Rockabilly , Psychobilly and everything in between.

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June 2014

Quakes (the)

in Interviews
The Quakes - Chris Van Cleve, Paul Roman and Rob Peltier
The Quakes – Chris Van Cleve, Paul Roman and Rob Peltier

The Quakes are one of the first (if not the first) american psychobilly band. Like their compatriot the Stray Cats they crossed the sea to find fame in Europe where by the time the psychobilly scene was growing bigger and bigger. Roy williams and Nervous record quickly signed them and released their first album, which soon became a raw psychobilly classic. Their second record “Voice Of America” was more neo-rockabilly, and stands for me as their best. They then find a big audience in Japan with sold out shows and albums like Quiff Rock and New Generation where they mixed the usual rockabilly and psychobilly stuff to Billy Idol and Adam & the ants influences.
This interview with Paul Roman took place in 2005 for the release of  “Psyops”. More infos abot their recent albums on their website
www.thequakes.com .

by Fred “Virgil” Turgis

How did you become interested in music?
I was always interested in music as a kid.When I was 9 or 10 I started buying records. I was a big fan of The Beatles- The Rolling Stones- The Kinks- Monkees. I had older brothers and sisters who left those records behind when they moved out.

In what kind of musical background did you grow?
My parents always had music on in the house. My dad was from Poland and he liked polka music and my mom would listen to big band stuff. My oldest brother had a band and I used to watch them practice in the garage.

When did you start playing guitar ?
When I was 15 or 16, Dave “the ace” Hoy got an acoustic guitar for Christmas and we went out in the garage to jam. I was playing drums on garbage pails because I used to have a snare drum and cymbal when I was 12 but I sold it cause I never played it. Anyway, we switched instruments and found that Dave was a better drummer and I was a better guitar player- that’s how the whole band thing started.

Did someone influence you to choose that instrument?
YES! Absolutely- It was Brian Setzer- When I saw the Stray Cats on MTV I knew what I want to do! I had the snare drum like I said and that went no where and then I bought a keyboard because I was into New wave bands like the B-52’s and Devo etc. but I lost interest in that to -but when I saw the Stray Cats it was like I found my thing.

I assume you play bass too…
Yes- I bought an upright bass when I was 17 cause we couldn’t find anyone to play it so I decided to get one and learn how to play then I could teach someone. (Ed. Paul plays bass on some of the Quakes’ recent cd’s)

In your bio, you’re talking about the Quiffs. Were you in other bands before?
Yes but they were all with Dave and me- there was The Runaway Boys-The Teenage Rebels- Rockin Wildkats

What was the style of the Quiffs,? Was it a pre-Quakes kind of band?
We played obscure rockabilly and modern covers and originals- it was kinda pre Quakes again with Dave Hoy playing bass and Chris Van Cleve on drums. We recorded some stuff in a studio but its terrible. We were not very good in those days but we had fun.

When you start playing with the Quakes, were you aware of the European psychobilly scene?
Well… yes and no- I went to London to try to start a band in the summer of 1985 and at that time I had heard some psychobilly and I hated it- to me it sounded like punk rockers trying to cash in on the rockabilly scene- I didn’t understand it. I was a real ROCKABILLY GUY. Then in 1986 I went to London again to try to start a band and I was staying right down the street from the Klubfoot- but I wasn’t gonna go there…My friend had just bought the first Guana Batz album and I remember I liked the song “Down on the line” but I didn’t like the rest of it- I didn’t get it. I was hanging out at all the rockin clubs in London listening to Curtis Gordon etc.When I went back home- I put the Quakes together but we were trying to be a modern band like the Stray cats-Rockats-Polecats etc.The things that lead us to psychobilly were 1) we couldn’t play our instruments like the bands we wanted to be like (frustration) and 2) no one was paying any attention to us around town(more frustration) So I started writing these songs like “You’re Dead” and others because I was pissed off at everything-we changed our look also at that time. After that the hardcore kids would all come to see us and we started getting more gigs. Hardcore music was real popular in Buffalo at that time so we tried to incorporate some of those ideas into our stuff. “Psychobilly Jekyll & Mr Hyde” is an example of the slow part- fast part thing from the Hardcore scene-a perfect example would be “institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies which was a big song at that time. I think all those “HEY”s in our music came from the Ramones which I always liked.

Is this what led you to move to London?
We moved to London because after realizing that there was this big scene over there, we wanted to be a part of it. We had sent a couple of demo tapes to Nervous and Roy said we were too slow, so naturally we thought the secret to success is just play fast so that’s what we did. We knew that the Stray cats had sold all their stuff and moved to London so we were kinda going the same thing. I was 20, Rob was 18 and Dave was 16.

How was the American scene at that time?
Ha ha there was no scene at all, people laughed at us?! That’s another reason we wanted to move to London.

Your first album was a graphic reference to the first Stray Cats album…
We did what they did by coming to London and getting a record deal. I thought it was a good Idea- I had seen pictures of the Bluecats album that references the Gene Vincent album and some Polecats pictures that were like the Beatles album cover standing over the railing. It was a cool idea and it worked for us.

Didn’t that deserve you, due to the fact of stupid people who classified you as Stray cats followers?
Well the sad reality is…if I COULD have sounded like Brian Setzer, I probably would have. We had no choice in the fact that we had our own sound-it was that way because we sucked ha ha.

Did you have reaction from the Stray Cats about this homage?
Yes- they saw it when they came over for the BLAST OFF tour in 1990 and I got to go to two shows and meet them backstage. Slim Jim says he still has it on the wall at his house!

During the first “split” of the Quakes you played with Demented Are Go. How did it happen?
I was in London working on a solo album (never happened) and I was living in a squat. I saw Ant Thomas in the laundry mat by my house-it turns out that he lived in the same neighborhood. He said that Lex had quit and they had a bunch of shows lined up that they were going to have to cancel so I said I would do it. It was a lot of fun but I wanted to do my own thing.

Even if each album has its own sound, the change between the first one and Voice of America was radical. How do you explain this evolution?
Well first and foremost we didn’t have Dave Hoy anymore, he was killed in an auto accident in Buffalo. Any time you get a new guy in the band, the sound is going to change.We also could play our instruments a lot better at that point. After that first record there was no place else to go- I mean..what would we do ? Try to make a faster record?? We did the monster- graveyard- thing and I could see that- that was no where and I didn’t want to be one of “those” bands.
I think the stuff on Voice Of America is more of what we sounded like BEFORE we did the first record.

You started to be quite known in Japan, even had a deal with a major. Did they try to change your sound?
No they didn’t?! In fact they didn’t care about the music at all… For them it was about the packaging?! We argued with them for months about what the cd booklet was going to look like.They wanted to use all this cliché’ stuff like switchblades and dice etc. etc. They also wanted us on the cover with our instruments- we were very against this. We were trying to cross over into a new audience and we didn’t want any obvious references on the cover. The rockabilly/psycho crowd already knew who we were so it was pointless to put all that stuff on the cover for them. That record was only meant for Japan- then Nervous licensed it but I knew our fans would not like it- some did- When we put out the Nervous one we did the cover ourselves and we are still getting crap from people who don’t understand what we were..or ARE about. I think its funny that people said we look GAY on the cover because we are wearing leather pants and make -up. You know to us, we thought all those cds covers with silly cartoons were very stupid- We always wanted to be taken serious- I believe that psychobilly is a valid style of music. Too many people who write for rock magazines see psychobilly as something silly and stupid. We were trying to break that stereo type. Its not a cartoon-its great MUSIC and it doesn’t have to be about graveyards and stupid shit.

Don’t you consider the psychobilly label too limited for a band like the Quakes? On a record like New Generation there are more than just rockabilly and psychobilly influences.
Yes for sure but we sort of fit into this scene- we still play psychobilly- we do all those old songs in our set-we are definitely not rockabilly. Im not interested in those labels-To me its all about the sound of the Slap bass and twang guitar.

You created your own label, is this because you had problems with records labels (you said you didn’t touch anything on the Nervous release of Live In Tokyo)
Ya- we signed a lot of bad contracts- we were kids and we wanted to be on a record. We didn’t bother to have lawyers look at those contracts etc.The “Live in Tokyo” story is a whole story in itself but we got screwed by a Japanese label on that one and now we don’t receive any royalties on that.

Will there be other artist on this label?
I don’t think so- I don’t want to be “the guy” at the record label- in other words I don’t want to be “the asshole” Its a lot of work just to put out the Quakes cds.

So, what about this new Quakes album?
Im working on it and I hope it will be out by May or June (this interview took place in april 2005 ).There is a lot of songs and Im going to have to leave a lot out.The new record will be different than the rest but its still me writing the songs so if you are a fan you will like the new one. Its gonna be what I call “Quiff Rock” rockabilly+psychobilly+hillbilly=Quiff Rock

A last word?
Stick to your guns?!

The Everly Brothers – the outtakes

in Albums/Reissues/Reviews

everly_outtakes2Bear Family BCD 15931AR
Bye Bye Love (take 1) – I Wonder If I Care As Much (take 3) – Wake Up Little Susie (take 1)- Hey Doll Baby (take 4) – Brand New Heartache (take 2) -Keep A Knockin’ (take 5) – Love Of My Life (take 1) – Leave My Woman Alone (take 1) – Rip It Up (take 4) – Maybe Tomorrow (take 3) – Claudette (take 1) – Poor Jenny (one o’clock version/take 7) – Problems (alternative take) – All I Have To Do Is Dream (take 5) – Take A Message To Mary (take 7) – Bird Dog (take 1) – Oh What A Feeling (take 4) – Till I Kissed You (take 3) -Poor Jenny (ten o’clock version/take 3)- This Little Girl Of Mine (take 2) – Be Bop A Lula (take 4) – Claudette (take 7) – Wake Up Little Susie (take 6) – Hey Doll Baby (take 1) – All I Have To Do Is Dream (take 1) – Poor Jenny (one o’clock version/take 5) – That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine (take 2) – Down In The Willow Garden (take 3) – Long Time Gone (take 3) – Oh So Many Years (take 4) – Rockin’ Alone (In An Old Rocking Chair) (take 12) Kentucky (take 7)- Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet (take 15)- I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail (take 2)
Coming in a beautiful package in the form of a magnetic tape box, this collection of unreleased material is the occasion to hear a band at work and be the witness of their quick progess. All the Cadence classics are here in their rough and unpolished forms some substantially different from the issued takes. Made mainly for die-hard fans who can compare to the released version, this is a fascinating journey into the studio with Phil and Don Everly. The set is completed by a deluxe booklet, superbly designed too, including song by song liner notes with rare and unseen photos. Another first rate release from the German bear.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Keytones (the)

in Albums/Contemporary artists/IJKL/Reviews
Keytones-speak after tones-front
Keytones – speak after tones

The Keytones – Speak after the tone

[1987]
Ghost Of Lonely Heart – I Guess You’ll Never Know – Swimming In Pink Champagne – Angel From Paradise – Munsters – Only For You – Tickity Tock Of The Clock – Stars In Your Eyes – Stained Glass Lies – Whats Cookin’ Tonight – Girl – My Gals Been Foolin’ Around

Released in 1987, Speak AFter The Tone is the band’s first full length. It contains twelve songs, 11 originals and one cover (“Munsters“).
There’s no big departure in their sound from their previous singles, it’s the same good mix of doo-wop (Only For you), jive and rockabilly (Angels From Paradise). Most surprising is “Stained Glass Lies” with its heavy guitar and pounding drums that seems a bit out of place in all that sweetness. The musicianship is top notch with swingin’ rhythm and jazzy licks thrown in for good measure.
Nice package too with beautiful gatefold sleeve that includes the lyrics. To my knowledge it’s never been reissued on cd.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

keytones keytones keytones

Wheels Fargo and the Nightingale

in Albums/Contemporary artists/Reviews/UVWXYZ

wheelsfargoWheels Fargo and the Nightingale – At the Hayride

Part Records {2014}
Intro – Love Me To Pieces – Hogtied Over You – My Hillbilly Boys – It Makes No Difference Now – It’s My Lazy Day – I’m Talkin’, Walkin’ – Jealous Heart – Ugly And Slouchy – Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor – Keep Your Hands Away – Juke Box Blues – Divorce Me COD – Pistol Packin’ Mama – The Christmas Presents’ Blues – Lookin’ At The Moon – Lone Gone Lonesome Blues – Rocky Road Blues – Loose Talk – Bo Weavil

Despite its name “At the Hayride” is not a live recording but a solid 20-song studio album.
Though I wasn’t totally seduced by their previous effort, I must say that this one marks a big improvement. With a full array of stringed instruments (mandolin, banjo, fiddle, steel guitar, guitar…) they rip through a set of Maddox Brothers and Rose influenced stuff with bluegrass, a bit of  honky tonk and some western swing and rockabilly thrown in for good measure. A fine cocktail if there was one.
Antonella – aka the Nightingale – takes the lion’s share of the lead vocals with her fiery, confident and powerful voice, but there’s also some male lead vocals, a couple of duets and some fine harmonies one can expect from such a record.
The musicianship is solid too and they have a secret weapon with Matteo Ringressi who can play most of the aforementioned instruments and take all the lead parts but the electric guitar.
I just regret they didn’t include more original material for their three self-penned songs are very good with a special mention to Christmas Present Blues.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Wheels Fargo and the Nightingale - Songs of Calico
Wheels Fargo and the Nightingale – Songs of Calico

Wheels Fargo and the Nightingale – Songs of Calico

Part Records [2011]
Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow – House Of The Rising Sun – Victorian Lady – Night Train To Memphis – Down Down Down – Foggy Mountain Breakdown – Cotton Fields – Foot Prints In The Snow – Rocky Top – Crazy Arms – Calico – The Auctioneer – Molly And Tenbrooks – T For Texas – Littlie Maggie – I Hate My Neighbor

This Italian band defines itself as “the ultimate rocking bluegrass string band” and, guess what, this is exactly what you’ll find on this platter..
The songs come from the catalogs of Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, the Stanley Brothers and so on. As you can see we’re in well known territory and a little bit more originality in the choice of the songs would have been better. In addition to these covers, Antonella, the lead singer, has penned three songs.
It’s very well played and sung (though the Italian accent could be disturbing at times, but let’s say it adds to the charm) but lacks of that little extra something that makes the difference between average and good records. It’s too bad because their originals are quite good, especially I Hate My Neighbors, and a full album like that would have been far more superior.

.Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Rhythm Shakers – Flipsville

in Albums/Contemporary artists/R/Reviews

RhythmShakerfrontWild Records [2009]
No Time On You – Running Out Of Time – Wanted – But Still You Left Me – Flipsville – What You Do To Me – You Have It All – Tu No Me Quieres – My Sweet Revenge – Real Rockin’ Daddy – The Rockaround – Broken Heart.

The Rhythm Shakers are a bunch of well known faces for anyone who likes rockabilly (Omar Romero, Victor Mendez, Angel Hernandez), except for their charismatic lead singer, the young Marlene Perez. But don’t don’t be fooled by her angel face, this girl is WILD! And she has talent too for she wrote 8 of the 12 songs of the album.
With this tight rockin’ band to back her, she alternates hot and… hot. Hot with the screamin “No Time On You“, the Burnette tinged “But Still You Left Me” or “Real Rockin’ Daddy” and even hotter when she mellows her voice like on “Tu No Me Quieres” or “Broken Heart”. This song has often been covered but their version counts among the best ones.
A great slice of rock’n’roll (and beautiful too as it comes in a nicely designed gatefold sleeve) but not for the faint-hearted ones.
Buy it at Wild Records

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Nitros (neo-rockabilly)

in Profiles

nitros_480The Nitros

Early Years

The Nitros story begins in 1984 when Mark Swain (double bass) and his cousin Jon Attril (drums) recruit John O’Malley “I met the band when I answered an advert in Melody Maker. Mark & Jon had advertised for a Rockabilly guitarist so I went along to the audition. It was at Mark’s house in Tottenham, North London. I’d been in bands since about the age of 12 but this was my first Rockabilly band with a proper stand up bass, I was about 15 at the time”.
O’Malley gets the place and the band begins to rehearse with its singer Gary Pudney. For the first time on stage together, they open for The Guana Batz but after a few gigs Pudney quits the band. He’ll resurface in The Griswalds, still as a lead singer. “I didn’t think he was right for the sound we were trying to get. He probably suited more of the Psychobilly sound when we wanted to be like Restless or the Blue Cats.” remembers O’Malley.
The remaining trio doesn’t look for a new singer and decides to carry on with O’Malley taking over the vocals duties. They record “Destruction Road” for Fury Records and “Taxi Cab” and “Echoes Of Love” for Katz Keep Rocking. In 1988 the band releases “Nightshades” their debut mini-lp on Link in the “Chuck Flintstone presents” collection. Mixing fast rockabilly tunes with O’Malley’s inventive and jazzy riffs and a bit of blues, this album is a true masterpiece. The ability of each of them to write originals gives this 8 songs lp plenty of diversity to please the listener like the bluesy “Well Now Baby”, the darker “Misery” and of course plenty of neo-rockabilly, all wrapped up with O’Malley’s inventive and impressive riffs, this album is a true masterpiece.
Sadly this line up doesn’t last long and this first incarnation of the Nitros splits in the late 80’s. “Jon wanted to leave as he had a few personal problems and Mark was losing interest so things just went down hill.” explains the singer “It was good while it lasted and we did quite few good gigs and released Nightshades so it wasn’t all in vain.” Mark will later form the pornabilly (sic) band “The Shocking Truth where he can still be found today.

Second line-up

That doesn’t stop O’Malley who keeps the name and the band going, this time with Gary “Gaz” Day on double bass formerly of The Mysterons and The Frantic Flintstones. They tried two or three drummers that didn’t fit the band, so Gaz called Rich Taylor “It went well so I got the job” . “When I got together with Gary and Rich it was like a whole fresh approach to what we were doing, they were more into the scene and the atmosphere in the band was better, it was more fun. Gary was and still is a great bass player and very enthusiastic towards what we were doing so the sound just got better” recalls O’Malley. The new Nitros secured a contract with the Sun records of modern Rockabilly, Roy Williams’ Nervous Records and go to the studio to record their second album, “Stompin’ Beat”, in 1990. This one features some great moments like “Devil’s Ship” or “Swingsville” a jazzy instrumental that shows O’Malley’s rich influences “I’ve always liked Brian Setzer, he’s great. I started off liking all the usual rock’n’roll guitarist like Cliff Gallup, Franny Beecher, Danny Cedrone and Scotty Moore, they still sound good today. As I’ve gotten older my tastes have widened and yes, I listen to a lot of Django , Oscar Moore and Danny Gatton to try to take some of there style. But my all time hero is Jimmy Bryant, he was so fast and clean, absolutely amazing without a doubt.” In his capable hands this mix is… well, explosive.
The choice of the covers is also particularly judicious with songs from The Polecats, The Beatles and Queen. And if “Stompin’ Beat” doesn’t have the freshness and the exuberance of “Nightshades” it benefits from a tighter rhythm section. But to achieve such a great result hasn’t been easy “Stomping Beat was especially a bit of a nightmare, the engineer was always stoned and couldn’t get anything done, in the end we had to get Pete Gage to take over and mix it, he kind of saved it.” Taylor completes “He was always looking for drugs, so we ended up trying to mix the L.p ourselves. Roy was not happy and we got Pete Gage to mix it.”
Around the end of 1991, John O’Malley was also a member of “Rabbit Action” featuring Phil Connor from the psychobilly band Skitzo on vocals, Mickey Wigfall on bass, and Paul Moxon on drums. “I’d known Phil from the early days of the Nitros, we used to be on the same bill together a lot and we became good friends. Phil is a great guy and I’d love to run into him again.” The band stayed together for a short while “but it just fizzled out”. In 1990 Gary went back to The Frantic Flintstones and brought Rich with him. Together they played on “Cuttin A Fine Line” (Rumble Records) and later “Jamboree” (Anagram). During this sessions, produced by Alan Wilson, Day suggested to reform The Sharks. He was drafted in on bass and recorded “Recreationnal Killer” in 1993. He also debuted his partnership with famous popstar Morrissey.

Colbert Hamilton

Still in 1993 the Nitros released its third LP on Day’s short lived label Rockout : “Something’s Gotta Give”. Another very good one, with Boz Boorer (Polecats and many others) in the producer’s seat. Mostly self written with the exception of Wayne Walker’s All I Can Do Is Cry and Bobby Roberts’Big Sandy this one goes from wild rockabilly to the jazzy “Midnight Special”. A guest singer is also present on four songs “Chris Harvey was with the band for about six months. A great singer but didn’t seem to fit in with our sense of humour. I haven’t seen him since he left the band, maybe he went back to Scotland.”.
The same year they backed Colbert Hamilton, the Black Elvis, on “Still Taggin’ Along”. “We met Colbert when he used to work in Kensington market. We had seen him perform before and thought he was great. We approached him and found out he wasn’t with any band at the time so we got him in and it went from there. Colbert is an amazing singer and front man, he really knows how to put on a show. The two CDs we did together were cool, he had a load of his old songs he’d never recorded and I’d written a bunch of songs so we put them all together and out came the 2 CDs”. O’Malley has very fond memories of the Japan tour backing Hamilton “It was great and we were treated really well, the crowds were just so into what we were doing, I remember me and Rich walking down the town and young Rockabilly kids stopping us to sign pictures and take our photo… Cool.”
In 1994, the band and Hamilton returned to Nervous to release Hamilton’s third lp “Wild At Heart” produced by Alan Wilson (The Sharks) and featuring covers of The Reverend Horton Heat and Thin Lizzy.(Hamilton collaborated with Phil Lynott). For Taylor and O’Malley “Wild at heart is the best one, I wouldn’t change a thing about that one”

The Nitros never officially disbanded but each of them got involved in other projects. Taylor played with Paul Ansell’s N°9,  The Caravans, The Playboys and The Crazy Crocodiles. He also had a project with Dibbs Preston (The Rockats) called The Leopardmen. Day was busy with his own band The Gazmen, The Caravans and of course as bassist with Morrissey.
O’Malley joined the heavy touring band “Good Rockin’ Tonight”. They released numerous albums and his sparkling guitar can still be heard with them today. He also formed The Poker Dots in Spring 2002 with Zac Zdravkovic and Spencer Lingwood, a band inspired by The Platters, The Crew Cuts with a bit of Nat King Cole here and there.
When he thinks about his days in The Nitros, O’Malley says : “It was good fun and I’m glad I was a part of it. ” 

“Something Gotta Give” is now out of print (sadly) but Nigthshades and Stompin’ Beat have been released on the same cd in 2009 by Cherry Red /Anagram. With three bonus tracks and a booklet full of rare photos, this is a must have.
If mp3’s are more your thing, Stompin’ Beat, Wild At Heart (with Colbert Halmiton) and the songs from Outrage vol 1 and 2 are available.

The Nitros
The Nitros (John O’Malley, Rich Taylor and Gary Day)
  • Albums
    Nightshades – Link MLP 062
    Stompin’ Beat – Nervous Nerd049
    Something’s Gotta Give – Rockout Nit001
    Nightshades/Stompin’ Beat CDM Psycho 78
  • with Colbert Hamilton
    Cadillac Baby– Vinyl Japan JRT02
    Still Taggin’ Along – Vinyl Japan JRCD05
    Wild At Heart– Nervous Nerd076
  • Compilation albums
    One track (Destruction Road) on I Love My Car – Fury Records
    One track (Echoes Of Love) on Katz Keep Rocking Vol.1– Link
    One track (Taxi Cab) on Katz Keep Rocking Vol.2– Link
    One track (Big Sandy) on Twenty Blasters From Blighty– NV Comp1
    One track (Running Out Of Time) on Outrage Vol.1– Rage 104
    Two tracks (Midnight Special, All I Can Do Is Cry) on Outrage Vol.2– Rage 105
    Three tracks (I’ll Get Mine, Teenager’s Mother, Something’s Gotta Give) on Five Inches Of Pleasure

© Fred “Virgil” Turgis
Thanks to John O’Malley and Rich Taylor.

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