Taken from the CD booklet ‘London The Punk Rock Collection’
(Captain Oi! Records) by John Van der Kiste.
London were one of many bands who formed at the end of 1976 from the ranks of eager young musicians (and non-musicians), their disillusion from a stagnant music scene all but shattered by a certain notorious quartet which had made the tabloids' front pages courtesy of hapless TV interviewer Bill Grundy. A couple of ads placed in the music press by vocalist Riff Regan (real name Miles Tredinnick, Riff being taken from 'West Side Story' and Regan from John Thaw's character in 'The Sweeney'), a former assistant to Robert Stigwood, recruited drummer Jon Moss who had briefly been with The Clash until he could stomach Joe Strummer's humourless pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric no longer, plus guitarist Dave Wight (real name Colin Wight) and bassist Steve Voice (real name).
Several weeks of writing and rehearsing led to their debut at the Rochester Castle in Stoke Newington, where they were spotted by an enthusiastic Danny Morgan, assistant to former Yardbirds and Marc Bolan manager Simon Napier-Bell. To Simon they were the most charismatic band he had seen since the early days of The Rolling Stones. Within days he had become their manager, secured them prestigious gigs at Dingwalls and the Roxy, and a three-month nationwide tour supporting The Stranglers.
In spring 1977 they signed to MCA records, who narrowly beat Virgin to the dotted line. The first single, Riff's raucous rabble-rousing Everyone’s A Winner, with a vocal that hovered menacingly between the styles of Messrs Bowie, Ian Hunter and Johnny Rotten, attracted good reviews, and a video directed by Mike Mansfield of 'Supersonic' fame was shot at the ITN Studios in Wells Street near Oxford Circus. Regular dates at the Nashville and the Hope and Anchor that summer were followed by a national headlining tour in September and the release of an EP, containing Summer Of Love, No Time, Siouxsie Sue and their only recorded cover version, The Easybeats' Friday On My Mind (the original was recorded in exactly the same studio). It charted at no.52 and put them on standby for 'Top of the Pops' one week, though the programme management were worried about the possible F-word content on one of the tracks. To allay their fears Riff and Steve had to write out the lyrics to Summer Of Love in longhand whilst an impatient BBC motorbike rider kept his finger on the doorbell, waiting to take the result back to the Beeb bosses. After all that - well, no naughty words, but no room on TOTP either.
Nevertheless with support bands including XTC, 999, The Only Ones, The Vibrators, The Look, Bethnel and Secret Affair the gigs generally sold out, and a certain 14 year old Heather McCartney named London as one of her favourite bands alongside The Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. In the autumn another single, Animal Games was released. According to 'Record Mirror' it was "Standard high-speed grind and churn, but with magnificently dreadful vocals (both in content and delivery) that give it a delightful charm all of its own. Not a hit but a bestial buy" It was featured on TV's 'So it Goes', where presenter Tony Wilson copped the T-Zers smart-arse one-liner award in 'NME' that week for his introduction of the band: 'If Sadat can get into Jerusalem, you can get into London.'
An album of the same name followed, recorded (like the singles) at the old IBC Studios, Portland Place, where The Kinks and The Who had cut so many of their classics, but by the time of release early in 1978 the end was nigh. The Damned asked Jon Moss to join them, and London played what turned out to be their last gig at the Marquee Club just before Christmas in 1977, with Riff appearing in a Santa Claus outfit for the first few numbers and throwing goodies into the audience at one stage.
The next few weeks found Riff, Steve and Dave auditioning new drummers before deciding to call it a day. Riff was retained by MCA records as a solo artist and made a further four singles, all self-penned and moving towards a more melodic sound, backed by the likes of Chas and Dave, Kirsty MacColl, Cheryl Baker, and members of Deaf School, Magazine and Brinsley Schwarz as well as the three ex-Londoners. One last single on CBS Epic in 1981 marked his farewell to the music biz after which he discarded the moniker and embarked on a career as a comedy writer. To date he has written scripts for some of Frankie Howerd's last shows, the BBC series Birds of a Feather and two successful stage comedies about an Elvis Presley fanatic which have played at home and in translation throughout Europe. In addition he has written the play Topless and a comedy novel Fripp. Steve Voice formed two subsequent bands, The Original Vampires and Blind Yeo. Dave Wight (reverting to his real name of Colin) made a few singles and two albums as part of Metro and is now a Lecturer in International Politics. Simon Napier-Bell struck platinum as manager of George Michael and Wham! before writing three bestselling rock 'n' roll books You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, Black Vinyl, White Powder and I’m Coming to Take You To Lunch while Jon Moss, shortly to form The Edge with Lu from The Damned, likewise enjoyed a glittering career in the 80s, joining Boy George to form Culture Club. This last factor ensured the collectability of all records by London, a point not lost on the late John Walters, John Peel's erstwhile producer. He and Miles were introduced at a party years later. "I've got some of those bloody awful records at home that you kept sending me Riff", he said. "I'm clearing some stuff out and I want to sell them. Are they worth anything?" A cursory glance at the 'Record Collector Rare Price Guide' would have answered his question. Their debut single says it all. Everyone's a Winner.
John Van der Kiste.
London The Punk Rock Collection
A review by Dave Thompson, All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com)
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.
Complete UK discography of London
Everyone's a Winner/Handcuffed. (MCA 305, 1977) 7"
Summer of Love EP: Summer Of Love/No Time/Friday On My Mind/Siouxsie Sue. (MCA(T) 319 1977) 7" and 12"
Animal Games/Us Kids Cold. (MCA 336, 1977) 7"
Animal Games LP: No Time/Animal Games/Reaction/Everyone's A Winner/Summer Of Love/Us Kids Cold/Young/Good Looking Girls/Out On The Skids/Speed Speed/Swinging London. (MCA MCF 2823, 1978)
The Punk Rock Collection CD: No Time/Animal Games/Reaction/Everyone's A Winner/Summer Of Love/Us Kids Cold/Young/Good Looking Girls/Out On The Skids/Speed Speed/Swinging London/Everyone's A Winner (single version)/Handcuffed/Friday On My Mind/Siouxsie Sue. (Captain Oi! Records AHOY CD77, 1997)