Various Artists – Surrender To The Rhythm – The London Pub Rock Scene Of The Seventies (Cherry Red)
Yeah yeah yeah, that whole “pub rock bridged the gap between rock and roll and punk” thing, with Dr. Feelgood as the archetypal band of the genre, yada yada yada. It’s pretty much the standard introduction to any piece when those two words come up. So this three disc set is pleasingly bloody-minded in its refusal to include (the undeniably brilliant) Messrs Johnson and Brilleaux and co until the start of disc two. The matter is further put to bed right at the beginning of the wonderfully informative booklet that comes as part of the package, with a quote from Brinsley Schwarz: “…it wasn’t a specific music, other than that there were no lengthy, tedious solos. It was any kind of music that people wanted to go and see, played in pubs. But it wasn’t a musical genre.”
This would go some way to explaining why several of the tracks here, particularly on the latter part of disc one seem to, perhaps surprisingly, owe an enormous debt to Bob Dylan. A case in point is Mott The Hoople‘s ‘I Wish I Was Your Mother‘, which has a real Highway 61 Revisited vibe about it, and Starry Eyed And Laughing‘s ‘Money Is No Friend Of Mine‘ is, in the verses at least, an entertaining pastiche of the Minnesotan maestro. Elsewhere, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band‘s ‘Sergeant Fury‘ is almost music hall in its presentation, while ‘We Get Along‘ by Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers falls unequivocally into the ‘country’ bracket. I guess Mr. Schwarz, of his eponymously titled band, has a point – ‘pub rock’ was, and still is, genreless.
The 1970s as a whole, of course, has long been painted as a gritty, bleak political wilderness – many of the most enduring British films of the decade do little to dispel such an ideal – and the vast majority of the tracks included here, in hindsight, were clearly much needed escapism from the daily grind, with an overriding feeling of buoyancy that permeates through their heart. The tunes scream working class at you, each one a refuge from ‘scrimping and saving and crossing off lists’, in exchange for a night of well and truly letting your hair down. Stray‘s ‘As Long As You Feel Good‘ tells you all you need to know about that, from the title alone. It’s good to hear the vastly underrated Chas & Dave here too, with ‘One Fing ‘n’ Annuver‘, an early track that proves there was a thin line indeed between the work of Hodges and Peacock, and the far more critically respected Ian Dury and the Blockheads (who also feature here, in the form of Kilburn and the High Roads).
Fox (not to be confused with Foxx) were clearly spending several evenings a week listening to America‘s ‘A Horse With No Name‘ on repeat, given its similarity to their own ‘For Whatever It’s Worth‘ and we go all funky with Stretch‘s 1975 top 20 hit, ‘Why Did You Do It‘, a project set up in essence to tour the USA as Fleetwood Mac, even though there were no members of Fleetwood Mac actually IN the band (confused? Google it, it’s a fascinating story.) But anyway, it’s a cracking track that quite feasibly could have been the blueprint for Fun Lovin’ Criminals during their Loco period.
Over on disc three, Moon kick off proceedings, sounding rather delightfully like Elton John at his early seventies glammy best, with ‘Don’t Wear It‘. A couple of that band’s members went on to form Sniff ‘N’ The Tears, who are also included here with the “how on earth was that not a hit?” single ‘Driver’s Seat‘, and it’s great to hear a Chris Spedding number that isn’t the painstakingly overplayed ‘Motorbikin‘, with the criminally short ‘Bedsit Girl‘. But that’s typical of the content within this compilation – most songs are so short that nothing outstays its welcome.
In short, Surrender To The Rhythm is three sides of tremendous fun, showing different sides to several established artists and unearthing many lesser known gems along the way. And I’ve only just scratched the surface with this review. Splendid stuff.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.