Rockabilly, Psychobilly and everything in between.

Happy Drivers

in Contemporary artists/GH/Reviews
Happy Drivers - Jump Baby Jump
Happy Drivers – Jump Baby Jump

Happy Drivers – Jump Baby Jump

Scalen – SC513 [1987]
Jump Baby Jump / My Boppin’ Rockin’ Babe

Happy Drivers formed in 1985 with Arnold Baker on lead vocals. Jump Baby Jump was first demoed with a sax and BAker but was re-recorded after he lzft for this single.
It’s as its title indicates a jumpin’ song, not very original in its structure and a bit young and thin in term of sound. The b-side is far better and more original with stop-start structure, and an interesting guitar solo. A new version of this song will later appear on their debut album.

Happy Drivers - We Shall Be Going On
Happy Drivers – We Shall Be Going On

Happy Drivers – We Shall Be Going On

Babe Please Don’t Go – We Shall Be Going On – My Bopping Rocking Babe – The Fun Of It – Midnight Train – Popeye – Low Rider – Old Black Jack – Long Blond Hair – You Will Never Come Back Again – Oh Babe – My Daddy’s Banjo
When you listen 20 years later to an album you liked a lot as a teenager, it’s very hard to actually know if you like it for good reasons. Does this album really have qualities or is this just pure nostalgia? For “We Shall Be Going On” the answer is : both.
On one hand, if you want to be objective, one can say that the sound is a bit thin, Jean Christophe’s voice is from time to time totally out of tune and his pronounced French accent a bit too present. But this album has also some qualities. The boys wrote their own songs (even if Low Rider sounds very close to Stray Cats’ Built For Speed) with varied influences from straight rockabilly to blues, with detours by neo-rockabilly and bit of country too (you can find a banjo on a couple of songs). The covers, including Dave PhillipsThe Fun Of It” are very well chosen. All this elements, and I can’t deny a bit of nostalgia too, make of this debut album an enjoyable listening experience, even two decades later.

Happy Drivers

Happy Drivers - Indians on the Road
Happy Drivers – Indians on the Road

Happy Drivers – Indians on the Road

Indians – I’m Not A Hero – Tear It Up – Nervous Man – Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You – Crawdad Hole

Compared to their debut album, this mini 10” album is plain good. The Happy Drivers, on a short distance that advantages them, deliver six songs : three covers and three solid originals. Since their previous release, they have hardened their sound. Not exactly psychobilly, but no longer 50’s rockabilly, they created their own brand of modern rockabilly. “Indians” features the appropriate drum beat, as you can imagine, and a citation of The Shadows’ Apache (of course). Next you have “I’m Not A Hero” a wild modern rockabilly that shows how tight the band was at that time. The third original,  “Nervous Man,” is nervous for sure, a really heavy number (strong guitar and raspy voice) that prefigures what will follow with “War” their third album. JC has really worked on his voice and you also hear that the band benefited of a real studio and enough time to work their sound. Regarding the covers, “Tear It Up” and “Crawdad Hole” are good but the one that steals the show is “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” Originally by Joan Baez, also played by Led zeppelin, they turn that song in a frantic rockabilly. Simply perfect.

Happy Drivers - War
Happy Drivers – War

Happy Drivers – War

La isla bonita / I cry Jerry Lee / I shoot da sherif / Lame de fond / Arena // Indians war / Crazy life / Rock on / Fire down below / I cry freedom / Blood & war

The third album by the French trio marks a new step for the band. Alain (ex Wampas and Los Carayos) replaced Mickey Black Finger on bass (who later went to play with The Grizzly Family). Alain also brings with him lots of influences that one didn’t find in the band’s sound previously like hardcore and heavy metal (Cro-Mags, Black Flag). He also sings two songs including a one in French.
Contrary to their first releases, they worked with a “real” producer, namely Roger tebutt who worked with The Long Tall Texans. The sound gets harder and harder and the trio explores new territories by covering the likes of Madonna (an explosive version of La Isla Bonita), Bob Marley (imagine i Shot Da Sheriff if Marley was on speed instead of weed) and Gary Glitter (Rock On). Some songs stay closer to the rockabilly idiom (I Cry Jerry Lee), while other are strictly hardcore/punk rock like Arena. Another tune (Lame de Fond) sounds like a French folkloric song, a way some members of the band will follow after the band splits.
Despite some good songs here and there, the following albums of The Happy Drivers were disappointing compared to War who was the perfect combination of rockabilly, psychobilly, hardcore and alternative rock.

Happy Drivers (Alain Wampas, Jean Christophe Jehanne, Thierry Pietel)
Happy Drivers (Jean Christophe Jehanne, Alain Wampas, Thierry Pietel)

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