Goodbye Nashville, Hello Camden Town: A Pub Rock Anthology
THE THESIS statement driving this two-disc set is presented in colorful if not somewhat outdated (perhaps appropriately so) terms by compiler David Wells: Received wisdom is that, like some blowsy barmaid, pub rock was pretty appealing after a few pints, but didnt seem quite such an attractive proposition in the cold light of day. Absolute drivel.
Fair enough. In the bright light of a quarter-century gone by, the songs presented here support the claim that pub rock was a genuine musical movement, and a pretty cool one at that. But more interesting than pub rocks historical relevance and respectability are its refracted roots. When thinking pub rock, many probably hear the echoes of those who crawled from its ale-soaked wreckage, the likes of Nick Lowe, the Rumour, and other Stiffers.
But what Goodbye Nashville makes clear is that the sound of pub rock was as much country-rock and folk-rock as it was Rockpile, with Brinsley Schwarzs Country Girl merely the most obvious in tone and title. Above all else, many of these bands, the Brinsleys included, wanted to be The Band.
The outfit Heads Hands & Feet, whose Country Boy is covered by the Johnny Young Band on Goodbye Nashville (and later was done by Ricky Skaggs), even recorded a tribute titled Warming Up The Band. And its no stretch to imagine Rick Danko singing the two contributions from Ernie Graham, one of this compilations true revelations. Elsewhere, Heads Hands & Feet alum and future hired-gun guitar hero Albert Lee makes like the Allman Brothers on Best I Can, and Unicorns 115 Bar Joy is as blatant a Crosby, Stills & Nash re-creation as has ever been put to tape. But its the version of Mama Tried by Heads Hands & Feet precursor Country Fever imagine Dave Edmunds storming Bakersfield that sums things up best.
With the exception of Paul Carracks Ace, the better-known names are present and accounted for: the aforementioned Brinsley Schwarz; R&B-angled badasses Dr. Feelgood; the Ian Dury-led music-hall rockers Kilburn & the High Roads; the punk-anticipating Eddie & the Hot Rods; and Eggs Over Easy, the Yanks who most agree started it all.
But there are others most likely known only to those who were there or those whove read No Sleep Till Canvey Island: The Great Pub Rock Revolution, the marvelously detailed chronicle by Will Birch of pub-poppers the Kursaal Flyers and later the Records. In fact, the best one-liner for this comp would be that it plays out like the soundtrack to Birchs book, with a larger than expected dose of twang and without a drop of morning-after regret.