Tuesday, October 04, 2011

'Vinyl Rules!' Episode 3 - Laurel Aitkin / The Screamin' Lobsters / Choir Militia

Time at last for a very belated episode 3 of 'Vinyl Rules!' - here are three 7" singles, all of which feature the talents of Paul Fox on guitar.

Spring 1980, and with The Ruts in limbo as singer Malcolm Owen battled heroin addiction Paul, Segs (bass) and Dave Ruffy (drums) backed Laurel Aitkin on two singles - 'Rudi Got Married' / 'Honey Come Back To Me' and 'Big Fat Man' / 'It's Too Late'. The band were credited as The Unitone, and both were released on Secret Affair's label I-Spy Records; I've not got the first one but I have the second one, which was produced by Paul and John Sparrow. It's something of a curio from my point of view (I'm not much of a ska fan to be honest) but the band play it well, and if nothing else it shows that they were capable of turning their hands to pretty much any style of music with ease. They also recorded a John Peel session with him around the same time, although things changed irrevocably for the band in July when Malcolm died from an overdose. They regrouped as Ruts D.C. and made some very fine music - but that's another story for another time...

When Ruts D.C. finished in 1982 Paul formed the splendidly-named Foxes And Rats with Rat Scabies from The Damned on drums and Martin from Watford (!) on bass; I saw them at (you've guessed it!) The Fulham Greyhound where their psychedelic power trio set (think Hendrix, Cream and, er, Steppenwolf and you'll get the idea) left the mainly punk-powered audience somewhat bemused. After that he and Martin stayed together in The Screamin' Lobsters, who were basically a rock'n'roll band that mixed a few original numbers among the old classics. One such original song was 'Lobrock' which emerged on a single in 1983. It rocks along in a suitably cheery 'we're-not-taking-this-too-seriously-and-nor-should-you' manner as did the doo-wop styled B-side 'Oh Oh I Love You', and as such is a good representation of the band. I saw them a couple of times (I bet you can guess where!) and they were an entertaining bunch although once again Ruts fans were seen leaving the venue with furrowed brows.

Paul's next move was to team up with the Lob's singer Harry Matthews to form a rather more commercially orientated act which went through several names (The Cut, Wildlife and The Big Boys among them) before settling on Choir Militia. Their only single 'Sharpen The Knife' / 'Nothing That Would Interest You' came out in 1986. The A-side is interesting in that it's a re-write of an unfinished Ruts D.C. song that was colloquially known as 'Jangly Boo' when it opened their live sets in an instrumental form in late 1981. The single itself follows the same basic structure (it's since been issued as 'Last Exit' on various Ruts compilations) and sounds very much 'of it's time', with slap bass, string synthesizer and a huge 'gated reverb' drum sound that could only have been recorded in the mid-80s. To my ears it sounds a bit dated next to the stripped-down sound of 'Lobrock' which ironically hasn't dated quite as much, but it's still a pretty good record with some great playing from Paul. The b-side's not bad either, although the band had several better songs like 'Bombs Away' and 'Take It Out On You' that would have made better records in my opinion - I remember hearing studio recordings of them at the time but I fear they'll never get heard now. Shame! Oh and before you ask, yes I did see them at The Fulham Greyhound (and very good they were too) and indeed The Price supported them a few times early on in our (ahem) career which meant a great deal to me personally as Paul was and indeed still is one of my all-time favourite guitarists. (I stayed in touch with him right up to his untimely death and was involved in his final gigs, the story of which can be found in the July 2007 section of these hallowed pages.) In the meantime these singles show a very different side to his playing in than was heard in The Ruts, and are all far better than their current obscurity suggests.

And it's the 4th annual Paul Fox tribute night at The Breakspear Arms in Ruislip on Saturday 15th October - I can't be there myself but it should be a good night...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Paul Fox was a great musician.


George