Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Greatest Rock & Roll Album of All Time...

is Can't Stand the Rezillos, by Scotland's greatest rock & roll band, The Rezillos, a glam pop-art ensemble (quickly labeled "Punk/New Wave") that formed at art school in Edinburgh in 1976, recorded this one album in 1978, and then promptly broke up. And why not? They had achieved Godhead and created a sonic masterpiece that stills stands the test of history. What else was there to prove? Or, as a later live album's title put it: Mission Accomplished...But the Beat Goes On. Interestingly enough, this live recording captured The Rezillos' final performance that took place December 23, 1978 at the Apollo Theater in Glasgow.

The LP has long been out of print, but in 1993 Sire/Warner Brothers put out a CD reissue, Can't Stand the Rezillos: The (Almost) Complete Rezillos, that not only includes all 13 original album tracks - 10 originals and three great cover songs (Earl Vince and the Valiants' "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight," Gerry & The Pacemakers' "I Like It" and the Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over") - but also both sides of their great 1978 single "Destination Venus" b/w "Mystery Action" AND all but one of the tracks on the live album Mission Accomplished...But the Beat Goes On (including "Thunderbirds Are Go!," their wonderful homage to the popular 60s British TV show).

And here it is, the baker's dozen of brilliant original tracks that let the Rezillos leave their mark on history.

1. Flying Saucer Attack
2. No
3. Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight (Earl Vince & The valiants)
4. Top Of The Pops
5. 2000 A.D.
6. It Gets Me
7. I Can't Stand My Baby
8. Glad All Over (Dave Clark Five)
9. (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures
10. I Like It (Gerry & The Pacemakers)
11. Getting Me Down
12. Cold Wars
13. Bad Guys Reaction

No less an authority than Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis has commented on these 13 tracks as "It's the best album Sire ever put out, and the hottest bass playing EVER." Because they emerged in the late 70s, the Rezillos sound was characterized as "Punk/New Wave," but while the songs were fast and the guitars had a raw buzzsaw edge, they were really closer in spirit to that of 50s rockers, 60s garage bands and 70s glam - an influence reflected in their choice of covers. If I had to pick one band they reminded me of musically, it would be a harder-edged Blondie, with whom they shared an appreciation of the 60s girl group sound and pop culture in general. And, like Blondie, they were always fun, never taking themselves too seriously. Visually, their pop art schooling and love of glam rock was reflected in a stage presence reminiscent of The Tubes and early Roxy Music.

Though there were various lineups in their career, the band on Can't Stand the Rezillos consisted of vocalists Eugene Reynolds (born Alan Forbes) and Fay Fife (born Sheila Hynde), guitarist-songwriter Jo Callis (a Glaswegian), bassist/saxophonist William Mysterious (born William Donaldson) and drummer Angel Paterson (born Alan Paterson).

Before that, the Rezillos line-up (originally named the Knutsford Dominators) included guitarist Hi-Fi Harris, bassist D.K. Smyth and backing vocalist Gail Warning. The Rezillos' early live repertoire contained material from all across the pop spectrum, including Earl Vince and the Valiants (otherwise known as Jeremy Spencer and Fleetwood Mac, whose "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" - the B-side to the Mac's "Man of the World" single - was covered not only by the Rezillos but also by the Count Bishops and Washington, D.C.'s legendary psych-punk garage rockers The Slickee Boys), Cannibal and the Headhunters ("Land of 1,000 Dances"), The Sweet ("Ballroom Blitz"), The Kinks ("I Need You"), Gerry & the Pacemakers ("I Like It"), Screaming Lord Sutch, and the Dave Clark Five (Glad All Over").

They released a successful debut single, "I Can't Stand My Baby," in 1977 on Sensible Records, backed with a cover of The Beatles' "I Wanna Be Your Man" (it's believed to be Scotland's first New Wave single, beating the Valves by a month). By the time the Rezillos signed to Sire Records at the end of 1977, original members Harris, Smythe and Warning had left; Mysterious then switched from saxophone to bass and the quintet released their first Sire single, "(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures" b/w "Flying Saucer Attack." To support the single, they embarked on a short UK tour supporting the Ramones.

After releasing their debut album - recorded at New York's Power Plant by producer Tony Bongiovi (Jon's cousin, who had worked with the Ramones and Talking Heads) and engineer Bob Clearmountain - the Rezillos reached the Top 20 of the UK singles chart with their second Sire single "Top of the Pops" in 1978. (By the way, The Rezillos appeared twice on the weekly TV music program they made fun of, Top Of The Pops. The first, appropriately enough, playing their single "Top Of The Pops" and the second supporting their single "Destination Venus"). The Rezillos singles all had great covers. In fact the singles, posters and subject matter of the songs all reflected the band's art school background (especially seen on the LP Can't Stand the Rezillos, with its ersatz Jackson Pollack cover) and their love of Camp, Sci-fi B-Movies and comics. I mean, who else did a song about their art school girlfriend making good sculptures ("She got a thing about carving wood, or shaping a figure from a lump of mud")? Only Jonathan Richman comes close to touching on art or artists in the pop medium, with songs name-checking Pablo Picasso ("he never got called an asshole!"), Vincent Van Gogh and Jan Veermeer.

Mysterious more than lived up to his name, mysteriously vanishing after the Rezillos' March 1978 tour. He was replaced by Simon Templar, who played bass on the second Sire single, a remake of the album track "Top of the Pops" b/w the new "20,000 Rezillos Under the Sea." This line-up then embarked on a national tour - with The Undertones (my favorite Irish band!) in support - to see the follow-up release of the next Sire single "Destination Venus" into the Top 50.

But by November of 1978, Reynolds and Fife had decided to call it quits - but not before partaking in the historic farewell gig at Glasgow's Apollo Theater. The live LP Mission Accomplished But The Beat Goes On remains as a testament to the original line-up, with William Mysterious and Gail Warning resurfacing forthe send-off. Reynolds and Fife then renamed themselves The Revillos for contractual reasons, releasing a second album Rev Up in 1980 under the new name. They reunited with guitarist Hi-Fi Harris and added a trio of back-up singers called The Revettes. The band later also released a compendium of their music.

The instrumental nucleus of the Rezillos - Callis, Paterson and Templar - went on to form a band called Shake, who released a 1979 EP on Sire Records. Guitarist Jo Callis then switched to synthesizer to perform with the (by comparison) strikingly humorless Human League in 1981, co-writing "Don't You Want Me."

Some of The Revillos reformed in 1994, playing a series of concerts in Japan, and recording the Live and On Fire in Japan album. By 1996, they had issued a rarities compilation, From the Freezer, and played some live dates in Britain. 1998's Totally Live In London CD includes Fay Fife's great cover of "The Last of the Secret Agents," the theme song to the 1966 grade-Z spy spoof that was originally sung by the film's star, Nancy Sinatra.

It seems Johnny Knoxville is also a fan of the band because in 2002 the Rezillos version of "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" was included on the Jackass: The Movie soundtrack CD.

The Rezillos kick-started the nascent Scottish New Wave rock scene in the late 70s, well before Altered Images, The Skids, Zones, Fingerprintz, Jolt, Valves, and Simple Minds. And well, well before Teenage Fan Club, Big Country, Orange Juice, Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream. They were the first, they were the best, and they left us the Greatest Rock & Roll Album of All Time!

Author's Regretable Note: Apparently the Revillos played the Marble Bar in Baltimore and I missed them. Doh!

Rezillos on YouTube:

"TOP OF THE POPS" (2:22)

It doesn't get much better than this: you write a song that takes the piss out of TOTP, then you get to perform the song on the show! Irony anyone?



"MY BABY DOES GOOD SCULTURES" - from Old Grey Whistle Stop (3:06)

"FLYING SAUCER ATTACK/2000 AD" - on German TV (5:28)

To see more Rezillos videos, click here.

Revillos on YouTube:



"SCUBA SCUBA" (2:04)


I Can't Stand My Baby / I Wanna Be Your Man (Sensible Records FAB-1) -77
I Can't Stand My Baby / Good Sculpture (live) (Sensible Records FAB-1 (MARK2); second pressing of the first single, with different B-side) -77
Flying Saucer Attack /(My Baby Does) Good Sculpture (Sire 6078.612) -77
Cold Wars / William Mysterious Overature (Sire 6198.215) -78
** LP ** Can't Stand the Rezillos (Sire K-5630) -78
Top of the Pops / 20.000 Rezillos Under the Sea (Sire SIR-4001) -78
Destination Venus / Mystery Action (Sire SIR-4008) -78
** LP ** Mission Accomplished ... but the Beat Goes on (live) (Sire SRK-6069) -79

Most important tracks on compilations:
Just Say Yesterday (Vol. VI of Just Say Yes): Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight (Sire/Warner Bros. 9 26954-2) -92

Three Minute Heroes: 20 of the Finest Punk & New Wave Singles: Top of the Pops (Virgin VTCD9) -92

DiY 2: The Modern World - UK Punk II (1977-78): (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (Rhino Records R2 71172) -93

DiY 3: Teenage Kicks - UK Pop I (1976-79) : Top of the Pops (Rhino Records R2 71173) -93

Best Punk Album in the World...Ever!: Top of the Pops ( UK; Virgin VTDCD 42) -95

The Number One Punk Album: 47 Punk Rock Classics: Top of the Pops (Polygram TV 535 658-2) -96

Rezillos Links:
Planet Rezillo (Official Rezillos Web Site)
Noise For Heroes: The Rezillos
PunkNet77 - Rezillos
Rockin' Rina's Rezillos Bio
Dave Smythe's Rezillos Page
Revillos Web Site
Rezillos Family Tree
Rootoon's Rezillos Bio
Rezillos Merchandise
Rezillos Lyrics


Blogger jan said...

Listening to this right now!

5:29 PM  

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