The Hollywood Brats
7Sick On You: The Album / A Brats Miscellany
The classic ‘lost’ debut from London proto-punk legends, newly remastered by keyboardist Casino Steel and now resplendent with a second disc of previously unheard outtakes, rarities, live tracks & curios. Produced in collaboration with singer Andrew Matheson whose ‘Sick On You’ account of the band’s story, was THE must-read rock book of 2015. A BBC Documentary on the band is currently in production, due to air in the Autumn of 2016. Ged Babey beats on the Brats.
I am reminded of a song-title, which sums up what this album is. It was the first single by Dream City Film Club, I think, and called Perfect Piece of Trash. Music can be profound, soulful and valuable in emotional terms, but sometimes it is just worthless, shallow, rubbish, which this is. Yet at the same time it is perfect, thoroughly entertaining and life-affirming stuff, in its own way.
When I next pontificate about the depth of meaning in song-lyrics just remind me that one of my favourite couplets is on this album.
Wake Up Little Soozie / Stop picking your nose / Wake Up Little Soozie / Put on some decent clothes
It’s a great piece of Stones/Faces boogie called Tumble With Me which actually sounds a bit like Oasis.
The Brats were actually a lot closer to the Sexy Subversive Rock’n’Roll version of the Bay City Rollers that McClaren imagined the Pistols being. They also pre-empted and invented Guns’n’Roses and Hanoi Rocks so I suppose it is only right that Matheson and co get their dues and a bit of long overdue respect.
In amongst hundreds of tapes of songs recorded off John Peel shows from 1979/80 that I have in the loft, I have one, a tape-to-taped compilation of three bands which was among my most-played, most-loved and now probably disintegrated to dust. It brought together tracks from The Heartbreakers Live at Maxes, the Lurkers Gods Lonely Men and the Hollywood Brats eponymous album. It defined for me Punk Rock’n’Roll at its most perfect -then, at the age of 15, and now…? It’s evocative of teenage, juvenile rock’n’roll fantasy. Thunders was boorish and surly, the Lurkers (actually very under-rated songwriters and GLM has some classics on it but) wrote a horrendous song called Just Thirteen. But the Masters of Brash, Dumb, Fantasy, Punk Rock’n’Roll were the legendary-even-then Hollywood Brats. All there songs practically were about wicked nymphomaniac lil’ rich girls…. OK, there’s one about hating school “the teacher acts like being a kid is a crime!” but its mostly sex with posh totty, except for one who is a Nightmare, because she is “a little too old”.
The Brats piece de resistance is Sick On You – the most vile, puerile, nasty, stupid anti-love song ever…. but hilarious, full of switchblade, slip-slidin’ guitar and a completely over the top vocal performance. It is irresistible. A vomit-splattered classic with prototype punk cartoonishness.
“Drummer wanted. Young, slim, must look, act and think like a star. No beards, no chrome-domes, no fatties.” – so ran The Hollywood Brats’ infamous 1972 advert in Melody Maker. Born out of the imagination of singer Andrew Matheson and his musical ally and partner in grime Casino Steel, the band went on to lay the foundations of what would become punk rock, guzzling up every gallon of glitter juice they could blag and leaving no stiletto unturned along the way. London’s hottest nightspots became their playground, Keith Moon their cheerleader and every record label in town detested them. Freddie Mercury was punched in the face and Malcolm McLaren sent home disappointed as The Brats moved at the speed of light through a London that was doing its best to remember how it’d swung.
Yeah OK. enough already. I’m all for a bit of rock’n’roll mythology but Mathesons ego and mania for self-publicity seems to have rubbed off on Cherry Reds PR department with their soundbite quote machine going into over-drive. and the check-list of cliche’s involving sex, drug, rock’n’roll, alcohol, fights and mayhem ticks every box. Twice.
In this interview he comes across like a bit of a hammy old rock’n’roll Lovejoy!
“Proper, true rock ‘n’ roll. The music is magnificent” – BOB GELDOF
“The Hollywood Brats are the greatest band I’ve ever seen” – KEITH MOON
“The Hollywood Brats are a folk legend; they were doing what they were doing before anybody” – BOB STANLEY
Fuck OFF! Were they really that good? Weren’t they just a London version of New York Dolls?
From the recorded evidence on display here, they were, on their one original album, a really, really good rock’n’roll band. In fact they were fucking magic! They really were the missing link between the Rolling Stones & Glam and the Sex Pistols & Punk Rock. Like Pub Rock Never Happened even.
The band name and image of course is very much like the New York Dolls but they only became the Hollywood Brats after Queen stole their original name -The Queen! The Brats and the Dolls seem to have had a parallel timeline but the fact Billy Doll died in London in November ’72 means the Brats evidently knew of them and were impressed by their look and attitude, if not their sound.
The Dolls pre-reunion repertoire was perfect in every way in terms of cartoonish, sleazy, sex and drug rock’n’roll. The Brats on the other hand had seven, utterly magnificent songs on their album and four not-so-good, too-bluesy & Stones-ish ones (in my book).
The second ‘Miscellany’ disc which is great to hear after all this time has some real quality trashy rock’n’roll therein. I Need You and Little Ol’ Wine Drinker Me are kickin’, dumb rock’n’roll that taste of sulphate and reek of alcohol respectively…. BUT… there is a lot of filler. Bar-band blues covers of Hoochie Cootchie Man, St Louis Blues and attempts at Gram Parsons style country rock, (Truckers lament) and a grandiose epic with rolling piano and string section going for a Mott the Hoople feel. As if to make up for this buck-chasing business-minded variety of options the final track is a 30 second recording of smashing bottles and retching presumably post-gig and an unidentified band member complaining ‘It’s not funny’. That confirms their we invented punk credibility then!
I’m being harsh as I love the Hollywood Brats for their sheer unabashed juvenile brashness. Sick On You is one of my favourite songs as for a trashy, vile pop song it is cathartic and exorcises pointless petty anger in a fun way. The guitar sound is the rawest and best too.
Suckin’ On Suzy from CD2 is the most appallingly sexist piece of braggadocio in glam rock. Yet it is still hilarious, a guilty pleasure about which i feel no guilt at all as it really was a time and a place that didn’t actually exist, except in Mathesons sex-obsessed mind. Never has a misogynist asshole been so hoisted by his own petard yet seemed to actually enjoy it!
The Hollywood Brats weren’t really innovators, they were just a fine rock’n’roll band, in love with the music, the lifestyle and the ‘chicks after the show’ but this is a great testament to their music and the joyfulness and ludicrousness, energy and spunk they had!
Buy the album here
I hear that – ‘The Hollywood Brats’ will be touring Europe, Japan and the Americas in the near future. Matheson’s ‘Sick On You’ book is published in the USA by Penguin this summer.
Just in from Cherry Red –
Camden’s All Ages Records have announced an instore signing session with Andrew Matheson; lead-singer for the legendary Hollywood Brats… the greatest UK pre-punk, punk band you have probably never heard of!! Look them up !! You will love them if you are a fan of… New York Dolls, Stones, The Who , Kinks… they really are that good !! We’ve re-released their only album on CD… WITH a BONUS CD of never-heard demos. To describe it as phenomenal is a gross understatement! So why not get this beauty signed by Andrew! Head to All Ages Records in Camden Town circa 5.00pm on Saturday July 30th and meet the legend that is Andrew!
ALL AGES RECORDS
27A PRATT STREET
All words by Ged Babey whose author profile is here