If it were possible to go back in time and spend a few days doing something cool apart from watching The Damned at the Hope and Anchor, the Dolls hit up Manhatten. Stop Hanoi Rocks getting on that airplane to the US, I’d head back to old London Town in the early 90s when I used to frequent Soho when it had some character left. I’d head over to the Marquee club and catch some great bands before it all dissolved into dust.
An LP just landed on my doorstep that; if the world was a just and deserving place An LP record that should have been made and one that should have propelled a band from Birmingham into the limelight where they would have shone brightest. ‘Witness To The Crime’ cements the notion I’ve kept for many years that after Hanoi and the Lords had left town and The Dogs D’Amour had burnt their candle from both ends, Thunders was having his last hoorah with his oddballs. The single band left in the underground that coulda, shoulda, woulda was Gunfire Fucking Dance! The first time I saw them supporting at the Marquee I was mesmerised I’d found a band I knew I could love because they had the look and the presence to devastate and above all they had the tunes. They weren’t a Dolls cover band they weren’t hipsters going through the motions or London posers, Gunfire Dance were the real deal. Sure I heard large elements of The Lords and some Hanoi and Bounty Hunters and Thunders and his Heartbreakers, for sure. They were all in this melting pot from the Midlands but they had a danger a frontman that was more Jagger at Hyde Park than Axl on the strip and with the Lords now fucked off there was a hole that needed filling.
Fast forward a few decades and another band that fell by the wayside, they had it all but cest la vie they barely scratched the surface they were too cool and punk for Sounds, not metal for Kerrang! not hip enough for NME and Melody Maker it was a travesty that a band that had songs as good as were on their demo tape they sold at shows or the singles they had pressed but never made it to a full-blown LP. I remember the songs they’ve stayed with me from the shows and I played the cassette tape until it died. Fast forward a time when social media made the world a small place and you could find out the minute details of bands and people you never got to meet or find out what happened to those bands.
There was a CD released that turned out to be like Rockin horse shite ‘Archway Of Thorns’ and in recent years momentum was growing for the songs to be pressed on wax and become the vinyl hipsters they should’ve been. Post-pandemic and that time has arrived (hit the fanfare and drum roll) Ladies and Gentlemen Easy Action have done the decent thing and pulled together twleve of their finest tracks and finally a friggin album from Gunfire Dance.
It’s always been a plan to front-load an album with your best tunes to grab the listener and quite often the record fizzles out after the opening salvo. ‘Witness To The Crime’ begins with an opening hattrick of gargantuan proportions ‘Blue’ is a reckless beast from the vocal chant of ‘BLUE!’ that was like a sonic punch to the nose that would daze you as the thump of Birchy’s bass line is thunderous and when its joined by the runaway train that is his fellow rhythm section tub thumper Ozzie who rides the drums like trying to harness and tame the four horses of the apocalypse whilst Wards guitar scuffs and squeals like a demon being banished from the studio speakers it’s a truly magnificent opener by anyone’s standard. To follow it up with the magnificent ‘Bliss Street’ that oozes cool It’s got a punk rock beating heart but it’s Rock n Roll and the chorus if that’s what it is – is genius. Then, ‘Bird Doggin” is a howling, badass, sleazy run through the backwaters of Rock n Roll with its Steve Jonesesque run up and down the neck of both bass and guitar, it’s fuckin huge! And all these years later I must have played these songs hundreds if not a thousand times I’m still not bored of hearing them and being able to drop the needle on them makes me feel good, finally, Gunfire Dance get the sound and platform they deserve imortalised on wax. It’s never too late to pay tribute to greatness and I know I’m not alone as there are many people out there who witnessed the Crimes of Gunfire Dance but in truth, the only crime was that Gunfire Dance isn’t a household name in rock n Roll Circles and people don’t talk about them looking back on a time when the world needed genuine rock n roll pirates who had the chops. they were there and this record is the evidence.
When I said frontloading a record was a thing this is proof that it wouldn’t have happened to these cats as ‘Easy Come’ is a howling whirlwind of noise and sounds elevated on vinyl – maybe my mind is playing tricks with me but this sounds even more magnificent. The sleeve notes wrap the band up far better than I could even if I do like pouring superlatives on great records (in my opinion) but hell if I don’t who will? Fuck it, I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to say this is easily – head and shoulders the reissue of the year by a country mile it’s not strictly a new record but hell it sounds mighty fresh maybe Ant has cut a deal with old nick and some black magic has been sprinkled over the mix.
I’ve written this review after a few cold ones after a day of watching my football team win and looking for a distraction from the TV and gray Britain’s current cloud of Royal shenanigans so it comes as a perfect shot in the arm or should that be ears?
Side one closes out with the strut of ‘Pretty As Sin’ that indeed has all the wah scuffs I need on my records and some pretty mean floor tom thumping and I love the bridge as it soars along with the guitars that are being rinsed within an inch of its life.
Take a break have a cooldown and take a deep breath because side two literally kicks off with ‘Suit And Tie’ that has the Rat & Brian James treatment. I bet Brian couldn’t believe his luck stumbling across these boys who were firing tunes on all cylinders that had bits and pieces of his DNA running through them, especially the guitar breaks on ‘Suit And Tie’ and those Dolls and Stones “woo Hoos” are fabulous now as they were when I first heard them. Tell me you can sit still whilst ‘Make you Cry’ is grooving in the bands most Lords like number, it’s a heaving beast and I love the chorus with the gang vocals with Ant putting on his finest vocal performance on the record.
The band could slow things down as well if they wanted to it wasn’t always the end of days assault. ‘It Hurts’ is dark and gothic with a booming cathedral-like low end. As we head into the home straight it’s the magnificent ‘Burning Ambition’ declaring they were living on dreams and chasing after the sun. They should have burnt through the atmosphere and landed on the front pages of the shitty music press of the late 80s and early 90s for sure the breakdown is a mental beat and only gets better like a fine wine – dust it off and uncork it it’s vintage.
The most endearing memory I have is watching them tear it up in the marquee and hearing ‘Gimme Back My Heart’ and having the same satisfying warm feeling now as I did back them knowing that if they never break through I know I saw them and I loved them like they were playing Knebworth or Wembley nevermind the Marquee Charing Cross Road. they were special times and I was gutted when I heard of Ants passing and that selfishly I would never get to be in a room with a band who lit up my time in the big smoke like no other band whose performances and music gave me a buzz like I had seeing Hanoi rocks or the Lords or Johnny Thunder before them. it seems fitting that the record bows out with the magnificent brooding ‘Archway Of Thorns’. there was no room for ‘Darling’ Ann’ or their cover of The Kink’s ‘Till The End Of The Day’ oh I get it, they’ll be on the follow-up compilation of recently found live tracks and mop-up package wont it? A boy could dream.
‘Witness to The Crime’ brings the curtain down on a band I hold dear and hopefully gives them a chance to be heard by many new ears who never got to witness the crime and that crime is these boys never made TOTP nor private jets flying them to huge adoring crowds around the globe but hey ho life goes on, buy it play it loud and pass it on – Gunfire Dance – the best fuckin band you never saw or heard until now – thanks Easy Action for such a physical treat they needed this. My advice – just buy it!
Author: Dom Daley