It feels a little strange, sitting here at home outside Glasgow, Scotland and writing about one of our city’s most famous ‘unfamous’ bands. I mean, everyone knows that members of Tear Gas ultimately joined forces with Alex Harvey to form ‘The Incredible Alex Harvey Band,’ right?
At least, that’s what was proclaimed on the sticker that adorned the sleeve on my copy of their re-issued debut album, ‘Piggy Go Getter.’ A bit of a ‘Sensational’ cock-up, by the record company, I’d suggest.
Playing the local Glasgow circuit as The Bo-Weavels, the band changed their name to Mustard, when vocalist George Gilmour left. Andy Mulvey, formerly with top Scottish beat band, The Poets, stepped in,
More changes would follow with Mulvey himself moving on. Wullie Munro signed up, taking over on drums. He was backed up in the rhythm section by new bass player Chris Glenn, while Eddie Campbell came in on keyboard duties. Joining forces with the two remaining members of The Bo-Weavels / Mustard, Davey Batchelor and Alistair ‘Zal’ Cleminson, it was decided that another name change was in order, and, in keeping with the ‘mustard’ theme, I guess, the band were re-named, Tear Gas.
They were billed as a ‘heavy rock’ outfit, though I find that hard to comprehend from their debut album, ‘Piggy Go Getter.’ Most of the tracks are pleasant enough, but pretty much soft rock at best, and not so memorable, if I’m honest. The second side of the album has a bit more of a rock edge and perhaps the final track, ‘Witches Come Today,‘ was a better indication of what was to come with the follow-up.
The eponymous, second album, now with Ted McKenna on drums, is much more like what I would have expected from a band who were scouted by Alex Harvey when looking for a ‘backing band.’ Having lost his brother, Les, guitarist with Stone The Crows, and who was electrocuted during the soundcheck for a show in Swansea, Harvey searched for solace in his work. He had previously been working with the stage musical, ‘Hair,’ in London but now sought to embark upon a solo career … if only he could find the right band.
Following the release of the second album, Ted Mckenna’s cousin, Hugh Mckenna joined in place of keyboard player Eddie Campbell. Hugh would also take on lead vocals when Davey Batchelor left to pursue a career in production.
The resultant line-up of Zal Cleminson, Chris Glenn, Hugh McKenna and Ted Mckenna was the one ‘spotted’ by Alex Harvey, and though the band had some misgivings about their new ‘boss’ (Alex was about fifteen years older for a start) and his rather autocratic attitude, they realised they had probably gone as far as any ‘big fish in a small pond’ could and …. well, the rest is history as they say.
TEAR GAS (Ultimate / Final Line up) Zal Cleminson – Guitar / Vocals Hugh McKennna – Keyboards / Lead Vocals Ted McKennna – Drums Chris Glenn – Bass / Vocals
Contributor: John Allan, Bridgetown Western Australia, September2021)
At the age of 17 in 1975 I had found myself a ‘proper’ job. Junior musical instrumental salesman in one of Glasgow’s largest and iconic music stores. I soon learned that all sorts of wannabe rock gods would come in just to try out a Fender Strat or Gibson Les Paul guitar with no intention of ever buying one and usually sent these jokers on their bike.
On one particular day a young lad about my age, a little on the chubby side, approached my colleague and timidly asked to try out a guitar on display only to be knocked back. I don’t know why, call it a moment of weakness, but I found myself feeling really sorry for this awkward nerdy kid.
He became a regular customer over the next few months and years ( I never did get to know his name at the time) and eventually did buy a guitar – a reasonable copy of a Fender or Gibson from memory. Every time I saw him (we were on nodding terms now) there was a subtle change to the appearance of this one time dweeb of a kid. A piercing here, a tattoo there, a ripped pair of tight jeans perhaps until the last time I saw him. There he was in all his splendour with tartan bondage type trousers, leather jacket all studs and safety pins and a bright green spiky mohawk haircut. Wow ! I thought. What a transformation. A punk chrysalis no less.The shop closed and I moved on.
About three years later I was watching the TV show Top of the Pops and they introduced a punk band called The Exploited. I thought ‘here we go’ and was about to turn it down when I noticed my man cavorting about with a flying V – the lad from the shop!
Same scenario seven years later. Watching MTV and Goodbye Mr. McKenzie popped up and there he is again !
This very blog jogged this memory and so inspired further in depth research (well, half an hour on Google) to find out more on ‘customer come celeb’.
Our guitar hero is known affectionately as Big John Duncan, and he does age with me.
After The Exploited, he had bands Human Zoo, Crazy Maybe and Blood Uncles before joining the McKenzies.
He then went on to have a life as a guitar technician with Nirvana, Twisted Sister, Foo Fighters and Ministry.
Here he is talking about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.
Goodbye Mr McKenzie are making a bit of a comeback apparently so look out for them if you’re in central Scotland.
I wonder at any time over the years if Big John paused and thought “I wonder what ever happened to that spotty faced teenage music shop assistant that let me try out a guitar ? Oh, here’s your Fender Mustang Kurt.”
Eleven vinyl LPs; one vinyl EP; two ‘box set’ CDs; one triple CD set; twenty-one CDs; five DVDs and four Taste CDs.
You’d be correct in assuming I like Rory Gallagher!
I recall the very first time I heard Rory’s music. I was playing Subbuteo at my pal’s house. I was Chile, that day – red shirt, blue shorts. I can’t remember what team Derek was, but it wouldn’t matter – he’d have whooped my ass anyway. I was rubbish.
Derek shared a large bedroom with his older brother who at that time was a long-haired, senior school student, about four years older than me. He’d been doing paper rounds for several years and so was ‘minted,’ as we’d say in Glasgow. And all his money it seemed, he spent on records, particularly the heavy end of the musical spectrum. Deep Purple and King Crimson I vividly remember being played. I know this because as a Slade, Sweet and John Kongos fan, (yes, John Kongos) I just couldn’t get into this new fangled ‘progressive’ music.
Anyway, as my Chilean right winger was about to take a corner, something new burst out the record player. It went on for ages, too. Wow!
“That’s ‘‘Catfish,’ my mate said. “By a band called Taste. Alan’s just bought it. Like it?”
‘Like it?’ That was me. Hook, line and sinker.
So – this is the Blues? A fourteen year old kid had just been enlightened.
The LP was ‘Taste. Live At The Isle Of Wight.’ With a little more prompting, I was told the band were no longer together, but the guitarist, Rory Gallagher, had embarked on a solo career. In fact, he’d already released three albums.
Always late to the party, me.
A few weeks later, I’d saved enough from my paper round to send away, through a ‘small ad’ in the ‘Sounds’ paper, for a copy of Rory’s latest release, ‘Live in Europe.’ (Going to watch football on a Saturday normally accounted for most of my earnings.)
As it happens, I was fifty pence short in payment for the post and packing, but the nice record store still sent me the LP. They asked I just send a postal order for the shortfall, something I never got round to doing. I read a month or so later that the company had gone bust. I felt ever so guilty.
That was late 1972 and I still have that album. It remains my favourite of all my Rory recordings, although I have to say, the ‘Check Shirt Wizard – Live in ‘77’ triple album pushes it very close.
The next stage in my Gallagher development was to see him play live and that opportunity came in March the following year, when my parents finally acceded my pleas to be allowed to go to a concert. And so shortly after the release of his fourth solo album, ‘Blueprint‘ (my second favourite) I trooped up to Glasgow with a couple of pals to the Green’s Playhouse (later to become the world famous Apollo.)
My seat was about eight rows from the front, just left of centre. Perfect. Until Rory came on stage and everyone jumped to their feet. I was a short-arse then, still am, and suddenly I was struggling to see my musical hero.
But the bouncers at Green’s and even more so when it changed to The Apollo, had a fierce reputation. There was no nonsense. If you were told to sit down, you sat down. If not, you’d only be able to hear the gig from the alleyway at the back of the theatre. (This heavy handed approach always worked … until The Clash came to town on 4th July 1978. But that’s another story!)
The concert was everything I hoped it would be. And more. The relationship Rory had with the crowd was amazing. It was like a personal friend was putting on a show. There was no posturing. No garish showmanship. Just straight-up, blues infused rock ‘n’ roll with a tiny touch of folk influence.
Rory was dressed simply, in his trade-mark check style shirt and jeans, and although he wore a denim shirt on the cover of ‘Blueprint,’I always associated him with the checks. It must be a ‘first impressions’ thing, for I don’t recall seeing him wear that again on any of the other four occasions I was lucky enough to see him.
In the early to mid-seventies, bands would generally only hit your town maybe once a year although I was fortunate in that Rory did return to Glasgow later in ’73, at the end of November. After that though, it was December only, and ’74, ’75 and 1976 were my last shows. It’s interesting to note that the most I paid for a ticket was the £2.50 in 1976.
I wonder how much you’d have to pay these days? I’m sure Rory would have done all in his power to keep prices at a sensible level, but what with ticketing agencies these days …. aargh! Don’t start me!
While my love of Rory Gallagher has been unflinching, I am not one of those fans who listens exclusively to their hero and that particular style of music.
Although I still rushed out to buy his immediate subsequent releases, ‘Photofinish,’ ‘Top Priority,’ and ‘Stage Struck,’ I was, from 1976 onward, more into the punk and second wave rockabilly scenes.
The only groups, however, that even then could come close in my overall ‘favourite band’ list were / still are, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Rolling Stones. (Over forty albums of the latter in my collection.)
And of course, there is a close connection between all three bands with SAHB‘s late great Ted McKenna latterly taking over on drums for Rory, and Rory himself famously auditioning for The Stones back in 1975 when Mick Taylor left.
I must say, I’m so glad Rory decided not to hang around and wait for Mick and Keith to get back to him, and toured Japan as he had planned. I just couldn’t see Rory as anything other than a front man. Ronnie Wood is perfect for the role in appearance and style.
It doesn’t always follow that a group betters itself by absorbing ‘the best.’ Look at The Eagles. Did Joe Walsh really add to what was already one of the most popular bands in the world? Did Joe Walsh lose a bit of his identity by joining The Eagles?
‘No’ and ‘yes’ would be my two answers.
But back to Rory.
It pained me to see him on The Old Grey Whistle Test or wherever as the rather large and bloated musician he’d become by around 1990 as drink and various prescription medications, administered to deal with the rigours of life on the road, had prematurely and noticeably aged him.
In the end, 1995, he perhaps cut a sad image – the archetypal solo rock star, not necessarily fading as such, or clinging to past glories, but perhaps lonely and just sheer exhausted from all he gave.
And he gave so much. The vast majority of his fans, like me, never met him, but Rory came across on stage, and in media interviews, as a very personable and likable bloke. There were no frills. You got what you saw.
He was genius on guitar. He could literally turn his hand to make it gently weep; or laugh; or sing. He could make an audience dance – in an ugly, uncoordinated, shaking-head, rocker style, maybe, but it still counts.
Best guitarist in the world? Many of us would say so.
Perhaps it should have been entitled ‘This Band Ain’t Big Enough For Both Us.’ Just days before embarking on television promotion for the single that would bring them international attention, Sparks decided to fire their bass player, Martin Gordon.
There’s a suspicion this was caused by friction between the parties over writing opportunities, but who knows? The result was Martin getting his jotters, not long after having played on the band’s debut album ‘Kimono My House.’
The band’s manager decided the ideal replacement lay in the bass player of another band he managed, Jook. In addition, he also pilfered the services of Jook’s guitarist, effectively killing off the band.
Left twiddling his drumsticks, having survived the cull, Chris Townson contacted Martin and suggested they make something of this treacherous act wrought upon them. His friend, vocalist Andy Ellison had played with him, and Marc Bolan of course, in John’s Children. He may be interested in joining forces, he suggested.
(The other member of that band ironically, was John Hewlett … who went on to become the manager of Sparks and Jook, bulleting Martin and rendering Chris unemployed!)
A guitarist was required, and the services of David O’List were secured. David held an impressive CV, having been a founder member of The Nice. He too was at a bit of a loose end, having just been ditched and replaced by Phil Manzanera in Roxy Music. Unexpectedly he brought with him keyboard player, Peter Oxendale, who believe it or not, was also bumped from Sparks at the same time as Martin Gordon!
Jet were a five piece! From adversity and all that …
A management deal was struck with Mike Leander, who in turn set up a record deal with CBS, which I understand was signed ‘blind,’ by the band. Oh, the naivety of youth!
The debut album was recorded amidst an increasingly acrimonious atmosphere, intensified by by the tedium of waiting endless hours while each band member was required to record their parts individually.
Finally completed, the band’s choice of name and artwork was overruled by the label who imposed their will. The album was to be called simply ‘Jet,’ and the sleeve design foisted upon the band was seemingly so similar to that of Marvel comics’ Mr Miracle, that it resulted in the label being successfully sued.
Sometimes, you can just sense the writing being applied to the wall.
A support slot on the UK tour with the Hunter Ronson Band (Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter and Spiders From Mars guitarist, Mick Ronson) was secured, during which time the debut album was released to a fairly positive press. (Though ultimately it didn’t sell in the numbers hoped, it was considered by many critics as a bit of a ‘glitter-rock’ classic.)
With an album to promote, a short UK headlining tour was booked and rehearsals were seemingly endured. Even before hitting the road, relationships between band members were strained.
The tour started out in Scotland, and audiences were poor. Allied to this, manager Mike Leander, who remember also had Gary Glitter in his roster, was not shy in having his acts dress, let’s say, rather extravagantly. And I’m not talking of accessorizing with bits of glitter or tartan, either. Try full make-up with white cape and boxer boots. Or jodhpurs and riding boots – that kind of thing.
Unfortunately, despite his vast experience of gigging, (or perhaps, in fairness, because of his vast experience of gigging) Davy O’List took full advantage of green room hospitality, if you know what I mean. His playing became completely unreliable; he became completely unreliable. He was asked to leave.
Following several auditions, he was replaced by Ian McLeod, who had actually been spotted by the band shortly after forming. Soon after, the band decanted to the countryside to work on the next album.
Their time together degenerated into hard drinking sessions and fall outs. Their relationship with CBS had also crashed. The label were keen for the band to produce more commercial styled music – hit singles and all that. A ‘showcase’ evening for the label bosses failed to convince the ‘suits’ that Jet were producing as expected, and the band were told in no uncertain terms they ‘must do better.’
The following week, another showcase was arranged in London. But again, totally hacked off with the label anyway, Jet failed to take matters seriously.
The next day, CBS cancelled their contract!
Peter Oxendale also developed an ‘unreliable’ side and moved on around this time, going on to play with Ian Hunter and The Glitter Band, so Jet rehearsed as a four piece (Andy, Martin, Ian and Chris) at Island Records in Hammersmith. .
Four songs resulted with another ex-Sparks member, Trevor White, now recruited.
In early 1976, Sparks manager, John Hewlett (remember him?) booked the band some recording time in Island Studios and those four songs were engineered by Queen and soon to be Rolling Stones producer, Gary Lyons.
Hewlett offered his expert opinion, declaring that one song didn’t really cut it and should be dropped. The band however decided to go with ‘Dirty Pictures‘ anyway.
OK, the recordings didn’t do anything at that point for Jet and shortly after the sessions, a combination of disgust at the treatment by their ex-label and perpetually having no money, drummer Chris Townson left the band to join the masses in gainful employment as an illustrator.
Jet, the so-hyped ‘supergroup’ had burned out within two years of their 1974 formation.
But, from the ashes and all that … six months later, in early 1977 Andy, Martin and Ian re-emerged into the light of the punk and new wave era as a fresh, new, positive outfit – Radio Stars.
Quickly picked up by Chiswick Records, the expensively recorded ‘Dirty Pictures,’ together with another of the four recorded a short time earlier, ‘Sail Away,’ were released as the band’s introduction to the world.
(Not only that, but in 1992, German superstars Die TotenHosen coveredthe track …. and sold 250,000 copies. Sweet! How hard must it have beenfor Martin Gordon not to direct a two fingered salute in the direction ofthe man who had removed him from Sparks eighteen years prior?)
… and there was me thinking the internet had ALL the information we ALL want to know.
In typical ’77 punk style, Wakefield’s finest appear to have given the one finger salute, and completely subverted the information highway. But here’s what I’ve got on The Stukas.
Back in the day there were only a few means of discovering new bands and music. You could read about them in likes of Sounds, NME and Melody Maker; you could borrow an LP from a pal’s big brother, or … you might hear a new band play a late evening session on the John Peel Radio Show.
The latter came with the best guarantee of quality – I can’t think I heard any bands I didn’t like being invited onto the show.
This was how I became aware of The Stukas.
To be honest, with so little information on the band readily available, and with such a limited recorded output, I had forgotten about them until I once again stumbled across their energy and vibrancy a while back.
In my rather vain attempts to find out more about the band, I’ve seen them described as part punk / part rock ‘n’roll. Some folks have left a space for The Stukas to be filed in their ‘power pop’ pigeon-hole.
To me though, they are quality ‘Pub Rock.’ And I mean that as a compliment.
In the mid to late Seventies, when Punk and New Wave had usurped Glam, and the Rockabilly revival was gathering pace, people could become a bit sniffy about the term ‘pub rock.’ Perhaps it was seen as a style that had not moved on, developed; regarded as old hat? Uninspired?
I don’t know – I loved it. Vibrant and fun, it was. And that’s how I feel music should be. It should lift you, and put a smile on your face. When you consider likes of Dr Feelgood; Eddie & the Hot Rods; The Roogalator; Kilburn & The High Roads; Brinsley Schwartz and two of my favourites Graham Parker (& The Rumour) and Ducks Deluxe all came from this background, then why would anyone try to ‘dis’ the scene?
‘Sniffy?’ In his magnificent ‘A Sharp Shock To The System‘ tome, author Vernon Joynson is not very positive in his comments about The Stukas, which is a great shame. Much as I admire his work and love his books, I couldn’t disagree more with his view. Each to their own, I suppose.
Despite VJ’s opinion, it still puzzled me as to why a band such as TheStukas (a) recorded only three singles as their total output, and (b) only the first was on the Chiswick label, who, from afar, looked to be the perfect home.
Guitarist ‘Raggy’ explains:
“The Chiswick deal was done before we had a manager. Once appointed, and with big ideas for the band, he sacked the singer and bass player. The band then morphed into Autographs – put together quickly to capitalize on a deal with RAK.
“One single (‘While I’m Still Young’) and personality differences caused the band to split. Chris Gent, saxophone & vocals, would go on to later play with Radio Stars.“
(Since he mentioned it – here’s that single, with Raggy on guitar.)
The Stukas still get together about once a year with a deputy guitarist.
And just to prove they’ve still got it, here’s the band at a 2018 reunion show, performing the B-side to their second single, ‘I Like Sport.’
THE STUKAS Paul Brown – Vocals Raggy Lewis – Guitar Mick Smithers – Guitar Kevin Allen – Bass John Mackie – Drums
Reading the ‘tags’ above, you’d be forgiven for thinking there had been some kind of editorial cock-up. Ska & Blue Beat? Yes, obviously, if you played the track above. Prog / progressive rock? Eh?
Read on – I shall explain.
Locomotive (initially billed as The Locomotive)were formed in Birmingham, England, during 1965, by trumpet playing jazz musician, Jim Simpson. (Jim is on the far right of the opening image, above.) The original line-up, which wasn’t to last too long, also boasted Chris Wood (bottom left of photo) who would leave towards the end of 1966 to join forces with Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood and Dave Mason, to form Traffic.
There had been several personnel changes throughout 1966 and Chris’s departure left only Jim Simpson of the original line-up.
Amongst those enlisted to the new line-up was keyboard player Norman Haines who had previously played with The Brum Beats. Norman worked in a record shop in the Smethwick area of Birmingham which had a large West Indian population. The shop would meet the local demand for ska and blue-beat records, and Norman himself became a big fan of the genre.
His influence was brought to bear with the release of the ‘new’ band’s first single ‘Broken Heart.’Written by Haines, it had a blue-beat feel, but was drenched in soulful vocals and horns.
Other than the track itself, there are two interesting facts about this release: 1) it was the last records to be played on the original ‘Jukebox Jury’ television programme … and voted a ‘Miss.’ And it was. 2) the B-side was a cover of Dandy Livingstone‘s ‘Rudy, A Message To You,‘ which would become a hit for The Specials some twelve years later.
The following year, saw the band spend eight weeks in the UK charts, peaking at number twenty-five, with ‘Rudi’s In Love.‘ (This single would be reissued in both 1971 and 1980 during the respective periods of skinhead and two tone popularity, the latter being when I myself bought a copy.)
The remaining original band member, Jim Simpson left in 1968 to concentrate on music management … and did reasonably well, I’d say, going on to eventually look after Black Sabbath.
With a ‘hit’ single and lots of airplay behind them, an album deal beckoned and in early 1969, the lead single from the soon to be released, ‘We Are Everything You See’ long player hit the shops.
You will of course have detected a change in Locomotive’s musical direction!
Opening with a short classical piece, ‘Overture,‘ the album then progresses into blend of psychedelic, jazz and soul. Listening to ‘Mr Armageddan’ puts me in mind of some Paul Weller / Style Council type songs that would follow, the best part of forty years later.
‘Lay Me Down Gently‘ in parts echos The Small Faces, while the Nigel Phillips (three part) composition ‘The Loves of Augustus Abbey‘ has that prog-rock reflection of medieval England.
It’s most certainly an adventurous release. However, as great as it sounds, and no matter the positive music press reviews , the album pretty much bombed as it was released to a somewhat confused fanbase.
Perhaps understandably, established fans of the ska-infused Locomotive did not take to the new prog- rock imbued version of the band. Likewise, the new target audiences regarded them as a bit ‘poppy,’ and were reluctant to buy in.
The follow-up single, ‘I’m Never Gonna Let You Go,’ a cover of the ? and The Mysterions song,also missed the charts.
As a result, Parlophone delayed the album’s release. It did eventually see the light of day in February 1970, but by this time, Norman had left the band and in effect, Locomotive no longer existed.
With no promotion or marketing, sales were unsurprisingly poor, and the album was quickly withdrawn, marking it a rare collector’s item, with copies at time of writing for sale via Discogs at upwards of £500!
Norman would go on to form Sacrfice, later to be known simply as The Norman Haines Band. Remaining band members Bob Lamb (who would later join The Steve Gibbons Band) Mick Hincks, John Caswell and Keith Millar would record one more single before changing the band name to The Dog That Bit People.
Yeah – while the ability to diversify is a great attribute, I wonder how things would have turned out had the band simply avoided any confusion and conflict of fanbase by changing their name prior to releasing the album.
LOCOMOTIVE (Throughout their time, I count twenty musicians who played with the band. The following are those I believe were involve with the album’s recording.)
Norman Haines – Keyboards / Vocals Bill Madge – Saxophone Mick Hincks – Bass / Vocals Bob Lamb – Drums Mick Taylor – Trumpet + Dick Heckstall-Smith – Saxophone (session musician) Henry Lowther – Trumpet (session musician) Chris Mercer – Saxophone (session musician)
1977 saw punk music take a more melodic turn towards what would become popularly known as ‘new wave.’ Exponents would still harbour that old ‘F*** you’ attitude, but would express it with a smile rather a than a snarl.
One such band, and a big favourite of mine to this day, were Radio Stars. They wouldn’t claim to be the biggest of bands, but I’m sure everyone of a certain age will remember, their greatest hit, ‘Nervous Wreck.‘ (It tip-toed into the UK charts for three weeks in February 1978, peaking at number thirty-nine.)
It’s not that they were without pedigree – they had that in spade-loads. They were formed in 1976, when the initially heralded glam supergroup, Jet, split up a couple of years and one album into their existence. Vocalist Andy Ellison, who had previously been one of John’s Children, alongside Marc Bolan, former Sparks bass player, Martin Gordon and guitarist Ian MacLeod dusted themselves off and regrouped as Radio Stars.
By 1976, Glam had had its day, and the music press, always keen to pigeon-hole bands for convenience and order, decided the ‘new’ band were more New Wave than Glam or out and out Punk.
In April 1977, the band released their debut single ‘Dirty Pictures‘ on Chiswick Records, and a month later recorded their first session for the John Peel radio show.
This is when and how I first became aware of Radio Stars. I remember it so vividly – especially the track ‘No Russians In Russia‘ which later appear on the ‘Stop It’ EP.
Television appearances followed, the first reportedly being on Marc Bolan’s own show. (See – it sure pays to maintain your contacts, kids.)
The association with Bolan was also apparent on the B-side of ‘Nervous Wreck,’ Radio Stars’ flirtation with the charts in 1977 – ‘Horrible Breath‘ was written by him during his time with John’s Children.
Unfortunately, sales of the latter album were not on the same level as the debut . We music fans it seems, can be so fickle!
It would also appear from Martin’s website there was a bit of dispute within the band and Radio Stars subsequently faded, and died.
I was lucky enough to see them on 10th October 1978 at Strathclyde University, Glasgow – I got a pal who was studying there to sign me in. I must have seen hundreds of gigs in my time, but I can honestly say that there are very few that I remember as well at that one, almost forty-three years ago!
RADIO STARS Andy Ellison – Lead Vocals Martin Gordon – Bass / Vocals Ian MacLeod – Guitar Steve Parry – Drums
It truly amazes me how bands like Leslie’s Motel were / are completely overlooked by record companies.
This was a band that played up and down America’s East Coast, and west to St Louis; a band that opened for likes of Rory Gallagher; Ted Nugent; Charlie Daniels ,Freddie King, Mitch Ryder and MC5 Even John Lee Hooker asked vocalist Bill Tullis to stand in on harp (harmonica) one evening when the band were the main support.
So, no mugs then.
Yet this is what happened to Leslie’s Motel in 1972. During the year following their inception, the band walked into King Studio in Louisville, and cut the nine tracks that would become their debut album, ‘Dirty Sheets,’
Influenced by seeing The Allman Joys play some time earlier, Bill Tullis ultimately surrounded himself with five experienced musicians keen to adopt the Sound of the South popularized by the band who would soon become The Allman Brothers.
‘Dirty Sheets‘ is indeed from that mould, being very ‘heavy blues’ laden, though I’d say it has more of a hard, driving rock edge to it. There are prolonged instrumental stretches, with some tremendous, searing guitar wig-outs, underpinned by flaring Hammond organ … and of course there are drum solos that were almost obligatory in the Seventies.
The album was hawked out to some local labels, including Capricorn (home to The Allman Brothers, and Marshall Tucker Band amongst others) but each one declined to take up on it.
(Talk about ‘mugs?‘)
And so it was, the album, and the dream, just more or less died
Following their disappointing rejection Leslie’s Motel soldiered on gigging up and down the east coast until they eventually called it quits in 1976.
Fast forward thirty-three years from the band’s demise. Again, details are sketchy to say the least, but completely out of the blue, band founder Bill Tullis was contacted by Roger Maglio. Roger is the owner of Gear Fab Records and expressed an interest in releasing the virtually forgotten LP.
I can’t imagine the band, having waited such a length of time, would have been too hard to deal with, and in 2009, ‘Dirty Sheets’ finally hit the shops. (There have been a couple subsequent reissues, the latest being in 2020.)
The album was very well received and racked up good sales worldwide together with some very positive reviews in the music press. The band reformed and began gigging again, one of which was recorded for a CD and DVD release in 2010.
Sadly, I can’t find any information on the state of play with the band in 2021. Perhaps they’ve all checked out by now – it’s all abit of a mystery.
Maybe though, that’s just the way it should be for a band that has flown under the radar all this time.
LESLIE’S MOTEL Bill Tullis – Lead Vocals / Rhythm Guitar / Tambourine Mike Seibold – Lead Guitar / Vocals Richard Bush – Hammond B3 Organ / Fender Rhodes Piano Ray Barrickman – Bass / Vocals Paul Hoemi – Drums Roy Blumenfeld – Drums / Congas
Formed in Dublin in 1975, Radiators From Space are credited with being Ireland’s first punk band, initially adopting the name Greta Garbage and The Trash Cans.
Their music is straight up, first wave punk – nothing too fancy, just high energy, angry but melodic, shouted gang vocals, over raucous guitar and drums with a predominant, throbbing baseline. At this early stage, the music still echoed influences of early Sixties rock ‘n’ roll / garage and like all classic punk songs, none overstay their welcome, and are short sharp and straight to the point!
The band were picked up by the excellent Chiswick Records label (more about them in a later post) and their debut single ‘Television Screen‘ was released in 1977.
Later the same year, their first album (and only LP under this particular name) was released, again on Chiswick Records. ‘TV Tube Heart‘ comprises thirteen tracks, over thirty-three fast, furious and fabulous minutes. You could say that the sound is standard ’77 punk noise, with tracks like ‘Ripped and Torn‘ reflected by The Rezillos and ‘Blitzin At The Ritz,‘ a bit Clash-esque in places.
By the time of the album’s recording, original vocalist, Steve Rapid, had left the band, to be replaced by Phil Chevron who would later move on to join The Pogues.
In 1978, the decision was taken to shorten the band name to simply, ‘The Radiators,‘ and their second album, ‘Ghostown‘ was released in 1979.
Over the years, there have been a few re-incarnations of the band and retrospective releases, but these are the only two albums of The Seventies.
(After leaving the band, Steve Rapid – real name Steve Averill – went on to become a successful design artist, famously responsible for producing U2’s album covers. He is also reportedly credited with suggesting the band changed their name from ‘The Hype.’)
(Steve Chevron sadly passed away in 2013)
THERADIATORS FROM SPACE Phil Chevron – Vocals / Guitar James Crash – Drums Peter Holdai – Guitar Mark Megaray – Bass Stephen Rapid (Steve Averill) – Vocals
Though I wasn’t to know it at the time, Jackie Mittoo was partly responsible for my love of all things reggae, ska and dub.
With the association between punk and reggae back in the mid-Seventies, combined with the release of Bob Marley‘s ‘Exodus’ album, my interest was piqued. The John Peel radio show here in UK, partially satisfied this new thirst for new sounds, but by regularly playing out ska tunes from the previous decade, he led me deeper and deeper into a whole new musical world.
I bought ‘Exodus’ (on cassette) as I’m sure many other punks did but it wasn’t until the two ‘Intensified’ compilations were released in 1979 / 1980 that I totally bought into the ska culture.
Recorded at various points between 1962 and 1967, these albums were produced with a group of studio session musicians providing the backing. From these players would emerge The Skatalites whose sound was supplemented by the piano / keyboards of … Jackie Mittoo.
Donat Roy Mittoo (Jackie) was born in in Brown’s Town, Jamaica in 1948 and died tragically young in Toronto, Canada, forty-two years later. But, boy, did he pack a lot into such a short life!
Initially taught piano by his grandmother, Jackie started playing professionally at age thirteen, having moved to Kingston. It was there he joined the Rivals, playing organ, but soon switched to the Sheiks, one of Jamaica’s most popular club bands, where he would meet up with future fellow Skatalites, Lloyd Knib an Johnny Moore.
Two years later (1963) when Clement (Coxsone) Dodd opened his famous Studio One, Jackie was invited to act as talent scout and session arranger. He worked closely with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry on Coxone Dodd’s productions, while sitting in on piano for The Skatalites.
It was the on the Hammond organ though that Jackie would really make his name. When the Skatalites broke up following trombonist Don Drummond’s incarceration for the murder of his girlfriend in 1965, Mittoo formed The Soul Brothers with Roland Alphonso, Johnny Moore and Lloyd Brevett. They became the backing band for all Studio One’s rocksteady recordings.
In 1968, he formed the Jackie Mittoo Trio, with The Hepones‘ Leroy Sibbles on bass. Jackie, with his experience of arranging, would write the bass lines, pioneering a new style of bass laden reggae.
He moved to Toronto for several years, working for Summer Records and launching a side career in Easy Listening recordings. However, He would regularly return to Jamaica where he’ d record for Coxone Dodd.
In the mid-Seventies, he also worked with the producer Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee. By now, recording technology had come on leaps and bounds and so Jackie was able to re-record many tracks in the new ‘rockers’ style. The likes of drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Robbie Shakespeare , pianist Ansel Collins and several others joined in the reworkings to produce the landmark ‘Jackie Mittoo Showcase’ album, from which the accompanying tracks are taken.
In addition to his own recordings, Jackie takes credit for writing hits for Alton Ellis, Marcia Griffiths and Freddie McGregor amongst others. In 1970, his ‘Peanie Wallie‘ was versioned by The Wailers, becoming the hit ‘Duppy Conqueror.’ He would also work closely with Sugar Minot and UB40 from the UK.
Throughout his time at Studio One, Mittoo recorded literally thousands of songs for so many of the artists whose talents he nurtured and coached to great success.
Thirty-one years on from his passing, his style and influence still echoes in all aspects of modern day reggae, ska and dub.
JACKIE MITTOO (Jackie worked with way too many musicians to list here!!)
Working with so many artists, Jackie Mittoo has over two hundred, 7″ singles listed on Discogs.
Regards albums, I have listed only those released during Jackie’s lifetime.