Budgie

ARTICLE ABOUT Budgie from New Musical Express, October 18, 1975

Whatever went wrong on the way to superstar status with this band? Was it the lack of one large single hit? Was it the lack of image? In 1975, they ruled the concert circuit in England and were a very popular live act. They could have, should have, and probably deserved to make the big time, but this is the way the music business works – not every band rises above cult status, no matter how many albums they made or how many concerts they played.
Enjoy this article.

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The Stupendous Challenge of raw Budgie

By Chas De Whalley

It`s true, Budgie have nothing new to offer and to resuscitate a deadly phrase, they`re not even “progressive”. But neither are Elvis Presley`s Sun Tapes, which are currently selling like hot ones… but nobody complains about that.
History alone will tell us who made the greater mark on the story of mankind, Elvis or Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge, Steve Williams and new boy Myf Isaacs.
But for the moment, they share the same qualification, dubious or otherwise.
Budgie play for an audience the business still doesn`t quite understand. As usual the tingods down Pan Alley don`t really know what the kids want, and all over the country the kids want Budgie. They`ve been from the Roundhouse to Cardiff City, Birmingham to St. Albans Civic Centre, they`ve played every kind of gig that you can think of and, with little media exposure they`ve broken all the house rules and have gained one of the largest, most loyal cult followings in Britain.
Seven million flies can`t be wrong.
But a couple of dozen denizens of the airwaves and the column inch don`t an authority make. And, come to think of it, what`s authority got to do with rock anyway? Budgie play the kind of stuff you were humming under your breath when the maths got boring and the headmaster was coming on strong about the ciggies in the laurel bushes; only difference being that Budgie play it 1975 style.

Burke Shelley is the bass player and singer and he writes much of the material. He`s a slight Welshman with exceedingly long hair who looks like the boy next door`s elder brother, the guy who dropped out and used to tell you exciting stories about what it was like to go and see a rock band live.
And that`s the thing about Budgie.
Steve Williams, the drummer who`s been with the band for the last ten months, puts it into one sentence: “Our fans are the kids who`ve heard in Budgie their very first album band, and they`ve bought the record and become fanatics.” Budgie`s music is homely Heavy Metal for rebellious adolescents, but which offers little or no threat to the established values which are still very central to the kids` lives. Your mother won`t like Budgie, but then you don`t expect her to, and the amiable antagonism suits everyone.
The average Budgie fanatic may be young and, perhaps naive, but he seems surprisingly level headed beneath the euphoria. Whatever the music may be about, the audience`s identification with the band comes from that music alone, for there`s little or no stage act or image to latch onto. There`s none of that exaggeration of a single aspect of everyday life on which many another “working-class hero” band base their appeal. In these days when the Heavy Metal Market – what remains of it – seems glutted with outfits who work hard on their visual presentation. Budgie are all the more unusual for having no immediate identity.

Steve Williams doesn`t think their audience want that kind of thing anyway. “If they saw us on stage dressed like a bunch of ponces, I think they`d be put off, cos they`re there to see the raw Budgie, and it`s always been the same.”
For five years now it`s been the same, except that Budgie have been getting bigger and bigger. Burke Shelley thought their last tour was good enough, but it seems this present one, which ends this week, was a real eyeopener. “It really surprised me, I wasn`t expecting it to turn out like it did, you know. There`s been a few banana scenes, absolutely fruitcake. Birmingham Town Hall and Liverpool – they started streaking there! Insanity was the order of the day.
“But they`re zany in Liverpool anyway, you know, and they really know how to enjoy themselves. I could have done anything with them, you know, I could have gone up to the mike and just asked them to do most things and they`d have done it. I`ve never asked them to do anything naughty, mind you. I say let`s have a good time, but I don`t say let`s wreck the joint, cos apart from anything I`ve got too much respect for other people`s property. And besides, we might get wrecked ourselves.”
It isn`t quite hysteria that Budgie excite in their audience, but it comes mighty close. Live they play all their own material, drawn largely from “Bandolier” and its two predecessors “In For The Kill” and “Never Turn Your Back On A Friend”, and every number is greeted with the kind of applause usually reserved for much-loved standards. But then, as far as the audience at St. Albans was concerned, every song was an old favourite.

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The music isn`t all mindless heavy riffing either. The addition of Myf Isaacs` rhythm guitar to fill out the gaps adds texture to Budgie`s sound, which is what was conspicious by its absence in their pre-“Bandolier” days. Lead guitarist Tony Bourge had just too much on his plate when the band was a three piece. Now he`s free to be a little more tasteful, and despite having to use alien equipment at St. Albans, his playing on the more atmospheric material like “Napoleon Bona Part 1” was very exciting.
Shelley`s “Parents” was really nice too, cleverly avoiding a lot of the traps heavy bands find themselves caught in. “Who Do You Want For Your Love” could easily be a hit single with its catchy, almost funky riff and some nice harmony guitar work. But pick of the bunch was “Zoom Club”. On “In For The Kill” (LP) “Zoom Club” misses completely. But live, with Myf Isaacs in there, Bourge`s raunchy chords hang in the air like a night-time neon sign over an L.A. freeway as you speed past in the Dodge with the cruise control set at sixty. It isn`t all as good as that of course. Frequently Budgie are too loud and too messy, but some times they really are breathtaking.

It all comes from a faith in themselves and their fans, and months on the road with few breaks. As Tony Bourge explained, there`s three ways to break a band: radio, record company and press hype, and hard work. “If the record company and the radio don`t really want to know,” as Bourge claims is the case, “then it`s up to the band to go out and play. That`s what we`ve been doing for the last couple of years.”
The music papers haven`t exactly been kind to Budgie either, but it doesn`t concern Burke Shelley unduly.
“Why should we worry? I mean after five years we`ve got our own following, people have had plenty of time to shoot us down in flames and get us off the road, but we`re a working band, we enjoy playing to the audiences and we have a good time. So we get some bad press, but any news is good news really, isn`t it, as long as we get our name in the paper. What a rock critic says is only one person`s opinion. It`s just tough on us if people believe what he says.”
The spirit of Heavy Rock is alive in Budgie, it`s pure and simple and could save you a lot of money. Buy something like “Bandolier” and you will have the best bits of almost every Heavy Metal Act you care to mention, all together on one record. What you won`t have will be the irritating, pretentious trappings and posturing that haunts this end of rock. See them live and they may be a little crude and outdated, but only as much as being outdated and crude matters to you. And if it matters that much to you – you`re getting too old to rock`n`roll, my son. They don`t rule but they`re alright.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: The Who, Eric Clapton, The Tubes, David Bowie`s Mum, Blue Öyster Cult, Bert Jansch, Van McCoy, Thin Lizzy, Gerry Johnson.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 15 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Budgie FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, March 1, 1975

I guess Lars Ulrich of Metallica may be one of this band`s biggest and most famous fans. Metallica recorded the Budgie song “Breadfan” as a B-side during the …And Justice for All sessions. Hopefully the original songwriters earned a bit of money from that one. Feel free to tip Mr. Ulrich about this article – I guess he would like to read it if he haven`t already!

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No birds
No booze
No glitter
No money
No…life at all is it? So what motivates bands like BUDGIE? Yes, you`ve guessed it folks – the answer is integrity

Playing In The Band
By REX ANDERSON

Seven years on the road. Hardly a nibble at the charts. Solid following in most parts of the country. The freedom to play what they like. Not a lot of ready.
It could be any number of bands. In fact it`s Budgie, but I thought it`d be interesting to see what life was like for the average musician; the people who are in it for the music and the performance, not for the cars and the glitter, the birds and the booze.
It started as a conversation in a pub about mistakes on stage. Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge were describing recent occasions when they`d slipped.
“Everyone does it from time to time,” said Burke, “Especially if you`ve been off the road for a few weeks recording and you just do one gig – as I did the other week.”
Burke apparently proved worthy of his name, and despite the fact that he leads the band from behind his bass he let them all change into D while he was still pumping out runs in A. “Normally the band notices it and it can spoil your entire evening for you, but you cover up so that the audience shouldn`t notice at all.”

Bourge said that the worst thing – when a band hadn`t played for a few nights – was getting halfway through a number and realising you couldn`t remember how you arranged the ending.
“It always comes back to you at the last moment. When you get there, suddenly it all clicks into place.”
It`s true that mistakes on stage are very difficult to spot because a good musician will always try to cover them up. But another musician can spot them – because he is familiar with the expressions that flit across stage when someone plays a bummer.
It`s far easier to make a mess of what you are doing, of course, when your foldback system isn`t working properly. A decent PA and adequate monitors are the biggest problem facing new bands today. Budgie have been using a Marshall set up with a small Marshall desk. But it`s not really big enough for them, and they have been thinking of buying some secondhand bass bins and adding to the desk.

A ready-made PA to suit their needs would involve them in something like £15,000, which the band just haven`t got. So what does the band get?
“We go out for between £400 and £500 a night,” says Burke. “But that has to pay for transport, expenses, road crew, maintenance and so forth. Most of the money is ploughed straight back into the band.”
In fact Burke estimates that the band members make around £50 a week, which isn`t a great deal for working something like a 12-hour day, seven days a week, come rain or shine. Burke remembers having to go on stage with a throat infection because there was a telephone bill that needed paying.
“If the audience were familiar with the songs I don`t know what they thought that night, because all I could do was grunt them out like a soul singer.”

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Fifty quid a week may sound a lot of money if you`re still at school or college, but it`s not much for a musician with a wife, kids and a mortgage. Why was it, d`you think, that blue denim became so popular with bands? It wasn`t fashion so much as the fact that that was all they could afford….
The money Budgie makes from publishing is used to pay for things the band needs. There`s no income from the record sales at present because that money was given to them in the form of an advance and is long since spent.
Of course, Budgie are a little different from many bands in that they`re attempting to pay for everything themselves – the instruments, equipment and the van they own. Whereas other bands are tempted by offers from backers to set them up with good equipment.
Burke says he didn`t fancy taking the risk and finding the band tied to an agency or manager who could dictate what they did under the threat of taking their gear away.

We discussed the system in America. There, with each big town having its own vast stadium, it isn`t viable for the band to cart the sort of equipment needed from town to town. Instead they hire it on the spot and the equipment is built to suit the venue.
One major problem with gigging around concert halls is that the PA really needs to be designed for the hall. Inevitably there`ll be some halls where your PA sounds dire. Tony remembers one club in Cardiff that`s notorious for bad sound. The PA is yet to be designed to cope with it.
“I remember The Who cancelled a gig there once because the sound was so bad.”
The American answer to this problem doesn`t work in the UK to any great extent. There are PA hire companies – and very good equipment they have, too – but imagine trying to fit together gear of a standard that would sound equally good in the Hammersmith Odeon, Wembley and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Budgie, then, are stuck in what Burke and Tony describe as a very pleasant rut. They enjoy being on the road. They enjoy playing the music. They change the set almost entirely every year so they never get bored with what they are doing. They ignore the chart.

This last is unusual. Most bands look forward to the day when one of their records will miraculously take off. Album and publishing revenue will rocket, there will be exposure on TV, the fans will flock to see them and their appearance money can be trebled overnight.
Not so Budgie. They regard that sequence of events with the same cynicism that you do the promises made by Mrs. Jones up the road concerning her forthcoming Premium Bond win. A healthy attitude. The reality is to get to America.
Leo Sayer was commenting this week that on three gigs a week in Britain he just about breaks even, while on one gig a week in the US of A he can make a comfortable living.
The beautiful thing about bands like Budgie is their dedication. They believe in the music they`re playing and are prepared to suffer the hardships for the sake of it.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Elton John, NME`s Soul Spectacular, Adrian Gurvitz, Queen, Leo Sayer.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.