I seem to own a lot more compilation LPs than I thought I did, some because they’re film soundtracks others because it was a good way to get a particular track I wanted cheaply. I bought this 1982 metal one, Steel Crazy for the all-too common reason of hitting eBay after coming home with a bloodstream full of cider – yup that nasty combination of vices, s’ been the ruin of many a poor boy and God I know I’m one. I paid a darn sight more than the £3.99 they recommend on the cover too!
I needed this though, come on! How many compilation LPs you got that have a scary-ass Salvadore Dali-esque deconstruction of a guitar player on the front?* Just look at the contributors, Anvil, Girlschool, Starfighters, Brian Johnson & Geordie, Twisted Sister … all good. You know what I haven’t played this very many times at all since I bought it and it is very good. Now baring in mind it was essentially a low-budget independent metal compilation brought out during NWOBHM times** Steel Crazy dabbles in that pond but also has a more interesting international feel to it too.
What was interesting looking at this again was all the different layers and connections you can find between the bands here, perfect for the rock archaeology I like to play at from time to time.
The Rods prove to be a bit of a false start. ‘Get Ready To Rock ‘n Roll’ cops a bit of a feel from Rainbow’s ‘Long Live Rock ‘n Roll’ but suffers from Inspiration Deficiency Syndrome (InDS) and a weedy vocal production. The guitarist, David ‘Rock’ Feinstein was Dio’s cousin and the drummer Carl Canedy ended up producing Anthrax, Overkill and Possessed albums – comps like this are just so full of all these little connections, a real treasure trove for obsessive idiots such as myself.
Them with a whiff of pantomime, cheap perfume and rotgut everything suddenly gets all glittery, flashy and trashy as Twisted Sister teeter around the corner and launch into ‘I’ll Never Grow Up’ – the original Secret Records version, not the smoother remixed Atlantic Records version and something of a rarity I think. You know what you’re getting here a full-on adolescent No!-I’m-not-going-to-tidy-my-room tantrum by grown men dressed in stack heels and looking like the aftermath of a drag act knife fight. Gang vocals, hand claps and a good time to be had for all.
For NWOBHM historians the inclusion of Lautrec and Stampede are interesting as one was the precursor of the other, featuring Robin and Laurence Archer – the only father/stepson combo I can think of in a band. Stampede are up first, urgent-sounding but maybe a little too polished albeit with some good guitar courtesy of Laurence Archer but not really quite enough personality of their own and if I was looking for a reason why we’d not heard more of them that would be it I think. The Lautrec track, ‘Mean Gasoline’ is full of big car noises and has a slower more menacing sound, it’s quite a lot better actually having a definite Saxon vibe to it (Lautrec toured with everyone’s fave band from Barnsley); to the point of copying Saxon’s Americanisms^, Lautrec were from the Bristol/Somerset area (I think) and the track should therefore be called ‘Mean Petrol’, not that I’m a pedant at all! Like I said though Lautrec won this round, this track was the B-side of their single which Wikipedia tells me sold for £1800 on eBay – thank Lord Dio above I never saw that one listed the night I bought this LP!
Starfighters are up next featuring Stevie Young, cousin to my fave Antipodean/Glaswegian guitar brothers, as I may have mentioned when I saw AC/DC for the first time he was standing in for the resting Malcolm Young. ‘Alley Cat Blues’ is another good track, a slower meaner (inevitably) AC/DC-esque spare blues boogie, ‘I don’t want no sympathy / but those alley cats got their claws in me’. Vocalist Steve Burton does a very neat line in excessively manly vocals too. This is another really good cut.
Then those tasteful purveyors of taste and decorum come slamming in from the near future, Anvil! I confess that although I knew the name I’d not heard a note until I went to see the film, but fell for them hook line and sinker thereafter^^. Subtle as a brick in the face, the band come hurtling in with ‘Bedroom Games’ from their Hard ‘n’ Heavy debut LP. Robb Reiner’s drumming is incredible and with wonderful 20/20 hindsight really prefigured and set up the whole thrash movement, Lips being no slouch in the guitar department either but it really is Reiner who stands out for me. The production does them no favours on this track, not enough bottom end by far, but like Shakespeare and Milton before him Lips has poetic wisdom to impart,
Your blonde hair felt so nice
Looking at you was paradise
Getting drunk in the middle of the night
Going to bed was out of sight
Brian Johnson & Geordie are on this album for one reason only, to tempt the curious AC/DC fan, bear in mind Mr Johnson had already knocked out Back In Black by the time Steel Crazy came out. ‘Keep On Rocking’ is, by far, the worst track here. Glam rock, in the Sweet sense of the word it sounds ham-fisted and clumsy, with Brian Johnson’s vocals sounding strangulated and wheezy. Not good.
Praying Mantis on the other hand were quite interesting and one of only three bands on Steel Crazy signed to a major label when this came out. Their ‘Running For Tomorrow’ starts off in a decidedly proggy fashion, like a proto-Iron Maiden (they supported them and recorded at the Soundhouse too) with some very neat harmonised twin guitars. The track starts promisingly but suffers from a lack of vocal firepower and becomes a bit too polite for my tastes as a result leaning into AOR territory a little. My second fave Swiss band, Krokus are up next with ‘Bedside Radio’ and like a lot of their output it’s polished and a bit soulless – as though someone has explained to a talented band who have never heard rock music, in great detail what rock is and how to rock. It’s all missing a bit of blood, sweat and Transit vans…
… which is where 1537 favourites Girlschool come steaming in to the rescue, with the very punky ‘Take It All Away’. My uncle Alastair has plenty of great tales to tell about seeing and meeting Girlschool back in the day and I’ve loved them unreservedly since I first heard their version of ‘Bomber’ and got their single, ‘Hit And Run’ stuck in my head for a week after hearing it on Top Of The Pops. I had no idea they took their name from the B-side of ‘Mull of Kintyre’ until today though, or that their original American guitarist went on to found the Go-Go’s. ‘Take It All Away’ was their first ever release which is where Lemmy first heard it, sparking the association between Girlschool and Motörhead, this is the original single version not the better produced one that appeared on their debut LP Demolition. I like this track lot, it has a real swagger and personality that transcends the cheap production and some mean guitars courtesy of Kelly Johnson. This one is a keeper too.
Steel Crazy may be the reason I now have a breathalyser fixed to my PC keyboard but its a good one, worth the price for historical reasons and some excellent tracks. It’s a real snapshot of the scene at the (mostly) independent end of the rock market at the time and in it you can almost hear the way that the better produced, flashy North American rock was going to come along and lay waste to the more DIY UK scene and we were all going to take a long freeway ride to Valhalla, rather than getting there via the M56.
*can’t help noticing the man’s got a left elbow like a knob. Just thought I’d put that out there. Like a knob…
**Lord how I love those six letters, NWOBHM.
^’Freeway Mad’ – come on they call them motorways up in Barnsley!
^^although Mike has been trying to educate me since.