29 June 2019

Gig Review -Stray Cats Hammersmith Apollo London 26.06.19

Stray Cats  Hammersmith Apollo 26.06.19


If you are  25 years old or younger, it is likely that you will have no idea what Top of the Pops was , and more importantly , how influential it became . Before the internet and social media , radio , magazines and TV were the only source of information and ToTP was king. Every Thursday evening millions (19 million was the most for one episode) of young people tuned in to see what was happening. For me , the vast majority of the stuff was tosh, but when your favourite band made an appearance it was magical and many alliances were founded within those hollowed 30 minutes.

Sometime in the very early 1980’s on popped The Stray Cats .They were youthful , energetic , vaguely dangerous and clothed in something your favourite uncle would have worn when he was 16 . It wasn’t heavy , but it was catchy and it was different , and being different mattered. The down side was I recall my dad’s comment “I like this” , which was generally uncool when you were trying to be a teenage rebel still living at home.

Over the next few years the SC’s were always about and I caught them live in London when they were joined on stage by my hero Lemmy. That was it , if Lemmy loved them , so did I and my interest in this 3 piece from Massapequa, New York remained.

Ian Kilminster introduced me to so much, the man’s influence on me personally however is nothing compared to the legacy that he left . I formed my own musical gauge , the Lem Level of Love . If Lemmy loved  it , it had to be good , and that mantra has never let me down.

The SC’s are Rockabilly which is a bastardisation of the words Rock’n’Roll and Hillbilly which best describes what it is , a blend of pure rock  with blue grass country music. It’s defining moments were in the 50’s and Eddie Cochran , Jerry Lee Lewis , Gene Vincent and Buddy Holly (he played his last ever UK show on the same stage in 1958) were at its vanguard. If the evolutionary tree of rock is followed Rockabilly are the founding fathers of what we know today , and especially in regard to Punk. Like all genres of music, the clothing had its part in making the identity & the Hammersmith crowd of this the first of 2 sold out shows dressed in part for the occasion. Ladies in polka dot dresses or rolled up jeans , pony tails and pumps, the gents in denim jeans , white t-shirts and an astonishing amount of hair gel. There were also the punks , the metalers (some in red boiler suits?) and the normal making up the rest.

The SC’s have been an on/off band for 4 decades , released 11 LPs and tonight they were celebrating their 40th anniversary. In that time all three members have taken separate yet similar paths outside their mother band. [Slim Jim  joined Lemmy to form HeatCat , a side project playing rocked up old 50’s and 60’s tunes]. However, the three often came back into each others orbits & occasionally re-formed The Cats. So tonight, it was again Slim Jim Phantom on drums standing of course, Lee Rocker on double bass and occasional vocals  and Brian Setzer on everything else. The stage was sparse , the three of them stood in line , the back drop occasional changed , but that was it. The stage set was as basic as it gets , but as someone once said , less is more. Who needs lasers, pyrotechnics and dancing girls when there is rock’n’roll?

Slim Jim did what he does best , it’s refreshing to see a simple drum set being used completely , Lee Rocker was dwarfed by his double basses and he didn’t seem to pluck those strings, more rip them off the instrument. His vocals on Bring it back again and especially when nothing’s going right were excellent . The latter being a real favourite of mine. The spot light however was deservingly so on Setzer , I didn’t realise how good his guitar playing was , he made that Gretsch sing , wine and rock . He sang and groomed his hair and attempted to duck walk (leave that to Berry and Young) . The set list was full of short sharp tunes and their biggest hits came in early with Runaway Boys and Stray Cat Strut to the delight of the crowd. Blast off was pure pre-pubescent Punk & a delight and my high point. There were a handful of grown men trying to mosh in the crowd which not only was inappropriate but just dumb .The security at The Apollo took no prisoners and these idiots were shown the door toot sweet but it all had a slightly tragic feel to it .The rest of the crowd however came for the songs & they bopped, jumped and sang & everybody was in party mood.

At the end of the encore of Rumble in Brighton as the throng cheered and the amps buzzed it occurred to me that not only would the Rockabilly godfathers  have approved , my old dad would have repeated himself saying  ‘I like this” and Mr Motorhead himself would have loved it . My faithful old Lem level of Love was off the scale.

It was nothing short of a triumph.


Set List

  1. Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me)

  2. Runaway Boys

  3. Double Talkin’ Baby

  4. Three Time’s a Charm

  5. Stray Cat Strut

  6. Mean Pickin’ Mama

  7. Gene & Eddie

  8. Cry Baby

  9. I Won’t Stand In Your Way

  10. Guitar Improvisation / Misirlou

  11. When Nothing’s Going Right (Lee Rocker – vocals)

  12. (She’s) Sexy + 17

  13. Bring It Back Again (Lee Rocker – vocals)

  14. My One Desire

  15. Blast Off

  16. Lust n Love

  17. Fishnet Stockings

  18. Rock This Town


  1. Rock It Off

  2. Built for Speed

  3. Rumble in Brighton

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