrically and emotionally it hasn’t. What has evolved immensely is the style. It has evolved from acoustic singer-songwriter to a stripped down, raw grunge act.
08 What has been your biggest challenge? Were you able to overcome this? If so, how?
My biggest challenge has by far been producing and engineering my own music. I had to buckle down at my job and save a lot of money to finance my “studio”, which is in a closet… but also learning the skill and art form that music engineers have had to hone in on. It’s been a LONG two-year process of learning how to record the best sound, which microphones, best mic pre amps, which interface, how to EQ, compress, different types of compressors, automate, limit, how to pan instruments, which reverb, how to use reverb, what levels, digital or analogue, summing, blah, blah, blah the list goes on!
There has been many times in my walk with music that I’ve wanted to just give up, but I always told myself that I would be that guy that looked back and could tell others, “It’s hard.. very hard at first, but just keep going and with trial and error, you will learn the craft and be able to look back and smile at all your hard work.” I know I took the road less traveled, instead of just hiring a professional, but in the end I think it’s what sets me apart even more. From concept to production to distribution, it’s all me, and it feels damn good.
09 Do you play covers? If you could pick any song, which would you like to cover most and why?
I don’t know if there is one song in particular, but there is an album. I want, and will, cover Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album raw and straight from the heart just like Kurt wanted to.
10 Where did you envisage being in five years time?
I envisage being backed by a label. I kind of prefer a small label in which we can grow together. But within five years, I see being well-known and being a musician as a full-time job.
11 Who would you most like to record with?
Dead: Kurt Cobain Alive: Paul McCartney (At least meet!)
12 What should we be expecting from you in the near future?
I will be releasing my debut LP “Crass” with a couple of singles with music videos to appear before it’s release.
Lost Dawn: Lost Dawn (Easy Action)
Falmouth’s Lost Dawn has the kind of fearless attitude that makes some bands great and others not so much. Their self-titled premier full-lengther is the kind of album that will grow on even the most jaded fan of this kind of music – a cross between overt pop inclinations with a slight psychedelic twist, and loose nut, rave-up experimentalism. The first two-thirds of “LD” lo-fi’s its’ way into your brain cells wonderfully. There is a distinct Marc Bolan vibrato to the effects-driven vocals that meshes well with the reverb boogie of “Breaking Bad” and “Count On Me”. Drums splash and attention spans expand and it all makes perfect contrary logic until “Manchild” when, for over six minutes the band builds from a fairly typical rhythmic pattern and heads for the very outside edges of their sound. Call it a rave-up or simply a progression to the limits in the confines of the song-it works to create a new sense of what this band is capable of when they stretch. Closing with hippie dream ballad “Kennedy”, Lost Dawn turns the tables again and all told this pleasing set builds a strong case for watching what this band does to follow this.
(11 tracks) GRAB A COPY HERE
Honey: Weekend Millionaire (Easy Action)
Blame grunge. Blame Courtney Love. Blame anything else but poor Cornwall, U.K. trio Honey for their immediately identifiable retrograde sound. Sure, every band has roots and most bands can’t shake a sound-a-like framework at the outset of their careers. We’ll give the three in Honey their first fault. Originality is a difficult and delicate thing to grab and shape into something a band can stand behind proudly. It needs to come from within the group rather from their record collections… eventually. Singer/guitarist Sarah Marie Tyrrell has guts to spare yet mewls and roars like you’ve heard it before. Points given for a guitar-centric roar that chop chops at chords defiantly while drummer Sammy and bass guitarist Ele complement heroically. That part works. Sometimes the deck requires a quick re-shuffle before the players can get down to a serious game. Honey is at the table and ready to deal except the cards are marked and the dealer already knows exactly what will be played next. Next?
(10 tracks) GRAB A COPY HERE
After the demise of the Blue Shadows, eldest brother Jeff returns to his hometown and the gang (brothers Don, Paul and David Briggs) get back together to do some new music. Augmented by bassist John Neal and multi-instrumentalist/songwriter extraordinaire Ken Pinchin the line-up becomes known as Hatcher/Briggs and release the Getting There from Here CD (2010). Turns out that was just a teaser and the sold-out local gigs (infrequent but always stellar) were encouraging enough to re-christen themselves the Fuse and get another long player under their belts.
So, here we are now in 2015 with the latest by the re-christened Fuse. The rusted out car on the cover is hardly reflective of the music within. A fully restored El Camino might have been more appropriate in this instance. The band’s mature blend of countrified roots-rock, funky Band-esque bomp, psyche and baroque pop, and track after track of harmony-fuelled lyrical splendour place them head and shoulders over countless pretenders and if all goes well this carefully crafted gem should find itself in regular rotation on any number of radio programs and music players still dedicated to real people playing real music with all their heart and soul.