Reader, I invite you into my gilded palace of sin to:
- SWOON at Bernie Tormé’s soloing on ‘No Laughing In Heaven’!
- BOOGIE to the rollicking charms of ‘New Orleans’!
- OGLE the manly good looks of John McCoy!
- THRILL at the sight of several futuristic space tits!
Welcome, dear reader, to Gillan Future Shock in stereo and fabulous 2D booklet-a-rama. My very good friend Steve bought me this LP when he spotted it in the wild, knowing that it would be coming to a loving home.
As a teenager I had taped copies of Glory Road and For Gillan Fans Only and played them a lot, well you do when you only have a handful of tapes. I never bothered picking them up and later I just tended to think of Gillan as a stout, yeoman-like outfit, some occasionally very good touches but overall a bit plodding for my tastes. Wrong.
The musicianship in Gillan was top-notch. Bernie Tormé, back from his dalliance with punk, is a very fluid and graceful guitarist – the man can really make it sing. John McCoy, who is not just there to look like an eccentric bouncer, plays some excellent driving bass throughout. Drummer Mick Underwood, a man I now know has simply played with everyone, ever, who was any good dishes the goods excellently too. The keys of Colin Towns are an interesting one, I really like it when he lets rip on the organ** on the title track and he plays some great stuff on closer ‘For Your Dreams’ but occasionally you get some very intrusive, 80’s sounds from him^. Oh and the singer guy, sounds like that guy who used to be in Deep Purple.
At their fastest and heaviest here, ‘Sacre Bleu’ and ‘Bite The Bullet’, Gillan play it every bit as fast as Motörhead – really; it isn’t what they do best but they really fly when they put their foot on the accelerator. I prefer Gillan when they rein it back to a fast rock boogie because they play it with real swing and verve. At it’s very best Future Shock rocks and rolls, as on the excellent ‘Don’t Want The Truth’, which sounds like the template for an awful lot of 80’s rock that was to come. My other absolute fave is the genuinely bonkers ‘No Laughing In Heaven’ in which Mr Gillan sings in the crazed stylings of an evangelical preacher as a man mending his ways to get to heavy, finding it dull and then, morally speaking, sticking it in reverse in order to get downstairs – it is just joyous nonsense.
My other Future Shock highlights:
- The immortal lines ‘Pass your bottle from under your poncho / Gonna drink until I fall unconcho’: (The ballad of) The Lucitania Express’^^.
- The extended percussion section in the breakneck ‘Bite The Bullet’.
- The smouldering smooch ballad ‘If I Sing Softly’, very classy.
The sexual politics of ‘Sacre Bleu’, good musically though it is, doesn’t really bear any scrutiny at all for me in this day and age and I say that as sincerely as I flippantly type my next sentence. But that’s enough about the music, let’s have some space boobs.
Yes, late one dark night I ordered the edition of Future Shock that came with a 16 page booklet, for very little more than the £5.25 ‘list price’ on the cover. For this I get, in addition to the badly drawn band on the cover* a bunch of very nice band portraits, some space art and several pages of great archive pictures and reviews of the band, a great number of particularly unflattering ones too, which I thought was very game of them. My favourite is this one:
Future Shock is a very enjoyable listen indeed and okay so it can be a little workmanlike in places, but it is never less than whole-hearted and a tremendous amount of hard rocking fun.
PS. It should be pointed out that Colin Towns, via Ian Gillan, provides the missing link that has puzzled rockologists since the dawn of time between Black Sabbath and the kids’ TV show Angelina Ballerina. You can rest now scholars.
*John McCoy in particular looks like Ming The Merciless in a state of mild befuddlement. To think that Gillan (in IGB mode) had art by the incredible Chris Foss on Clear Air Turbulence.
**you have to say ‘Jon Lord style’, there is no other comparison that works.
^permissible as it was only 1981, they didn’t know any better then.
^^which may be the best poetry written by anyone, ever in the whole history of human endeavour.