I thought I’d go for something Welsh today since I’m still basking in the brilliance that George North showed on Saturday*. So something Welsh and hard-hitting it is, The Best of Budgie. Now it seems a shame to me that Budgie seem condemned to be known as just a footnote in Metallica’s history, having supplied the originals of ‘Breadfan’ and ‘Crash Course in Brain Surgery’. Maybe it’s just my instinct to support the underdog because I’m no long-term fan, I only picked up this LP in 2008 and have never quite got around to investigating the others.
Bassist/vocalist and band leader (chief Budgie?) Burke Shelley formed the band way back in 1969 and named the band Six-ton Budgie, using the same old heavy/light combo-name thang which has also given us Led Zeppelin and Iron Butterfly**, but quickly dropped the ‘six-ton’ bit. I heard a really funny interview with him (he’s a very wry, dry, funny man) where he said the name was just a massive mistake because apparantly the word Budgie just isn’t used anywhere else apart from UK and Australia. So just in case you’re baffled by all this, here’s a Budgie:
Budgie played riff heavy hard rock absolutely packed full of quirky bits. As a trio people often seem to compare them to Rush, now my knowledge of Rush is limited to 2112 really, but Budgie come over as being funnier and less-driven than Rush. Can you imagine Rush with titles like ‘In the Grip of a Tyre-Fitters Hand’, ‘Hot as a Docker’s Armpit’, ‘You’re The Greatest Thing Since Powdered Milk’ and everyone’s favourite, ‘Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman’ ? they had a particular genius with titles, my fave being their LP ‘Never Turn Your Back on a Friend’.
In general terms the songs are full of brilliant riffs (Breadfan), rollicking singalongs (I Ain’t no Mountain), totally gonzo speed blues (Baby Please Don’t Go), sludge rock (In For the Kill) and all-out guitar genius (Zoom Club). Almost every track has interesting time signatures, drop-out sections and more than enough to listen to so you’ll come back. At their heaviest Budgie are really up there with the heaviest of their peers, Rodger Bain having worked his magic on their earliest LPs and it does really surprise me that they’re not as lauded amongst the early british metal gods as they should be; their catalogue is not even on iTunes^.
I suspect the answer probably lies in some plain bad luck and that quirkiness which would prevent them from fitting in too neatly. Take the epic (11 minutes qualifies for the word) ‘Parents’ a sad ballad-based ode to leaving home / striking out on your own, or the shrill bits on ‘In For the Kill’, there is more creativity and originality (even in the two covers) in the 9 tracks here than most bands manage in a whole lifetime. It can all be a bit disconcerting at times and some of it (the aforementioned ‘Parents’) does leave me a bit cold. However to my mind this is all more than made up for by the brilliant ‘Breadfan’, which stands the test of time easily and is so much better than Metallica’s cover of it and the best track on the LP, ‘Zoom Club’.
‘Zoom Club’ is a hymn to the peripatetic lifestyle of the rocker on the road and it rocks like a bastard child of Deep Purple and UFO and has some of Tony Bourge’s best guitar work on it and that really is saying something – why had I not heard this man’s name before? he’s a seriously talented bunny. Check it out below, if you’ve a hard rock bone in your body you won’t be disappointed – I promise^^.
Zoom along, superstar
All over the land
Move on music man
I’ve still not taken the step of exploring the LPs themselves yet. Does anyone out there know them? What should be the next Budgie-station that my Budgie-train runs to? or is The Best of Budgie, all the bits that matter?
Here’s to the underdogs!
*British & Irish Lions v. Australia – think Blood Bowl, but without the protective equipment ex. roleplayers.
**just decided that my heavy/light name will either be Truck Blossom, or Pluto Feather (after plutonium, natch).
^although, wonder of wonders, you can get an iPhone app dedicated solely to their Bandolier LP – why?
^^terms and conditions apply, 11% APR applies, sincerity may vary, not to be taken with alcohol – see back of packet for details.