Following The Jam last week, this week's record proves that you don't always need electric guitar romps to produce something absolutely brilliant. It's time to head back to the eighties with the dearly-beloved Chas & Dave with their 1982 album Job Lot.
Chas & Dave's classic rockney sound is totally inoffensive and as time has passed, the honest, working class sound of North London has become known the world over for its bouncy melodies with Chas Hodges on piano and Dave Peacock on bass. It's certainly been loved in my family for many years now, passing down through numerous generations of Londoners and Lutonians to me - the beauty of the rockney sound is how wide its reach is, and the Job Lot album proves the point perfectly.
That rockney sound prides itself on simple but effective stories of past and present, and Job Lot's opening two tracks portray this wonderfully. The album's opener That Old Piano explores both of the London lads' childhoods, growing up in Edmonton Green, and how during those days, everyone had a piano or organ in the front room for good-old singalongs. It particularly focuses on Chas' experiences, as does their BBC documentary Last Orders, which allows Chas to explain the fact his mum was a fantastic pianist, and this song therefore is a love letter to the Hodges' family piano and all the memories that went along with it. In the song, he describes how "Friends would come to see us on a Saturday/They'd sing their favourite songs while my old mother played." The second track, That's What I Like, has to be one of the duo's best work. Whilst its lyrical structure at first glance is just a list, it demonstrates the utilitarian nature of rockney - something as simple as a list can be turned into a brilliant song. With such a long list too, there's guaranteed to be some of your favourite interests too - it's a nod to a bygone age of "little pubs out in the country" or "Glenn Hoddle scoring a goal" or even the fantastic "Cannon & Ball" . That's What I Like is a perfect summary of what it means to be British - a relatable list of childhood fragments that are likely to be the same for every generation.
It's this record also that gave us the likes of London Girls and Margate, two of the duo's most popular numbers right up to the present day, which really do explain in two or three minutes what the rockney sound is about. London Girls is a wonderfully heartfelt tribute to women of London with a list of what they're good for and how they're the best in the world. Sure, some people might call the lyrics a tad sexist in the #MeToo era, but the song's sentiments, effective melody and Hodges' honest vocal make it easy to see why this track became such a hit. Margate is an equally catchy romp about family holidays in Britain and how Chas would rather spend a day in Margate rather than some time in Costa Brava. The song's uptempo nature, along with the clever lyrics about some properly working class holidaying, is
absolutely marvellous. In addition, the inclusion of a fairground organ in the background reinforcing an incredibly catchy melody makes this song one of the album's best.
There's also some great instrumentals present such as the brilliantly-titled Give It Some Stick, Mick! relating to Chas & Dave's drummer at the time, Mickey Burt. It's a rocking up-tempo tune with some Jerry Lee Lewis-esque piano, some nice drum fills and bouncing basslines from Dave Peacock. Much like The Jam last week, it proves that you don't need extravagant synth sounds or even an electric guitar to create a huge sound. Some clever drum fills, a bit of chat and rocking piano is all you need. Flying takes a bit more of an emotional turn, slowing the pace down a little with something a bit more wistful and dreamy, almost as if you're actually flying to an extent. There's this wonderful head-in-the-clouds feeling exuded over the song's course with the strings present, along with light piano and drums, that does make this a song to marvel at over several listens.
Job Lot's second half is much the same as the first, with tracks such as Mustn't Grumble characterising it perfectly. Both Hodges and Peacock take alternate verses about various situations where it would be easy to get angry, but the moral of the story is to find the positives and laugh at your own misfortune - make something out of nothing. It demonstrates this can-do attitude and a stiff upper lip that us Brits have become known for and it's during times of crisis where that stiff upper lip comes out the most. There's something a bit ironic about that nowadays, but we know that with times like these, it's just integral to get on with our lives and not grumble. Skipping forward a few tracks, the album's final song, Wish I Could Write A Love Song is an admission from Hodges that writing a properly sentimental song is much harder than rock 'n' roll tracks that in his eyes "come easy". He lists the reasons of why he might be suffering from writer's block as the song develops and with a strong string backing, it proves that the duo aren't one-trick ponies. Sure, the classic knees-up infused tunes like Margate are their bread and butter, but songs with more substance and emotion like these sound just as impressive.
People mock Chas & Dave for their simplistic songwriting compared to some of their contemporaries and even today after Hodges' passing, there's people out there who dismiss them as one-trick ponies. Job Lot instantly proves all the haters wrong with a great mix of proper Cockney knees-up tunes and more sentimental and structured tracks. It's one of their best collections of songs out there and a bit of Cockney magic is really what this country needs during such a torrid time.
If you want to pick up a copy, I've leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/2Db33Th
Or, here's a Spotify link below:
More musical magnificence to come next week!
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