In a way, the entire D.I.Y. punk/new wave movement of the late 70’s was a kind of Spring. When it flourished, it pulled me back into pop music with an enthusiasm that I hadn’t known for some time.
Now, I’m not one of those punk fans who’ll tell you that the mid-seventies were worthless – there are plenty of groups and individual artists that held my interest during that period – but the era that started when the Ramones began their first 1-2-3-4! was a personal high point for this listener. I was working a second job in a record store, writing elpee reviews for a small giveaway music paper called The Prairie Sun and receiving freebies – while the scene was exploding with more groups and sounds than it had seen in years. Most music junkies have a period which symbolizes all the hope and possibility that great pop music can elicit. This was mine.
I’ve raved about my personal faves, the Ramones, often enough in the past. But when it comes to picking a single elpee from the era with pure rattle-the-windows punchiness, I’m just as likely to put a copy of the Rezillos’ Can’t Stand The Rezillos (Sire) on my CD player. To these ears, this 1978 release is as much a pop-punk classic as Rocket to Russia or Road to Ruin – even if the band’s one studio release only sold about fifteen copies in the U.S. Back in the days of vinyl, I wound up buying more than one copy myself, simply because I wore the first ‘un down overplaying it on a crappy cheap needle.
A Scottish group with a gravelly/nerdy male singer (Eugene Reynolds) and a perky female lead (Fay Fife) who’d anticipate the B-52’s sci-fi thrift shop look by several years, the Rezillos played fast – almost too fast for the melody at times – and took from such sources as Gerry and the Pacemakers, Sweet and teen-in-trouble movie soundtracks. Like the Ramones, they had a nose for great cheese, but where Joey and the boys looked to drive-in directors like Tobe Hooper for lyrical inspiration, the Rezillos were just as likely to evoke Gerry & Sylvia Anderson. There’s a lot of pulpish imagery on this disc – songs about invading flying saucers, spies and the dystopian horrors of “2000 A.D.” – alongside kid plaints and art school moments: in one of the disc’s best cuts, Reynolds rhapsodizes about the love of his life:
“Don’t love my baby for her pouting lips;
Don’t love my baby for her curvy hips;
I love my baby ’cause she does good sculptures, yeah!”
In another, guitarist/songwriter Jo Callis (who later would go on to compose “Don’t You Want Me?” with The Human League) crafts a stinging put-down of “Top Of The Pops” mentality. Of course, the band would later play it on that very teevee show.
It’s all held together by some of the coolest accidental bass & guitar interactions to come out of the period. Bassist Simon Templar (no, I don’t know what his real name was) was like a punk John Entwistle: capable of amazing moves at breakneck speed. The album opens with Templar comin’ at ya, and he rarely lets up. Unlike a lot of new bands of the day, the Rezillos weren’t afraid of guitar solos or even letting the drum take center stage (though Angel Patterson’s glam-rock thomps were comical in their single-mindedness). Purists may’ve sneered; the rest of us just giggled and pogoed along.
There are several great covers on Can’t Stand, but the best of the batch has to be the group’s remake of the cartoonishly thuggish “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight,” a ’69 B-Side by a pseudonymous Fleetwood Mac(!) Just the sound of Reynolds shouting, “Put a boot in!” before Callis zooms into a frenetic guitar solo puts an incongruous smile on my face. It’s funnier than it has a right to be.
The Rezillos only put out one studio album before self-destructing. In ’93 Sire reissued it on CD, including an edited version of a concert album that had previously only been released in England. The live album sounds cavernous and redundant in places, but it also includes the band’s version of “Ballroom Blitz” and “Land Of A Thousand Dances,” not to mention the Thunderbirds theme song. Several band members, including Fife and Reynolds, followed up with a revamped band called The Revillos (supposedly named after a cafe in an early Marvel Comic, though I’m darned if I can tell you where that appeared) and released at least one full album under that name. In America, however, The Revillos were an “import only” band. While lyrically, they mined much of the same territory, they just weren’t as joyously cacophonous as the old gang.
Still, they left this platter behind. And that’s enough.