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Dave Phillips

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

in Reviews

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)

Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang

in Contemporary artists/Reviews
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

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

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.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Read our in depth interview with Dave Phillips here.

An interview with Dave Phillips

in Interviews

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.
Enjoy.

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 !

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