Well, what is there to say about the Blue Meanies that the world doesn’t already know? Everything, actually. After the debacle/demise (depending upon your dental perspective) of Radio Stars, Martin wanted some creative musicians to work with, and preferably some who weren’t a hundred years old or Californian. Was it too much to ask? He booked a rehearsal room and auditioned anyone who turned up. Their number included an unsuspecting Ian MacLeod, who suddenly remembered he had an urgent appointment with his hairdresser.
Chris Gent, an old hand from Radio Stars tours and records, was already part of the team on vocals and sax (he later turned up in the Records). This led quickly to problems with his then-manager Jazz Summers (who died in August 2015). Turning up unannounced at the Marquee club, he offered to fight Martin in the dressing room for the right to use Chris Gent’s vocal services. After some consideration, Martin agreed, and stood up to do battle. But wiser heads prepailed, and fisticuffs did not follow.
The other slots had to be filled. Scotsman Ray Weston drummed (as he later did for Wishbone Ash and, erm, the Moody Blues). In the studio, old Radio Stars pal Jamie Crompton stepped out fro behind his drum kit and strapped on a guitar. Jamie swiftly discovered other more pressing career possibilities with Wishbone Ash and Suzie Quatro, however, so Weston then introduced his similarly-Scots friend Angie to play guitar. Angie performed well on the b-side to the solitary single that the BMs released but was rather less predictable live, where he would for no clear reason veer off into a different song before the band had finished the one they were still playing. A substitute was found in the form of Tommy Willis, later guitarist with Manfred Mann’s Earthband.
They signed to Phonogram, who created an unintelligible sleeve, much to Gordon’s irritation. He roped in old Radio Stars pal Phil Smee, who came up with a neon pic sleeve and a variety of ads featuring all sorts of dodgy characters (Richard Nixon was one) with the strapline ‘But They Never Had Pop Sensibility’.
Phonogram released a single single, stuck the band on a TV show and then quietly forgot about the entire project. There were quite a few gigs, loads of recordings and not much else, apart from an unfeasibly large number of photo shoots; this was not unconnected to the fact that the Phonogram press officer at the time was enamoured of a particular member of the band. There are today seven crates of unused promo pix of the BMs in the MG Basement Archive. The single was roundly ignored, but actually it sounds rather good today.
Joining Chris and Martin on ‘Pop Sensibility’ were singer Gary Holton (he was helping out on other tunes, and essayed a cockney git voice on this one), guitarist Jamie Crompton and drummer Weston. Bizarrely, half of the Blue Meanies later went on to join Wishbone Ash when Ray Weston followed Jamie Crompton’s footsteps. The causal connection remains unclear.
The B-side of the single, ‘I’m Not in Love with You’, also still has legs despite being influenced by the then-recent Rolling Stones session in Paris that Martin had played on. It was full of references to the curious characters that populated that particular bit of London that Martin and Chris moved in at the time – who could forget the Barraloony of Maunkberry’s, for example, or Barry Moose and his carload of harlots?
A second single was mooted – Chris spoke to his old pal Mickey Most, who listened to the songs and selected one as worthy of his consideration. It was ‘Habibya’, a tune about murderous dwarves, possibly not the most obvious choice for a single, but who were the BMs to argue with the defining voice of British pop? It was recorded, but halfway through the session, the phone rang. It was Mickey. “Chuck ’em out!” he instructed the engineer, who did just that. ‘Habibya’ was later rewritten as ‘Why Do I…?’ for Gordon’s first solo release The Baboon in the Basement.
The Blue Meanies once appeared on a TV show aimed at the educationally sub-normal (i.e. the record-buying public) and were presented by a parrot. But to no avail – the public weren’t buying it. After a few more gigs Chris joined Screaming Lord Sutch as sax player and slipped quietly off across the North Sea.
The Meanies of Blue were no more.
- Dave Thompson’s Goldmine Blue Meanies retrospective
- which led to Dave Thompson’s seminal example of rock obscurantism is published in ‘Footnotes from the Archives of Oblivion‘ (ta, Dave, nice one)
- The Blue Meanies ‘Pop Sensibility‘ sleeve notes – MG’s in-depth overview, including the infamous Gary Holton mic-event
- ‘Pop Sensibility’ album overview
- Blue Meanies pix gallery
- Shop for Blue Meanies stuff