Saturday, 30 March 2013

Head Down No Nonsense Mindless Pub Rock – my favourite examples

Worth it just for the drummer!

Johnny Kidd's old backing band broke an essential Pub Rock rule by dressing up (albeit in a half-hearted sort of way). But they fit the mould by being sweaty blokes who looked like they enjoyed the odd pint or twelve, no doubt smoked like chimneys (probably untipped Capstan Full Strength), probably ate lots of pies and curries, farted like heroes, didn't attract shedloads of teenage groupies, and weren't actively thinking about cross-dressing for their next LP cover. And, of course, they boogied prodigiously: in fact, that's all they ever did.

The same could also be said of Pub Rock's standard-bearers, Dr Feelgood, who specialised in looking like extras from The Sweeney:

Pub Rock was basically a bunch of un-poncey British musos who wanted to play American music - rock 'n' roll, R&B and Country Rock - and didn't aspire to stadium gigs or Lear-Jets. Brinsley Schwartz's record company tried to turn them into "cock rock" superstars, but it all went badly wrong following a disastrous beano trip for music "journalists" to New York, so the band just settled for being accomplished musicians who made good records which didn't sell much:

Lead singer and song-writer Nick Lowe, as we know, went on to become a significant Punk/New Wave mover and shaker, and is now a Grand Old Man of British pop. Not sure what happened to Ducks Deluxe, but I loved this slice of pure Quo-tastic boogie at the time:

As I mentioned, Country Rock was a big influence on some performers. Here Chilli Willy and the Red Hot Peppers pinch a melody from "This Wheel's On Fire" to good effect:

Some of Pub Rock's more experimental and original practitioners enjoyed great success after the advent of Punk (Ian Dury and Elvis Costello forn starters), but during the genre's heyday (roughly 1972-76) only two singles made it into the charts. Here's one which went down well with Teds:

And here's the genre's one genuine, undeniable proper hit - Ace's smooth, LA-sounding "How Long":

Former private boarding school boy Joe Strummer had to turn himself into a snarling working-class revolutionarty hero in order to make it with The Clash - but only after he'd honed his skills on the Pub Rock scene with The 101ers:

But essentially it was all about mid-twenties working-class blokes listening to fast twelve-bar boogie with the unappealing stench of Watney's Red Barrell in their nostrils:

Maybe Pub Rock should have enjoyed more success. In late 1976, when Dr Feelgood's live album Stupidity shot to the top of the charts, it seemed it's time was nigh - but punk was about to obliterate it (apart from those perfomers canny or skinny enough to clamber aboard the new trend). For a while there, Pub Rock offered ordinary chaps (it was boy's music) an alternative to the would-be androgynous silliness of most Glam Rock, the college boy pseudo-intellectualism of Prog Rock and the preening, screeching pomposity of Cock Rock. The problem was that, unlike Punk, the music had nothing to do with the angry, chaotic, distinctly horrible place Britain had become by the late 1970s  - and, unlike Diso, it didn't offer feelgood escapism from reality. Essentially, it had no style.

Still, it produced some pretty decent music along the way. The genre - if it can be called that - had to wait until 1978 for a fitting parody tribute:

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