Thursday 24 May 2018

Record Collection Random Choice (RCRC) - Q: Quireboys - A Bit Of What You Fancy

The Q section is not that big - only X, Y & Z have fewer entries.
The choices were basically Q-Tips, Queen, Queens Of The Stone Age, Queensryche, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Quiet Riot or The Quireboys (including the singles would've also thrown up Suzi Quatro)
The original random choice fell on the CD re-issue of The Quireboys first two albums.
I have taken the executive decision and decided to concentrate on the first.

Released in 1990, after copping management from Sharon Osbourne and a contract with EMI, the album feels like something of a clipping and (over)polishing of the bands ramshackle Faces/Stones referencing bar-room blues.

The Quireboys formed in the mid-80s (firstly as The Choirboys, and then changed to The Queerboys) and built up a following in London clubland (including The Marquee).
They were invited to appear at the Reading Rock Festival in 1987, but only on the proviso that they change their name.
Wanting to keep the Q (knowing that 30 years later they would be featuring in a little read blog on the  (yet to be invented) internet, they reverted to an adjusted spelling of their original name.
They were first on the bill, and played for 40 minutes to 100s of Festival go-ers.  Their performance was recorded and played later on Radio 1s Friday Rock Show.
Their following increased, club gigs expanded outside London, and they signed a record deal with independent Survival Records (leading to 1988 releases "Mayfair" and "There She Goes Again").
Second guitarist Ginger left soon after to form The Wildhearts.
Also in 1988, they returned to Reading playing higher up the bill, and again featured on the Friday Rock Show.
More heavy gigging, and select Support slots - including Guns n Roses - led to the Sharon Osbourne management deal and a contract with EMI.

Lead single "7 O'Clock" - a good time party song, starting with a tinkling pub piano before the riffing and Spikes raspy vocal kicks in - preceded the albums release, and a relatively healthy position in the chart suggested that EMI might be on for a decent return on investment.
Second single "Hey You" confirmed this by sneaking into the Top 20.
Not their finest moment, and smacked of "simple anthem, give us a hit single" but it did the job, and helped to shift album units, resulting in 'A Bit Of What You Fancy' debuting at Number 2.
Two further singles followed -  "I Don't Love You Anymore" and a re-recording of "There She Goes Again" both achieving airplay and chart action.

Whilst not exactly veering much from the template, there isn't really a duff track here - "Sweet Mary Ann" could've been a Rod Stewart 'Never A Dull Moment'-era leftover, "Man On The Loose" and "Misled" owe a huge debt to Ron Wood's Faces riffs, and "Whipping Boy" (co-written with ex-Rod Stewart alumni and producer Jim Cregan) is a Country-ish Stones knock-off.
(None of this is meant to be a criticism - no-one knew who The Stones or Faces were in 1990, so The Quireboys filled the gap)

It looked like the world was on the up:
They appeared at Castle Donnington Monsters Of Rock and supported Aerosmith on an arena tour of UK, Europe and the United States.
A Live album followed at end of year, proving they could still rock out with the best of them, and the studio was obviously not their natural home.

Oozing good time Rock n Roll, sleaze and Jack Daniels, this album is of the moment and could've/should've been THE party starter of 1990.
Sadly, I think it came a year too late for The Quireboys, and any chance of making a mark was dealt a kicking when Grunge emerged a little later.
Their non-core audience, management and record label all moved on to other things.
The band slowly fell apart (ongoing drummer issues had been something of a constant in the band), but lead singer Spike Gray remained a Quireboy (along with Ginger's replacement Guy Griffin) and they're still treading the boards in small, sweaty clubs somewhere in the world.

7 O'Clock

Sweet Mary Ann

Friday 18 May 2018

Record Collection Random Choice (RCRC) - P: Chris Pope - Peace Of Mind

The Mod Revival of the late 70s produced a number of similar bands imbued with the energy of punk and new wave, and looking back to/incorporating the energy and release of the R&B of the 60s (The Who, The Kinks, Small Faces being obvious influences, but The Creation, The Action and great slabs of Motown also mentioned in dispatches).
The Revival ran from around 1978 (probably coinciding with the release of The Jam's All Mod Cons), picked up a head of steam with the release of the film Quadrophenia in 1979, and then petered out in 1982.

One of the biggest bands of the Revival ceased operations in 1982 with the band members going their separate ways to varying degrees of success.
The band themselves have re-grouped and are still doing the rounds without their original lead singer, who is still releasing records and touring as a solo artist.

But it's probably not the band you're thinking of.
This is the story of The Chords and Chris Pope.

The Chords were active from 1978, and had 7 singles (only 1 scraping into the Top 40) and a single album ('So Far Away') in 1982.
After they split, lead singer Chris Pope formed a couple of bands that never really went anywhere.
Re-united (briefly) with Chords drummer Brett Buddy Ascott, the band Pope eventually released new material with 'Grace Of God' in 2005.
2009s 'Tall Tales And Cheap Thrills' kept the same name.  This album reverted to the Chris Pope miniker, suggesting a fully fledged solo album.

And it is the best of the bunch. All cut from a similar cloth - R&B riffs from a Gibson, backed by a solid rhythm section, possibly a Hammond organ, and an occasional horn section.
This one has added anger and frustration at the world he sees around him - Chris has something he wants to get off his chest, and is not holding back.  There is also some reflection going on where he confronts his past, and wonders how it all ended up like this.
All delivered with energy, commitment and 100% belief in what he is doing (there are no record labels involved, so I'm guessing Chris is ban-rolling himself through live performance and (would it be unfair to suggest "limited"?) royalty payments.

Unfortunately, Chris Pope is one of those artists that is far better in a live setting than when committed to record - something in the delivery and experience is "not quite" there.
That is not to say that this is in any way a bad record - on the contrary, it is a fine chunk of upbeat London-accented R&B.
It may never make it into the book of "100 Essential Albums That You Must Listen To Or You Are A Duffer", but it has the ability to creep into your ears meaning you'll be singing the songs to yourself for a couple of days (at least).

2016 saw the release of 'Take On Life' with another name change attached, this time adding The Chords UK (to differentiate between the other members of the original band still doing the rounds under The Chords banner).
The Chords / The Chords UK - what's the difference.
Well ,having seen The Chords UK, I can confirm that you get the best of both worlds with Band tracks and solo songs mixed up.
And a cracking performance as well.

One Happy Man

Mutiny On The Thames

Saturday 12 May 2018

Record Collection Random Choice (RCRC) - O: Hazel O'Connor - Breaking Glass

Which came first - the film or the songs?

In truth, they came at the same time.  Hazel O'Connor landed the lead role, and wrote the songs to fit the screenplay, and the film and the album (Hazel's debut release) came at the same time.

The film story is a sort of "Rags To Riches" tale of a struggling singer with a pile of songs, and a music business hustler with designs on management and potentially black-mail-able contacts (he's currently buying up hundreds of records at retail to fix the charts, and his bosses don't want that getting out).
Filmed on a relatively low budget, there is plenty of grit, some dark humour, and an appearance by PC Jim Carver from The Bill and an Ant (Garry Tibbs).
Because it has to be done and dusted in 90 minutes, it all feels a bit quick - from forming to early pub gigs, to signing a deal and recording to splitting up in a haze of confusion and breakdown, all within 12 months.

As for the songs - this is power-pop with a punky edge, similar in style to Toyah, with a smidgen of X-Ray Spex.
"Eighth Day" and "Will You" are probably the most recognised, most played - but plenty of other great tracks here- "Give Me An Inch", "Writing On the Wall", "Big Brother" to name but three).
Despite being "written to order", only one of them ("Blackman") feels (slightly) levered into the story, and in keeping with the bands meteoric rise, there is a slight development in the delivery of the songs too.

Both the CD and the DVD disappeared from the shelves and internet stockists for a while (the DVD was advertised at around £180 on Amazon - I don't think they were actually selling it, just wanted to keep it in their catalogue/on-line presence).
The CD was re-issued for a more modestly priced £5-£10, and the DVD was also re-issued (although stocks seem to have dwindled on that one too - still available, you just have to look in the right places).

Hazel O'Connor probably never reached the same musical heights, or indeed acting heights again.
She did release a second album, containing the peerless "D-Days" and a cover of The Stranglers "Hanging Around", but then became involved in drawn out litigation with Albion Records, and by the time she was free to record again, her moment in the sun had passed.

Writing On The Wall

Does this contain one of the greatest greasy sax solos ever committed to record?
Will You

Friday 4 May 2018

Record Collection Random Choice (RCRC) - N: Not The Nine O'Clock News - Hedgehog Sandwich

Mixing 1960s satire, a touch of the Monty Python-esque absurd with alternative comedy, and quick-cut sketch show format, Not The Nine O'Clock News first aired in November 1979.
(It's initial first showing was delayed due to the General Election).

It was one of those "slow burner" TV shows - not a lot of people watched the initial series, but there was enough interest (not least from the commissioning editors at the BBC) to warrant a second series.
It ran for 4 series between late 1979 and stopped when it's popularity was at it's peak in 1982.

Accompanying the series were a couple of books, and they also ventured into the world of records - releasing a couple of their musical interludes as singles ("The Ayatollah Song" / "Gob on You" and "I Like Trucking" / "Supa Dupa) , and culling the shows to fill up three albums in a three year period.

Now, bear in mind Not The Nine O'Clock News was, at heart, a topical satirical show, featuring some quick-cut video editing and silent sketches/skits.  The records themselves focus on the spoken word comedy (well, they would wouldn't they) and songs, and largely avoid the topical references which would date the content very quickly.

'Hedgehog Sandwich' (the second of three albums) pulls together sketches and songs from the second and third series broadcast in 1980, and features many of the oft-quoted sketches and lines repeated ad infinitum by "blokes (and it usually is blokes) of a certain age and mindset"

These are probably the best remembered, and (despite the scarcity of repeats) the most repeated sketches to emerge from the 3 year run.
There has been an element of re-recording/re-matching to ensure they all flow into each other, rather than the stop-start nature (slight breaks for audience applause etc) of the TV output.

Despite the lack of repeats, there is plenty dotted around YouTube and it is very easy to disappear down a Rowan Atkinson / Pamela Stephenson / Mel Smith / Griff Rhys-Jones shaped rabbit-hole (despite owning the records, and knowing the words, and trying to lever phrases into everyday conversation, I have spent a few lost evenings doing just that)

Some bits are dated (the couple of News Summaries and the That's Life take-off (entitled That's Lies). Some of the content may never see the light of televisual day again - in these more enlightened times a sketch about a policeman arresting the same man 417 times (a Mr Winston Kodogo, a caribbean gentleman, has been charged with (amongst other "crimes") "looking at me in a funny way", "walking on the cracks in the pavement","wearing a loud shirt in a built up area" and "possession of an offensive wife".  Neither would a song praising the leader of the UK Fascist Party.

But these are mere quibbles: there is plenty that would still pass muster: Football Violence (where the only solution is to "cut off their goolies"), Hi-Fi Shop (where an older man tries to buy a gramophone), Bad Language (where the interview panel of the TV discussion show do not realise they are dropping (mild) bad language into conversation without realising it)
And the songs that pepper the album remain well written and almost spot-on parody.

Hi Fi Shop

Supa Dupa

I Like Trucking