This London-based Anglo-Canadian band, whose members include Jeremy Gluck (vocals), Robin Wills (guitar), David Buckley (bass), and Nick Turner (drums), was formed in 1979 and scored a U.K. chart hit in 1980 with the neo-surf song "Summer Fun." Turner and Buckley left after the release of the first album Drop Out With the Barracudas (1981) and were replaced by Jim Dickson and Terry Smith. Chris Wilson also joined on guitar. This quintet made the second and third albums, Meantime and Endeavour to...
This London-based Anglo-Canadian band, whose members include Jeremy Gluck (vocals), Robin Wills (guitar), David Buckley (bass), and Nick Turner (drums), was formed in 1979 and scored a U.K. chart hit in 1980 with the neo-surf song "Summer Fun." Turner and Buckley left after the release of the first album Drop Out With the Barracudas (1981) and were replaced by Jim Dickson and Terry Smith. Chris Wilson also joined on guitar. This quintet made the second and third albums, Meantime and Endeavour to Preserve, which were released only in France. The Barracudas disbanded in December 1984, but re-formed in 1989.
Interview with Jeremy Gluck - This article was written in August of 1998
I grew up in the shadow of rock and roll
I was 12 when it came to take my soul
And once it gets you it don’t let go
Now I’m older but inside I’m still 19
Anyone in my shoes knows what I mean
And anyone who loves it
Will know where I’ve been
Rock and roll heroes, Rock and roll dreams
Rock and roll theories, Rock and roll schemes
You gave me the best years of my life
- "The Best Years" (Gluck/Wills)
If you are going to write a feature about a rock and roll band, Jeremy Gluck, former lead singer of the now legendary Barracudas, is the kind of interview you want to have. Because aside from having fronted a fabulous band, he’s also a raving fan and a man who writes about rock and roll (among other things) himself. Twenty years after the Barracudas started, Gluck still bubbles with enthusiasm about rock and roll. It means a LOT to him.
"It was my great good fortune as a young person to have a brother seven years my senior to guide my tastes", he said in an e-mail interview. "Where I might have suffered the fate of those whose older siblings were in thrall to Gentle Giant, Genesis and their admirable but, to my taste, frankly execrable ilk, I was blessed with one whose tastes ran more to The Stooges, Blue Oyster Cult, Burroughs, garage punk, seedy psychedelia and sundry culture schlock. So it was that, on or about my twelfth birthday, having himself worn them thin, said elder brother and mentor gave me copies of Funhouse, White Light White Heat, and Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. Now, I was already aware of and into quality rock'n'roll (the first single I bought of my own tender volition being "Down on the Corner" by CCR) but it was lengthy exposure to said legacy items that really burned my eye for good. Firstly, I became a Who obsessive...and a Stooges obsessive...and a Velvets/Reed obsessive...and in those far-off days deletion bins bulged with the works of the Stooges, MC5 and others at 99 cents a pop...before too long I was into it all big time."
"I was heavily into The Stooges. But also, supremely, The Beach Boys. I adored The Beach Boys, The Who and The Stooges, and collages of photos of them adorned my walls. I also doted on The Raspberries, The Kinks, Nuggets, the Stones, to a lesser extent the late-period Beatles (I still love Abbey Road with a passion), and I also dug a lot of obscure music I was turned on to from various quarters. I did not really engage The Byrds until I knew Robin, who turned me onto folk-rock per se. I could detail my initiation into the Groovies and other key influences...but I do have some respect for the readership."
Gluck grew up in Ottawa, the capitol city of Canada. But his heart was set on rock an roll, and he knew it wasn’t going to happen in Ontario. He had his teen band phase…the first one was called the New Master Race and the second one was the Yohawks. When asked about these bands, Jeremy recoils as though confronted with a long hidden criminal record.
"Cripes, this really is crass exhumation! What sort of deranged maniac wants to know such things??", he pleads. On my end of the web I give a pitiless shrug. "Look", he says, "Thing is, The Yohawks never existed, well, they did, kinda...um...in Ottawa in the late 50s/early 60s there were apparently two gangs, The Squirrels and The Yohawks, that may respectively have been equivalent to Rockers and Mods. When I lived in Toronto my brother and I toyed with forming a band called The Yohawks...we did rehearse "Rumble" a few times. So, anyhow...I liked that name and once submitted a fictional review of a Yohawks album...sadly, it never ran! And I may have credited some obscure 4-track comp contribution to the name."
"The New Master Race thing is from even before that. I recall hitting the high school stage at lunch one day and launching into an impromptu cover of "Dirt" that had the preps and jocks white with horror...me being one of the great outcasts of the in-crowd then. So it was pretty much Drop-Out from the beginning...and drop in to REAL ROCK'N'ROLL. We did some great tapes, including one song called "I Got Nothing", that I only found out later, when Kill City was released, that had a doppleganger by the Ig hisself!!"
In 1977 Jeremy couldn’t take it any more. He’d wanted to be where the action is for far, far too long. He pulled up stakes in Ottawa and headed to London.
"Why? Destiny? I dunno...to be honest, I was obsessed by things British from the age of maybe 8-9", he says. "I was pulled to London magnetically...past-lives, I dunno...it was a strong attraction, though! I knew by my early teens that first chance I got I would go to London...not New York or Los Angeles like everybody else: LONDON! And when punk broke, I KNEW then that I HAD to go. It was essential to witness the new explosion...the new rock'n'roll...I'd missed the 60s and I was not going to blow it. So I quit high school, spent part of a modest inheritance and flew to London. And within a few days of being there I felt at home for the first time in my life."
He was there for rock and roll, and he needed some way to get involved in the scene. He found his start writing for the weekly UK rock tabloid Sounds.
"I got into SOUNDS due to an obscure synchronicity and met one of the staffers", he recalls. "He sent me to a wonderful woman there, Vivienne Goldman, who liked me and my ouvre and commissioned some stuff right away...can't remember the first. I did go on to cover The Lurkers (they were great around 1977-78) and, yeah, The Rezillos, who were as great live as legend indicates."
Later in 1977, Jeremy was at the Speakeasy in Soho late one night watching the excellent but little known Canadian band Dead Fingers Talk run through their set. The Unwanted were also on the bill (they appear on the Live At The Roxy compilation lp). Robin Wills had been playing with them and happened to overhear Jeremy chatting up some woman about his favorite bands, more specifically garage punk bands, and most specifically, The Seeds.
"I noticed a short and shady figure lurking nearby, apparently eavesdropping", says Jeremy. "Thought nada of it. After my conversation with the broad concluded the lurker lurched forward and simply asked whether I had been discussing The Seeds. It was Robin, alright...and we soon were ranting and raving about our shared - and at that time, still niche - interests. A day or two later I went to the 'burbs where Robin was living with his folks and he introduced me to his extraordinary record collection."
Before long their common interests led to the only possible conclusion: they started a band. At first they were called RAF, which stood for Rock And Fun. The bassist was Mick Sarna, of whom Jeremy recalls little. As for the drummer, Jeremy doesn’t even recall his name. No matter; RAF lasted only a couple months before Gluck and Wills restarted as The Barracudas, taking the name from an old Standells song which they ultimately were to cover on their Endeavour To Persevere lp several years later. The rhythm section was replaced by the brothers Starkie and Adam Phillips (on bass and drums, respectively). This lineup lasted from May to September of 1978, and they recorded three demo tunes: "If She Cries", "Speed Is The Word" and "Love Is Fun".
"Starkie introduced himself at an RAF gig", recalls Jeremy. "His brother Adam was at Hornsy Art School where they all knew The Raincoats etc...and anyhow Starkie lived in a squat in Kings Cross, and I ended up moving in there with my girlfriend Lorraine (of "Song For Lorraine" from Endeavour). Jeez, I'd forgotten "Speed Is The Word", which was one of our first attempts at the car song genre. "Love Is Fun" is on The Big Gap (1984, Coyote) and now on Terry Banks' Snowdomed comp. By the way, we had another song we wrote in the first Barracudas line-up titled "Do The Barracuda", a novelty dance song Starkie came up with."
In September 1978, the band went through one more rhythm section upheaval when they replaced the Phillips brothers with David Buckley on bass and Nick Turner on drums. Robin had met David at one of the notorious gigs where Sid Vicious had played with some other scenesters as the White Rats. Says Jeremy: "He (Wills) liked Dave's authentic American heritage and haircut and just asked him to join us. He told David he would teach him bass...which he did!"
Nick had been a founding member of the Raincoats and later was to join The Lords Of The New Church with ex-Dead Boy singer Stiv Bators and ex-Damned guitar-slinger Brian James. "We must have known Nick through Adam and the Hornsey people", Jeremy hypothesizes, "...and I do recall him coming to one of our rehearsals and saying the song he liked the most was "Teenage Head". We never did tell him it was a cover until he was safely aboard!"
Gluck and Wills had read enough teen mags to know that the best way to get ahead in rock’n’roll was to have an angle. No one told them that 180 wasn’t the best angle, though, and so that’s what they did, because nothing could have been closer to 180 degrees out than playing surf music in punked out and new waved up London in 1978. Surf? In London? God’s teeth, what an insane idea! Where did they get such a concept?
"From God! What an inspiration, right!!", says Jeremy. "Well, being quite bright Robin and I decided that, to make any impression, we had to actually choose one genre of all those we loved (punk, surf or pop) and make of it a Grail...and we chose surf, simply because it was chronologically correct and the least likely to invite competition. Remember that on the eve of our invention as a surf-punk band our set could include "Teenage Head", "King of the Surf", "I Feel Alright", plus originals such as the early "Dead Skin" and "Love Is Fun"...nobody knew exactly what we were shooting for. So we hit on the surf thing with a vengeance, and reaped rich dividends. We soon had many Mods into us...if only because we favored white Levi's...and many others, all the fringe weirdoes into the Pebbles-to-be scene, and others who just liked a laugh, because we were as silly as we were unprofessional! And in fact critics adored us...because we were different and not drab. It got better...I recall boarding a tube train one evening carrying a genuine surfboard to go to a gig at The Music Machine. It was like that...a movie we lived...we all went to see Big Wednesday, we all hung out...we became gossip-worthy...Oh, it's The Barracudas, they are the surf band...as an exercise in naive marketing, it was genius!"
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The Drop Out lineup - Robin, Jeremy, David, Nick
In March of 1979 they recorded four demos: "Love Is Fun", "KGB", "Campus Tramp", "Love Is Fun" and "Rendevous" at Elephant Studios. They went shopping for a label deal, but failed to draw blood. Jeremy particularly remembers a condescending rejection by Rough Trade. But a long journey must start with a small step, and for the Barracudas that small step was taken in June of 1979 when they recorded the two tracks "I Want My Woody Back" and "Subway Surfin’". I ask Jeremy if he can describe how it was recorded and released.
"Yes, I can! With glee!", he replies. "Robin had composed this song in a minute or two and played it to me a day or two later and we both recognized its magic...a dorky, dopey, brilliant stab at novelty pop...! We added it to our set immediately and I threw in the rap segue, and after some gig or other this rather awkward, earnest fellow called Geoff Mann approached us and told us he was surf music crazy and had just released a single by a band called The Ripchords and would love to release "Woody". He obviously adored our band. We recorded the single for him, it sounded fucking awesome and he pressed I guess a thousand, and then repressed...four times...it was a considerable indie success, riding high in the indie chart for several weeks and getting a lot of attention from record companies and radio."
And in the liner notes to the Two Sides Of A Coin CD, he adds: "Received wisdom was that a London surf band would be an ill-starred novelty, but "Woody" became credibly cult-worthy and I still have fond memories of hearing it on the radio for the first time. To all the British journalists who have denigrated us over the years as "revivalists" and so forth, I must say this: If you ever hear your record on the radio you’ll figure something out."
"Woody" is without a doubt a triumph. The band plays like the novices they are; loose and sloppy as all hell, but with a naïve charm that matches the tune. The vocal harmonies are all as clearly thought out as any of the earliest Beach Boys singles, and are executed about as well, too…a few misses but mostly right on despite the roughness. Gluck’s trademark quavering voice is there right from the start…but the song is classic goofiness, culminating in Gluck’s warp speed surfing instructions:
A lot of you may be wondering what a Woody is. I’ll tell ya! A Woody is a car we take to the beach we get in the Woody with a lot of girls and drive to the beach park the Woody take the boards to the beach get off the beach get in the water get on the board get on the curl SHOOT THE CURL get off the curl get on the wave get off the wave get on the beach get off the beach get in the Woody then we go home SINGING OUR SONG!
People either loved them for their great tunes and slap-happy innocence, or they hated them for the same reasons. But the single did what they meant it to do; it got them taken seriously by the major labels. They held out for a while, recording six more demos to try to up the ante: "Neighborhood Girls", "I Wish It Could Be 1965 Again", "His Last Summer", "Don’t Let Go", "Surfers Are Back", "My Little Red Book" and "Rendevous". Roger Ames, an A&R man for EMI, thought he heard a hit record in "His Last Summer" and went after the band hard. In January of 1980 the Barracudas signed with him.
"After "Woody" came out, EMI, Sire and CBS were all seriously interested in signing us. In retrospect, we would have been better off with Sire, but we went with EMI, I guess due to better advances etc...stupid, really, because the guy who signed us, Roger Ames (now a big wheel in the industry) left a few months later and we were then at the mercy of a series of bozos...Roger loved "His Last Summer" and figured it for a hit...which it would have been, had not EMI's distribution network gone on the strike the week after it was released."
To market the Barracudas, EMI revived the vintage label name Zonophone with the intent of giving the band a unique identity. "Sorta like Morrissey and Parlophone... but without the sales!", says Jeremy. "Maintain a faux indie vibe...typical corporate bullshit, needless to say!".
In these days gigs were plentiful and crowds were enthusiastic. They attracted a following among the mod crowd, which was quite big at the time. "We played a lot, constantly", recalls Jeremy. "I remember once, before we signed to EMI, I got a call at work (yes, I worked!) and Nick said...Hey, it has us in the paper playing such-and-such tonight...did you arrange that? No, I said...we never did find out WHY we were playing there..we just showed up and did the gig! And it was a great one, too!"
"We never had any problem getting gigs 'cause we had a pretty devoted following and usually got a good crowd. In late 1979 we toured supporting The Tourists, and then with The Stray Cats in February of 1981...and we went back and forth to Paris a few times...Fuckit, I can't remember EVERYTHING! We did many memorable shows...one, where we backed The Cramps, that was the one I took the surf board to and we had friends skateboarding onstage thru our set and even a backdrop! We did all kindsa stuff, really...supported some great bands, then graduated to modest headliners. The usual."
In the first half of 1980 the Barracudas recorded a batch of demos and wrote several more new songs. The work paid off in the second half of the year when every other month for 8 straight months they had another great single release, topped off with the classics "I Can’t Pretend" and "1965 Again". The first of this run was "Summer Fun", which starts out with a clip from a 1960s commercial for the Plymouth Barracuda that I remember hearing on the radio between innings of Red Sox games for an entire summer when I was about 14. Then the song comes, and it bursts with enthusiasm…the band uses sheets of backing vocals like extra instruments, making the guitars almost unnecessary. Falsetto harmonies and ba-ba-ba fills are layered on layer like some Phil Spector concoction but with ten times the spirit. Next up was "His Last Summer", a good one with a funny lyric, but not such a musical feast as the others. "I Can’t Pretend" drops the surf thing and instead goes for more of a Flamin’ Groovies "Shake Some Action" kind of sound. Now guitars are coming up in the mix and sounding more confident and inventive…a great jangly bit in the choruses, and a cool slide bit with a Chuck Berry lead in the break. With the stronger guitar the band doesn’t have to rely on backing vocals to add frosting. And then there’s "1965 Again", which starts with a huge, Mormon tabernacle quality choir intro and then delivers what is simply without question one of the ultimate rock and roll fan fronts rock and roll band songs of all time.
"" Summer Fun" is a wonderful song but my vocal stinks the big one", says Jeremy. ""His Last Summer" will always be in my personal Top 3 'cudas songs...it did everything we intended to do...1965 I am very fond of...the outro with me rapping was invented en situ. "I Can't Pretend"...it's okay, too."
"The EMI singles...what is there to say? Each song has a story to it...my favorite aspect of these singles is the deliberate, selective copping of sundry influences...for example, the Oh No cry in "Last Summer" lovingly lifted from "Leader of the Pack"...! And of course the references in the lyrics are rife: "a young man is gone" from the Beach Boys etc. This was all intended as homage and humor, and worked for a time, too. Once I even wrote a piece entirely devoted to where each cop came from...quite a list it was, too! Y'know, as Strummer said, rock'n'roll is like a big bank and you make a withdrawal and make a deposit...and we made both aplenty and are about in balance now. Time to start stealing again!"
The January 1981 release of "I Can’t Pretend" was capped by a BBC Radio One Session…sort of a competitor to John Peel’s Sessions. They did four songs: "On The Strip", "Violent Times", "I Can’t Pretend" and "Somewhere Outside". "We never did a Peel session", says Jeremy, "Although Peel did play our early singles, somewhat skeptically I might add! I do know that the first time I heard "Woody" on Radio One was via Peely...an epiphanal moment! The Radio One session to support Drop Out was an excellent one, with versions of four songs in some ways superior to the album versions. Who for I can't quite recall..."
The high point came in February when EMI released their debut full length lp, entitled Drop Out With The Barracudas. It bore the witty endorsement: "4 GREAT GUYS 3 GREAT CHORDS 14 GREAT SONGS". And in the tongue in cheek liner notes (where Jeremy is claimed to be 6’8") there was a gleam of truth where it says: "This is not simply an album of contrasts, it’s an album of contradictions."
And that seems to be where the troubles started. Because while Drop Out is generally remembered as the Barracudas’ surf album, they were already moving ahead, and EMI didn’t want them to. The surf angle had gotten the band what they wanted; a following and a label. But this was a group with too many influences and too many loves to be painted into a corner. New songs like "Living In Violent Times", "This Ain’t My Time", "Saw My Death In A Dream Last Night" and especially a cover of the psychedelic "Codeine" had the band moving away from the surf and towards their garage heroes.
"Our heads were truly spinning", says Jeremy in the liner notes to The Complete EMI Recordings CD. "It was all too much…a summer session at Rockfield Studios in Wales positively the icing on the cake for guys in awe of Rockfield and the Groovies. We were fans first and foremost, a fact which cost us dear in business sense."
I remember reading a lot of good reviews in the days when the lp got released, but it seemed to disappear fairly quickly. It was to be their last record for EMI; an odd ending to a period in which the label had released Barracudas records in a virtual torrent for half a year, and suddenly it ended like a faucet being turned off.
"All things considered, the album was well-received in the UK, bar some predictably patronizing and/or condescending reviews", says Jeremy. "It sold respectably, but what had happened is that EMI realized we were not going to 1) make them richer faster, and 2) we were not going to be content to forever be a glorified novelty act. Also, our new A&R fellow, whose great achievement was signing Iron Maiden, had no real interest in us, and at the same time the label had just signed Duran Duran and probably figured there was more immediate future in New Romantics than Used Pseudo-Surfers. So they dropped us, in March, I guess...what a lousy day that was! They were behind the singles, at least the first three, but soon saw that we would be a long-term investment, had no real management worth the name, and were cranky as fuck. Business is all."
In the liner notes of The Complete EMI Recordings Jeremy remarks that he was proud to have been involved in the making of "Drop Out". That’s a rare thing, to hear someone in a band say they think an early release of theirs is not only good, but something to take pride in.
"Yes, maybe I was being a tad sentimental", he responds, "But I wouldn't have missed all those experiences for the world. And that is really not what we did, but that we did it at all, because my dream was to be in a band, and I was, and it was a good band. Drop Out is just a footnote in the scheme of things, of course, a small one at that...no big deal. But to those who dig it, it is a lot, and that is what matters. It's easy to forget that to the individual who really loves a record it can be extremely important. Not that big sales are not desirable, of course they are...but to think that Drop Out really does mean something to someone means a lot to me...and our other stuff doesn't have that interest, it seems, not as much. Drop Out was a "time and place" thing...out of a vacuum and into a few hearts. What more can I ask?"
And there maybe you have what made the Barracudas different in the first place; a band whose players understood from firsthand experience what it means when a record connects with you…when you play the songs on your turntable and they get into your head and your heart, because they convey a feeling that you also feel, and they augment that feeling. And to them making a record that could do that was what was important; the money didn’t matter. Money was something you earned from a job. Music was far more than a job. It was a crusade.
I think Jeremy has it pegged right. In the overall scheme of things, Drop Out With The Barracudas is not a record that changed the direction of music in any way. It might not even have been one of the ten best records of 1981 (although I doubt that). But as a record that has captured the imagination of a select group of fans, it’s a great example. You can see it in the way the early Barracudas singles immediately became expensive collectors items, and the way fanzine writers like Linsey Hutton and Jon Storey flipped for the band.
But to the masses of employees of EMI, music was a job, and there was no room for crusaders. At the same time that Drop Out With The Barrcudas was being released, the Barracudas were in EMI Studios recording a set of demos with names like "Grammar Of Misery", "On A Sunday", "Gotta Getta Gun", "Shades Of Today", "Ballad Of A Liar" and "I Can’t Sleep". Their surf days were over, and when their label heard what the band were up to, so were they. EMI had reeled in the Barracudas, and now they were tossing them back.
The setback was devastating. The band continued working on demos, but with no label and a new direction, the departure of Buckley and Turner ("the former pushed, the latter jumping", says Jeremy) in November of 1981 was perhaps inevitable. Only the foundation of the band, Wills and Gluck, remained. So the two set about searching for a new drummer and bassist. As drummer they found Graham Potter (ex of the Little Roosters and the Spectres). For a bassist they found Jim Dickson, an Australian who should be well known for his time spent with the Survivors, a legendary late 70s Brisbane punk band who were near contemporaries of the initial Saints, and post-Barracudas with the New Christs, the brilliant band led by ex-Radio Birdman singer Rob Younger. Potter’s tenure was to last only four months, while Dickson would remain with the band until their bust up in the end of 1984.
"Ah...ol' JD...", recalls Jeremy. "A dear, dear friend whom I saw only recently for the first time in nearly ten years. Um…Robin I believe knew of the arrival in London of JD, who I first met at Gossip's late in 1981. Jim told me that his aspiration was to join either The Soft Boys or the 'cudas...guess he got the short straw! Anyhow, he did join almost as soon as we'd met him. He always was an incredible bassist and looked incredible (described once as a "garage ghoul"!). He left when the band split, basically. I was always a huge Birdman fan myself and I still remember browsing records in Wardour Street with Robin and he says..."The guy next to you is Deniz Tek!". It was, we rapped with Younger and went and saw Birdman several times (this was their tour with the Groovies early 78) and they really were amazing live. Everything you have heard is true. In fact, after seeing them the first time I came out of my shell onstage and never looked back."
With the new members hardly introduced to each other, the Barracudas were back in the studio in December 1981 to record two tracks, "Inside Mind" and "Hour Of Degradation", songs that severed the surf link permanently and seemed to signal an end of lighthearted foolish lyrics and a beginning of heavier and more meaningful topics. They needed a label, and without any interest from the majors, were forced to move down to the indie level, signing with Flickknife Records. "After EMI had ditched us we were rather chastened and also desperate to establish our survival and commitment to pursuing the direction we set with songs like "Violent Times"", says Jeremy. "Flicknife was run by a French ex-biker type named Frenchy Gloder, who had made some money re-releasing Hawkwind obscurities. He loved The Barracudas and wanted to record our second album with us. "Inside Mind" eventually became a staple of our live set and - having been recorded prematurely - was never captured in its full glory on vinyl."
"We were conscious of our desire to capture and emulate various genres, like garage, folk-rock, psychedelia and all that, so it was a natural progression...because our final EMI demos were tracks destined for Meantime. We had already shifted gear before we left EMI, and that single was the first evidence. I don't know if it is "meaningful", although along with "Grammar of Misery" it does signify my desire to go deeper with lyrics. Mind you, I wrote "Grammar" around the same time as "His Last Summer"".
But there was still one last hurrah from the surf version of the band with a US release in 1982 of a four track 12" ep including "I Can’t Pretend", "Surfers Are Back", "You Were On My Mind" and a crazed version of "Surfer Joe", which also was released on a 7" promo record.
"Being a big time BOMP fan, I sent Greg Shaw a copy of Drop Out and he immediately wanted to release it on VOXX in the States", recalls Jeremy. "I was thrilled when he replied with this fan's rave on Drop Out...I mean, to me Greg Shaw was as much as a god...he signed the Groovies...fuckit, I was flying. Eventually we met him in Paris (in February of 1981) and it was so cool...anyhow, yeah, the "Surfer Joe" story...it was a track we threw in at the end of an EMI demo session (in March of 1980) and I drank a beer seconds before doing my vocal. We were all stoned anyhow, and then Robin's tremelo bar fell off...and he did that amazing solo! And typically, for us, the EMI guy Ames walks in just when we're mixing "Surfer Joe". He was a little, uh, bemused! Like, he couldn't walk in for a more serious song...no, he has to hear that...one of the best things we ever did, I reckon, if not the best!"
In January of 1982 the band began to record a second album in Brixton Studio in London. The working title for the album was Garbage Dump which was taken from a song recorded by Charles Manson before he changed occupations (and subsequently addresses). There was talk of having former Flamin’ Groovie Chris Wilson do some guitar on the recordings, and things were looking good. But the whole thing came to an abrupt halt as Flickknife ran out of money and the band was in no position to put in their own. The results of these sessions were to be released many years later as The Garbage Dump Tapes! lp on Shakin’ Street records, in January of 1990.
"I knew a fellow who had a shop selling Regency clothing we wore, who knew Wilson from trips to Frisco", Jeremy says. "He told me Chris was due in London and I asked him to provide an intro. I duly met Chris...what a moment for Robin and me, as we were rabid Groovies fanatics. I did hope he might join us, but to begin with we asked him to produce our 2nd album, which he declined, but agreed to perhaps add some overdubs. He played with us for the first time at The Marquee...I remember bringing him on to great applause. The budget ran out, yes, and we were royally pissed...meanwhile, we did progress to Meantime, after which I re-established communications with Frenchy and agreed that a salvage EP (House Of Kicks) would be easy to make and easy to sell...and it was. House Of Kicks may be our best release, and I do love the cover...Jim Dickson was by then an essential to the band, and I wanted his contribution recognized, so insisted on the chosen cover shot."
So the chronology of things gets a little wacky here. The next Barracudas record was to be the Meantime lp, which came out on the French label Closer in February of 1983, but the House Of Kicks ep, which includes "Next Time Around", "Dead Skin" and "Takes What He Wants" and came out in May of 1983, was actually recorded much earlier. Those three songs are also on The Garbage Dump Tapes! along with both sides of the "Inside Mind" single and seven others. In addition, there’s another Flickknife 12" record with 6 tracks from these sessions called The World’s A Burn, and then Shakin’ Street also did a 3 track 12" ep with "Grammar Of Misery" at the same time as Garbage Dump. Quite confusing.
For my tastes, The Garbage Dump Tapes! trails only Drop Out With The Barracudas and Wait For Everything as the best of all Barracudas records. The recording quality is not as clean as it might be, but the performances have a real fire to them. Songs like "Bad News", "11th Hour" and "Grammar Of Misery" are as solid as any of the tunes that had been released on the House Of Kicks ep. But they were not to see daylight until much later.
After the House of Kicks sessions came to their premature end, the band was again without a label. Chris Wilson joined up as a full time member in March of 1982, and Graeme Potter was replaced as drummer by Terry Smith. The French label Closer eventually signed the band. They recorded the tracks that would become the lp Meantime in October and November of 1982, and the record was released in January 1983. Meantime included 8 songs that had been previously recorded at the House Of Kicks sessions, but the arrangements were filled out with the addition of keyboards and Wilson’s guitar in a way that softens and smoothes things a bit.
"I do not actually recall how we connected with Closer", begins Jeremey, then upon reflection says "No, wait...we went to Le Havre to do a show in early 1982...and Phillipe Debris had a collector's shop there called Closer and offered to make an album with us. See, while Drop Out had been forgotten in the UK, in the French music press it was acclaimed in several key rave reviews, calling it an album of the decade etc. The French lapped it up, and lapped up the Groovies connection. Debris delivered when no one else would. God knows we tried to get another major UK deal, did endless demos, saw publishers etc...no dice...but Debris had the money and the dream and he got the product. It was recorded at Ringo Starr's studio (I think I glimpsed the Great One in a window once!) by an engineer who obviously thought us somewhat haphazard, and produced by ex-Vinegar Joe guy Pete Gage, the latter brought to us by Terry Smith, our new drummer. Chris fitted in fine, no problem. When I wrote a song with him ("Be My Friend Again") and saw it on the label - Gluck/Wilson - I was thrilled...me writing with one half of the awesome Wilson/Jordan team! AAAAAAARGH! We were playing out, heading more to Europe, where we appreciated. At this time I became very resistant to playing the UK outside of London, because they treated you like shit, frankly, and we could go to Europe and make money and be treated like legends. What would you do? I never did recover my interest in playing the UK, and even today would avoid it."
Later in 1983 they cooked up an idea for a live album called Live 1983 and packaged to look like a bootleg. Debris at Closer made up a fake label for its release and called it Coyote; the idea was to make some quick money to replenish the band’s depleted coffers. "We had better tapes, incidentally", says Jeremy, "But Robin wanted something consistent, if flawed...to me it was a lost opportunity, because we had much more exciting, if uneven, tapes at the time."
In January of 1983 Terry Smith was replaced on drums by Mark Sheppard, giving the band the lineup it would keep until its first breakup. By November they had a new set of songs and recorded the album Endeavor To Persevere, also for Closer. This lp is a lot less poppy and garagey than their previous records, and very folk/country influenced in places. It includes a cool take of the traditional Leo Rosselson folk song "World Turned Upside Down" that Billy Bragg also did once…but a very far cry from "I Want My Woody Back" indeed.
Says Jeremy: "What happened is that for the first time we had a decent budget. Chris had softened our sound, and we wrote a lot of the album fast and close to recording it. The result was a somewhat sterile if professional Barracudas record...in places, very good ("Black Snake") but in others too cute. Chris sang "World Turned Upside Down" and most of "Man With Money" and all of "Corinne", too. We shared duties more than ever before, in writing and playing. Our direction was good; we were writing better and better songs, in fact. But I was already beginning to crave a heavier and more modern sound, whereas Robin and Chris cleaved to the softer end of the spectrum. Live we always kicked ass regardless."
In December of 1984, the Barracudas began work on new demos to prepare for another album. They recorded 7 tracks, all of which appear on the Two Sides Of A Coin post-mortem CD released on Anagram in 1993. Some of these are flat out terrific (like the title track to the CD). In the liner notes to Two Sides, Jeremy says "Despite European acknowledgment as a tremendous live band, and writing the strongest rock’n’roll songs of our career, Robin and I were on a collision course, due in part to my insistence on a heavier direction. Impatience prevailed, and we failed to see that a holding action might have earned us our rightful place and audience (American, therefore) and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. To err is human, but to fuck up is a catastrophe. We had a band meeting – always fatal for the Barracudas – and split. Bitchin’ songs begging definitive treatment were left to languish."
Today he has this to add: "The demos you speak of were recorded late in 1984, shortly before the split. Robin and I were writing very good material, and we got some money to record these demos which at the time I felt were unsatisfactory. Who knows why? I wanted to take us into a much heavier more competitive direction, was luxuriating in Too Tough To Die and New Day Rising...while Robin was riding on The Plimsouls and The Long Ryders. You can see the fault lines, I'm sure. We basically lost our nerve and defaulted on certain opportunities...such is life."
I asked Jeremy for more detail on the causes of the split. He recoiled as if from a snake: "Ah...I hate this fucking question! What were the causes? My ego, probably. And my inability to realize that for all intents and purposes I was actually the leader of the band...and I couldn't really accept that, so when trouble began over direction and all that we just drifted. I know Robin didn't want the band to split, and neither did I...except that I was too stupid to realize it until it was too late. Enough."
After the split, Wills started a new band called The Fortunate Sons (named for the Credence track that the Barracudas covered – a live version appears on the Two Sides Of A Coin CD). He was joined by Steve Robinson (who later played in the re-formed Barracudas) on bass and Lee Robinson (not related to Steve) on drums. They soon were touring in France, and just before the start they added John Plain (ex-Boys) as a second guitarist. They ultimately recorded two lps around 1985 to 1986, the first entitled Rising and the second Kerrezza.
As for Jeremy, two weeks after the Barracudas split, he somehow managed to have a new record called Life Ahead Corporation. In Bucketfull Of Brains he said: "The Barracudas were a band that was willfully dependent on the past. It became a prison and that Life Ahead record was the sound of me rattling the bars. The frame of mind I was in when that record was made was not entirely wholesome. That was a strict reaction against anything which might link it to the Barracudas." Robin Wills called it "Eight years of frustration in twenty minutes."
Next he teamed with Jim Dickson for a project that they called The Civilization Machine and released a six song mini-lp on Closer. In Bucketfull of Brains he said "One of the main reasons the Barracudas split up was that Jim and I had similar visions of high energy, non-stop, intense neo-punk music and a couple of other people in the group weren’t receptive to the idea." The album was basically a studio only effort with a couple of session guitarists and also backing vocal help from Australian Penny Ward (who also sang in the Aussie group The Shy Imposters).
Later, he collaborated on recordings with Nikki Sudden, ex-Swell Maps singer, which if you know that band’s work is a rather strange pairing to contemplate. But Jeremy and Nikki had been friends for a while and had made some demos together as early as 1983 along with Dave Kusworth. In 1986, Nikki rang up Jeremy again and told him that he was in the middle of a project and wanted some help. Jeremy joined up, along with Rowland Howard (ex-Birthday Party) and drummer Epic Soundtracks (also from Swell Maps), and to top off this minor supergroup, ex-Gun Club leader Jeffrey Lee Pierce came in for some slide guitar. Jeremy talks about seeing a big green highway sign in Boston that said "Sorrow Drive" and writing a song about it…I suppose if someone noted that the road was almost certainly Storrow Drive, it would rob the thing a little. At any rate, the result was an album called I Knew Buffalo Bill, and it disappeared without a trace like the animals the man shot.
In addition, Jeremy was always writing…for Sounds, Bucketfull Of Brains, The Next Big Thing, Mojo, Q, Select, Ripped and Torn (and now he writes for The Big Takeover). Some of this work no doubt fed back to help the Barracudas’ cause. Sounds in particular gave Drop Out With The Barracudas a huge rave when it came out. I asked Jeremy how much he thought the writing connection helped them.
"It did help us to have me at Sounds", he replied, "But it meant that NME had to hate us, which they did and didn't...the Sounds connection got us a cover in late 1979 that helped us get the post-Woody deal, no question. It was written by Sandy Robertson, who lived at that time with a character called Tony D, whose long-lost Ripped and Torn fanzine was one of the greats of the genre. Robertson loved us and we were pals anyhow, and one week Sounds’ planned cover story blew out and he rushed us onto the cover as a last-minute replacement...a real coup and kismet writ large. It was great fun to see ourselves on the cover of a national music paper, utterly ridiculous, really."
I then asked what were the most memorable pieces he’d ever written.
"Without doubt, my interview with Brian Wilson in 1988 is the apex of my journalistic career", he replied. "A dream came true and every minute I was with him (3 hours) was golden. Also, meeting Alan Vega the first time was awesome...what a god!"
In May, 1989, Bucketfull Of Brains ran an article announcing that Wills and Gluck were writing songs again and that the Barracudas would be getting back together. When asked in that feature why this was the right time for a reunion, Wills said "The main reason is that I can relate to Jeremy again – it’s been a long time since I could. We managed to get back together, first through humor and then music".
Wills had been on tour in Italy with the Fortunate Sons when that band split up, and he was staying at the house of a girl who had a copy of Drop Out With The Barracudas, which they gave a spin. "I thought great, why can’t we be that good again?", said Wills in that Bucketfull article. "The idea was to try and get back some of that freshness, but we realize that we can’t emulate what we were when we were 19."
The new band featured former Fortunate Sons bassist Steve Robinson and at first had a friend of Steve’s named Rick Sigmund as drummer. They cut 3 demos with this lineup in February and 3 more in May, but Rick was quickly replaced with Jay Posner., who for my money was the best drummer they ever had. It seemed that interest in the band hadn’t waned much while they were gone, and many people were really excited when they reformed. I asked Jeremy whether that counted for much in the re-union plans. "It was not really a motivator", he replied. "I figured we had been forgotten and was surprised when I found out we had not been."
"I had not seen Robin nor Steve for some long time. I had done my stuff with Nikki Sudden and was coming out of active commitment to music, in fact, writing a lot for Sounds, wife & kids, etc. And then one evening Steve calls and says (he was sharing a place with Robin at the time), "Look, we was thinking, listening to Drop Out etc. It sounds hot...we want to reform the band!" And I was kinda, "Let me sleep on it...!" I was still half in denial about the whole 'cudas thing, about breaking up prematurely and blowing it, about how dorky some of our output had been. But I knew I would do it...it's in the blood. So we met and rehearsed and it rocked. And that was that."
The Barracudas signed to Canadian indie Shake! who tested the market for decade old fish bands by releasing the single "I Thought You Sounded That Way Yesterday" with "Remember" on the flip in January of 1991, but it wasn’t until February of 1992 that there was finally a new full length Barracudas release…nearly 3 years after they decided to get back together. But the result justified the wait, and maybe that explains the title of the new CD. Produced by Andy Shernoff (although he isn’t credited), Wait For Everything was one of the most convincing reunion efforts I’ve ever heard, and probably my favorite Barracudas long player. It has a fabulous batch of tunes; the title track, the nostalgic "I Thought You Sounded That Way Yesterday", the slinky, driving "Outside My Door", the anthemic pair of "Throwin’ It All Away" and "One From The Heart", and finally that personal touch of "The Best Years" at the end…this is a hell of a great recording. Gluck’s singing has really matured; he’s harnessed that quivering tone of his to emphasize key parts of the lyrics better than on any other Barracudas effort. Robin Wills, who always wrote the majority of Barracudas tunes, turns in his best set ever here. And his guitar playing brings that 12 string Byrds jangle firmly into the post-punk era; this is where California rock should have headed in the early 70s when it somehow detoured into the Eagles. There’s that "Chestnut Mare" sort of feel mixed with a power that the Byrds could never have matched given the equipment and production values of their day.
But Jeremy had suggested to me that he wasn’t that crazy about Wait For Everything and when I pressed him about his reasons, he replied, "Ah, I dunno...it could and should have been so much better. But I do like some of it. Yes, some songs work, but for me this album is largely a major disappointment. Apart from working with Andy Shernoff of heroes The Dictators, I could quite happily have forgone the whole thing."
Which would have left the music world a poorer place. But unfortunately, unless some incredible new development occurs, that CD will prove to be the last hurrah for the Barracudas. They did struggle on until 1993, when they played their last ever gig in Madrid and taped the show for a CD release on Spain’s Impossible Records. Jeremy probably gives it as fair an evaluation as anyone could.
"Our great and loyal pals at Record Runner in Madrid invited us to play their 10th anniversary showcase, and we accepted", he says. "The gig was packed and we played like animals...sloppy, loud, too fast...and I must say I am glad this is our final recording as such. It sounds like a band dying, and is! Why did we split up? Ah...we did demo more material, and play here and there...but demand was dropping off. We were all a little weary of the drill etc, and so it naturally wound down in 1993. We did our best to stage a dignified reunion but, essentially, I agree with my wife that we should have let the original line-up stand and left the reunion as an idea."
Since the end of his Barracudas days, Jeremy has been keeping busy. Writing is one of the main thing now. He has written three novels, two of which were published in 1988 and 1989. He’s also doing a number of things on the web "…including my Spiritech UK site (http://www.geocities.com/~spiritechuk) that is devoted to my interest in spirituality and technology. I churn our poetry and prose, I teach at the local university (no kidding...), and in fact am this year returning to recording and eventually touring. I have now recorded about half a new album, quite different from anything I've done before, referring in parts to my Suicide obsession etc...and doing experimental writing et al. I made my acting debut in June...that was cool. And I just keep on keeping on...my big thing now is boost my output and do more, better, all the time. Should knock out at least one if not two albums this year...and you will be the judge(s)."
As I write this it has been 20 years since the Barracudas started, and people are still wanting to release demos and new packages of old Barracudas material. I suggested to Jeremy that as a pretty reknowned rock’n’roll fan he must feel pretty good to know that there are people out there who regard the Barracudas the way he regards a lot of his own heroes, and I asked him for his perspective on the band’s career looking back now.
"Well, what can I say?", he asked rhetorically. "Robin and I never really were after the big time (not until it was too late...but that's another story) and all we wanted was to be in a classy cult band like the ones we worshipped, like the Groovies. And we did it, plain and simple. The longevity of the 'cudas appeal has surprised me...I wrote it all off to experience after the band split in 1984, but realized when we reformed and subsequently that we had a much longer shelf life than I would have believed likely or possible. In essence, we did make some good records...but we never realized our potential, which sometimes still saddens me. However, to know we are not forgotten and have to some extent brought pleasure to others is a tremendous thing to know, objectively, beyond my own ideas on it of any kind, because good people like yourself apparently value our output greatly. So one feels grateful, a little chastened...more grateful than chastened."
And now rock and roll is in the shadows, baby
And you’re lucky if it follows you
But once upon a time
You could find it anytime
Rock and roll heroes, rock and roll dreams
Rock and roll theories, Rock and roll schemes
You gave me the best years of my life
Thank you for the best years of my life
- "The Best Years" (Gluck/Wills) Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.
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