Friday, February 15, 2013

They Rocked this world, Rocked it inside Out - THE STRAY CATS

To be fair, back in the day, I thought Rockabilly fans were a bit...different, and also to be fair I had never given the genre a fair shake (well apart from Carl Perkins 45's anyway)...BUT..then one night while out and about,  in between bands at the Sundowner Hotel, who should appear on the big screen doing 'Stray Cat Strut" but the ,duh, The Stray Cats and to suggest that I was won over was an understatement..hell, I even went out out and bought some applicable vinyl shortly thereafter....

and the liking of said band and its individual members has continued through to Brian Setzers Orchestra and Headcat starring Slim Jim (and Lemmy)...SO...The Cats....

Without doubt the biggest group of the early-'80s rockabilly revival, the Stray Cats scored  big time with several big hits on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to there striking visual appearance, the boys were tailor made for early MTV, ..BUT...unlike some of the godawful crap that was on MTV, these boys  had some genuine musical chops that evoked the best players of rockabilly's original heyday.

The Cats were formed by Brian Setzer in the Long Island town of Massapequa, NY, in 1979. At first, Setzer played rockabilly covers in a band called the Tom Cats with his drumming brother Gary and bassist Bob Beecher; however, Setzer soon abandoned that group to join up with newly rechristened school friends Lee Rocker (born Leon Drucker) and Slim Jim Phantom (born James McDonnell).

However, their retro '50s look and sound didn't go over well around Long Island, and in the summer of 1980, the boys split for England, where a rockabilly revival movement was just beginning to emerge....After one of their gigs in London, the Stray Cats met producer Dave Edmunds, well known for his love of early rock for his work with Rockpile and as a solo artist. Edmunds offered to work with the group,
 and they entered the studio to record their self-titled debut album, released in England in 1981 on Arista. They were popular right out of the box, scoring three straight hits that year with "Runaway Boys," "Rock This Town," and "Stray Cat Strut." The follow-up, Gonna Ball, wasn't as well received, and stung by the negative reviews, the Stray Cats decided to return to the States and make a go of it.

They signed with EMI America and in 1982 released their U.S. debut, Built for Speed, which compiled the highlights from their two British LPs. Helped by extensive airplay on MTV at the height of the anything-goes new wave era, "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut" both hit the American Top Ten, over a year after their British chart peaks.

As a result, Built for Speed was a smashing success, and the Stray Cats were seen as the leaders of retro style. Their second American album, Rant n' Rave With the Stray Cats, appeared in 1983 and produced another Top Ten hit in "(She's) Sexy + 17," as well as a minor Top 40 entry in the doo wop-styled ballad "I Won't Stand in Your Way."

Personality conflicts began to emerge in the ways the individual members handled their new found success; Phantom married actress (and former Rod Stewart paramour) Britt Ekland, while Setzer made guest appearances with stars like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks and became the concert guitarist for Robert Plant's Honeydrippers side project. In late 1984, Setzer pulled the pin on the band amid much bad blood.

Rocker and Phantom immediately teamed up with guitarist Earl Slick and recorded an album as Phantom, Rocker & Slick, while Setzer waited a couple of years before releasing his roots rock solo debut, The Knife Feels Like Justice.

By 1986, fences had apparently been mended enough for the Stray Cats to reconvene in Los Angeles and record the covers-heavy Rock Therapy, which didn't sell that well.  The trio returned to their respective post-Stray Cats projects, which both released albums that performed disappointingly.

In 1989, they reunited once again for the album Blast Off, which was accompanied by a tour with Stevie Ray Vaughan. No longer with EMI, the Cats entered the studio with Nile Rodgers for the lackluster Let's Go Faster, issued by Liberation in 1990.

1992's Dave Edmunds-produced Choo Choo Hot Fish also attracted little attention, and after another covers album, Original Cool, the group called it quits again.

They have since reunited periodically for live performances....and while Ive never seen them live and in person, I am the proud owner of one of the best concert dvds ..EVER..Stray Cats "Rumble in Brixton" filmed during their 2007 reunion tour.

Setzer, of course, went on to spearhead the '90s swing revival with his Brian Setzer Orchestra, which performed classic big band swing and jump blues tunes, as well as Setzer originals....and Slim Jim recently hooked up with the mighty Lemmy Kilminster to form HeadCat (which is briliant, have I mentioned)

SO..there you have my homage to the Cats..hope you dug it

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Recky - I too really like the Stray Cats, ever since they released Runaway Boys
    Now, I never new that it was Setzer playing guitar on the Honeydrippers MiniLp (always thought it was Page playing as an alias)so thanks for the heads up.