Surrender to the Rhythm – The London Pub Rock Scene of the Seventies

Surrender To The Rhythm: The London Pub Rock Scene of the Seventies

“The songs were all from very different backgrounds, but because they were played in pubs, it got called ‘pub rock’ by the music press. It wasn’t a specific music, other than that there were no lengthy, tedious solos. It was any kind of music that people wanted to go and see, played in pubs. But it wasn’t a musical genre.”

So says Brinsley Schwarz, the keyboard player for the eponymously named band, whose Motown-influenced Surrender to the Rhythm is track 7, CD 1, and also the title of this all-encompassing round up of the early to mid-seventies pub music scene in the capital. At the time there were countless London pubs, usually of the Victorian high-ceilinged variety, and of varying degrees of sleaziness playing host to the innumerable working class bands around who had neither the funds to buy the ever more complicated gear sets ups, nor the inclination to play the increasingly indulgent noodlings in obscure time signatures so beloved of their mostly middle-class peers playing the larger venues in town.

What unites bands grouped under the “pub rock” label is a back-to-basics approach that saw a mix of traditional rock’n’roll, ’60s soul and funk, and country rock in varying ratios, all fused together to make a highly danceable concoction, fuelled by a good-time alcoholic vibe provided by mine host. This is not music to sit down cross-legged to, while smokin’ and considering the origins of the universe, oh no.

It is nigh on impossible to pinpoint where this “scene that isn’t” started, as right from the beginnings of rock’n’roll, bands have played in pubs. The comprehensive and highly informative 48-page booklet makes the case for an ex-pat American band exiled in London recording with Chas Chandler in 1971 by the name of Eggs Over Easy being the catalyst, persuading the landlord of The Tally Ho to let them play a residency in his establishment. Soon there was a growing pub circuit that included The Kensington, The Lord Nelson, The Nashville, and a host of other familiar names, many now sadly replaced by anonymous apartment complexes.

My personal nomination for the title of joint Chief Instigator would go to Mickey Jupp of Sarfend/Canvey Island rock and rollers Legend, whose marvellous self-titled “Red Boot” album, released in 1970 on the now highly collectable Vertigo “swirl” label is chock full of great songs in the R’n’R style. This three CD set kicks off with that album’s sizzlin’ opener, Cheque Book, an inspired choice to start off with. The second track is Eggs Over Easy’s Funky But Clean, which shimmies along seductively.

CD 2 opens with the blistering first track, first album from Dr. Feelgood, a very spiky band, spitting fire with their speeded up R&B, and an obvious precursor both musically and in attitude to what would shortly take to the streets and very briefly actually scare the bejayzus out of The Establishment. The Feelgoods made music fuelled by amphetamines as much as by beer, and are certainly one of the more lively acts on this set, along with The Jam, who lest we forget, were playing speeded up covers of soul and R’n’R numbers in pubs long before fame came a-calling. Their version of Slow Down is included on CD 3 for your amphetamine-fuelled delectation.

About the only artist on here twice is Elvis Costello, once as singer for his band Flip City, whom I had known of but not heard before now, and once from early in his solo career. However, this collection is as much about the obscure gems (and some right clunkers, of course!) as it is about the subsequently famous, like Ian Dury and Joe Strummer, both here in pre-fame guise, and indeed several of the bands on the circuit never got to record, so the space is taken up by bands who while too big to be part of the scene, were “pub rock” in spirit. So we get Status Quo, Mott the Hoople, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, etc. This is a strange move in my opinion, maybe it would have been better to have had two tracks by some artists, Brinsley Schwarz, for instance, or simply to have trimmed it down to a double CD set? A minor nit-pick, as none of those bigger names spoil the continuity, apart from maybe Chris Rea’s Fool (If You Think It’s Over). Huh?

This is a highly enjoyable collection, both for those of us indulging in a bit of nostalgia, and for those too young to have been there, but curious. It is also a great way to spend four hours (for a mere £18!), and a nice relief from contrapuntal melodies, wilfully awkward time signatures, and from bands who wish they were Genesis… and from Genesis and their ilk, to be honest! Pour yourself a pint or three, and put your dancin’ shoes on!

CD 1:

01. Cheque Book – Legend
02. Funky But Clean – Eggs Over Easy
03. Time to Kill – Wild Angels
04. You Said It Would Be – Smooth Loser
05. Have You Seen My Baby – Steve Ellis
06. Nanana – Status Quo
07. Surrender to the Rhythm – Brinsley Schwarz
08. Why, Lady, Why? – Deep Feeling
09. Ride with the Roogalator – Roogalator
10. I Wish I Was Your Mother – Mott The Hoople
11. Heart’s on My Sleeve (Early Mix) – Ducks Deluxe
12. Madman – G. T. Moore & The Reggae Guitars
13. Where Are You Tonight – Brewers Droop
14. Tripsy Lady – Writing on the Wall
15. Sergeant Fury – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
16. My Funny Valentine – Bees Make Honey
17. Piggy Back Sue – Jona Lewie
18. Money Is No Friend of Mine – Starry Eyed and Laughing
19. You Kept Me Waiting – Dave Edmunds
20. We Get Along – Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers
21. Rock and Roll Runaway – Ace
22. Billy Bentley (Promenades Himself in London) – Kilburn & The High Roads
23. Nervous – National Flag

CD 2:
01. She Does It Right – Dr. Feelgood
02. Love Me Real – Charlie & the Wideboys
03. Free the Kids – Fumble
04. Imagination (Is a Powerful Deceiver) – Flip City
05. Blow Me Down – Brett Marvin & the Thunderbolts
06. Baby What You Want Me to Do – Jo-Ann Kelly
07. As Long As You Feel Good – Stray
08. Yellow Sox – Kursaal Flyers
09. It Could Be Better – Byzantium
10. Midnight Flight – Bearded Lady
11. Jailbreaker – Razorbacks
12. One Fing ‘N’ Anuvver – Chas and Dave
13. Why Did You Do It? – Stretch
14. For Whatever It’s Worth – Fox
15. I Ain’t Got You – The Count Bishops
16. Midnight Moon – Sean Tyla & His Gang
17. Writing on the Wall – Eddie & The Hot Rods
18. You Can Leave Your Hat On – The Jess Roden Band
19. Schoolgirl Funk – Strapps
20. Romeo and the Lonely Girl – Thin Lizzy
21. She’s No Angel – Heavy Metal Kids
22. You’ve Gotta Get Up and Dance – Supercharge
23. Keys to Your Heart – The 101’Ers
24. She’s My Gal – The Gorillas

CD 3
01. Don’t Wear It – Moon
02. Bedsit Girl – Chris Spedding
03. Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) – Gonzalez
04. Stone’s Throw from Nowhere – Cado Belle
05. Radio Sweetheart – Elvis Costello
06. Back to Schooldays (Live) – Graham Parker & The Rumour
07. Get It – Dave Edmunds
08. Slow Down – The Jam
09. Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It – Darts
10. Ain’t Nobody Own Nobody’s Soul – Clover
11. Rock’n’roll Radio – The Pleasers
12. Young Lust (Demo Version) – Philip Rambow
13. Fool (If You Think It’s Over) – Chris Rea
14. Come on – Ian Gomm
15. The Creature from the Black Lagoon – Billy Bremner
16. Gunning for the Dog – Matchbox
17. Shakin’ All Over (1978 Studio Version) – The Pirates
18. Driver’s Seat – Sniff ‘N’ The Tears
19. Mirror Star – The Fabulous Poodles
20. The Shape I’m in – Meal Ticket
21. Goodbye Girl (UK Single Version) – Squeeze
22. Loud Music – Streetband
23. You Need Wheels – The Merton Parkas
24. Dirty Water – The Inmates

Far too many to mention, mostly with beer on their breath…

Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Catalogue#: CRSEG074T
Date of Release: 17th July 2020

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