2-CD / LP /DL
The Boys were formed from the ashes of ’70s glam outfit The Hollywood Brats & made possibly two of the best LPs of that decade – LPs which have just received the deluxe reissue treatment.
The Boys were all but written out of the Savage authorised history of 1976 / 77 punk, partly because, like Glen Matlock, they liked the Beatles.
They were also in thrall to rock ’n’ roll’s past full stop. Chuck Berry solo’s, Rolling Stones rip-offs, Jerry Lee piano … and they weren’t part of the supposedly “political” side of punk that Anarchy and White Riot signposted… They didn’t want to destroy rock’ n ’roll, passers-by or rip-up the rulebook. They wanted pop stardom and to reap the financial and sexual rewards that go with the territory. They were “Lads” the Boys and their detractors could easily make a case for them being as sexist as The Stranglers were (allegedly) and “only in it for the birds after the show”.
The 16-page sleeve notes to these two beautifully packaged deluxe reissues make the case for The Boys being the great lost band of 77 punk, the unluckiest group in that they could’ve been contenders and as successful as The Buzzcocks. It places them there at the beginning, the days of the London SS when the key players of punk; Mick Jones, Brian James were thinking about forming bands inspired by the Dolls and MC5. In the ranks of the boys however was Casino Steel who’d been a member of the forgotten legends and Londons answer to the Dolls, the Hollywood Brats; Keith Moons favourite band, a wild glam-rock bar-room boogie band and proto-punks thanks to a song called Sick On You. Their only LP was released in Scandinavia and didn’t come out until 1980 on Cherry Red elsewhere. It’s a priceless album, one of my favourites; laugh out loud funny and as kick-ass and genius as it is corny & clichéd.
To be honest, I’ve always preferred the Brats versions of Sick on You and Tumble With Me as the Boys versions sped them up unnecessarily and took out the Faces swagger and Dolls flounce and the guitars didn’t have the space and time to breathe their sick breath and howl their sleazy blues-licks….
But I come to praise the Boys, because despite the fact that they seemed to some to be bandwagon-jumpers before the vehicle had even got out of the garage, they were still a great band, worth checking out for the simple fact that they were a lot of fun and made brilliant dumb pop music/ rock ’n’ roll. In fact in some ways they were the street-tough-version of the Bay City Rollers that MacClaren imagined the Pistols would be.
Funnily enough, transferring the albums from disc to my I-pod revealed the designated I-tunes genre to be R’n’B and not punk.
The reissues are noticeably remastered and nicely packaged but the 16 pages of sleeve-notes attempt to redress the balance of exclusion from the “England’s Dreaming” type histories….but go too far. The Boys, like Oasis did incorporate obvious Beatles-isms but that didn’t make them “the Beatles of Punk” and there is no way that the début album was as good or better than Buzzcocks début. Another Music sounded fresh and modern with guitars as sharp as stainless steel, whereas by the second song on the Boys début, they’d resorted to a Beatles cover with a trad 12-bar-blues section. Buzzcocks songs were gender-neutral and full of romance & yearning. The Boys songs were full of lust, one-night stands, call-girls, groupies and casual sex with a misogynistic streak.
Not that this really matters if all you want is heads-down, no-nonsense, mindless boogie in punk rock threads. Kiss Like A Nun and Classified Susie were Hollywood Brats re-writes dating from 1974 anyway; the time when Benny Hill was King.
The best of the songs on The Boys were I Don’t Care, Cop Cars, Keep Running and No Money when they write about the reality of life in the capital in the Seventies rather than their libidos. First Time is undeniable classic in a roles-reversed Shangri-La’s style, but like brothers-in-arms The Lurkers Just Thirteen, it now has a distinct air of dodginess in the current post-Saville climate.
Alternative Chartbusters opens with the Boys very best glam-pop anthem Brickfield Nights but rapidly goes downhill with its McCartney-esque ballad Heroine which breaks up the pace with its dire plodding. A cover version of Rat Pack bossa-nova number Sway is ruined with its shout of “Blow you greasy wop” before its Mariachi trumpet solo. It would take you right back to 1978 if only the CD came with a DVD of Love Thy Neighbour….
The bonus CD’s with these reissues make them definitely worth buying as they are, in some cases the missing link between the barstool-glam of the Brats and the r’n’b pop of the boys. Honky-tonk piano is more pronounced and the Faces meets Smokie ballad “It Only Hurts When I Cry” is particularly effective.
To Boys fanatics this might come over as a slagging, which wasn’t my intention. I’ve really enjoyed these two albums and the bonus cd’s and they are top-notch rock ’n’ roll albums which had their place in ’77 and ’78 in the same way as Eddie & the Hot Rods or say the Motors did. The lyrical content though, which OK, might well have been tongue in cheek in the first place, dates them and is probably what held them back at the time. That and the fact that unlike their punk contemporaries they lacked a distinctive vocalist. I can’t even tell Matt Dangerfield and Duncan “Kid” Reid apart. You couldn’t mistake Rotten, Strummer or Weller after tens seconds of hearing their voice could you?
The Boys should’ve been bigger and more successful than they were and made great dumb power-pop, glam-rock R ’n’ B but they weren’t the Beatles of Punk and you have to read between the lines of their re-written version of their history, or better still , just crank up these albums and enjoy them for what they are.
The remastered albums also come with bonus CDs featuring previously unreleased material including Dangerfields original home demo of Brickfield Nights and Plains first vocal outing on It Only Hurts When I Cry.
All words by Ged Babey, more bollocks by him on Louder Than War here.
STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS
Legendary Hollywood Brats Singer And Founding Member Of The Boys Andrew Matheson Is Flying In From Canada To Rejoin The Boys On Stage As A Special Guest At The Boys London Gig At The Borderline On Saturday 22 June 2013.