Hector were a four-piece Glam Rock band from Portsmouth, England. Check: technically they are now regarded as ‘Junkshop Glam’ – a band that basically followed the the UK Glam Rock scene of the early Seventies, but for whatever reason, failed to attract the attention they merited and other more media favoured bands achieved.
Details of the band’s history are scant. Even the sleeve notes accompanying ‘Demolition,’ the 2021-released album comprising the band’s two singles, outtakes, demos, live and rehearsal recordings make little reference to the band’s beginnings.
It would appear they were hard gigging and they weren’t totally without media backing. They had the’look’ for their genre – a cross between Geordie and Slade is how they come across from the press photos – and indeed their PR staff made sure their words and faces were included in all the teen music papers and magazines of the time.
They even appeared on TV with Wings and T. Rex in a recording of the popular ‘Lift Off With Ayshea‘ when promoting their debut single, ‘Wired Up.‘ A second slot on that programme was secured to promote the follow-up ‘Bye Bye Bad Days,’ and this time also appearing on the show were, Sunny and The Scaffold.
They kept good company; they had the look; they had the publicity.
Yet the public simply didn’t buy in. Perhaps, or very likely, because Radio 1 were not convinced and resultantly, the sound of Hector failed to reach the ears of the masses, and their two singles were condemned to the Junkshop buckets.
Hector folded in 1975, having released only two singles, on the realization they were not going to compete with the established Glam Rock bands. Of course the trend by that time was moving away from that genre, so it was all stacked against them at that point.
The band’s album, ‘Demolition’ is the result of a chance meeting between the band’s Phil Brown (vocals) and Alan Gordon (drums) and Tim Orchard. Tim was co-hosting a book launch. ‘Wired Up’ was the book’s title and featured garish picture sleeves from records released in the Glam Rock genre. The Hector lads were featured in the pages and attended the party as guests.
One thing led to another and the three kept in touch. When, some years later, Phil moved house, the long lost rehearsal and demo recordings, together with the reel to reel recorder, were rediscovered,
The album is a fun, entertaining trip into the past. ‘Bye Bye Bad Days‘ is very much in the Bay City Rollers mould and elsewhere you could draw reference to other big hitters from the time. ‘Gypsy‘ a demo recording, is a favourite of mine. A real stomper, so yes, I guess you could draw comparison to early Slade. Title track, ‘Demolition‘ which was an unreleased third single, has a soulful feel to it. More gentle in its delivery, it has a really catchy hook and altogether softer hook.
Taking the three tracks identified for single release on their own, I have to say I’m really surprised as to how Hector were not more of a household name back in the early ’70s.
Phil Brown – Vocals / Piano Pete Brown – Lead Guitar Nigel Shannon – Bass Alan Gordon – Drums
The first single I ever bought was ‘Co Co’ by The Sweet, back in 1971. The second was ‘Alexander Graham Bell,’ by The Sweet. Over the years I gathered five of the band’s albums on vinyl and several compilations on CD.
You see, despite the stick I took at school, I was and am, proud to be called a Sweet fan. I guess I enjoyed being different.
Back in the early Seventies, my protestations that they were not simply a bubblegum pop band, and could rock it out with the best of them, fell on the deaf ears of Clapton and Zeppelin supporters. (Clapton fans must have been deaf, in my opinion, but that’s for another article!)
Bearing in mind Sweet have been around for over fifty-one years (with a couple years hiatus in the early ’80s) various line-up changes have been inevitable, not least due to the ill health and subsequent passing of Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker.
For a while two versions of the band existed; Andy Scott’s here in UK and Steve Priest’s in USA. Sadly, only Andy now remains of the original line-up – but he continues to uphold the ‘classic’ line-up’s legacy of of all those years ago.
Now though, with the very experienced touring musicians in Lee Small (bass) Bruce Bisland (drums) and Paul Manzi (lead vocals) Sweet have settled once again as a four-piece and continue to perform in front of sell-out crowds across Europe. In fact, their Covid-delayed ‘Hellraiser’ UK tour due to kick off towards the end of November.
In the spring of 2021, the new line-up released their ‘Isolation Boulevard‘ album – a re-recording of hits from the classic era of the band, together with an inventive cover of Hello‘s ‘New York Groove,’ and the December 2020 single, ‘Still Got The Rock.’ This is a really interesting album – all the songs are indeed very familiar, not straying too far from the original versions which is what you’d want to hear if going to a show. Yet is IS different. There is a deeper resonance, perhaps down to more advanced recording techniques but emphasized by Paul’s vocal delivery.
Naturally, many of the old hits will feature in the upcoming ‘Hellraiser’ UK tour and it was while rehearsing songs for the shows, that Andy decided what should become the new / current single.
“During the rehearsals for Sweet’s forthcoming ‘Hellraiser’ tour in November and December 2021, we were trying out various songs from our back catalogue that could be added to the set list. As soon as I heard Paul Manzi and Lee Small’s vocals on the song ‘Everything,’ I knew that we needed to get it down and record it as our new single.”
The song ‘Everything 2021′ is a totally new recording. It was originally featured on the album ‘Sweetlife‘ released back in 2002. “I think the new version is a far superior production,” says Andy. “It’s much closer to how I envisaged it when I co-wrote the song back in the day.”
I agree. This new version has more ‘oomph.’ More ‘balls.’ Also, in Paul Manzi, Sweet have a specialist and focused singer. The earlier, 2002 version, was recorded with bass player Jeff Brown doubling up on vocals when then frontman Chad Brown unexpectedly left the band mid tour due to ill health.
The track has a kind of European / German rock sound to it, which is perhaps not so surprising considering the band seem to have spent so much time touring in that area over the years.
So, yeah – once a Sweet fan, always a Sweet fan. The musical landscape has shifted enormously during their life-span. They have seen disco, punk, post punk, grunge, indie, baggy, and many more genres emerge, overtake, then fade.
I’ve grown up with Sweet and while change is good and inevitable, life is sometimes even better for the comfort of constants.
The Glam may have faded ... but the Rock lives on!
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?)