The Epic 2017 Project #227: 170815
The Pirates – Skull Wars (1978)
OK you lucky lot. Today you’re getting eight episodes of ‘Epic’ all on the same day; essentially because I’m away for a week with no possibility of updating blogs etc.
Episode 5 comes in the shape of The Pirates ‘Skull Wars’ from 1978. And I’ve a particular story to tell of this one.
At the time of its release I was working as a kitchen porter on the Loughborough University campus in the Midlands. I had a room in a stall halls of residence on the campus and, one any one of our weekly half-day off (usually Saturday afternoon), the ground floor corridor was a virtual battleground for who could crank their stereo up the loudest, thereby drowning out the sometime dubious music choices of some of the other residents.
Then ‘Skull Wars’ came out and three of us queued up at Castle Records to get out mitts on vinyl on the day of its release. No more competition needed – three copies of the same album meant that you could generally get to hear it at some point in the day, whether it be from your own room or someone else’s.
But then we had the brainwave of attempting to synch all three. No mean feat with vinyl in three different rooms on three different stereos. But we managed it – after a fashion. Johnny B Goode’s Good in triplicate and very, very loud.
Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #208: 160726
[Song from an artiste beginning with P]
Back in the late 70’s I was working as a kitchen porter on a large university campus in the Midlands. We had our own digs on site and, in the little leisure time we had in between the excruciatingly long work hours, the place quite literally rocked. The Pirates’ ‘Skull Wars’ came out in 1978 and its airplay at top volume in the very early hours of the morning was very evident. These days we’d have got an ASBO!
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.