Formed in the early Seventies and calling themselves a Rockabilly Revival band, rather than Teddy boys, a trend made popular in the UK during the Sixties, Matchbox were to release a swathe of records between 1976-2010 and remain active today – performing at the Bruntingthope Stomp in May later this year. The four albums included here were released between 1979 and 1982, but the band proved far more successful in the UK with their eight single releases during this time, than they did with their long players, playing the music of a style made popular by the likes of Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and perhaps most famously by Elvis Presley himself.
Having started their recording career in 1975 with their single ‘Rock`n`Roll Band‘, 1976 was to see the album Riders in the Sky, followed in 1978 with Settin’ the Woods on Fire, although it wasn’t until their breakthrough hit of 1979, ‘Rockabilly Rebel‘, that finally woke the British public from their slumber (with no small part played by their appearance on Noel Edmonds Saturday TV kids’ show Swap Shop, I’m sure) and started them on their 2-year brush with stardom, with the single reaching number 18 in the UK charts. It’s interesting when listening to this set, that it wasn’t until they softened their presentation, that they would achieve their highest placing with ‘When You Ask About Love‘, from 1980’s Midnite Dynamos, rather than the faster more aggressive approach heard on their self titled debut. Not often treated with the highest regard, Matchbox might’ve been lumped in with the likes of Alvin Stardust and Shakin’ Stevens in their earliest days of success, with immediate audiences sometimes treating them with disdain – as if these were not the purest of musicians, but 40 years on and they are still treading the boards; “one-minute wonders” they’re certainly not.
’81’s Flying Colours saw them paying tribute to their forefathers, by including cover versions of Buddy Holly’s ‘Love’s Made A Fool Of You‘ and with Harlan Howard‘s ‘Heartaches By The Number‘ kickstarting the album. This is followed by a clutch of good-time songs, including a return to Holly’s ‘You’re The One‘ later in the album. As with many a band who have maintained a career for such a long time, Matchbox has not always had the most consistent of line-ups, with only Jimmy Redhead and Fred Poke having been in at the beginning and neither of these consistently so, but does that matter? As long as the music remains consistent and the audience entertained, then why not? ’82’s Crossed Line rounds off this collection of what is 65 songs in all, with ‘One More Saturday Night‘, not to be confused with the Grateful Dead‘s number of the same name, but an original which was co-written by the band’s Brian Hodgeson, some pretty authentic rock ‘n’ roll, but by the time this album was released the band had been writing and performing music of this ‘ilk for long enough to not have to prove themselves. A collection that features a bounty of bonus content, that will have the uninitiated, like myself, as well as the authentic Rockabillies, drinking down its content, without any complaint. On the whole, it’s pretty smooth.