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What's new in iJamming!...
(Last updated
Wed, Jul 24, 2002)
Back On The (Flying Saucer) Attck
The iJAMMING! interview
(at last)
Featured Mix CD
Grandmaster Flash Essential Mix Classic Edition
30 Albums, 10 Songs, 5 books and a handful of movies.
Eight Days in A Week's Music:
Ed Harcourt, Vines, Candy Butchers, Timo Maas, Ashley Casselle & Adam Freeland, Aerial Love Feed, and enough little club nights to shake several sticks at.
Tony's (lengthy) trip down nostalgia lane from his visit home at the end of April. Stop-offs include Death Disco, old Jamming! Magazines, life-long friendships, road trips to Brighton, Damilola Taylor and political frustration, Morrissey-Marr, Zeitgeist, Oasis, Dexys, Primal Scream, the current British music scene and more.
Jack magazine comes out of the starting gate with the banner headline "best new men's mag in years."
Ternhaven Cellars Claret d'Alvah 1998
'Hard Grind' by LITTLE AXE
Why I re-wrote the book: The introduction to the new edition of my R.E.M. biography, due out this summer through Omnibus.
Chemical Brothers, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Paul Westerberg, Skywalking, Joe Strummer, Radio 4, and Aquatulle.
A weekend with John Mayer, Sugarcult - and Elvis
Michael Greene's Grammy Speech: An Invitation to Download?
Plus: 10 things they forgot to tell you at the Grammys.
What the Hell Is Going On Here?
From the Jamming! Archives:
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
The iJamming! interview:
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
The Best Of 2001
Tony Fletcher's Top Albums, Concerts, Singles and Books - and comments on the Village Voice Poll
MUSING on The Manhattan 'Edge':
Will the Island Ever Again Be A 'Cultural Ground Zero?'
hostess 'Lee Patrick' recalls her time as Keith Moon's amour
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
Featured wine region 1:
The full iJamming! Contents
Back on the (Flying Saucer) Attack
The last time I saw the Rezillos was in October 1978, at the Marquee in London, supported by the Undertones. It was a magical night, as you can well imagine. I was obsessed with the Rezillos and their colourful combination of sci-fi imagery, bubblegum pop, sixties riffs and punk rock spirit. I thought 'Top of The Pops,' a bonafide chart hit that summer, to be a power pop classic and I was infatuated with female singer Fay Fife, not so much because of her Mary Quant modette chic, as for her Edinburgh brogue that defined the group as proudly north-of-the-border.

Some older kids at school who shared my enthusiasm befriended Fay and her (vocal and romantic) partner Eugene Reynolds that night, and interviewed them for Jamming!. Meanwhile, myself and some fourth-form class mates walked backstage (there was no security at the old Marquee), introduced ourselves to The Undertones and had them teach us how to play 'Teenage Kicks' on the guitar. (Fifteen years later, still remembering the simple barre chord pattern, I played it at my own wedding.) The Undertones were superb on stage in their humble straight-leg jeans and v-neck style, and the Rezillos were surely brilliant too in their larger-than-life manner. My lasting memory of their performance though was being crushed up against the stage at the very front center of the 1000-strong audience, begging to be pulled out to protect my ribs but to no avail. I decided to wait until I was considerably bigger before attempting that front row position again.

Well, I'm bigger now, and last Sunday night (June 30) at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, New Jersey, I positioned myself front and center of a Rezillos gig again where, in absence of anything seriously constituting a stage or a thousand people pushing on my back, I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I stood almost nose to nose with Fay Fife, Eugene Reynolds and the band for a thrilling one-hour set.

Can't Stand The Rezillos is the very definition of the classic debut. In re-issued form, the 13-song album also includes the 'Destination Venus' single and the contract-fulfilling live album Mission Accomplished ... But The Beat Lives On. Sleeve notes by Ira Robbins do an excellent job of explaining the album's timeless appeal.
It's not like there's been many other opportunities these past 24 years. Shortly after that Marquee show in 1978, with their superb debut album Can't Stand The Rezillos high in the charts, and with another perfect pop single 'Destination Venus' following close on its heels, with fame and fortune assured and with America beckoning, the Rezillos decided to do the 'punk rock thing' and break up. Eugene and Fay, in the one camp, formed the Revillos, a more revisionist and blatantly ironic version of the Rezillos that was enjoyable in its cartoon way but suffered from lack of quality songwriting. That's largely because, in the other camp, guitarist and primary songwriter Jo Callis (who originally went by the stage name Luke Warm) formed his own band Shake with another founding member, Simon Templar. Callis later joined the Human League, for whom he co-wrote much of the best-selling album Dare, including the global hit 'Don't You Want Me,' effectively establishing his retirement fund. Fife and Reynolds ultimately split the Revillos around the same time they broke up as a couple, in the mid-eighties, after which they each flourished with secondary careers: she as an actress (under her real name Sheillagh Hynde), he with an antique motorbike business (Reynolds' christened name is Alan Forbes). Drummer Angel Paterson moved to Germany and became an architect; only bassist William Mysterious disappeared into obscurity. This was not a band that needed to reform for the money.

But reform they did, re-emerging in public, with new bassist Johnny Bravo, at last New Year's Hogmanay Show in Edinburgh, where they so enjoyed playing to a reported 200,000-strong crowd that they agreed to a first ever tour of the States before even playing London. Maybe they wanted to make up for a lost opportunity: as the first British signings to Seymour Stein's Sire Records, the Rezillos recorded their debut album in New York with (labelmates) the Ramones/Talking Heads' producer Tony Bongiovi, and Bob Clearmountain. During that time they only managed one unannounced show at CBGBs and before they could capitalise further on their American connection, they fell out with Sire, whom Fay and Eugene bad-mouthed frequently throughout the Jamming! Interview. This 2002 tour was therefore long-overdue virgin territory for them.

And it was not going to be easy to pull off. Many a great band is best preserved as a memory, and I wasn't making any assumptions that the reformed Rezillos would live up to the promise of their album or the power of their live heyday, especially given that their ages ranged from mid-forties (Fife) to early fifties (Reynolds).

The first few minutes at the Court Tavern suggested the worst. Eugene walked through the (respectable for Sunday night in a suburban college town) crowd of only a hundred, shouting "Hey, I'm made it" with dripping sarcasm. They opened with the Crystal Palace FC theme song 'Glad All Over' (their version on Can't Stand The Rezillos remains the definitive interpretation of this Dave Clark Five hit, during which Fay struggled to find her voice while Jo Callis, looking like anything but a Human League alumni in short spiky hair and kilt, wrestled with a thin guitar sound.

What a difference ten minutes makes: The Rezillos dressed to impress . . . . . And stripped to thrill. Eugene Reynolds, Angel Paterson, Johnny Bravo and Fay Fife

Maybe it was the enthusiasm of the small crowd, which ranged from twenty something bondage-trousered punk rockers to first generation Brit Rezillos fans like myself, maybe it was the decision to follow 'Glad All Over' with two singles, '(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures' and 'Top Of The Pops,' but after ten minutes there was no looking back. Put simply, The Rezillos performed with an energy to shame most bands half their age. Reynolds was cool and collected, ever the coiffed motorbike rebel with an engaging wink and smile; Fife was effervescent, animated, a go-go dancing, mini-skirted Tasmanian Devil constantly bouncing into and knocking over other members as she sought out room to groove and occasionally raised her voice to a larynx-threatening scream. Jo Callis remains a superbly raw guitarist as well as a passable backing singer, while Paterson and Bravo did the old-fashioned rhythm section thing and kept it solid at the back.

Determined not to fall into the nostalgia trap, The Rezillos introduced several new songs: 'Crash Car,' 'Pressure Cooker', '25 Miles' and 'No. 1 Boy' were each equally impressive. Indeed, several in the crowd sang along, and though that may have been from attending the New York area shows at Warsaw and Maxwells, the Rezillos' songs never overestimated their listeners: one listen and you'd be friends for life. It's reassuring to know they still have that knack.

The rest of the set drew on the classics: 'Can't Stand My Baby,' 'Destination Venus,' 'Cold Wars,' 'Flying Saucer Attack,' 'No' (a personal fave), and 'Getting Me Down.' A core of the merrily drunken audience kept chanting for 'Somebody's Gonna Get Their head Kicked In Tonight' (a cover the Rezillos picked up from a primitive version of Fleetwood Mac), but their request wasn't met: we got 'Can't Stand My Baby' again instead.

The Rezillos performed with an energy to shame most bands half their age. Fay Fife was effervescent, animated, a go-go dancing, mini-skirted Tasmanian Devil Jo Callis remains a superbly raw guitarist as well as a passable backing singer,

On reflection, I noticed definite similarities between the Rezillos show in New Brunswick and the Creation when I saw them in Brooklyn last year: an audience that had waited years to see the act on American soil, a group that welcomed the overdue opportunity, a late Sunday night party atmosphere at which mutual respect rapidly upped the ante. The Rezillos seemed genuinely surprised by the intensity of this small crowd; I was simply astounded at the band's energy and power.

Shortly after they finished, I found myself chatting with a relaxed, superfit Eugene Reynolds, while an exhausted Fay Fife remained crumpled in the corner. It was clear that this is no revival trip for him by the number of times he insisted that "now is the right time" for the Rezillos to come to America. I don't know why 1979 wouldn't have been the right time, too: the Rezillos were as good then as any of the other of British new wave acts washing up on Stateside shores, and they might well have gained a lasting audience between fans of like-minded bands the B-52's and The Cramps. In fact, Reynolds confessed to regret that the band allowed temporary personality disagreements to split them at their commercial peak, admitting that management should have told them to cool it, take a break if need be, but stay together at all costs. That said, he's focusing primarily on the future, delighted that the Rezillos are attracting a wide-ranging audience in the States beyond the retro punk rockers he feared would dominate the crowd. He's excited about the new songs, as anyone who has Jo Callis in the writing camp would be. He seemed quite willing to view this initial, long-overdue tour as a loss leader and clearly wants to come back to the States soon. I got the sense that here was a group of people who have finally realized that playing as the Rezillos is what they do best in life and that they should do more of it.

I only hope it's not too late. Seeing how hard it's been for everyone from the Buzzcocks to the Bunnymen the second (or third) time around, you wouldn't want to bet the house on the Rezillos making the big-time now, twenty five years after first sparking international interest. Does that mean they're merely a nostalgia act, though? Hell no. Between their retro roots and futuristic imagery, the Rezillos were never tied to punk culture to begin with; as repeated listens to Can't Stand... demonstrates, their music is truly timeless. And at the Court Tavern, they put on one of the most exuberant and entertaining club gigs I've seen in years.

We weren't blessed with an opening band on the level of the Undertones, but four piece Seattle punk band The Briefs exuded an admirable energy of their own with a blitzkrieg set of two-minute anthems. Egalitarian to a fault, all four members have bleached blonde hair, all four share vocals; like so many of their ilk, they border on a caricature of punk, but they have enough spirit to take the annual Warped Festival by storm (were they playing it this year), and enough melody to suggest that there's a hit or two lurking within too. Interscope Records must think the same thing, as it recently signed the band. Missing from the Briefs' debut album Hit After Hit is the song 'We Americans,' which I picked up after the gig as a 7" b-side. Lyrically, it's equal parts self-parody and self-assertion and, as with the song 'Silver Bullet' (which offers the chorus line "Kill Bob Seger now!") proves that a sense of humor is a punk band's most important weapon. After loud guitars and hair bleach of course.

"We Americans can't write, we Americans don't read, and we don't want nobody telling us what we need. Cos we are better than that. And we're better than this. And we're better than everybody else, we've got the dollars and we've got the sense, and it has always been this way and it won't change, hey hey, god bless the fucked-up USA."

'We Americans' by The Briefs

Footing the bill were the Kowalskis, whose front woman Kitty is a self-proclaimed Fay Fife obsessive (barging in front of me at one point during the headliner's act to take pictures and sing along). Kitty doesn't have Fife's star presence, but then few do: what she does have is songwriting skills, guitar-playing chops, an adequate voice and a decent stage presence. Her guitar carries a Blondie sticker; I got to thinking of Holly('Tell That Girl To Shut Up') and The Italians instead. Kitty and co. don't mind playing up their sexuality, with t-shirts that say simply 'Pussy Rules,' and a male guitarist who explained afterwards that he was willing to blow whoever it took to get a gig with the Rezillos. Fortunately (unless he was looking forward to it) I believe such old-fashioned bargaining tools proved unnecessary; promotional persistence and similarity of purpose got them the slot instead. I left the venue at the point Kitty Kowalski was clambering all over a fatigued Fay Fife to get a picture of them together. The Scots singer looked equal parts terrified and thrilled. As well she should be. The Rezillos are back. And as their opening acts made clear, their influence never went away.

Tony Fletcher, July 3 2002


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