The sound of the city - from the City (and everyone's a winner).
Ciao! review by JOHN V. Original here.
For every punk and new wave band which made headlines (and the Top 20) in 1977, there were several that never quite made the bright lights. One outfit that deserved far, far better was London.
Formed at the end of 1976 in - well, London, actually - was one such group. They consisted of vocalist Riff Regan, bassist/vocalist Steve Voice, guitarist Dave Wight, and ex-Clash drummer Jon Moss. After a nationwide tour supporting the Stranglers they went on the road as the headline attraction, made two singles and a 4-track EP which nudged the lower reaches of the Top 50 without quite making it. By the end of 1977 their album Animal Games was ready for release. But lack of major success and funds, coupled with Moss's decision to join the Damned (he later joined Culture Club too), left them disinclined to carry on.
Goodbye London - for thirty years. Regan opted for a solo career, then under his real name of Miles Tredinnick went into writing for stage and TV. But in 2007 he and Voice recruited two new members, Hugh O'Donnell (guitar, vocals) and Colin Watterston (drums) and they have been gigging ever since.
Some ten years before that, by which time the original vinyls had become collectable and were changing hands for astonishing sums, Captain Oi! records did us all a favour and issued the entire back catalogue on this CD. So yes, once again you can get into London.
Let me put my head above the parapet and say that musically they had just as much energy and passion as the Pistols and the Clash. (Heather McCartney once named them as one of her favourite bands, so I'm not alone). Regan had a voice that hovered menacingly between David Bowie, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople and Johnny Rotten, while Voice's bass and Wight's guitar could hold their own against any of their peers, and Moss sure gave those skins and cymbals a mighty good hammering. Add to that a quiverful of (mostly) short, punchy, hook-laden songs - and you wonder why oh why those singles never flew out of the shops at the time.
Fifteen tracks make up this collection. Two are the same song - the first of their singles, Everyone's a Winner (not to be confused with Hot Chocolate's near-contemporary chartbuster 'Every 1's a Winner') appears twice, with minor differences in the vocals on the single and album version. Only one track, the much-covered Friday On My Mind, was not written by them. All four members had a hand in writing the others, Regan getting the lion's share.
Doing a full track-by-track review is probably pointless, so I'll confine myself to the highlights. The opener, No Time, kicks off proceedings in a blaze of glory. A really strong hook and sense of urgency made this one of their most popular numbers on stage. It puts me in mind a little of the Rods' top tenner hit from the same time, 'Do Anything You Wanna Do'.
Everyone's a Winner is a wonderful rabble-rouser, with a maniacal laugh at the start and a short burst of heavy echo on the vocals later on. "Everyone's a winner, everyone's a golden wonder for you-ou."
Now if only Golden Wonder Crisps had wanted something for a TV ad in 1977, it could have been huge.
Summer of Love, at four and a half minutes one of the longest tracks, is a tad slower. It starts off with a few seconds of ersatz heavy metal guitar, before cruising into a searing rocker about the summer of love in 1977 - or was it 1967 - or any of the years in between? Hell, who cares. Suffice to say that Regan's tonsils are working overtime on this one, and the other guys are playing like there was no tomorrow.
Animal Games, the final single and also the title track of their sole album, released early in 1978 just after they split, is quite adventurous. A slightly funky bassline, with some interesting guitar work which varies from a searing solo at one point to a few restrained notes with plenty of echo, this is another of the four-minutes-plus numbers. If only somebody had added keyboards, it could almost pass for something by the Stranglers.
Friday On My Mind was originally a hit for the Easybeats in 1966, and several others have had a crack at it since then. But in London's hands, this wonderful blast of power pop takes on a new sense of urgency.
I could go on at length about all the shorter, fast'n'furious stuff, like Swinging London, Handcuffed, Us Kids Cold, Young, Speed Speed. Just take it from me, they should all be played loud, and they still bite just as hard as they ever did. You may not find them on every 'Best Punk Album in the World...Ever!' compilation currently available at a high street near you, but take a listen, and you'll find enough raw energy, hooks, and more than a hint of genuine musical ability proving that there was enough potential below the surface to let them develop in further directions, if only they had stayed together long enough for a second album.
A good selection of photos, artwork from the original album, repros of the original picture sleeves, biographical note and discography, is ample proof of the care with which this set was put together. Like many collectors' items, you're unlikely to find it on the high street, so surf around. Go on, click on Amazon, you know it makes sense...
Enjoy - and then try and see them live if you can!
London - The Punk Rock Collection.
Allmusic.com review by Dave Thompson. Original here.
Best remembered for the presence of future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss, both London and their Animal Games album were very much ranked in the lower regions of the punk hierarchy, just one more in the endless gaggle of bands who arose in response to the first wave of the movement without an original bone in their bodies. That, at least, is how the history books recall them, but the reality of the matter, as documented on this 15-track collection, is somewhat less scathing.
Comprising Animal Games in its entirety together with sundry associated singles and EP tracks, The Punk Rock Collection opens with the volcanic No Time still one of the most vicariously thrilling noises of the entire era, and immediately paints a capital band who knew precisely what they were doing and believed in it wholeheartedly.
Three successive chant-along singles Everyone's a Winner, Summer of Love, and Animal Games itself speak volumes for the preoccupations of the period, but the CD, like the band, reaches its ultimate peak among the bonus tracks with a stunning revitalization of the Easybeats' Friday on My Mind. Originally buried away on the Summer of Love EP, it is clearly modeled upon David Bowie's own revision of the song for his Pin Ups album, but fed through with a spiky aggression that old Ziggy could never have predicted. Elsewhere, Good Looking Girls has a bright proto-power pop edge to it, while Siouxsie Sue - well, you can probably guess who that's about. London did have their fair share of unremarkable rent-a-punk rockers, it is true. But The Punk Rock Collection contains sufficient surpassing gems to more than outweigh them.
London - The Punk Rock Collection.
Allmusic.com review by Jo-Ann Greene. Original here.
One of the great could-have-beens of the early British punk scene, London released three singles and an album in their brief two-year lifespan. With a little more time, they might have made a real mark on the scene, instead they just gave the world future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss. Singer Miles Tredinnick had previously worked for maverick movie producer Robert Stigwood and he brought that sense of showmanship to his band. An ad in the music papers in late 1976 brought him requisite musicians in drummer Moss, guitarist Colin Wight, and bassist Steve Voice. Both Tredinnick and Wight promptly changed their names, the latter dropping Colin in favor of Dave, the former opting for the more punk-flavored Riff Regan (a tribute to the lead characters in the popular British crime drama The Sweeney). London, not surprisingly, was the quartet's hometown.
In attendance at their debut gig in North London just happened to be the assistant to Simon Napier Bell, the legendary manager who would later go on to handle Wham. On the enthused word of his assistant, Napier Bell grabbed up the group and quickly went to work on their behalf. Within weeks, the quartet swiftly moved to headlining clubs and then on to the opening slot of the Stranglers' early 1977 national tour. Even with a slew of show cancellations, due to fear of punk bands in the provinces, London made enough of a splash to be snatched up by MCA Records in March 1977.
Their debut single, Everyone's a Winner/Handcuffed hit the shops that May. More headlining gigs followed, with the flamboyant director Mike Mansfield brought in to shoot their video. Everyone was convinced that "Winner" really was one, and while the single sold well, it didn't chart.
Regardless, hopes were high for the follow-up, Summer of Love, which was released in August. The single sported three B-sides, the frenetic No Time the band's tribute to Banshees chanteuse Siouxsie Sue and a rousing cover of the Easybeat's Friday on My Mind. This time, London did breach the charts, and band, label, and manager were all sure that they had a hit on their hands. They were wrong as the single stalled at number 52.
November's Animal Games/Us Kids Cold couldn't better that, although it did win them an appearance on the televised music show So It Goes. Attention now moved to the recording of London's debut album. Napier Bell, who was equally adept as a producer, took his place behind the control board and coaxed a blistering album out of the band. Unfortunately, London was already gone before Animal Games arrived early in 1978.
Rat Scabies had departed the Damned the previous October and Moss was approached to replace him. The drummer played his final show with London in December 1977 at the London Marquee. The remaining trio then began auditioning new stickmen to no avail. They gave up for good early in the new year. Ironically enough, the Damned called it quits soon after and Moss wandered off in search of greener pastures. He found them with a flamboyant singer/scenester named Boy George. The rest is history.