01 October 2020
Diamond Head – Lightning to the nations
Not too many great things have come out of Stourbridge, but one of them is the band Diamond Head. Formed there in 1976, they were a part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the late 70s to mid 80s. Guitarist Brian Tatler is still with the band as they tour and record, having been at the helm throughout their career, starting with their debut album ‘Lightning To The Nations’, released in October 1980. Having already supported AC/DC and Iron Maiden on the road, Diamond Head were all set to take on the bigger boys and went looking for a record deal, having used their own Happy Face label to get some product in the public domain. Sean Harris, Colin Kimberley and Duncan Scott joined Tatler on seven tracks of hard rock, including the song covered by Metallica, ‘Am I Evil?’. For a debut, it was tight and included future tour favourites ‘The Prince’ and ‘Sucking My Love’. Whilst not setting the world on fire, the material and musicianship were enough to get the band noticed and sales at gigs were steady. The band went on to have success with ‘Borrowed Time’ on the MCA label, before a complete change in sound on ‘Canterbury’. Last year’s ‘The Coffin Train’ release was on the money, full of superb rock music and they are regulars at festivals and hopefully will be again soon.
Reviewed by Tony Heare
Dire Straits – ‘Making Movies’
When us rockers and metalheads talk about 1980 we tend to focus on the NWOBHM and Saxon, Iron Maiden and Motorhead etc who all released seminal albums in this year. Dire Straits should be mentioned in the same revered tones with ‘Making Movies’. Having released two albums prior Mark Knopfler most definitely got it right with this release. The talent was developing with tracks like ‘Sultans Of Swing’, ‘Down To The Waterline’ and ‘Lady Writer’ but – for me – it all came together on this one.
Knopfler developed his knack for tory telling and writing cinematic lyrics that were sung in his understated JJ Cale croon. The music was prog like in its complexity but still melodic and accessible to the masses. Taking his inspiration from his days living in both Newcastle and London the songs come to life with images of painful unrequited love all centred around the Pallisades amusement arcade and the streets of the capital plus a foray into the gay cabaret clubs too. Kicking off with an excerpt from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel Waltz’ introducing the tour de force of ‘Tunnel Of Love’ which is over eight minutes long and spread over several movements all around Knopfler’s warm Stratocaster fed through his Vox AC30 and the E-Street Band’s Roy Bittan’s beautiful bright piano lines. ‘Romeo And Juliet’ became an instant classic – let’s face it we’ve all had our heart broken and Knopfler put all that pain into words perfectly. Further future classics ‘Skateaway’, ‘Expresso Love’, ‘Hand In Hand’ – another beautiful ballad, the rockin’ ‘Soild Rock’ and the quirky and risqué ‘Les Boys’ all evoke vivid cinematic imagery.
Tensions arose during the making of the album where Knopfler’s brother David quit and went solo. Sid McGinnis was drafted in to provide the rhythm guitar, although uncredited. Knopfler decided to produce this along with the rising star Jimmy Iovine at the Powerstation in New York. The album reached #4 in the UK charts and stayed in the charts for 5 years. This was the start of Dire Straits dominance and showed the world what a brilliant songwriter Knopfler is.
Reviewed by Smudge
Bruce Springsteen – The River
The River, The Boss’s fifth album is a work of art. Unlike his later work I wouldn’t quite call it a political album but more of a stitch in time, a collection of well-crafted beautiful songs exploring the human being and the life that we lead. Hungry Heart was Springsteen’s first charting success but it certainly doesn’t steal the limelight in this masterclass. The Ties That Bind begins the journey, a route through working-class America dealing with love, money, the depression, wins and loses and everything inbetween. From the rock and roll Ramrod and Crush on You to the haunting feel of The River and Independence Day, The River is a slice of life told from a poet.
For many ordinary artists The River would be their piece de resistance but for someone as reliable and consistent as Bruce The River is an incredible album in the field of other incredible albums.
For the last twenty years of my life, ten years after it was released, I have listened to this album on a regular basis. I have no doubt that will never stop.
If you haven’t gave it an airing lately do your self a favour and give it a listen. If you’ve recently listened, play it again. And join the lives of the very real people who are living in the songs. The River for me, highlights Bruce as not only a social commentator, but a poet, a musician and a playwright.
Reviewed by Pete K Mally
Killing Joke – S/T Debut Album
Killing Joke… If I could pick Post-Punk debut albums that give me a bit of a stiffy…. This would be in my top 20.
My exposure to Killing Joke has been a long drawn out one. I jumped back – and dropped out. Then popped back and dropped out again. Then came back around 10 years ago in a slow fashion. A musical crime of sorts. Yet when it comes to the first two albums (S/T and What’s This For?) I’ve danced to Wardance and Tension at club nights more times than I care to even mention (even when i’ve been DJ’ing – fuck the crowd, Tension is going on as it’s my jam).
Requiem and Wardance open this album in a very bloated fashion that encapsulates your ears like being strangled by a BBW at a swingers party. You tell her to get off but you’re enjoying it. You;re not too sure which hole you’re in but you don’t care. By the time the stylus glides over to Tomorrow’s World it’s a eurphoric statement before you light the instrumental flame in a gas filled room with Bloodsport. On to the track The Wait which just sounds hard, dirty and dangerous and elevates the B-Side to the bass punching Complications and then sweeping over S.O.36. where the eurporia of the A-Side just leaves you lost but sit back, close your eyes and listen. As the album closes on Primitive and that distortion driven guitar. The album and track closes on a punch.
It took me numerous years to appreciate this album for what it is and it still amplifies itself with every listen. Killing Joke’s first offering in the long player world resonates. They bump themselves up more as they go along. As I said, Dirty Euphoria….
Reviewed by Steve May
JAPAN – Gentlemen take Polaroids
October 1980 a young 17 year old (me) had just left college and had my first job up in the West End of London at Claude Gills Bookshop (sadly no longer there). I didn’t know what I wanted from life but I loved my music and while listening to Capital Radio a magical sound came out of my Hi-fi in the shape of one David Sylvian and his group Japan with Gentlemen Take Polaroids it was the first single from their fourth studio album of the same name. It was a sound I hadn’t heard before with it’s eastern influenced synthetic sounds and I was hooked. Working for a book shop in the West End had an advantage as we had the band’s record label Virgin sitting just across the way with their Megastore. I grabbed a copy of the single as well as the album when it was released on the 24th of October 1980 and grabbed the number 74 bus back to Fulham, at least I think it was the number 74 bus as it’s a long time since I lived in London. where I lived with my mum and placed the album on my Hi-Fi. For the next forty four minutes I was spirited away to a world of eastern wonder with David and his band. David playing the majority of the synths, Piano and electric Guitar. The late Mick Karn on fretless bass and boy he could play that bass well. Steve Jansen on Drums, Roland 700 and Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. Richard Barbieri on synth and piano and Rob Dean on guitar and Ebow (This was his last appearance with the band). Additional Synthesizers played by Ryuichi Sakamoto.
What you had for your forty four minutes were eight tracks of New Wave at it’s finest from the dance sound of the title track through to the Smokey Robinson cover of Ain’t That Peculiar and the sound of Nightporter a 7 minute love song with it’s mix of haunting piano and ethereal Synths. The Standout track for me will always be Nightporter but I love the whole album. Taking Islands In Africa the final track on the album is a little belter spiriting you away to a world of eastern promise. I loved the sound so much that I became a fan of the band and although less than two years later they were gone they still have a place in my heart with their unique sound. I also had the pleasure of going into rose Morris up Tottenham court road to try out A Prophet 5 just because of the sounds I heard from this album, couldn’t afford that synthesizer though.
Reviewed by Mark Parker
Gillan – ‘Glory Road’
Having left Deep Purple in 1973 – giving a years notice by the way – Ian Gillan didn’t return to the music scene for a few years. Instead he discovered various business opportunities such as owning a hotel and attempting to develop a new motorbike. Both ventures failed so it was back to what he knew best. He formed the jazzier Ian Gillan Band and recruited the likes of guitarist Ray Fenwick and bass player John Gustafsson. This band produced a couple of albums but the fans didn’t take to the jazzy versions of ‘Child In Time’ so it was time to change. Gillan only retained keyboard wizard and songwriter Colin Towns for his new band – simply called Gillan. In came drummer Mick Underwood, who Gillan had played with in 60’popsters Episode Six, fiery Irish six stringer Bernie Torme and bald, bouncing bass man John McCoy.
Gillan the band released their debut – the heavy rockin’ ‘Mr Universe’ in 1979. It showed promise and returned Gillan to the good books of the long hairs who wanted his brand of heavy rock. A year later Gillan released ‘Glory Road’ which – to me – is THE definitive Gillan album. There’s no fanfare or long intro as ‘Unchain Your Brain’ tears out of the speakers then John McCoy’s legendary bass riff gets the same energy going on ‘Are You Sure’. The band ease for a breather on the bluesy ‘Time And Again’ then it’s back to high energy hard rock for ‘No Easy Way’. ‘Sleeping On The Job’ harks right back to his Deep Purple days then it’s the epic and dramatic ‘On The Rocks’. Ian Gillan then shows why he was so highly regarded as a singer with ‘If You Believe’ – yeah it’s a fairly standard blues work out by the band but just listen to Gillan’s voice. Spine tingling! The rollicking ‘White Face City Boy’ was the perfect single as an album closer ‘Nervous’ showed Gillan’s more progressive side.
You lucky people were in for a treat because the original release came with a second disc called ‘For Gillan Fans Only’. A bunch of outtakes and other musings highlighting Gillan and McCoy’s unique sense of humour. There are some gems on there though like Mick Underwood’s tribute to the fire brigade ‘Redwatch’, a song about Aleister Crowley’s house ‘Abbey Of Thelema’ and an impromptu jam between Samson’s Thunderstick, McCoy and Torme singing on an old Samson tune that was lying around – ‘Come Tomorrow’.
‘Glory Road’ pushed Gillan the band to the top of the tree where he was competing equally with the other Deep Purple spin offs – Rainbow and Whitesnake. But unlike them they just couldn’t crack the US market despite touring there consistently. Their sound just wasn’t as polished and they had a bit more of a progressive feel about them which was very English. Still, from a personal point of view ‘Glory Road’ pisses all over that competitions output at the time.
Torme held on for one more album then left – being replaced by former White Spirit man Janick Gers. Wonder what happened to him? The band imploded the next year with Gillan saying he needed to take a break due to having nodes on his vocal chords, then suddenly joining Black Sabbath. Who cares! ‘Glory Road’ should be considered a classic!
Reviewed by Smudge
THE POLICE – Zenyatta Mondatta
Released in October 1980, Zenyatta Mondatta was the third studio album by The Police. They found instant success with their debut album ‘Outlandos D’amour ’ in 1979 and had an even bigger success with their follow up ‘Regatta De Blanc’ in 1979 thus beating the problem many bands suffer with that dreaded second album!
The pressure was on in more ways than one. Their record label A&M had laid off 180 staff members just before recording was due to start and A&M were counting on this release for success. The band each felt their careers were at stake, such was the pressure to succeed. Sting, Copeland & Summers have all since voiced their disappointment with the album as Zenyatta Mondatta was written and recorded in 4 short weeks. The band weren’t getting along, they were short on time and in the unfamiliar surrounds of ‘Wisseloord Studios’ in Holland rather than that of ‘Surrey Sound’ where they’d recorded their first two albums.
Despite their personal feelings, the trio worked to a common goal and the album became a commercial success as it reached Number 1 in the UK album charts, went double platinum and spawned many a chart hit across the globe! Whilst the album seemed a very mixed bag of tunes to some, fortunately for them there was enough on the track listing to compensate. ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ went to number one in the UK charts and was the UK’s biggest selling single of 1980. It also gave them a top 10 hit in the States, their first foray into the US charts since Roxanne. That song was also rather crassly used in an advert for a popular deodorant, much to Stings chagrin. Imagine coming back from a tour, turning the TV on and being greeted by your hit song being used in a commercial without your knowledge! The second single ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’ hit number 5 in the UK and gave them another top 10 in the USA and it was that song that had many a parent look on in disbelief at the Radio & TV when it came on. “De do do do? No wonder the countries going to the dogs if that’s what people are singing!” I always found this ironic, given that their generation were brought up on ‘De Do ron ron ron’ and ‘do wah diddy, diddy dum diddy do’. Other songs on the album saw them turn their lyrical attention to politics as Sting commented on Poverty in the excellent ‘Driven To Tears’ whilst Stewart Copeland referred to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in ‘Bombs Away’. With Zenyatta Mondatta, Copeland, Summers & Sting fused Pop Rock with Reggae together very well, creating some quality tunes. However, for me it wasn’t a patch on their first two albums, despite the inclusion of the very infectious ‘Canary in A Coalmine’ which in my opinion showcased their unique brand of Pop/Rock perfectly.
Reviewed by Paul Cash
Manfred Mann’s Earthband – Chance
Released in October 1980 with a cover depicting two deckchairs on a beach (a minimalist luxury we cannot partake in at this moment in time – especially if it’s a sunny day in Brighton or Bournemouth!)
When you think back to the 60s with hits like “Mighty Quinn” and “5-4-3-2-1” who would have thought Mr Mann would go on to become a highly respected keys player in the Prog World ??
After the roaring success (sorry) of “The Roaring Silence” (which reached Number 10 in the UK album charts, helped along with the chart topping success of “Blinded By The Light” – a cover of the Bruce Springsteen number) this album featured another BS cover – “For You” and even with the mighty Chris Thompson on vocals (a single version was included on the 1999 reissue) it would not go on to achieve the lofty heights of previous albums.
With the debut album surfacing in 1972, the band went on to release pretty much an album a year, but from 1980 to the present day (for they are still together) – a 40 year period, they have only released a further 5 albums, which basically reinforces my statement that the 70s was a hotbed of creativity for many Prog bands. To survive, there needed to be a radical change, ditching the excesses of the previous decade (Yes went AOR on “90125” (and ironically this album was co-produced by none other than fellow countryman Trevor Rabin, who also contributes to the album), Genesis hit the commercial wagon with albums like “Invisible Touch” and even ELP, who released the god awful “Love Beach” with a cover that brought on the need to puke every time you gazed upon its countenance) – Manfred Mann’s Earthband stayed to true to their cause straddling the gap between Prog, Pop and Rock with aplomb.
Reaching the incredible age of 80 just over a week after “Chance” celebrates its 40th Anniversary and still out there playing live (don’t get me started on live music at the moment !!), like most keys players, he has developed his own style and is often seen with a keytar at the front of the stage or ripping into a moog synth. This is very evident on “No Guarantee” which also features voice over from a female shipping broadcast and typical 80s treated drum sound, a highlight for me !! There’s also the obligatory mini instrumental “Fritz The Blank” which gives MM the chance to bring his synth skills to the fore, novel and comical in places, hardly ground-breaking, but a nice respite….
I can’t say that there’s anything “wrong” with this album. I do like the opening track “Lies (Through The 80s)” which is a great album opener – very upbeat and a catchy hook plus the mighty Chris Thompson on lead vox with a great instrumental guitar/synth mid section (sadly missing from the single version). Listening to it now, 40 years on, I have to admit, there no stand-out moment and it’s ironic that the only track from the album that is regularly featured on subsequent live albums and gigs is the BS cover “For You” (released as a single, it didn’t achieve the success of previous covers, but it’s suitably beefed up from the original BS version, with a nice instrumental mid section and Mr Thompson adding his vocal skills)
It is “of an age” and features a varied mix of styles over its nine tracks, but if you’re familiar with their other work, it’s definitely worth looking out for maybe a used copy of the vinyl, or if you come across the 1999 CD reissue, you get the benefit of 4 bonus tracks (which features my second fave track, the B-side of “For You” – “A Fool I Am”)
A nice snapshot of a memorable decade, not a crucial listen, but worth checking out…..
Reviewed by Steve Gould
The Damned – The Black Album
1980 was felt with a change in a lot of UK bands that emerged from the punk movement. Some bands re-submitted themselves as something else or some moving slightly over to the emerging New Romantic movement. The Damned are a band that moved on and on and on in one way or another… No matter how you see the band in multiple line ups, watch their documentary (Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead) for a more open minded education. But moving on from their previous offering, Machine Gun Ettiquette…. The Black Album elevated itself on it’s own merits which presents itself as a tonal rollercoaster now with Paul Gray into the fold.
Despite being slammed by the music media, The Black Album isn’t the usual array of what what came before. Here is where the band had evolved and they weren’t set to be pigeon holed like most of their contemporary bands that broke from some form of stagnant mold (but we love). Kicking off with Wait For The Blackout which drives the album before exploding with Lively Arts and some synth driven expose. Then by the time we get to Twisted Nerve (a track really ahead of it’s time) it becomes the square peg in the round hole that feels like you’re being caressed at the same time but manages to fit perfectly.
By the time we move to Sick of This And That and it erupts you feel a sense of disconnect – but definitely not in a bad way… something where you can see the band is trying to progress with influence and vibe. Sliding forward to Therapy you see an edge where listening 5 minutes in to that stereo mix you’d be forgiven for thinking you were listening to Jimmy Page and Brian May fused together on a ketamine come down. (Note: Drugs are bad, kids). And then we fall over to Curtain Call…. 17 minutes of adulterated bliss.
I love The Damned. I’m not a hardcore fan and don’t know every key, chord and lyric to every track. But The Damned were there first, they smashed it. It may have gone side ways and long ways and some choice moments in their lengthy career – but they are still here today and these tracks are still being bashed out today to armies of fans who still love them.
So to all the fans who are pro-James/Scabies Damned fans… I get it… But if you keep pumping out the same stuff then this band may have been long forgotten and relegated behind those Mantovani/Daniel O’Donnell/Britney Spears albums in Oxfam. It’s in no way a perfect album. No, missus – No…. But it is an album that i’ve always seen broke the chains and very much holds it’s own. And it’s fucking great!
Reviewed by Steve May
The following are all reviewed by Skid
Thin Lizzy – China Town
Snowy White and Darren Wharton first appeared on the bands 10th LP and reached #7 in the UK album charts, the tittle track and killer on the loose where the pick of the 9 tracks.
Status Quo – Just Supposin’
13th long player from the denim clad foursome which included the singles Dont drive my car, lies and the title track.
A II Z – The witch of Berkeley
A NWoBHM band famed for having former AC/DC drummer Simon Wright amongst their membership but which folded in 1982 . They released their one and only album, a live recording ,recorded in a High School in Manchester. The band supported bigger names within the movement, but record sales never matched the cult status they achieved. It’s a great album that was an intriguing part of the fledgling metal scene in the late 70’s and a fully recommended listen.
Hawkwind – Levitation
The space lords 10th album, this one was the only one to feature Ginger Baker and the first to feature ex Gong keyboard player Tim Blake
INXS – INXS
Released in 1980 in their native Australia but the rest of the world had to wait for another 4 years and it gave the band their first Australian single hit with Just keep walking. It’s not their greatest body of work but was the foundation for from which their phenomenal release Kick seven years later was built on.
George Thorogood and the destroyers – more George Thorogood and the destroyers
The 4th outing from George and the boys , a fair listen even today, especially the pick of the bunch , I’m wanted.
Cheap Trick – All shook up
Produced by George Martin, this the bands 5th lp, and the follower to Dream Police was seen by many to be going in the wrong direction. The lead single Stop this game did’nt reach the high numbers in the US singles, but the album did include two great tracks of note , Just got back and Worlds greatest lover. This album is one of my secret pleasures and a bit of a gem from Nielson and the boys.
U2 – Boy
The debut album from the Irish band who would eventually become one of the worlds biggest , I will follow was the high point . I never got it, i saw them on this tour and they were dire and as a consequence i must be the only person on the planet that has never listened to any of their subsequent albums.
Mike Oldfiled – QE2
The 6th LP from Oldfield and the 1st to feature Maggie Reilly , it sometimes gets lost in the conversation especially when Tubular bells are mentioned, but it is a very good album of this type of soft rock, not too sure about the ABBA cover of Arrival, but the Shadows song Wonderful Land was a decent re-make.
Next Month – November 1980 includes Motorhead , Whitesnake , REO Speedwagon and more