Rockabilly, Psychobilly and everything in between.

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Roy Williams

The Jets (British Rock'n'roll band)

in Reviews

Jets (the) – Cotton Pickin

Cotton Pickin

Krypton Records KRYP200 [1988]
Nervous – Be-El-Zebub Boogie – Penny Loafers And Bobby Sox – Would You – Heartbreaker – Bones – Razor Alley – Can’t Keep A Good Man Down – Primadonna – I Didn’t Like It The First Time – Oh Judy – The Hunter

Cotton Pickin, the Jets’ fourth lp, is more or less made of the same wood as its predecessor. You’ll find Neo-Rockabilly (Nervous, Razor Alley) and even a song bordering on Psychobilly (the Hunter.) Still, in the Rockabilly idiom, there’s plenty of Rockabilly tunes with Doo-Wop embellishments (Would You, the Sparkletones’ Penny Loafers And Bobby Sox, I Didn’t Like It The First Time.) Talking about Doo-Wop, it wouldn’t be a Jets album without a couple of pure Doo-Wop tunes. Here you have Dion’s Prima Donna, Heartbreaker (that sounds a bit like Runaround Sue), and Judy performed acapella by the three brothers.
A mean Rock’n’Roll (Can’t Keep A Good Man Down), a boogie with jazzy echoes (Be-El-Zebub Boogie), and Bones, an instrumental in the vein of Steel Guitar Rag complete the set.

Jets (the) – Session Out

jets session out

Nervous Records NERD 021 [1986]
Jitterbuggin’ Baby – Dan O’ Dell – Drunk Again – Charlene – Moonshine – Bye Bye Baby – Open Your Heart – Forget The Love – Did Anyone Tell You – Millionaire Hobo – Cry The Blues – Slippin’ In

After beginning their career with Roy Williams as a manager, the Jets (Bob, Ray and Tony Cotton, respectively on double-bass, guitar, and drums) went on to international fame with EMI scoring hits and TV appearances.
For their third album, they returned to Williams and Nervous records. And the result is one hell of a rocking album produced by the band. All songs are originals, either written by Ray or Bob, except for Millionaire Hobo and Slippin’ In.
The opening number sets the moods for what will follow: top-notch production, tight arrangement (excellent twin guitar part), and superb musicianship.
Next, you find Dan O Dell. It’s a Rock’n’roll number yet with a Jazz mood and a nod to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 16 Tons. It also sees the Jets’ secret weapon’s introduction: their vocals harmonies. Drunk Again follows. Jet-propelled by Bob’s fantastic slap-bass, I can easily imagine it recorded by Eddie Cochran.
Charlene is a pure Doo-wop candy that seems to come straight from the fifties. Maybe these three brothers have a special connection or something, but their voices sure blend magnifically.
How about an instrumental after that? With a title like Moonshine, don’t be surprised to find a strong Hillbilly touch.
Bye Bye Baby is a soft Neo-Rockabilly with, once again, a great guitar part that mixes rockabilly with jazz.
The B-side begins with Open Up Your Heart, a Rockaballad with the brothers’ harmonies. More rockin’ is Forget the Love. Imagine Right Behind You baby with a Neo-Rockabilly feel. Sounds great? The result is even better. Still rockin’ but more classical, the stripped-down sound of Did Anyone Tell You evokes the legendary recordings made by Sam Phillips.
Next are two Doo-wop tunes: a storming rendition of the Fantastics’ Millionaire Hobo and the more classical Cry the Blues.
To confirm the Neo-Rockabilly orientation of this album, a breathless rendition of Slippin’ In concludes the set.


Jets (the) ‎– Love Makes The World Go Round

Love Makes the World Go Round

EMI ‎– EMI 5262 [1982]
Love Makes the World Go Round – I’m Just A Score

Back in the early 80s, the Jets achieved the delicate task of reaching commercial success without selling themselves out.
This single is a perfect example of that. The sound is undoubtedly more radio-friendly than the most hardcore Rockabilly bands, but the Cotton brothers remain faithful to the genre. Suffice to compare their cover of Love Makes the World Go Round with the original by Perry Como. They bring everything to turn it into a Rockabilly tune, soft Rockabilly maybe, but Rockabilly nonetheless. The same goes for the flip-side, with its powerful slap bass, subtle harmonies, and delicate guitar.


Jets (the) ‎– Who’s That Knocking

the Jets

EMI ‎– EMI 5134 [1981]
Who’s That Knocking – I Seen Ya

Excellent single by the Cotton brothers. The A-side is a fast-paced doo-wop on which the band sees its line-up augmented by Mickey Gallagher on piano and Davey Payne on saxophone, both from Ian Dury and the Blockheads. The B-side is another superb example of their brand of soft Rockabilly with a terrific guitar.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Official website: http://www.thejets.co.uk/

the Jets

Deltas (the)

in Reviews

The Deltas – Boogie Disease

The Deltas - Boogie Disease

Nervous Records NER002 [1981]

Boogie Disease – As You Like It – Blues In The Bottle – Honey Babe – Victim Of My Love – London Girls – Who – That Ain’t Your Business – Raging Sea – Heart Attack – Temperature – Pie ‘n’ Mash – Moonshine – Nine Below Zero – Fashion Train – Long Black Train

The Deltas were playing wild and frantic Rockabilly but unlike many other bands, they related heavily to the blues idiom covering the likes of Doctor Ross, Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Hopkins or Sonny Boy Williamson. If the Meteors created psychobilly by mistreating rockabilly music, the Deltas were doing the same to the blues.

The Deltas were one of the very first act to be signed by Roy Williams on his Nervous label. It’s no surprise for their were among those who wanted to push the boundaries of the genre like Restless, the Meteors, the Blue Cats to name but three.

Their debut album is loaded with 16 wild and psychoticwith half of them penned by the band. The triple attack of Littlejohn’s double bass, Pat Panioty’s guitar and Steve Bongo banging his drums while singing his heart out (which often leads him to end the song faster than it started) takes no prisonners.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

deltas-first45The Deltas – Heart Attack b/w Spellbound

Nervous Records NER005 [1981] 
In 1981 the British rockabilly scene was in bloom. After Raw Deal split, Paul Fenech and Nigel Lewis formed the Meteors and Pat Panioty formed the Deltas. This single announces their excellent debut album. The version of Heartattack is different than the one that appears on the album.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

 


The Deltas - You Cant Judge a BookThe Deltas – You Cant Judge a Book

Raucous Records – RAUC006 [1988]
How Come You Do Me Like You Do – You Can’t Judge A Book – Do What I Do – This Train Is Bound For Glory

Superb ep recorded for Raucous featuring high octane rockin’ blues in the same vein of Tuffer than Tuff.

 


The Deltas - Mad for itThe Deltas – Mad for it

ID Records NOSE 11 [1986]
Whip It Up – Cigarette – Catch’em Young – The Cat – Age Of Nil – Electric Chair – Hit The Road Jack – Mad For It – Sex Therapy – Gimme The Drugs – No More No More No More – How Come You Do Me Like You Do* – You Can’t Judge A Book* – Do What I Do* – This Train Is Bound For Glory* (*cd bonus)

In 1986 the Deltas returned with a brand new album and a brand new lineup. The orginal trio (Captain Pat Marvel, Little John and Steve Bongo) added a drummer Ricochet Ray (allowing Steve to fully concentrate on the vocals) and a second guitar and a saxophone in the person of Boz Boorer of the Polecats who also produced the album and wrote several originals. With the addition of guests on piano and blues harp, the result is a blusier album, yet with a rockin’ feel to it, and a fuller sound.
It also sees them more at ease to go into new territories like the jazzy “Electric Chair”. But fans of the first lp and their psychotic rockabilly will sure enjoy the title track and their cover of the Cat. The cd version includes the “You Can’t Judge a book… ep” recorded for Raucous in 1988.


The Deltas ‎– From Fleetville To Vegas

deltas from fleetville to vegasRockout Records ‎– NIT 007
High Falutin’ Mama – Getting Drunk – Look Out Mabel – Shim Sham Shimmy – Willie Brown – Doctor Jazz – Down By The Riverside – I Love To Boogie – King Of The Road – Rock Me
Released in 1995 on Gary Day’s short-lived Rockout Records, From Fleetville to Vegas is one of the very best Deltas album.
The five-piece line-up (the original trio plus Boz Boorer and John Buck) rips through a set of wild and frantic rockin’ blues leaving the listener breathless. Amid that wildness, they managed to add some Jive (Gettin’ Drunk), Jazz (Doctor Jazz, a Boorer’s original that quotes Charlie Parker), Rock’n’Roll (High Falutin’ Mama), Rockabilly (Rock Me) and even Gospel (Down By the Riverside.)
Occasional piano, saxophone, and harmonica enlighten the performance. The sound is raw and crude, in the same vein as Billy Childish’s blues albums.

Deltas


Pharaohs (the)

in Reviews

Pharaohs (the) – Vigilante

pharaohs vigilante

Nervous Records – 12 NEP 005 [1987]
Vigilante – Cleopatra – Your On Your Own – Pharaohs To Cowboys

With Vigilante, their second release, the Pharaohs switched from double-bass to electric bass, with Lee Brown in place of Jeff Horsey. Brown later joined the Meteors to play bass on some of their very best albums.
Apart from that, nothing really changed since their debut album. Glenn Daeche is still one hell of a songwriter, providing tunes that are both melodic and rocking at the same time. Furthermore, the production and the arrangements are outstanding too. A song like Cleopatra could easily have reached an audience beyond the rocking scene. Pharaohs to Cowboys features harmony vocals and adds a touch of hillbilly to the sound of the band.
Everything here is perfect, except for the ugly cover, designed by Kevin Haynes, drummer of Torment.

The Radioactive Kid

Pharaohs (the) – Blue Egypt

pharaohs blue egypt

Nervous Records NERD020 [1986]
Crazy Love Records ‎– CLCD 6486 [2001]

Wild Thing – Tomb Of The Dead  Keep On Running  Radar Love – Wipe  Dead To The World  Theme From Cairo  Down The Line  Killed Love  Blue Egypt  Drinkin’  Never Coming Back – Smell of Cop* – Crazy and Wild* – Turkey Dance* (*CD only)

The Pharaohs were a Psychobilly band with strong rockabilly roots. After a show at the Klub Foot, Roy Williams of Nervous records proposed them a record deal, and the result was Blue Egypt. The line up on this album is Glenn Daeche (vocals, rhythm guitar), Ben Evans (lead guitar), Jeff Horsey (double bass), and Nick Becker [drums.)

Blue Egypt opens with a cover of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing.” It’s not bad, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the title, especially if you compare it to the Meteors’ version. Things get better with the second song. Written by Daeche, it’s a very original tune with changes of paces, organ, and a bizarre atmosphere. “Keep on Running” is a cowbell and drum fest and has a very pop feel.

They play Golden earing’s “Radar Love” at a frantic pace and gives it a mean approach that the original (and the Restless cover) doesn’t have. “Wipe Off” is a simple but highly effective instrumental. “Dead to the World” is a melodic Psychobilly tune that demonstrates what a great songwriter Glenn Daeche is. “Theme from Cairo,” the second instrumental of the album, brilliantly blends surf with psychobilly and a touch of spaghetti western too. It evolves into a crazy version of Orbison’s Down the Line. Another killer track by Daeche, the slap-bass propelled Killed Love, shows how blurry could the difference between neo-rockabilly and psychobilly be in the mid ’80s.

But the best is yet to come with the highly original Blue Egypt, both melodic and powerful. From the start, the Pharaohs had more ideas than the usual horror and ghouls cliches, and their songs were different than just fast-paced rockabilly tunes. Blue Egypt encompasses all that. “Drinkin’” has a laid back feel, kinda jazzy with piano and acoustic guitar. The original album ends with the rocking “Never Coming Back.”

The cd version features three bonus tracks, including Crazy and Wild a little gem, taken from Zoch Factor One and Three as well as Psycho Attack Over Europe.  

The Radioactive Kid

Roy Williams – Nervous records

in Interviews

Nervous records second logo
Nervous records second logo

Nervous Records – the Roy Williams interview

-Hey, I’ve just bought the debut album of a psychobilly combo called the Frantic Flintstones.
-Is that any good?
-Of course, it’s on Nervous Records!

That’s the kind of dialog that my psychobilly pals and I used to have. Nervous was for us – and I’m sure we weren’t alone – a reference. Nervous records always had the best stuff coming with nice sleeves too. Judge by yourself: the Polecats, The Sharks, Frenzy, the Ricochets, the Coffin Nails, the Caravans, the Nitros, Restless, the Blue Cats, Buzz & the Flyers, Torment, Skitzo, Nekromantix, Batmobile, the Quakes, the Rattlers… Impressive isn’t it. Reading Nervous records’ back catalog is like reading a Who’s Who of Neo-Rockabilly and Psychobilly.

Of course, there was some exceptions:
-Look that’s the latest Nervous records lp.
-What’s the name of the band?
-Spook & the Ghouls.
– …

Anyway Nervous records is indissociable from the whole genre, and we had to talk to Roy Williams. Now put your favorite Nervous album on the platter or in the player if it’s a cd and read the following interview..

by Fred “Virgil” Turgis

When and how did you discover rockabilly music?
I was collecting old rock’n’roll records in the early 60’s and I came across a listing of SUN 45’s for sales from someone called Breathless Dan Coffey (Breathless Dan Coffey is a well known record collector in Europe and he’s also the brother of Mike Coffey, guitar player for Crazy Cavan – ed.). Before that, the only time I’d heard of rockabilly was from a Guy Mitchell song! In truth, I’d been buying rockabilly records for some time, but never really knew the word in relation the records I had. We used to call it ‘the empty sound’ because of the slap-back echo!
The ‘division’ of rock’n’roll and rockabilly can be subtle and there’s a lot of ‘crossover’. I think of it this way
All rockabilly is rock’n’roll
All rock’n’roll is not rockabilly
or
All ants are insects
All insects are not ants
You can say that we have an interesting linguistic discussion here between etymology and entymology =;-)

Was Rock’n’roll the kind of music played at home when you were a kid?
Oh no! My mother used to sing songs to me when I was very young. These were songs from the 1940’s. The only music my father liked on the radio was religious music. He used to complain that there was too much ‘boogie woogie’…. He used to tell me that our radio couldn’t get Radio Luxembourg (where all the good stuff was). I used to go and watch TV in the village pub with my friend whose parents owned the pub. I saw ‘6-5 Special’ on a small black and white TV, one of only two in the village. Then we moved back to Wales and lived in a village with no electricity for a while, so I missed a lot of 1950’s TV. Then, one day in 1958, I got on my bicycle and rode into the town (Aberystwyth) and walked into the pier. There was the smell of the candy floss and lots of flashing lights and a big jukebox pounding out rock’n’roll. I was lost……
Then we moved closer to the town and had electricity again and my parents bought a new radio and gave me the old one. I spent all my time on this radio listening to radio stations from other countries searching for rock’n’roll.

As a DJ you helped to promote Hank Mizzell’s Jungle Rock, you managed young bands. How did you decide to create your own label?
I saw a bit about how the music business worked from ‘Jungle Rock’ and I thought that I could create another hit with a young good looking British band. At about the same time, I saw that Ronnie Weiser has started his own label and there were lots of new labels in England because of punk. I thought that I could do this, too. I also thought that it was time that I established better financial security for my family because DJ work was not so reliable! I actually started in music publishing and the label came after.

Nervous records first logo
Nervous records first logo

Looking back at the Nervous records back catalog, one thing struck me. Like Sam Phillips who always said he didn’t need two Elvis, it seems that you were always looking for bands that sounded different…
The lesson that I learnt from Rollin’ Rock was NOT to go for a ‘house label sound’. There was a time that everything on Rollin’ Rock was hot, and then suddenly it wasn’t because it all had the same ‘house sound’ and the whole catalogue was out of style. I didn’t want to have this happen to Nervous records, so I deliberately tried to be more ‘diverse’.

You have worked with many of the best psychobilly bands, but strangely you never worked with the originators of the genre, the Meteors. Do you regret it?
Not really. they seemed very shambolic to begin with and after their first EP and LP, I didn’t find them so interesting. The first LP was REALLY good, though and hugely influential.
In the end, when I bought out the Alligator label, I became the owner of the earliest Meteors’ recordings [three songs were released on Homegrown Rockabilly – ed.]

Today I suppose things have changed radically with the mp3’s. But in the heydays of neo-rockabilly / psychobilly what was the average pressing for a Nervous record?
I always remember that when we released the Buzz And The Flyers LP, we pressed 3,000 copies and delivered 2,000 to various customers in the first week! Those days are long gone.

How do you / did you involve in the recording process as a producer? Do you suggest songs to cover, different ways to approach songs, select songs with the artists etc.?
I make all sorts of suggestions. Some bands have all of their ideas ready, and some need more ‘guidance’. Sometimes I give the project to a producer. I can’t force bands to record what they don’t want to. I feel awkward sometimes because I can’t play an instrument and it’s often difficult because of that.

Is there a release in which you had strong hope that failed to sell?
Quite a few! Often because the bands split up just after the recording!

Some of Nervous records releases - photo by: Mitutaka Namie
Some of Nervous records releases – photo by: Mitutaka Namie

Which Nervous records releases are you particularly proud of?
The first Restless album and The Blue Cats ‘The Tunnel’.

And is there one that retrospectively you think “I shouldn’t have released this one”?
That’s too political!

Beside Nervous records, I believe that you were involved with the organisation of the Big Rumble. What memories do you keep from it?
A lot of work, and a lot of fun. I really enjoyed going round the caravans in the morning with a video camera, and finding people in the ‘wrong’ beds! I also had some funny experiences at the reception of the camp. Del used to put me there because I could manage some words in various languages. It was always difficult explaining to French people about the meters for the electricity!

I have the sad feeling that today the rockin’ scene is more and more divided in sub-scenes like neo-rockabilly, modern rockabilly, authentic rockabilly, old school psychobilly, gothabilly, trashbilly (and so on), with much importance given to the clothes rather than anything else. What do you think of the evolution of the scene?
I agree with you. It’s become fragmented and this is BAD news.

You were one of the first to bet on the cd’s then on the mp3’s. How did the internet change the way of selling music?
It’s broken down the national barriers. Really there is only one marketplace now, and everyone is equal in it. This is good. Music is no longer qualified by its rarity. It’s qualified by it’s standard. When I was DJ-ing, there were some people who would not dance to a record if it wasn’t an original 45. This is BOLLOCKS!
The ‘downside’ of all this is that there needs to be a lot more ‘back-office’ computer work to make it all work properly. Most small labels are hopeless at the paperwork side of things and this leaves the ownership of copyright in a bit of a mess. I’ve actually written my own computer program to handle this stuff.

The last word is for you…
I’m more interested in the future of rock’n’roll/rockabilly than the past.


Website: http://www.nervous.co.uk/
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