THE NEW Budgie Superior to the NWOBHM but at least as exciting – the experience is paying off in a big way”. Record Mirror July 11, 1981. Well OK the quote is lifted from the scrap book of yours truly, but I’m afraid that self promotion apart, there’s no better way to describe Budgie, who’ve been squawking around for 15 years. Budgie are merely one of the finest, and certainly the hardest working rock bands around.
The newer bands may have age on their sides (though not in all cases, and Budgie may be slightly over 21, but the period of one Budgie gig is enough for you to make up your minds whether age is measured in years or attitude. Anyway, down to brass tacks. And we’ll kick off with a brief history. Budgie was formed in 1967 by vocalist / bassist Burke Shelley, drummer Ray Phillips and guitarist Tony Bourge. After four years of playing every pub, club and hall in their native territory of industrialised South Wales, and particularly around the Cardiff area, the band signed with MCA Records and released five albums Their first chart successes were with ‘In For The Kill’ and ‘Bandolier’. Two albums with A&M followed, and with the backing of A&M, Budgie embarked on an extensive tour of the USA. At this point. Ray Phillips left to be replaced by Steve Williams. Steve takes up the story:
“America was a good experience for us. In the Southern States, we found a lot of friends. A& M bought ‘Bandolier’ from MCA and the album actually became the top selling import in the country”.
In 1978, Tony Bourge left Budgie after 11 years service and Budgie hit their lowest period since the early hard times. Eventually a replacement was found in John Thomas, a native Brummie, ex of the George Hatcher Band. John fitted like a glove, as Burke recalls
“We really hit it off from the onset. I’d always loved playing in a three piece, and since John shares the same views, there was never any question whether the combination would be right or not.”
The new, fresh Budgie signed a deal with Active Records, an independent label, dis-tributed through RCA, and eventually, following the success of album number nine, ‘Power Sup-ply’, signed directly to RCA. 1981 was a big year for the bend, Burke explains:
“We were pretty well down for a while, it was like walking around, bumping into walls, but suddenly everything clicked. We played a Lyceum gig that was well attended, and followed it up with three nights at The Marquee. In addition to that, we found a new manager in Adrian Hopkins, who has been promoting gigs for years, and he’s been a great help as well as a good friend.”
Whether ‘friend’ has anything to do with the fact that we were all huddled round a table in Adrian’s own Oxford pub, appropriately called The Boozer thus providing less wear and tear on the old wallet, is debatable, but Mr. Hopkins has certainly turned Budgie into a phoenix, rising from their own ashes into one of the hottest acts around 1 spoke to Adrian, following Budgie’s triumphant sell out shows at The Marquee. How was he finding management?
“I’ve been kicking around in this business for a hell of a long time. I’ve been involved with a number of big acts, but management was one side of rock ‘n’ roll that had always appealed to me – I actually used to manage Steeleye Span – and after seeing Budgie live, and being made the offer, there was only one answer in it – I can confidently say none of us have looked back since.”
Too true, in fact the Marquee dates proved so successful that Hopkins organised a nationwide tour, both as special guests with Gillan, and a number of Budgie headliners, including a blistering Hammersmith Odeon set that put Budgie firstly at numero uno in this scribe’s Top 10.
1982 sees the next stage in Budgie’s remarkable rise back to the top. An album is planned and another major tour will hopefully be getting under way around April. The band could have undertaken a European tour with Gillan, but Burke had his doubts:
“Yeah, we could probably have done the Gillan dates in Europe, but they’re not quite big enough internationally to warrant forking out God knows what for the support slot. They’ll be playing a number of major gigs, but there’s also gonna be a lot of club size dates. The Tygers Of Pan Tang have got the tour, I think, and they’re going to be in for quite a shock when they realise what they’ve let themselves in for!”
Despite the longevity of Budgie’s span, there’s little in the away of older material in the current set. The majority is culled from the last two RCA albums. .
“Look, on the Gillan tour we only had a 45 minute slot, and the whole point of taking a support tour was to push the album. Even on a headline we would only do say an hour and a quarter. There’s such a wealth of more recent gongs that they’ve got to be played. If we came out and played a ‘greatest hits’ set, the fans would love it for a while, then we’d just become “has-beens”. Budgie is a working band, and to stay working, we have to keep on trying new material. Either that or we stagnate.”
Admittedly, the Budgie set is far stronger now than it was – even back in the early seventies. ‘I Turned To Stone’ is unanimously agreed upon as the latest contender for HM’s hall of fame In fact, the song is out as a single, but despite its obvious qualities and popularity among a hard rock orientated audience I wandered if the move was quite as advisable as it initially seemed, Burke now seems to share my doubts.
“Yeah, you’re probably right, I still think it’s a great song but we all agree that there’s some thing lacking as far as commerciallity goes ‘Keeping A Rendezvous’ was a far better pro-position but we didn’t get the backing necessary. The press department have been wonderful. But it takes mare than good write ups to sell a record. We needed airplay but the promotions people f–ked up.”
Hit singles never used to be a problem for Budgie. They just didn’t have them, in fact didn’t need them but now the band are even contemplating covering someone else’s song if the right one comes up, Steve feels strongly about this:
“It’s probably about time we realised Budgie can’t win over a mainstream audience with our kind of music. We’ve turned down offers of really good commercial songs. Adrian still lies awake at nights in a cold sweet thinking about how we turned down ‘I Surrender’ which turned out a big hit for Rainbow.”
But, hits aside, Budgie are due to record a new album shortly, What can we expect? Burke and John enlarge.
“No idea. We haven’t actually sat down and worked on it yet, The last couple of albums were scrappy as there was a complete lack of organ-isation – We’d be recording maybe all night and Burke would be sitting in the corner at five in the morning with a joint in one hand, bottle of wine in another desperately trying to fit lyrics around the music.”
“This time it’s gonna be different (says Burke). We’re through with touring for a little while, and I’m gonna rent a cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside, away from distractions and really concentrate on some con-structive writing.”
BUDGIE Winchester Recreation Centre
AFTER TWO fine Reading Festival triumphs, an excellent LP in ‘Power Supply’, Budgie’s recent output is hardly a progression of power but more a retreat from the front line of the HM fraternity. Such being the case, I approached this particular gig with some doubt as to whether this bird would bomb – no chance.
The Brum powerhouse trio began with two pounding cuts from their ‘Power Supply’ album, where they hit out with ‘Forearm Smash’ and ‘Crime Against The World’. ‘Napoleon Bonaparte Part 2’ was requested from the old ‘Bandolier’ album and was delivered with style In fact that and ‘Breaking All The House Rules’ were the only oldies of the evening. Ex-George Hatcher man, John Thomas, has brought a new lease of life to the band since replacing Tony Bourge. ‘Superstar and ‘I Turned To Stone, (their recent single), was followed in hot pursuit by ‘She Used Me Up’ which pounded out of the sound system with its massive riff, and the prime cut of the evening.
My only complaint was that the set was far too short – just over an hour, but Budgie have restored my faith. Let’s hope they can produce this form on their next record.
Marquee, London 1983 DAVID LING
IT’S FUNNY how quickly things can change in rock ‘n’ roll – and, unfortunately, the joke seems to be on Budgie at the moment. This time last year they were confirmed as a Reading Festival headliner and were busy booking their first major tour since their comeback. But now, in ’83, after a disappointing performance at Reading and a less than blockbusting tour, they’re back at the Marquee once more.
Still, the band didn’t seem to let it bother them and, while the turnout may have been worse than expected both evenings, the standard of music on the night that I saw them most definitely was not.
‘Hold Onto Love’ kicked things off and set a precedent for the evening – a really clear sound and some brutal playing immediately getting the crowd behind them. The material was almost exclusively drawn from the last three albums, which was a shame, as the inclusion of ‘Napoleon Bonaparte’ or a similar oldie would have broken the setup a little.
That said, the new songs stood up extremely well onstage, ‘Superstar’ positively raced along and set closer ‘Wildfire’ featured a riff that could demolish a brick wall. Even numbers I can’t stand on vinyl seemed quite palatable in the live situation – ‘Bored With Russia’ and ‘Flowers In The Attic’ being two that miraculously sprang into life.
As I left the Marquee digesting my own words and wondering how I’d dismissed Budgie so lightly, I started thinking about what they’ll be up to this time next year. Be it playing the Marquee or the Hammersmith Odeon, I’d lay money that they’ll still be plugging away and for that credit’s due.