The Ghost Of A Rock Legend Scuppered Our Album: The Story Of 'The Boys' Print
Written by Matt Dangerfield   
Saturday, 23 September 2017 04:40

It’s hard to believe it’s 40 years since The Boys’ eponymously titled debut album was released on 23 September 1977.

 

The Boys album cover

 

Although I am proud of all our albums, this first album remains my favourite because even today it sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday. It’s arrogant, brash, fresh, and bouncing with raw punk enthusiasm. It also has a sharpness sound-wise that comes from being relatively un-buggered about with.

 

The fact is there wasn’t much time to bugger about with it. Granted a handful of days in the studio by our record company NEMS, we managed to finish around seventeen tracks, start mixing, sack our producer, switch studios and remix the whole album again. But it was actually easy for us to record so quickly as we’d being playing most of the songs live, which is also why all the songs have hard endings and no fade-outs.

 

From start to finish all the songs are played at a blistering pace that often teeters dangerously on the edge of losing it but manages to hang in there on the beat. I think that gives it an air of reckless urgency that I didn’t really notice at the time.

 

The Boys were born in late 1975 when I left Mick Jones’s fledgling London SS and Casino Steel stepped from the burned-out wreckage of the Hollywood Brats to form a band together. From the start, Casino and myself quickly formed a prolific song writing partnership and new songs started coming on an almost daily basis. We soon recruited my old art college pal – guitarist Honest John Plain into the band – and six months later our line-up was completed by Duncan Reid on bass and Jack Black on drums.

 

In those days, goals for bands starting out were marked by a number of milestones. Firstly, assemble your band. Secondly, play your first gig. Thirdly, release your first single. Fourthly release your first album. Fifthly, er…set new goals. You didn’t look that far ahead!

 

cover4

 

Normally these milestones might take years to complete but thanks largely to the UK punk rock explosion, for us everything happened super quickly. In October ‘76 we played our first gig. After playing just a handful of gigs, in January ’77 we became the first UK punk band to sign an album deal. Our first single was released in April ’77 and our debut album was set for release on 1 September. We were getting favourable press coverage and single reviews. We were gigging all over the UK and Europe and our audiences were growing fast. What could possibly go wrong?

 

How about Elvis dying?

 

It was 15 August when we heard the news coming back from a gig. I remember being saddened by the news but never considered for a minute that it could affect us. But boy did it. Our record company, NEMS, was distributed by RCA who happened to be Elvis’s long-time record company. RCA UK was in financial trouble at the time with workers there fearing job cuts. After Elvis had finally left the building so to speak, there seemed to be a lot more smiling faces at RCA as the company was now busy pressing up and promoting every Elvis product they could get their hands on – including no less than four album reissues in September alone – to sell to grieving Elvis fans.

 

We were about to share their grief. Our debut album, ‘The Boys’ was pressed up and ready to go but its release date was put back to 23 September. However, we were delighted when it entered the charts at number 50 that week - but devastated the following week when it dropped completely out of the charts. We had heard from various fans and friends that it had sold out in many record shops. Obviously, RCA presses were still tied up with Elvis product and nobody had considered that a little upstart new band would need a repressing so soon. It was over a month later before new copies of our album were available in the shops and by then the chart momentum was lost.

 

Shortly before Elvis died, I had written a song called ‘Rock Relic’, which, with the snotty arrogance of youth, was aimed at Elvis and all the other ‘boring old dinosaurs’. Perhaps this was Elvis’s revenge from the grave.

 

Ah well, no hard feelings. At least we made it into the Guinness Book of British Hit Albums. It’s still my favourite Boys’ album and I still like Elvis.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Boys will play just two UK dates in 2018. The first will be at the Resolution Festival taking place at 100 Club in London on Saturday 6 January. Tickets are onsale NOW. The band's second UK appearance will be at the Rebellion Festival, Blackpool, over the weekend of 2-5 August.
 
 
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