The first Pirates line-up came together in the late 1950’s as the backing band for Johnny Kidd, one of the first wave of British Rock n Rollers. Classics from this period include ‘Please Don’t Touch’, ‘Restless’ and the Number 1 single ‘Shakin all over’ which, although since covered numerous time, first became a landmark in British rock n roll on its June 1960 release.
Some momentum was lost when the original Pirates jumped ship and became the nucleus of The Tornados of ‘Telstar’ fame. But the recruitment of school friends Mick Green (guitar), Johnny Spence (bass) and Frank Farley (drums) complete with their hard rock sensibilities gave Kidd the ammunition he needed to keep Merseybeat at bay. The top 20 hits ‘I’ll never get over you’ and ‘Hungry for Love’ gave due proof of that, while the three Pirates even produced a solo single – ‘My Babe/Casting Spell’ which, due to later shenanigans, has since become a cult hit.
The success came to an untimely end in October 1966 when Johnny Kidd killed himself in a car crash and everything went a bit quiet for a decade. But in the mid-70s when Dr Feelgood and sundry other stripped down bluesy combos began lighting fires under the rise of punk, the call went out for Green, Spence and Farley to give their acolytes a masterclass in no frills rock n roll, and ‘The Pirates Mark II’ was born.
‘Skull Wars’ was the band’s second outing on the mighty Warner Bros record label. Released in 1978, the album features three live tracks recorded at London’s ‘The Hope and Anchor’ and epitomise the classic pub rock the latter day Pirates proved their worth with over and over again.
At the time of its release I was working as a kitchen porter and sharing accommodation with a number of others on a corner of a large university campus in the Midlands. No less than four of us owned a copy of this album and not a day went by in the autumn of 1978 without it getting at least one airing. Once we even (more or less successfully) synchronised the playing of ‘Johnny B Goode’ on four separate record players at the same time – all at top volume. That track still floats the boat 37 years later. And, as you can see, I still have the album.