The Betterdays get recognition at last with Backlash

In the early to mid 1960s, the UK was awash with R’n’B combos that played any and every venue available. Very few of them had what it takes to go on to bigger and better things…some did and hits awaited: others, fate decreed that they would forever remain as a happy memory in the lucky few that saw them. Examples? Well I can think of quite a few…the Rocking D Jays from County Durham spring to mind. Also, as they too have an album out at the moment, The Javelins are a perfect example of a band being full of promise without achieving a hit record, which was the way success was measured in those days. I can now add another example of a band that should have…

They were known as the West Country’s answer to the Rolling Stones: Plymouth’s The Betterdays are still fondly remembered by many today for their performances and potential, and they released just one extremely collectable single for the Polydor label. So if you find ‘Don’t Want That, b/w Here It Is’ on that label, it may be worth more than you think. As with many of their peers, their set tended to draw on American R’n’B and blues but on the evidence of this recording, they had the ability to make each song their own with flourishes never envisioned in the originals. This ‘new’ album, Backlash sees the Ian Gillan fronted Javelins having (purely coincidentally) some serious competition. What we have here are 24 tracks that are comfortably familiar but have a fire that many cover versions do not have.

A brief history of The Betterdays… Mike ‘Shane’ Hayne (vocals), Frank Tyler (drums), Richard Broczek (lead guitar), Bob Pitcher Keyboards and harmonica) and Mike Weston (bass) created quite a stir in their native West Country and were even banned by some venues for playing “black music”, although the enthusiastic audiences never took offence like the establishment did…they were different times for sure. Without established management and no promotion behind them, disillusioned and disappointed the group disbanded. Fast-forward to 1991 after a chance meeting, followed by some live shows, they finally entered a recording studio and recorded over 20 tracks. The result of which was an album called ‘No Concessions’ which, along with the additional recordings have now been recovered from the original master tapes and remastered by Mike Weston to form this new release.

With 24 tracks on offer, I will share only the highlights and there are plenty of those amongst the well-known and not so well known covers. Starting with my favourite…Howling For My Baby (the Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf) classic) has a dirty blues feel with a great slide guitar that epitomises how a cover should be done…totally recognisable but so different that it is nearly new. They also do a damn good job of some of my other beloved songs from the era. (Please bear in my mind that I discovered these tracks later in life: I was only five years old in 1963 when these guys were at their peak). Road Runner (written by Ellas McDaniel and recorded by Bo Diddley) is similarly well done and the piano solo backed with a slightly fuzzed guitar is brilliant. Where would we be without Willie Dixon compositions? Well the superb Pretty Thing is covered here with a genius guitar intro before the more recognisable harp takes over the riff. John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom is another gem of a cover with more imaginative guitar interpretations and laid back piano behind the harp: an inspired approach. High Heel Sneakers (the Tommy Tucker classic) is given a jug band treatment to make it the same but different and it works a treat. Louisiana Red’s Two Fifty Three is so clever with its almost rock guitar and piano solo which could well have set the template for the R’n’B revival led by such luminaries as Dr. Feelgood.

I could keep going but suffice it to say, this album is a snapshot of a fine band that the music business missed out on all those years ago. Backlash revisits a golden era of music growth and development; of British Bands taking the American template and winding it up before feeding it back to them through bands like The Stones. If you remember that golden era or, if like me, you found it out while looking back on the inspirations and influences of your more recent favourite bands, then this is not just enjoyable, it is an education.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Crackin’ Up
  2. I Can Tell
  3. Upside Your Head
  4. Raining In My Heart
  5. Route 66
  6. Working Man
  7. Don’t Start Me Talking
  8. I Wish You Would
  9. Don’t Lie To Me
  10. Howling For My Baby
  11. Baby What You Want Me To Do
  12. Boom Boom
  13. Help Me
  14. High Heel Sneakers
  15. Pretty Thing
  16. Two Fifty Three
  17. Hello Josephine
  18. Walking the Boogie
  19. Just A Little Bit
  20. Treat Her Right
  21. It’s A Sin
  22. Too Much Monkey Business
  23. Too Poor To Die
  24. Road Runner

 

The Betterdays get recognition at last with Backlash

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