Medway’s finest, fronted by Allan Crockford (ex-Prisoners), mark their tenth anniversary as a band with a limited edition album containing studio recordings of some of their favourite cover versions that have featured in their live set over the years.
Originally intended to be sold at gigs, Covid-19 put paid to that, but they decided to complete the album anyway and sell as a gesture of optimism and defiance (and because “there was nothing else to do!”) via their website. Their aim was to show that music is something that makes life better, and with “Decayed” they have certainly succeeded.
With lead vocals split between Crockford, Viv Bonsels and Mole, it makes for an eclectic listen as the band power their way through tracks spanning the ‘60s to the ‘80s, all in their unique psych-garage-rock-pop style. The majority of backing tracks were recorded in summer 2019 and were finished off at home in the months that followed.
They open with a fiery blast through the X-Ray Spex classic ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’, which is neatly followed by the harmony-drenched Paul Revere and the Raiders nugget ‘Him or Me (What’s It Gonna Be)’.
Jack Lee is well known among power pop aficionados, and his ‘Paper Dolls’ features here – stemming from his time in The Nerves. Whilst hardly a household name, most music fans will actually know his songs from two hugely successful covers, ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ (Blondie) and ‘Come Back And Stay’ (Paul Young).
The Who’s mighty psych-era period is represented by two numbers, ‘Tattoo’ (from “Sell Out”) and ‘Glow Girl’. Both are sung by Viv, who stamps her own inimitable vocal style on them, the latter having been recorded remotely in lockdown – a terrific tour de force with everything bar the (virtual) kitchen sink.
There’s a furious and sizzling ‘Reynard the Fox’ (Julian Cope), and a wild take on Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd freakout ‘Astronomy Domine’. Mole has an unenviable task taking on a ‘Superlungs’ vocal, but makes a grand job of Terry Reid’s ‘Tinker Tailor’.
Shocking Blue’s ‘Send Me A Postcard’ and Mike Nesmith’s ‘Circle Sky’ are followed by one of the album highlights – Robyn Hitchcock’s ‘Kingdom of Love’, a Soft Boys gem which is perfectly suited for Allan’s voice.
This belting album of covers functions well on two counts. It is a hugely enjoyable listen in its own right, with the band sprinkling their magic on a varied range of songs. It also makes you want to go back and listen to (or discover for the first time) the original versions.
Existing fans will lap this up, but if you’re new to The Galileo 7 then perhaps start with this alongside 2019’s “There Is Only Now” and work your way backwards from there. ****
Review by Jim Henderson
Allan Crockford interview
“Decayed” marks 10 years of The Galileo 7, but you’ve not been able to play any live shows to celebrate. How hard has this been (mentally and financially) on a personal level, when for most of your life you’ve played so many gigs each year?
The last we played was on February 7th 2020, supporting the Fuzztones at Under The Bridge. It was a good night and we got a great reception. It seems like a lifetime ago now. I’ve missed playing like every musician has, but so much has happened since then that the time has gone quickly. Apart from the obvious outside stress of the pandemic, I’ve also lost my dad in that time and there’s been ill-health in the family. Before all this happened I could take or leave gigging – it could be life-affirming or dispiriting, fantastic or boring… you never knew how it would turn out. I don’t think I will ever take it for granted again, if things ever get back to normal. At the moment it looks as far away as ever, and I’m not making any optimistic assumptions yet.
FInancially it’s not a concern as we never make any money out of it. It’s purely a serious hobby that at best pays for itself, at worst costs you a shedload of unrecoupable expenses! We all have ‘proper’ jobs that make playing in a band that doesn’t make any money possible!
You’ve worked out how to record remotely as a band during the pandemic. What has this involved from a technical point of view, and how have you found it in comparison to being in the same room?
It’s complicated, but it’s not as if we haven’t got time to think about it. The way it works is that I make a demo of the song without drums and then send it to Mole. He records himself playing drums along to the demo and sends his drum track back. Ordinarily I would be able to drop his drum track straight into the existing session on the computer and carry on. It’s complicated by the fact that Mole’s studio is analogue and he records initially on tape and then transfers it to the digital realm to send it to me. It means that we get the wonderful tape compression from the analogue bit of the process, but it also means that we get enough tape drift to put the drums out of sync with the digitally recorded demo. It doesn’t take much drift to mean that I have to re-record my parts to fit with the drums. I’ve got used to it now, but it does add a bit of time and effort to the process. Once I’ve done that I send the new version of the song to Paul for the bass part, and then me and Viv will finish the keyboards and vocals.
It’s nothing like being in the same room, because we can’t bounce ideas round and change the arrangement or let the dynamics emerge between ourselves. Playing a new song as a band beds the song in and can change the feel completely, which is what we’ve done for the last few years. Doing it this way is almost a throwback to the early days of the band when I would record a complete demo and the others would just learn the parts I’d played.
I’ve really enjoyed the songs and videos that you and Viv have recorded and posted on YouTube during lockdown. It looks like you had quite a bit of creative fun doing these…
The lockdown covers have been a lifeline and a great distraction. Obviously we’ve been recording music as a band as well, but doing somewhat off-the-wall covers with Viv has been a challenge and fun at the same time. I’ve enjoyed the ones that are outside our normal influences, like songs by John Denver and The Settlers. They’re not exactly our normal influences by any stretch, but bending the songs to our will has been so enjoyable, and watching our friends and fellow musicians doing the same has made the theme nights one of the few good bits about this whole experience. Viv and I are going to collect all our efforts so far and release them as an album as soon as we can. It’ll be Volume 1, but we’re hoping that we don’t need to release Volume 2… although we might carry on doing it even when we do get back to something like normal.
Have you been writing any new material and, if so, when do you anticipate starting work on a new album?
I’ve written 5 or 6 new songs during this period and made demos. We’re working our way through each one and gradually turning them into band songs. It’s a long process though, and I’ve been somewhat distracted from writing new songs because knocking out cover versions is so much easier…
It’s great to hear a Jack Lee song on “Decayed” as I’ve long been an admirer of his work. How easy was it to decide which songs to record, and do you have any particular favourites?
The Jack Lee song (‘Paper Dolls’) was chosen by Mole, as he loves The Nerves, particularly that EP. Our version was recorded a few years ago and kind of forgotten, but when we realised that we were a couple of songs short for the ‘Decayed’ album and there was no chance of getting together in time to get other songs recorded, I dug up this version and remixed it. It was recorded by the Mark 2 line-up of the band before Mole had moved from bass to drums. All of the songs on the album had been played live by us at gigs at one time or another, so the remit was to record decent versions of those for the anniversary album. We’d done seven of them last year, but never got a chance to get back together to record the other three. Luckily we had these old versions in the archives and they sounded much better than we remembered at the time. I think they fit perfectly with the newer recordings.
As if musicians didn’t have enough to deal with in lockdown, there will now be the post-Brexit challenges of playing outside of the UK when live shows eventually return. Have you got pending bookings on the horizon, and are you anticipating that it will still be financially and logistically viable for you to play in Europe?
Absolutely nothing booked – I doubt if anyone at our sort of DIY level has! I have no idea what the future holds for playing abroad. For me, and pretty much everyone I know, Brexit is a huge mistake, based on lies and misrepresentation. We will see the consequences played out over the next few years, and I doubt if I will change my mind. I remember the days of playing outside of the UK before the borders became transparent, and customs were a massive pain in the arse – and pretty scary at times. It was never easy to cover costs, and it’s even less likely now. I find it difficult to contemplate and fully understand the way the country has taken such a turn for the worse.
And what about UK shows? I’m anticipating that the atmosphere at future live shows will be even better than before, with audiences and bands alike appreciating even more what they’ve missed during such a difficult time
Let’s hope we get the chance to find out! It’s difficult to imagine playing to crowds now, when we’re deep into the worst part of the pandemic. Mass gatherings in small sweaty rooms seem impossible, and that’s where rock’n’roll has always thrived. I hope we get the chance to play, and to be in an audience watching other bands too. I’m trying not to think about it at the moment… but yes, if it does I think both audiences and bands will be much more appreciative of each other in the future!
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