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Dave Phillips and the Hot Rod Gang

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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.

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.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Read our in depth interview with Dave Phillips here.

Clint Bradley

in Interviews

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.

Little Tony and the Tennessee Rebels

in Profiles

Little Tony and the Tennessee Rebels

A rockabilly band formed in the late 70’s. They wanted to call themselves the Spur Dogs or Spur Dog Run, but their London agent opted for the more traditionnal name of Tony and the Tennessee Rebels much to the band distress.
There were two line-ups. The first consisted of Clint Bradley on vocals and guitar, Steve Noyce on electric bass, Danny Kelly drums, and Gus Guthrie on guitar.
In 1979 Mitch Caws and Bruce Hobbs replaced Noyce and Guthrie.

Little Tony & the Tennessee Rebels - first lune-up
Little Tony and the Tennessee Rebels – first lune-up

Little Tony & the Tennessee Rebels - 2nd line-up
Little Tony and the Tennessee Rebels – 2nd line-up

They recorded one ep in January 1980 (under the name of Tony and the Tennesse Rebels) featuring three original songs penned by Bradley (Slap That Bass, Rock The Barn, Roll On Baby) and one cover (Ten Little Women). Then, in late 1980 (around November) Clint Bradley and Mitch Caws replaced Dave Phillips in the Blue Cat Trio which became the Blue Cats.

More recordings, mostly demos, were later released by Nervous on the album “The Blue Cats – the Early Days“.

Discography

EP [1980]
Red Hot! Records – REP 1004
The Blue Cats – The Early Days
[1983 – reis. 1992]
Nervous 010 (14 songs)

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