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Blue Cats

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang - Wild Youth
Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – Wild Youth

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – Wild Youth

Rockhouse [1982]
Wild Youth – She Will Come Back – 56 Boys –  Tainted Love – Love Me – My Turn – On The Move – One And Only – Flea Brain – Should I Ever Love Again – Summertime – Baby Blue – Just Can’t Believe – Wow

Having left the Blue Cats in 1980, Dave Phillips took some time off before forming his own band. Still with Gene Vincent in mind he named his new band the Hot Rod Gang after the 1958 movie featuring the screaming kid. The first line-up consisted of John Day and Ray Thompson on guitars, Rob Tyler on drums and of course Dave Phillips on double bass and lead vocals. But it’s the second line-up with Mark Harman from Restless on guitar replacing both Day and Thompson that entered the history of modern rockabilly. Harman was the perfect choice, his fast Gallup influenced licks being the perfect complement to Phillips. The trio recorded Wild Youth in late 1981 and contrary to what the cover reads it’s Tyler on drums and not Andrew Wrightson who was the band’s driver (even on the cd reissue features the mistake).
One can suppose that the label (Rockhouse for both) acted with Phillips the same way he did with the Blue Cats’ second album (with Clint Bradley) hence the presence of many familiar cover in a more traditional style (Flea Brain, Summertime, Baby Blue and the Phantom’s Love Me sung by Harman). But there’s enough modern stuff to make of Wild Youth a benchmark in Neo-Rockabilly history, the best known being their cover of Tainted Love. It’s an instant classic that will have a lasting influence on many young bands.
Essential to any decent collection.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Dave Phillips – Rockhouse Mini L.P. Collection

Rockhouse Records – MLP 8420 [1985]

Brand New Beat – The Fun Of It – In My Dreams – So Now You’ve Lost her – You Don’t Want to Know – The Trip

Dave Phillips

I said it before and I’ll say it again, mini lp are often the best support for Rockabilly. It’s short, every number counts and there’s no place for fillers.
Dave Phillips’ mini lp for Rockhouse is the perfect exemple of that statement.It’s almost perfect and dare I say, even better than his debut solo album.
Once again one can hear the influence of Gene Vincent, with the covers of Brand New beat (imagine Vincent revisited by Restless of vanish Without A Trace period) and In My Dreams which is probably the weakest song of the album (but to his discharge it’s hard to compete with Vincent on that type of song.)
The four remaining tracks are originals. You Don’t Want to Know features Mark Harman of Restless (and former hot Rod Gang member) on guitar and is a rockin’ ballad with once again the shadow of Gene Vincent over it.
So You’ve Lost Her is a medium rocker while the Fun of it is a fast neo-rockabilly with breaks later covered by French band the Happy Drivers on their debut album and the Trip is Worth th eprice of the album alone. This fast modern rockabilly number (with a dash of psychobilly) is a modern masterpiece.

Dave Phillips – The Best Of

Rockhouse records ROCKCD8603
Tainted love -’56 Boys – Wild youth – She will come back – Love me – On the move – It was free – The trip – Every walk of life – I saw her standing there – Sunshine girl – So now you lost her – The fun of it – Brand new beat – I’m gonna die – I’m driving home – Boogie up roar – Pink thunderbird – Cat man

If you don’t have any of the solo albums of Dave Phillips or the Blue Cats (which is, in my opinion, a shame), you should definitely acquire this best-of album.
It covers the “Rockhouse years” of the fame double-bassist, with songs from the first Blue Cats album, the studio recordings (including the hit Tainted Love) and two live songs lifted from the Live at the Rockhouse compilation album.
It also shows that Phillips always had the best musicians to back him, Rob Tyler on drums and aces like Mark Harman, Paul Gaskin and Mick Malone on guitar.

Dave Phillips – Understatements

Kix 4 U Records ‎– 4U 3334
Rescue – Desert Town – Every Walk Of Life – Next Stop – Night Life – Paradise For The Children – The Trip – Room At The Top – Sunshine Girl – I Saw Her Standing There – Dancing Shoes – The Fun Of It!

Following the success of Tainted Love, Bert Rockhuizen of Rockhouse/Kix4U pushed Dave Phillips to add even more modern elements on Understatements.
Hence, despite having good melodies, most of the album is made of pop/new wave-influenced music with a modern production that has little if nothing in common with Rockabilly.
Nevertheless, a bunch of great self-penned Neo-Rockabilly numbers (The Trip, The Fun of it, and the Beatles influenced Next Stop) and two good rocking covers of the Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There and Buzz & the Flyers’Every Walk of Life, save half of the platter.

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – Look Out!

Bank Of Troy Recordings ‎– AR-92-1-33, My Way Records ‎– WAY LP 1223 [1992]
New Job – Git It – Goin’ Up The Country – It Was Free – She’s A Woman – No Comeback – Joy Ride – Ain’t That Good News – Handsome Johnny – Linda Lou – A Soft Growl – It’s Murder On The Streets

After going too deep into the musical experimentation with “Understatements” his previous album, Dave Phillips wisely chose to return to what he does best: ROCK! And what a better band than the original Hot Rod Gang (the faithful Rob Tyler on drums and Mark Harman as well as Paul Gaskin on guitars) to help him?
The result is a superb twelve track album. Some tracks a pure neo-rockabilly (almost Psychobilly for “It’s Murders On the Streets”); others are more traditional sounding. As usual with Phillips, there’s special care to write melodic songs (or cover songs with strong melodies), and he’s attached to add a variety of instruments (piano, harmonica, flute) to explore styles and moods. There’s even a slow, which is always a good point!
The only low point being the drawing on the cover.

Available here.

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – Good Thing

Fury Records F3035 [1995]
Good Thing – I’ve Just Seen A Face – Rollin’ Danny – Teenage Partner – Here Comes The Night – Linda Lu (Live Recording)

Recorded in 1995, Good Thing features Rob Tyler on drums and Darrel Higham on guitar. This mini-album features six covers. Next to the now mandatory Beatles cover, there are songs from Fine Young Cannibals, Gene Vincent, Hank Noble, and Ray Sharpe.
Good Thing, the song, captures the same vibe as Tainted Love. Phillips is as usual extremely at ease when it comes to singing Gene Vincent his idol, and both Here Comes the Night and Linda Lu rock (the latter being recorded live.) Surprisingly, they do not convince with their cover of the Beatles, which is usually one of their strong points.
The whole atmosphere is very laid back, and it benefits to the final result.

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang – I Lost My Beer

KEiL-Records – V.07-21-009 [2021]
I Lost My Beer! / I’m Gonna Toss My Cookies

Dave Phillips

After a break of a quarter of a century, Dave Phillips returns with a brand new single (but a little bird told me there’s more in the pipeline). Some bands grow older, and often not for the best, but Dave Phillips has matured. I try as much as possible to avoid the overused comparison with the wine, but if you allow me just one exception, let it be for this single.

Backed by the excellent Mark Twang on lead guitar and Pete Deville on drums and superbly recorded, Dave Phillips proposes two original songs, thematically centred around beer (before and after). This man knows about essential things in life. This kind of lyrics evokes the likes of Slim Gaillard or Louis Jordan. Actually, the music is also a variation around their music, a brand of swingin’ Rock’n’roll or a brand of Jump/Rhythm’n’Blues without horns. The trio is very impressive by its cohesion and how they complement each other. Philips and Deville infectious groove allows Twang to jump and gallop (and sometimes he “gallups” too) over the fretboard. The final result is delightful, though having only two songs create a lot of frustration. It’s a strictly limited release (only 444 copies), so grab a copy when you can.

Dave Phillips & the Hot Rod Gang – The Big Wheel Of Life

The Big Wheel Of Life – Raining In My Heart – Bad Boy – Shut The Truck Up – Rain – I’m Gonna Catch Me A Rat – My Oh My – I Lost My Beer – Cat Man – No Moon At All – I’m Gonna Toos My Cookies – All You Need Is Me – Man Of Constant Sorrow

Dave Phillips & the Hot Rod Gang - The Big Wheel Of Life

The fact that a man like Dave Phillips, who plays this music for more than 40 years, still manages to surprise me gives me incommensurable joy. And boy, did he surprise me with his latest album (pleasantly, that goes without saying).
His latest collection of songs recorded with Mark Twang and Chris Bergström on guitars, Pete Deville and Patrik Staffansson on drums and a pianist (whose name escapes me right now, sorry) would show many newcomers how to play that music.
The album opens with Dave’s The Big Wheel Of Life: first track, first classic. The early 60s country feel fits the lyrics perfectly, and Dave’s voice which has gained in depth and maturity and, dare I say, now shows some vulnerability is perfect for this style. No wonder the song gave its title to the album. Phillips penned three other tracks for the album: Shut The Truck Up, a mid-tempo Rockabilly with piano and backing vocals, I Lost My Beer, and I’m Gonna Toss My Cookies. Both were released as a single on Keil Records. I Lost My Beer sounds as if Louis Jordan or Slim Gaillard had played Rockabilly, and by listening to Toss My Cookies, it seems that Phillips finally found his beer and had one too many, and the result gives a hilarious song.
There are also a few covers. It wouldn’t be a Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang album without a Gene Vincent song. Rejoice, my friends; this one contains two: I’m Gonna Catch Me Rat and Catman. There are just some subtle changes if you compare their version of Catch Me A Rat to the original: the piano part, some jazz chords here and there, and a little difference in the groove, but that’s enough to transform it into something really new. Regarding Catman, the result is equally impressive. The rhythm section and the guitar rock as hell, while the piano forays into jazz territories and brings a whole different colour to the song. Buddy Holly’s Raining In My Heart is superbly served by Phillips’ melancholic voice, whereas Larry Williams’ Bad Boy changes the mood. The song is turned into a desperate bluesy tune with a Diddley beat and two superb twangy/burlisonian guitar solos to boot.
There are also tunes that you wouldn’t usually find on a Rockabilly album. But that’s where Phillips is clever and is more attached to the quality of the song and the melody rather than sticking to a specific genre. My, Oh My comes from one of Leonard Cohen’s latest albums and, once again, fits Phillips’ voice perfectly. King Cole’s No Moon At All falls halfway between jazz (the piano) and Gene Vincent (the guitar). The same goes for Morrissey’s All You Need Is Me, one of the album’s highlights. Rain was initially done by Jose Feliciano. Phillips keeps the beautiful melody but muscles the song, and Twang adds an outstanding solo. Superb!
Contrary to some (don’t insist I won’t give names), ageing doesn’t seem to be a problem for Phillips. With a newfound voice, solid originals and still that open-minded approach, his latest album could possibly be his best. But please, Mr Phillips, don’t make us wait too long for the next one.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Read our in depth interview with Dave Phillips here.

Blue Cats (the) / G-Men / Beltane Fire

The Blue Cats - The Blue CatsThe Blue Cats – The Blue Cats


Rockhouse LPL 8011 [1980]
Just Go Wild Over Rock ‘N’ Roll – I’m Gonna Die – Pretty Pretty Baby – I Dreamed You Left Me – Southbound Blues – Boogie Up Roar – Five Days Five Days – I’m Driving Home – Sweet Love On My Mind –
Caldonia – I Sure Miss You – Jumpin’ Little Mama – Juke Joint Jem – Sure-Fire Way – Goofin’ Around
Debut album featuring the Carlo Edwards (guitar), his brother Stef (drums), Clive Osborne (sax, rhythm guitar) and Dave Phillips (vocals and double bass). Excellent from start to finish. A true classic!


The Blue Cats - Fight BackThe Blue Cats – Fight Back

Rockhouse ROCKCD 8111 [1981]
Fight back – Hot & cold – Tired & sleepy – Love me – Jump cat jump – Up a lazy river – Who stole my blue suede shoes – Who slapped John – Wild night – Thunder & lightning – Life fast die young – Made for rockin’ – Slippin’ in – Idle on parade – Birth of the boogie – Everybody’s rockin’
By the end of 1980 the Blue Cats found themselves in need of a bassist and a singer after the departure of Dave Phillips. They quickly recruited Mitch Caws and Clint Bradley both from The Tennessee Rebels and started to work right away. From that moment they started to experiment and write new material with a more modern edge. Released in 1981 Fight Back is representative of that era.
Half of the album reminds the “old” Blue Cats with covers of the Cochran Brothers, Gene Vincent, Eddie Bond, The Phantom, Marvin Rainwater, that are probably here to satisfy the label who didn’t want to make a big departure from their successful debut album. The other half is by far the most interesting with six neo-rockabilly jewels, sometimes close to early psychobilly, written by Bradley.
One can only regret the light production on some of this tracks and wonder how it would have sounded with more studio time.
Almost three decades later, “Fight Back” remains a key album of the early 80’s and a huge influence on numerous bands.

The Blue Cats - The TunnelThe Blue Cats – The Tunnel

Nervous records Nercd069 [1992]
Man With A Mission – Galluping Man – Casting My Spell – The Tunnel – Heavens Gate – Cry On The Wind – Car 76 – Take And Give – Bad Mans Money – Wild Dogs Of Kentucky – Rivers Bend
All I Can Do Is Cry

Winning return for the Blue Cats with this 1992 album with Paul Diffin (Sugar Ray Ford) on bass. Every track here is a killer from the manic neo-rockabilly of Man With A Mission and the Tunnel to the tributes to Cliff Gallup (Gallupin’ Man) and Gene Vincent (Cry On the Wind) and what could possibly be the definitive version of All I Can Do Is Cry. 
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Blue Cats (the) – 1978 The Re-discovered Masters 1984

Count Orlock – COCK XXIII
I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine* – Jumps Giggles and Shouts* – Mystery Train** – I’ll Never Let You Go** – The Saints Rock ‘n’ Roll** – Gotta Git A-Goin’ ** – Baby’s Number One** – I’ve Got No Time For You** – Gotta Go*** – Left Out*** – Eldorado**** – The Master’s Call****
*Blue Cat Trio – **The Blue Cats – ***The G-Men – ****Beltane Fire
The title says it all. It’s a compilation of rare and mostly unissued material by the Blue Cats in all their incarnations. It features songs from their beginning with Dave Phillips as a Rockabilly trio. The songs with Clind Bradley easily shows they could have topped any weekender as a traditionnal Rockabilly band. Instead as we know it they continue to explore and pushed the boundaries to create their unique neo-rockabilly sound. It culminates with the G-Men, a band that created something new that had a lasting impact on the Psychobilly scene with Gotta Go being covered by Frenzy and Long Tall Texans.
Two songs by Beltane Fire find Bradley in his natural element singing Marty Robbins tunes.

Blue Cats (the) – Best Dawn Yet

Blue Cats - Best Dawn Yet

Blue Light Records BLR 33165 2
Billy Ruffians – The Norton Spirit – Turn My Back On You – Blue Prairie – My Dark Dark Mind – Badon Hill – Long Road Home – Captain Blood – Burnette – Following Ahab – Secret Agent Man – Lonesome Desperado

Twenty years after the release of the Tunnel, a landmark in the history of modern Rockabilly, the Blue Cats returned with a new double bass player (Steve Whitehouse of Frenzy and the Sharks) and a new album.
Since Clint Bradley joined the band, the Blue Cats always tried to push the boundaries of the genre while keeping the spirit and the essence of true Rock’n’Roll. And this platter doesn’t disappoint. Modern yet classic.
Billy Ruffian is a fantastic piece of modern Rockabilly with exciting changes in the melody, with what I call “typical Carlo Edwards riffs.” The rhythm section is powerful and demonstrates that Steve Whitehouse was the right choice to succeed to Mitch Caws and Paul Diffin. It could be hard to follow such an opener, but not for Bradley and his gang. The Norton Spirit is a powerful rocker. And even with a straight-ahead rocker like this that lets very little margin to the singer, Bradley proves he’s one of the best singers on the rockin’ scene today.
Billy Fury’s Turn My Back On You is pure Rockabilly gold straight from the ’50s with echo and hiccups.
The Sons of the Pioneers’ Blue Prairie seems tailored-made for Bradley’s voice, and it’s the occasion to hear Carlo Edwards play some steel-guitar.
My Dark Dark Mind is another slice of modern Rockabilly. This one features Paul Diffin on bass, so it’s probably an old recording.
The Blue Cats always took care to write different lyrics than your usual “love my Cadillac” thing. Billy Ruffians evoked Trafalgar and Nelson, and Badon Hill is about King Arthur.
Long Road Home is not the most original track of the album, but once again, the playing and the production are flawless. Captain Blood takes the listener back to the Beltane Fire days with Mitch Caws on bass. A good one, though the production is a bit too much for me. Burnette is a tribute to Johnny Burnette and Grady Martin. No big surprise but very well done and pleasant. Though, maybe, I find Gallupin’ Man their tribute to Gene Vincent and Cliff Gallup on the Tunnel more interesting.
After a rocking Secret Agent Man, the album ends with Lonesome Desperado; a superb Marty Robbins influenced tune on which Bradley’s voice is more eloquent than ever.

blue cats
The Blue Cats (Clint Bradley, Stef Edwards, Carlo Edwards and Paul Diffin)

Nervous records

Nervous records, the legendary rockabilly/neo-rockabilly/psychobilly label formed by Roy Williams (interviewed here), once called by Paul Roman of the Quakes “the Sam Phillips of Psychobilly”.

nervous records

Nervous Records discography

The Polecats – Cult Heroes – NERD 001
Deltas – Boogie Disease – NERD 002
Various Hep Cat Hop – NERD 003
Restless – Why Don’t You Just Rock – NERD 004
The Ricochets – Made In The Shade – NERD 005
Buzz & The Flyers – Self titled – NERD 006
Various – Stack-A-Records – NERD 007
The Sharks – Phantom Rockers – NERD 008
Dave Taylor – Midnight Rock – NERD 009
The Blue Cats – Early Days – NERD 010
The Blue Cats – Early Days Vol2 – NERD 011
Big Daddy Sun and Outer Planets – Rockabilly – NERD 012
Freddy Frog – Self Titled – NERD 013
Ronnie and The Jitters – Roll Over – NERD 014
Restless – Do you Feel Restless – NERD 015
Frenzy – Hall Of Mirrors – NERD 016
Various – Hell Bent On Rockin’ – NERD 017
Rochee & The Sarnos – Understanding Sarno – NERD 018
Rapids – Turning Point – NERD 019
Pharoahs – Blue Egypts – NERD 020
The Jets – Session Out – NERD 021
Various – Aussiebilly – NERD 022
Various – Zorch Factor One – NERD 023
Kevin Fayte & The Rocket 8 – Ridin’ In A Rocket – NERD 024
The Torment – Psyclops Carnival – NERD 025
Restless – The Early Years – NERD 026
Get Smart – Self Titled – NERD 027
Skitzo – Skitzo Mania – NERD 028
Various – Zorch Factor Two – NERD 029
Rhythmaires – Losin’ Out – NERD 030
Coffin Nails – Ein Bier Bitte – NERD 031
Torment – Three is a Crowd – NERD 032
Frenzy – Live At The 100 Club – NERD 033
Frantic Flintstones – A Nightmare On Nervous – NERD 034
Batmobile – Bail Was Set At $6000000 – NERD 035
The Caravans – Easy Money – NERD 036
The Quakes – the Quakes – NERD 037
The Jackals – Prowlin’ – NERD 038
Skitzo – Terminal Damage – NERD 039
Pharoahs – Hammer & Sickle blue – NERD 040
Ratmen – Live Fast, Die Young – NERD 041
Various – Zorch Factor Three – NERD 042
Spook & the Ghouls – Whitechapel Murder – NERD 043
Catmen – Catmen – NERD 044
Surfin’ Wombatz – Lager Loutz – NERD 045
Sharks – First & Last Live – NERD 046
Griswalds – Who Framed The Griswalds – NERD 047
Various – American Rockabilly – NERD 048
The Nitros – Stompin’ Beat – NERD 049
Torment – Around The World – NERD 050
Rusti Steel & The TinTax – More Dollars Than Cents – NERD 051
Rattlers – Never Say Die – NERD 052
Various – Home Grown Rockabilly – NERD 053
Lost Souls – Chasin’ A Dream – NERD 054
The Screamin’ Kids – Don’t Get Down – NERD 055
The Nervous Fellas – Born To Be Wild – NERD 056
Torment – Hypnosis – NERD 057
The Quakes – Voice Of America – NERD 058
The Coffin Nails – Who’s he? – NERD 059
The Catmen – Cuttin’ Through The Red Tape – NERD 060
Various – Boppin’ In Canada – NERD 061
The Scamps – Mayday – NERD 062
Nekromantix – Curse Of The Coffin – NERD 063
Beverley Stauber – Nail My Feet To The Kitchen Floor – NERD 064
Frenzy – Clockwork Toy – NERD 065
Various – Live At The Big Rumble – NERD 066
Sonny West – Relentless – NERD 067
Radium Cats – Other Worlds – NERD 068
The Blue Cats – The Tunnel – NERD 069
The Taggy Tones – Viking Attack – NERD 070
Colbert Hamilton And The Hellrazors – Self – NERD 071
Restless – Figure It Out – NERD 072
The Quakes – New Generation – NERD 073
The Rattlers – Scare Me To Death – NERD 074
Three Blue Teardrops – One Part Fist – NERD 075
Colbert Hamilton And The Nitros – Wild At Heart – NERD 076
Voodoo Swing – We’re Usin Code Names – NERD 077
Tim Polecat – Virtual Rockabilly – NERD 078
Mean Cat Daddies – Ghost Of Your Love – NERD 079
The Taggy Tones – Lost In The Desert – NERD 080
Various – Is It Cool – NERD 081
Darrel Higham – Mobile Corrosion – NERD 082
The Elektraws – Shock-rock – NERD 083
The Quakes – Live In Tokyo – NERD 084
Wild – Good To Go – NERD 085
King Memphis – The Astonishing – NERD 086
Restless – The Very Best Of – NERD 087
The Backbeats – Back To The Beat – NERD 088
Bill Mc Elroy – Slimline Daddy – NERD 089
Skitzo – Vertigo – NERD 090
The Muskrats – The Young And Restless – NERD 091
Hayride To Hell – Self Titled – NERD 092
Nine Lives – Roundabout – NERD 093
Rock Island Line – The Very Best Of – NERD 094
Various – The Nervous 45 rpm Collection – NERD 095
The Midnight Dynamos – Do You Wanna Dance? – NERD 096
Bonneville – Trouble – NERD 097
Various – Rockabilly Gold – NERD 098
High Voltage – Danger… – NERD 099
Blue Flame Combo – Rockabillies Go Home – NERD 100
Mystery Gang – Hot’n’Wild Rockabilly Cuts – NERD 101
The Jime – It’s Still Rock’n’Roll To Me – NERD 102
Johnny Black – Extra Chrome – NERD 103
JC Lee – Tokyo Heat – NERD 104
Mick Satan & The Rockin Devils – Teddy Boy Anthems – NERD 105
Vernon & The GI’s – GI Bop – NERD 106

Clint Bradley

Clint Bradley
Clint Bradley

Do Clint Bradley and the Blue Cats really need to be introduced? Well… for the younger ones, the Blue Cats formed in the mid 70’s with Carlo Esdwards on guitar his brother Stef on drums with Dave Phillips on vocals and bass and later guest Clive Osborne on sax. They released their debut album heavily influenced by Gene Vincent on Rockhouse. But all was not well between Philips and the rest of the band and he left in 1980 to be replaced by Clint Bradley who also brought with him Mitch Caws on doube bass (both played tohgether in Little Tony and the Tennessee Rebels). This proved to be a good choice, Bradley was not only a very good singer but a solid songwriter with new ideas that waited the perfect vehicle to shape up. Together they quickly took the band to another level.

With the release of Fight Back in 1981 this new line-up changed the face of modern rockabilly influencing a brand new generation of musicians, most notably on the burgeoning psychobilly scene. Sadly, if they gained new fans, the attitude of the rockabilly purists took its toll on the band. They decided to leave the scene and reinvent themselves completely. They released another highly influential ep under the G-Men moniker and then, with Beltane Fire explored brand new musical territories (more about that on the band’s website). They finally came back as the Blue Cats in the early 90’s, this time with Paul Diffin on bass and released The Tunnel another benchmark on the rockabilly scene. They continued to play together a couple of years and then pursued their respective projects. It could have been the end of the Blue Cats but in 2008 they reunited for a one-off gig in Hemsby followed three years later by a new album (Best Dawn Yet) this time with Steve Whitehouse (Frenzy, Sharks, Restless) on bass.

by Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Twenty years have passed since the Tunnel. Why, and how, did you decide to get together again? How did you feel when you started playing together again?
It was electric; a real buzz, like we’d stepped out of the room for a cup of tea, and stepped back in 16 years later. We had not seen or spoken to each other for 16 years or so, when the opportunity arose to play The Hemsby festival. A good deal of soul searching took place on my part before that gig took place, but it happened and was a great success. We’d only really intended to do the one gig, have a laugh and rebuild bridges, but we enjoyed it so much that we decided to try writing together again and look at the possibility of maybe doing some more gigs. The creative spark was very much alive between us again. I’d been off doing my own thing with my solo career and my soundtrack business, and Carlo and Stef had been doing theirs. So we’d quite forgotten how much of a spark there was when we played together. But it has to be for real, for a reason. It’s no good us just getting up there for a gig or two, we have to race to win or it just won’t work.

You also have a new double bassist, namely Steve Whitehouse of Frenzy, the Sharks and Restless fame. How did you get in touch with him?
We had a logistical problem in that Paul Diffin now lives full time in Atlanta USA with his family; I was also still travelling backwards and forwards to the States working on various projects . With the air fare being the thick end of £1000 a time, it sort of left us with a problem. It was decided by all of us that it couldn’t work and that another UK bass player would have to be found. Though Paul and I continue to work together on my solo projects. This was a very amicable decision. I’d seen Steve around over the years and had always been very impressed with his playing and his sound. Also I really liked what he’d done with Frenzy, and the fact that he like me, didn’t cave in to the pressure to toe the line if he believed in something. I remembered seeing him at Beltane Fire gigs and also saw him play in Germany during the 90’s. Playing With the Blue Cats is quite demanding musically, you need to have a firm understanding of the musicality of stuff as well as the strength and power, Steve has both which is perfect for us. The first song we played together in the rehearsal studio was Gotta Go, and what can I say, it was musical Nirvana, A PERFECT UNION! He fits in to the band a treat socially as well; he really is part of it now. Steve really carries his weight and is a total professional to work with, in short it’s a match made in heaven

Steve seems to be a natural choice. He used to cover Wild Night and Gotta Go with Frenzy. The Long Tall texans also covered Gotta Go and recently Paul Roman of the Quakes wrote Seven Seas Alone quoting Beltane Fire’s Captain Blood as one of his inspiration behind it. Were you aware that the Blue Cats but also the G-Men and Beltane Fire stuff were so popular on the Psychobilly scene?
Yeah kind of, it makes sense when you think about it. We’ve always been at home with a more progressive audience which is what you tend to get on the Psychobilly/Neo Rockabilly scene. It was bloody hard work for us in the very early days before that scene existed, I mean let’s not beat around the bush here, the traditionalists didn’t like what we were doing and still don’t. I am extremely proud of the G-Men & Beltane Fire, with those incarnations we took it to another level, if we’d had a label that understood what we were trying to do with Beltane, we could have taken the whole thing to another level. Beltane Fire was years ahead of its time, but there are those that understood it from the beginning, Steve for one.

It also takes us back to Fight Back when “traditionnal” rockabillies started to drift away because of the new songs. How did you feel about that?
I’ve been reminded recently why I wrote ‘Fight Back’ in the first place and the emotions behind it. Those who were there in the beginning will remember what it was like. We had to take our own road and head down it no matter what, even when we had to deal with the music fascists within the scene, we knew what we were doing was right. Rockabilly is about excitement and energy, a moment of blissful impulse, The Elvis Sun Sessions, Johnny Burnette’ Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, etc. Those recordings are meant to taken and savoured, the energy and soul is there because they are spontaneous moments of creative genius. They are not meant to be played over and over again note for note until you’ve worn out the vibe that was there in the first place. I always felt that if you took that spirit and influence of that and combined it with your own contemporary surroundings both musically and geographically something magical would happen. Instead of playing the same songs over and over again why not take the influence and carry it forward. Which is what we did when we first got together, we combined the spirit of Rockabilly with the attitude and feel of all our other influences, and what came out was just us. I was also becoming really conscious of the fact that I wanted to write and play my own songs, about my own culture and the things going on around me. I mean I loved rockabilly music, but I couldn’t relate to the lyrics of a lot of the songs, because they were about another youth culture from another country and time. It was people like Joe Strummer who were writing about things I understood and could see around me. We are a band of different colours, a group of musicians who love their craft and always give their best. Our audience is as diverse as we are; you have to leave all your prejudices behind when you come to a Blue Cats gig.

Early 80's, with Clive Osborne on sax and Mitch Caws on bass.
Early 80’s, Clint Bradley, Stef Edwards (drums), Carlo Edwards (guitar), Clive Osborne (sax) and Mitch Caws (double bass)

Still on Fight Back, when I listen to it, I have the feeling that there are two albums in one. One half reflects what the Blue Cats were doing at that time by pushing the boundaries with original songs like Wild Night, Fight Back etc. while the other half sounds more like the label keeping in mind the fans of the Blue Cat Trio with more traditional covers…
A very good and observation and I’m glad I can get the chance to answer that question at last. The main reason for the contrast of that record was the fact that we held a lot of new songs back because we didn’t want Rockhouse to have them, we ‘d had enough of that label by then, they’d ripped us off and had us in a corner. Songs like Gotta Go and others were already on the burner, but we didn’t want them to get hold of them. Also Rockhouse were pretty scared of our New Wave sound and kept trying to tone it down, what makes me laugh is that within a couple of years they were all at it.

Let’s come back to your latest release “Best Dawn Yet”. Beside the music that doesn’t try to fit any genre nor category, the lyrics are also very different from your usual rockabilly band, whether it’s the sea subject like Captain Blood and Billy Ruffian or Baden Hill. Tell us more about that please…
I tend to write about subjects and things I know or enjoy, I love English history and folklore and am forever fascinated by the things I uncover that are right under your nose. ‘Billy Ruffians’ came from the story of HMS Bellerophon that was a ship in Nelson’s fleet at the battle of Trafalgar. But most of the sailors in the fleet could not pronounce ‘Bellerophon’ so they gave it the name ‘The Billy Ruffian’ The story of the crew, ‘The Billy Ruffians’ has always fascinated me, they were a total mix of Nationalities, (there were 25 different nationalities in the fleet) but they all fought together under one flag, the real incentive to win the battle was the prize fund, that they would receive if they captured an enemy ship. I’d read their story many times, and one day it struck me that it was not unlike the worldwide ‘Rockabilly’ scene, so many different nationalities, all into the various different forms of the genre, Neo–Rockabilly, Psychobilly, etc. etc. yet all united in their on-going passion for that one thing ‘Great Music’ it really is like a worldwide brotherhood, people outside it never really understand it, even members of your own family, and yet when you get a group of Billy’s together in one place they are united in that one passion, the Music!
‘Badon Hill’ was the last of the 12, great Arthurian battles against the Saxons. They rode out together one last time to face what came, ‘All these years we’ve been together…’ It’s a song that is as much about our relationship with the fans as us in the band, the fans that have stuck by us all these years and championed us against all the odds. We wanted to give it that kind of ‘Johnny Cash’ feel, which I think is really synonymous with being a maverick. ‘The Blue Cats’ have always been Mavericks…

You also seemed, Carlo maybe even more, to have a lot of fun re-creating the Burnette sound on Burnette like you did with Cliff Gallup on Gallupin’ Man…
Yes with ‘Burnette’ We wanted to write and play something that acknowledged the great influence that ‘Johnny Burnette’, and ‘Grady Martins’ guitar playing had on us when we were kids, especially Carlo. The same as we did for ‘Cliff Gallup’ on ‘The Tunnel’. We recorded this song in a totally different way, to try and create that wonderful sharp and ambient sound that you find on the classic recordings that Johnny Burnette did with Owen Bradley producing.

There are also two cowboy ballads. One that comes from the Son of the Pioneers and the other, an original called Lonesome Desperado that sounds like an unissued Marty Robbins song. I assume you’re a big fan of Robbins. Tell us about your other influences.
Yes indeed my first and foremost influence was without doubt’ Marty Robbins’. I was fortunate in that my dad and my uncle were both into western music so I had a fairly good record collection to rifle through when I was a kid. I can still remember the first time I heard Marty singing Big Iron, and it still affects me in the same way today, a hair on the back of the neck job. It was a seminal moment for me, and that’s what I sat in my bedroom trying to learn to play along to with my first acoustic guitar, I was probably around 7-8 years old at the time. Also Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, and ‘The Sons of the Pioneers’ I thought Cash was the coolest looking bloke I’d ever seen. Then came the Clash and the Elvis sun sessions for the first time. Then it was Johnny Burnette and the Vincent Capitol stuff, the CBS rare rockabillies albums, and I was well and truly away. I also really loved that British sound, things like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Billy Fury, The whole Joe Meek sound and the Shadows and stuff. But At the same time there was The Jam, Generation x, the skids, Buzzcocks, the whole Ska thing with the Specials and Maddness and of course Joe Strummer and the Clash. For me it all went hand in hand, it was all about energy, working class kids giving it some, the only separation was the Atlantic Ocean, culture and time.

That leads me to your solo solo stuff. Do you have plans to re-release This Hour?
There is a very strong possibility that ‘This Hour’ will be re-released. It never had a chance the first time round because the label folded before it was properly released; even so the CD’s that were pressed sold out very quickly. ‘Guilty Heart’ has received a lot of airplay in Germany and really kept the album alive. It’s an album that I really put my guts into, the songs are very personal, and though it’s very much a ballad orientated album, I’m very very proud of it. I was lucky to get to work with 3 members of Ian Durys Blockheads on that project, and I firmly believe it’s a timeless record that will one day see the light of day properly.

How do you feel about seeing it changing hands for huge amount of money on ebay?
It’s ridiculous that people have to pay stupid money for it on ebay and Amazon etc. It’s a collection of songs that I wrote for people to listen to and think about. I tried myself to re-release some time back, but gave up after threats from the publisher, I mean they’re my bloody songs, what’s the point in them just sitting there in a vault because some greedy bugger wants his pound of flesh. Negotiations are going on at present that will hopefully get it sorted once and for all. I’m also really pleased with the way ‘Cross a Soul with Silver’ turned out, that’s a real journey through my influences and the styles that have inspired me over the years, I just let then songs go where they wanted on that one.

What about your songwriting process. Do you write with the Blue Cats or your solo stuff in mind or do you choose once the song is written where it’s going to end?
That’s a good question! I sometimes have an idea and think straight away, yeah that’s a Blue Cats song, even in the years we weren’t working together; I would often think man that would have really worked with the lads. Then some songs are just so personal or off the wall, I think it will work better on one of my solo albums. The thing is I’m writing continuously, it’s my life blood and where I exist, I am always buzzing about something, my problem is not always having the outlet for the materiel. Here in the realm of middle age I have to let the song go where it wants, whatever style that may be.

The Blue Cats now: Steve Whitehouse (double bass), Stef Edwards (drums), CLint Bradley, Carlo Edwards (guitar)
The Blue Cats with Steve Whitehouse

You also have plans for a neo-rockabilly album in the near future…
Yeah I have a collection of songs that I’ve been working on for some time now which are all very much progressive New wave Neo Rockabilly, probably more so than any I’ve done previously. What I would like to do is record that album of songs with some guest players and make it a real event.

Did a band or an album, rockabilly or not, impressed you recently?
I have to say that I’m very impressed with ‘Hank III’ I think that bloke is a major Talent and is doing something of real worth. Also it’s just the kind of kick up the ass that Nashville needs, I mean how one town could do so much to destroy such a great genre and replace with the nauseating crap that is modern Nashville is a mystery. Hank 3 does it for real in a totally unique and original way; he’s raw and powerful, full of soul and stands alone against the music Nazis out there.

The last word is for you…
Thank you to everyone for your continued support, and I promise you there are some momentous projects ahead before the guitar is finally hung above the fireplace.

An interview with Dave Phillips

Dave Phillips
Dave Phillips

Dave Phillips was, with his first band the Blue Cats, among the first to play Rockabilly like it was played back in the fifties.
After a while Dave Phillips and the Blue Cats parted ways. But it’s a rare case of a good thing to result from a split. Instead of having one great band, it gave birth to two great bands (think of the Sharks split that gave us Frenzy too). With his debut album under his own name Dave Phillips helped to define a brand new genre that soon was dubbed “neo-rockabilly”.
Phillips, and a few other bands (Restless, the Blue Cats second period, the Polecats…) influenced countless young cats to form their own bands.
He made the link and kept rockabilly alive.
More than 30 years later he’s still active on the scene today with Rob Tyler (who’s here since Wild Youth in 1981) and Paul Gaskin on guitar.
For someone like me who grew up to the sound of the Blue Cats debut album, it’s a pleasure, an honour and a personnal achievement to present this interview with Dave Phillips.

by Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Dave, how did you discover rock’n’roll music? Was music present in your family when you grew up?
Although there were no musicians in the the generations of my family before me, music and dance were a very prolific part of my family culture and a favourite pass time for us all.
Dave Phillips: Rock n roll was the favoured music amongst my uncles and aunts as I started growing up, so that was a big influence on my musical taste, but the biggest influence was my grand father William, who said to me all of the time from when I was a baby that his vision of my future was as a band leader, on a stage making music that people would love to dance to.

Obviously, Gene Vincent had a huge influence on you. But when I listen to you recordings I’d say that the Beatles were also another big influence on you, not only because you covered them (three tims on disc if I’m correct) but for the melodic side of things too…
Dave Phillips: That’s quite true, as with Gene Vincent, The Beatles were also a great influence on my early musical taste, understandable when you consider that I was born to the sound of their first hit album ‘Please Please Me’, which was being played everywhere you went at that time. The Beatles were the next heirs to carry the torch of Rock N Roll as the 50’s passed and they became closely affiliated with Gene Vincent in their early years and loved his sound, as I’m sure you will know.
The current list of bands and musicians I have taken influence from is endless and very broad, spanning right across the spectrum of musical flavours. Basically I love music generally with a great passion and take influence wherever it strikes me as having true artistic integrity.

What led you to pick the doublebass? Was it a record, a player?
Dave Phillips: When I was very young, in fact right around the time I was born, a new musical instrument, that had only recently been invented, had flooded the market around the music shops of the UK: it was called the electric bass guitar.
Everyone who was a bass player and played in popular music wanted one if they hadn’t already started playing one. As I started to grow up and found the genre of music that I felt most passionate about (obviously Rock N Roll) had a certain sound and feel that was missing from every popular song playing on the radio at that time.
Then one day at the age of twelve, just when I was finishing my music class as a student of trumpet, I noticed this beautiful old instrument that always stood in the corner behind the piano. She looked so lonely, I had never seen anyone playing the old girl. I felt so sorry for her I wanted to caress her and give her some attention. I asked my trumpet teacher if I could give her a try, to which he replied ” of course you can, you’ll be the first person that’s touched that old thing for years”.
Boy, did I touch that old thing?
I never took a lunch break that day, we fell so deeply in love with each other from the first moment. I realised that she had that sound that was missing from all of the contemporary rock n roll I heard around me.
From then on I rarely ever took a lunch break at school, rather go and spend my time learning about the beautiful tone she sang when I touched her, until eventually lots of other kids in the school would also sacrifice lunch, just to come and hear the beautiful sounds she made when I played her.
The rest as they say (once I found a band) is history.

I remember reading in an old interview that you studied trumpet in school. Is that you that we can hear on the Blue Cats’ Boogie Up Roar?
Dave Phillips: That’s a very clever question considering my last answer which included my past history as a trumpeter. I didn’t play any of the trumpet on that album. I did however lay down a vocal arrangement for the session guys that came in to play it for us.

Talking about the Blue Cats, how did the band form?
Dave Phillips: My first band was the really the culmination of years of effort and semi committed school mates, which only really started to come to fruition when Clive Osbourne came on board.
We had just managed to get two gigs under our belt when the guitarist declared that he couldn’t do it any more due to the stage fright he experienced. At the same time we all knew that the drummer (Doug Freeman R.I.P) wasn’t cutting the mustard. The band was about fall apart when suddenly Clive had a idea.
“There’s a couple of brothers that live just down the road from me” he said.
“Carlo plays guitar and his elder brother Stef plays drums. Shall I call them And ask if they’d be interested in joining us?”
They tried out. It worked. Once again, the rest, as they say, was history. Well, until more history happened and we blew apart.

The Blue Cat Trio (with "permanent" guest Clive Osbourne)
The Blue Cat Trio (Dave Phillips with Stef and Carlo Edwards and “permanent” guest Clive Osbourne)

This band was very different in the musical landscape at the time. Compared to the vast majority of rockin’ bands who were mostly “Teddy Boys”, you aimed at a more authentic sound…
Dave Phillips: That just steps right back to my feelings as a younger man who could hear that modern rock n roll bands had some essential qualities missing in their sound. I always felt it was just the double bass, but soon found that the other guys in the band also started analysing and finding ways that the sound could be more authentic: Clive had to have that original Selmer sound on his sax, while Carlo went looking for every detail of what made Cliff Gallup’s sound so unique. We had such an exciting time working out our sound to rockin’ perfection.

After a while you and the rest of the band parted ways. And a couple of months later you came back under you own name. How did you feel at the time?
Dave Phillips: I felt very privileged to have been recognised by the record company as an artist in my own right just after the band split.
In the depth of my deepest blues, early one morning while I was mooching around the house wondering what I should do next, mum called to me in my bedroom:
“Dave! There’s someone on the phone for you from your record company”. They only told me they wanted to sign me as a solo artist! The only condition was that I needed me to put a new band together as quickly as possible. Shit, did I work the rounds on the London Rockin’ scene to get that new band together ASAP? Only months later I was back on the road and then back in the studio in the Netherlands with Rob Tyler and Mark Harman.
Absolute beauty and blessings is what I call it these days.

The Hot Rod Gang first line-up was, beside Dave Phillips of course, John Day on lead guitar, Ray Thompson on rhythm guitar and Rob Tyler on drums (he later played with Restless too). Day and Thompson quickly left to be replaced by Mark Harman (Restless). This line-up recorded Wild Youth (contrary to the cover who credited Andrew Wrightson on drums, actually Wrightson was the band driver). After Harman left to fully concentrate on Restless, Pat Rayford came in then Mick Malone (who later joined Restless) who appears on the live recordings “Live At The Rockhouse” with Janis martin, Mac Curtis, Honey Hush…Then Paul Gaskin (Outer Limits) replaced Malone.

Then you entered the studio with Mark Harman and Rob Tyler to record “Wild Youth”. Clint Bradley recently told me that Bert at Rockhouse wasn’t too keen about the more modern stuff and wanted the band to stick to a more traditionnal sound. Was it the same with you? Tell us a bit about the recording of that classic…

Promo shot for Wild Youth, circa 1981
Promo shot for Wild Youth, circa 1981

Dave Phillips: Initially Bert choked on his coffee at the morning meeting when I told him I wanted to do Tainted Love. He hated the idea, but I stood strong and told him you trusted me enough to sign me as a solo artist, now trust me and let me do this track. He complained all the way through the recording session saying “why can’t you just do the good old rockin stuff that everyone loves?”
I told him we had to develope our beloved rockin music and it’s scene for a new generation. Somehow he trusted me and I was right. My children love what I did with that authentic 50’s sound bringing it to a new fresh audience of younger people. Do I have to say it again? ….. The rest is history!

You’ve always played with the best. It seems that beside being the perfect vehicle for your sound, the Hot Rod Gang also worked as a Rock’n’roll incubator if you see what I mean…
Dave Phillips: When the Blue Cat Trio came about we were against all odds with the huge onslaught that came from the Punk movement in London at that time.
We seemed to have made an impact like I’d never have expected.
When the Hot Rod Gang came together the determination and will to keep that momentum going was tremendous. We literally paved the way, along side the Polecats, Restless, Stargazers, Delta’s etc.. for the later arrival of the Stray Cats. Yes, we were out there working our butts clean off to show the kids of our generation that there was a real alternative to the crap that was being fostered and force fed to the youth by the music industry of that time.

“Wild Youth” and the single Tainted Love were big hits on the scene. But for the follow-up you didn’t try to recreate a second Wild Youth. Was it important for you not to repeat yourself.
Dave Phillips: Now that was where Bert had finally given over lock stock and barrel to the philosophy that I’d introduced with Tainted Love at the previous recording session.
This time he really wanted me to lay down as much of that modern crossover shit as I possibly could and he lapped it up. Personally and in hindsight, I think I tried a bit too hard. Bert liked it though, obviously he’d seen the dollars roll in plentifully from the exploit of Wild Youth and just wanted to see more of the same.
At the release party for the new album ‘Understatements’ we took a lot of very hard criticism from our audience, in the form of bottles, glasses and whatever else they could find to throw at us! They hated it and we felt we’d got it all wrong.Go ask the band, it was truly mental!

At the release party for the new album ‘Understatements’ we took a lot of very hard criticism from our audience, in the form of bottles, glasses and whatever else they could find to throw at us! They hated it and we felt we’d got it all wrong.Go ask the band, it was truly mental!

Many bands were formed after the Blue Cats and/or the Hot Rod Gang. How do you see this “heritage”?
Dave Phillips: I honestly feel like the Gods smiled on me and kept on pulling my strings to make me go on with it. Other than that it seems I just had some good creative ideas in the right field, and at the right time in the right place. All done with a very humble heart. More blessings.

How do you see the evolution of the rockabilly (in the large meaning of the term) scene since the 80’s? Are there bands that impressed you recently?
Dave Phillips: I get to spend a lot of time around different places on the scene these days and I am seeing some cracking bands out there that have grown from the early days when we began. So many of them I see are direct descendants of the scene we started back then and they all work from the same heart in the music. It’s awesome to be honest.

You recently played in France and will play the Rockabilly Rave next month. So your live schedule is busy, but is there any chance for new recordings in the near future?
Dave Phillips: I have been blown away by the way I have been received back on the scene after many years of absence. The band seems to go from strength to strength and the gigs just get better each time we play.
Our recent gig in France was a real roof raiser as were all the previous gigs of this past year. We are very excited about going to do the Rave next month, it should be a real blast.
As for a new recording, well we have proposed to do a new album, but it seems to be taking a long time to organise. One thing we are lacking at this time is the sponsorship from a label that would help us to finance the cost of production. Nevertheless we are very determined that a new release will come soon. Fingers crossed! (if that can help we’re crossing ours too – ed.)

The last word is for you…
Dave Phillips: I would just like to say thank you to my awesome band Rob Tyler and Paul Gaskin for the years of great times and music, also to all of the many other musicians and bands I get to work with these days, but most of all a big thank you to all of the beautiful people who love and support this great music and it’s wonderful passionate scene. Long live Rock N Roll !