The RECORDS – ” Shades In Bed/ Crashes “

Posted: October 24, 2020 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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May be an image of 2 people, people standing and text that says "the records the records/ shades in bed bed"

Among vinyl devotees, The Records will be forever known for the dizzying late-70s single “Starry Eyes” . The Records were formed out of the ashes of the Kursaal Flyers, a pub rock group featuring drummer Will Birch. In 1977, John Wicks joined the band as a rhythm guitarist, and he and Birch quickly started writing songs together, Wicks as composer, Birch as lyricist. The Kursaal Flyers dissolved three months after Wicks joined, but he and Birch continued to write songs together with the hopes of starting a new four-piece group with Birch on drums and Wicks on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Birch soon came up with a name for the formative band: The Records. The new group was heavily influenced both by British Invasion bands like The Beatles and The Kinks and early power pop groups such as Badfinger, Big Star, and Raspberries. Power pop was experiencing a renaissance on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks in large part to the burgeoning punk/new wave movement.

The group’s line-up initially included bassist Phil Brown and lead guitarist Brian Alterman, whose guitar riffs have been compared to that of the Byrds. Alterman played on two early demos that were later included on the album Paying for the Summer of Love, before joining another band. Alterman was replaced by Huw Gower in 1978. Like Birch and Wicks, Gower and Brown were music veterans: Gower had played with a band called the Ratbites from Hell and Brown had been the bass player for the Janets

New Year’s Day in 1980: Joe Jackson & The Records started the year with verbal jousting in the UK press; Joe had been quoted in music weekly ‘New Musical Express’ (NME) saying “I feel more in common with what The Clash are doing than with The Records, who are about the most boring band I’ve ever heard”; The Records responded with a letter to the Editor, that read in part “While the Clash remain true to their ideals & therefore meet with resistance from many US radio stations, Joe, on the other hand, woos his followers with a selection of easy-on-the-ears Steve Miller rewrites…”.

The band’s 1979 debut – originally titled “Shades in Bed” in the UK, — stands as one of the absolute pinnacles of late ‘70s power pop, thanks to the consistent song writing (lots of power pop albums drop off bigtime after the first three songs), notch-above harmonies, and having a bit of a recording budget from Virgin Records (compared to the often indie label, cult power pop bands favoured by the collector cognoscenti today). “Teenarama” and especially the astounding classic song, “Starry Eyes,” gained some airplay around the world, and show up on every Top 25 Power Pop Songs lists since.

It was 40 years ago when The Records returned from the USA, from JFK, on TWA (708) after an eight week tour, during which time the group played a total of 38 shows, and enjoyed opening for Joe Jackson (six dates), The Cars in Central Park and the Midnite Special TV Show (with The Cars), having the Dbs and the Rubinoos opening for us, our album hitting #41 on Billboard, and meeting Billy Joel, Jan and Dean, Robert Palmer, Flo and Eddie and many other interesting characters along the way.

Will Birch and John Wicks had founded The Records in 1978. Will thought of the name in the bathtub. Influences included Big Star, The Raspberries, Blue Ash, Badfinger, Stealers Wheel and the Beatles’ Revolver LP. Will and John immediately wrote 11 songs including “Teenarama, Up All Night and Held Up High”. They advertised in Melody Maker and located Phil Brown (bass) and Huw Gower (guitar). In 1978 The Records joined the Be Stiff Tour as backing group for Rachel Sweet. They recorded the 45 “Starry Eyes” and signed to Virgin Records.

Their debut album Shades In Bed (aka ‘The Records’) helped to establish their reputation, particularly in the USA, where “Starry Eyes” was a minor hit. They toured with Joe Jackson, opened for The Cars in Central Park and played their own headline shows with the likes of the dB’s and The Rubinoos in support. In 1980 Jude Cole (ex Moon Martin) joined the group in time for their second album, “Crashes”, featuring “Hearts In Her Eyes”, a song Will and John originally wrote for The Searchers.

A third album, Music On Both Sides, was recorded in 1981. The Records disbanded in 1982.

They were hired to back Stiff Records singer Rachel Sweet on the “Be Stiff Tour ’78”. The Records opened the shows with a set of their own. Birch and Wicks also wrote a song for Sweet’s debut album entitled “Pin a Medal on Mary”. The song writing duo also penned “Hearts in Her Eyes” for the Searchers, who made an unexpected comeback with their power pop oriented album The Searchers in 1979.

Based on their demos (later released as Paying for the Summer of Love), the band was signed to Virgin Records in 1978. Their debut single, “Starry Eyes”, was released in the UK that December and has since become their best-known song and an oft-covered power pop standard. Allmusic called it “a near-perfect song that defined British power pop in the ’70s”.Due in part to its clear influence by American power pop, the song was a bigger hit in the US than in the UK; it peaked at No. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1979.

The group prepared their debut album with producers Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Tim Friese-Greene. Huw Gower produced “The Phone”, which was added to the album in preference to one of Lange’s efforts, a cover of Tim Moore’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Love Letter”. The debut LP “Shades in Bed” yielded another single, “Teenarama”, their second-best known song. The album was released in the US in July 1979 as The Records with different song sequencing and with the original single version of “Starry Eyes” replacing Lange’s re-recording that appeared on the UK edition.

The album was sufficiently well received to peak on the Billboard chart at No. 41. Gower also produced the bonus four track disc of cover tunes included in the album release, which also received FM airplay, notably the version of Spirit’s “1984”, which was strong enough to become short-listed by Virgin as the second single off the album. deep-cuts like “Girl” demonstrate the British group’s soft powers. Vocalist John Wicks, who died in 2018, the Records always seemed more indebted to studio-trained, throwback pop acts than the more caustic punk of the time. The result was songs like “Girl,” which unites charging guitar riff’s with the sort of airy, all-hands-on-deck harmonies even the Hollies would have envied.’

That was the pinnacle of their success. Returning to the UK, Will Birch engaged the services of producer Craig Leon to record two new songs and to remix two tracks from Shades in Bed for a possible single release. Huw Gower acted as co-producer. After an aborted German tour with Robert Palmer, Gower left the band and relocated to New York, where he joined forces with New York Dolls lead singer David Johansen. Their collaboration led to the successful album Live It Up.

Jude Cole, a 19-year-old American, who had been in Moon Martin’s backing group The Ravens, joined for the album “Crashes” (1980). The album was not a hit, and did not yield any successful singles, and record company support for the band dried up during the Crashes tour. Cole stayed in the US, while the core of Birch, Wicks and Brown returned home to England.

The trio expanded into a quintet with guitarist Dave Whelan and lead singer Chris Gent. Previously, most of the songs had been sung by Wicks, but with other members frequently taking lead vocals for individual songs. Birch has since declared that the decision to recruit a lead singer was made “perhaps unwisely”. This line-up recorded a third album for Virgin, 1982’s “Music on Both Sides”. Like its predecessor, the album was not a hit.

After this, the band effectively broke up. Birch turned to tour managing, running ‘Rock Tours’, a sightseeing London Bus venture, producing and writing. In 1990 the original band briefly reformed to contribute a track for the 1991 Brian Wilson tribute album, Smiles, Vibes & Harmony. Birch, Brown and Wicks cut the basic track for “Darlin'” in London; Gower added his parts and mixed it in New York. The same year also saw the US release of Paying for the Summer of Love. Both recordings received great press, but were not enough to outweigh unresolved past issues within the core membership, which effectively killed any possibility of restarting the group. Wicks relocated to the US in 1994 and was writing, recording and performing both solo and with a new incarnation of the band up until 2018. Brown succumbed to an undisclosed degenerative illness on February 2nd, 2012. Wicks died following a year-long struggle with cancer on October 7th, 2018

The Records

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