"Everybody's Talkin'" (Fred Neil), "Without You" (Badfinger), and "I Love Rock & Roll" (Arrows). These are just few examples of great songs that should've been hits for the people (in brackets) who wrote and recorded them originally - but weren't. The history of popular music is littered with them.
And that's were our subjects this time around come in. Arrows, a three piece mid '70s glam rock act, will forever be linked with a song they themselves never had a hit with (although they certainly did have other hits); namely the classic rock stable "I Love Rock & Roll" - a song that made at least one career (Joan Jett's, in case anyone's in doubt who exactly I'm referring to. We won't even mention arguably atrocious latter day cover versions such as Britney Spears' and Miley Cyrus').
In 1973, glam rock reigned supreme on the British music scene. Amongst its many hopefuls was Streak - a trio which managed at least one great single, "Bang, Bang Bullet", which later became a "Junkshop glam" classic, before they imploded.
U.S. born guitarist Jake Hooker and English drummer Paul Varley then contacted an old pal of Hooker's from New York, bassist/singer Alan Merrill, son of Jazz singer Helen Merrill, who had followed his mother and Japanese stepfather when they relocated to Japan in the early '70s. While over there Alan became a successful model as well playing and releasing music solo and with the band Vodka Collins.
Alan immediately joined Varley and Hooker in England and collectively they became Arrows.
In 1974 Arrows signed with RAK Records, the home of glam rock giants Suzi Quatro, and MUD, among others. And the songwriting duo of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn just happened to be at the top of their game in 1974, penning hits for Quatro, MUD, The Sweet and others. They supplied Arrows with their first and biggest hit.
"Touch Too Much", Arrows' debut single, was classic Chinnichap. Produced, as was the majority of their output, by RAK boss Mickie Most, it entered the U.K. singles chart in May 1974 peaking at no. 8. So far, so good.
However, the follow-up, "Toughen Up", another excellent Chinnichap composition, inexplicably failed to make the chart altogether.
Arrows' next crack at the charts fared somewhat better, in spite of it being probably their weakest single release. "My Last Night With You", a '50s sounding Rock & Roll ballad-type-of-thing, became the band's second and last hit in early 1975, peaking at number 25.
Their next single, "Broken Down Heart", although fine on its own merits it was yet another non-original composition which contained the self-penned "I Love Rock & Roll" as its flip-side. By this point in time the band was understandably becoming increasingly frustrated with the outside material Mickie Most fed them, and demanded the single be reissued with "ILR&R" as the A-side. Which it was, with little if any immediate fanfare though. They were only to reap the rewards some years later as it is believed that Joan Jett picked this single up on her first U.K. sojourn with The Runaways in the autumn of 1976. So, as history would later establish, it really wasn't all in vain.
Followed up by another fabulous flop, "Hard Hearted", which went absolutely nowhere, Arrows somehow landed themselves one of the hottest gigs in town...their very own T.V. show.
You see, The Bay City Rollers were apparently "deserting" their homegrown audience for greener pastures in Japan, the U.S. and Australia, so they really didn't have the time nor need to extend their Granada T.V. hit show "Shang-A-Lang" for another season/series. So, enter Arrows...
But thus also begins the band's final and most frustrating era. While being ever so visible daily to the teenagers of Great Britain, Mickie Most and the Arrows management weren't seeing exactly eye to eye. As a result, RAK didn't release any more Arrows material to (finally) their adoring and awaiting public. Albeit not before Arrows one and only LP had seen the the light of day.
"First Hit", produced by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter of BCR/Kenny/Slik-fame, was an overall stylistically diverse and multi-dimensional debut. A lost gem if you will. From it, "Once Upon a Time", a big ballad worthy of (well, almost) The Righteous Brothers was culled as a single...
The Arrows' T.V. show ran for two series in 1976/77, after which the band had pretty much ran out of steam and all went their separate ways. A second guitarist, Terry Taylor, briefly joined the band.
Sadly, both Paul Varley and Jake Hooker have now left this dimension while Alan Merrill is still musically active and well as far as I know, and carrying the Arrows' torch...
– unless otherwise noted) U.K.
“Touch Too Much”/”We Can Make it Together” (RAK 171) 1974.
“Toughen Up”/”Diesel Locomotive Dancer” (RAK 182) 1974.
“My Last Night With You”/”Movin’ Next Door to You” (RAK 189) 1975.
“Broken Down Heart”/”I Love Rock & Roll” (RAK 205) 1975.
“Hard Hearted”/”My World is Turning on Love” (RAK 218) 1975.
“Once Upon a Time”/”The Boogiest Band in Town” (RAK 231) 1976.
“First Hit” (SRAK 521) 1976. 11 track Martin/Coulter produced L.P.
Selected CD Releases:
“First Hit” W/10 Bonus Tracks (REP 4865) Repertoire Records, 2000.
“Singles Collection Plus…” (GLAMCD11) 7T’s/Cherry Red, 2002. A compilation.
“Tawny Tracks” (Gel-003) Geltoob Records, 2002. A prev. unreleased rarities comp.
“A’s, B’s & Rarities” (7243 8 75998 2 6) EMI Gold, 2004. A compilation, but including recently recorded old material as well.
“First Hit” W/11 Bonus Tracks (WPCR-16200) Parlophone/Warner
, 2015. Japan