Saturday 4 November 2017

The Professionals


To para-phrase Alan Partridge: "They're only the band the Sex Pistols could've been"

At the fag-end of the Pistols life, Steve Jones and Paul Cook were left as the only 2 members.  John Lydon had walked out in San Fransico ("ever get the feeling you've been cheated?") and Sid was busy being Sid on a path to self destruction.
Cook and Jones kept recording to keep the name alive, and probably string out a career for as long as Macolm McLaren would allow.
As part of the recordings for the film Great Rock n Roll Swindle, Cook and Jones laid down 4 new tracks - 2 of which appeared in the film ("Lonely Boy" and "Silly Thing".  The other two ("Black Leather and "Here We Go Again" would appear as the sixth single in the multiple single pack 'The Pistols Pack'.
The album version of "Silly Thing" featured Paul Cook on vocals - for the upcoming single release, the track was re-recorded with Steve Jones on vocals.  Also participating in this session was session bassist Andy Allan.
"Silly Thing" was released as a single and climbed into the Top 10 (it was also bestowed a Legs and Co dance routine on Top Of The Pops).

Late in 1979, following the legal dissolution of the Sex Pistols, Cook and Jones re-grouped (retaining Andy Allan) as The Professionals.
Their association with Virgin Records continued, and they went into the studio to record new product.
Mid 1980 saw their first single release - "Just Another Dream" stuck in the 'Guitar, Bass, Drums, with vocals over the top' template, and none too shabby it was - although it din't trouble the chat compilers.
Their second single "1-2-3" crept into the lower reaches of the Top 50, but they kept going and continued with the plan to record the album for release before the end of the year.

And then ...

After the release of the second single, Andy Allan was ousted (did he leave or was he pushed?) replaced by Paul Myers from Subway Sect.
Allan had originally joined as a session player, but it was unclear whether he was actually ever promoted to a full time member.
Either way he felt he had not been duly credited, or indeed payed for his contribution thus far.  Add the fact that he wasn't officially under contract to Virgin Records (Virgin had signed The Professionals, which at the time was only Paul Cook and Steve Jones).
Seeking recompense, Allan sued Virgin record.  As a result of the injunction granted to Andy Allan, the track "Kick Down The Doors" was removed from the recent Virgin compilation 'Cash Cows', and all recordings to date for the album shelved.

Ray McVeigh was added as second guitarist, and they returned to the studio to start again, re-recording previous tracks and fashioning some new ones.
The re-recording of the album was declared the priority, and as a result live dates were scarce and the press and public were beginning to lose interest.
Another 6 months passed before the band broke cover with the single "Join The Professionals" - and again no chart action was garnered.
Only 2 or 3 UK shows were played before the band went off on a US Tour.
Coinciding with the US Tour, the new/re-recorded album 'I Didn't See It Coming' finally made it into the shops in October 1981 - some 16 months after initial recording.

Press response was lukewarm, and sales were slow.  Lack of promotion, and the sheer time it had taken did not endear it to a mass audience.
Shame, because in retrospect, and despite all the hoo-hah leading up to release it is a blinding corker of PowerPopPunk (if such a genre exists).
The one big criticism that can be levelled at the album is that the production is a bit thin and weedy, burying the power of Jones-ys guitar attack, and swamping the vocals.
Just a couple of days after the release, whilst in the US, the band were involved in a car accident which injured Cook, Myers, and McVeigh and abruptly ended the tour.
It also curtailed any future UK promotion for the album and it limped out of view.
After a period of recuperation, they returned to the US the following year, but the increasing drug habits of Jones and Myers put the mockers on that, and the band split and returned home (except for Steve Jones, who is still resident in LA).

And then it all went quiet - Steve Jones played some sessions with Iggy Pop, and also hooked up with some big names in bands like Chequered Past and The Neurotic Outsiders.  He released a couple of solo albums, and then "retired" to LA, breaking cover for Sex Pistols re-unions, brief guest appearances, and most recently hosting Jonesy's Jukebox on various radio stations around LA.
Paul Cook was behind the discovery and first single of Bananrama, but then effectively retired from music, popping up a long-time session drummer for Edwyn Collins.

Sex Pistols reunion activity kept them in touch (they were mates anyway, so more than likely in contact sooner or later), but The Professionals were not re-considered.

In 2016, The Professionals reformed to play a co-headline gig with Glen Matlock's post-Pistols outfit The Rich Kids.
There was obviously still enough of a spark there to consider reforming full-time and record again.

Which leads us to this - the new album ('What In The World') from the reconfigured Professionals
Cook and Myers remain from the first incarnation, but Steve Jones was unable to commit full time, so Tom Spencer fills the void this time round.
Steve Jones does appear as a guest guitarist on three tracks, along with a host of others showing the power of Paul Cook's address book.
Additional guitar oomph is provided by: Duff McKagen (Guns ‘n’ Roses), Mick Jones (The Clash), Phil Collen (Def Leppard), Marco Pirroni (Adam & The Ants), Chris McCormack (3 Colours Red) and Billy Duffy (The Cult).

'What In The World' is 10 tracks of solid, thumping, new wave / powerpunk / pub-rock / meatandpotatoesrock / (whatevergenre)rock.

Opening track "Good Man Down" sets the tone and lets you know what you are in for - solid, shout along, anthemic stuff.
OK, this may not be breaking new ground, or have some arty aesthetic underpinning the concept, but you can turn it up loud, jump around like a loony and go away with a smile on your face.
The pounding pace and power never lets up (only on "Extramadura" (featuring Mick Jones) does the tempo fall back.

There is the obvious danger that this album may be seen as a bunch of old punks in the midst of a mid-life crisis re-living their past.
Oh no no - yes the band name and members are all in "later years", but this album is as new, powerful and valid as anything produced in the past couple of years in that un-pigeonholeable genre of Rock (as we know and love it).

It took nearly 2 years for the debut to see the light of day, and it has taken 36 years for the follow-up to be released.
Both events were worth the wait (although, if you are going to do a third album, try not to leave it quite so long)
The world may have massively changed in that intervening time, but there is still a place for The Professionals

Track #1 from the first Professionals album ('I Didn't See It Coming') - "The Magnificent"

Track #1 from 'What In The World' - "Good Man Down"


  1. Is it controversial of me to agree with Alan Partridge on this one?

    Never heard of the Professionals till now, but I liked both of those tracks a lot. Punk is dead - long live powerpop! ;-)

  2. I liked and bought 'Just Another Dream' at the time, because as a Pistols fan I still loved Steve's fat guitar sound. (And this time of year also makes me think of The Greedies' Merry Jingle!) 'Meatandpotatoesrock' is the perfect description - had no idea the Professionals would be back all these years later, isn't life strange?!