Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Classic Album revisited - The Sharks

The Sharks - Phantom Rockers
Nervous Records
1.Moonstomp 2.Skeleton rock 3.It's all over now 4.Crazy maybe 5.Take a razor to your head 6.Death row 7.Love bites 8.Short shark shock 9.Ruff stuff 10.Phantom rockers 11.Charlie! 12.Slipped disc 13.I can't stop 14.Electrifyin' 15.Ghost train 16.We say yeah

I wrote this a couple of years ago and after listening to the Sharks going to work this morning I thought it would be worth adding it hear.

When I bought this wonderful album in the mid-80s I had no idea who the band were. I'd never heard of them and had never seen a review for the album, but I was attracted by the cover and the back photos of three sharp rockabillies with leopard skin kit and the basic line-up, double bass, giutar and snare drum. I thought the cover would look good on the wall even if the music was crap. Fear not, the music contained within, is the best psychobilly album ever recorded - to these ears anyway.

Members Alan Wilson (guitar), Steve Whitehouse (bass) and Paul Hodges (drums) developed from a typical rockabilly revival band into one of the neo-rockabilly / psychobilly movements premier bands. Recording for the genre's leading label, Nervous Records, they produced the brilliant Phantom Rockers in 1982. The album was recorded in just a few days with most of the songs written on the way to the studio.

The album kicks off is stunning style with the frantic Moonstomp, my first taste of Wilson's crispy clean guitar style and the equally brilliant slap-bass playing of Whitehouse. Others in the manic, breakneck psycho style are Charlie and Ghost Train. Ghost Train is an astonishing gallop with all three playing their instruments like no other psycho band has done before or since. The drumming and bass pound a massive beat at hell for leather speed and Wilson again demonstrates his prowess.

The pick of the hole lot has to be the wonderful story of Charlie, the chainsaw wielding 12 year old schoolboy who decaps the teacher before "He butchered all his classmates/and just to make his day/He smeared blood on the blackboard/ saying 'Charlie rules OK'. His parents would surely disapprove so "The headmaster sent a letter home/telling of what he done/'I know he is a lively lad/but this is not my idea of fun./You must point out to Charlie/that what he did was bad'/But Charlie doesn't care because /he's killed his Mum and Dad". Classic psychobilly, in fact, the best pyschobilly track ever, no question.

Ruff Stuff is pretty much a straight forward rockabilly record (they actually sound like the Polecats on this) as is their version of Sir Cliff's We Say Yeah. Short Sharp Shock is neo-rockabilly of the highest order as is the free bit of haircut advice, Take A Razor To your Head. Skeleton Rock, Electrifyin' and Death Row are great numbers and again show off the prowess of all three. Their sound is so clear and the guitar notes are so pure that to me they just stand above the rest. I think it's like comparing Gene Vincent's Blue Caps sound to some of the obscure garage bands you hear on the Collector label.

On the slower end of the scale the best must surely be Love Bites. It's gentle and hypnotic and much surley be the greatest psychoballad ever. I've sang this song to myself for twenty years now and it still sounds fresh (their version not mine!).
"my baby is a vampire and she's not much good for you / my baby is a vampire and she'll suck the blood from you, / When you meet her at night times, and you love her charms/ But don't give her a cuddle coz then, you'll die in her arms".

The only tracks that don't really do much for me are Crazy Maybe and their cover of the Stones' It's All Over Now. Apparantly, the record still sells well in CD format, and over the years has even been issued on coloured vinyl and picture disc. It's a classic which you should own. Why not buy it from Nervous Records, after all, it's thanks to them that we got it in the first place.

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