What to say about the NASHVILLE TEENS? They had a top ten hit in 1964 with Tobacco Road. They backed Jerry Lee Lewis when he went live in Hamburg that same year. They toured with Chuck Berry. They were picked-up by Mickie Most and produced by Andrew Loog Oldham [The Rolling Stones] and Shel Talmy [the Who].
And, probably, they’re the most famous band you’ve never heard of…
We saw their live show in Staines this week at the excellent Riverside Club. The place was filled to capacity for what was probably the most anticipated concert in a long time.
With the original vocalist Ray Phillips still in the front, the lineup now includes the Manfred Mann Earth band musician, Colin Pattenden on bass, the “youngster” of the group Ken Osborn [he joined late 1980s] playing stunning lead guitar, with Adrian “Spud” Metcalfe on thumping percussion and Simon Spratley on liquid keys [both these joined the Teens in 1983].
In Staines the band played a great selection of loud rhythm & blues numbers, rock ‘n’ roll hits and garage-rock/blues-rock wonders.
Right from their launch number, “Let It Rock/Rocking On The Railroad” with furious keys and intoxicating bass-stomp plus those unmistakable shake-rattle-and-roll rhythms, we knew we were in for a mega-dance party of epic proportions.
Their version of Wille Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” was stuffed with hoodoo sex-appeal as Ray provided vivid vocals, his arm often extended over the microphone, thus bestowing drama and intrigue. This was when we realized what a musical powerhouse Ken could be: his guitar yielded a furious tangle of oxidized notes and harmonics in a constant state of expansion.
Their neatest trick was to run headlong into a motley medley of well-connected numbers, with each recognizable hit hotfooting it after the other: So, in the first half we had Keep on Running / Somebody Help Me / Gimme Me Some Lovin. And in the second half we had a similar set of overlapping rock ‘n’ roll numbers. It’s a pity that the keyboards were not stronger in the first medley, but the sound was soon sorted out.
During the sensational Staines show we had Rolling Stones favorites, Chuck Berry sing-alongs, and songs taken from a back catalogue which, to be fair, comes from 1964-1969. Yet these durable songs have been energetically played and re-played by these genuinely talented musicians for over fifty years.
“Tobacco Road” starts with a tribal thumping that is said to have inspired Sweet’s “Blockbuster.” And although the song began as an unpretentious folkloric number [written by John D. Loudermilk, 1960] the Teens interpret it as an elaborate, yet unrestrained, blues-rock spectacular. The curious mythology of this song is that it was the last number to be recorded by Jimi Hendrix. He laid it down at Ronnie Scotts, on the 16th September, 1970. He died in Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill early on September 18th.
Although the band finished their show with the famous “Tobacco Road” their encore was Steppenwolf‘s “Born to Be Wild” — a curious choice, with lyrics about “heavy metal thunder…” and an association with biker gangs and Easy Rider.
But that’s the best thing about this fine band. They play exactly what you want, when you want it. And when they play — their renditions are thunderous and thrilling. In fact, this was the most perfect end-piece to the “Wild Angels” spirit of the early songs on the set: it was unswerving, with robust guitar riffs, aerated vocals and rough rhythms …
Yes, the place was on fire…. we’re so glad [we] made it!