Monday, January 9, 2017

Flashback #8 - Stray Cats Struttin'

I was in a pub with my other half just before Christmas, when the music playing caught my attention.  I asked the barman who it was, and he said Lee Rocker.  The name didn’t ring any bells with me at the time, but I made a mental note to check it out.
When I came back to it a week or so later, I realised that this was the Lee Rocker who played wild stand-up bass with the Stray Cats – and that took me all the way back to the night I saw them at long lost Edinburgh venue Tiffany’s (later Cinderella Rockerfella’s) in the early 80s.  Looking to check exactly when, I came upon the remarkable, which tells me that it was on 9 March 1981.
Stray Cats get down and get wiv it
Tiffany’s was a standing venue, and mobbed that night.  I recall being down the front, with Slim Jim Phantom just feet away from me, as the Stray Cats proceeded to deliver a wild set of rock’n’roll.  The fact that Slim Jim could drive them along by whacking the living daylights out of nothing more than a kick drum, a snare and a cymbal seems bonkers.  But then Stray Cats were a pretty bonkers proposition altogether, what with the OTT quiffs, and the big tattoos at a time when they weren’t commonplace the way they are now.  They knew their onions when it came to performing rock’n’roll though, with Brian Setzer leading the way with raunchy guitar, and Rocker using his double bass like a piece of gym equipment.
It’s notable that the Stray Cats relocated to London* to make their breakthrough. Scoring a series of hits with rockabilly tunes like ‘Runaway Boys’, ‘Rock This Town’ and ‘Stray Cats’ may seem outlandish at a time when the New Romantics were the latest big thing, but it probably reflects the way that the British music scene had broken open in the aftermath of punk – in the UK singles chart in early 1981 you’d also have found Rainbow reaching number 3 with ‘I Surrender’, and even Motorhead combining with Girlschool to reach number 10, alongside Ultravox, The Who, The Teardrop Explodes, Talking Heads and Madness.  I hated the ‘Year Zero’ mentality that came with punk in 1976/77, but it did enable a thousand flowers to bloom – for a while at least.

The Stray Cats conjured up a stonkingly good debut album to reinforce the hit singles, though I’m not sure I’d have wanted to base foreign relations on the sentiments of ‘Storm The Embassy’.  They weren’t to built to last, but that night in Tiffany’s they didn’t half get the joint rockin’.  Check out this video of ‘(She’s) Sexy &17’ to remember their chutzpah.

*Referenced on 'String Bass, Guitar And A Drum', from his 2009 album for Alligator Records, Black Cat Bone.

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