B is for… Blade Runner
Blade Runner, like almost all the bands signed in the early eighties to UK label Ebony Records, should have been much, much bigger than they actually ever were. Ebony boss Darryl Johnson certainly had an ear for talent, but the label’s in-house recording studio, Hemingbrough Hall – where all the Ebony acts were encouraged to record, for reasons of finance, was just not up to translating his vision onto wax, resulting in almost every release the label ever put out underselling the talents of the bands involved…
And Blade Runner were very talented. Mixing up the standard NWoBHM influences with a sleeker, more Americanised edge, advanced songwriting smarts and some slick guitar playing (from Gary Jones), the band were certainly capable of making a rather glorious noise. The result of all this raw talent, a heavy yet accessible sound that surely should have been tailor made to succeed’, came seemingly to fruition on debut album Hunted. Actually it didn’t, but the band got a second chance with follow up album Warriors of Rock, which was more of the same yet better, but hampered once more by a terrible mix and next to no support from the label; In the face of mounting apathy from the press and fans alike the band threw in the towel, with Jones going on to form Phantasm, but Blade Runner remain one of the great ‘should have been’ bands of the eighties. – Gavin Strickmann
B is also for… Blind Fury
Essentially NWoBHM gods Satan with a different vocalist – it’s kinda hard to believe now, but back in the day the band changed its name for a while because they didn’t want to be associated with bands like Venom – Blind Fury cut one album – 1985’s criminally underrated Out of Reach – before deciding that the Devil really does have all the best tunes and deciding to throw their lot in with Ol’Nick and reverting to their previous, more Stygian monicker.
Apart from substituting Brian Ross for the more accomplished-sounding Lou Taylor (who’d actually formed Blind Fury a year before the release of the album with the remnants of Angel Witch, recording a demo with that lineup), there isn’t much to choose between Blind Fury and Satan, mainly because both acts highlight the savage guitar pairing of Steve Ramsey and Russ Tippins. Heavy metal history – especially, it seems, British heavy metal history from the eighties – is littered with the names of artistes who, for whatever reason, never quite got the acclaim they deserved at the time, and Ramsey and Tippins were just such a pair, easily the equals of more lauded duos such as Tipton and Downing and Smith and Murray, in sheer playing terms if not in songwriting, and Out of Reach – like any album featuring the pair – is choc-full of first division guitar playing. There’s no point looking back at the short history of Blind Fury and bemoaning the slings and arrows of outrageous music industry fortune – better just to seek out their fantastic album and wallow in it! – Scott Adams
B is also for… The Blood
In my probably-not-as-humble-as-it-should-be opinion, The Blood’s False Gestures for a Devious Public is almost certainly the greatest British punk rock album ever recorded. An all-out thrilling mix of the Damned, Motörhead and the Cockney Rejects, it sounds as fresh now as when it first came out in 1983.
Formed by Cardinal Jesus Hate and JJ Bedsore in 1982 the band, at that point also featuring Muttley on bass alongside Dr Wildthing on the drum kit released False Gestures… the next year to almost no fanfare at all save for a rave review from Sounds journalist Gary Bushell (who went on to manage the band), the record wrongly ignored by many because (a) Bushell liked it and (b) they thought it was a brainless Oi! record.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Despite some knockabout song titles and jocular lyrics (Done Some Braincells Last Night, Gestapo Khazi), the album is actually tremendously literate musically (can there be such a thing? – Confused Ed), roaming through the wastelands where street punk meets metal with nefarious intent, driven on by JJ Bedsore’s fabulously melodic lead guitar style and some of the best choruses you’ll find on any punk record not recorded by the Damned. It’s incredibly sophisticated really, with the band presaging Dave Vanian and co’s mid eighties move to a goth/psyche standpoint by a couple of years whilst still retaining the rough n’ready guttersnipe charm essential to the best street punk.
Maybe it was the accomplishment of the musicianship, maybe it was the lack of mainstream press support, maybe it was the eternal ‘too punk for the metalheads, to metal for the punks’ dichotomy, I don’t know, but inexplicably the album failed to find a place in the hearts of music lovers anywhere; The band ploughed on regardless, never reaching the heights of their debut (or really coming close, if we’re being honest), with JJ Bedsore sadly succumbing to death in 2004 after a long struggle with the bottle. None of the three full length albums they’ve released since …Public really comes close to that debut, but if you want to hear a real crossover record, then look no further. – Michael Stronge