I once read a truly great piece of writing about Thunder, in fact as I sit here to review their debut LP Backstreet Symphony I find that this writer has already stolen my, umm, thunder quite a bit. If you click on it you will see how he cleverly and wittily makes fun of his earlier self for obsessively chasing down and purchasing every last limited edition gizmo they released and how his self-knowledge of this was not enough to stop himself. In fact he’s stolen much of what I was planning to write about this LP, I’m not cross I think that sometimes you just have to acknowledge the talent out there. What a writer! What a guy! he is clearly a man of subtlety, wisdom and I am willing to bet a sexual athlete of some repute!*
Anyway, I liked Thunder a lot, although I never did get around to buying anything other than Backstreet Symphony, I think heavier and weirder things intervened at that stage. As I mentioned in the earlier post the first I ever heard of them was when I saw them support Aerosmith at Birmingham NEC and they won over a potentially difficult audience with a good attitude and some very good songs. It’s difficult to write about Thunder without using, or overusing, the word ‘classic’ because they are one of those classic sounding British rock bands, you can hear the likes of Free, Humble Pie, Bad Company, The Faces and even the poppier sensibilities of Def Leppard in their music.
I like this LP it’s a little oasis (small ‘o’) of calm amongst all the febrile, hurly-burly of music and fashion, it stands apart. Backstreet Symphony will never sound unfashionable, because it never was, this sort of blues-based hard rock is just intrinsically a-fashionable, if you’re born with the right genes you like it. Thunder never worried about skate, industrial, goth, thrash, glam it was just an irrelevance – they were plugged into the mother lode. The best songs here, ‘Love walked in’, ‘Higher Ground’ (not a cover), ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ (a cover) and Backstreet Symphony’ are all just really well-written songs performed really well. Danny Bowes has a fine voice but without being rude, none of the rest of the band are particularly stand-out players, just really good ones and in this context it works because they really play the hell out of these tunes with an evident passion and some real emotion. It really is all about the performance here and possibly why they were dab hands at creating that trickiest of beasts, the credible ballad. Andy Taylor, yes him from Duran Duran who all the girls I knew fancied, produced and did a sterling job too, adding just enough gloss and polish to the poppier tracks like ‘Dirty Love’ (‘Like a cheap suit, you were all over me’) and ‘She’s so Fine’.
Similar to No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith we get a photo collage on the inner sleeve charting the recording of the LP and the mateyish good humour found in ‘An Englishman on Holiday’ and which was doused all over their live shows shines through; even to the jokey name credits to an extent not seen since early Iron maiden (maybe it’s an English thing). Thunder were a genuinely very likable band and a fun one to spend some time with. The front cover features a leather and lace clad back-combed lady, with a bit of a constipated expression on her face lurking in a doorway sporting some decidedly impractical legwear – never, ever estimate the power of lingerie-clad lovelies to sell music to hormonal adolescents^, the drummer dressed as a conductor and an unconvincing tramp. Now the back cover is the telling one here**, now how can I put this diplomatically? well, I’m no male model myself, no it’s true – I insist you hear me out! and let’s face it these guys were somewhere behind me in the line when the good looks were been given out and certainly WAY behind me in the, ‘how do I maximise these meagre looks I have by not wearing vests and strangely-tailored jeans’ queue – Danny Bowes what’s going on with your trousers, man? I’m guessing this is why the covers weren’t reversed – men in vests vs. chick in suspenders – I’m afraid there was only one winner there, sales-wise.
But I digress, as well as classic I find myself reaching for adjectives like warm and authentic – all the good ones in fact. I suspect that there was always something a little bit parochial and slightly too insular about Thunder to draw them onto the next level, which is maybe why I find Backstreet Symphony a nice warm, cosy LP and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
134 Down (I own it on picture disc as well as regular – I know, I know – you don’t need to tell me).
EXTRA CREDIT: All ‘Thunder’ figures put together by Martha 1537.
*note to self: don’t forget to praise my awesome humility too, it’s the virtue I’m proudest of.
**rather tellingly not replicated on the picture disc version.
^not that the music industry would ever stoop so low, of course.