Naked Radio - Pink Fairies (Gonzo Multimedia)
That some of the Pink Fairies are around today to make an album, two decades after their last and four after their heyday, is something of a miracle. Surprise Number Two is that it’s good.
If you’ve read Rich Deakin’s meticulous book about the band’s travails, “Keep It Together”, you’ll know that The Pinks were never people to shy away from the Rock and Roll Lifestyle. Taking care of business was never the band’s forte, which makes a new record’s appearance even more unlikely. Their last LP, “Kill ‘Em and Eat ‘Em” didn’t set any houses on fire and smelt like a once great band on its last legs.
Emerging from the Ladbroke Grove, London, underground in 1969 as an outgrowth of The Deviants (whose sacked singer, the late Mick Farren, was recruited for their first gig and remained a longtime collaborator), the Pink Fairies were champions of their own lack of success. Anarchists in the truest sense of the word, drug fiends and guitar extremists, they were as quick to play a free benefit gig as front a big festival.
They managed to record three studio albums over as many years (“Never Never Land”, What a Bunch of Sweeties” and “Kings of Oblivion”) that contain classics like “Do It” (covered by the Rollins Band), “The Snake” and “Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout”. None other than a backpacking Deniz Tek caught ‘em live in London in the early ‘70s and rated them more formidable than the Stooges.
Two of the original line-up, bassist-vocalist Duncan Sanderson and drummer Russell Hunter, are on-board for “Naked Radio”, joined by mid-period vocalist-guitarist Andy Colquhon, second drummer George Butler and recent recruit, keyboardist-percussionist-singer Jaki Windmill, a Hawkwind alumnus and professional astrologer.
No sign of Paul Rudolph (who’s in retirement in Canada) or infamous onetime Pretty Things drummer Twink (apparently living in Morocco) but his absence isn’t a surprise considering how often he seems to have hijacked the band name. (Twink was briefly a candidate for a spot in the Pop-Wiliamson band that would become Iggy and the Stooges, by the way. That should win you some money if you can entice someone to place a bet.)
“Naked Radio” is a CD of 14 songs of varied heritage that don’t stray far from The Pinks’ characteristic killing fields. It’s raunchy, bluesy rock and roll, peppered with wry observations on the state of the world and/or relationships and generously smeared with guitar.
Windmill’s vocal contributions lend a lighter air to cuts like the title tune, “You Lied To Me” and Stopped At The Border” but took a while to grow on me. The rest of the band shares the singing. Colquhon’s spiralling guitar work is often spectacular and pushes the songs into the zone and they’re all underpinned by the heavy, twin-drum feels.
And the songs are keepers. mostly written by Coluqhon with notable contributions from Butler, one group effort (“Stopped At The Border”) and two (“Skeleton Army” and “Naked Radio”) from Mick Farren. There’s a heartfelt tribute to Mick also, from the pen of Colquhon, that draws a line under a storied lifetime.
Fans of bonuses will take to the accompanying DVD, culled from rehearsals, interviews and a sizzling 2014 show at the 100 Club. Ill-health has restricted the band’s ability to play out live and it’s a nice inclusion.
Colquhon and Hunter produced “Naked Radio” and have pulled a warm, heavy sound with room for the songs to breathe. It’s a record that doesn’t so much belt you around the head with its crudity but forces you to go with its flow - and therein lies the attraction.