ZANG TUMMM TUMB ARTICLES “the first draft of history”


First, I must deal with my correspondence. I am grateful to the Arsenal and Police fan who wrote from Enfield to point out that he/she didnt care for the way the Singles Column was currently laid out. Thank you for your helpful advice. Now why dont YOU go stick YOUR head up a dead bears (Look, Dave, its no use being diplomatic — youve got to be firm with ‘em! Ed.).

Its been many a moon since Brian Robertson departed the ranks of Thin Lizzy but “Face Down” (EMI) finds his new band Wild Horses putting their faith in the same old swirling guitar duetting. All they need to complete the impression is Phil Lynott himself, but hes occupied doing the same business on his first solo work, “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” (Vertigo), a cooler, more airy variation on the usual three chord fandango. Now would somebody point out the point of all this after school activity?

Down in the Sixties graveyard, the old songs keep on rising out of their plots to haunt us.

The Angelic Upstarts try walking in the footsteps of their Newcastle ancestors The Animals with “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” (Warner Bros). Never mind the fact that they dont so much walk as limp, a song of any description is an improvement on the closing time rants that they have dealt in up to now.

If only they had the nerve to climb inside an old song and rearrange the furniture a little, like ZZ Top have done with “I Thank You” (Warner Bros). Here the old soul standard is bound up pretty tight and walks on tiptoes where it used to go pacing around. Strong stuff. The Dance Band croon about Stax music on “Stacks Of Tracks” (Cool King) with suitable regret but why bother checking into this when the originals are all being reissued?

We beam back briefly to the modern world where all is smooth as formica and shines like bacofoil. “Furtive Winks” from Cuba (Ariola) is another of those fidgety new records, brimming with cleverness and weighed down with smart-ass humour.

The same could also apply to “Clean Clean” by The Buggles (Island) were it not for the cunningly buried hook line that surfaces after a few plays. These boys are masters of the middle eight. But its as easy to find records like this obnoxious as it is to say theyre catchy.

The Members lumber along amiably with “Romance” (Virgin), doling out the kind of locker room wisdom that The Specials seem to handle so much more convincingly.

“Break It To Me Gently” by The Planets (Rialto) is one of those furiously professional pop records where nothing has been left to chance and even less to get excited about. Alan Jones displays similar qualities with “Youre Making My Heartache” (Active), coming across like a man whos frittered away his youth listening to too many records, his every step dogged by memories of the past.

You want professional? We got professional. You want a great record? We have one of those also. “I Feel Love” (GTO) by Donna Summer is making its second lap of the track, a princely record whose elegant motion and magnificent tension tempts me to believe that most synthesisers are played by people wearing boxing gloves. This stupendous article just about single-handedly justifies the invention of those dangerous little electronic boxes.

Ah well, back to the world of the worthy but ordinary. Eddie And The Hot Rods much postponed return to vinyl, “At Night” (EMI), displays much of the swashbuckle (if there isnt such a word, there ought to be) of times past. But it also reeks of the desperation of people trying to make a great record, just like they did in the old days.

XTC never seem to be ruffled by such considerations and their “Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down” (Virgin) is more deserving even than “Nigel”. Its a deliberate, oddly disturbing record built around a descending hook line that is simplicity itself.

Judas Priest, if nothing else, have the distinction of being quite the silliest band in the whole world, and “Living After Midnight” (CBS) is no let down. Like toddlers dressing up on a wet afternoon, Priest strut around in leather and warn as of the chilling and supernatural things theyre going to do after the clock strikes twelve. Would it hurt to let as know that theyre human?

Stevie Wonder is in serious need of a touch of inspiration, as “Outside My Window” (Motown) suggests. Where he used to swing with so much verve, he now toots with barely any conviction. I like Joe Jackson but not “Kinda Kute (A&M). Its good enough, jolly enough and assuredly catchy enough, but he can make much slyer, more affecting records when he wants to, and without sacrificing any of the commercial appeal.

The Cretones and The Textones have very similar names and broadly similar records in “Real Love” (Planet) and “I Cant Fight It” (Chiswick) respectively. Disposable American pop with a punk gloss.

“Rooms In Your Roof” is Micky Jupp (Chrysalis) is an attractive little R&B shuffle; the usual clever words, the usual tasteful timid production. Mickey, you can do better.

Maybe he should cop an earful of the art of Captain Beaky And His Band whose “Trial Of Hissing Sid” (Polydor) breaks entirely new ground in its continuing quest for new and exciting modes of expression. Brave, funny, sad, intensely moving and daring in its bold grasp of the real issues of living in the year 1980, this band are something more than just plain old rock and roll. They are plain old tripe, as my mother was fond of saying. (Yes, but is he guilty? Ed.).

Despite the fact that theyre neither as powerful nor as slick as Who records, Ive always got a soft spot for Pete Townshends solo efforts and “Rough Boys” (Atco) is no exception. As a song it follows the classic Who route (fast, with a middle section almost like an anthem) but it somehow seems less bloated and pretentious than it would have done had the whole band been on the case.

Madness may be sloppy as hell but theyre anything but calculated. Their new EP “Work, Rest And Play” (Stiff) includes yet another track from their album, “Night Boat To Cairo” with three new tracks, the best of which is the hilarious and furiously catchy “Dont Quote Me On That”, a cautionary tale that sprang from Chass ill-starred meetings with the music press.

So here I am, all ready to bed the typewriter down and leg it home when, lo and behold, new singles from The Pretenders and The Undertones.

So I place The Pretenders effort on the office hi-fi (coal-fired, interestingly enough), sit back and… now this is more like it. “Talk Of The Town” represents the kind of risk more bands should take more often; an undisciplined, almost jazzy sort of ballad thingy with a vocal that hovers above brilliant guitar textures. It takes three plays to pull you towards it and kisses you full on the mouth on the fourth.

Chasing it a little breathlessly are The Undertones and “My Perfect Cousin”, a Mickey Bradley inspired song poking fun at his clever brother Martin who appeared not so long ago on “Mastermind”. The lyrics are lovely and its delivered with the kind of spirit that you naturally associate with The Undertones, but I cant help wishing theyd let us hear some of the slower, more satisfying material that theyve got stashed away.

Its been a pleasure talking to you. Must fly.