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.

Jonestown suicide
Jonestown suicide
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]

A.K.A. [Download]


nastynigel1 said...

Hi and greetings from would be churlish to get too picky about such a thrillingly positive review...and so I wont't. But may I just say that I never joined The Bank Of France...although most of the band played on Jonestown...and I kind of regret not halving the lenght of the solo. But as I was 19 at the time I guess I could be forgive for this tactical error...
Anyhow here is a recent poem for ya

An Introduction to Poetry Readings by Nasty Nigel Lawrence
Friday, June 17, 2011 at 10:06am

Preaching to the converted, the tormented and perverted

Introspective melancholics, axe-grinding alcoholics

Welcome to a night of wine and words

Who's that in the corner? What a beret ! What panache !

He's erudite and horny and he's high on cheap grenache

Fruity and mellifluous, he thinks he is mischievous

He's just a prick and devious, you'd better watch your back

For the arts are very crafty, then the room turns blank and drafty

And there's agonizing boredom still to come

Direct from minds like hovels, poems twice the length of novels

You may never see your family live again

God is dead and who can blame him ? When there's nights like this to shame him

If I was him I'd rise and just strike back

But the evening's just begun, and there's two hours yet to come

So please, "Put your hands together for the first poet for this evening!"

nastynigel1 said...

PS I have three autographed mint copies for sale for $40 each if anyone would like one...They routinely go for $5O these days email is outofthisworldsa@hotmail.coom if you are interested

Nasty Nigel

Kez said...

He was in a band called The Latest Thing From England

Pete Lowery said...

Bravo! ...reminiscing! I figured that I'd ... nevermind, other people remembering this, too!

etopp said...

I hadn't thought about this song in years but it got in my head yesterday and I had to Google it. Found this site!

"Jonestown Suicide" got a lot of plays on 4ZZZ which is where I heard it when I was a student at UQ back in the early 80s. Great song!