Followers of this blog will be aware that my love of 1970s glam iconsThe Sweet is pretty well documented. They’ve featured heavily on Darren’s Music Blog over the seven years of the blog’s existence. I’m therefore very pleased to be announcing the publication of my first book due out this summer: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’.
It’s published by the excellent Sonicbond Publishing who’ve been running the On Track series, where they look at a band’s entire recorded output track by track, and more recently the Decades series, where they look at a band’s history and development through a key decade. I’d already reviewed a couple of Sonicbond publications (on Fairport Convention and Hawkwind) when I had a dream that I’d just written my own book about The Sweet. With the dream still fresh in my head the following morning I thought it might actually be an idea to see if this could perhaps be turned into reality.
I emailed Stephen Lambe at Sonicbond that morning with the synopsis that was formulated in the dream still in my head to see if they were interested. Happily, he came back and said that they were and a contract soon followed. It became my lockdown project starting last summer and after several months of feverish writing, researching and listening I completed it at the end of February.
From the Amazon synopsis you hopefully get a taste of what’s in store:
The Sweet’s look, sound and attitude became an instantly recognisable hallmark of the early 1970s glam rock era. But the band did not start the 1970s as a glam band and certainly didn’t finish as one. This book charts the band’s journey through the decade that made them a household name, from their initial rise as purveyors of manufactured, bubblegum pop to their metamorphosis into harder-edged glam rock icons. The Sweet in the 1970s takes a look at both their successes and their struggles in their quest to be recognised as a more serious rock act in the latter part of the decade, once the sparkle of glam and glitter had begun to pale. The decade saw them score fifteen UK Top 40 singles, release seven studio albums and tour several continents. Unlike many bands of the era personnel changes were few. The Sweet begin the 1970s with the arrival of new guitarist, Andy Scott, and end the decade with the departure of frontman, Brian Connolly, and an ultimately ill-fated attempt to continue as a three-piece. This book is an unashamed celebration of the music of the Sweet and charts the lasting impact they had on many of the bands than followed them.
And of the author, Amazon has this to say:
After acquiring a second-hand copy of Sweet’s Give Us A Wink album from Action Records in Preston as a teenager in the early 1980s, Darren Johnson has been a dedicated fan of the band ever since. A former politician, he has written for a number of UK national newspapers but after stepping away from politics, he has been able to devote more time to his first love: music. A keen follower of both rock and folk, he maintains a popular music blog Darren’s Music Blog and has reviewed albums and gigs for a variety of publications. He lives in Hastings, East Sussex, UK
Alternatively, the book (and all others in the series) will be available from ‘all good bookshops’ and via Sonicbond’s own online shop at Burning Shedhere
‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ by Darren Johnson – published by Sonicbond 29th July 2021
Based in Hailsham in East Sussex, Tim Izzard is a musician who has worked across a variety of musical genres but Starlight Rendezvous, released last month, is his debut rock album. Taking glam-era Bowie as its starting point the album makes nods in the direction of pop, prog, rock and garage, and delivers something that is both creative and original yet unashamedly wears its influences as unselfconsciously as Mick Ronson in his golden Starman costume.
Izzard tells us: “It’s a play-it-loud, 40 mins concept album (remember them!) where the time is 632 AF, we are in a Brave New World and ‘The Visitor’, Thomas Jerome Newton, is still alive and still waiting to find his way home after nearly 200 years.”
Izzard adds: “I wanted to write an album that sounded like what first and still excites me musically and that I’d want to listen to once finished. So back to Bowie playing Starman on TOTP and the album, Ziggy. Roxy Music’s first two albums, Transformer/Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Bowie’s live Beeb version of Waiting For The Man still does it for me.“
“The chords and melody for Man Who Fell To Earth came easily to me one day, and just sounded immediately like it should be a tribute. So the title Man Who Fell To Earth I chose as he appeared like an alien on TOTP and left us so dramatically two days after Blackstar, almost as if his mission had been accomplished. The lyrics name-check his songs but also the impact they had on me ‘listening in my room’.“
That self-penned Bowie tribute, the excellent ‘Man Who Fell To Earth’ has already been picking up airplay including here on BBC Radio Sussex and in the US on glam rock internet station Dandy’s Stardust Dive.
Tim Izzard’s album Starlight Rendezvous is available on Bandcamp here:
Cult US glam-influenced band The Hollywood Stars, who reunited back in 2018 after four decades apart, have a new single coming out, a live recording of the original band composition ‘Escape’ which was later made famous by Alice Cooper. ‘Escape’ (Live) is released on 15th February.
Formed in 1973 and becoming a regular draw at the legendary Whisky A Go Go club the band’s live shows attracted the the likes of John Lennon, Angie Bowie and Iggy Pop.
“I didn’t used to like The Hollywood Stars, I used to like The New York Dolls. Then I heard The Hollywood Stars play Satisfaction. Now I wanna fuck ‘em.” – Iggy Pop
An album was recorded for Columbia in 1974 but record company politics meant it ended up being scrapped.
“It was a really depressing time,” recalls lead guitarist Ruben De Fuentes. “The sessions were going great and we were so close to finishing the record. Then it all just went away.”
It would take 39 years for the scrapped Columbia album to finally see the light of day. Shine Like a Radio: The Great Lost 1974 Album was released by Last Summer/Light in the Attic in 2013.
However, two of the songs recorded for the scrapped album, both co-written by the band’s lead singer/guitarist Mark Anthony and pop Svengali Kim Fowley, went on to enjoy success with two mega US acts. ‘King of the Night Time World’ would be recorded by Kiss on their Destroyer album released in 1976 and on their Alive II album released in 1977. Another song ‘Escape’, meanwhile, was recorded by Alice Cooper on his 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare.
The Hollywood Stars split in 1974 but (with a change in line-up) picked things up again in 1976 and kept gigging through until 1978, opening for such diverse legends as rock pioneer Bo Diddley, disco star Sylvester, and punk royalty Ramones.
Forty years after the dissolution of the 1978 line-up, The Hollywood Stars reconvened for a one-off benefit concert in November 2018 at The Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles. The line-up included founding members Phares, De Fuentes and Rae, alongside the bassist from the band’s second line-up, Michael Rummans, and new guitarist, Chezz Monroe.
The revived Hollywood Stars released a live version of ‘King Of The Night Time World’ last December and are now set to release a new version of ‘Escape’ as a single on 15th February. Recorded live in 2019 when the reunited band returned to their old haunt the Whisky A Go Go this is the Hollywood Stars’ own version of the song made famous by Alice Cooper.
The Hollywood Stars current line-up is:
Ruben De Fuentes — Lead guitar
Scott Phares — Lead vocals
Terry Rae — Drums, vocals
Chezz Monroe — Second guitar
John Schayer — Bass guitar, vocals
‘Escape’ (Live) released 15th February 2021 on Golden Robot Records
I’ve been following Bristol-based acapella group The Longest Johns since they sent me their first album to review back in 2016. Following the tiktok sea shanty viral sensation that is ‘Wellerman’, however, they now find themselves in the Top 40 – with a lovely rather dumbstruck announcement on their Facebook page giving their reaction as follows: “BY POSEIDONS BEARD! It’s only gone top 40! We did it everybody, thank-you to all our families, the mod’s and the fantastic discord community, Thank-you to Anna for singing it with us and thank-you to EVERYONE who bought Wellerman and got a (Can’t believe i’m typing this) SEA SHANTY IN THE CHARTS. Ohhhh!!”
2020 was looking like a terrible year for glam veterans, Slade. Guitarist Dave Hill sacked drummer Don Powell from the continuing (ie: post- Jim and Noddy) version of the band. Bass-player Jim Lea had his prized guitar stolen and Noddy Holder exchanged a few sharp words about his former song-writing partner Jim in press interviews. All that was put to one side, however, as all four original members expressed their joy at their greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz going straight in at No. 8 in the UK album charts back in October. This was the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974!
Only a few short years ago the wheels well and truly seemed to be finally coming off the AC/DC machine. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young had tragically passed away, drummer Phil Rudd was sentenced to home detention after an unedifying case involving drugs and threatening behaviour, vocalist Brian Johnson ended up being replaced by Axl Rose following major hearing problems and bass-player Cliff Williams saw the writing on the wall and decided he, too, had had enough. However, with Stevie Young replacing his late uncle, Malcolm, the classic post-Bon Scott AC/DC line-up (or as near as humanly possible to it anyway) was resurrected and a brand new album Power Up ended up reaching No. 1 in twenty-one countries.
Glitter Band founder member, John Rossall, released a wonderfully menacing twenty-first century reboot of classic 70s glam rock with his The Last Glam In Town album. Released back in October last year, it picked up favourable reviews everywhere. All tribal beats, honking brass, fuzzed-up guitar, sing-along choruses and enough handclaps and chants of ‘Hey’ to last you a lifetime, The Last Glam In Town is a modern masterpiece of the genre. “It’s like I’ve written them myself almost!” he told me when I interviewed him late last year. “It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.”
While there has been no big Charlatans comeback (their most recent album was back in 2017), Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties have been one of the bright spots throughout the pandemic. The idea was a simple one: an album and a time would be chosen and fans would converge on social media to exchange their memories, reactions and appreciation of said album. Soon there was a queue of artists eager to get involved and, for me, one of the highlights was when they featured the album by Heavy Load, a band which was composed of people with and without learning disabilities, of which my current boss was the former bass-player. You can find out more about Heavy Load, the award-winning film of the same name that was made about them and the charity that they inspired here.
I wish everyone a happy New Year. My special thanks go to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2020. Weirdly, although I originally started this blog nearly seven years ago mainly to cover live gig reviews, I’ve had far more visits to my site this year than any previous year. This is in spite of all the gigs (and the gig reviews!) stopping in March.
Anyway, as we look back over the year here are my ten most popular blog posts from 2020. Although I’ve covered the usual eclectic range of metal, folk, Americana, brit pop, rock n roll and glam rock this year, it seems that people were particularly seeking out my glam content this year. Glam ended up pulling in eight of the ten top slots. Here they are in order of popularity…
1. Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade
When Don Powell announced he had been sacked from Dave Hill’s continuing version of Slade it came as a shock to many, eventually being covered extensively in the music press and the tabloids. I posted the sad news up on my blog within minutes of it being announced on Don Powell’s Facebook page – I was first to report it and for the first 24 hours pretty much the only one to report it. My post went viral and was shared all around the world.
2. Glitter, glam and Blackpool rock: interview with glam rock legend John Rossall
Following the release of his highly acclaimed new album ‘The Last Glam In Town’ I talk to former Glitter Band legend, John Rossall. Our chat covers glam rock, show bands, growing up in Blackpool and, of course, John’s new album and the prospect of touring again post-Covid.
3. Sweet launch video to promote new single ‘Still Got The Rock’ and forthcoming album ‘Isolation Boulevard’
Sweet’s ‘Still Got The Rock’ single was released in digital format in December followed by the digital release of new album Isolation Boulevard. The single is reworking of a song that first appeared as a newly-recorded bonus track on the 2015 Sweet compilation album Action: The Ultimate Story, by the band’s previous line-up. The new version features the current line-up of Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland, Lee Small and Paul Manzi.
4. Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet
When glam rock burst into the UK pop charts in the early 1970s the genre may have appeared all shiny and new and suitably outrageous but many of its lead players had been trying to make their all-important breakthrough in the previous decade. Five of the acts we look at here all released their debut singles in the mid to late 60s.
5. Slade legend Jim Lea releases video footage in bid to locate recently stolen guitar
Founder members of Slade were not having much luck at the start of the year. Jim Lea’s cherished Fender Stratocaster was stolen in central London on 31st January. He released a video in the hope that it will prompt members of the public in helping reunite him with his guitar.
6. Live review: Supergrass at Alexandra Palace 6/3/20
The only live review to make the top ten this year, this Ally Pally gig from the Supergrass reunion tour was actually my penultimate live gig before lockdown. (I managed Glen Matlock at the 100 Club the night after). Without a doubt, for me, the greatest band of the Britpop era, I was at the Brixton Academy on the Supergrass farewell tour in 2010 and ten years later I was excited to be their for the their first of two nights at Alexandra Palace on the long-awaited reunion tour.
Steve Priest, bass-player with the Sweet and an icon of 70s glam rock sadly passed away in June following an illness that had hospitalised him. In an emotional post on his band’s Facebook page, former band-mate Andy Scott paid tribute to the best bassist he ever worked with. A phenomenal bass-player whose harmony vocals were an essential part of the band’s classic sound Steve Priest we salute you – a true glam rock icon.
8. Slade at No. 8 in the UK albums chart – their highest position since 1974!
I was well chuffed to see Slade’s new greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz go straight in at No. 8 in the UK’s album charts back in October. This was the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974. Even during the days of the band’s early 80s comeback, a decade after glam, Slade albums were still struggling to make it to the Top 40, even when they had a second run of hit singles.
The run of bad luck for Slade icons in the early part of the year continued. Don Powell, suffered a stroke on Saturday 29th February at his home in Denmark. Fortunately, his step-daughter Emilie, a doctor, was with him when it happened and was able to act swiftly to call an ambulance and get him to hospital. His wife Hanne released a statement and Jim Lea and Andy Scott both sent their best wishes.
10. ‘Confess’ by Rob Halford – a gay heavy metal fan reviews the Metal God’s autobiography
As someone who became a Judas Priest fan not long after my dad brought home a newly-released copy of ‘British Steel’ back when I was a young teenager, and as someone who has known they were gay from around that same time I was particularly keen to read Halford’s memoir. There is a fair bit of revelatory gossip and down to earth black country humour but there are many segments that are deeply, deeply moving, too. One of the best rock biogs in ages.
Sweet have released a new video for their current single ‘Still Got The Rock’. The single is reworking of a song that first appeared as a newly-recorded bonus track on the 2015 Sweet compilation album Action: The Ultimate Story, by the band’s previous line-up. The new version features the current line-up of Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland, Lee Small and Paul Manzi. You can read my interview with Andy Scott about how the new line-up came about here.
Sweet’s new album, Isolation Boulevard, recorded within the necessary constraints imposed by the Covid-19 global pandemic, plays on the title of the mid-70s album by the band’s classic line-up: Desolation Boulevard.
In a statement on the band’s Facebook page, Sweet’s Andy Scott says:
“Once again you, the hard-core Sweet fans have stepped up and reacted positively to the new album Isolation Boulevard. The cover artwork tips a hat to Desolation Boulevard, 1975 and the band’s first Headline Tours in the USA. The comparison between the old and new is obvious as they are both a compilation of the best of Sweet’s recordings, satisfaction guaranteed.“
“Let’s go back to February 2020 and the world was just getting reports of a new virus, identified as Covid 19. Reaction to the news was slow at the start. I had some news of my own that I was dreading at this time, my cancer had returned. After our Denmark trip in March where we had a show cancelled due to new virus rules on social distancing, I started my treatment during the first lockdown in late March. This meant I was out of action until July/August and was naturally kept in total isolation. I have come through all clear thankfully and am looking forward to getting to grips with some new material next year when we as a band can be all together in a studio without restrictions.“
“The new album Isolation Boulevard was put together between lockdowns in September and October. It was pointed out to me that it had been more than 5 years since our last successful album release and as we hadn’t got Paul or Lee on any recordings especially the hits, we had better put that right as soon as possible. Most of the recording and editing was done in my studio and the results speak for themselves. The drum tracks and new bass lines are very powerful, the guitars are so clear you can hear the plectrum hit the strings and the vocal performances from Paul and Lee are perfection personified. Bruce and I cannot believe how lucky we are that this line up has hit the ground sprinting never mind running. I would personally like to sing the praises of Tom Cory, TC from the Novatines for his technical know-how and engineering skills during the recording of the album. Genius!“
“So, there you have it. Enjoy the single and album and with any luck we may just get back on the road next year.”
The ‘Still Got The Rock’ single was released in digital format on 8th December 2020. 18th December will see the digital release of the album Isolation Boulevard. There will be a limited-edition colour vinyl of both to pre-order on the release dates with delivery early in 2021. There will also be a CD format of the album available sometime in the new year.
Andy Scott – All Guitars, Synthesizers and Vocals Bruce Bisland – Drums and Vocals Paul Manzi – Lead Vocals Lee Small – Bass Guitar and Vocals Guest Musicians – Steve Mann – Keyboards on Love is Like Oxygen Producer – Andy Scott Engineer – Tom “TC” Cory Studio assistance – Kevin Smith Recorded, Edited and Mixed at Black Rock Studio, Wiltshire
Falling Nine are a two-piece rock project from Cardiff consisting of David Lydiard (Vocals, Guitars, Synths) & Steven Watts (Guitars, Bass, Drums, Synths). Releasing their debut EP back in 2007 they’ve had numerous releases since then and the pair has been joined by several collaborators.
For their latest release they take on the mighty Sweet classic ‘Fox On The Run’ which was the glam heroes’ first self-written smash hit in 1975 after stepping away from song-writing team Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn.
Falling Nine frontman David Lydiard explains: “I hadn’t heard the song for ages and one day during a trip down a YouTube rabbit hole I came across a live cover by the Chili Peppers with John singing. It had a raw, punk energy to it, and being a massive Frusciante fanboy, I instantly loved it. So I put up a very rough, live acoustic version of it on our YouTube Channel, just for a bit of fun. During lockdown, Steve (Watts) stumbled across it, tells me that he likes it, and asked me if I fancy recording a full version of it, and here we are.”
‘Fox on the Run’is Falling Nine’s first new release in four years. “Sometimes life gets in the way, which is why we’ve taken so long between this and our last record (2016’s ‘Atonement’), but priorities have shifted and we’re pumped to be working on new music again.”
Falling Nine are:
David Lydiard – Vocals / Guitars / Synths
Steven Watts – Guitars / Bass / Drums
Guest lead guitarist Justin Larner was also enlisted by the duo and contributes his own original solo, giving the Sweet classic a twenty-first century makeover.
“Justin is an incredible guitar player and I’ve been a fan of his tone and his playing since first hearing him when he played with Grand Ultra, says Lydiard. “We wanted a solo that kicks you in the arse and Justin nailed it 100%.”
‘Fox on the Run’ was released on 27th November 2020 and is available on all streaming platforms
Following the release of his highly acclaimed new album ‘The Last Glam In Town’ I talk to former Glitter Band legend, John Rossall. Our chat covers glam rock, show bands, growing up in Blackpool and, of course, John’s new album and the prospect of touring again post-Covid.
The last glam in town – that’s quite a statement isn’t it?
People have their own perspectives and thoughts on it. I just wanted to do an album. I’ve not done one for years and years, well forty-odd years, of original songs. But, yeah, I think it’s a bit of a statement really.
It’s such an authentic sound on the album that really captures the original spirit of glam. What was the experience like in the studio, making a glam rock album in the 2020s rather than the 1970s?
Well, for a start in the 70s you were actually in the room with somebody. If anybody was going to record something, they actually came in the studio to do it. You couldn’t have a guitar player playing his part in, say, Berlin and the drummer drumming in Stockholm. That’s a change. That took me a while to get used to.
Clearly it worked! Did you find the technology helped you create that glam sound even though it was recorded in a completely different context?
In some ways it did. But you have to write the song first before you worry about the technology. But I knew what I wanted to do before I started recording. I wanted to update what we did – the Glitter sound, basically. I wanted to bring it right up to the twenty-first century. It’s not been played on radio stations for quite a long time and I kind of wanted to update it. Make the drums a bit more powerful and make one or two subtle changes. But the main ingredients of it, the original production – I wanted to keep some of that magic in it.
You must be very encouraged with the reviews so far?
Yes, I am. It’s like I’ve written them myself almost! It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.
Tell us about some of the people you collaborated with on the album.
I had a few people. Apart from my touring band – that was the basic bottom line – but I had different guests on different songs. For instance, Jon Robb from the Membranes, we got together. I wanted to take the Glitter thing to a bit of a dark side, an almost avant-garde thing. And I found that the most challenging thing, to update it in that way but keep the roots of it still there, you know. Also, I worked with Robert Lloyd from the Nightingales. I recorded three songs with him and also Mark Standby, who’s a long-time collaborator. He was in my band about twenty years ago. He lives in Berlin now. I got Bob Bradbury from Hello to write a song for me. I wanted him to do one where we produce a kind of tribal feel with the drums. And then I got Michael (Wikman) from Sweden who plays the drum track on that. Of course, not forgetting Alan Merrill from the Arrows who wrote ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ who wrote a song for me (‘Equaliser’) not long before he passed away, a couple of months later.
That was written especially for you for this album, was it?
Yes. We knew each other quite well in the 70s, obviously. But you know, over the years you kind of lose touch, like you do. But in the last five years we reconnected and did about three short tours in the UK. And the magic – he was still the same guy. I really enjoyed the tours we did with him and it’s so sad he never got to hear the finished thing. He actually plays guitar and does backing vocals on there.
Some of the songs on the album are really personal to you, aren’t they, like ‘Blackpool Rocks’?
Well there’s quite a lot of songs about Blackpool that I learnt when I was growing up. Most of them by the great legend George Formby – ‘My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock’ and ‘Cleaning Windows’ and all that kind of thing. But I kind of wanted to do one that went over my childhood. I grew up in Blackpool. My dad was in quite a famous Blackpool band in the Empress Ballroom. He played there for twenty years and as a kid, aged about 10 or 11, I used to go down there about once a week. And I used to stand at the side of the stage. Of course, I liked swing bands when I was about 10, 11, 12. And because he worked at the Tower Company, Winter Gardens we used to get a lot of free tickets to the summer season shows. And the whole atmosphere of Blackpool in the 50s was amazing. And that’s what basically the song is about. My childhood, Blackpool in the summer and my dad, who was still my mentor, even after all these years. So that’s what that was about. I was quite happy when it was done although it was one of the hardest songs to write on the album, actually.
If we can now go back to the very early days of your career. You were leading the Boston Show Band in the late 60s and early 70s and they morphed into the Glitter Band. We tend to think of show bands as mainly an Irish thing, but you were an English band working in Germany, weren’t you?
My first professional job, earning a living, was in an Irish show band. And I lived in Ireland for a few years. And then I joined the Mike Leander Show Band, which was an eleven-piece band, back in 1965. We did an eleven-week tour, an old-fashioned kind of package tour with the Bachelors headlining and people like Susan Maughan. And then the band disbanded and I didn’t know what to do and I thought I’ll start my own band. And that’s what I did a few months after that. Got an act together, got some guys together and we went across to Germany in 1966 and we stayed there for about nearly six years. Of course, there were personnel changes, people leave, somebody wants to settle down and when they got home sick, they’d want to go back to the UK. But I enjoyed doing it. We worked together with Paul Raven (Gary Glitter) during that time. And we kind of split really beginning of 72. We were touring the UK quite heavily. And myself and Harvey Ellison, the other sax player in the band, we had laid some notes down on ‘Rock and Roll (Part 2)’ in December of 71 and we thought the record had fizzled out. Then I got a call from Mike Leander around about the beginning of June of 72. And he asked whether we’d like to re-acquaint ourselves and work with Paul Raven again with ‘Rock and Roll (Part 2)’. And I thought yeah, we’ll do that. We were doing quite well and had some records as the Boston Showband at that time and I did make it a condition – and I liked the idea of Mike Leander producing – I did make it a condition that we would get to do a record after a reasonable amount of time, which we did.
And how many albums did you do with the Glitter Band then?
I did two.
People wouldn’t necessarily think show band to glam rock as the obvious route. But there were parts of the show band sound that became an integral part of the Glitter Band sound weren’t there?
The main thing was that most bands and groups around, they were just guitars and drums and maybe keyboards. Not a lot of them had sax and brass so that was correct. And, of course, in my very early days as a teenager in Blackpool I was playing in brass bands. And ‘Angel Face’ that’s got a kind of brass band feel about it, with the drums and the way the brass section goes especially in the middle eight. Some of those ideas, of course are apparent on the new album. As I said, I only did two albums with the Glitter Band back in the 70s, but this album is kind of the album I missed out on – that I wanted to make. Because when I left, I felt I had unfinished business with the band. I wanted the band to do something in America. We’d done it in the UK and Europe but to me the job was only half done. And I left.
So, this album isn’t just a career renaissance for you it’s actually a career highlight in terms of albums then?
Yeah, it is. When I started making the album it never entered my head, I was going to make a 70s album or a glam album. It’s just me. I’m the guy who wrote those songs in the 70s. And I’m a lot older now and more mature obviously – I hope! And I write songs now. And it’s people who are listening who put you where they think you should be. And it wasn’t a nostalgic album either. I just wanted to make a brand new statement and update the Glitter sound and do some fun songs. And that’s what this is about – having fun really, nothing serious.
You left the Glitter Band in the mid-70s for a solo career. For those who are maybe not familiar with your career since then do you want to just briefly sum up what you did musically between the Glitter Band and now with this album?
Well I did a couple of singles which were quite decent, but I was quite unlucky actually. One was playlisted everywhere. A song called ‘It’s No Use You Telling Me No’ a song I did with Twentieth Century Fox. And lo and behold just as it was coming out, they decided to close their UK office down. And we tried to buy the master back to give it to another record company, but they wouldn’t let us have it. And I was quite disillusioned. Then I went to Sweden for quite a few years. I was relatively unknown there. I thought my music was done but after a couple of years it never really leaves you. And I got a band together – Swedish guys – with the idea of just playing a few gigs, getting together at the weekends just for a bit of fun. But then I started getting invitations to go to Germany playing festivals. Big festivals, a couple of trips to the UK and, of course, it like reawakens you – the hunger. So, we were touring, quite a bit and shows in the UK. Not with any original music just mainly the old hits. And about two years ago I thought it would be nice to go on tour, make a new album with some brand-new songs and that would give me something new and creative. Well, of course, I got the album bit done and I should be on tour really now but obviously I’m not.
Yes, that’s something that’s affected every musician.
That’s the luck again! It strikes!
So, what are your plans now this album is out and assuming at some point venues reopen and we can start seeing live gigs again?
Hopefully, we’ll still tour the album, albeit next March, April, May – whenever we’re allowed to and it’s safe to do so, of course. That’s my immediate plan. Of course, the album’s only been released a couple of weeks so it’s still early days for it. We’ll have to see how we go with the album, really, and then that will decide what I do. But if it remains the same as now, I’ll probably go out and promote the album and do some shows. I still enjoy playing live. It’s still a great feeling you know.
And still going out there playing music. You could be the Jerry Lee Lewis of glam rock. The last glam standing?
Yes well. If the cap fits, yes!
Anything else you want to say?
Well I just hope people give it a chance, give it a good listen to and go out and buy it obviously. And I hope I can perform it next year on some live shows. I know through social media that people really want me to tour the album and that’s what I’ll try to do. So, all I want to say is I hope everyone gets through this alright and we can carry on and life gets back to something a bit like more like normal for us all.
Thanks to Claire Moat and Anne Street for their assistance in arranging this interview.
From Slade’s Til Deaf Do Us Part in the early 80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal boom, to Sweet’s melodic, prog-inspired masterpiece Sweet Life in the early 00s, there have definitely been some great albums from glam rock artists who subsequently managed to reinvent themselves once the allure of sequins and silver platforms began to wane. But, really, has there been anything approaching a great glam rock album since the 1970s? Look no further Glitter Band alumni, John Rossall, has just released one.
All tribal beats, honking brass, fuzzed-up guitar, sing-along choruses and enough handclaps and chants of ‘Hey’ to last you a lifetime, The Last Glam In Town is a modern masterpiece of the genre.
Rossall was part of the original Glitter Band back in the day, playing not only on a string of the shamed Leader’s early hits but going on to record a succession of Glitter Band favourites without their now-disgraced and unmentionable frontman. Rossall subsequently left in 1974 for a somewhat uneventful solo career. I’ve seen him numerous times over the past couple of decades wowing the crowds with a selection of hits from both Glitter (the man) and Glitter (the band). Last Glam In Town, however, is something else altogether – a whole new album of superbly-crafted songs that capture the vibrance, assertiveness and pure fun of glam in its heyday.
Longtime collaborator Mark Standley along with members of Rossall’s touring band, post-punk outfit the Nightingales (whose lead singer, Robert Lloyd, sings two songs), and John Robb of punk legends the Membranes (who also provides vocals on two tracks) all feature on the album alongside Rossall.
Among the album’s ten glam-filled tracks, highlights include the wonderfully menacing album opener ‘Fear of a Glam Planet’ and ‘Blackpool Rocks’ a tribute to Rossall’s home town and his father and musical hero, Bob Rossall, who returned to Blackpool after serving in the Second World War and played in Blackpool’s Empress Orchestra for two decades.
Another track ‘Equaliser’ was written by Rossall’s old friend Alan Merrill of Arrows, writer of the glam anthem ‘I Love Rock ‘n Roll’, who gifted the song to Rossall before tragically passing away from Covid back in March. Alongside the original material, the album also contains a suitably glammed-up cover of the Honeycombs ‘Have I The Right’ and concludes with an energetic cover of one of the Glitter Band’s biggest hits, playfully retitled here as ‘Let’s Get Together Again (Again)’.
For inspired and original glam rock with energy, joie de vivre and twenty-first century credibility John Rossall is definitely your man. A superb album.
Released: 30th October 2020 by Tiny Global Productions
While I’ve no intention of buying it myself (given I’ve got more Slade albums, Slade singles, Slade reissues and Slade compilations than you can shake a stick at) I was well chuffed to see Slade’s new greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz go straight in at No. 8 in the UK’s album chart last Friday.
This is the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974. Even during the days of the band’s early 80s comeback, a decade after glam, Slade albums were still struggling to make it to the Top 40, even when they had a second run of hit singles.
What has been nice, and clearly what has helped with sales, is all four original members working to publicise the release and celebrate the band’s shared legacy – even if they do not all see eye to eye these days.
While some bands of a certain vintage split into two rival camps, with Slade it’s all been a bit more complicated. Noddy doesn’t get on with Jim these days but rubs along just fine with Dave and Don. Jim doesn’t have time for Nod or Dave but is on good terms with Don, sending the latter heartfelt good wishes when he suffered a stroke earlier this year. Dave doesn’t get on with Jim and had a pretty acrimonious falling out with Don earlier this year, too, when he sacked him as drummer from his continuing version of Slade. But Dave does get on well with Nod, the two keeping in touch with one another by phone through lockdown. Don, meanwhile, gets on just fine with Jim and Nod in spite of that big falling out with Dave. Got all that?
Still, it’s nice that the four of them put on a united front to promote Cum On Feel The Hitz which collects most of Slade’s singles from 1970 to 1991. The double CD comprises 43 tracks, while the double vinyl features 24.
Noddy: “It’s been remastered. They sound bloody great and there’s a double vinyl out as well. The record company wanted to do it. They wanted to make it a definitive collection, which it pretty much is. In this time of lockdown, I think people need a bit of Slade. We always put a smile on people’s faces. This is the perfect time to cheer people up. Hopefully it’ll reach a new generation too.”
Dave: “The thinking behind it is that BMG signed us for this big deal and really when you’re looking at something like this you’re almost giving us a reappraisal of how many hits we really had.”
Jim:“I’m absolutely thrilled with the chart placing of ‘Cum On Feel The Hitz’ tonight. Many thanks to all the fans for buying the CDs, vinyl and downloading the album. Great to see it in the Top Ten. Rock on!”
Don: “This is fantastic news! I never thought that I’d see us back in the Top Ten again. I was told earlier that BMG thought the album would enter the charts around #7 or #8 – and if it’s been confirmed that the official position in the UK chart is number 8 then that’s great!”
Cheers guys – great to see you back in the charts!