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Thursday, December 13, 2018

New Bay City Rollers Book - Out Now!

OUT NOW!  New book.  To order, write to

For better or for worse, and probably for the first time ever, the Bay City Rollers’ records and their music are the focal points of this meticulous study by BCR aficionado Hannes A. Jonsson.
And through it all, the band’s often unbelievable story is recounted via series of ill-fated reunions and consequent break-ups.
Furthermore, lesser-known solo careers and side-projects are also visited, and so are several old acquaintances and collaborators of the group.
Detailed discographies and set lists are included as well.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Les Brians / Lez Smith (Buster) R.I.P.

It has been brought to my attention that Les Brians (Also known as Lez Smith), formerly the drummer of '70s Teenpop band Buster, has died.
His friend, Lesley Thompson, recently posted the following comment on my You Tube channel page:
Lez had been ill for a couple of years (and) eventually his liver failed to protect him from the infections.  He passed away at the beginning of Nov. 2016.  R.I.P
I do hope I'm allowed to re-post this, but since it was originally posted in a public forum I can't really see the harm.
I had the pleasure to exchange a few e-mails with Les/Lez a few years back, the results of which you can read about HERE.  I enjoyed and appreciated his candor and wit - he will be missed.

Pete Leay (Left) & Les Brians (Right) in 1977.

After briefly reforming Buster for an album, "Best & New" in 2013, sadly two members of the band have now passed - guitarist Pete Leay died in December 2013.
My most sincere condolences the family and friends of both Pete and now Les.  R.I.P.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

HELLO - The Albums

A mere two-hit-wonder as far as the British record buying public is concerned, Hello during their mid-'70s heyday nonetheless racked up an tangible track record elsewhere - particularly in Germany where they were a viable option until the end of the decade when the original line-up of Bob Bradbury (Vocals, guitar), Keith Marshall (Guitar), Vic Faulkner (Bass) and Jeff Allen (Drums) disbanded.  I would - and have - go as far as to say that Hello is probably one of the most underrated U.K. acts of the 1970's.
Kudos, then, to Cherry Red/7Ts for recently unleashing this impressive package consisting of four CD's featuring what I gather to be pretty much everything ever committed to tape during the band's tenure with both Bell/Arista and Polydor.  A scrumptious array of bonus tracks and previously unissued rarities is the main bait here, as well as the first-ever CD release of 1977 Japan-only album "Shine on Silver Light".  Better late than never!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Rubettes

The popularity of progressive rock was probably at its height during the early to mid 1970s.  With acts such as Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "prog rock" was supposed to be more advanced, complex and, above all, smart than what had come before.  Musical wizardry was the norm and long drawn-out solos were both encouraged and applauded.  Still, not everyone was taken in by the hype and some even longed for the more basic music of yesteryear.  Thus the door was left a jar for a return-to-roots rock & roll revival.  In fact, one could almost claim that said revival preempted punk as a knee jerk reaction to prog by a good few years.
The simplicity and raw energy of the music of Elvis, Jerry Lee, Chuck, et al, found new audience in the U.S. through films like "American Graffiti", and bands like Sha-Na-Na, and Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids.  Meanwhile in Britain, there was the historical London Rock and Roll Show at the Wembley Stadium in August 1972, starring giants of the genre like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry.  Subsequently, the ball really began rolling in earnest with homegrown acts such as Wizzard, MUD, Showaddywaddy, and...The Rubettes.

A happy accident as it were, the Rubettes were initially brought together in late 1973 as mere session musicians to record a demo for the songwriting & production team of Wayne Bickerton & Tony Waddington.  The song in question was a little ditty called "Sugar Baby Love", which had a distinctly '50s feel to it for sure, with some doo-wop styled harmonies and cutesy innocent lyrics thrown in for a good measure.  And as the song was turned down by Showaddywaddy, Bickerton & Waddington became even more convinced that the demo had that certain "something" and should be issued as is...or rather, was.  Thus a real band was needed to back it up and the gig was promptly and aptly offered to the session musicians who had recorded the song - namely; Alan Williams (Guitar and vocals); John Richardson (Drums), and Peter Arnesen (Keyboards).  Vocalist Paul Da Vinci, the owner of that falsetto, was otherwise engaged and politely declined the offer.  Tony Thorpe (Guitar and vocals); Mick Clarke (Bass) and a second keyboardist Bill Hurd completed the line up and The Rubettes were born.

To make a long story short, "Sugar Baby Love", once released, became a massive hit - in fact, one of the biggest hits of 1974, knocking that quartet of chirpy Swedes whose name now totally escapes me, off the coveted U.K. No. 1 spot in the spring.
And although The Rubettes never eclipsed that initial burst of bubbly brilliance, there were several more hits in the coming years, as well some fine albums - five of which have recently been collected together, including extra tracks and everything, in a CD box set, "The Albums 1974-1977", released by Caroline International (CAROLR032CD).

Through numerous line-up changes, The Rubettes flirted with glam, gave Smokie a run for their money with countryfied anglo pop, but above all their rock & roll roots always shone through.

For a number of years now there have been two versions of The Rubettes touring the nostalgia circuit; the Alan Williams-led version on one hand, and keyboardists' Bill Hurd's Rubettes on the other.  I've only had the pleasure to see the latter outfit on a number of occasions and I can attest to the fact that they're pretty good - and very nice guys as well.
As much as I love hits like "Juke Box Jive" and "Little Darling", as well as catchy and sometimes self-penned album tracks a la "Judy Run Run", Rumours" and "Don't Do it Baby" (also a U.K. Top 10 hit for Mac & Kate Kissoon), I have a confession to make though.  One of my all-time favourite Rubettes tracks just happens to be this early '80s (Oh, the sheer shame of it all!) gem....

Foe-Dee-Oh-Dee :-)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Classic '70s Teenpop album: The Sweet/"Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be" (1971)

It's an indisputable fact that The Sweet always sold more singles than they did albums.  That is not to say their long players weren't up to scratch.  Far from it, since both "Sweet Fanny Adams" (incredibly enough their only L.P. to trouble the U.K. charts, not counting "Best of" compilations) and "Desolation Boulevard" are quintessential mid '70s rock albums - IMHO as good as anything either Purple or Zeppelin ever did.  Nonetheless, the band will always be best remembered for their impressive run of classic pop-glam 45's, a la "Ballroom Blitz", "Blockbuster", "The Six Teens", "Fox on the Run", et al.

Semi-conspicuously absent from the above rundown is the hidden gem that is The Sweet's debut album, "Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be", from 1971.  In essence a bubblegum record, it's a curious mix of the band's first hits ("Funny Funny" and "Co Co" - both Nicky Chinn/Mike Chapman originals), covers of '60s pop classics (Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream", The Supremes' "Reflections"), some more Chinnichap filler ("Chop Chop", "Tom Tom Turnaround" - the latter originally a hit for New World), as well as some early band compositions ("Santa Monica Sunshine", "Spotlight").

About a year ago the Cherry Red Records imprint 7T's issued a double deluxe version of the album, including seventeen bonus tracks.  Among which are early hits "Alexander Graham Bell", "Poppa Joe", "Wig Wam Bam", and "Little Willy", single B-sides, and, on disc 2, the earliest non-charting Sweet singles starting with 1968's "Slow Motion" and concluding with 1970's "Get on the Line" (an Archies cover, no less).  A year later The Sweet's fate was sealed after they were taken on by the Chinnichap songwriting team, a veritable hit machine, and as a result, enjoyed their first taste of chart success with "Funny Funny".  And the rest is, as they are prone to say, history.

The entire "Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be" episode is a true testament to the earliest - and lightest - side of The Sweet; a period the band later often went to great lengths to distance themselves from.  And perhaps understandably so; most of the time session musicians were used on the records and the band wasn't allowed to include too many of their original compositions, and when they were allowed to do so, the material all too often ended up as mere B-side fodder.  Truth be told though, Chinnichap had the magic touch, were indeed supplying the band with chart-making material which, as time went on, did get heavier - and, indeed, better. 
Still, "Funny How Sweet Co-Co Can Be" can easily be enjoyed as what it was probably always meant to be: a light, fluffy piece of bubblegum pop - or, quite simply put, a '70s teenpop classic.
The Sweet in all their glam rock glory, circa 1973.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


"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 in 1968 had followed his mother and stepfather Don Brydon to Japan, but Mr. Brydon worked for the UPI News Agency in Tokyo.
 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...

ARROWS Discography

(U.K. – unless otherwise noted) 

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.  Germany.

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 Japan, 2015.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Rock and Roll is Dead...And we don't care!

Ever since I first plugged this release at the '70s Teenpop Facebook page a few weeks back, I've been pretty psyched about it: The first three Rubinoos albums remastered on colored vinyl with new artwork and bonus tracks!  Talk about the perfect Christmas gift for yourself.  Well, if you're that sad...and I very obviously am.
And now it's finally here!  And it is everything it was hyped up to be, and then some.  It's a lovingly and carefully assembled package from the good folks at Wild Honey Records in Italy - clearly a labour of love.  It sounds and looks absolutely beautiful.  When the original albums are getting increasingly harder to come by on vinyl, what better way is there to get re-acquainted with all the early Rubinoo classics ("I Think We're Alone Now"; "Leave My Heart Alone"; "I Wanna be Your Boyfriend"; "Rendezvous"; "Hurts Too Much", et al.) than head on over to and order yourself a set.  I do believe it's one of them "Limited Edition" thingys.  And I swear I am not in any shape, way or form paid to do and say this - it is just that sweet of a deal.
San Fransisco and the Bay Area in the late '60s/early '70s, with its obvious and all-too-recent hippie history, seems like an unlikely place and time for a band like The Rubinoos to flourish in.  The Saturday morning cartoon bubblegum of The Archies and the DeFranco Family were more their kind of thing, although Rock & Roll, Doo Wop, R & B, and the classic Girl Group sound also played part in cementing the Rubes' sound.  "The LP Collection Volume 1" exhibits The Rubinoos at their best.
Already anxiously awaiting Volume 2 in the series...