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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cock Sparrer : Because You're Young

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Because you're young, sharp as a knife
You need that buzz to come alive
Out on the edge, out on the town
You ain't got time to settle down
You're always sure, you're always right
You see it all in black and white
You never listen to anyone
Because you're young

Because you're young, you're torn between
A world of hate and a world of dreams
So much to lose, so much to gain
So much to fight for, so much to change
You don't look back, you don't look down
You gotta turn everything around
You live your life like a loaded gun
Because you're young

Stop talking back, get off the phone
You're late again, you missed the last bus home
This ain't the way you wanna live
I know something's got to give
You're always sure, you're always right
You see it all in black and white
You never listen to anyone
Because you're young

Cock Sparrer - Because You're Young

3 Comments:

Blogger John Liedown said...

It started off like any other show ("Argy Bargy")…you see, the thing about Sparrer is that they're not just a band. The four original members (Steve Bruce - drums, Mick Beaufoy - guitar, Steve Burgess - bass and Colin Mcfaull - vocals) together with their tour manager, Will Murray, have known each other since the age of eleven. They were born and raised in London's East End, growing up in an atmosphere of football and rock music. For most of their lives, they've been mates.

They all attended the same school and, in 1972, swapped homework for rehearsals in order to form a group, playing Small Faces songs and not much else. They were later joined by Garrie Lammin, the first of several rhythm guitarists. Garrie had a lot going for him: he owned a Marshall stack, had a spiky haircut and was Burge's cousin. Thanks to Terry Murphy, who ran the Bridgehouse pub in Canning Town (East London's coolest rock venue), the boys were never short of somewhere to play, even if it was only a wet Monday night with an audience of just Terry and his bar staff.

Sparrer began to write their own songs. They were based on the life they led and the characters they met while supporting West Ham Football Club every Saturday afternoon. The sound that evolved was more raw than the prevailing heavy rock favored by their contemporaries and soon attracted a regular following. The gigs at the Bridgehouse were now being supplemented by support slots at The Marquee in London's West End (thanks to Archie, The Marquee's dodgy jock doorman).

Malcolm McLaren came to see the band rehearse in a room over The Roding pub in East Ham with a view to taking them under his wing and turning them into the 'next big thing' (sound familiar ?). Bondage trousers and safety pins met Doctor Martins and jungle greens. It was not to be. Malcolm invited the boys to play with the newly formed Sex Pistols at a strip club in Soho but his inability to buy them a beer did not go down well and the association ended there (if only…Oh well, who gives a shit ?)

Shortly afterwards the music scene was changed forever with the release of 'Anarchy In The UK'. Suddenly record companies were rushing to find anyone who didn't sound like the 'dinosaur' rockers that had now become so 'un-trendy' and Cock Sparrer signed their lives away to Decca Records (along with 'Slaughter And The Dogs' from Manchester). Fame and fortune were just around the corner.

Decca sent the boys to their West Hampstead studio to record a single (the same studio once used by the Stones). They were assigned the company's best producer, Nick Tauber (whose other clients included Thin Lizzy) and, while everybody from the head of A&R to the studio engineer were trying to work out what to do with a 'punk' group who refused to dye their hair green or stick safety pins through their ears, Sparrer kept themselves busy trying to work out how many microphones they could nick and sell without them being missed.

A support slot on the Small Faces UK tour was negotiated and the first single, 'Runnin' Riot', was released in July 1977. It reached the lower end of the British chart but did nothing to dampen the band's growing mistrust of record companies, managers and P.R. companies ('Take 'em All'). By the time the second single was released ('We Love You'/'Chip On My Shoulder' - 12 inch and 7 inch - November 1977), the boys were rejecting every promotional idea they were asked to consider (which was why the 'We Love You' picture sleeve was blank) and were booking their own tour from Decca's offices.

They all lived in a house in Dagenham, Essex. When not gigging, they spent the time in the kitchen playing football, drinking in the local pub or praying for Will to win enough money on the horses to pay the rent. They had 'acquired' boxes and boxes of both their singles which they used for rifle practice in the back garden (they're sick when they now see them being offered for huge amounts of money in record collector magazines).

This period was the inspiration for many songs ('Working', 'Last Train To Dagenham') often written as they traveled to gigs in the back of a red ex-Post Office van driven by their trusty roadie, 'The Head' (another old school friend). The band's most loyal supporters were a bunch of East End lads known as 'The Poplar Boys', who turned up at every gig.

With the emergence of punk, Sparrer naively believed their music had found a natural home. Not so. Their aggressive anthems born out of a dangerous mixture of East End life and football matches were not welcomed by the West London art school dropouts who dominated the British music press. These critics were desperately trying to turn punk into 'new wave' in order to give it a respectability that would justify their interest. 'Serious' punk musicians quickly emerged. The Pistols disintegrated and so, with somewhat less fuss, did Sparrer. Garrie left to become an actor and the others booked themselves on a Freddie Laker flight to America, paid for by selling off their P.A. (which wasn't actually theirs to sell).

They didn't split up. They just didn't play for a while.

The next couple of years saw the boys with no great desire to get back on the road. The only real highlight was Trevor Brooking's magnificent diving header which secured West Ham's defeat of Arsenal in the 1980 F.A. Cup Final.

But the need for some good, honest street rock would not go away. Writer and T.V. personality Garry Bushell realized this and decided to compile an album of what had become known as 'OI' music. It included Sparrer's 'Sunday Stripper'. Suddenly, the group was back in demand.

During a chance phone call by one of the boys to an old friend, now a top record company executive, a new song, 'England Belongs To Me', was mentioned. The lads were offered a deal on the strength of the title alone. In fact, the original title was 'London Belongs To Me' but it "didn't seem to scan right" and actually it wasn't even completely written at the time of the phone call. The album 'Shock Troops' followed, recorded at The White House studio in Chelsea.

Sparrer finally had the freedom to record the sort of things they really wanted to. They vented their frustration with the punk scene ('Where Are They Now ?'), their distrust of most things political ('Watch Your Back'), their hatred of terrorism ('Secret Army'), their disillusionment with the police ('Riot Squad') and their disregard for conventionality ('Out On An Island'), a song which proved they were more than just another punk band.

After the album was completed, Mickey decided he'd had enough for a while. He never lost touch with the band and still turned up for an occasional special gig, such as Bushell's Birthday Bash, the 'Live and Loud' recording and two dates at the 'Gibus Club' in Paris, France. A new rhythm guitarist, Brazilian Chris Skepis was recruited. As with Garrie Lammin, Chris had a lot going for him: he owned a copy of the complete music to the Clash's first album and his dad was a millionaire. Shug O'Neill was chosen as temporary lead guitarist because a drink was arranged in a Soho pub and he actually turned up. Although Micky played most of the rhythm and all of the lead guitars on the album, both the new boys somehow managed to get their pictures on the 'Shock Troops' cover.

Cock Sparrer played several gigs around this time, including a sell out at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, with Chris and Shug. The new recruits also featured on another album, 'Runnin' Riot In '84'. Numerous live and compilation discs were subsequently released but no more live work was undertaken. Chris returned to Brazil and Shug left to form his own band.

The boys, as ever, remained close mates. Steve Bruce was running a music pub in Bethnal Green ('The Stick Of Rock') and was often asked if Sparrer would ever play again. Mickey was up for it and, after a great deal of money changed hands, they agreed to play 'The Astoria' in Charing Cross Road with new rhythm guitarist Daryl Smith. The lads' fondest memory of the day is rehearsing in 'The Stick Of Rock' on the afternoon of the gig to around 100 people. They were not prepared, however, for the size of the crowd that turned up that night. These people had travelled from all over Europe and they knew the words to every song. The group had constantly been told that they had played a crucial part in the whole 'OI' thing. Here was the proof.

With the albums 'Guilty As Charged' and 'Two Monkeys', Cock Sparrer returned to what they do best: writing anthems for everyday life (courtesy of Burge) and playing live. Whenever they perform, it's a party, from the mass sing-along accompanying almost every song to the tradition of a member of the audience disrobing during 'Sunday Stripper'. That's how they like it.

Cock Sparrer were, are and always will be:

Colin McFaull - vocals, Steve Burgess - bass guitar, Steve Bruce - drums, Mickey Beaufoy - guitars, Will Murray - road manager

Five blokes in a pub, five mates having a laugh, … more than just a band.

Plus new boy Daryl Smith (he's only been with the band since 1992)

10:21 PM  
Blogger Emerson said...

Cock Sparrer are the first and best. Bats out, indeed!

10:56 PM  
Blogger mrmagoomc4 said...

ONE OF THE BEST PUNK BANDS EVER GREAT MUSIC GREAT LYRICS SHOCK TROOPS IS A REAL GREAT ALBUM...THANX FOR PUTING MY RUNNING RIOT BLOG LINK ON HERE ILL DO LIKE WISE FOR YOU WEN I SUS OUT HOW TO DO IT THANX

11:04 PM  

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