Alternative Chartbusters’ 40-Year Anniversary
By The Boys website, Mar 17 2018 09:29PM
“The second Boys album has since ascended to the pantheon of power pop greats…” AllMusic.com
On March 10 2018 it will have been 40 years since The Boys’ third single “Brickfield Nights” was released a week ahead of our second album “Alternative Chartbusters”.
In September 1977 our record company NEMS told us they wanted to release a second album and asked if we ready to go back in the studio? You bet we were!
We’d already put aside our disappointment that the release of our first album a year earlier had been well and truly torpedoed by Elvis dying. His record company RCA, was also the distributor for NEMS, switched all pressing plants to getting as much Elvis stuff out on sale as quickly as possible. As a consequence, our debut album slipped into the top 50 album chart on the week of release and promptly disappeared from sight the following week as it had sold out in the shops and no more copies were being pressed up.
After the RCA/Elvis debacle, NEMS had switched distribution to venerable UK music institution Pye so we were fairly confident that things should go well this time. Even better, after having recorded our first album in a few days, we managed to convince NEMS to book us a whole eight days at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales.
Although we had a load of new songs for the new album, “Brickfield Nights”, which is the opening track, wasn’t one of them yet as I only wrote it days before we went to Rockfield. Being a fan of 1960s US girl bands I’d been toying with the idea of doing a cover version of “I Have A Boyfriend” by The Chiffons. In the end I ditched the idea but kept the drum beat and wrote a new song around it.
I really loved recording at Rockfield with a brilliant engineer called Dave Charles, who got the drum sound on “Brickfield Nights” just perfect. Right from the start we all knew, without discussing it, that this song was our next single.
With the album done and dusted, the up-till-now extremely tight-fisted NEMS seemed to have gained new faith in us because early in 1978 they booked us into the ITN studios in Wells Street, Soho to make a video for “Brickfield Nights”. It wasn’t a video as we know it today; it was a sound stage with a couple of TV cameras. We ran through the song three times and 30 minutes later they said it was finished and live mixed. We were about to leave when they told us we had an hour booked and did we want to do another song? So we also walked out of there with a video for “Sway”.
The newfound largesse of NEMS also extended to them booking us into a West End voiceover studio to record a radio ad (which, Holy Moses, meant they were prepared to pay radio stations to play it! Was there no end to their munificence?). So, guitarist Honest John, drummer Jack Black and myself met up at the studio and in our usual speed recording style concocted not one but four Monty Python influenced radio ads for NEMS to choose from. In the end, all four were aired.
To coincide with the single and album release, NEMS also set up a UK tour kicking off on February 8 and finishing at London’s Music Machine on March 14. Unfortunately, in typical NEMS style, the release of “Brickfield Nights” single was delayed until March 10 towards the end of the tour and the “Alternative Chartbusters” album was delayed till March 17, three days after the tour set up to promote it had finished.
But never mind, as a band we were all really pleased with “Alternative Chartbusters”. We believed that we had taken the essence of the first album and moved in a broader, more accessible direction. Not everyone agreed though, as it had mixed reviews in the music press at the time.
Maybe we’d moved on a bit too quickly, as Amazon Music noted in 2005: “If this album was released today The Boys would be as big as The Strokes.”
And AllMusic.com agrees: “the second Boys album has since ascended to the pantheon of power pop greats, a combination of the band's own inestimable position at the forefront of what, by early 1978, was already a burgeoning movement, and their seemingly effortless grasp of the rudiments of a great pop song. “Brickfield Nights,” is almost Spector-esque in its vision, a Wall of Sound that totally predicts all that the Ramones would later do with Spector himself, but transplants the action and emotions into a strictly English setting, a soaring paean to the lost innocence of youth, set to a transistor blast of melody.”
It’s always nice to be told that you were right!
https://youtu.be/G4nbyiOvD28 - Brickfield Nights
https://youtu.be/x13squofizk - Sway
https://youtu.be/MshgJfmZvb8 - Capitol Radio Ads