There was a time, way back in the dim and distant past, when being a serious NWOBHM collector was something of a challenge - not only in terms of money one needed to spend (it's still pretty much a reality, you see), but also (perhaps mostly) for the sheer scarcity of reliable info on many, many obscure outfits and/or their esoteric releases. One of the most unpleasant consequences of such paucity: buying records that, despite being honestly hard-to-find on many occasions, have little or nothing to do with genuinely heavy music. Of course we all have a lot more to lean on these days, and the truth about a number of mistakes and/or deliberate frauds are well reestablished by now. But there's always more to learn about, more info to be gathered and properly explained (and this is what I humbly try to do around here) and, of course, there are always recently-unearthed releases from the early 1980's being added to wants lists all over the world, though in a ever-decreasing rate.
This being a blog devoted most of all to NWOBHM (a spirit that was not that evident in later years, and I wholeheartedly want to recapture in full strength for now on), I think it's funny enough to write some quick commentary about some slices of vinyl that created a considerable deal of confusion among collectors in the past - some still do, actually. I plan to do such posts regularly, as 1) there's a lot of singles / EPs / albums that fall into the category and 2) I happen to enjoy listening to these, even knowing beforehand of their not-remotely-NWOBHM values. Go figure. Some of such items will get individual entries instead, but the criteria behind such exceptions will be absolutely arbitrary, loosely based on musical merits, interesting or convoluted stories and, most of all, sheer personal taste.
OK, here we go then:
It seems these lads from Liverpool (UK) were quite a popular live attraction in the second half of the 1970's, the sheer energy of their performances being immortalized in a live tape or two you can now hear on YouTube. Still, the only official release of 29th and Dearborn was a white label 7'' single from 1978, supposed to be a promotion for an upcoming album on EMI. The deal fall through before any acetates were made though (I guess the sudden rise of the Sex Pistols have a lot to do with that), and the master tapes of the album are probably forever lost in the mists of time. Listening to the single, it's pretty evident we're not dealing with any pre-NWOBHM act at all, no matter how hard a dealer near you may insist! "Baby, Put Your Love in Me" is a boogie/rock number with high-pitched vocals and a clear intention to make people dance - am I going insane, or there's even a subtle influence of ABBA going on around here? Not bad, but nothing too remarkable either. "Stealer" is somewhat more forceful, though far from being a true heavy metal number. It reminds me of some early songs from Deep Purple and Uriah Heep - without the prominent keyboards, that is. It's a boogie tune with slightly heavier guitar work and reasonably catchy vocal lines, a song that may appeal to some of the more open-minded fans of 70's hard/heavy music. If you're curious about them, there's a fair bit of helpful info on 29th and Dearborn right here. You're welcome!
Those reasonably familiar with the history behind NWOBHM band Quartz probably know the band was operating a few years previously under the Bandy Legs moniker (quite a hopeless name choice, I think). One single were recorded under such a guise (1974's "Ride Ride") before the band decided to change its name slightly to Bandylegs (maybe they though that a single word instead of two would make this truly horrible alias less objectionable, who knows) right before releasing the "Silver Screen Queen" 7'' in 1975. After signing the dotted line for Jet Records, they released a final 7'' ("Bet You Can't Dance" b/w "Circles") in 1976, a slice of vinyl that really helped their fortunes, as they toured with AC/DC and Black Sabbath as a consequence - a move that encouraged them to adopt a more forceful sound and a way better moniker, Quartz. Of course this direct connection renders the Bandylegs singles to be of considerable interest for NWOBHM obsessive completists, but don't go for it thinking you will get anything resembling their 1980's output. "Bet You Can't Dance" is a boogie/rock with (somewhat silly) piano accompaniment and a super-catchy chorus (at least I think they wanted it to be catchy, you know). The guitar work is passable, but there's nothing really good to write about this unspectacular track, a typical desperately-want-to-find-a-hit-single singalong tune like countless hopefuls wrote in droves back in the day. "Circles" is a considerable improvement, a way more forceful rock tune with some nice twin-guitar work in places. This is a song that could have been included in Quartz' repertoire without being too out of place at all, so I'm sure die-hard fans of the group (hey, I know you're still out there) will be willing to buy this 7'' for the sake of this track alone. But it's too early to be a proper NWOBHM release in its own right, and those with only a marginal interest in Quartz are well advised to go for the more usual material of the lads (specially the "Stand Up and Fight" LP) as it's sure more worth your cash.
Seemingly based somewhere in the outskirts of London, this five-piece have been in the wants lists for a while, with their 7'' single from 1981 being regarded (and shopped around) by some as a sort of NWOBHM long-forgotten classic. Not the case really, but it's actually a very obscure act that made the rounds for two or three years at most, so if fits well enough into the basic criteria to justify a few comments. A double A-side released by ABCD Records (a self-financed affair, by the looks of things), it starts with "Sitting Here Waiting", a semi-ballad carried along by the piano, with the other instruments offering not much more than a discreet background (apart from the emotional guitar solo, that is). It has something of a Queen feel to it I guess, as it reminds me some ballads of their "The Game" period, though surely not achieving quite the same levels of finesse. It's very close to the 1960's pop rock revival many British bands were attempting at the time, though it's still reasonably rooted to rock music and not veering into new romantic territory. Not bad, but surely no metal at all. "Living Danger", on the other hand, starts a lot like the more contemplative moments of the Roger Waters-era Pink Floyd: though surely not a case of unashamed pilfering (Queensrÿche got way closer of copyright infringement with "Silent Lucidity", you know), its first half reminds me strongly of "Comfortably Numb" and, to a lesser extent, "Wish You Were Here". Suddenly, things change completely, and the instrumental section brings some prominent synths to the table, building a crescendo that explodes into a (pretty good) guitar solo. Now that's a good enough song with a much stronger potential when it comes to pleasing headbangers, though it's not NWOBHM at all: we're into progressive rock waters (no pun intended) here, so any collectors must be aware only broad-minded listeners will be able to fully appreciate it. The lads (now naming themselves A Band Called Doris, for reasons best known by themselves) would go as far as releasing a full-length LP the following year ("Gypsy Lady"), but I didn't give it a listen just yet, so I won't be able to enlighten you good people into what's it all about, although some reviews tend to label it as a prog rock effort as well. I'll let you know when it happens. Incidentally, the catalog numbers of the band's known releases (ABCD-1 and ABCD-3) are strong indication that there may be something else out there, perhaps a promo-only release or a test pressing that never made it into wider circulation, who knows? Whatever the story, Doris is a borderline act at best (though a pretty decent one, I might add), so proceed with caution if all you want is tr00 metal and nothing else, as it will cost a fair amount of money (half a month's salary, in the case of the very scarce LP) to add the group to your collection.
This sole 7'' by Buckshee (a band from somewhere in Suffolk, I'd wager) is receiving a bit of belated interest in recent years, as it was released by Squid Marks Time, the same label that edited the very seldom seen "So You Think We're All Farmers..." LP in 1981, a local-band compilation that includes a handful of NWOBHM acts (I'm trying to get this one, so if you happen to have it, please let me know). Actually, one of the songs featured on the band's single ("Soap") also made an appearance on the aforementioned sample, adding to the curiosity around the mysterious combo. But if you're reading this up to this point, I guess it won't come as much of a surprise to be informed that Buckshee isn't a NWOBHM band at all: it's post-punk / power pop music with female vocals, with not a single metallic riff or chorus to be found. "Soap" is the most interesting song on display, being actually pretty good on what it tries to achieve: the song structure is very inventive, the playful, catchy vocal lines are fairly engaging, and the keyboard accompaniment is discreet and doesn't spoil the fun at all. It would actually be a good cover choice for many punk/HC bands of today, so take note if you happen to be involved with one such outfit! "Strangled Love" is more typical punk rock (no keyboards to be found), pretty much recycling the same guitar pattern from the previous track and with a more rudimentary, let's-sing-the-name-of-the-track-along-and-not-much-else approach that doesn't work very well when compared to the way more accomplished A-side. I'm afraid this minor piece of exposure was the sole claim to fame for the group, and I think it's a bit of a shame, as "Soap" shows some genuine promise that just needed a more widespread distribution to flourish into something else. There was also a certain Bukkshee doing the rounds in the UK roughly at the same time, and getting as far as to release two (both undated) 7'' singles, but it was an all-male 5-piece with definitely glam looks, so I suspect it's a entirely unrelated ensemble (if you have any info on that, by the way, I kindly invite you to drop us a line).
To close this first installment of the series, a release that sure does sound like NWOBHM, but can't be taken as such without making considerable concessions. I mean, "This One's For You", the main focus of attention on this 7'' EP, presents all the requirements to make a NWOBHM addict happy: the twin-guitar riffing, the simple-but-very-effective song structure, the catchy melodies, the high-pitched vocals, the tight (even if not very inventive) rhythm section... It's all there really. But Stray were doing the rounds for nearly 15 years, their first LP dating from as early as 1970. The classic rock combo originally disbanded around 1977, and this particular slice of vinyl came out in 1981, when some of the original members were trying to rekindle the group's fire with the sparks of NWOBHM. Some thought for a while that this 7'', given its considerable scarcity and different-looking logo on the label, was most probably recorded by another Stray, blissfully unaware of their long-running namesakes - not to mention some catalogues listing the band as Ratsy, perhaps using the label as an excuse to pass it out as an impossibly rare item from a mysterious bunch of musicians... But reports of copies being bought by fans during a tour the revived Londoners made with Saga in 1981 finally disproved this theory, establishing the truth of the matter once and for all. Treating this EP as a bona fide NWOBHM release is, therefore, as inadequate as citing, say, Budgie's "Power Supply" or Atomic Rooster 1980's eponymous album as NWOBHM collectables. Not that you shouldn't buy any of these if you feel like doing it, of course. Despite being a strong track (way more forceful than the rather redundant, only mildly interesting "Need Your Love" and "Wide-Eyed Girl" B-sides), "This One's For You" wasn't enough to help the band's fortunes in the long run, and Stray faded out of the public eye once again in a matter of months - although guitarist Del Bromham, helped by a myriad of different musicians, kept using the Stray name on a series of sporadic live outings through the years, with gigs being booked in as late as 2016.
Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know!