LITTLE BOB STORY-OFF THE RAILS AND LIVE’78.
LITTLE BOB STORY-OFF THE RAILS AND LIVE’78.
By 1977, punk was at the peak of its popularity in Britain. For the last year, bands were being formed from John O Groats to Land’s End. Suddenly, it seemed, everyone was a musician. That was all very well. However, there was a problem.
Many of these bands weren’t very good. The problem was, many of this new breed of musicians could neither sing, nor play their instrument. This wasn’t meant to matter. The DIY ethos of punk meant anyone who wanted to become a musician, could be. René Descartes, the founding father of philosophy, it seemed, was right when he said “I think, therefore I am.” That, however, wasn’t the case.
The truth lay in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. It summed up punk perfectly. Playing the swindlers were punk groups and their managers. Dawning the role of the Emperor were critics and cultural commentators. They genuinely believed that this wall of discordant sound was the future of music. What made this worse, was while these critics and cultural commentators wrote puff stories praising punk, they wrote disarranging reviews of perfectly good albums. There was a reason for this.
These albums were by punk’s “supposed” enemies. The enemies of punk were many. This included the prog-rock and rock. They were perceived as the musical establishment, and therefore, enemies of punk. It was a case of them and us. The battle-lines, it seemed were drawn, and a battle for music’s future was about to take place. Complicating matters was another musical genre that to this day, divides opinion, disco.
Ever since 1975, disco’s popularity had been on the rise.Born in America, soon disco’s influence was being felt worldwide. Around the world, dancers danced to the pulsating disco beat. Disco had crossed the continents and was providing the musical soundtrack to dance-floors worldwide. Just like punk, disco wasn’t music’s finest hour. It was lightweight, formulaic, disposable music at its worst.
Across America and even into Canada, disco factories were set up. From Philly to New York and Toronto, the disco factories churned out formulaic music. One of the worst abominations of the disco era was the disco orchestra. Producers brought together anonymous session musicians and unknown backing singers. They became what’s laughingly known as a disco orchestra. Using the disco formula, albums of lightweight dance muzak was churned out. Just like Motown a decade before, these producers had found a successful formula and were exploiting it fully. Record companies realising that disco was profitable, poured music into disco. For many “real” musicians, this was the last straw.
The money being poured into disco had to come from somewhere. Often, the A&R budgets were cut. Up-and-coming bands were no longer nurtured. Instead, they were cut loose if they weren’t an overnight success. Even the older rock and prog rock bands were affected. When they went to renew their contracts, the terms weren’t as favourable. Contracts were shorter, and advances were slashed. Suddenly, it seemed that unless you were a punk band or a disco artist, record companies weren’t interested. This was the case everywhere, including in France.
Just a year earlier, Little Bob Story had released his debut album High Time in 1976. Their brand of high energy rock ’n’ roll was a reaction against the music that was popular in France. Incredibly, they had it worse than their British counterparts.
It wasn’t just punk and disco French music lovers had to contend with. Chanson and mediocre MOR were another two reasons French music lovers were scared to turn on their radios. Apart from rock and prog rock, France, like Britain musically, was a cultural desert. Little Bob Story vowed to bring about change.
So in 1976, Little Bob Story released their debut album High Time. It was released in France and Britain. High Time was well received by critics and especially, record buyers. The album sold well, and Little Bob Story proved a popular live act. Music fans
realised that Little Bob Story was a force for change, and wanted to remove the fakery from music. Little Bob Story were more than happy to do this.
So work began on Little Bob Story’s sophomore album Off The Rails. It was released in 1977 on both sides of the Channel. In Britain, Chiswick Records, an imprint of Ace Records released Off The Rails. Thirty-eight years later, and Chiswick, which is still an imprint of Ace Records, recently released Off The Rails. As an added bonus, five live unreleased tracks recorded in 1978 are added on what’s now entitled, Off The Rails and Live ’78. The fourteen tracks on Off The Rails and Live ’78 feature Little Bob Story’s unique brand of high energy rock ’n’ roll. Their story began in 1974.
That’s when Little Bob Story were founded by Roberto Piazza. He was twenty-nine, and was born in Italy. However, since 1958, France had been home to Roberto Piazza. By 1974, the Little Richard decided to form a band.
Joining Roberto Piazza in Little Bob Story were a rhythm section of drummer Bob “Mino” Quertier, bassist Dominique “Blackbeard” Le Lan and a trio of guitarists. This included Guy-Georges Gremy, Christian “Bibi” Delahaye and Dominique “Ginger” Guillon. From their earliest concerts, Little Bob Story were making an impression.
It didn’t matter where they played. From the cities to suburbia and the countryside, Little Bob Story’s music enlivened previously jaded musical palettes. This nascent group was shaking French music from its slumbers. For many in the audience, they had never heard music like this. However, they liked it.
With audiences being won over by the their trademark brand of hi energy rock ’n’ roll, it was only a matter of time before Little Bob Story released a single. This came in 1975, when Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood became Little Bob Story’s debut single. It was released on the small, independent label Arcane. So was the followup, Let Me In. Both singles were well received, and this led to Little Bob Story releasing their debut album in 1976.
After the success of their first two singles, Arcane were keen for Little Bob Story to record their debut album. So a deal was struck by Little Bob Story’s manager Jean-Claude Pognant and recording began in March 1975.
The venue for the recording of Little Bob Story’s debut album was Studio D’Antibes-Azurville. A total of nine tracks were recorded. They were a mixture of new songs and cover versions. Among the cover versions were Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, The Animals’ I’m Crying and Willie Dixon’s You’ll Be Mine. These nine tracks became High Time, which was released later in 1976.
When High Time was released, it was well received by critics. It was a mixture of hi energy rock ’n’ roll, blues rock and pub rock. There was more than a nod to MC5 and The Stooges on this musical adrenaline rush. When it was released, it found an audience not just in France, but further afield.
Copies of High Time found their way across the English Channel, where the pub rock circuit was thriving. Two graduates of that scene were Dr. Feelgood and Eddie and The Hot Rods. Little Bob Story’s debut album High Time struck a nerve with their fans. However, there was a commonality between three bands.
Between 1975 and 1976, Little Bob Story had shared the bill with various English pub rock bands. This included Dr. Feelgood and Eddie and The Hot Rods. Little Bob Story had opened for at Dr. Feelgood in Le Havre, which was Roberto Piazza’s adopted hometown. Then in 1976, Little Bob Story opened for Eddie and The Hot Rods in the Olympia Theatre in Paris. It seemed that Little Bob Story’s star was in the ascendancy.
Despite Little Bob Story’s popularity growing, High Time hadn’t been released in Britain. Apart from France, Little Bob Story’s manager Jean-Claude Pognant had only licensed High Time in Spain. So British record buyers wanting a copy of High Time, were forced to order the album as an import. This meant paying a premium. When Roberto Piazza heard this, he was determined this wouldn’t happen again.
The members of Little Bob Story decided to take charge of their career in Britain. Their manager, Jean-Claude Pognant had more than enough to do managing Little Bob Story in France. So, to take the pressure off him, the band took charge of their career in Britain. It was then that they discovered that High Time could’ve been a success in Britain.
Ironically, there was definitely an appetite for High Time in Britain. Many British music fans who attended the 1976 International Punk Rock Festival, in Mont de Marsan, in the south west of France were familiar with Little Bob Story. They had blown the audience away, with blistering set of hi-energy rock ’n’ roll. Little Bob Story put many bands on the bill to shame.
This wasn’t surprising. Unlike many bands on the bill, the members of Little Bob Story were talented musicians who were able to play their instruments. They took the International Punk Rock Festival by storm, and unsurprisingly, were invited back in 1977. Before that, Little Bob Story crossed the channel.
Despite their debut album not being released in Britain, Little Bob Story received a rapturous reception wherever they went. The twelve date tour took in England and Wales. At each venue, their unique brand of hi-energy found favour with the audience. Especially among the ageing Teddy Boys in the audience. They requested a string of rock ’n’ roll classics. Roberto Piazza was happy to oblige. Each night as Little Bob Story left the stage, they felt like conquering heroes. They vowed that their sophomore album would be released in Britain.
This proved to be the case. However, that’s not surprising. By the time Little Bob Story set about recording their sophomore album Off The Rails, they were signed to a British label, Chiswick Records. This the members of Little Bob Story felt, was the perfect fit for them. Chiswick Records was home to several other rock ’n’ roll bands, including The Gorillas and The Count Bishops. So Little Bob Story signed to Chiswick Records, began work on Off The Rails.
When the recording sessions began at Escape Studios, the members of Little Bob Story had penned eight of the nine tracks. This time around, there was only one cover version, The Sorrows’ Baby. It was a favourite of Robert Piazza, so was included. These nine tracks were recorded by a different lineup of Little Bob Story
By the time recording of Off The Rails began, Little Bob Story’s number had been reduced. Dominique Guillon was no longer in the band. His replacement was Serge Hendrix. He joined the other five members of Little Bob Story at Escape Studios.
Little Bob Story’s rhythm section featured drummer Dominique Quertier and bassist Dominique “Blackbird” Le Lan. They were joined by guitarists Dominique Guillon and Guy George Gremy. Robert Piazza added his unmistakable, distinctive vocals to the nine tracks. They were produced by Sean Tyla. He played an active part in the recording, laying down a blistering guitar riff on Riot In Toulouse. Along with engineer John Burns, producer Sean Tyla soon brought Off The Rails together. It was released later in 1977.
When critics heard Off The Rails, they were won over by Little Bob Story. The band’s turbo charge brand of hi-energy rock ’n’ roll wowed even the most cynical, sarcastic and acerbic critics. They penned critically acclaimed reviews. This was akin to a recommendation for Little Bob Story’s sophomore album Off The Rails.
The reviews of Off The Rails were only part of the story. When the album was released in 1977, it proved popular among record buyers. Many record buyers were already fans of French music. However, Little Bob Story was totally different. They embraced Off The Rails, and this was the start of British music fan’s love affair with Little Bob Story’s music.
Whether it was future albums or tours, Little Bob Story were always greeted as the conquering heroes. The album that began this love affair was Off The Rails. It’s a fusion of blues rock, pub rock and rock ’n’ roll. There’s even a nod to punk. Mostly, though, it’s blistering, hi-energy rock ’n’ roll. Little Bob Story’s turbo charged sound is like a musical dervish. From the opening bars of When The Night Comes, through the cover of The Sorrows’ Baby to Little Big Boss, You Make Me Crazy and Dress In Black it’s a ferocious foray into the world of Little Bob Story. That brought side one of the original version of Off The Rails to a close, and allowed the listener to draw breath. Not the newly released version of Off The Rails and Live ’78.
With their trio of guitars at the ready, and a driving, powerhouse of a rhythm section, Little Bob Story kick loose on Riot In Toulouse. It’s easily one of their finest moments. There’s no stopping Little Bob Story though. This musical roller coaster continues through Mr. Tap, Nothin’ Else (Can Give It To Me) and the album closer ‘Round The Corner. That should be the end of Off The Rails. It’s not.
There’s still the five bonus tracks. They were recorded live at Dingwalls in March 1978, but until now, have never been released. As Little Bob Story launch into Baby Don’t Cry then Hot ’N’ Sweaty, suddenly, it’s 1978 all over again. The intensity and attitude continues on Come On Home and High Time. Howvever, Little Bob Story have an ace up their sleeve with a rousing cover of The Small Faces All Or Nothing closes. Then they take their leave, leaving you revel in what’s been a truly memorable musical experience.
Now anyone who witnessed that performance at Dingwalls in March 1978, will be able to relive it thirty-seven years on. They’ll also be able to rediscover Little Bob Story’s sophomore album Off The Rails. It’s never been reissued before. However, Chiswick Records, an imprint of Ace Records have rectified this, by releasing Off The Rails and Live ’78. This is a welcome release.
Not only will veterans of Little Bob Story’s music enjoy the opportunity to rediscover their music, but a new generation of music fans will be able to discover an iconic French group from the seventies. Little Bob Story went on to enjoy commercial success across Europe. Especially when Little Bob Story played live. They wowed huge audiences, with their unique brand of hi-energy brand of rock ’n’ roll, which can be heard on Little Bob Story’s sophomore album Off The Rails and Live ’78.
LITTLE BOB STORY-OFF THE RAILS AND LIVE’78.