Virgil

Stray Cats

Stray Cats, neo-Rockabilly legends, formed in 1979, by Brian Setzer on guitar and vocals, Lee Rocker on double bass and Slim Jim Phantom on drums.

Stray Cats – Stray Cats

Stray Cats

Arista [1981]
Runaway boys – Fishnet stockings – Ubangi stomp – Jeanie jeanie jeanie – Storm the embassy – Rock this town – Rumble in Brighton – Stray cat strut – Crawl up and die – Double talkin baby – My one desire – Wild saxaphone

In the late ’70s, a trio of three young Rockabilly cats dug in their parents’ records collection. Without any complex and a good dose of naivety, they took 25-year-old music and made it sound fresh again (which led to a certain animosity from the purists.) Sure they liked Cochran, Vincent and Burnette, but they also grew up in New York during the heydays of Punk music.

The construction and the progression of the album itself are faultless. A-side opens with the hypnotic beat of “Runaway Boys” and ends with the rockin’ hymn “Rock This Town”. In between, two covers get the Stray Cats treatment (Warren Smith’s “Ubangi Stomp” and Cochran’s “Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie”) and two original songs. Of course, “Fishnet Stockings” is similar to Lew Williams’ “Bop Bop Ba Doo Bop”. That’s obvious. “Storm The Embassy” is a solid rocker but have nothing to do with rockabilly (actually Setzer played it in his previous band “The Bloodless Pharaohs” under the name “Boys Having Babies” and with different lyrics). The song is rather political and refers to the Iranian crisis and American hostages in the late ’70s. With a song so closely linked to the actuality, it didn’t allow them to perform it on stage long after 1981, which is a pity because, musically speaking, it rocks (listen to the live bootlegs issued from this period).

The B-side is more or less built on the same structure. The wild (also with a hypnotic riff) “Rumble In Brighton” opens the show. Depending on the pressing, one can hear Setzer yell “Ein, Swei, Drei, Vier” to open the tune, but you have to listen closely.

The origins of “Stray Cat Strut”, which became their signature song, were subject to questions. Of course, it’s the same chord progression as “Hit The Road Jack” and some advanced “Icky Poo”, an instrumental by the Nomads or “Lonely Travelin’” by Lonesome Lee as possible sources. But these are somewhat obscure songs, especially in the late ’70s, and it neglects the fact that Setzer grew up in New York and, as we said, was a Punk fan in his youth. That’s why I believe that the origin of Stray Cat Strut is to be found in Richard Hell’s Blank Generation (a band that often had as a support act the Bloodless Pharaohs). Listen to the guitar solo from Robert Quine and the “Woo-Woo” in the middle. It’s all here. Anyway, the band put enough of them to make it a great number and one of the highlights of their shows.

Crawl Up And Die” is a variation on Bill Allen and the Back Beats’ “Please Gimme Something” and shows another side of Setzer’s voice, the torrid one. The covers on this side are Ricky Nelson’s “My One Desire”, Vincent’s Double Talkin’ Baby and Roy Montrell’s “Mellow Saxophone” renamed here “Wild Saxophone.” Slim Jim Phantom provides a solid beat and Gary Barnacle (who played with the Clash) on sax. Brilliant.


Stray Cats – Little Miss Prissy

Arista – SCAT 5 [1981]
Little Miss Prissy / Sweet Love On My Mind – Something Else

Little Miss Prissy comes from Gonna Ball and shows the influence of Chuck Berry. The B-side features two unissued live tracks recorded in November 14th, 1981 in Newcastle: Johnny Burnette’s Sweet Love On My Mind and Eddie Cochran’s Something Else; both played in a wild and punkish manner.


Stray Cats – Gonna Ball

stray cats gonna ball

Arista [1981]
Baby Blue Eyes – Little Miss Prissy – Wasn’t That – Good Cryin’ Shame – (She’ll Stay) Just One More Day – You Don’t Believe Me – Gonna Ball – Wicked Whisky – Rev It Up and Go – Lonely Summer Nights – Crazy Mixed Up Kid

Following the massive success of their debut album, at least in Europe, the Stray Cats took a break in their heavy touring schedule. In August 81, they flew to Air Recording Studios in Montserrat in the East Indies to record their second album. This time the band took over the production duties with the help of sound engineer Heinz Hoven. The presence of prestigious guests augmented the trio. It included veteran Lee Allen (Little Richard, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis and later The Blasters) on sax and Ian Stewart (Rolling Stones) on the keyboard. Helped by that prestigious line-up, they played a bluesier form of rock’n’roll rather than the modern Rockabilly they were known for.

Half of the album consists of blues or blues-influenced songs. “Rev It Up and Go” and, to a lesser extent “, Little Miss Prissy” are obviously influenced by the great Chuck Berry. “You Don’t Believe Me” shows the influence of Elmore James with Setzer on slide-guitar. “Wasn’t That Good” proves that they are more than able to deliver a good jump blues (which they’ll later confirm with “Look At That Cadillac” and Lucky Charms”) and “Cryin’ Shame” features a fine harmonica part. Only “(She’ll Stay Just) One More Day” sung by Lee Rocker sounds weak and artificial. Though it features a nice organ part, the song is not great and Lee at that time wasn’t the singer he is nowadays.

Of course, there’s also some solid Rockabilly with Johnny Burnette’s Baby Blue Eyes and the raw Gonna Ball (actually a remake of the Wheels’ Let’s Have A Ball). The album also features one instrumental titled “Wicked Whisky”, which also cut as a vocal track under the name “Cross That Bridge” as a b-side and on Japan pressings. “Lonely Summer Night” proves that Setzer can top the greatest ballads of the ’50s, and “Crazy Mixed-up Kids” ends this album at a frantic pace.

This blues orientation confused the fans, and the “Gonna Ball” was only a semi-success compared to “Stray Cats”.


Stray Cats – Built For Speed

stray cats - built for speed

EMI [1982]
Rock This Town –  Built For Speed –  Rev It Up & Go – Stray Cat Strut –  Little Miss Prissy – Rumble In Brighton –  Runaway Boys –  Lonely Summer Nights – Double Talkin’ Baby – You Don’t Believe Me – Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie – Baby Blue Eyes

By 1982, the Stray Cats finally achieved success in their own country which led EMI to release this compilation featuring 6 tracks from their debut album, five from Gonna Ball and one new song, the title track, a great country-rockabilly.


Stray Cats – Look at that Cadillac

Look At That Cadillac / Lucky Charm [1983]
Arista 106-271

This is the 7″ that started it all for me. I still clearly remember the day I bought it with my older brother back in 1983 (I was 10, man, how time flies). The A-side is a classic jump blues with saxes and piano. Good song, if not very original, with Setzer talking about how hard he needs a Cadillac. “Look At That Cadillac” pleased me for sure, but the real jewel was on the B side. “Lucky Charm (oh Wee Suzie)” was – and still is – one of the best songs the Stray Cats ever wrote. Setzer’s voice is perfect. It looks like the curse of the great guitar player, as sometimes no one pays attention to their vocals. The song was probably recorded during the same session, as the saxes and piano are still here. This one is more a swingin’/rockin’ tune with every musician taking a hot solo each, especially a very inspired boogie-woogie part by Geraint Watkins (Crazy Cavan, Shakin Pyramids, and many others) and at the end, a short slap bass break. And at this moment I thought, “Woah! That’s what I want to hear!!!”. And now, more than 20 years later, I still listen to this single with great joy. I guess this is the power of the 45.


Stray Cats – Rant n’ Rave

Arista / EMI [1983]
Rebels Rules – Too Hip Gotta Go – Look At That Cadillac – Something’s Wrong With My Radio – 18 Miles To Memphis – Sexy & 17 – Dig Dirty Doggie – I Won’t Stand In Your Way – Hot Rod Gang – How Long Do You Wanna Live Anyway

Following the success of Built For Speed, the Stray Cats reunited with Welshman Dave Edmunds in 1983 to record “Rant & Rave” in London. They opted to return to what made their success and went back to their rockabilly roots (with an exception or two) after the blues-inspired “Gonna Ball”.

Rebels Rule” is an excellent choice to start the selection. With a strong Diddley Beat, Slim Jim playing like a madman on his toms, and Setzer yelling, “Rock’n’Roll is never too loud!” the pace is quickly set. The Stray Cats are back!

The next one, “Too Hip Gotta Go”, is a good rockabilly and shows Setzer ability on the strings. A fun one to play (see the time Setzer takes to explain it on his instructional video), it’ll remain in their live setlist for a very long time. “Look At That Cadillac” is a fine jump blues with juicy saxes and piano. Though it’s more a “sax” tune, Setzer plays an exciting rhythmic pattern in the background.
Sexy & 17” opens the b-side. It’s a good song with a solid solo, and it’ll make its niche in the charts. Inspired by Roy hall’s Diggin’, the Boogie, “Dig Dirty Doggie”, is one of their most rockabilly effort with huge slap bass.

The style changes with “I Won’t Stand In Your Way”, a delicious ballad with a doo-wop arrangement. The band is joined by the vocal group 14 Karat Soul for this song. An acapella version exists too.

Hot Rod Gang” was undoubtedly written with Gene Vincent in mind and features a fine Cliff Gallup influenced solo. The album ends with “How Long You Wanna Live Anyway?” the closest thing to Psychobilly the Stray Cats ever played with heavy guitar and pounding drums.

With ten songs and not a weak track, the Stray Cats star rose high. Sadly one year after the release of Rant & Rave, the band disbanded, and though they made different come-back with some solid songs and albums, this is the end of the golden age of the Stray Cats.


Stray Cats – Rock Therapy

stray cats rock therapy

EMI [1986]
Rock Therapy – Reckless – Race With The Devil – Looking For Someone To Love – I Wanna Cry – I’m A Rocker – Beautiful Delilah – One Hand Loose – Broken Man – Change Of Heart

By 1986 each member of The Stray Cats was deeply involved in his solo stuff. Setzer had released his first solo album, “The Knife Feels Like Justice”, in a John Cougar vein at the beginning of the year. Lee and Jim teamed with David Bowie’s guitarist Earl Slick in Phantom, Rocker and Slick for two albums if far to be exceptional contain some interesting things if you’re curious or nostalgic of the ’80s (and dig crazy hairdos). But the three of them were tied to EMI with, according to Setzer, a bad contract. The best way to solve it was to record this album.

So from the start, it wasn’t really a “new” Stray Cats album. One can suppose that they logically wanted to keep their best material for their solo career. This also explains why half of the songs are covers. But this album has its good moment, and even a half-successful Stray Cats album is better than 90% of the rest. The five covers are very well done, the best being Gene Vincent’s Race With The Devil. But it’s true that, except for Charlie Feathers’ One Hand Loose, the band is in a well-known territory with Johnny Burnette, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry (the trio often played “Beautiful Delilah” on stage around 1982).

Things are a bit different when it comes to the band’s songs. Setzer’s own “Reckless” shows the influence of his solo stuff and announces with an advance of 5 years how the Stray Cats would sound on Let’s go Faster. “Broken Man” is far better with its banjo. Setzer had already toyed with the banjo on stage, playing tunes like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”, which can be heard in the solo part. Phantom and Rocker provide “I Wanna Cry”, sung by Lee, that owes more to their solo stuff than the Stray Cats. And when I listen to the guitar solo (a crappy heavy metal mush), I wouldn’t swear that Setzer plays on it but blame Earl Slick for it. Finally, the three join forces to write “I’m A Rocker”. Nothing original here, just a solid rocker with a strong train rhythm and two wild guitar solos, but that’s enough. “Change Of Heart” is different from what the Stray Cats ever released, more pop, but eventually very pleasant. After this session, they returned to their respective solo career but quickly reformed the Stray Cats, this time for good, in late 1988.


Stray Cats – Bring It Back Again

Stray Cats – Bring it Back Again 7″

EMI 12MT 62 [1989]
Bring It Back Again – Runaway Boys (live) – I Fought The Law

Bring It Back Again” was co-written with Jonnie Barnett (real name Jonathan Barnett Kaye – 1946-2002). Jonnie Barnett was a singer and songwriter who began his career as a solo guitarist opening for Cheech and Chong, Frank Zappa, Eric Burdon of The Animals, Ronnie Milsap, Dion, Tom Rush, Hank Williams Jr. and others. For the last 18 years of his life, he became a well-known songwriter on the Nashville music scene. He wrote songs for Etta James, Johnny Adams, Dobie Gray, Clay Walker, Hank Williams Jr., Eric Burdon, Irma Thomas, Dan Penn and many more.

The B-side features a live version of Runaway Boys (recorded at the Ritz on October 18, 1988.) and a studio version of I Fought the Law. According to some early promo sheets, I Fought the Law was considered for the album (Blast Off) but didn’t make the final list. This version, produced by Dave Edmunds, is far superior to the slicker one recorded a couple of years later at Virgin Convent Studios in Los Angeles for “Original Cool”.

Bring It Back Again” was performed live during the 1989 tour, the 2004 reunion tour, some dates in 2007 and during the 2008 farewell tour (and this time Lee sang it lead).

Lee Rocker also performs this one during his live shows.

The single peaked at #35 in the US Rock charts and #64 in the UK.


Stray Cats – Gina

gina

EMI USA – MT 67 [1989]
Gina – Two Of A Kind – Stray Cat Strut (live)

Though it seems written explicitly for the Stray Cats by the Paine Brothers (who wrote several songs for the Rockats), this song had a long journey before ending on the band’s fifth album.
Then, three years later, in 1984, Josie Cotton recorded it for her second album, “From the Hip”, also produced by Bobby and Larson Paine. Eventually, the Stray Cats finally covered it in 1989 for “Blast Off” and slightly adapted the lyrics. They accentuated the Buddy Holly feel with Slim Jim adding a tom to his drumkit to emulate a Jerry Allison pattern.It remained a favourite of their live set, sometimes performed acoustically.

The B-side is one of the Stray Cats hidden gems. It’s a superb rocking ballad and proves that the band’s B-sides are often superior to the others’ A-side. The first EMI promo sheets show it was considered to be included on “Blast Off”, though it was later dropped, maybe because it was too similar to Nine Lives.

The maxi version also featured a live cut of Stray Cat Strut, recorded at the Ritz in October 1988, and a poster.


Stray Cats – Blast Off

stray cats blast off

EMI [1989]
Blast off – Gina – Everybody needs rock n roll – Gene and Eddie – Rockabilly rules – Bring it back again – Slip slip slippin in – Rockabilly world – Rockin’ all over the place – Nine lives

In 1988, after respective solo careers not entirely convincing – to say the least – Setzer, Phantom, and Rocker reunited and returned to what they do the best: rockabilly. Even the fourth Stray Cat (like George Martin could be the fifth Beatle) Dave Edmunds was back in the producer’s seat. Slim Jim Phantom said, “It’s probably our most rockabilly effort”, and he’s right. Rockabilly with a modern edge and a 90’s sound, but the backbone is here. They cover Eddie Bond’s “Slip, Slip Slippin’ In”, and half of the songs borrow from 50’s rockabilly tunes. “Gina” is a Buddy Holly influenced song with Phantom adding a floor tom to get the Jerry Allison pattern. “Blast Off” sounds like “Jungle Rock” on speed but has good enough lyrics to be original. “Everybody Needs Rock’n’ Roll” bears more than one common point with Glen Glenn’s Everybody’s Movin. And of course, “Gene And Eddie”, Setzer’s tribute to these two pioneers, is very effective if not very original (the song is made of various verses from Vincent and Cochran songs). “Rockabilly Rules, Ok” – the title says it all – and “Rockabilly World” reinforce the rockabilly orientation. You also have a clear attempt to chart with the more commercial “Bring It Back Again” lifted as a potential single (sadly, it’ll fail to climb very high). The best track is “Nine Lives”, a jazzy variation around “Stray Cats Strut”, with clever lyrics, outstanding guitar solo and vocal from Setzer. Indeed this album marks a turning point in Setzer’s vocal. He seems more confident in his talent as a singer, and his voice has gone more profound and more mature. This album may suffer the lack of powerful hits (like Stray Cats Strut, Rock This Town or Runaway Boys) and originality (four songs with the word Rock in the title might sound a bit cliché).

Nevertheless, it’s a solid rock album, very well produced and most of all, the listener can feel the fun and the joy to play together. The gigs to promote this one were good, energetic and fans had big hopes for the next album. Alas, a big disappointment was waiting for them.


Stray Cats – Let’s Go faster

stray cats - let's go faster

Liberation records D30519 (AUS) [1990]
Toshiba-EMI TOCP 6520 (JAP)

Cross of love – Town without pity – Shotgun baby – Struck by lighting twice – Thing about you- Baby don’t drag me down – Tight black leather – Give it to me – Let’s go faster – Keep on running – Runaway train – Gonna be your rock (Japan only)

We wanted to try something new” is what Setzer said in 1991 about this album. Probably disillusioned by the lack of success of “Blast Off”, the Stray Cats hired producer Nile Rodgers (Chic, David Bowie, Madonna…). On the paper, this association sounded quite weird. In reality, it was even worse. At best, the result sounds like Setzer solo stuff (and some songs come from his solo period: Cross Of Love, Thing About You), and at worse, you have bad and already out of fashion 80’s new wave. Very little can be saved from this wreck: “Let’s Go Faster” (nothing original but a solid rock song with a riff ala Eddie Cochran), “Give It To Me”, another one written with Buddy Holly in mind and on the contemporary side “Keep On Running”. The remaining songs are mostly weak, and the production is weaker. Looking for a modern (and a chart appealing) sound, the band has lost its identity and specificity. The result is the absence of the slap bass (replaced by an electric bass), a key element of their sound the same way the Gretsch and the stand-up snare are. The band was probably disappointed by the result and issued “Let’s go Faster” only in Japan and Australia. Later a bootleg album appeared with the demos. The lame songs stayed lame, but at least the good ones weren’t wasted by the production.

The Japanese edition has a bonus track called “Gonna Be Your Rock”, which is, in my own opinion, in a good place for the title of “Worst Stray Cats song ever”.


Stray Cats – Struck By Lightning

stray cats - struck by lightning

Liberation Records – K10340 [1991]
Struck By Lightning / Give It To Me

This 1991 single was released in Australia only. Struck By Lightning is a heavy rocker, with a threatening riff, maybe closer to Setzer’s solo stuff than the Stray Cats, but that remains a solid song. The B-side is Give It To Me, a lighthearted love song, that sounds like a modern version of Buddy Holly. Both songs were played by the trio during its 1990-1991 tours. One can find on Youtube an amazing live version of Struck By Lightning in Tokyo and of course Give It To Me was captured on video for Rock Tokyo.


Stray Cats – Choo Choo Hot Fish

Choo Choo Hot Fish

Pump Records – 50286 [1992]
Elvis On Velvet – Cry Baby – Please Don’t Touch – Sleepwalk – Lust’n’Love – Cross Of Love – Beautiful Blues – Can’t Go Back To Memphis – Jade Idol – My Heart Is A Liar – Let’s Go Faster – Mystery Train

“Choo Choo Hot Fish” can be seen as the successful version of “Let’s Go Faster”. It is innovative yet still with a feet in the tradition and is their most ambitious effort to date. It also sees the return of Dave Edmunds behind the glass.

The opening track is representative of that mood, pumping sound, modern drums mixed with rockabilly elements for a tribute to Elvis. Next is “Cry Baby”, a non retro melodic rockabilly tune. It is an instant Stray Cats classic and has that timeless sound that makes the trio so special. And with Edmunds on second guitar and on duet vocal it reminds the good old days of “The Race Is On”.

Johnny Kidd’s Please Don’t Touch rocks like hell in Setzer and Rocker setlist in their respective solo careers. Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” appears here for the first time, long before the orchestra and the Grammy Award. Though I grew rapidly tired of the heavy orchestra version, this one still sounds fresh today.

Both “Lust’n’Love” and “Can’t Go Back To Memphis” harden the sound with heavy guitar and Jim hittin’ the drums as hard as he can. “Lust’n’ Love” keeps the backbone of rockabilly while “Can’t Go Back…” is not that far from ZZ Top and it’s very interesting to listen to this album today and compare it with Setzer’s most recent albums (“Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy” and “13”). Many elements were already presents 15 years earlier. In the same vein is “Cross of Love”. I suppose that Setzer saw a lot of potential in this one as he recorded it twice before this album (once on “Let’s Go Faster” and once during his first solo stint between 86-88).

The best song to appear on “Choo Choo Hot Fish” is “Beautiful Blues” co-written with Larson Paine. It’s a splendid jazzy song with rich gipsy chords, astounding solo and superb brushwork from Slim Jim. Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity of his drumkit this guy can really play. “Jade Idol” proves it too. This is a stunning atmospheric instrumental that would fit a James Bond movie to perfection. My definition for this kind of tune is “Music to drink Martini with…”. “My Heart Is A Liar” is a fine acoustic ballad in the vein of Chris Isaak with once again a rich assortment of percussion. The last two numbers are solid rockers.

A new version of “Let’s Go Faster” far better and richer than the previous one (courtesy of Dave Edmunds and his good sound) and a “Hey we have 5 minutes left in the studio how about doing a Elvis song?” version of Mystery Train. They clearly recorded this one live and it perfectly captures the feel and the excitement of the band. It also features a yodel part from Mr Setzer. Funny to see an album opening on Elvis On Velvet and ending on Mystery Train.

Sadly, “Choo Choo Hot Fish failed to reach a large audience.


Stray Cats – Original Cool

original cool

Toshiba [1993]
Somethin’ Else – Oh Boy – 20 Flight Rock – I Fought The Law – Lonesome Tears – Your True Love – Be-Bop-A-Lula – Blue Jean Bop – Can’t Help Falling In Love – Flying Saucers Rock ‘n Roll – Train Kept A Rollin’ – Stood Up – Let It Rock – Trying To Get To You – Chet Ditty (Hidden Charms)

The Stray Cats last studio album was a bit of a disappointment. Of course, Setzer gives some of his best vocal performances (listen to Ricky Nelson’s Stood Up), and the band is on top form (with Jeffrey Baxter guesting on steel guitar). Even the production, though a bit slick, is not that bad. But why, at this point of their career, release an all cover album, especially of songs that one has heard a zillion times. This incredible band deserved a better career-ending than this “not-good-nor-bad” album.


Stray Cats – Live From Europe

stray cats live from Europe

Surfdog Records 44045 to 44059 [2004]

Neo-rockabilly kings, the Stray Cats produced some mighty fine records but were mainly known for their wild and furious Rockabilly live shows. Strangely, they never issued an official live album, letting the door open to a bunch of bootleggers. When they reformed in summer 2004 for a European tour, the Stray Cats must have thought that they wouldn’t let bootleggers make money on their back this time. The result is here, 17 gigs and 15 CDs. Don’t look for booklets, photos of the show etc. The covers design is the same for all, except the colour. The sound is not top quality, they manufactured them very quickly, and they didn’t take time to produce them. I know many bootlegs that sound better than that. So depending on the records, you can’t hear the drums, have too much bass etc. Also, why didn’t they include the whole show on the cd’s (only 17 songs, no more, no less)? This is the first question one will ask. But the answer seems evident when you realize that the songs not on Paris CD are on the Bruxelles one, and so on… It really looks like an economical choice as they know that many fans will buy a maximum number of records to have all the songs.

On the other hand, it’s good to hear tunes the Stray Cats rarely performed live (18 Miles to Memphis, Rev it up and Go), a few covers never played on albums (Unchained Melody, in french for Paris; That’s All Right, Blue Moon Of Kentucky celebrating the 50 years of rock’n’roll; Red Hot). But I think these records concern primarily those who attended the shows. But if you weren’t there and want to buy one, I’d recommend the second part of the tour as the band is getting better and better as the tour progresses. I suppose they used the first shows as rehearsals (too bad that I went to Paris, the opening show).


Stray Cats – 20\20

Stray Cats - 20/20

Arista – 74321131172
Runaway Boys – Rock This Town – Can’t Hurry Love – Rumble In Brighton – Stray Cat Strut – Double Talkin’ Baby – Cross That Bridge – Baby Blue Eyes – Built For Speed – (She’s) Sexy + 17 – Lookin’ Better Every Beer – Cruisin’ – Lucky Charm (Ooh Wee Suzy) – I Won’t Stand In Your Way (a cappella) – Look At That Cadillac – Rebels Rule – Looking Out My Backdoor- Drink That Bottle Down -Sweet Love On My Mind -Something Else

20/20 is probably one of the best (if not the best) Stray Cats compilation or best-of ever released. Not only it contains the well-known and best songs from the first three albums (the Arista years) but what makes the difference with the other releases is that it also contains the b-sides and some rarities, most of them being unavailable on cd before.

It includes covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Supremes, Gene Vincent but also originals like the excellent jump blues “Lucky Charm” (b-side of Look At That Cadilac), the a Cappella version of “I Won’t Stand In Your Way”, the country-tinged ballad “Looking Better Every Beer”, and “Built For Speed” the original that gave its name to the compilation album gathering Stray Cats and Gonna Ball for the American market.


Stray Cats – 40

Stray Cats - 40
Stray Cats – 40

Surfdog / Mascot M75895
Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me) – Rock It Off – I’ve Got Love If You Want It – Cry Danger – I Attract Trouble – Three Time’s A Charm – That’s Messed Up – When Nothing’s Going Right – Desperado – Mean Pickin’ Mama – I’ll Be Looking Out For You – Devil Train – Cry Baby (Live) (Bonus Track – Deluxe CD only) – Double Talkin’ Baby (Live) (Bonus Track – Deluxe CD only)

The first three Stray Cats albums blew me away. Maybe Gonna Ball had some fillers but these initial trilogy was perfect. After that, and the 1984 split, their albums were either good (Blast Off, Choo Choo Hot Fish thanks to the Edmunds touch), forgettable (Original Cool, Rock Therapy) or almost plain bad (Let’s Go Faster.)

However, on stage, they were still one of the best rockin’ band on the planet. So when the trio announced that they would record a brand new album full of original material, though I tried not to be too excited, the teenager inside me was smiling from one ear to another.

The name of Peter Collins to produce the forthcoming album surprised me. Even if he produced Setzer’s Dirty Boogie and Rockabilly Riot, Peter Collins was notorious for his work with Bon Jovi, Rush and Nick Kershaw to name but three. Nothing to make me feel that he was the ideal guy to replace Dave Edmunds. Most of all he was the producer who sabotaged the Stargazers’ Ain’t Nobody But Here but us Chickens.
The cover design also came like a warning. Here came guys who didn’t release anything for 25 years and to celebrate that they used the laziest design and ugliest cover possible. Hum…

I carefully changed my mind little by little and came to the conclusion that I would be happy with a basic Rockabilly album.
Then Cat Fight the first song was released. Nothing too original. A rock’n’roll song like you’ve heard a thousand times before. At that moment I was kinda resigned, this is not gonna be great, maybe good, at least average. But both Rock It Off, a rip off of Eddie Cochran’s My Way and Cry Danger a recycling of the riff of Aztec on Setzer’s debut solo album almost sealed the fate of that album for me: don’t expect anything.

I finally received the album and my fears were soon confirmed. It’s a shame that a band that returns with a new record after such a long hiatus didn’t put more work in it. The compositions are at best average (Mean Pickin’ Mama which is at least a Rockabilly number) but most of the time the term ‘lazy’ pops to mind. From the boogie blues riff of the aptly named That’s messed up that you’ve heard a zillion times to Three Time’s A Charm which is nothing but a variation of Setzer’s Hot Rod Girl, or I’ve Got Love that borrows its intro to Ubangi Stomp and its melody to You’re Humbuggin’ Me (Lefty Frizzell, Fabulous Thunderbirds…) and Desperado an instrumental which is a carbon copy of the Shadows’ Apache, it’s hard to believe Setzer when he says in mumerous interviews that he started writing these songs one year ago. Actually many songs sound like an embarassing caricature of Setzer’s Live Nude Guitar or Let’s Go Faster when trio tries to venture into unfamiliar territories (I Attract Trouble with – what a surprise – a quote of Pipeline).

It’s kinda weird to have Lee Rocker say “We are the best band that has ever played this music.” and find so few Rockabilly (even with a wide definition of it) on ‘40’.

And the production doesn’t help either. The drums sound buried and muddy and the fans of Lee Rocker will be surprised to find barely no slap on that album.
A couple of years ago I regretted that the Stray Cats ended their recording career with the uninspired Original Cool, but listening to this poorly written and badly produced effort, it was not that bad, after all.

PS – Don’t expect the so called “deluxe” version (two live tracks, two stickers, two coasters and a postcard) to save things.


Stray Cats – Rocked This Town From LA To London

Rocked This Town From LA To London

Surfdog records 85968-2 [2020]
Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me) – Runaway Boys – Too Hip, Gotta Go -Double Talkin’ Baby -Three Time’s a Charm – Stray Cat Strut -Mean Pickin’ Mama -Gene & Eddie -Cry Baby -I Won’t Stand in Your Way -Cannonball Rag – Misirlou – When Nothing’s Going Right – (She’s) Sexy + 17 -Bring It Back Again -My One Desire -Lust ‘n’ Love -Fishnet Stockings -Rock This Town -Rock It Off -Built for Speed -Rumble in Brighton

Despite what its title may suggest, “Rocked this town, from LA to London” is not a testimony of the Stray Cats’ latest international tour to promote 40. Setzer Rocker and Phantom recorded it in various US cities (but not in LA), and some of the songs were even recorded during the 2018 tour.

That said, it’s an excellent live album. It’s very well recorded, and the band is in fine form (way better than the 2004 tour). Moreover, it features five songs from 40. Not only they sound way better than the poorly produced studio versions, but it adds some diversity to the usual setlists of the band that turned to be quite repetitive over the years. It also features two instrumentals (Cannonball Rag and Misirlou.) Besides these two tunes and Double Talkin’ Baby and My One Desire on the vinyl version, the set focuses on the band’s songs rather than covers, thus allowing some place for a song like Lust’ n’Love. I was a bit sad to find no songs from Gonna Ball but with only 23 songs, I suppose that you have to made choices.
After all these years, the Stray Cats, especially on stage, still remain the kings of modern Rockabilly, and this live album is here to confirm that.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Headcoats (thee)

Headcoats (thee) – Headcoat Lane

headcoats

Damaged Goods – DamGood 7 [1992]
Headcoat Lane / Comanche

Headcoat Lane is an atmospheric tune sounding a bit like a slow version of Baby Please Don’t Go, with a groovy bass. The flip is a cover of Link Wray’s Comanche, which seems tailor-made for the band.
Limited to 2000 copies.

Debbie & Jackie

Paul “Doc” Stewart

Paul “Doc” Stewart

Paul “Doc” Stewart is an unsung hero of the Psychobilly / Rockabilly scene. Unless you’re a maniac like me who likes to read the covers from top to bottom (and even read the dead wax just in case…), you may not be familiar with his name. But Paul “Doc” Stewart recorded, engineered, and produced some of the best and the most innovative bands of the genre, including the Quakes, the Rapids, the Rattlers, Outer Limits, the Pharaohs, Frenzy, Torment…
Impressive, isn’t it? Well, here at the Rockabilly Chronicle, we thought that the man deserved an interview. So here it is, and thank you, Mr Stewart, for your work!

First, I’d like to know how you became interested in Rockabilly and Psychobilly?

Well I come from a family that has produced many musicians and performers over several hundred years, so it’s in the blood, and I was of course born in the mid 1950s, so l started to become aware of music then and in the pre Beatles 60s.
My mother was always on a mission to make sure my brothers and I were aware of the two most important things in life… which were Blues and Jazz. De who was eldest brother, was eight years my senior and he played a lot of rock and roll. When I say played I do mean played, he had a guitar and I can remember him with his ear pressed to the speaker of our old black and white TV, calling out the words of songs to my mum, who would write them down in shorthand, then type them up so he could learn them. So I grew up with a lot of rock and roll in the house.

What led you to produce albums?

I was always into the technology of making music, I got my first tape recorder in 1968 and started making recordings then. In 1973 I made my first professional recording of a band called “A Phantasy Circus”, which led to them getting a showcase with WEA Records and I just carried on doing things in music from then.

How did you get in touch with Roy Williams, with whom you worked extensively?

I worked at London’s most famous rock venue, the Rainbow Theatre, where I designed, installed and ran the recording studio and rehearsal facilities but after about 18 months I had the opportunity to go to the USA, so went there and worked with a number of bands while developing a business with my brother, who by this time was a DJ on a station in Charleston SC.

Frenzy
Frenzy

When I came back to the U.K., I was working both in photography and live sound with all manner of bands, including King Kurt at the University of North London. I then got a call from a studio in Harrow in the north of London. They told me that the owner Ozzie Burns, who was the original producer of the BeeGees was sadly very ill with cancer and they wanted me to run the studio for him. I had only been there about three weeks when a Teddy boy walked in to the place, with a BMX bike, about two sizes too small for him. This was of course Rockin’ Roy Williams. He lived nearby and had seen the studio and as it was near enough for him to borrow his kid’s bike to get there, he decided to check the place out.
We spoke about rocking music, Rockabilly, Psychobilly and the fusion with Punk. He booked some time and the next week Frenzy arrived. I was initially booked as the engineer, but as is my way started making suggestions and shaping the sound, so I became co-producer by default, and the band acknowledged this by giving me a production credit on the album.

You often shared a co-producer credit with Williams. How did you work together?

I’m not really sure there was ever a conscious co-production strategy, normally we had both heard the bands before we went into the studio, I always tried to see them live if possible too. Then we would start to run through the tracks and get a feel for the sound. Roy left things like mic selection and miking up to me, and that’s the first point you can start influencing the final overall sound. Then we would both suggest things to the bands and hopefully they would take it on board.

We did have a few differences of opinion on some tracks, pretty early on I wanted to change the way the bass drum sounded in the recordings, making it sharper and more modern. Roy sometimes wanted a more old fashioned deeper sound. In most cases I think we went with what suited the rest of the recording and the modern sound stayed. On the Pharaohs album Blue Egypt you hear on the track “Tomb of the Dead” the “Panic at the Desk” mix, which frankly I hated, it was Roy’s baby even though in the absence of a digital delay, I had to do by copying, cutting a splicing the tape. The straight mix which came out on Zorch Factor One was a far better result in my opinion, but Roy was paying the bills, so the better mix got relegated to the compilation.

Many young bands recorded their debut album with you. Is that something you had to consider when working with them? Was a part of your job devoted to familiarising them with the studio?

Many bands and performers I’ve worked with have been “Studio Virgins” and you need to show them the ropes, but in the main the Psychobilly bands I worked with were professional and understood that my job was to get the best possible performance and result for them. A few who did have studio experience were surprised that I didn’t want to record everything as completely separate parts, but really wanted, at least on the first take, to get an organic sound where everybody sparks off one another. After that, you can over dub and polish the performance, if you need to.

You’ve worked with bands with drastically different sounds, from the Jazzabilly of Get Smart to the heavy Psychobilly of Skitzo or the Quakes. How did you approach each project?

I always listen to the band and try to find that special something that they have to offer. In advertising it’s referred to as the USP or unique selling potential, a good band will have a “Unique Performing Potential”, something that sets them apart from the run of the mill. I look for that and try and enhance it

How did you work with the bands in the studio? Did you suggest covers, changes in the songs’ structures or different arrangements? Can you give some examples?

Quite often the arrangements of a song can be not quite right for recording and need a bit of a tweak to get them right. As an example “The Outer Limits” EP “The Edge of Time”, needed a bit of depth, because as a three piece with bass guitar, the sound was a bit light. I was working with Steve Rispin as my engineer at the time, and we programmed some really fat organ sounds on my Yamaha DX7/CX5 synth.
We also used that for the spacey keyboard sound on The Pharaoh’s track “Tomb of The Dead”. On that track and “Turkey Dance” from the same album, I had an old friend of mine, Mike Abramov, (who is sadly no longer with us), put down some violin. Mike was a Blues and Klezmer man, so Psychobilly was not his thing at all, but he liked the guys in the band, and they liked him so it worked well.


With The Rattlers’ “Take a Ride” sessions, that also led to the mini album “Rock” the band were short a couple of songs and having watched a Bond movie the night before, I suggested they do the James Bond theme. I wrote it down on the track List as “Jimmy Bond goes Psycho (007)” the record company, with a complete lack of imagination, called it “007 theme” on the sleeve. On a technical note, I’ve been asked about the space sound of the bass slap on that track. I had the loan of a great piece of kit from France, called an Infernal Machine from a company called Publison. I just dialled the sound on that ‘til it sounded right. Tin Pan Alley, was adjacent to Soho, which is London’s red light district. While out for lunch the guys saw an adult shop, which was selling shall we call them inflatable companions. They came into the studio and with all of us suggesting lines, they wrote “Blow up Baby”. Later we went back in the studio and I knew a woman who was a former interpreter and by then the international secretary of a trades union. She was quite straight laced, but when I asked her she came down to the studio, translated the words of “Blow up Baby” into the various European languages and coached Mark Carrington of the correct pronunciation. That’s how the Euro-Mix on “Rock” came about.

You produced some of the most “experimental” bands on the scene, like Torment, Frenzy, the Rapids, and the Pharaohs. Those bands weren’t narrow-minded and were not afraid to include modern elements. Was it something you were looking for?

The Rapids
The Rapids

Frenzy were highly experimental and I really liked working with them and Torment another band from the same part of the world, where by the way I now live. Torment’s Simon Brand was very open to discuss the structure of the tracks and how we were going to do them. “The Mystery Men” EP we did was a great project, with the title track and “Rock Strong” being really special, but all the tracks on that are good. It’s a shame we didn’t do a full album. I did one track for a compilation with the Rapids at Village Way and really liked them. By the time we got round to the album “Turning Point”, I was at Tin Pan Alley and was more or less running the place and was also the main client, this meant that I had more time to spend on the projects. This meant I could work with the bands to develop the sounds. A lot of good tracks came out of that studio at that time. The albums by The Pharaohs and The Rapids had really good production values I think, and were out of mainstream Psychobilly. Roy once said to me that he thought that “Turning Point” sounded like it didn’t belong on his label, it should be on a major.

I’ve read in an interview that Coffin Nails weren’t that happy with the sound of their debut album and said that you and Roy Williams tried to make them sound like Demented Are Go.

the Coffin Nails (Paul “Doc” Stewart produced their debut album)
The Coffin Nails

Really! I’d not heard they thought that, about Demented are Go I mean, I knew they weren’t happy with the album, which I’m told is still their biggest seller and of course established them as a band. Nothing could be further from the truth as neither Roy or me tried to make them like any other band. As I said, my approach is to find what makes the performer special and enhance that. We brought out what made them special and that was Dave Ward the singer, after he left them, in my opinion, they were pretty mediocre, but tracks like “Werewolf Bitch” and “Myra Hindley” are belting Psycho tracks. I think the truth may be that they had a set idea of what they wanted to sound like and were unhappy giving any kind of creative control to the producer. However as I said I’m told that the fans liked and bought it. And it’s still being streamed today.

Are there unreleased sessions that you worked on?

Yes there are perhaps one or two tracks that I did just with Paul Roman of the Quakes I think I’ve not seen on anything. I also laid down some tracks with The Ant Hill Mob, who were a Neo-Rockabilly band and I think at that time the only one in the UK with a female singer. Lost Moment Records asked Roy and I to produce them and I think they weren’t happy with the way it was going. I went to Village Way Studios for some thing else, only to find them in the control room with another producer, mixing my tape. I was told that when Roy replaced the guitar solo with whistling, they didn’t like it, which to be fair to Roy, was the wrong decision on their part as it really raised the track. I still have a copy master of the tracks from that session, so they may see the light of day at some point.

You not only produced the Quakes’ debut album, but I believe that you also shot the picture for the sleeve that is famous for its Stray Cats reference.

I alway had a parallel career in photography and decided to do a photo shoot with the Quakes. Paul Roman had the idea to pastiche the Stray Cats cover, and I found the location, the basement of a Safeways car park, which was pretty dank. My ex knew the manager so I organised it, I also shot the image of the three of them in black and white, which has become an icon. I also shot the cover for Skitzo Mania.

the Quakes - picture by Paul “doc” Stewart
The Quakes © Paul “Doc” Stewart

Do you have special memories or anecdotes you’d like to share?

Loads, but we’ll have to change all the names to protect the guilty. I think my favourite experience was at the Klub Foot one night. A kid walked up to me and said, rather aggressively, “You’re Paul “Doc” Stewart and you produced the Rattlers’ “Take a Ride”. I admitted that yes it was me, at which point he grabbed my hand and shook it say “I’ve worn out three copies of that mate, its my favourite record ever”’

Is there a band you would have liked to work with?

Lee Gotcher from the Rapids renamed himself J. C. Lee, and did an interesting album in Japan, I would liked to have worked with him again as a solo project.
Also, I would like to have worked with the BlueCats/ Beltane Fire. Also I did a couple of tracks with the Sidewinders, I thought that they had really great potential and would love to have done an album with them.

They’re all different, but is there an album that you’re particularly proud of?

Where do you start, I enjoyed making them all so it’s a bit like asking which of your kids is your favourite. There’s not one I’m not proud of and believe me there is some mainstream stuff I engineered that I’m embarrassed by, the rockin’ stuff I love it all.

Why did you stop producing bands?

I stopped having it as the main stream of my activity as I hated the way the music scene was going, with far too many bands just producing sampled computerised garbage, rather than learn their craft and play music. But I’ve never really stopped, having done a few mixes for bands over the years. In fact if there are any good psycho bands out there who want to send me a demo, I could be tempted into the studio once again.

Can you tell us more about that Doc-A-Billy project?

Doc-A-Billy - Paul “Doc” Stewart's Psychobilly Years
Doc-A-Billy – Paul “Doc” Stewart’s Psychobilly Years

I’ve talked to a few of the labels I’ve worked for and I have a list of my favourite tracks from over the years. I’ve been putting together some of them for a limited edition vinyl and CD release (Doc-A-Billy – Paul “Doc” Stewart’s Psychobilly Years) and I plan to film some interviews with the bands in question. I’m developing an online documentary channel at the moment and this would be ideal for that.
(so keep your eyes open and check this site. We’ll give you more info as soon as the album hits the shelves).

This interview © Fred “Virgil” Turgis & the Rockabilly Chronicle / Paul “Doc” Stewart.

Paul “Doc” Stewart on discogs.
Paul “Doc” Stewart is a famous photographer with many exhibitions and books under his belt: http://www.paulstewartphoto.co.uk/

Frantic Flintstones

Frantic Flintstones – Bedrock!

Raucous Records RAUC002 [1987]
Bedrock – Hot Head Baby – Let’s Go Somewhere – Sugar Daddy

Released in 1987, Bedrock is the first-ever effort on wax by the Frantic Flintstones. All the ingredients are already in place: demented vocals from Chuck Harvey, furious slap bass by Gary Day, and simple but effective guitar. Three fast-paced Psychobilly tune and a slower one, Sugar Daddy, to conclude.
One thousand five hundred copies were pressed; 1000 with a printed sleeve and 500 with a white sleeve.


Frantic Flintstones - Nightmare On Nervous
Frantic Flintstones – Nightmare On Nervous

Frantic Flintstones – A Nightmare on Nervous

Nervous Records NERCD034 [1988]
Hellfire – Monte Carlo or Bust – 44 – Please Cool Baby – Oh Baby oh Yeah – Alley Cat King – Gone Gone Well Gone – Red Chevy – Ring ring ringin’ – What the Hell – Sugar Daddy – Frantic Flintstones – Safe Surf – Shake Your Honey Maker – Old Jack Joe – Jack the Ripper – Whisky Bottle Baby
Released in 1988, A Nightmare On Nervous marks the debut of a prolific career. In a certain aspect you can compare it to an early Johnny Cash album. By that I mean that this guy turn their weak points into a strength. With a guitarist far from being a virtuoso, they build their songs around Chuck’s distinctive voice and a solid rhythm section that features Gary Day on bass. Sometimes the system shows its limits. Songs like “Suggar Daddy” and “Monte Carlo and bust“, though good, could easily be one minute shorter. But this album is full of classics approaching different styles : early psychobilly (Alley Cat King, What The Hell), neo-rockabilly (44, Red Chevy) and even a wild rockin’ blues (Billy Fury’s Since You’ve Been Gone renamed here Gone Gone Well Gone). The cd version features 5 bonus tracks recorded later with Gasty on bass : two covers played the Flintstones way “Shake Your Honey Maker” and “Old Black Joe“, “Safe Surf” a semi instrumental (Safe surf repeated a dozen times doesn’t count as lyrics, does it?) variation around “Hang 10”, “Jack The Ripper” is not Screaming Lord Sutch’s but another version of “Necro Blues“, and an excellent original “Whisky Bottle Baby” previously known in a live version on the “Live & Rockin'” album.


Frantic Flintstones - Live and Rockin'
Frantic Flintstones – Live and Rockin’

Frantic Flintstones – Live’n’Rockin

Link  [1988]
Alone Again – Round the Mountain – What The Hell -. Shake Your Moneymaker – No One Stays – Rockin’Bones – Necro Blues – Hang Ten – Bedrock – Old Black Joe – Gone Gone Well Gone – Playschool Baby – Just Because -. Whisky Bottle Baby – One Night Stand – Blue Christmas

The Live and Rockin’ serie on Link was mostly a poorly recorded (and often poorly played) affair. One notable exception was the Frantic Flintstone live album recorded during the Rocking Out tour in November 1988. Despite being recorded just after the departure of ace bass player Gary “Gaz” Day who is replaced by Gasty from the Blue Ridge Rockets, it found the Flintstones in top form playing classics one after another. The songs come from Nightmare on Nervous, Rockin’ Out and for the large part Not A Christmas Album recorded a couple of weeks after this gig. It hasn’t been reissued on CD which is a shame but you can download it – legally – on Amazon or on other sites that sells music.


Frantic Flintstones – Well Gone In Europe

frantic flintstones well gone in europeKix4U KIX 3358 [1990]
Ole Black Joe – Alcohol Buzz – 44 – Honey Maker – Necro Blues – Gone Gone Well Gone – Let’s Go Somewhere – The Race Is On – Legion Song – Cryin’ Eyes (Country Mix – Broke Up (f/mushrooms Mix) – Endless Sleep (Skankabilly Mix)
The Frantic Flintstones released many albums often with the same songs. In the end, you keep wondering if you have another best-of of slightly different versions. This is what happens with “Well Gone In Europe.” Except if you’re a total and absolute completist, you can live without that one.


Frantic FLintstones - Take A Hike
Frantic FLintstones – Take A Hike

Frantic Flintstones – Take A Hike

Kix 4 U KIXCD3363 [1991]
Your Cheatin’ Heart – Dream On-Blue – Just A Dream – Sweet Nothings – So Sad – Little old Lady – Necro Blues – Burned’n’Turned – Rockin’ Bones – Frantic – Honey Maker – Gone Gone Well Gone – Blue Xmas – Santa Bring My Baby Back – Santa Claus Is Back In Town – Old Black Joe – Dream On-move
Though the sound is quite good, this album is far from being essential. Actually, on the 17 songs , 7 come from “Not A Christmas Album”, 3 are re-recorded versions of Flintstones classics (Burned and Turned, Rockin’ Bones, Necro blues) and in the remaining 7, Dream On is featured two times (a slow one and a fast one). That said the new versions are excellent, the group is in fine form and the Frantic Flintstones have released far worst than this album. One for the completist.


Frantic Flintstones – Rockin’ With The Frantic Flintstones

Rockin with the Frantic FlintstonesRumble Records – GANG 011 [1991]
Tom Dooley – Gotta Know – Brown Eyed Girl – Therapy

Out of the four songs that constitute this EP, only Therapy is unissued, the other three being lifted from Cuttin’ A Fine Line. It’s a Doo-Wop tune with only Chuck, a vocal accompaniment by the band and light piano.
You never know what to expect with the Frantic Flintstones and that’s why they are great!


Frantic Flintstones – Cuttin’ A Fine Line

Rumble RUMBCD009 / Raucous RAUCD0000106 [1991]
Chilled bones – You’re the one who done it – Sweet Marilee – Jungle love – Time of day – You got me rockin’ – Tom Dooley – Gotta know – Brown eyed girl – Boneshaker baby – Slowly killing me – Don’t want you baby – Drug squad – West of London – Love me – Am I that easy to forget.

Released in the early nineties for the German label Rumble Records (Scum Rats, Rockabilly Mafia, Punishers etc.) “Cuttin’ A Fine Line” finds the band in superb form with the return of Gaz Day on bass with Rich Taylor on drums (Nitros), Pug still on guitar and of course the unmistakable voice of Chuck Harvey. This excellent album (one the very best ever released by the band) mixes classic psychobilly numbers (Chilled Bones, Don’t Want You Baby that features Gaz on lead vocals), blues (Time Of A Day), first class rockabilly (You’re The One That Done It, Sweet Marilee, Gotta Know), skiffle (Tom Dooley) and some country songs like West Of London and Drug Squad that deals with one of Chuck’s favourite subject. The selection is rounded with two acoustic numbers (Elvis’Love Me and Am I That Easy To Forget) with just Pug and Chuck that announces their following album, the all acoustic Skin Up, Chill Out, Just Buskin’ Through.


Frantic Flintstones - Skin Up, Chill Out, Just Buskin' Through
Frantic Flintstones – Skin Up, Chill Out, Just Buskin’ Through

Frantic Flintstones – Skin Up, Chill Out, Just Buskin’ Through

Rumble RUMCD018/ Raucous [1992]
Hello Marylou – Blue Moon of Kentucky – Will the Circle be Unboken – You Are my Sunshine – Tom Dooley – I Can’t Help it – Born to Lose – Goodnight Irene – It’s Hard to be Humble – Love me – Drugs in the Valley – Take me Home, Country Roads – I Gotta Baby – Am I That Easy to Forget
The only thing predictable with the Frantic Flintstones is that they are unpredictable. For this record originally released on Rumble Records in 1992 the band – reduced to just Chuck and Pug – went for an acoustic session. The mood is very laid back and the repertoire is made of covers of classic rockabilly and hillbilly tunes taken from the catalog of Hank Williams, Mac Davis, John Denver, Ricky Nelson, Elvis, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family and though they appear in brand new version here, some of them have been recorded by the band before. It’s not completely representative of the style of the Frantic Flintstones but it’s a nice addition to your collection.


The Frantic Flintstones - Rock it Boy
Frantic Flintstones – Rock it Boy

Frantic Flintstones – Rock it Boy

Rumble RUMBCD024 [1993]
Marylou – You Call Everybody Darlin’ – You Ain’t Nothing But Fine – I Cant Trust Me In Your Arms Anymore – Carry Me Back To Old Virginia – Blues Stay Away From Me – Blue Moon Of Kentucky – Your Cheatin’ Heart – I’m Walkin’ – Sweet Baby Doll – Will The Circle Be Unbroken – So CLose To Heaven – Jimmy Jazz – Love For A Nutter – Broken Heart

Originally released in 1993, this is the third Frantic Flintstones’ album for the German label Rumble records. And like “Cuttin’…” and “Skill Up…” it has a strong rockabilly flavour in it. The line-up for this one is Chuck, Pug, Johnny Bowler (Get Smart, Guana Batz) and Scag. It’s a very good album that only lacks of original songs, but with a charismatic band-leader like Chuck (and a solid band to back him) that’s not such a big problem. The band draws into the catalog of Jerry Lee Lewis, hence the presence of a piano, Ricky Nelson, Rockin’ Sydney, Johnny Burnette/Delmore Brothers, Hank Williams and delivers an excellent rockabilly version of the Clash’s Jimmy Jazz. As usual with the FF it features different versions of previously released tunes like Blue Moon Of Kentucky, Will The Circle Be Unbroken and Your Cheatin’ Heart wasted by the backing vocals. “Love For A Nutter” is a demo recorded with Alan Wilson that announces the following albums (X-Ray Sessions and Jalmboree) and the beginning of a fruitful collaboration. Bowler closes the set with a vocal prestation on “Broken Heart” that won’t figure as one of the highest moment in the Frantic Flintstones history. It’s been reissued on the British label Raucous Records with a slightly different cover.


Frantic Flintstones - Jamboree
Frantic Flintstones – Jamboree

Frantic Flintstones – Jamboree

CDMPSYCHO15 [1993]
Detroit Dirtbox – Love For A Nutter – Your Time Is Up – Mean Mean Woman – Diablo – Stay With Me – Sweet Georgia Brown – Lunatics (Are Raving) – Busted – Mindkill – (To The Devil)A Son – Oh 898 – Candyman – He’s Waitin’ – Sad N’ Lonely – Suspended – Chop-Chop, Slash Slash – Honey Child – Hey Chuck – Detroit Bloodbox

Previously issued in 1993 but out of print since then, Anagram had the good idea to reissue this 20 songs album in their Psychobilly serie. Produced by Sharks frontman Alan Wilson who also plays most of the guitar parts, with former bassist Gary Day back in the line-up, this is one of the 3 best album the Frantic Flinstones ever made and probably the richest in styles approached. Wilson is one hell of a guitar player and songwriter and his team with Chuck Harvey is just perfect. From “Diablo” with its surprising jazzy solo in the middle, to the country tune “To the Devil A Son”, and even a waltz (“Sad’n’Lonely”) they apparently have fun to work together and explore various kind of music. Some guests are present too. Detroit Donny plays harmonica on “Detroit Dirt Box” a bluesy instrumental and on Roy Orbison’s “Candyman”, Sonny West, who had an album on Nervous, plays some guitars and sings The Sonics’ “He’s Waitin’”. Alan Wilson sings “Mindkill” he co-wrote with Hodges. This one can be seen as the first song from the resurrected Sharks for this is during this recording that Gaz Day convinced him to reform the band. Psychobilly is present, of course, with”Your Time Is Up” which is not far from “What The Hell” on their debut album, “Sweet Georgia Brown” (not the jazz standard) and the great “Love For A Nutter”, although I do prefer the demo version issued on “Rock It Boy”. Add a bit of rockabilly (“Honey Child” and “Mean Mean Woman”) and if you still wonder why are the Frantic Flinstones so great, just ask yourself who could better than them sing a song about a psycho killer like a sixties pop ballad?

The Radioactive Kid

Slappin’ Tony And The Wild Ones

Slappin’ Tony And The Wild Ones – Walking Down The Mainstreet

Jitterbug Records – Bug 88003 [1988]
Walkin’ Down The Mainstreet – Latch On – The Stompin’ Jump – Long Blond Hair

Slappin’ Tony And The Wild Ones were Slappin’ Tony aka Jörg Plachetka on vocals and double bass, Gretschin’ Benny from the Cops on guitar, Martin Putela from the Cambles on drums and Saxin’ Steven from the Billboarders, a female fronted band from Hannover, on saxophone.

Walkin’ Donw The Mainstreet is a superb Rock’n’Roll track akin to the Stargazers. Latch On is an excellent cover of the Cochran Brothers with a powerful double bass.

The B-side opens with a brilliant Rock’n’Roll/Jump with wild saxophone and a fantastic guitar solo. Johnny Powers’ Long Blond Hair wraps the set in a rural Rockabilly mood, featuring a powerful slap bass like the previous songs.

Guy Hamper Trio (the)

Guy Hamper Trio (the) – Polygraph Test

Guy Hamper Trio

Damaged Goods DAMGOOD339 [2009]
Polygraph Test / Sally Sensation

The Guy Hamper trio was an instrumental combo formed by Billy Childish with Wolf Howard on drums and Julie Hamper on bass. It also features another mainstay of the Medway scene in the person of James Taylor of the Prisoners, The James Taylor Quartet and many others on the organ. Their sole release was this single on Damaged Goods (DAMGOOD339) in 2009.
The result is a mix between Childish’s punk attitude and Taylor’s acid jazz/funk influence.
A-side is a reworking of Thee Headcoats’ Lie Detector renamed Polygraph Test. It’s got a strong Psychedelic feel with the organ to the fore. Sally Sensation (initially recorded by the Buff Medways in 2001) is less frantic and groovier. They planned to record an LP, but nothing happened yet.

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