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The Records were an Englishmarker power pop band in the late 1970s. By fans of the genre, they are considered one of the most seminal British power pop acts of all time. As Allmusic notes, they are often referred to as the "British Big Star". They are best remembered for the hit single and cult favourite "Starry Eyes".

History

The Records formed out of the ashes of the The Kursaal Flyers, a pub rock group featuring drummer Will Birch. In 1977, John Wicks joined The Kursaals as a rhythm guitarist. Birch and Wicks quickly started writing songs together, Wicks as composer, Birch as lyricist. After the Flyers dissolved just three months after Wicks joined, and he and Birch continued to write songs together with the hopes of starting a new four-piece group with Birch on drums and Wicks on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Birch soon came up with a name for the formative band: The Records. The group's lineup initially included lead guitarist Brian Alterman, whose guitar riffs have been compared to that of The Byrds. Alterman played on two early demos that were later included on the album Paying for the Summer of Love, before joining another band. Alterman was replaced by Huw Gower in 1978, crystallizing the new lineup with Gower (lead guitar) and Phil Brown (bass) now on board. Like Birch and Wicks, Gower and Brown were music veterans. Gower had played with the "hippie" group Magic Muscle and a later band called The Ratbites From Hell, which also featured future Only Ones guitarist John Perry. Brown had been the bass player for The Janets.

The new group was heavily influenced both by British Invasion bands like The Beatles and The Kinks and early power pop groups such as Badfinger, Big Star, and The Raspberries. Power pop was experiencing a renaissance on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks in large part to the burgeoning punk/new wave movement. Although most power pop groups were less amateurish and sported cleaner images than their punk contemporaries, they found inspiration in the stripped-down, straight-forward aesthetics of the movement, a sharp departure from the rock music that was prevalent in the early-to-mid 1970s.

They were hired to back Stiff Records starlet Rachel Sweet on the "Be Stiff Tour '78". The Records opened the shows with a set of their own. Birch and Wicks also wrote a song for Sweet's debut album entitled "Pin a Medal on Mary". The songwriting duo also penned "Hearts in Her Eyes" for 1960s Liverpoolmarker legends The Searchers, who made an unexpected and highly acclaimed comeback with their power pop-oriented album The Searchers in 1979.

Based on demos, later released as Paying for the Summer of Love, the band was signed to Virgin Records in 1978. Their debut single, "Starry Eyes", was released in the UK that December and has since become their best-known song and an oft-covered power pop standard. With its ringing chords, piercing leads, soaring harmonies, insistent delivery, and caustic lyrics about a former manager, the song is commonly considered among the very best power pop records ever. Allmusic calls it "a near-perfect song that defined British power pop in the '70s" . Unsurprisingly, due in part to their traditional American power pop influences (Big Star, The Raspberries), the song was a bigger hit in the US than in the UK; it peaked at #56 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1979.

The group went into the studio with producers Robert John "Mutt" Lange and Tim Friese-Greene, releasing their next single, the Tim Moore song "Rock 'n' Roll Love Letter" and debut LP Shades in Bed in 1979. The latter yielded another single, "Teenarama", their second-best known song and considered another classic by many power pop aficionados. The album was released in the US in July 1979 as The Records with different sequencing and the single version of "Starry Eyes" replacing the re-recorded album version that appeared on the UK edition. The album was a minor American hit, peaking at #41.

Unfortunately for the group, that would be the pinnacle of their success. Citing "musical differences", Gower, looking for a harder sound, left to join former New York Doll David Johansen. Jude Cole, a 19-year old American, who had been in Moon Martin's backing group The Ravens, joined for the album Crashes (1980). The album was not a hit, and did not yield any successful singles, and record company support for the band dried up during the Crashes tour. Cole stayed in the US, while the core of Birch, Wicks and Brown returned home to England.

The trio expanded into a quintet with guitarist Dave Whelan and lead singer Chris Gent. Previously, most of the songs had been sung by Wicks, but with other members frequently taking lead vocals for individual songs. Birch has since declared that the decision to recruit a lead singer was made "perhaps unwisely." This line-up recorded a third album for Virgin, 1982's Music on Both Sides. Like its predecessor, the album was not a hit, but unlike Crashes was not even appreciated by diehard fans or critics.

Founding members Will Birch and John Wicks have re-issued classic material by The Records on their respective labels. Birch operates On The Beach Recordings, a record label that has released deluxe CD re-issues of each of the studio albums by The Records. These deluxe packages boast rarities and include bonus tracks, in addition to new liner notes by both Birch and Wicks. John Wicks has re-issued the Paying For The Summer Of Love album to CD, in addition to Play Live, a professionally-produced live album from a 1980 tour where The Records played in the US.

After this, the band effectively broke up. Birch turned to producing and writing, while Wicks has held on to The Records' name. The original band reformed in 1991, recording "Darlin'" for the Brian Wilson tribute, Smiles, Vibes and Harmonies. Wicks has continued to release music in a power pop vein as John Wicks and The Records and is now based in the United States. In April 2009, his long awaited CD release titled "Rotate" was released on the KoolKatMusik Label. In 2009, John Wicks began performing with rock legend Paul Collins of The Nerves and The Beat. As a pioneer of the house concert format during the 1990s and 2000s, Collins invited Wicks to play some acoustic storytelling dates with him. Collins' house concerts are held anywhere from clubs and coffee houses to the living rooms of private residences. Collins and Wicks are currently working together on an album of new material, to be produced by The Raspberries producer Steve Boyer and released in 2010. In addition to the house concert tours, both John Wicks and Paul Collins continue to tour and record with their respective bands.

Discography

Albums

  • 1979: Shades in Bed (UK)
  • 1979: The Records (US)
  • 1980: Crashes
  • 1982: Music on Both Sides
  • 1988: Smashes, Crashes and Near Misses
  • 2001: Paying for the Summer of Love
  • 2009: Play Live: The Records Live in Concert

Singles

  • 1978: "Starry Eyes" (UK)
  • 1979: "Rock 'n' Roll Love Letter" (UK)
  • 1979: "Starry Eyes" (US)
  • 1979: "Teenarama"
  • 1980: "Hearts in Her Eyes"
  • 1982: "Imitation Jewellry"


References



External links




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