Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Flash & The Babys

Cam as Chip

As we take our seventh inning stretch between CMW and NXNE it is time to dig back into the vaults and re-visit some reviews and articles I wrote back in the late seventies and early eighties for some long-gone publications, which are unavailable to the best of my knowledge, on-line. These three are from The New Music Magazine back in 1979.

The Babys – Head First

The Babys

Cute, But…Cuteness has always been a prerequisite for success in commercial rock’n’roll. Would Rod Stewart ever had made it of he had buck teeth and terminal acne? Come on girls, we all know you fall for the looks. Now we guys are a little more choosey. We don’t care if a band looks like a bunch of ex-Ted Nugent roadies as long as they can play. Well ladies, the Babys are for you!

On their third album, Head First, The Babys inject a large dose of their superficial mints into their songs. Take the hit single Every Time I Think of You for example. With its strings, background vocals and tear-jerking lyrics, terminal cuteness is not far off. There are a couple more of these on the album, but we won’t go into them.

Besides the ballads, the album contains a few of those classic formula rockers for which almost everyone is famous. Songs like Love Don’t Prove I’m Right make the album a worthwhile investment if you are into that type of rock. The Babys do it no worse, nor better, than any of the dozen or so bands that are doing the same thing.

The concept of formula rock is what’s wrong with the album. It has nothing really new to offer. Most of the guitar riffs are just rehashed from countless other songs and the lyrics are just new ways of saying old things: how lonely is it on the road, or how much does it hurt ‘cause you are gone?

Don’t get me wrong! This is not a terrible album. The Babys are good at what they do; their problem is that what they are doing has been done before. They have dived head first into formula rock and it is going to take a big pull to get them out.”

It’s kind of funny that “Head First” is my favourite Babys song and I also still listen to “Every Time I Think Of You” and consider them both classic powerpop. Of course singer John Waite would have a massive solo hit with “Missing You” some five years after the release of “Head First”. The Babys also recorded the great pop single “Isn’t It Time” way back in 1977.

Flash and the Pan – Flash and the Pan 

Flash_And_The_Pan_-_Flash_And_The_Pan_album_cover

This is the original Australian cover. The UK cover is in the videos below

Back in the early Sixties there was a great Mersey beat band by the name of The Easybeats. The Easybeats’ claim to fame was a rock’n’roll classic called Friday On My Mind, written by the pop duo of Harry Vanda and George Young. Harry Vanda and George Young are Flash and the Pan. So much for past history.

For the last couple of years, the duo has been busy working with George’s little brother’s band, AC/DC, but soon the creative itch got to them and they decided to make their own album, Flash and the Pan. 

The easiest way to get some sort of perspective on the album is to imagine all the guitars on a Dire Straits albums being replaced by walls of keyboards, synthesizers and the like; that is what it sounds like musically. Vocally, imagine Paul McCartney singing through a megaphone ala Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. Lyrically, the duo is very futuresque – along the lines of a Bowie, perhaps. Now, if you can conceptualise all of this, you will get a basic idea of what Flash and the Pan call ‘the music of the eighties’.

From side to side this record is an interesting debut, and the sound could well become that of the Eighties. The band mixes the feel of Sixties’ pop, behind which they were a great influential force, with the technology of the late Seventies. Electro-pop? Songs like The African Shuffle and Down Among the Dead Men could/should bring Flash and the Pan the same kind of acclaim that Friday brought The Easybeats. A flash in the pan this is not.”

Considering this was written well-before Wikipedia was even a remote idea, the band either had a great little bio, or I was a pretty clever kid.

Rockets – Turn Up The Radio

rockets1

Who cares? Using the Olympic scoring system I have thrown out the high score, thrown out the low score, and have been left with a big bland in the rating of the first Rockets record, Turn Up The Radio. Once again I am forced to say, this isn’t a bad album, but…

The five members of Rockets all seem/sound like good musicians but when you put them together, yawn. By looking at the record jacket it looks like these guys are just too old to rock’n’roll. The only two songs, out of the album’s nine, worth mentioning are Long Long Gone, written by Bob Seger, and the classic rock’n’roller, Lucille. Unfortunately, both of these songs are not originals and dozens of bar bands all across Canada could make them sound this good if given the studio time.

The big drawback on this album is that it is really wimpy. Their attempts at rockin’ would leave bands like Foreigner and Van Halen in fits of power-chord laughter. At the same time they are a little too loud for your basic Fleetwood Mac fan. This leaves them in a little pocket of no-wave rock. Fortunately for the Rockets there are a hell of a lot of people who like their music bland. The album is getting a lot of radio airplay and the band just might come out of nowhere and become a big thing.

I think they should go into hiding and come back in 1986 as a soft rock Sha Na Na.”

That last review enraged the band so much that they managed to get my editor on the phone to complain that I had no idea of what I was talking about and really shouldn’t be reviewing records.

=CC=

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59

Come request a Babys song at The Kensington Lodge every Wednesday beginning at 6 PM.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, and New Canadian Music.

 

One Response to “Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Flash & The Babys”

  1. I had no idea that John Waite had been The Babys singer. I do recall you telling me about Flash and the Pan’s origins. And I’d never even heard of Rockets, which sounds like a good thing. Nice work!

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