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Happy Drivers

According to the legend, the band formed in June 1985 after a Jack Scott show. Initially a quartet, with Arnold Baker on lead vocals, Jean Christophe Jehanne on guitar and lead vocals, Thierry Petel on drums, and Franck Marivain on double-bass. The quartet became a trio when Baker left. Then Christian Pujol (aka Mickey Black Fingers) joined the band. When he quit at the end of 1988, the remaining two members contacted the Crabs’ double bassist, but it didn’t work. Following the advice of Alain of Les Vierges, they got in touch with Alain Marietti, who played with Los Carayos and Les Wampas.
This article focuses on the band’s early releases before they moved away from Rockabilly and Psychobilly.

Happy Drivers – Demo

Right String, Wrong Yo-yo / Jump Baby Jump / Tear It Up / London Rock

On these recordings, Arnold Baker sings the two jive/rock’n’roll tunes (Jump Baby Jump and Tony Crombie’s London Rock). Both feature a saxophone, and Jump Baby Jump, though not very original benefits from an excellent guitar part. Jean-Christophe Jehanne takes lead vocals on the Rockabilly stuff, Carl Perkins’ Right String, Wrong Yo-yo and Johnny Burnette’s Tear It Up, the former having a powerful slap-bass part.


Happy Drivers – Jump Baby Jump

Happy Drivers
Happy Drivers

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

On this single, the band now evolves in trio format. Jump Baby Jump is a new version recorded for this single with Jehanne on lead vocals. It suffers from Jehanne’s accent, a recurrent problem on many of his recordings, and it’s a bit young and thin in terms of sound.The b-side is far better and more original with a stop-start composition and an interesting guitar solo. A new recording of this song was made for their debut album.


Happy Drivers – We Shall Be Going On

happy driversIguane Production – Iguane 001 [1987]
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

Shortly after their single, the trio recorded We Shall Be Going On, in their rehearsal room in December 1987.
When you listen thirty years later to an album you liked a lot as a teenager, it’s not easy to 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 the one hand, if you want to be objective, one can say that the sound and the production (or the lack of) are 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 also has some qualities. The boys wrote their own songs (even if Low Rider sounds very close to Stray CatsBuilt For Speed) with varied influences from straight rockabilly to blues, with a dash of neo-rockabilly and a bit of country too (you can find a banjo on a couple of songs). The covers, including Dave Phillips The Fun Of It, are very well chosen. All these elements – and I can’t deny a bit of nostalgia – make this debut album an enjoyable listening experience, even three decades later.


Happy Drivers – Indians on the Road

happy drivers indiansGougnaf Mouvement – GM 038 [1988]
Indians – I’m Not A Hero – Tear It Up – Nervous Man – Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You – Crawdad Hole

Recorded in April 1988, less than six months after their debut album, Indians show the band’s rapid evolution. Compared to their debut album, this mini 10” album is plain excellent. It also shows that the short distance advantages the trio. Since their previous release, the Happy Drivers have hardened their sound. Not exactly psychobilly, but no longer 50’s rockabilly, they created their 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. The third original, “Nervous Man,” is nervous for sure with loud guitar and raspy voice. It prefigures what will follow with “War” their third album. JC has worked on his voice, and you also hear that the band benefited from a real studio and enough time to refine 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.” Initially penned by Anne Bredon in the late fifties as a Folk song, Joan Baez later popularized it, then Led Zeppelin covered it on their debut album. The Happy Drivers turn that song into a frantic rockabilly number. Simply perfect.


Happy Drivers – War

happy drivers war

Boucherie
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

Recorded in January 1990 and released in March of the same year, 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). Not only Alain brought his bass but also many influences that one didn’t find in the band’s sound like hardcore and heavy metal (Cro-Mags, Black Flag, Bad Brains, and so on). He also sang two songs, including one in French.
Contrary to their first releases, they worked with a “real” producer, namely Roger Tebbutt, who worked with The Long Tall Texans. The result is a harder sound, and the album sees the trio exploring new territories. They cover 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 others are strictly hardcore/punk rock like Arena. Another tune (Lame de Fond) sounds like a French folk song, a path some members of the band will follow after the group splits.
Despite some good songs here and there, The Happy Drivers’ following albums (Toowomba and Epica Carmina) were disappointing compared to War, which was the perfect combination of Rockabilly, Psychobilly, Hardcore, and alternative rock.

In 2017, Jean-Christophe appeared in Spain at the 25th Psychobilly Meeting. Too bad he didn’t choose to reform the band with its original line-up for the occasion. He then formed a new incarnation of the band called Happy On The Road with Gaybeul (Demented Are Go, Surf Rats and a electric-bass player. The trio recorded and released an album in Fall 2020.

Happy Drivers

happy drivers

Happy Drivers

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

Restless

Restless – Ready To Go!

Restless ready to goBluelight Records BLR 33205 2 [2020]
Love Like A Bullet – Ready To Go – Crime Don’t Pay – 18 Wheels – One Way – Hellbound – Knee Deep In The Beat – Shake Your Body – Open Road – Bid For Freedom – All Night Long – If I Can Ever Let Her Go

After forty years of service to the cause of Rock’n’Roll, Mark Harman has decided to bring down the curtain on Restless. That’s a shock. It’s hard for me to imagine a world without Restless. Theband has always been part of my musical landscape. I can tell you when and where I bought Why Don’t You Just Rock?
However, this sad news was counterbalanced by the announcement of a new studio album recorded by the four-piece line up of the band, which put on wax Vanish Without A Trace, one of the very best Neo-Rockabilly of all time.
The wait is finally over and here’s Restless’ final studio album the well-named Ready To Go! (I’m optimistic and hope that the band will maybe release a live album or a rarities compilation featuring all line-ups of Restless, one can dream.)
Ready to Go! is a vibrant album with songs penned by each member of Restless. It’s also perfectly recorded, with the band making full use of the studio and trying things with their producer Mika Railo. The sound is crystal clear, and the listener can hear every subtlety from the superb slap bass sound (you hear both the slap and the notes) to the different layers of guitars.
Love Like A Bullet, a rip-roaring boogie-blues with a modern edge, is the perfect opener. The title track is a wild Rockabilly with a Johnny Kidd feel. After a classic opening, Crime Don’t Pay develops into something completely different and very catchy. Restless songs have that quality to evolve into unexpected directions.
Jeff Bayly’s writing contribution is small in terms of quantity but not in terms of quality. His 18 Wheels is a superb Rockabilly tune with a country twang.
As a Buddy Holly fan, I was totally under the charm of One Way, a highly melodic tune with superb guitar arrangement between Harman and Malone. Hellbound is a country tune with a dark ambiance, featuring no less than six guitars and none played by mister Harman. This is the opportunity to mention his superb vocal performance, not only on this song but on the whole album. His talents as a guitarist are often praised, for good reasons, but we tend to forget just how fantastic a singer he is.
Knee Deep (In the Beat) changes the mood and is more on the jazz side. Nice piano playing too.
Shake Your Body is one of the most modern songs of the album. It mixes a threatening feel with a touch of what I would describe as Glamabilly. Surprising at first, but very addictive.
Next is Open Road, a beautiful country tune with a ’60s vibe. Bid For Freedom is more traditional, sounding like a cross between Sun Rockabillies and Marty Robbins. After that moment of calm, All Night Long, a fantastic Rocker with powerful slap bass and slide guitar, takes no prisoners. And here we are, the last tune of the final Restless album. If I Can Ever Let Her Go is a jazz-tinged number with piano and brushed snare. One could easily imagine the band playing it in a small club, in the wee hours of the morning, with the chairs on the tables.
What else can I say? It’s sad to see them go (though I’m sure they have plenty of solo projects) but it’s a good thing to see them leave the scene at the top of their game releasing what is probably one of their best albums.
The LP version has two different songs (Gotta Get Out, and Here She Comes.)
Available at Goofin Records and Raucous.


Restless ‎– Love Like A Bullet

restlessBluelight Records ‎– BLR 45143 7 [2019]
Love Like A Bullet – Get Up And Get Out

In the recent years, Restless went back to their mid 80’s quartet line-up consisting of Mick Malone on guitar, Jeff Bayly on bass, and, of course, Ben Cooper and Mark Harman, respectively on drums and guitar and vocals. This line-up gave us the best (the Vanish Without a Trace ep that I hold as one of the best neo-rockabilly records ever made) and After Midnight an album that needs to be reconsidered (see review below).
Penned by Cooper, Love Like A Bullet starts with the band shouting “Gotta Give me your love” that reminded me of the opening of What Can You Say? then the tune evolves into a rip-roaring boogie blues with a modern edge. The result is both a classic and a contemporary song.
The b-side, penned by Malone, is exclusive to this single and won’t be available on the forthcoming album, which is a reason good enough to buy it, but the quality of the song is another good reason.
These two songs augur the best for the album that will be released in 2020. And since the band has decided to call it quit, it will probably be their last which is very sad. But if all the songs are from the same wood, Restless will leave the scene on a very high note.


Restless live in TokyoRestless – Live in Tokyo 1989

Foot Tapping Records
Intro-Ghost Town / People Love A Show / Radar Love / All By Myself / Roll Your Monkey Maker / Vanish Without A Trace / That’s Alright / Neutron Dance / Ice Cold / 16 Tons / Baby Please Don’t Go / Edge On You / Money Honey / Little Pig / Long Black Shiny Car / Mr. Blues

This album, with the Sharks‘ Live in Japan and Frenzy‘s Live in Japan tends to make me believe that the best live albums are recorded in Japan with Steve Whitehouse slapping the double bass. If the Meteors Hell in the Pacific could easily prove me wrong on the first point, the Blue Cats’ On A Live Mission certainly confirms the second.
In 1989 Jeff baily left Restless and the band considered calling it quit. But with a tour of Japan scheduled, Ben Cooper and Mark Harman decided to hire a temporary bassist, namely Steve Whitehouse, to honor the booking. As Mark said in an interview to Deathrow “If Steve had said no, then if would have almost certainly been the end of Restless. Thankfully he said yes and after five minutes of rehearsing we went to Japan.
The result as I said is an excellent live album with a surprinsigly tight band – considering the condition this line-up embarked to the tour – that plays all the classics (you can check, they’re all here) with carefully choosen covers and more unusual stuff like People Love A Show, a song that previously appeared on the b-side of Ice Cold.
Recorded by Pete Gage and mastered with the help of Alan Wilson you can’t go wrong in term of sound. Most of all this recording perfectly completes the other live albums released by Restless.
The choice of Whitehouse proved to me a pretty good one since the band recorded three studio albums, including the excellent Movin’ On, with him.


Restless – Beat My Drum

The Madhouse Recording Co. ‎– NUTA LP 001
Radar Love – Neutron Dance – Beat My Drum – Do What I Do – London Boy – New Orleans – Dance With The Devil – Get It While You Can – Tumblin’ Down – Big Wheel – Crossed Line – Ain’t Got You – Just Can’t Take It

In late 1987, Mick Malone left Restless, and the band was back to a trio again. It didn’t weaken the group, and the following year, Harman, Cooper, and Baily were back with a vengeance with Beat My Drum.
Maybe they thought that after the heavy produced After Midnight they had something to prove, but it found Restless in fine form.
Beat My Drum sounds like a perfect mix of the band’s first three albums. You can find the neo-rockabilly of Why Don’t You Just Rock? on Do What I Do, the modernity of Do You Feel… on Get It While You Can and the pop edge of After Midnight in their covers of Radar Love and Neutron Dance. But most of the time, helped by the clean production of Pete Gage, all these influences merge to create a unique style that will be Restless sound in the forthcoming albums.


Restless - Live at the Klub Foot
Restless – Live at the Klub Foot

Restless – Live at the Klub Foot

Trophy Records TR002
Roll Your Money Maker – Fools Gold – Last Chance Baby – Baby Please Don’t Go – Bottle On The Beach – Long Black Shiny Car – Girl On Death Row – Live A Lie – Ghost Town – Ice Cold – Edge On You – Love Me – Mr Blues

Recently Alan Wilson (of Western Star and the Sharks fame) found a box full of tapes recorded at the Klub Foot, the mecca of Psychobilly and Neo-rockabilly in the mid-80’s. These tapes needed to be restored and cleaned, a very costly process and two of these shows (Batmobile and Sting Rays) were released on Anagram/Cherry Red Records. Sadly the sales weren’t enough for the label and they called it quit. Knowing he had history in his hands, Wilson created a sub-label to his own Western Star to keep on releasing this stuff.
The second release in the serie concerns another well established name on the scene: Restless. I don’t think it’s possible to find someone who doesn’t like Why Don’t You Just Rock? or Do You Feel Restless? They made a name on both rockabilly and psychobilly scenes. When this gig was recorded in September 1984 they were at their finest, the line-up being original members Mark Harman on guitar and Ben Cooper on drums plus bassist Jeff Baily and, freshly recruited, Mick Malone on second guitar. The quartet plays killer tunes one after another (with the exception of the Phantom’s Love Me which doesn’t fit them well – sorry Mark you’re not a wildman). This set even features an original that never appeared on a studio album and written by Malone.
Buy it at Western Star


Restless – Ice Cold

Restless Ice ColdABC – ABCS 013T [1987]
Ice Cold (The 1987 Remake) – The Hunt Goes On / Stranger – People Love A Show

In March 1987, the four-piece line-up of Restless recorded a new version of Ice Cold. It’s a very different than the one you can find on their debut album. This new version has little to no connection with Rockabilly except for powerful slap bass. It’s almost a brand new song. The tempo is slower, the drum production is more massive, and there’s a slight variation on the melody. The result is surprising at first, but quite addictive.
The Hunt Goes On is an excellent modern-Rockabilly with once again a superb double bass part by Jeff Baily. The weak point is maybe the drums sound that betrays the date of recording.
Let’s put it frankly, Stranger has nothing to do with Rockabilly. It’s in the straight line of the material recorded by the band for After Midnight, but, on the other hand, this is probably one of Restless unsung gem.
Back to modern Rockabilly in the pure Restless style with People Love A Show. This one, with Ice Cold, was also released as a single.
Despite what have been said about this period of Restless, it was one of the band’s most creative peak; this 12” EP, featuring songs that weren’t available elsewhere, proves it.


Restless – Just A Friend

Restless just a friendABC – ABCS 012 [1986]
Just A Friend – The Girl Invisible

Just A Friend, the A-side comes from After Midnight. It has a 80’s pop meets jazz sound that one could find find in some bands of that era. It’s clean and features as usual a superb solo by Mister Harman. The Girl Invisible first appeared on the B-side of the Vanish Without A Trace ep. It’s one of the band’s best modern rockabilly effort.


Restless - After Midnight
Restless – After Midnight

Restless – After Midnight

ABC [1986]
What Can You Say – Somebody Told Me – Do You Really Need To know? – Trouble rides A Fast Horse – Bye B B By By Bye – How Can I Find You? – You Lose – After Midnight – Dark Blue Sea – The Face – Just A Friend

Back in college, thanks to a friend, I discovered Restless chronologically. I was blown away by Why don’t you just Rock? and amazed by Do You Feel… After that, Paul Harman left the band, which was joined by Jeff Baily on double bass and Mick Malone on second guitar. This line-up released Vanish without a Trace, one of my all-time favorite modern Rockabilly recordings.
Then, the quartet released After Midnight. I was young and dedicated to Rockabilly body and soul. I didn’t understand it and, you know how you are when you’re a teenager, I felt betrayed. Did Restless sell out? Nevertheless, I kept on buying Restless records, and the following albums were, to my relief, more to my tastes.
Now years have passed, I’m older – my quiff is far long gone – and, I hope, wiser. I decided to revisit After Midnight. And I was pleasantly surprised. More than that, it’s actually an excellent album. Sure, if you expect Why Don’t You Just Rock part. 2 you’ll be disappointed, but if you approach it with an open mind you’ll be rewarded with solid melodies and some of Mark Harman’s best guitar parts (listen to the way he jumps on the solo of the title track for example.)
The band also had the ambition to go beyond the Rockabilly label. After Midnight featured more adventurous songs in terms of melody and arrangements, hence the presence of horns, accordion, synths, and keyboards of all sorts. So, yes, maybe they pushed it too far at places, and the production, especially now, seems dated, but you can’t blame an artist for having the will to create.
In 1990, Madhouse reissued the album under the title Kickin’ Into Midnight. It is a remixed version without the horns and most of the arrangements. It’s quite good, maybe more rockin’, but to be honest, I wonder if I don’t prefer the original mix. Anyway, it’s good to have both.
So if you think that anything that Elvis recorded after the Army was crap, you can live without that album, but if you’re curious, open to new melodies, and not too allergic to the production sound of the ’80s, you’ll find plenty of good things.


Do You Feel RestlessRestless – Do You Feel Restless?

Nervous Records NERD015 [1984]
Bottle On The Beach – Here I Am – Fool’s Gold – Down At The Swamp – Alabama Jailhouse – Prisoner Of Love – Sob Story – Crack Up ‘n’ Fall To Pieces – 16 Tons – Baby Please Don’t Go – Here I Am (dub version) – Sweet Surprise

Released in 1984 on Nervous records, Do You Feel Restless is the second full-length album from the British trio. It sounds like the modern counterpart of their debut album, with songs that Nervous could have judged too adventurous to be included on their debut album. Ben Cooper, the drummer, takes the lion’s share in terms of songwriting with seven songs out of twelve (the cd reissue features fifteen songs.) The other tunes are covers (Alabama Jailhouse, Baby Please Don’t Go, Sixteen Tons), and one song penned by Mark Harman (Bottle on the Beach) and another by the whole band (Crack Up And Fall to Pieces.)
While Why Don’t You Just Rock remained in the boundaries of Rockabilly with very few modern elements, Do You Feel Restless explore new territories. It flirts with Psychobilly at places, adds a touch of Reggae (Here I Am), and thus creates a new brand of modern Rockabilly that will be their trademark in the following years.


Restless - Why Don't You… Just rock!
Restless – Why Don’t You… Just rock!

Restless – Why Don’t You Just Rock

Nervous records Ner004 [1982]
It’s A Scam – Ice Cold – Why Don’t You Just Rock! – High Time – Last Chance Baby – Tag Man Tag – Long Black Shiny Car – Face In My Gin – Yellow Cab To Midnight – Morning Comes Slowly – Black Cat – Travellin’ – High Time 2* – Later* – That’s Alright* (*cd only)

Restless debut album, Why Don’t You Just Rock, was like a lightning in a bottle. The band had it all: the songs (mostly penned by singer and guitar player Mark Harman), the talent (with Harman’s guitar everywhere but also a tight rhythm section made of his brother Paul and Ben Cooper on drums)  but also the freshness and some form of carefree attitude that you have when you’re a teenager and you play that kind of music. Thus, they brought something new to the genre, making a lively album that rocks, bops, swings and rolls. A 80’s equivalent to Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps (a huge influence on the band).
There’s no need to do a song by song review, each number here is almost a classic: the title track, Ice Cold, Yellow Cab to Midnight, High Time (with its crazy jazzy guitar), Long Black Shiny Car. Unlike many they’re not afraid to play a ballad (Morning Comes Slowly) seriously.
And if you still need to be convinced, just count the numerous band this particular album influenced. They are legions. Restless, with Why Don’t You Just Rock, almost define, with the Blue Cats and a couple more bands, what neo-rockabilly is.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Restless
Resless (Mark Harman, Paul Harman, Ben Cooper)
Resless (Mark Harman, Paul Harman, Ben Cooper)
Resless (Mark Harman, Paul Harman, Ben Cooper)

The Rockits

rockitsThe Rockits – The Rockits

Award Records ‎– SH-1001 [1988]
Cruisin’ All Night – TwoTimin’ Baby – Stood Up

Formed in the mid-80’s The Rockits, previously known as the Top Cats, were a neo-rockabilly band heavily influenced by the earlier cat bands such as Stray Cats and Polecats. They were Buddy Dughi(Vocals/Lead Guitarist), Pete Bonny (drums), and Steve Herney (double-bass). This is their sole release, a three-song ep in pink, and black vinyl.
It contains two Buddy Dughi originals, “Cruisin’ All Night” and “TwoTimin’ Baby”, along with their tribute to Ricky Nelson, “Stood Up.” Dughi and Bonny later founded the Hot Rod Trio and Suzy Q & Her Be-Bop Boys.

Outer Limits

Outer Limits – The Chase

outer limits

Dog Rock SD 106 [1985]
The Chase – Tell Me

The Outer Limits line up on their debut single was Martin “Johno” Johnson on lead vocals and guitar, Mick Fletcher on bass, Paul Gaskin on guitar, and Rob Tyler on drums.
The Chase is a great early psychobilly/neo-rockabilly number. The flip is good too, though far less original since it borrows heavily (lyrics and melody) to Brand New Cadillac.

Outer Limits – Edge of Time

outer limits

Dog Rock SD 107 [1985]
Edge Of Time – The Car – Lago – The Quest

On their second release, a 12″ EP, Outer Limits played as a trio with Johnson switching on bass.
The music also changed a bit. The band added a solid dose of new-wave to their brand of neo-rockabilly. The result is close to the four-piece line-up of Restless or some of Dave Philips‘s sides. Not very surprising coming from Rob Tyler and Paul Gaskin.
If you dig neo-rockabilly with a modern edge like the previously mentioned bands or the G-Men, this one is for you.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Honey Hush

honey hushHoney Hush – Honey Hush

Rockhouse Records – MLP 8418 [1985]
Nowhere Train – Rock-Itis – Getaway Girl – You’re the One that Done It – She’s so Fine – Pink and Black

Honey Hush came from the Netherlands and formed in the early ’80s. After one single included here, they released this mini-lp.
This is neo-rockabilly at its best.
The singer is excellent, the band is perfect (powerful slap bass and light guitar that takes you straight into the 80’s), and they have solid originals. They complete the set with two well-chosen covers: Thomas Wayne’s You’re The One That Done It and a live version of Sonny Fisher’s Pink and Black.
Furthermore, if the tone is mostly neo-rockabilly oriented, they’re not afraid to bring a bit of psychobilly with Nowhere Train or play in a more classical Rockabilly vein with She’s so Fine. They even add a bit of jazz (with brushed snare) on Rock-Itis. As a result, it gives a very varied mini album.
Moreover, the six-song format let no place for average tunes.
After these recordings, Honey Hush changed its name and became Archie.


Honey Hush – Getaway Gal

honey hushRockhouse Records – SP8305 [1983]
Getaway Gal – She’s so fine

Rockhouse records released this excellent debut single by this Dutch neo-rockabilly band in 1983. Getaway Gal features a superb guitar solo that is reminiscent of Mark Harman. B-side is more traditional.
Both songs will appear on their mini-lp.

Honey Hush
Honey Hush

The Rockats – Secret Hearts

The Rockats - Rockin' Together
The Rockats – Rockin’ Together

The Rockats – Rockin’ Together

Lanark {2013}
Why The Doubt – Rockin’ Together – Bad Love – Road To Hell – Kitten With a Whip – Old Hickory Road – Pink and Black Cadillac – Reckless – Red Headed Rockin’ Gal – Sweet Sweet Charlotte – Tear The Roof Off – Why Do You Love Me.

For many young Rockabilly fans who, like me, discovered this music in the 80’s, Levi & the RockatsLive At the Louisiana Hayride and the RockatsLive at the Ritz were almost as important the Stray Cats debut album for their rockin’ education. They influenced countless bands (including a certain trio from Masapequa) and still continue today. So what was my surprise when I heard that after a 10 year hiatus the Rockats were back with a brand new studio album. Not a best-of, not a live, but 12 brand new sparkling songs written by the band (and their producer Quentin Jones who made a terrific job). And believe me cats, you should hide your kittens for this boys are still full of energy and they claws are sharper than ever.

Rockin’ Together” kicks off with “The Doubt” a superb modern rockabilly that sets the pace of the album: Dibbs’ vocal on top, solid guitars and rhythm section and top notch production. The title tracks lives to its name. “Why Do You Love Me (If I Don’t Treat You Right)” is a superb modern number that a strong commercial appeal without selling itself. Next is “The Road to Hell” a pure Rockabilly with an Elvis feel and featuring what Brian Setzer calls in his liner notes “the twin rockabilly guitar attack” of Barry Ryan and Danny Harvey.

Another highlight for the guitars is the surf tinged instrumental “Kitten with a Whip” penned by drummer Mike Osborn. With the next tune, they prove to be more than able on the honky tonk side with “ Olde Hickory Road ” featuring harmony vocal, piano and pedal steel effect on the guitar. They definitely should do more like this (actually you should try Dibbs’ solo album for more in that style). By comparison, Red Headed Rockin’ Gal is more on the blues side completed by finger snaps for that late 50’s rock’n’roll feel. You can find the same feel in Sweet Sweet Charlotte a rockaballad with echo not far from Gene Vincent.

Then the album ends with a string of three rockers. Starting with Tear the Roof Off (very appropriate name), going harder with “Bad Love” (not that far from a rockin’ Morrissey) and climaxing with the hot rocker ‘Reckless Rebel” again featuring strong guitar parts.

As a result, this is a great album and one thing is certain: the Rockats will continue to inspire many more bands!

More infos at www.lanarkrecords.net


The Rockats – Plays Elvis

Rockats plays ElvisHeartbreak Hotel – Baby Let’s Play House – Blue Moon – Good Rockin’ Tonight
This four-track mini cd was a Japan bonus sold with Downtown Saturday Night. I don’t think it was available separately.
The title says it all, what you’ll find are four Elvis Presley covers. Being the excellent singer he is, Dibbs has no problem to revisit the King’s repertoire.
Barry Ryan plays two hot and bluesy solos on Heartbreak Hotel (which also, like the original, features a piano.) Back to straight Rockabilly with Baby Let’s Play House. Though they remain respectful to the originals, the band bends the songs to make them fit in their style. This is by no mean a sterile act of recreation.
The highlight of this EP is the cover of Blue Moon. The band had an excellent idea to blend the melody with Sleepwalk. The result gives a very atmospheric mood, almost like a dream while Preston flies over this version with class and elegance only attained by Chris Isaak (and Elvis) before him.
The closing number is a smoking rendition of Good Rockin’ Tonight.
Though it’s not easy to find, it definitely worths the hunt.


The Rockats – Make That Move

Rockats make that moveRCA [1983]
Burning – One More Heartache – That’s the Way – Go Cat Wild – Never So Clever – Make That Move – Be Bop A Lula – Woman’s Wise

With Make that move the Rockats slowly departed from their neo-rockabilly sound to explore new territories. It was recorded in two sessions; the first one with Lewis King on drums for the title track and Marvin Gaye’s One More Heartache and the second with new drummer Mike Osborne. Both were produced by Mike Thorne of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love fame.

The result is a mix of all the things that influenced the band at the time. Never so Clever and their cover of Buzz and the Flyers Go Cat Wild are straight rockin’ tunes though with a modern sound. On the other hand That’s the Way (with keyboards) and One More Heartache have a strong new wave influence. And right between those two extremities you have Make That Move, a modern rocker with a catchy melody and the excellent Burnin’ that wouldn’t be out of place on Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.
The cd reissue contains two bonus tracks recorded for the movie Where the Boys are.


the Rockats - Live at the Ritz
the Rockats – Live at the Ritz

The Rockats – Live at the Ritz

Island – ILPS 9626 [1981]
Rockin’ Baby – Rite Time – My Way – Go Kat Wild – (Don’t Treat Me Like A Dog) Love This Kat – Start Over Again – Krazy Baby – 50 Miles From Nowhere (A 1000 Miles From Home) – (Knockin’) At My Front Door – Wrong Rite Reason – Room To Rock – All Thru The Nite – I Wanna Bop

Signed to Island records, the next and natural move for the Rockats was to release a lp. After a failed attempt to capture their energy in studio, the label decided to record them in their natural environment: the stage. The result was Live at the Ritz, recorded, mixed and pressed in 48 hours. 
After an enthusiastic and drunken introduction by Billy Idol, the gang kicks off with Rockin’ Baby, a boppin’ rockabilly with fine Gallupin’ guitar. With the second song, Rite Time, the doubt is no longer possible: we are in 1981 not 1956. The Rockats don’t re-create, they totally make the genre their own by including elements of their era like Punk, as proved by their rendition of Cochran’s My Way, covering contemporary bands like Buzz and the Flyers (Go Kat Wild) and writing their own originals (All Thru The Nite; 50 Miles From Nowhere…).
Sure, their youthful exhuberance can sometimes lead to confusion but much to the chagrin of some purists, this bravado is closer to what Gene Vincent or Billy Lee Riley should sound on stage and despite some minor flaws the full platter is a neo-rockabilly rollercoaster. Culminating with the wild Krazy Baby, it contains just a few slower numbers to let you take your breath like the torrid Love this Kat (written by Bobby and Larson Paine who later wrote stuff for Brian Setzer and Stray Cats) and the bluesy Start All Over Again, quite close to the early Rolling Stones.
Listening to this album more than 30 years later, it is impossible not to aknowledge the huge influence the Rockats had on the whole rockin’ scene.
As the time of writing this it hadn’t, to my knowledge, been properly reissued on cd, except maybe in Japan.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Read the whole Rockats story here.
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