C O L U M N S
Tales from the Jugular
Made in England NWOBHM (1-5)
Label/Year: Ellie Jay 1982 Graffiti Records 1982
The oddly named Bashful Alley came about when Staffordshire natives Rob Tidd (guitar) and Ian “Truff” Threlfall (bass) decided to form a band while studying at Lancaster University. While both had prior experience with small bands in the late 70’s, it would take the vocal ability of Dave Slamen and Donkey behind the drum kit to solidify the very first Bashful Alley line up. Yes, they found a drummer named Donkey.
Practice time between lectures paid off well enough for the group to record a 3 song demo featuring “Running Blind”, “My My My”, and “She Only Wants Me for My Body”. Some small touring throughout the local area followed. Despite low attendance, a highlight of those early years happened almost by luck when Bashful Alley got to open up for The Sweet, thanks to connections at their own college and the original opening band not showing up. Tidd and Threlfall returned to Staffordshire after finishing college. Donkey was replaced by Robin Baxter and Tidd took up vocal duties. The original 3 song demo was re-recorded by the trio at Saccen Studios Stourport and the “Running Blind”/”My My My” 7” single was modestly pressed by Ellie Jay with 2 different sleeve colors, initially white and later with cream.
The single caught the ear of Geoff Barton and an approving write up in Kerrang magazine put enough attention within the UK. Demand was high enough for the group to repress the 7” on their own label, Graffiti Records, which was released with a yellow picture sleeve of the hand drawn group. Both tracks end up very mid paced, but “Running Blind” stands out just a bit more. The slow acoustic intro builds into distorted power with a great flow and catchiness from the melodic hooks and lyrics from Tidd. Threlfall and Baxter keep the rhythm section solid yet interesting with tasteful fills that help complete another classic NWOBHM track that refused to be ignored.
With opportunity seemingly knocking down the door, Bashful Alley took to the road and record another demo. With little to no label interest, Anthony Jones was added in 1984 as second guitarist for a more Thin Lizzy guitar approach. Sadly, within a year, due to lack of label interest Bashful Alley called it quits only for the members to go on and play in other bands. Luckily, the resurrected trio that performed on the “Running Blind” 7” have been spotted lately and sound as good as ever while a repress and compilation of their music keeps the demand high for the original Ellie Jay and Graffiti pressings.
Made in England 4 - Charger "Desperadoes"
Very much like Virtue's "We Stand to Fight", "Desperadoes" from Charger is another heavy hitter than came at the very tail end of the NWOBHM movement. While no actual year is printed on the sleeve of the release, Charger's earliest acknowledgement of "Desperadoes" can be traced back to a favorable review in a late 1987 issue of "Kerrang". Some have claimed the single to come out in the early 80's, whether it's to jack the price up for the already expensive single, or maybe that claim is to validate the inclusion in the movement. Charger's voice and bassist, Colin Bell, was busy in Dark Heart in the early/mid 1980's along with stints in Roulette and Holosade. Also, the first recorded Charger track was "Rock", debuting on Ebony's "The Metal Collection Vol. 1" in 1986. That's as early as the Charger story gets.
"Desperadoes" is as catchy and heavy as any of their predecessors achievements, but with a more accomplished, tight, and polished sound. Bell's driving and powerful voice matched with Baz Cummins flashy and quick guitar licks while Steve Hall (drums) heeds the charge (all pun intended), cementing "Desperadoes" as a true gem and anyone with a pulse can't resist singing along to the chorus.
Despite obtaining a support slot opening for Tygers of Pan Tang in 1987, Charger ran out of steam by the end of the decade. A handful of live show reviews and talk of other songs (Tiger) being performed, but no demos or other releases have unfortunately came to fruition. The story goes that as a final attempt at getting the band name out, copies of the "Desperadoes/Are You Out There" single were given away for FREE (easily going for big bucks nowadays and the holy grail of NWOBHM collecting) with purchases at a local fish and chips shop. Makes you wonder how many of these dragon-winged horse depicted singles are possibly sitting around in storage boxes or attics, maybe even never played...
Made in England 3 - Chateaux "White Steel"
Despite the French name, Chateaux (formally Stealer) never had much problem being confused with a French band and were quite the accomplished trio. Starting around 1981, the band quickly got snatched up by contract-ready Ebony records who released their first single "Young Blood" on their "Metal Maniaxe" compilation and also released the single 7" of the same song.
There was enough buzz amongst fans to put out a debut record and "Chained and Desperate" began recording at a faster pace than the band probably wanted. Regardless, the debut is solid and certainly holds its own against any British debut in 1983. While Alec Houston and Andre Baylis are credited both for vocal duties, Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper, among others) actually recorded main vocals on the "Young Blood" single and the debut. Grimmett was never an official member and Chateaux wanted a more permanent vocalist whom they could call their own.
So, with that, Grimmett only got a measly and unfair "guest musician" credit. Even though Chateaux were well on their way, the lack of interest from 2/3 of the band at the time due to the rushed input regarding the direction and recording hurries was too much. Tim Broughton (guitar) marched on with a new singer/bassist (Krys Mason ex-Confessor) and drummer (Chris Dadson ex-Sam Thunder) emerging. "Firepower" was the next full length and the album "White Steel" is taken from. As a whole, not as accomplished as the debut but still solid enough for a 2nd record released around a year after the debut, especially with the band members leaving the sole guitar player to carry on.
Molten metal guitar-riffed 16th notes with screaming harmonics starts the song off while still keeping the vocal melodies in the verses and the blues-style guitar solo in tact. There is without a doubt a smooth transition that is so reminiscent of the movement and is utterly moving when done properly.
Even though the "Firepower" album as a whole isn't as great, "White Steel" has always been my favorite Chateaux song and a great one to start with. "Highly Strung", their last album (3 strikes and you're out so says Ebony?), certainly showcases the downfall of the band going into boring and generic territory and is quite the weak epitaph of a once great NWOBHM band. You'll still hear the French moniker come up in any average NWOBHM discussion though and with that, Chateaux lives on.
Made in England 2 - Virtue "We Stand to Fight"
Despite putting out an "official" release pretty late in the game (1985), Oxfordshire's Virtue lay claim to a very highly regarded 7" and one of my personal favorites. The band can be traced back as early as 1981 while still in their mid late teens. Virtue made a pretty hefty line up change after a shelved cassette demo was recorded but never released, due to the disappointment from the band. Original members and brothers Matt (guitar) and Tudor Sheldon (vocals) marched on with a new, more solid line up and through word of mouth, performing wherever they could (sometimes by showing up at bars/clubs in their best stage clothes to catch a moment with the owner to see if they could open the show that night without the owner ever hearing them), and scraping up enough money to record... "We Stand to Fight" was released through Other Records (the labels first and only release aside from the 2nd pressing?). Like the name implies, Virtue played anthemic, charging, melodic, twin guitar driven Heavy Metal. An obvious nod to their heroes Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, among others...
If the vocal hooks don't get you, the infectious chorus, guitar harmonies, and epic finger tapping will. A 3 song EP meant for a vinyl release was recorded around a year later and is just as solid but never got a release due to lack of label interest (?!) and funds, although a cassette release does exist. Just beware of shady bootleg versions of "We Stand to Fight". Rabid demand for an original copy of the single is still common to this day. "Where are the heroes?"
Made in England 1 - Aragorn "Black Ice"
The next time someone mentions bands like Venom and Motorhead leading the charge during the NWOBHM movement in regards to speed, heaviness, grime and grit, etc...make sure they've heard Aragorn (a not so surprising Tolkein reference). While not having an accomplished career, like most bands that went sooner than they came during those years, Aragorn carried all those characteristics and waved the flag high with the "Black Ice" (1981) single released by none other than Neat Records and were in fact one of the labels earliest signed bands, predating releases by influential guitar-tone heavy bands like Hellhammer. Struck by possible bad luck/timing, such is seemingly the fate of most in the movement, Aragorn didn't survive much further than this single and the later material didn't capture the bulldozer drive and tempo that this early single did. The B Side, "Noonday" is also another heavy hitter.
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