from Record Mirror, 14th January, 1978
Right around now you’re going to hear some big sighs of relief from the BOFs’ division. See – they were right all along, they said it wouldn’t last – and it hasn’t. Punk is dead. The new wave is over. The tide has turned.
Don’t believe everything you hear. What’s happening now is not death and decay, but growth and development. ‘Course it sounds different now, like every musical movement before it, punk, new wave, whatever tag you want to give it, was never meant to stagnate. It had to progress.
So if ’76 saw the birth of the new wave, and ’77 its squalling infancy, ’78 should see it taking its first toddling steps forward. Last year’s leaders – and you know who they are – are still in there at the front of things. The rest have become irrelevant already drowned out by the next wave surging in behind.
The class of ’78. They haven’t yet been named. A few labels have been kicked around – the pop wave, pop punk, power pop – but none has stuck. So far. But labelled or not, the groups are already here. Names to look out for – Rich Kids, Tonight, those great unknowns XTC, the Pleasers.
That’s the Pleasers on the front cover, all dressed up in suits and smart red boots. Look a lot like the Beatles, don’t they? Actually, it’s an illusion. The Pleasers , dressed in woolly jumpers and denims and welly boots, don’t look a bit like the Beatles. Not one bit.
The reason the Pleasers are wearing woolly jumpers and denims and welly boots is cos they’ve been sent to this remote hotel on the coast of Wales and it can get cold at this time of year.
The hotel is perched right on the edge of the cliffs, open to all those fresh Atlantic breezes.
“There’s nothing to do here but rehearse,” they moan. Which of course, is the idea.
Actually there’s quite a range of activities – healthy walks along the cliff, playing scrabble, drinking, eating, sleeping.
But after a week, their appeal is beginning to pall somewhat. The boys are itching to get back to good old unhealthy London.
But in the meantime, they’re resigned to spending their days in the hotel dining room with American producer Tommy Boyce, whose come to knock ’em into shape.
Tommy, fresh from his successes with the Darts, obviously knows a thing or two.
“It was either to be Nick Lowe or Tommy producing the boys,” says manager Pete Hawkins. “But Nick has more commitments with Elvis Costello and that crowd, and anyway Tommy has that singles magic.”
That much is obvious from the way he works with the group. The boys reckon they’ve never sweated so hard, going over three or four piece harmonies until every note is perfect, working out riffs and melodies instrument by instrument.
The group do sound like the Beatles, no doubt about it, even hearing them in a hotel dining room instead of a Cavern type basement club. But the key word is ‘influence’ rather than ‘copy.’
“We could go out and copy the Beatles’ songs, note for note,” says lead singer Steve McNerney. “We could make a fortune doing that in cabaret. But that’s just not what we’re trying to do.”
The group’s songs, mostly composed by the writing duo of McNerney and Benham (any resemblance being totally coincidental) have that same instant hook as the Beatles’ early ditties, and the same innocent themes – the girl next door, falling in love, breaking up.
Teen dream romance. But otherwise, they intend finding their own direction.
“They haven’t really had time to establish their own sound,” Pete tells me. “Nick Powell only joined the group in October, and he had to start work right away. But now you can hear a distinctive sound coming through.”
By Thursday night, the group are ready to give us all a special show, running through the dozen or so tracks they’ve been working on with Tommy. They’ll be recording these same tracks next month for their first album, and one of them will be picked out as the next single.
They’ll also be appearing on the Hope And Anchor Front Row Festival Album , even though they consider the appearance there as one of their worst ever gigs.
Pete has brought down a live tape from London, and the band listen to it in the bar after dinner. Although most of it sounds pretty reasonable to me, equipment problems have obviously caused a few disasters, and the group collapse in giggles at intervals, pointing mock accusing fingers at each other.
The talk moves on to clothes, a subject that’s caused the group a lot of thought. It’s agreed that they’ll probably keep the suits for stage wear, but the problem is deciding on a secondary set of outfits for casual wear.
No one can agree on one definite style – Bo Benham, the man whose feet have caused Pete endless problems (“This group have to have the biggest feet in the country – all their stage shoes have to be specially made”) suggests waistcoats, but he’s overruled by the others.
The man from Arista, Andrew Bailey, offers the lads £150 each to spend on clothes, but Nick is thinking BIG. “What we’ll need once we’re on the road,” he reckons, “is at least eight stage outfits, and about the same number of offstage clothes.” Andrew pales visibly at the thought.
Still at least the group’s fans have no such dilemmas about what to wear. It seems that, wherever they play, they’re followed by dozens of girls in – of all things – tiny, micro mini-skirts. Makes their gigs worth turning up for.
Before turning in for the night, the lads – cheered by liberal amounts of wine and lager – decide to go for a bracing walk down the sheer cliff path, led by our trusty guide Juliette, the hotel barmaid – cum – waitress, who insists she knows the way, even in pitch darkness.
Fortunately, her theory is proved wrong when, halfway down the path, she falls into a bramble bush. The lads seize the opportunity to head back to the hotel and safety.
And so our intrepid heroes are saved to play another day.