Sometimes I drift off to this place in my mind where it’s the summer of 1973 and I’m not six years old, but sixteen, and alongside a few hundred other lucky people I’m crammed in to a venue watching three of my favourite UK cult bands from that same era; Hollywood Brats, Heavy Metal Kids and Silverhead.

That gig of course is the stuff of dreams, pretty much like this soon to be released 6 CD box set from my dream gig headliners Silverhead felt like back in the days when a CD copy of the band’s much sought after ‘Show Me Everything’ album (which is included here) would have cost you more than this box set does right now on pre-order. See dreams do come true after all!

Silverhead, for those of you who might not be aware, were a glam tinged hard rock band from the UK fronted by actor turned singer Michael Des Barres, and featuring soon to be Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison along with soon to be Robin Trower drummer Pete Thompson and soon to be Robert Plant guitarist Robbie Blunt, the latter joining the band for their seminal second album ’16 And Savaged’, a song from which, this box set takes its name. The rest of band being made up of guitarist Rod ‘Rook’ Davies (who had played with The Riot Squad alongside David Bowie prior to Silverhead) and for the band’s self-titled debut album guitarist Stevie Forest.

Signing to Purple Records in the early 1970s to release said debut album they toured with the likes of their label bosses, Kiss, Nazareth, Uriah Heep and perhaps somewhat bizarrely highlifers Osibisa along the way to what they hoped would be the road to stardom.

On paper at least, whilst their touring partners may seem to have been akin to some random lottery pairing, when you get to hear the band and in particular their (Martin Birch produced) self-titled debut record from 1972 it all makes much more sense. So, whilst the likes of album opener ‘Long Legged Lisa’ and ‘Sold Me Down A River’ both doff a top hat to Marc Bolan it’s the more bluesy based boogie rock of their second single ‘Rolling With My Baby’ that the band seemed to become more renowned for producing.

The five guys most certainly looked like New York Dolls (I mean just look at the video I’ve linked here) but the semi-balladic ‘Johnny’ and ‘In Your Eyes’ sounded more like my imaginary gig partners Heavy Metal Kids during their more reflective times. In saying this their debut single ‘Ace Supreme’ is a knockout blast of Bowie-esque glam that everyone should have in their collection, and it’s included here along with its b (that’s b for boogie) side ‘Oh No No No’ and the 7” version of ‘Rolling With My Baby’, which sheds 1 minute off the album version.

It’s the band’s self/co-produced second album ’16 And Savaged’ (recorded with help from engineer Alan Harris and keyboard tech Stuart Wicks) that, for yours truly, is the absolute jewel in the band’s crown. Here, they slightly up the glam influence of their debut on the likes of opener ‘Hello New York’, whilst also embracing a new Zeppelin-esque vibe on the album’s title track (a direction Des Barres would most certainly follow with his next band Detective).

Elsewhere, during the fantastic ‘Cartoon Princess’ there’s a Southern rock feel to the band’s boogie rock via some of slide guitar playing, whilst on the album’s sole ballad ‘Only You’ Des Barres still sings with all of the grit of an in his prime Gary Holton but the song itself is much more in The Faces camp rather than the Heavy Metal Kids this time of asking.

If that all wasn’t enough, there’s four curios added here as additional tracks, with both ‘James Dean’ and ‘Marilyn’ showcasing a Silverhead fired up post the Purple Records deal turning sour, and by direct contrast we also get to hear ‘Leon’, the middle of the road post Silverhead 7” single released by Des Barres, complete with its b side ‘New Moon Tonight’, which has a country rock influence running through it.

The other four CDs included in this mighty box set are given over to 4 previously released live albums (one and a half of which, I’d never heard before) which given the nature of the band’s brief post Purple Records existence all come with a health warning regarding the quality of some of the source material. 

It’s the ‘Live At The Rainbow’ that gets me closest to feeling what it must have been like to have actually seen Silverhead live. Recorded in November 1973 when the band supported Nazareth, the original eight track LP (originally released via EMI in Japan in 1975) is expanded to thirteen tracks here (adding in tracks from a BBC In Concert show from 1973 recorded at London’s Paris Theatre), and they sound absolutely astounding. Des Barres spitting out his gravelly vocal lines over a band that sounds like they are playing as though their lives depended on it. Well for the Rainbow set at least. That’s because for the additional BBC tracks the band sound much more like they are merely playing through tracks from their then current album, but such is the nature of those kind of radio shows, I guess. They still sound ace mind, just not so fired up as during the Rainbow set.   

The ‘Show Me Everything’ CD I mentioned at the top of this review is up next, and this echoey semi-bootleg quality recording of the band’s seven track set at Alexandra Palace in 1973 complete with a further six tracks from a much better sounding Japanese show, recorded on January 19th, 1974 (more of which in second), is a decent enough live document of the band, albeit the king’s ransom it once used to command on a certain online auction site is most certainly put into context here.

The fifth disc here is the 2019 released ‘Berlin Blackout’ soundboard quality recording, which captures Silverhead’s eight track live set from a February 1973 show at the Sportpalast, Berlin. This is a head and shoulders above the quality of Alexandra Palace show on the proceeding disc, and having never heard this show previously whilst it doesn’t quite match the intensity of the Rainbow 1974 show its still the sound of Silverhead firing on all cylinders in the live setting.

Originally released in Japan back in 2021 as part of a double CD set going under the curious title of ‘Hitting Japan, Beating Japan’, the sixth CD in this box set captures an eleven song Silverhead live set from January 19th, 1974. Which, those more eagle eyed amongst you might have already spotted was the source for the bonus cuts on the ‘Show Me Everything’ disc. Yup it appears that is indeed the case and ‘Live In Japan’ is in fact the expanded version of those songs, complete with Deb Barres’ between song patter restored instead of the between song fade outs that are on the ‘Show Me Everything’ extras.  I find this more than a little disappointing as the other disc in the Japanese only release was from Tokyo Koseinenkin Hall on January 10th, 1974, so if I want to hear that one, I need to look for it outside of this “Complete Recordings” box set.

That very small quibble aside, this is still a top notch purchase for anyone looking to discover the music of Silverhead and the excellent Malcolm Dome penned sleeve notes reprinted from the 2016 Purple Records CD reissues of the first three albums presented here as a 24 page booklet make for a very interesting history lesson indeed.

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Author: Johnny Hayward