Many of my readers will already know Craig ” Bracko” Brackenridge, one of the infamous jockabilly crew, and singer from former Scottish psychobilly band, The Rednecks.
He is probably best known as author of the psychobilly bibles: Let’s Wreck, Vinyl Dementia and Hell’s Bent on Rockin’, alongside the fictional tales of the youth cults and subcultures of the 1980s and 90s: Psychobilly, Glory Boys and Rave on Scooterboy. He has also written about his love for cinematic trash and movie sleeze.
Today Bracko shares his “Top 10 Influential Albums” here on Tea and Cake for the Soul.
1. Chaquito – The Big, Big Sound of Chaquito
Growing up there wasn’t much music in our house. My ma & pa had some vinyl but it was fairly limited, stuff like Trini Lopez, The Eagles, Barbara Streisand, etc. but they did have this bargain basement covers album from Woolworths. As far as I can make out Chaquito was really just a name for prolific easy listening artist John Gregory.
This album is pretty far from easy and features some demented big band covers of Western movie soundtracks and Latin American mayhem. Their version of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly on here is a totally mental speed-fuelled romp. I think I may have seen Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars trilogy’ spaghetti westerns when I heard this album but I reckon this was the start of my love for the music of Ennio Morricone and other Italian film score composers.
2. Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material
In the relatively early days of punk, my mate’s older brother had a cracking collection of 7” singles and we used to sneak into his room when he wasn’t about and look through them. He would always go off his nut if he knew we had been handling his seven-inchers but eventually, we got braver and started to listen to them when he was not about.
I remember listening to bands like The Rezillos (Revillos), Angelic Upstarts, Cockney Rejects and The Trainspotters but the ones that excited me the most were SLF. Soon after, I made a trip to a Glasgow record shop called Listen and bought ‘Inflammable Material’… my first ever album.
There was no clicking on I-tunes in them days and it was a terrifying journey into a darkened hell-hole of a record shop filled with older punks while Teds and Mods battered each other in the streets outside alongside warring football factions.
When I made it home alive I put it on my creaky ‘music centre’ and lapped it all up. There are no duff tracks on this album and it knocked me out so much that I almost immediately sent my postal order subscription off to the SLF fan club which was run by two girls who actually wrote back to you with news of the band and sent flyers & band memorabilia in every stamped addressed envelope.
3. Secret Affair – Behind Closed Doors
In my early teens, in the 1980s, I was really unsure of what I wanted to be and in a time when street subcultures were strictly divided my musical tastes were all over the place. I could quite happily listen to punk, ska, ted revival and heavy metal in a single sitting but out on the streets you were really expected to pick a side.
To confuse things further, I had a mate who was heavily into the Mod ‘renewal’ and he pointed me in the direction of The Who, The Kinks and The Lambrettas (a cracking band that seem to be shunned by everyone just because their version of ‘Poison Ivy’ led to a Top of the Pops appearance).
Anyway, he must have had a spare copy of Secret Affair’s ‘Behind Closed Doors’ and it fell into my hands. It was probably the first album that I ever really listened to intently as it doesn’t immediately sound like a collection of ‘hits’ but after repeated listening, I grew to love it. It probably won’t convert any unbelievers to say that it is almost like a concept album telling the story of the Mods of 1979 and definitely up there with the ‘Quadrophenia’ album.
When I was writing the novel ‘Glory Boys’ with Garry Bushell in 2015, I used to play this album constantly and it made the job far, far easier.
4. Nine Below Zero – Third Degree
As I moved closer to the Mod scene, I saw Nine Below Zero one night singing ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’ on the TV show The Young Ones and they were f’ing amazing. In the dark days before t’internet, you had to wait all week until you could get into the city at the weekend to buy any records that were beyond the Top 40 fodder that Woolworths (or Boots) stocked in my home town.
This album still sounds great and at the time I had no idea of the band’s pub rock, 1960’s R&B roots, I just knew that this album was something special. I kind of dug back a bit and bought their more bluesy records but when the band split and two of them formed The Truth I was well into their new direction. With my two-bob Sta-Prest trousers and Fred Perry V-neck I was well on the way to Modernism but…
5. The Meteors – In Heaven
After dabbling a bit in The Smiths and all sorts of gear played on John Peel’s nightly radio show I was still floating around like a fart in a trance looking for something when I friend of mine in Dundee gave me a C90 tape to listen to on the long bus ride home from her pad one Sunday afternoon. It contained The Meteors ‘Wrecking Crew’ album and it literally changed my life before I got off the bus. I had always liked Punk & Rock ‘n’ Roll and I thought that The Clash’s version of ‘Brand New Cadillac’ was heading in that direction but The Meteors blew all that away.
When I tracked down the band’s debut album ‘In Heaven’, I was even more dumbfounded as I had no idea that this ‘Psychobilly’ scene was even out there. This album has no fillers on it at all, classic after classic and I can still listen to it today and get a buzz. I had to know more about what was going on and that started me on the road to Psychobilly – a lifestyle that led me to my wife, my mates and shit loads of great recordings & gigs over decades.
6. The Cramps – Smell Of Female
For a while, all I bought was Psychobilly records but it was still a very underground scene with very little press coverage (and much of what there was took the piss). TV was even rarer and apart from King Kurt’s ‘Destination Zululand’ on Top of the Pops I can’t remember anything.
The Tube started and it was one of the best TV music shows ever (although there is not much competition… even today). They brought us their fantastic ‘Trash on the Tube’ film featuring The Tall Boys, The Sting-Rays, The Prisoners and Thee Milkshakes. Being hundreds of miles from London this was an eye-opener and not long after The Tube also showed The Cramps ‘Live From the Peppermint Lounge’. Again, this was a seminal moment and a feeling that the music I loved was finally getting a place on the small screen amongst the tide of shite music that polluted the box in the 1980s.
The next day I bought ‘Smell of Female’ and it is still my favourite albums by The Cramps. Leading up to this I had quite enjoyed their LPs ‘Songs The Lord Taught Us’ & ‘Psychedelic Jungle’ but ‘Smell Of Female’ was a true whopper – especially their version of ‘Faster Pussycat’ – and it is still one of the only live albums (by anyone) that I still listen too.
7. Stomping At The Klub Foot – Various artists
Without going on like an old fart, with the minimal info available in the music press in the eighties, I was not really sure what was going on in the London Psychobilly scene – ground zero!! Mostly the first time you even knew anything about a Psychobilly band was when their records landed in the shop and you had to take a punt, buy it and hope for the best. I was rarely disappointed though as there was so much good gear coming out at the time.
Stomping At The Klub Foot was a no-brainer though as I had already heard all of the bands on it and knew they were top class. Not only that, the pictures of the Klub Foot itself, and the audience, were like a window into a world that you wanted to be part of. It is all good stuff on both sides, but the highlights of the album for me has to be ALL the Sting-Rays tracks and The Guana Batz rowdier version of the ‘Joe 90’ theme. Not long after, my mates and I hired a van and actually went to the Klub Foot. It was a f’ing long journey, someone puked and the van smelled of piss but it was all worth it to touch down in Hammersmith’s Psychobilly mecca.
8. The Macc Lads – Beer and Sex and Chips and Gravy
I was pretty much submerged in Psychobilly from the mid to late 1980s but I did work in record shops so I had an idea of what else was out there. I had no idea who The Macc Lads were though and when, on a piss-up to Blackpool, my mates and I noticed a crowd of punk types & rockers gathering around the Cenotaph near one of the piers. We hung about a bit and then a curtain-sided truck pulled up on the prom, the sides went up to reveal a band set up and ready to play. Once their generator kicked in we heard a guitar squeal and the singer shout then they started to do a free gig right there with the police hovering in the background.
I was stunned by how good they were and every foul-mouthed song was instantly memorable. Who can listen to ‘Sweaty Betty’ and not smile? I bought their debut album the next morning before we left Lancashire’s city of sin in a hangover haze. Everything else they recorded in the following years was bought immediately on release. I saw them a few weeks back in Wolverhampton and they were as brilliant as ever (as far as I can remember).
9. Elvis Hitler – Hellbilly
In these touchy times, this band’s name will have some breaking out in a cold sweat but they have nothing to do with any far-right politics, just maybe an intention to get a reaction from their name. Whatever the story is, this is an album I stumbled upon as the 1990s dawned and it blew me away. Other than The Cramps, I did not know that any type of Psychobilly activity was going on over the Atlantic – even The Quakes had moved to London to make a name for themselves! This was also a period when the initial Psychobilly tsunami wave was starting to thin out a little and it seemed even more shocking that this great band was keeping things going over there almost single-handedly.
It’s a well produced album and quite heavy for the time and to my ears, it was completely different to the UK & European Psychobilly that I was used to. Nonetheless, it made a big impression on me and influenced the sound of a band that I was in at the time (The Rednecks). The title track is still one of my favourite songs ever but there was plenty of good stuff on there and I still feel the band never really got the recognition they deserve as American Psychobilly pioneers.
10. Slade – In Flame
I had always liked Slade as a kid because they seemed to been Top of the Pops & Kid’s TV almost every week but I never heard any of their albums and in my teens and beyond I more or less forgot about them. I’ve always been a fan of British films from the 1960s & 1970s and when I tracked down the movie ‘Slade In Flame’ it gripped me from the intro music onwards. This was a bitter and thoughtful sounding Slade (‘How Does It Feel’ / ‘Far, Far Away’) and also a hard-rocking band (‘Them Kinda Monkeys Can’t Swing’) and miles away from their Top 40 boot-boy anthems.
Once I had the soundtrack album in my sweaty grip I had to track down their every one of their earlier releases. I think greatest hits albums are the devil’s work and to really appreciate a band you have to work your way through their back catalogue. Sometimes it’s a waste of time but, certainly in Slade’s case, it unlocked a wealth of good music for me. Although I can handle some of their eighties songs, for me their late 1960’s – late 1970’s gear is solid gold and it enables me to ‘get down and get with it’ whenever possible.
Huge thanks to Craig for sharing his story. I’m sure you’ll agree that this was another great musical journey.
If you’re interested in psychobilly, mod or the scooter scene then head over to Amazon where you can find all of Bracko’s books.
And if you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it at Tea and Cake for the Soul’s Musical Features and Interviews.
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