THE HOLLYWOOD BRATS: Sick on You (1973 (2016 Re-issue) – Cherry Red)

Reissue of long lost 1973 album by the Hollywood Brats.

‘Ahead of their time’ is a cliché, but like all cliché’s, it’s true. Certainly in the case of the Hollywood Brats. The missing link between glam and punk rock, nobody understood them when they were around and they split just before punk exploded.

Recorded in 1973 this album has been reissued to coincide with the release of the book SICK ON YOU (The Book): The Disastrous Story of the Hollywood Brats, the Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard of

So ahead of their time were they, they went through several studio producers, finding it hard to catch someone that understood what the hell it was they were up to. But that wasn’t the end of it. Even when the album was finally in the bag, nobody would release it. At one point there were event threats to record over the tape because it was never going to get used.

Eventually it was released in 1975 under the title ‘All grown Up’. Two problems though. It was only released in Norway and by the time it came out the band had actually split up.

In Matheson’s book he recalls how the band’s keyboard player Casino Steel had landed himself a gig writing a music column in his home country, Norway, under his real name, Stein Groven. In this guise he regularly praised Casino Steel and the Hollywood Brats – with readers blissfully unaware that Steel was Groven. Coincidence that the album is then released in Norway?

With the arrival of punk rock Steel joined The Boys, along with Matt Dangerfiled who had a brief spell in the Brats, who then recorded their own version of the Brat’s ‘Sick on You’. The song finally reaching an audience who totally got it.

The album eventually got a UK release under the title ‘Hollywood Brats’ via reissue specialist label Cherry Red in 1980 and has now been reissued and expanded into a double CD to coincide with the release of the book.

All the songs were written by Matheson and Steel, apart from a cover of “Then He Kissed Me” by Crystals from 1963

The album sounds a little bit dated now, although it has stood the test of time better than many of the punk bands that followed them. Those of us old enough to remember what the music scene was like in 1973 will get how outrageous this would have been back then.

The band were young loud and snotty with more than their own fair share of disrespect for – well for everyone and everything. They had no time for conformity and compromise was not in their vocabulary.  And the music reflected that.

Just like the rock and rollers before them they sang about chasing women and just like the punks that were to follow their lyrics often reflected the angst of the things teenagers got angsty about. Like going to school.

The production quality it hardly hi fidelity, but that’s how they wanted it. When they had a smooth producer the sound was bland. They liked it rough.

Their music was so far out there it is almost as if they wanted to annoy their audiences, and live sets often ended in violence. Whilst the lyrics to ‘Sick on You’ made perfect sense when The Boys recorded it in the milieu of punk rock, in 1973, the year when ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the old oak Tree’ topped the charts, it was nothing short of the devil’s work.

The music was old school on rock and roll given a stateside garage treatment wrapped up in discarded fish and chip wrappers and tied up with a feather boa. Tantalizing guitar solos are splashed over the top like stains on jeans after and exotic night out.

Disc two of this re-issue is taken up with a mixture of outtakes recorded in 1973 and material recorded in Norway in 1980 for a proposed second album. None of the band seemed to think reforming was a cool idea but from the sleeve notes it seems they did like the idea of hanging out in Norway and pretending to record an album.

Very often unreleased out takes can be dreadful quality but these actually stand up to the original album. Without checking the sleeve notes it is difficult to tell the ’73 tunes from the ’80 tunes; the sound remains fairly close. Clearly the arrival of punk rock did not influence their style when they returned in 1980 – but then again they influenced the style of punk rock in the first place.

To get more on the story of the band, check out the awesome book of their story – reviewed here.