Sunday, 11 December 2011
Nasty Nigel and The Teenage Hellcats - Jonestown Suicide 7" Criminal PRS-2708, 1979
If you told me blind we'd be championing a white reggae single where the singer actually attempts a Jamaican accent, and there's a proggy guitar solo, I'd cock my eye and suggest you were mistaken. Nevertheless, here we are in that exact situation.
Nigel Lawrence was a shortarse Yorkshireman who landed in Adelaide and joined a band called The Bank Of France. The band did mostly satirical, novelty stuff like It's Still Billy Joel To Me and Please Let Me Be On Countdown. It is suspected the A-side song featured today is supposed to be humourous punk novelty.
So, what lifts Jonestown Suicide out of the kids' pool of punky reggae novelty and into the deep end of the punk pool? Great songwriting and a truly superb vocal delivery by the remonikered Nasty Nigel.
Starting with ominous keyboards, a reggae beat sounding more fuelled by GBH than THC fades in. The chanted Jonestown Suicide refrain builds to our man Nasty taking over.
Thousand people take their lives
Lemonade and cyanide
Brilliant in its simplicity, and delivered with a really, well, nasty tone. The fade in, verse, verse, verse, solo, verse, repeat first verse, fade out structure is interesting - the kind of thing attempted only by inspired amateurs or gifted professionals. Then there's that solo, and the staccato rimshot outro. Together with the subject matter, tough production and perfect song length it all conspires to make this something of a classic. We don't even cringe when he goes all yardie accent in the verse starting "Enigmatic mystery man".
Did we mention the clean, simple cover art? It's nice to see a band get everything right for once - leaving the band name completely off the sleeve is a plus, isn't it?
The song was well played on the alternative radio stations at the time - 2JJJ, 4ZZZ, 3RRR, 5MMM etc. and was something of an underground hit, not unlike the Brats sole vinyl appearance. At least one of the song's writers, Greg Champion went on to make a living out of songwriting, though his main money spinner (and general oeuvre) was a return to daggy, novelty stuff like I Made A 100 In The Backyard At Mum's. Lawrence and Champion and some of the Teenage Hellcats got their earlier wish and appeared on Countdown in their next guise as happy-go-lucky pop band Young Homebuyers.
The flipside, A.K.A., sees Lawrence again carry the song with another great vocal performance. The wonky instrumentation, jaunty rhythm and the little slip into French shows him in the thrall of Wreckless Eric and Ian Dury and the Blockheads. It ain't Stiff, but it's still worth a fuck.
Jonestown Suicide [Download]