My dad had a friend called Fred, a builder who had quite literally rebuilt the living room of his remote farmhouse around a massive pair of concrete speakers under his floor*. I shit you not. Fred, like my father, a hippy of the old school, I can remember being really into Camel, The Pink Fairies and Spirit; I heard all of these for the first time at his house in the hills**. For some reason I remember one evening it was just me, aged about 13 and my dad there and he played us a new LP he’d got – warning me I might want to stand back a bit as he fired up his amp and proceeded to play Randy California Restless at us, at something approaching full volume.
Having never seen a hard rock band live at that point, I had never experienced anything like it. I could feel the volume in my stomach. There have only been a handful of times in the 34 years since that I have felt louder PA systems than Fred’s home speakers. I was given some homemade wine and I felt duly inducted into a new adult male world. The music was devastating, I can still remember the sensation of hearing last track ‘Childhood’s End’ for the first time – the sheer weight of it.
I taped my dad’s copy putting Bryan Adams on the other side of the C90, creating a potent Restless / Reckless combo. As happens when you only have a handful of your own tapes I played it to death, I couldn’t get any of my friends into it though, I do remember contemplating punching one guy who told me it was just ‘old music’ and that Stryper were much heavier and better; prick.*^ As you can see, I’m not one to harbour grudges at all. Nope, no grudges from 32 years ago here; none at all Andy.
But I digress. I was reunited with Restless a few years ago and I must admit I was a bit loathe to play it, just in case it didn’t live up to my memories of it. I get easily hung up on stuff like that; prick.
I really need not have worried. And I write that having just air guitared my way all the through ‘Childhood’s End’ for the second time tonight, it probably won’t be the last time tonight either.
I shan’t pretend to be remotely objective about anything here but I really don’t think there’s a single duff moment on Restless. Okay, there are some sonic touches here and there that would enable me to date it back to 1985 if I was hearing it for the first time tonight and there are a couple of tunes here where the guitar sound is better than the songcraft. But you know what? rock.
It seems like such a shame that Restless never caught the break it deserved, it should be so much better known than it is today. Hell, Randy California should be too – Spirit notwithstanding.
Just crank up ‘Second Child’ as a case in point and luxuriate in that ‘eavy sound:
I can hear Purple in that one today, but I was a couple of years away from Gillan and chums then. Or slip on the opener ‘Run To Your Lover’ which is just a great commercial sounding rocker to my tired old ears at least and one which I was able to air guitar my way through note perfect even after all these years without hearing it.
So many highlights for me here:
- Jack Rabbit: There’s a fragility to California’s voice here I love and the drumming from Preston Heyman is particularly great on this one. The way it builds to a climax is perfect.
- Shane: Just a great aggressive hard rocker. I named a cat after this song.
- One Man’s Heaven: That guitar intro. It just smokes.
- Battlemarch Of The Overlords: Come on! Even if it didn’t have oodles of blistering hot fretwork this would be on the winner’s podium just for the title alone.
The band assembled for Restless need due credit too, for the bulk of the sessions it was Curley Smith on drums, Neil Murray on bass^^ and Adrian Lee on keys. There are some other players too, Ed Cassidy, Preston Heyman, Joe Leeway and Neal Doughty to name a few. For the 13-year-old me they were all there solely to service Randy’s blistering guitar breaks. Which totally ignores the fact that the man was such a complete player, the likes of ‘Camelot’ show a lovely gentle touch.
Restless really is another one of Proust’s hard rocking madeleines for me. One note and I’m right back there in a remote Welsh farmhouse, at the back of the room, the taste of elderflower wine on my lips, a rising unfamiliar heat from the alcohol in me, the childish thrill of being invited to participate in something pretty grown up and that music, soaring and swooping around and through me. Special times, special music, special guy.
RIP Mr California, long live your music.
*it was something to do with valves and the curve of the polished concrete that created the vast sound. I’m a bit hazy about the precise details; I’m not a very hi-fi person.
**and Fred was kind enough to make me a mix tape heavily featuring all of them.
*^regrets I’ve had a few, and it is true what the Butthole Surfers say, it is better to regret something you have done, than something you haven’t. I didn’t and I should have.
^^‘appears courtesy of Whitesnake’ it says on the inner sleeve, the first time I had ever heard of that particular serpent.