MUD THE SINGLES 1973-1980 (3CD SET)
Well guys. that’s been a couple of very nostalgic hours for me this morning, returning to the carefree times of the early to mid 70’s when i was plying my trade as a mobile DJ all over the south of the country. This new collection from Cherry Red Records 7T’s pop label is the latest in their catalogue of ‘singles collections’. What i like about these particular compilations is they arrive in a sturdy clamshell box with each CD in its own cardboard sleeve accompanied by a glossy booklet detailing the tracks, and with a wealth of nostalgic photos of the band and 45 record covers (i remember so well). I’m guessing most people don’t realise Mud were around a long time before hitting the big time in 1973. Formed in 1966 by lead vocalist Les Gray & guitarist Rob Davis, they were joined by Dave Mount on drums & Ray Stiles on bass. For the next 6 or so years they toiled away with no commercial success recording singles for CBS such as 1967’s ‘Flower Power’. It all changed for them in 1973 when they joined Mickie Most’s hit factory that was RAK Records & writers Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman started penning their hit singles. Chinn & Chapman were incredibly prolific turning out hit singles for Suzi Quatro, Arrows, Smokie, Racey & Sweet amongst many others. As I’ve previously written in other reviews/articles the early 70’s saw pop & rock separate and go in different directions. Some ‘pop’ groups from the 60’s attempted to get more ‘serious’ with a ‘heavier’ sound such as The Tremeloes (and failed). Mud did the opposite, they became a completely unpretentious pop band, maybe the least pretentious one of all. listening to this collection, the tracks running in chronological order (another plus in my book, as you can hear a band develop) is a real nostalgic trip for me. Disc 1 kicks off with their debut hit ‘Crazy’ from early 1973 which is guitar heavy & could easily have been a Sweet single (maybe Nicky & Mike had intended it to be), it’s the same with their follow up hit later that year ‘Hypnosis’ it is again leaning towards a more ‘heavy’ sound. Both were respectable hits clocking in at 12 & 16 respectively. Then closing 1973 things lightened up considerably with their hat trick of hits with ‘Dynamite’ a much lighter singalong party number which did even better chart wise finishing up at No 4. This established the bands template to come. Their next release in early 1974 would be their first No 1 (of 3) & the one everybody will always remember, the ultimate party anthem,’Tiger Feet’. Now here i must pause for a second & thank Les & the boys from the bottom of my heart for ‘Tiger Feet’. I loved doing all the 100’s of gigs i did across, clubs, ballrooms, disco’s, army bases, private parties etc etc back then. However, there was one category pf booking i loathed….weddings!….whenever the agency i got the majority of my gigs from booked me for a wedding gig my heart would sink…Trying to keep everyone amused & on their feet at a wedding where ages range from 2 year old toddlers to 80 year old grannies was never something i looked forward to! If you put a record on for the younger element, the ‘oldies’ would sit & grumble & vice versa when you put Glenn Miller on for them. To the rescue came a little stack of trusted guaranteed across the age range floorfiller’s headed (in my case & no doubt several of my fellow DJ’s) by Mud’s ‘Tiger Feet’ & suddenly all the guests were on their feet singing & dancing themselves silly (the booze & orange squash had probably kicked in as well by then! thank you Mud you covered many a sudden lull in proceedings over the years! Anyway, back to this compilation, hot on the heels of ‘TF’ came the next hit in the shape of ‘The Cat Crept In’ a No 2 record where some of us would delight in changing the lyrics, singing the cat crept in *******! and crept out (my colleagues will no doubt be right with me..). Then came a personal favourite in ‘Rocket’ a number 6 to further a fantastically successful 1974 for the band. ‘Rocket’ brought together all the ‘classic’ Mud tropes, the matching suits, the ‘Mud dance’ & was the record that gave vent to Les’s inner ‘Elvis’ lead vocal (you can witness all this at the end of this review in the attached video). The ‘Elvis’ voice would also be put to further good effect and chart success with ‘Lonely This Christmas’ the bands second No 1 (remember the TOTP edition with Les singing to a ventriloquist dummy on his lap) ending 1974 in spectacular fashion for the band. ‘The Secrets That You Keep’ kicked off another successful year for the band in February 1975, followed by their 3rd No 1 ‘Oh Boy’, a cover of the old Buddy Holly/Crickets number. All these hits plus more you will find on Disc1. By Disc2 the band finished their time at RAK with the release of ‘One Night’ which marked a decline, peaking at a lowly No 32. With a switch to the Private Stock label the bands fortunes sprang back up with the release ‘L’L’ Lucy’ a No 10 for them written by their prime hit writers the aforementioned Chinn/Chapman. This was followed by further chart success with ‘Show Me Your A Woman’ a No 8 that would be their penultimate chart success, the final hit being ‘Lean On Me’ closing 1976. There’s a rather good version of The Mindbenders ‘Groovy Kind of Love’ also on Disc2 which was the first release to be attributed to Les as a solo single, which reached No 32 in February 1977. Mud then moved Record Companies yet again to RCA where they recorded ‘Slow Talking Boy’ a John Kongos song (remember him for He’s Gonna Step On You Again’) but further chart success eluded the band & to all intents and purposes with personnel changes and further label moves it was realistically the end for Mud. Disc3 rounds up the remainder of the bands work as Mud & various side projects for RCA & other labels and opens in lively fashion with rocker ‘Beating Round The Bush’ which is a perfectly fine effort but lacks that ‘magic’ ingredient that gave the band their early success. To be honest the band are sounding tired and out of touch, let’s not forget by now Punk was ruling the world. Covering their contemporaries Showaddywaddys version of ‘Under the Moon Of Love’ doesn’t help in the relevance stakes either. There are some brighter moments scattered throughout Disc3, a cover of Dobie Grays’s ‘Drift Away’ is quite pleasantly passable, but that’s a song you take on at your peril, when Dobie did such an amazing job. So, to summarise, the final disc is probably for completists only. Disc1, as i said earlier brought back a big silly grin to my face and Disc 2 was also very entertaining. I last saw Les quite by chance when visiting my cousin Viv in Portugal in the 90’s, where he had settled a stones throw from the bar run by Viv & her partner. We enjoyed a drink and a natter about the ‘good old days’ for a pleasant hour or so. Sadly, Les went on to develop cancer after leading his version of Les Gray’s Mud for many years, always a great frontman, he passed away in 2004. As always, this new compilation comes well presented in a sturdy clamshell box, complete with aforementioned booklet. I’ve had a very enjoyable mornings reminiscence. Mud have now left the building. Over to you. Enjoy.
Til next time….stay safe…..Colin
Terry Tollan… I did Les Grays 50th birthday party entertainment
Pert Fortsch… Still played by the Hairy Monster. “Lance Collins Retro Roadshow”
Lance Collins… And our clients love to hear it. Last week we kicked off with. You + Me =Love The Undisputed Truth. Followed by Nanu Nanu Daddy Dewdrop. After the gig had people asking where they could find them to download
Mick O’Dowd… As you so rightly say Colin, us DJ’s owed them a great deal in providing floorfillers. Along with the Mud Dance(fingers in your belt loops now!) they provided good clean pure pop! Remember working with them on The Pier and they were a nice bunch of guys as well. The memory button was well and truly pressed when reading this review.
Colin Bell… Mick, as i was writing it i thought i know 3 colleagues who will no doubt be nodding in agreement as the memories came back!
Judy Atkinson… That was a great trip down memory lane
Alan Esdaile… I always remember the gig posters they had, a warning sign with the words ‘Mud On The Road’!