When a band goes on hiatus, however brief, it’s usually a reliance on the back catalogue to get the fans through the downtime; not so Last Great Dreamers, the once-antiquated dandies of the UK rock scene dusted off and rebooted in the last decade. No, the merry band of loyal supporters of this regenerated outfit revolving around the core of mainstays Marc Valentine and Slyder Smith has not one, but two new spin-off albums to get excited about while the Dreamers catch up on some much-needed beauty sleep.

Slyder Smith & the Oblivion Kids (Dreamers’ rhythm section, bassist Tim Emery and drummer, Rik Pratt) have a debut long player, ‘Charm Offensive’, released on 19th August through Ray Records, but first out of the last great gate is Marc Valentine and his ‘Future Obscure’ album, coming to a stereo near you on 8th July.

In the short space of time that news of this new, ten-track (twelve-track if you get the bonus-track-riddled compact disc) album has been with us Marc has wasted little time by releasing four (count ‘em!) tracks as digital singles: album opener, ‘Last Train Tonight’; ‘Mornington Avenue’, featuring Matt Dangerfield from The Boys; and double A-side, ‘Death Is Overrated/Break My Heart Anyway’, the latter featuring a guest appearance from Wreckless Eric. So, I have to approach this review from a slightly different angle: listeners already know what to expect from the album, I simply have to reassure them that the best tracks haven’t already been lifted from the tracklisting leaving nothing but filler. Spoiler alert: everything is going to be okay…

A Summer release is perfect for ‘Future Obscure’; the tracks blurring between that expected lilting power pop that is trademark Valentine and a hazy, lazy sentimentality, both conspiring to make a perfect soundtrack to long, hot days and cooler nights of reminiscence.

With synths set to stun, some of the power pop tunes that litter the tracklisting – the glorious ‘Swiss Launderette’, the great ‘Ghosts of Amsterdam’ – have every chance of filling a Fountains Of Wayne-shaped hole in the New Releases section of your record collection, while the more emotional-button-pushers – the terrific throwback that is ‘Arcades’, the fine ‘Fade Out In Blue’ for example – will have you questioning if that funny feeling that you have in your head as the sun sets is from the Summertime cider or the inevitable clawing back of memories. There’s even a tip of the bowler hat to the LGD day job via the lowslung rock ‘n’ roll of the fantastic ‘Zodiac Hotel’.

Mixed and produced by Dave Draper, that ‘Future Obscure’ sounds great should come as no surprise. That goes for the musicians that Valentine has surrounded himself with too: Richard Davies on guitar, and a return for former Last Great Dreamers rhythm section, bassist Steve Fielding and drummer Denley Slade, the latter so consistent in his work that he sounds almost robotic. Catch these guys backing Marc on a UK tour that starts on album release day.

We need great nights out at rock shows with friends and bright and breezy rock ‘n’ roll records like ‘Future Obscure’ at times like these. That three minute songs and small rooms full of sweaty people can help save us from the stresses of modern life is testament to the true power of music. Forget what that man from Sheffield with a creaking voice once (almost) told us; you CAN stop the hurt inside, when love and hiatus collide…

Buy Here

Author: Gaz Tidey

Has it really been seven years since the publication of ‘Dear Mr. Kershaw: A Pensioner Writes’, the collection of ludicrous letters to pop stars from retired member of the public, Derek Philpott (with help from his neighbour, Wilf Turnbull)? That’s a lot of lyrical scrutiny under the bridge.

For any of you shamefully unaware of the world- and word-weary correspondence from Philpott, here’s a quick recap: curious as to why a successful Eighties pop star could find himself ‘Living In A Box’, Derek started sending letters to various denizens of the hit parade questioning the legitimacy of their lyrics. Amazingly, the pop stars started replying. In the aforementioned debut tome, luminaries as varied as Saxon, Rick Wakeman, and Toto Coelo had their work disassembled by an elderly man on a mission. So well received was that rib-tickler of a book that a second was destined to follow. ‘Dear Mr. Pop Star’, now in hardback, appeared in 2018; Derek now aided and abetted by his increasingly-cantankerous offspring, Dave. This second collection upped the ante somewhat and harboured genuine replies from the likes of Gillan, Mott The Hoople, and Tears For Fears within its hefty four-hundred pages.

The 2020 lockdowns accompanied the World turning in on itself like that monkey in Cronenberg’s version of ‘The Fly’ but, swathed in the quintessentially British way of finding humour in the harshest of climates, Derek and Dave filled their hours, not just with daytime television, but with a slew of new letters, this time focussing solely on the U.K. punk community. Cock Sparrer, GBH, Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, and a gob-full more all got the D & D treatment, the letters collected into a third classic book in 2021, ‘Grammar Free In The U.K. – The Lockdown Letters’. Now, grasping technology in their arthritic hands (they’ll be texting next), Derek and Dave have only managed to get a load of those U.K. punk rockers to record their replies to the latest letters! ‘Grammar Free In The U.K. – The Audio Book’ is a wonderful companion piece to the book, the whole Philpott library to be fair, and is as brilliantly silly as hoped. The letters in audio form, quite remarkably if you’ve been with these aged anarchists long term, are often funnier now that you can hear them in fluent Philpott rather than your own boring inner narrator. And the replies, well, they really take this whole letter-writing saga to the next level. From Duncan Reid and the Big Heads to Viki Vortex and the Cumshots, via Steve Ignorant, The Vibrators, and Chelsea, the bonkers correspondence is now more crazed than even the more hopelessly hopeful could ever have yearned for. There are even a load of bonus tracks to entice you to have your auditory canals rictus-grinning: Tenpole Tudor, Bauhaus, The Piranhas, and Public Image Limited feature among these bananas bonuses. Also, as with the paperback version of ‘Grammar Free In The U.K.’, all purchases of ‘The Audio Book’ will see a portion of the profits donated to charity. Like you needed another reason to buy this.

Derek and Dave Philpott have promised to debase the annals of literary history with a fourth and final book in the near future. Personally, I hope that this pop culture dismemberment carries on forever. If, however, the Philpott legacy stops with four books on your shelf and at least one audio book in your lugholes, then I guess that’s a pretty good result.

I have to go now. Bargain Hunt’s on.

Get it Here

Author: Gaz Tidey

As retro-obsessed as I am, a proper throwback of an album would surely be a fine way to round off my reviewing duties for the year. That album? ‘Tear Down Your Idols’, the just-released new album from Canadian gutter rockers, Dirtbag Republic.

Formed by singer Sandy Hazard and guitarist Mick Wood in 2014, ‘Tear Down Your Idols’ (titled in reference to both the tearing down of favourite bands that blow up big and heritage acts going through the motions on stage) is the Vancouver band’s third album, following 2015’s self-titled debut and 2017’s ‘Downtown Eastside’.

Described in the press blurb as having definite Hanoi Rocks and Dead Boys influences, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t more than a whiff of the former in the sonics ensconced in this eleven-track long player – ‘Sorry’ being a fine example. It’s a much more harder-edged album, though – more of a street rock ‘n’ roll record that will appeal to fans of Backyard Babies (probably the clearest soundalike here) and Buckcherry. There’s a mainlining of prime, pre-MTV Aerosmith here too. I’m guessing that you’ve already decided as to whether you’re going to check this album out just because of the bands that I’ve just mentioned? Well, here’s another one: I couldn’t help but be reminded of Helsinki scuzz rockers Hybrid Children when listening to ‘Tear Down Your Idols’.

The barroom piano on ‘Don’t Answer To No One’ adds another classic rock ‘n’ roll element, elevating the track to the top of my ‘must-play’ list from this album. At the bottom? Throwback records often trawl up questionable lyrics and this one is no different: the “anorexia nervosa” refrain in ‘Skinny’ is an eyebrow- rather than a fist-raiser that made even my headphones wince. The Manic Street Preachers’ ‘4st 7lb’ it is not.

Even though an idea that should never have made it past the rehearsal room does take the foot off the class, the band never takes it off the gas for the majority of the album; ‘Tear Down Your Idols’ could easily fill a space in your low-slung rock ‘n’ roll music collection.

Buy Here


Author: Gaz Tidey

Seasonal affective disorder kicking in with the onset of Autumn, the icy tendrils of Winter seemingly just another dark cloud away? Scorch those bad weather blues away with a ten-track sunburst in audio form that goes by the title, ‘Dose’.


Yes, ‘Dose’, the second album from The Brothers Steve, follows the L.A. band’s well-received 2019 debut and is guaranteed to put a smile on even the gloomiest of faces; you’ll feel like you’re in the audience for a taping of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In given the day-glo, power pop Summer love-in that pours out of this sugarbomb of a sophomore release.


That ‘Dose’ (available on CD and digital platforms this month) is such a great album should come as no surprise if you know anything about the band’s members and power punk pop pedigree. Singer/guitarist Jeff Whalen, drummer Steve Coulter, and bassist Jeff Solomon were members of Tsar, the glorious Los Angeles glam power pop crew who released two fabulous Noughties albums; the essential 2000 debut, ‘Calling All Destroyers’, hook-laden manna from harmony heaven that kept those of us allergic to Cookie Monster vocals and tracksuits-as-stagewear afloat as the new century dawned and threatened to musically yawn. Alongside singer/guitarist OS Tyler and guitarist Dylan Champion (Shapes Of Race Cars), this trio has fashioned a laidback, lo-fi winner of an album that will, for a short time at least, make everything seem alright.


If you love songs that sound like either the title- or closing-credits-song from a five-decade-old cult television show, then ‘Dose’ is the album for you. This is Summertime power pop floating on a psychedelic breeze; an exercise in retro righteousness that has a Chelsea boot in the Sixties, a platform heel in the Seventies, and is both British Invasion- and American garage rock-influenced: the album a true audio thrift store.


Opener ‘Get On Up’ is the alterno-reality theme tune to your favourite Seventies kids’ television show, second track, ‘Next Aquarius’, a dreamy, effortless tune that makes you realise that all bands could sound this fantastic if only the cool kids were allowed to make records. And that’s how ‘Dose’ plays out: lilting and ageless power pop that’ll make you want to dig out your Banana Splits shirt and Seventies seven-inch collection fused to late Sixties psychedelic pop that’ll make you want that childhood bowl haircut back.


‘Wizard Of Love’ and ‘Better Get Ready’ sound like they should have a vintage Top Of The Pops clips (drummer at the front, roadies doing synchronised dance moves) accompanying them, while gorgeous tunes like ‘Mrs. Rosenbaum’, ‘Love Of Kings’, and ‘She Will Wait’ will take you back a decade further with some aplomb. There are still hooks aplenty – the superb ‘Sugarfoot’ for example – and those wanting a touch of that Tsar magic will have to look no further than the most excellent ‘Electro-Love’.


That old Catholic guilt may come into play when you realise that, as people die all around us at the start of this new decade, our auditory canals have been gifted bands like The Brothers Steve and The Lickerish Quartet but, c’mon, we all know that life has teeth so surely it’s better to bare those gnashers in a shit-eating music-induced grin than in anger? A (wait for it) ‘Dose’ of this musical medicine will make everything taste sweeter, guaranteed. Highly recommended.

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Author: Gaz Tidey

This music reviewing lark is easy when the media you get sent for review is as consistently badass as the output from Albany ne’er-do-wells, The Erotics. I’ve been throwing the longhorns in the band’s direction for the majority of its 20+ years of decibel debauchery and, happily, it seems like there is little chance of this runaway musical muscle car slowing down any time soon.


With infamous producer Don Fury (Agnostic Front, Madball, Sick Of It All) once again at the controls of an Erotics release, ‘Ride It To Death!’ is a five-track extended player that pushes every button required by fans of the band’s back catalogue whilst also managing, somehow, to up the aural ante. Just like the rat rod that graces the band photography on this new EP, this is a straightforward rock ‘n’ roll framework embellished with all manner of crypt-cool accessories, thereby fashioning something unique and dastardly desirable. That, my friends, is The Erotics.


Opening track, ‘When The Wolves Are Howlin’, is a pure Eighties throwback that circles around a surprisingly melodic riff before transforming into a typical fang-in-cheek Erotics horror-drenched stormer that is guaranteed to appear on the soundtrack to a lycanthropic B-movie before the sun rises. You won’t be surprised to read that second track, ‘Scream Like A Demon’, doesn’t stray far from the wrong side of the tracks; infectious, biting guitar work strutting around a typically dark, despicable theme.


The EP’s title track is a full-throttle, high-octane, scuzzed-up workout that is part classic KISS, part classic Aerosmith, by way of Death Race 2000. This is akin to prime Eighties stadium rock… if the stadium was created by John Carpenter circa ‘Escape From New York’. It’s the EP’s fourth track, though, that might just be the standout cut. ‘Bless Your Heart’ is a swaggering rock ‘n’ roller that echoes The Dogs D’Amour at their raucous best; Mike Trash (who is in fine voice throughout this whole EP) channelling Tyla and in doing so fronting one of the band’s finest tunes of recent times. That said, there isn’t the slightest whiff of a weak track on this five-tracker; closer ‘Can I Sit Next To You Girl’ another hook-smeared exercise in effortless, retro-fuelled sleaze rock ‘n’ roll that is as wicked as it is darkly life-affirming. Yes, we need bands like The Erotics – some people haven’t realised it yet (fuck me, they’ve had enough time!), but as long as us cool kids have then this spinning rock doesn’t seem like such a bad place to be stuck on.


One complaint – five tracks just aren’t enough! In this form I want a fifteen track Erotics record – keep everything crossed for the near future. Summing up, the only people who claim to love rock ‘n’ roll yet don’t like The Erotics would have to be either allergic to truly cool bands or someone with an agenda – like a reviewer who developed a grudge against the band for pathetic reasons at some shitty festival, and, let’s be honest, who cares about their opinions anyway? Long live The Erotics!

Buy It Here


Author: Gaz Tidey

I’ve been away for a while; does being a part of the “Classic Rock Revival” still consist of thinking you’ve made it because you’ve waxed your newly-grown moustache, purchased everything from the Joe Browns catalogue, and bought yourself onto a magazine’s cover-mounted disc? No? Maybe? To be honest, I don’t think the argument is really relevant in regards to this album review because, thankfully, authenticity, like natural talent, has a tendency to rise up and out of the quality control quagmire.


‘Mountain of Sugar’ is the second studio album from Swedish throwbacks, Heavy Feather, and it is a bit of a stormer. Recorded in Stockholm with producer Erik “Errka” Petersson at the controls (as was the case with the band’s debut album, 2019’s ‘Debris & Rubble’), with help from master masterer, Magnus Lindberg (Imperial State Electric, Lucifer), and Pink Floyd’s former mixer table, this eleven-track long player is a relatively faultless exercise in retro rock that throws out audio love letters to the roots rock scene of the Sixties and Seventies, hitting pretty much every mark.


Free, Cream, and Lynyrd Skynyrd are major influences that feature on the band’s press information and, yes, you’ll find that not just the sounds but also the spirit of those legendary outfits haunt proceedings here, but ‘Mountains of Sugar’ never falls into soundalike territory: there is a warm familiarity to every track on this great album more akin to meeting up with an old friend – something I’m sure we’re all desperate to do in these strange days.


Yes, this is record listening of a certain vintage; the dragging on of headphones, the pouring of a favourite beverage, and the losing of oneself in the grooves. Pulling the listener into the songs is, without question, the voice of Lisa Lystam. Hers is one of the most effortlessly wonderful rock voices that I have been lucky enough to hear in some time. Raw at times, siren song at others, this bluesy gift from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Gods is more than an impressive set of pipes – this is an art instillation.


Songs like opener, ’30 Days’, ‘Too Many Times’, and ‘Come We Can Go’ will make any earthy rock playlist with ease, while ‘Love Will Come Easy’, given half a chance, could be a breakout hit that catapults Heavy Feather up a division or two. Think about the cult status and love afforded prime Vintage Trouble and you’ll have an idea as to where this Swedish gem should find itself when this second album’s cycle has come to its natural conclusion.


A dark horse for many a Best Albums list come the end of the year, for sure.  Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp

Author: Gaz Tidey

If you like your rock in a mysterious ceremonial circle with a load of other rocks then ‘Vertigo’, the new album from Savonian occultists, Jess and the Ancient Ones, is for you.


The follow-up to previous album, ‘The Horse & Other Weird Tales’, ‘Vertigo’ may be seemingly simpler-titled but it is certainly not a simple rock record. This eight-track curio from the Finnish psych rock outfit is one of those rare albums that comprises solely of deep cuts, yet is strangely essential and vibrant.


The band’s previous brand of twin-guitar-led metal has mutated into organ-drenched heavy psych oddity rock that feels almost as old and certainly as ominous as the hooded figure that listeners will surely see in the corners of their eyes when listening to this audio excursion into ghostlore.


Wrapped in suitably jolly artwork – a crude, vintage photograph of a tornado laying waste to some mortals – ‘Vertigo’ features haunting, brooding tracks that could be the soundtrack to episodes of Hammer House of Horror, hauntings, or night terrors – possibly all three… and possibly within the same song.


Pop culture permeates the grooves at various intervals here: ‘Talking Board’ points its planchette in the direction of The Exorcist via the infamous “Captain Howdy” dialogue; ‘Summer Tripping Man’ steals a ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ sample to great effect; while ‘Love Zombi’ could accompany an action montage in an episode of Space: 1999.


This is folk horror rock, not to be mistaken with folk rock; in fact, situated towards the end of the album is a pair of tracks – ‘Born To Kill’ and ‘What’s On Your Mind’ – that threaten to rock out in a more familiar fashion. They only threaten it, mind; normal for this band is still as off-kilter as the most curious thing you’ll see, and be troubled by, all year.


Recreating a soulful garage psychedelia from the late Sixties was the aim of Jess and the Ancient Ones on this album and, yes, the band members’ aim is true… even if they have paired those desired sounds with occult rock sonics of a certain vintage that are sure to give those of us from the haunted generation scare flashbacks and cold sweats.


The recreation of a bygone era’s sound and folklore exhibited here is quite remarkable, it has to be noted; inspiration found on woodcut, the ritual and ceremony faithfully recreated. This is the lysergic doom album that you were looking for. In the corner of your room. At 2am. It’ll be there again tonight. Watching. As you sleep. Fucking hell. Facebook / Bandcamp

Buy ‘Vertigo’ Here

Author: Gaz Tidey


You may have seen the BBC recently reporting on legendary rock originating from Wales. No, not that programme about Stonehenge; I’m referring to Tudur’s TV Flashback, the show where comedian Tudur Owen looks back through the BBC Wales archive in search of long-lost televisual gold. A recent half-hour spectacular devoted several wonderful minutes to a name not heard in a long time… Ivor Beynon, Lord of Steel.


For those not familiar with the name (have a long, hard look at yourselves, seriously) Ivor Beynon was the nearest Wales got to a superhero after SuperTed’s skirmishes with Texas Pete. Armed with just a CD player, DIY music releases (the best coming complete with a free Ivor mask), and a wizard stage prop, Ivor Beynon quickly strode from oft-kilter heavy metal curio to bona fide Welsh television star. The Biz, a partnership between BBC Wales and the Welsh Development Agency, found Ivor as one of six finalists on a televised quest for success, before an appearance on The X-Factor saw even Sharon Osbourne raise an eyebrow (the Lord of Steel could have saved her a fortune in plastic surgery bills). Also, I once gave the actor who played Mr. Muscle in the television commercials an Ivor Beynon album and he was thrilled. It seems apt, then, that the rebirth of this Welsh legend should come, at least partly, by way of a television show. But reborn it appears the Lord of Steel is.


‘Those Who Offend Beware’ is an epic comeback: a 32-track, double-disc album that is part reboot, part sequel; like that 2011 version of The Thing… but without the dodgy CGI. Split into two distinct halves, ‘Those Who Offend Beware’ will, from the first vocal spat out of the Lord of Steel’s warpaint-smeared mouth, caress the auditory canals like a long-lost friend. Fear not, though, those unfamiliar with the Ivor legend for the first half of the album is a rollicking history lesson.


That first half – ‘Born in Ebbw Vale (The Story of Ivor Beynon)’ – is a sprawling 17-track fever dream of a life story that revolves around a masterful reworking of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’. With screaming metal mayhem (“we’re a runaway heavy metal freight train; we’ll give you a frigging heart attack!”) riding shoulder to shoulder with more thought-provoking hard rock (take my hand, together we’ll fly; not even death can stop us, we’re gonna carry on…”), this is a history lesson like no other, with Ivor’s inimitable vocals like siren song to those semi-retired members of Team Steel; their sleeveless shirts and copycat make-up kits itching to get dusted down and reintroduced to an unsuspecting new decade. Those who never fell under the Lord of Steel’s spell first time around –and, remarkably, there were a few – will find this heaving half o’ heaviness a crash course in all things Ivor and fall now they will. Spattered with a dash of timeless cover versions and audio from Ivor’s X-Factor audition amongst the rocking original tracks, ‘Born in Ebbw Vale’ is a real-life rock opera, closed out by the iconic theme tune par excellence, ‘Lord of Steel’. “You want rock? I rock.”


How could a local legend who even had his own comic strip in a local newspaper possibly follow that? By recreating those legendary Ivor Beynon live shows from the Noughties that saw gig goers openly weep such was the aural pleasure on offer, that’s how. From ‘Bark at the Moon’ to ‘Turbo Lover’, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ to ‘Tainted Love’, ‘Ivor Party 2021’ is more than just the second half of a typically ambitious project from the Lord of Steel – it will quite possibly be the most entertaining thing that anyone will hear all year.


Wrapped in suitably grandiose artwork by Adam Llewellyn (the artist behind Valleys animated series, ‘The Vale’), with a fold-out inner sleeve capturing Ivor with all manner of miscreants from his chequered musical past – from Ben Shephard to Bob Catley to the Butcher of Bethcar Street – ‘Those Who Offend Beware’ might just be your first essential purchase of 2021.


“We’ve been apart, but this is our time,” Ivor wails on ‘Friendship Songs’ and, be honest, we could all do with a friend, a superhero, in these troubled times. Now we just have to find a phone box for him to get changed in…



Author: Gaz Tidey

Hello again, RPM-people, it’s been a while. A limited skirmish with a failing hard drive meant that I lost the first attempt at this article for the cultured readers of this fine web-based tome and, as with all tortured artists, I found myself shaking a fist at the Gods of technology rather than simply getting back on the horse and writing it again while the effortless cool (possibly) was still fresh in my mind. This article’s featured item was going nowhere, however, so new words about old stuff came easy.
Now, if you’re hitting up this webzine regularly then I would imagine that you are well-versed in all forms of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion; trouble is, many of those rebels that litter our record collections are now asking for new dress socks on gig riders or peddling butter on shit TV channels. With that in mind I have had to roll back the decades to find, not only a true rebel of the music business, but also an item of music memorabilia that is as decadent as it is delicious.
And that’s where Andy Gibb comes in.
“Andy Gibb?!” I hear the RPM head honcho exclaim as this hits his inbox like the late Scott Columbus hit those cymbals in Manowar’s ‘Blow Your Speakers’ music video, the Double Diamond tearing at the neck of his Maiden shirt, Ozzy-style. Hear me out: Andrew Roy Gibb was a true rock ‘n’ pop tearaway, and the ultimate piece of merchandise released to tie-in with his all-too-short career is collectable excess par plastic excellence. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Andy Gibb was the youngest of the Gibb kids: brother to Barry, Robin, Maurice, and forever-forgotten sister, Lesley. He was born in Manchester, was raised in Australia until the age of eight before the Family Gibb returned to the UK. When his brothers were looking nailed-on for pop stardom, Andy was looking for trouble: he quit school at the age of thirteen and, armed with an acoustic guitar given to him by big bro Barry, he toured the clubs of Ibiza and the Isle of Wight (both places where his parents lived at some point). He was married, divorced, and had fathered a child before he was even out of his teens. Minor pop stardom came a-calling when he returned to Australia, but it was when Bee Gees manager, Robert Stigwood, signed him to his label and persuaded him to relocate to Florida that things really started to take off for Andy Gibb.
With Barry producing, and Joe Walsh guesting on guitar for a couple of tracks, Andy’s debut album, ‘Flowing Rivers’, sold over a million copies and, by the time the lead single from his second long player, 1978’s ‘Shadow Dancing’, hit the top spot, he had become the first male solo artist to have three consecutive Number One singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He dated Dallas star, Victoria Principal, starred on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, sang with Queen (on a version of the song, ‘Play The Game’, which has never seen commercial release, with some believing that a recording doesn’t actually exist), and co-hosted American television music show, Solid Gold. He would, however, be fired from both the television and Dreamcoat gigs due to absenteeism, with the blame laid firmly at the door of his cocaine binges. The fall was rapid. Guest appearances on US shows Gimme A Break! and Punky Brewster followed, as did gigs in Vegas, but Andy was now tabloid fodder; the Betty Ford Center now a date on his tour itinerary.
In early 1988 it was announced that Andy would become an official member of the Bee Gees – the six-legged tooth machine mutating into quite the quartet – but it was never to be: just two days after his thirtieth birthday in March of that year, Andy was hospitalized in Oxford complaining of chest pains. He died on March 10th as a result of myocarditis; an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by years of cocaine abuse.
Dying young is a sad by-product of rock ‘n’ roll excess the history of which many of you are well-versed in, I’m sure; but I am here to wax lyrical on music-related memorabilia (I had to get there eventually!) so I have to roll everything back to 1979, when Andy was on the covers of teen magazines, on the walls of pop-smeared children’s bedrooms, and on the Toy Fair brochures of the Ideal Toy Company.
Now, there’s a saying amongst the elite of vintage toy collectors that goes, and I’m paraphrasing here, “buy mint and you buy once, buy not mint and you buy many times.” I’m not sure of the exact words because I always scoff when I hear it as, in my humble opinion, it is utter bollocks. Who wouldn’t pick up something über-cool for their shelf because some bloke on the internet has one in better condition? Not me, and that’s why I back-flipped all the way to Nerdtopia when I found myself a vintage Andy Gibb doll.
In 1979, Ideal graced the toy shelves of the coolest US stores with the Andy Gibb ‘Disco Dancin’ With The Stars’ doll. There is, in collector circles, many a debate over whether a toy is a doll or an action figure: never call a middle-aged white guy’s Action Man a doll for Gawd’s sake! Well, let me tell you, the Disco Dancin’ Andy Gibb toy is a doll. He came packaged in neon-littered box art with the supreme tagline: “move him to a disco beat on his dancin’ disc!” Yes, the disco dance stand that came packaged with the doll would actually move mini-Andy’s feet so that it looked like he was actually disco dancing. Sublime Seventies innovation, right there.
Thing is, I don’t have the box. Or the stand. Forgive me, men in sensible footwear in village hall toy fairs the length and breadth of the UK. I do have a mint condition Andy Gibb ‘Disco Dancin’ With The Stars’ doll still attached to its original box inlay, though, so I guess I’m still a winner at life. Also, someone, in their confused wisdom, decided that penning “one of the Bee Gees” on the back of said box inlay was going to help with the identification of this toy. All it did, however, was make me love it even more. Who needed to read that curious inscription anyway? The doll is wearing a lurid pink waistcoat with the “Andy Gibb” logo printed on it!
So let’s recap: a mint condition (save for a few age-related garment marks) Andy Gibb doll, still attached to its original cardboard inlay, wearing a white jumpsuit and pink waistcoat, and with a piece of inked graffiti completely lacking in irony administered to its forever home? Who the frig wouldn’t want one of those?! Not me!
This toy sits happily in my collection alongside the Sonny Bono, Cher, ABBA, KISS, Boy George, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Sex Pistols, and Elvis toys and, do you know what? They all get along. Now, if we all just got along a little better then this revolving rock that we call home would be a little easier to negotiate. Not those people who told me not to buy the Andy Gibb doll because it didn’t have the box, though – they can fuck off.
I’ll be back as soon as possible, technology permitting, with more curios from the Pop Culture Schlock collection. I might even get my studded wristband back out for the next installment. Thanks for reading, keep watching the skies and, most importantly, don’t be a twat!
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Good to see ya again, RPM-people! Could there be a better time to sit and read retro articles on badass music websites? A better time to visit auction sites, PayPal account set to stun, searching for those “essentials” that you’ve just been reading about and simply MUST HAVE? Of course not.
For the eleventh of my PCS columns for RPM I have returned to finger the longboxes in the Schlock archive, searching for a couple of classic Seventies comics with a punk rock attitude and a hard rock guest appearance, all aimed to tie-in with the recent merchandise collaboration between KISS, the hottest band in the world, and Marvel Entertainment… and that’s where Howard The Duck comes in. But let’s backtrack a little… You may know Howard The Duck from the critically-mauled motion picture that was released in 1986. Yes, the feature film released in certain territories as Howard: A New Breed Of Hero. Yes, the flop flick that showed us that everything George Lucas touched DIDN’T turn to gold (dice) before we’d even heard of Mannequin Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks. You may know Howard The Duck from the modern Marvel cinematic universe: that post-credit scene in Guardians Of The Galaxy (and a cameo in its sequel); a quack-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in Avengers: Endgame. For us cool kids, however, it was all about the comic books.
Howard The Duck made his debut on spinner racks in 1973 in issue 19 of Adventure Into Fear. Created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik, the duck, plucked from his home world and dropped into the Florida everglades, was originally intended to be just a secondary character (alongside the likes of Korrek The Barbarian and Dakihm The Wizard) in that comic’s Man-Thing strip. Within a few short years, though, and via his own back-up strip in issues 4 and 5 of Giant-Size Man-Thing in 1975, Howard would have his own comic book.
Running for 31 issues, Howard The Duck (the comic) found Marvel at its most subversive: social satire wrapped up in pages headlined by a creature deemed so similar in appearance to Walt Disney’s Donald Duck that complaints were inevitably made. Steve Gerber, surely one of the most expansive of writing minds at Marvel in the 1970s, railed against US politics by having Howard run for President in a storyline that tied-in with the 1976 presidential campaign, then in the infamous Howard The Duck issue 16 railed against his employer’s deadlines with the biting ‘Zen and The Art Of Comic Book Writing’ “rant”. But where does KISS come into all this, I hear you exclaim?
In 1977, Marvel released the first of its Super Specials. It featured rock superstars KISS, then wilfully teetering on the brink of total commercial success, battling against Doctor Doom and Mephisto. The red ink infamously contained the blood of Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, and Gene Simmons (not all of it, of course), and the story was written by… wait for it… Steve Gerber. Now, if only the writer had an ongoing monthly title where Marvel could covertly publicise the upcoming KISS comic book…
Howard The Duck’s presidential campaign failed in somewhat spectacular fashion. A fake sex scandal saw the duck fall from the cusp of political success to the depths of nervous breakdown. So bad was his fall that he found himself (in issue 12 of his monthly title, cover-dated May 1977), in a tale entitled ‘Mind-Mush!’, held in the Sauerbraten County Mental Facility. Winda Wester, a new supporting character introduced in the previous issue who spoke with a speech impediment that surely meant that her real name was ‘Linda Lester’, was possessed. Who could
feature in the “swirling, seething, savage nightmare rising in billows from Winda’s skull” on the final page of issue 12? You’ve guessed it… KISS!
“Aw-riiight! Sauerbraten County, Ohio – let this old cosmos… Rock, Roll Over, and Writhe!” yells the Starchild on the opening page of issue 13. Freezing security guards with a wild eye laser that would later be utilised in the classic KISS meets the Phantom of the Park (aka Attack of the Phantoms) television movie par excellence, the Starchild then passed the mic to the Catman who told Howard “The Word”. The Word? “When you meet reality head-on – Kiss it, smack it in the face!” More than one word, really, eh? “And then, with one awful WHOOSH, they were drawn back into Winda’s brain.” Five pages, thirteen panels, and that was KISS done with Howard The Duck. Daimon Hellstrom would turn up at the facility, Howard become a duck possessed himself, but that’s another story for another time.
Those five pages, though, as blatant an advert for the upcoming Super Special that they were, worked a treat. Okay, they weren’t the only thing pointing fans in the direction of issue 1 of the Marvel Comics Super Special – KISS was every-frigging-where – but they must have added to the swell of attention towards that blood-inked comic book that would go on to sell around half a million copies over two printings.
KISS would return to the pages of Marvel in issue 5 of Marvel Comics Super Special in 1978 in an occult adventure and, in the Nineties to tie-in with the reunion tour by the original band members, would later meet the X-Men in the KISSnation publication. The band has since met Archie, the Martians from Mars Attacks, Vampirella, and had ongoing titles published by IDW, Dynamite, Dark Horse, and Image Comics. There was even a 2013 comic series entitled KISS Kids which should not be interpreted as a command.
For all those comic book appearances, however, the first ones that you need in your collection are the two Marvel Super Specials and issues 12 and 13 of Howard The Duck. Why? Because, if you’re a child of the ’70s, or simply long to have been one, then there is little cooler than your favourite larger-than-life rock band, alongside a wise-cracking duck, in a Marvel Comic. ‘Nuff said.
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