Reviews Zone

Radio Stars: Thinking Inside The Box (Anagram/Cherry Red) 31st March 2017

 

 

 


5 Stars (5 / 5)

 

  

This one excited me. The first ever box set dedicated to UK new wave punk band Radio Stars. I was a fan back in the day.

On 17th October 1978, I was a press photographer on a AAA pass shooting this band at Leicester University for a national music ‘paper. Andy Ellison, the energetic lead singer used to leap off the PA stack onto a trampoline during the set sometimes. On this night four decades ago, he misjudged the jump and after literally flying through the air, landed with a “bang” on the stage, and injured himself.

I re-discovered the black and white photos a few years ago within my archive; boxes and bags of prints, negatives, transparencies, contact sheets and all sorts. Shots taken since 1978 to today. My pension!

There is a bare-chested Andy, tight black jeans and I think white boots, mid-air, captured on half a dozen black and white prints, taken by me on a Mamiya camera and a Vivitar telephoto lens, stood side stage a few feet from him. I did not get any shots of him after the ill-fated landing, as I recall going to his aid with members of the stage crew.  I vaguely recall he hurt his arm, but he really was so bloody lucky not to have bust his neck or his back. He went so high and then “ouch!”

The Radio Stars official website ran the shots on their website with my permission not long after I dug them up again. Martin Gordon the band’s bass player and ex-Sparks member, sent me a message at the time to say how great the photos were. I am not sure if I heard from Andy. Maybe.  Mr Ellison being the former singer with John’s Children, alongside a pre-T. Rex Mark Bolan.

So today we get “68 tracks of melodic mayhem” from this under-rated and quirky UK band, across four discs. Disc one is the band’s debut album, “Songs For Swinging Lovers” originally released in 1977 by Chiswick Records. A certified power pop punk classic, it features the UK Top 40 single “Nervous Wreck”. Also on this album is one of my favourites, “The Beast Of Barnsley”, which is actually a song about a recent serial rapist at the time!  The band never did win an award for good taste. Other stand-outs are “Is It really Necessary” and “Talking ‘Bout You”.

The band’s second and final studio album, “The Holiday Album”, is here on disc two, and features the single “The Real Me” and a re-working of the seminal “No Russians In Russia”. There are 14 cuts on this album and a dozen on the first album. Paul Jones guested on harmonica on the album. Standouts on “The Holiday Album”, include the opener, “Radio Stars”, “Norwegian Wood”,  “I’m Down” and the bonkers “(I’ve Got Dem Old) Sex Chains Blues (Again Mama) Part 1”.

The third disc “Singles And Rarities”, contains 22 tracks – a variety of non-LP singles, B-sides and studio out-takes, many of the tracks appearing on CD for the first time. Opening with “Dirty Pictures” and closing with the previously unreleased “Beast Of Ankara”.

The fourth disc “At The BBC”, gives us three previously unissued sessions for BBC Radio 1’s legendary John Peel show, plus eight songs from an unreleased “In Concert” for the same radio station. The Peel Sessions are dated 20.05.1977, 18.11.1977 and 04.10.78 and deliver four tracks from the first two sessions and five from the third.

In depth liner notes by Dave Thompson are a feature of the 24 page booklet which also includes pictures of all the relevant records as well as clippings, adverts, etc.  Each CD is housed in its own individual cardboard wallet and then packed into a hard-back clam shell box.

They dropped just the two studio albums and a live album, “Something For The Weekend” in 2008. They broke up in summer 1979, reformed briefly in 1982 for two performances, and were back in 2008 to perform a 32nd (!) anniversary gig at the Metro Club in London. The  again in 2010, for a 34th !) anniversary gig at 100 Club in London with Eddie and the Hot Rods.

If you know Radio Stars from back in the day, I am pretty sure you may already have this little gem on pre-order. If they are new to you, but you dig bands with lots of power, attitude and energy, a bucket full of cheek; talented musicians who never took themselves too seriously, this is for you. It is most definitely for me. Oh yes!

 

By Simon Redley

 

 


1 Stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 Stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
3 Stars (3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
4 Stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
5 Stars (5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’

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