Feature: What NAZARETH mean to me…

Joe Geesin revisits one of his favourite bands – Nazareth – and discusses the impact they made on his musical interests and signposting their recommended albums.

Nazareth - STEELHOUSE FESTIVAL Day 1 - Ebbw Vale, South Wales, 25 July 2015

The long enduring Scottish rockers Nazareth have been around since the late 60s (and before that they were a ballroom cover band The Shaddettes), and with sole original member bassist Pete Agnew (pictured above with Rodney Matthews) at the helm, they are still going strong.

My introduction to Nazareth was at school in the early 80s, when a friend had bought the album No Mean City on account of the Rodney Matthews artwork. I borrowed it and was hooked, I soon became an avid fan and collector.

Their early albums had a unique blend of rough hard rock and blues, mean slide guitar, gravel vocals, and some great songs, as well as groundbreaking covers (check out ‘This Flight Tonight’ and ‘Love Hurts’ for example). Even the more commercial work of the 80s still showcased some great music.

Come 1990, on leaving University, being a music fan and record collector, I wrote to Record Collector Magazine pitching a feature on Gillan (another love), which they ran with. On completion, who next? Nazareth it was, and a few phonecalls later and I was on the phone to drummer/ manager Darrell Sweet and vocalist Dan McCafferty.

Dan McCafferty of Nazareth

And much like the Gillan feature, I had a great time compiling a comprehensive discography. At the time the band were issuing a new album, No Jive, with new guitarist Billy Rankin, on the Mausoleum label. The Belgium label had a UK office, who I contacted, and subsequently helped promoting the album.

I was surprised at the band’s low profile in the UK then and offered to run a fanclub / fanzine for them, which I did for 10 years. This also led to work with various record labels in reissues, sleevenotes, and even turning up rare tracks.

The band’s original music still means a lot to me, Nazareth have been such a huge part of my life; I have over 220 7” 45s and over 120 LPs by them. Sadly my connection with them started to wain when Darrell Sweet died, and in my own humble opinion his last album with them – Boogaloo – is their last great album.

Nazareth - GIANTS OF ROCK – Butlins, Minehead, 28 January 2018 (Day 3)

I was in the studio with the band during recording. During that time, much time was spent in the local pub (Catsfield, East Sussex); in fact the first time I met guitarist Jimmy Murrison he was very hungover. A lot of snooker was also played with the band. I’ve also had casual chats with guitarists Manny Charlton (original member), Zal Cleminson (also ex SAHB) and Billy Rankin, and much said off the record is now unrepeatable (and some contradicts the band’s official line on some topics; no wonder the band don’t want a biography written about them.

And it is worth noting that the aforementioned Rodney Matthews artwork on No Mean City also kick started a fascination with Matthews’ art, and we’ve become good friends since then too.

Recommended albums

Razamanaz (1973, produced by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover; ballsy blistering and bluesy) No Mean City (1979, classic Rodney Matthews cover and adds the Alex Harvey Band’s Zal Cleminson on second guitar)
Boogaloo (1998, features guitarist Jimmy Murrison and pianist Ronnie Leahy, a return to form)

Album review (Box set, 2018)

Further reading


(i) Simon Dunkerley
(ii) Noel Buckley
(iii) David Randall

© 2020 Joe Geesin/GRTR! All rights reserved.

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