Pete Way. If there was one musician whose sheer talent outstripped the body and soul within it was confined it would surely be Enfield’s finest. If only we could have bottled that talent and transplanted it into somebody more sensible… It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Of course ‘sensible’ when applied to the wonderful and frightening world of rock n’roll doesn’t really compute, and so it’s best simply to celebrate the life as was; And a big part of that life was Way’s post-UFO outfit, Waysted.

Formed after false starts with Eddie Clarke and Ozzy Osbourne, Waysted in it’s earliest incarnations was a tribute to the rock n’roll spirit in all it’s glory. The band’s first album, which featured Way, cheeky songstrel Fin Muir on vocals, ex-Def Leppard skinbeater Frank Noon, faithful sideman Paul Raymond on keys and guitar and American newbie Ronnie Kayfield on lead, saw the band hitting the ground running with a sassy collection of rockers in the vein of his old band (Right From The Start, All Belongs To You), raunchy, debauched mashups of the Stones and the Faces (Hot Love) and straight up funtime rock n’roll with a metal edge (Love Loaded, Toy With The Passion). Songwise, Vices is a great album, but Mick Glossop’s production leaves something to be desired and, not for the first time, Way found himself at a crossroads.

I’m telling you all this because the fine people at HNE Recordings are just about to reissue Vices as part of a nice four-CD box set gathering together Waysted’s early work entitled Won’t Get Out Alive which covers the years 1983-1986. Collectors will doubtless be pleased to hear that the version of the debut found here is an expanded one featuring alternative takes of such highlights as Love Loaded, Sleazy, Night of the Wolf, Right From The Start, All Belongs To You and the band’s take on the Jefferson Airplane chestnut Somebody To Love.

Regrouping under the aegis of the excellent Music For Nations label in 1984, Waysted now featured Muir and Way joined by another former UFOnaut, drummer Andy Parker and guitarist Neil Shepherd, a John Sykes clone in both looks and style for sure but a good player for all that. The self-titled EP this lineup produced is an absolute killer, featuring stone cold classics like Won’t Get Out Alive, The Price You Pay and Rock Steady, all wrapped in a superb, raw-sounding production job from Leo Lyons that sounds as fresh today as it did way back when.

By the time the band was ready to head out in support of the EP on the road, another UFO refugee, Paul ‘Tonka’ Chapman had been enlisted on lead guitar, and it’s him you here on the bonus live tracks you hear here, recorded in Cardiff and which I think first appeared on an expanded version of the EP that came out on Krescendo Records about fifteen years ago. UFO aficionados will be interested to hear the versions included here of Only You Can Rock Me and Too Hot To Handle if they haven’t done so already.

The band stayed with MFN for 1985’s The Good, The Bad and the Waysted, which for this reviewer marked their creative high water mark; Opener Hang ‘Em High is pure rock n’roll nirvana, with Muir giving a cocky, swaggerful performance backed by Chapman’s superb guitar work and Way and new drummer, Humble Pie’s Jerry Shirley‘s rock solid rhythmic drive. The thrills don’t stop there, with Hi Ho My Baby, the original version of Heaven Tonight, Manuel and Rolling Out The Dice all being top-draw Way compositions, whilst the band’s joyful romp through Chuck Berry‘s Around and Around always brings a smile to the dial whenever it’s rolled out on the Strickmann stereo… This was the sound of the band finally solidifying it’s promise and finding it’s feet; But of course, this is Pete Way we’re talking about so by the time the next album, Save Your Prayers came out, everything had changed…

By 1986 the quality of Waysted’s output thus far, coupled with the patronage of Iron Maiden‘s Steve Harris, led major label Parlophone to sign the band, and Save Your Prayers was the result. Perhaps tellingly, the album’s cover featured only Way on the front, whilst the departure of Muir and the arrival of golden-throated US vocal master Danny Vaughn heralded a change of sound that to this reviewer’s ears, the band never quite recovered from. Save Your Prayers is a fine album, make no mistake, but it sounds like a band losing it’s soul; Waysted changed from being a band you’d probably have a beer with in a seedy West End club after showtime to ‘just’ another eighties rock outfit set for the treadmill of mediocrity. Opener Walls Fall Down has a hint of Humble Pie (if only Shirley, rather than his replacement John DiTeodoro, had been on the track!), and Black & Blue signposts how great Vaughn would become in Tyketto a few years later,  but the spark is just not here compared to it’s predecessor.

Overall, however, this is a pretty great compilation, reminding you – like you needed reminding – of just how great a musician Pete Way was. And Paul Chapman, for that matter… In many ways Waysted was doomed to fail as a ‘big’ band from the outset, but that didn’t stop them recording some pretty massive tuneage nevertheless, and you can enjoy it all again here, in one handy package. Hurrah!

Won’t get Out Alive Releases On April 26th.