Tuesday 1 December 2020

Anyone Fancy A Pint?

 There are a number of bands who are superb live, but never seem to be able to capture the power on record.
One disappointment for me was The Quireboys - I'd seen them a few times live and it was always a full on powerful show, but one the album arrived it was somewhat sanitised, over-produced, and all tghe edges cleaned up.
Old stagers The Who and The Stones fall firmly into that category now where their live shows exceed the impact of studio performances.
Thin Lizzy's best album is 'Live And Dangerous', The Foo Fighters live act trumps their records (they're very good records, but they are a prime live act), and Bruce Springsteen live is the consumate performer putting in shows of up to 4 hours (is he the Ken Dodd of Rock?).  Prince too - I've never loved his records, but watching and hearing him live is a pure spectacle (especially when he goes just a little bit wild on the guitar).
So why does this happen?  Surely all you have to do is rock up to the studio, plug in, and place your live set on tape.
But what's missing when you do this is the response from the audience, the chance to do something spontaneous, the missed beats, duff notes or wrong words are addressed and banished, recording is a "job" not a fly by the seat of your pants adrenalin rush.

Pub Rock started in North London in the early 70s when American Band Eggs Over Easy convinced the landlord of The Tally Ho in Kenitish Town to let them play in the back-room.
Word got out and audiences increased adn soon a circuit of pubs opened up their doors selling beer, pickled eggs and sweaty rock n roll and r&b.
On of the finest purveyours was Duck's Deluxe, who along with Brinsley Schwarz, the aforementioned Eggs Over Easy, and Bees Make Honey, were there right from the start.

Such was their reputation on the circuit, they landed a deal with RCA and went into the studio to transfer their live shows onto record.
Little footage exists of the band playing live, but the small amount that does shows a working band high on commitment, playing ability and presence.
But their debut for RCA sounded a bit flat by comparison - it's not a bad record at all, it just feels too clean and a bit lacking of drive.  Songs like "Coast To Coast", "Nervous Breakdown" and "Fireball" have all the potential just something is missing between leaving the players and transferring to tape.
Undeterred, the band and record company tried again with follow-up album 'Taxi To The Terminal Zone', but still no dice.  Again, it's a fine album but is sounding flat again.
One last single was released - a great version of "I Fought The Law" - before the Ducks called it a day in 1975.

They rounded of things with a live performance at the 100 Club which was recorded and bootlegs appeared a couple of years later under the title 'The Last Night Of A Pub Rock Band'.  This was the Ducks at full chat and a better representation of the band on record, as is reformation album 'Rockin At The Moon' (widely available on Spotify unlike 'Last Night ...' which can only be found with a bit of searching (and then not necessarily "freely" available).

Which begs the question: why didn't they put out their live set as an official album?  Dr Feelgood did (granted it was their third album) and secured a Number 1 seller.
Ducks Deluxe, along with many other Pub Rockers, will be filed in the "oh so nearly" file.

But they weren't completely defeated:  Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont joined Graham Parker's backing band The Rumour, while Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster formed The Motors and managed a couple of Top Of The Pops appearances.
Sean Tyla though - the guitarist, singer, songwriter, and general driving force of the band stayed on the club circuit - achieving acclaim in Scandinavia and Germany, until health induced retirement in the early 80s.

They had the songs, they had the chops, they had the following, all that was missing was a decent bit of studio engineering to get the crackling sound they made onto a slab of vinyl.

Minor quibble though - the 2 albums are worthy of anyone's time and hint at just what could've been


Cost To Coast


  1. Ducks along with Feelgood, and the Hot Rods, pushed the door open and were trampled in the stampede to get thru by the Damned, the Pistols, et al. Only a handful survived the transition - Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and a few like minded souls who (with a little help from Nick Lowe) would build the foundations of Stiff Records in 1976.
    Sean Tyla sadly passed in May this year. His band, The Tyla Gang, despite going on to make some good records, missed the boat.

    1. That was going to be my last paragraph, but decided to keep it about Ducks.
      There may have been no love lost between the 2 factions, but the Pub Rockers gave the Punks a ready-made circuit of venues (if not an audience).
      And Stiff Records? Started with a £400 loan from Lee Brilleaux

  2. A pint would be most welcome right now!
    Have you read No Sleep Till Canvey Island by Will Burch?
    An excellent history of pub rock
    Pub rock is big in Texas too!

    1. Been looking for that book at a decent price for ages. Will Birch wrote sleevenotes for an old Pub Rock compilation - Goodbye Nashville Hello Camden Town - these were an (apparently) abridged version of his book.
      Just makes me want the book more ...

      That Elizabeth McQueen album you show is on Spotify - Pub Rock with a country-blues twang. Evening sorted