“Oh well now, you’ve been laying it down,
You’ve got your hip swinging out of bounds,
And I like the way you do what you’re doin’ to me ”
I try and keep up to date with music, I listen to XFM, catch Jools Holland whenever possible, buy more CDs then I need and ‘buy’ more MP3s than I could ever afford. But despite this I still find myself drawn back to the early 70s when I was young and Glam was King. My saviour in this field is the underrated TOTP2, it keeps me in touch with how I felt about music back then.
I always watch TOTP2 with a little bit of apprehension. Will my memories stand the test of time? Was that classic performance in fact an embarrassment? Did my hero really wear a tank top? The other week I caught Mud performing ‘Tiger Feet’, complete with roadies, dance moves and the guitarist wearing the campest (and pinkest) flares I’ve ever seen.
Mud were the first group I remember dancing to at a disco. It was in the middle of the North Sea on a school trip to Scandinavia, the DJ played ‘Tiger Feet’ and I was up there with my mates copying all the moves we’d seen on TV. Our teachers cracked up to such an extent that one fell over and broke his arm (of course that had nothing to do with the Double Diamond he was drinking), but we didn’t care we knew we were the coolest kids on the planet.
Now of course watching TOTP2 I can see Mud with an added 30 years of perspective – and it hasn’t changed my views one bit. I still think the dancing looks cool and I still like to think that I was the coolest kid on the North Sea. And even if I wasn’t who cares? Having a selective memory and re-writing bits of personal history are one of the benefits of getting older!
Mud consisted of Les Grey on lead vocals, Dave Mount on drums, Ray Stiles on bass and Rob Davis on guitar and like many ‘overnight successes’ of the Glam era had a long apprenticeship before they hit the big time. Their roots can be traced back to the early 60s when Dave and Rob played together in a number of groups around the Surrey area, first it was The Apaches, then The Barracudas and finally Remainder. When Remainder needed a new bassist Ray Stiles joined; while this brought three quarters of Mud together they would only remain that way for a short time.
Les Grey meanwhile had his own successful band – the Mourners. Playing the same local circuit as Remainder they were their main rivals. The Mourners had started out as a trad jazz outfit but by the mid-60s they had moved onto rock and roll and when a vacancy came up for a lead guitarist Rob jumped ship and joined them. This setup, with Dave and Ray in one group and Les and Rob in another stayed in place until the Mourners poached Ray and renamed themselves Mud.
With Les’s brother, Pete, on drums the group were offered a recording contract in 1968. Les, Rob and Ray decided to turn professional but Pete saw his career elsewhere and left the group. With a vacancy for a drummer the guys called on their mate Dave and the Mud line-up was finalised.
Mud played their first professional gig at the Marquee in 1968 and then released two singles, ‘Flower Power’ and ‘Up The Airy Mountain’ on CBS. Both singles failed to make the charts and the group moved to Philips where they released another couple of singles, ‘Shangri-La’ (1969) and ‘Jumping Jehosaphat’ (1970). While this time they managed to catch the attention of DJs the singles once again failed.
The group continued to gig across the country but after failing to break the charts with two record companies their recording future looked bleak until they came under the wing of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Already flush with success from writing hits for the Sweet and Suzi Quatro, Chinn and Chapman had connected with the Glam image and ethos and were looking for a new group to linkup with. Mud stepped up to the challenge and found themselves not only with new songwriters and management but also a new image, a new record company (RAK) and a new single, ‘Crazy’. Released at the start of 1973 it made it into the top twenty and gave Mud what they had sorely needed – a hit.
The image, however, was still not quite right and after some tweaking they re-emerged at the end of 1973 in teddy-boy outfits (the colours and OTT image suited the Glam genre perfectly) and a more traditional rock and roll sound. With this image their next release was destined to become a hit, ‘Dynamite’ made the top five. In the eyes of the popular music press Mud were an overnight success.
1974 started even better with ‘Tiger Feet’ hitting number one in the charts. This song, with its catchy beat that led to bones being broken in the middle of the North Sea, was to become the biggest selling single of the year. Refusing to rest on their laurels the group followed up with ‘The Cat Crept In’, ‘Rocket’ and their first LP ‘Mud Rock’.
The boys were making the most of their time in the limelight with regular appearances on TV and relentless gigging across the UK and Europe, all they needed was another number one. That came at the end of 1974 as they captured the coveted Christmas number one slot with ‘Lonely This Christmas’.
The following year the group kept up the pace with ‘The Secrets That You Keep’ (top three) and further touring. They also added acting (of a sort) to their repertoire when they featured with the Rubettes and the Glitter Band in ‘You’re Never Too Young To Rock’. The film was never going to set the world on fire but it was an experience and something for the CV! In April 1975 they scored their third and final number one with a reworking of The Crickets 1957 hit ‘Oh Boy’.
The relationship however between the band and Chinn & Chapman was all but over. Another couple of singles were released and a second LP but realistically the band was just working its time out.
The split with Chinn, Chapman & RAK was marked by an addition to the Mud line-up when they brought in Andy Ball on keyboards. Their first single on their new label (Private Stock) was ‘L-L-Lucy’ and it made the top ten in October 1975. This was closely followed by ‘Show Me You’re A Woman’ hitting the top ten in November. Mud had shown they that didn’t have to rely on ChinniChap to make hit records.
The end of chart success was however in sight. Punk was on the horizon and Mud’s goodtime rock style didn’t fit in with the changing musical agenda. While they managed two chart hits during 1976 it was obvious that Mud’s time in the spotlight had ended.