December 2010: What better way to celebrate the Christmas season than with a heart warming and rather rambling discussion about ace 70s band Jet?
(It should be said before I start that I have total faith in the internet and that this blog entry will do its job. I am sending this missive through the twisty corridors of time so that someone at CBS in 1975 will find it on their desk one morning and read it and act sharp. “Dear CBS chappy, please release ‘Fax N Info’ by Jet as a single.” There. Simple.)
I’d say it’s unlikely you have an inkling as to who this band are – briefly, Martin Gordon (late of Sparks), Andy Ellison and Chris Townson (late of John’s Children – vehicle for Marc Bolan’s first pop adventures) Davy O’List of Roxy Music (Apparently) and The Nice (Da da da dada America). In 1974 / 75 they ended up dumped in the gutter by their respective Glam Rock brothers (and Eno) and got together and made an album under the name ‘Jet’. The album is excellent. It is ridiculous, cerebral, funny, rocking, and most of all, highly melodic. All the fat has been cut out and what’s left is a muscular 40 minute nugget of Roy Thomas Baker (yes, Queen’s producer) carved virtuoso pop. It has just been reissued on RPM as a 2 disc set including an hour of unreleased goodies.
So why am I writing about it? I found this album some 10 years ago as I consumed myself in all things Sparks (pre their resurgence in the 2000’s) and this was one of those ‘must have’ rare gems. I looked everywhere for it. And then suddenly it got reissued by Radiant Future and I bought it up, complete with its companion disc of out takes.
I’ll be honest, this little article might turn out to be a thinly disguised love letter to Martin Gordon, the bassist and songwriter in Jet. Unlike so many other pieces you’ll find on line not because he is the last remaining non-Mael from the team that made 1974’s astonishing ‘Kimono My House’, nor because he was in the not quite all conquering proto punks Radio Stars, nor because he did some keyboarding with pre Britpop drunkard-era Blur or even with Kylie. But because I think he might be the only surviving link to … I don’t know what. Was he one of Gilbert and Sullivan? Was he in the front row as ‘Iolanthe’ was debuted at the Savoy? Was he there defending the whole tone scale to the 1600’s Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins? I like to think so. I also like to think he is one of the last true geniuses of the Glam Rock era we have left. This probably won’t make him too happy, but sod it. He is. And continues to be with his ongoing solo albums.
BBC DJ Mark Lamarr played some Silvery to Sparks once on his Radio 2 show and he said they were absolutely astonished by not only the singing, but also the madness of the arrangements. That’s good enough for me. But it’s Martin Gordon I wanted to impress. We had a brief professional liaisons about 3 years ago when he mixed a couple of our tracks for a single. It didn’t work out but I think those mixes are stunning. Mad, uncompromising and sound. But I think we all agreed it might be a bit much for a brand new band whose main pigeon hole was Martin Gordon-era Sparks to release something with his name attached. We discussed music and both agreed that we’re all pretty much buggered. I liked him a lot. Here we are pictured outside the Blow Up office in London.
Anyway. The Jet album. It’s amazing. I like the contemporary Sparks album ‘Indiscreet’, with all its little twists and fiddles, but its not really the album you’d lend to a mate other than to say “how’s this for an over long folly?” (I should know, I’ve made 2 already). You’d play the Jet album in your friend’s car and they’d keep having to pull over to laugh or keep asking to hear that bit again. And then they’d surprise you buy getting their own copy the next day. They’d do well to get this new 2 disc version (RPM Retro D882), flick through the Dave Thompson sleeve notes (and buy his books on Sparks and The Sweet), get some background from Martin Gordon’s comprehensive website, skip to ‘Whangdepootenawah’, ‘Cover Girl’, ‘Our Boys’ and the aforementioned ‘Fax N Info’ and then puzzle over why Jet are not mentioned regularly in the same breath as Abba (yep), The Sweet (uh huh) and even Queen (you betcha). Yes, I like ‘My River’ but it shouldn’t have been their first single – hence my hopes of this time travelling blog. ‘It Would Be Good’ is the acceptable face of Bovver Boogie (I don’t know what this is). Listen to how the bass line changes on the outro to ‘Fax N Info’. That’s walking home from the pub on Christmas Eve summed up in a repeating four note phrase. How was selling this band to the public cocked up for everyone? Actually, best steer clear of those sleeve notes – you’ll only get cross.
That’s it really. There will always be a place at my Christmas table for Martin Gordon. Right next to the space I keep for John Deacon and Steve Priest.
Seriously. Every year.