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Get Your Rocks Off – Eddie And The Hot Rods

October 5, 2020

Jungle FREUDLP079

I was delighted to be asked by Alan Hauser at Jungle Records to write the sleeve notes for this double LP, just released in time for Record Store Day 2 (you can also get it via the usual digital services). 

The Hot Rods were such a breath of fresh air when they hit London in 1975. They weren’t punks but nor were they Tales From Topographic Oceans. We saw them a lot and I was lucky enough to attend one of their sweatbox Marquee dates where their thrilling live EP was recorded. If you enjoyed that EP then this LP is very much more of the same. Recorded in  France in May 1976 with Marc Zermati (RIP) in attendance this set is just like being there. An added bonus on side 4 of the vinyl is three studio recordings featuring Lew Lewis on harp (also available to view on the Skydog YouTube channel. And the discs themselves are a fetching shade of red and blue.  Great pics from Michael Beal and a spiffy gatefold sleeve. Highly recommended.

Side 1

  1. The Kids Are Alright (Pete Townsend) Fabulous Music
  2. IT Came Out of The Sky (JOHN FOGERTY)
  3. On the Run (Higgs) Universal/Island Music
  4. Cruisin’ In the Lincoln (Higgs/Hollis) Universal/Island Music

Side 2

  1. WoolLy Bully (Domingo Samudio) Carlin Music Corps
  2. Writing on The Wall (Higgs/Hollis) Universal/Island Music Limited
  3. Horseplay (Higgs/Hollis) Universal/Island Music
  4. Gloria (Van Morrison) Carlin Music Corps
  5. Double Checking Woman (Higgs) Universal/Island Music

Side 3

  1. Get Out of Denver (BOB SEGER)
  2. Moving On (Higgs/Hollis) Copyright Control
  3. Bye Bye Johnny (Chuck Berry) Jewel Music Pub. Co. Ltd
  4. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Jagger/Richards) Abkco Music Ltd/Onward/Westminster Music

Side 4

  1. Writing on The Wall (Higgs/Hollis) Universal/Island Music Limited
  2. Horseplay (Higgs/Hollis) Universal/Island Music
  3. Get Out of Denver (BOB SEGER)

Tracks 1-13 recorded live in at the Royer, Epernay, France May 14th 1976

Tracks 14 -15 are studio tracks recorded some time in 1975

 

Personnel

 

Barrie Masters – Vocals

Dave Higgs – Guitar

Paul Gray – Bass

Steve Nicol – Drums

Lew Lewis – Harmonica (tracks 14-16)

 

Sleevenotes

By late 1975 something new was definitely going on in London. Dr Feelgood started it – roaring out of Canvey Island all narrow lapels and short, sharp songs. Their influence would prove to be massive, not least in New York where Blondie drummer and anglophile Clem Burke returned from a UK holiday with a copy of the first Feelgoods album that influenced the nascent NY club scene both in terms of sound and vision. The success of the Feelgoods spurred on another local band, who had just changed their name from Buckshee to Eddie And The Hot Rods, in homage to the popular Cruisin’ re-release series of LPs. Singer Barrie Masters, guitarist and songwriter Dave Higgs and drummer Steve Nicol were joined first by 15-year old bass player Paul Gray and then by harmonica player Lew Lewis. Another crucial recruit was ex-DJ and madcap record collector Ed Hollis who was assigned the job of manager.

Ed Hollis exposed the band to a wide variety of music, so that in addition to the predictable Who and the Stones cover-versions the bands repertoire expanded to include songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival, the J.Geils Band, Bob Seeger and garage bands such as ? and the Mysterions, Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs and Them. A big fan of Detroit’s proto-punks MC5, Ed also encouraged a more aggressive stage act with songs performed at a fearsome pace.

Eddie and the Hot Rods made their London debut at the Kensington on May 17 1975 as Barrie remembered to Devorah Ostrov. “This Irish fellow named Matt Farley used to run the Kensington. He said, ‘I’ll take a chance.’ The first week there were like ten people there. And Matt said, ‘You can come next week if you want to.’ We were only getting £10 or £15 for playing. Anyway… the next week twenty people turned up. By the third week it was full and the fourth week it was heaving. Then suddenly the phones started ringing. And we didn’t stop after that! We just got loads and loads of gigs!”. The band signed to Island under the guidance of sympatico A&R Howard Thompson and released their first single Writing On The Wall / Cruisin’ In The Lincoln in February 1976, both songs being Higgs/Hollis compositions. Soon afterwards the band parted company with Lew Lewis (“he drove us mad after a few months”).

Which brings us to May 1976, the Hot Rods speeding through France together with Skydog Records supremo Marc Zermati and arriving at a small club in Epernay. The town is famous as the epicentre of the Champagne district and the band’s performance positively fizzes with energy. This recording is crucial as it documents the band at a pivotal stage in their development. There were still plenty of cover versions but some cracking originals were beginning to appear such as Double Checking Woman, Horseplay and the extended On The Run where Paul Gray’s Hawkwind influences became apparent. When I saw the band later that summer in July during their sweatbox residency at London’s Marquee Barrie Masters used the lengthy instrumental break during On The Run to disappear from the stage, only to reappear shrouded in loo roll like a mummy. A manic Get Out Of Denver ended the set at a speed so close to the velocity of sound itself that the song seems to end several minutes before it began” (Charles Shaar Murray, New Musical Express). Three encores were demanded and delivered, including a Higgs/Hollis original called Moving On which was never released officially.

As a special bonus Side 4 contains live in the studio versions of three Hot Rods favourites recorded with Lew Lewis on harmonica doing his best Magic Dick. The addition of mouth harp adds real texture and drive to the sound, making Lewis’ early exit from the band a real disappointment

Listening back to these tracks today I marvel at the verve and economy the Rods showed at a time when both were in short supply. The Nicol and Gray rhythm section were simple and powerful, always driving the songs forward. Dave Higgs was an excellent rhythm guitarist who could do the Wilko Johnson/Mick Green trick of combining lead and rhythm when needed. And Barrie Masters was a commanding front man and a powerful vocalist.

Things began to come together for the band when the Live At The Marquee EP recorded at the aforementioned London residency reached #43 in the UK singles chart. Ed Hollis then indulged his MC5 fantasies further by bringing in Southend’s Graeme Douglas (ex-Kursaal Flyers) on second guitar. Graeme’s songwriting skills resulted in the anthemic “Do Anything You Wanna Do” – “the best pop single of 1977’ according to Back Door Man magazine. The Rods had made it.

But it’s a mighty long way down rock’n’roll and the class of 1977 was more image-conscious and politically outspoken than the Hot Rods. The success of the Clash, Pistols, Buzzcocks et al eclipsed that of the Hot Rods and the band started to look a little old-fashioned. Different incarnations of the Hot Rods recorded and toured until Barrie was the last remaining original member. Dave Higgs died in 2013, Barrie in 2019.  Paul Gray records and tours with the Damned and Steve Nicol still drums on occasion. Ed Hollis died in 1988 after struggling with drug addiction for many years.

This record is a fine tribute to the first and finest line up of the Hot Rods, the band who blew away the remnants of pub rock and cleared the way for punk. On a good night they were the most thrilling band in the land. Now the excitement of a full live set has been captured on vinyl. You gotta go!

Sleevenotes: Simon Wright

For more on Ed Hollis and the story of Speedball Records check out https://onlyrockandroll.london/2017/03/15/too-much-too-soon-ed-hollis-and-speedball-records/

 

From → Music

2 Comments
  1. Mike Baess permalink

    Nice review Simon. What a great band they were. Loved them and also caught them at the Marquee a few times in summer 76 – but just after the EP was recorded.

    They were the unwritten heroes of that particular sulphate-fuelled short-lived genre of speed-rock that included the Feelgoods, Pink Fairies and Hawkwind
    and which directly gave rise to punk in the UK.

    I remember seeing them at the Marquee one Friday and then staying up all night (heh heh) to go to the really disappointing free Queen gig at Hyde Park. I always thought they should have ditched the flares earlier on.

    I made a recording of them at one of those Marquee shows.

    Mike

    ________________________________

  2. I even went as far as Maidenhead to see them!

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