Cult Classic: Sniff ’n’ The Tears-Love/Action.

By 1981, Sniff ’n’ The Tears were about to record their third album Love/Action with Mike Howlett taking charge of production. However, the last few years had been eventful.  So much so, that the only original member of the band was lead singer and songwriter-in-chief Paul Roberts. 

He was part of the earliest lineup of Sniff ’n’ The Tears who toured the England in 1974. They got as far as recording a demo for a French record label in 1975 but when nothing came of this the group split-up later that year.

That looked like the end of Sniff ’n’ The Tears until 1977 when Luigi Salvoni, the drummer from Moon, heard the demos and thought the band had potential. He contacted Paul Roberts and suggested that he contact Chiswick Records to see if they would be interested in signing the band?

This latest lineup of Sniff ’n’ The Tears made their debut in 1977.  Joining vocalist Paul Roberts who also played acoustic guitar was a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Luigi Salvoni, bassist , Chris Birkin who were joined by  the twin guitars of the Mick Dyche and Loz Netto plus keyboardist Alan Fealdman. This was the lineup of the group that began playing live and in 1978 recorded their debut album.

Sniff ’n’ The Tears began recording their debut album Fickle Heart in 1978 with drummer Luigi Salvoni taking charge of production. When the album was completed Chiswick Records were in the midst of changing their distributor and the album was released until 1979.

Driver’s Seat was released as the lead single n 1979 and gave the group a hit single on three continents. It reached forty-two in the UK, eight in Holland, thirteen in Australia, seventeen in Canada and fifteen in the US Billboard 10o chart. 

Meanwhile, critics were won over by an album that combined elements of pop and rock with classic rock. 

Buoyed by the success of Driver’s Seat, Fickle Heart which combined elements of classic rock with pop-rock was released in 1979 and reached number seventy-two in Australia, forty-three in Canada and thirty-five in the US Billboard 20o chart. This was a good start to Sniff ’n’ The Tears’ recording career.

Despite that, Luigi Salvoni, Chris Birkin and Alan Fealdman all left the band just a few months after the release of their debut album. This was a huge blow for the remaining members of the band.

Not long after this, bassist Nick South was recruited and joined the band on a full-time basis. When they played live Sniff ’n’ The Tears were joined by keyboardist Mike Taylor and drummer Paul Robinson. This was a new chapter in the band’s career.

When they entered the studio to record their sophomore album The Game’s Up there were further changes to the band’s lineup. Paul Robinson usually only played with band when they played live but played on four of the nine tracks on the album. To complete the album two sessions drummers were brought onboard. Richard Bailey played on two tracks and Richard Marcangelo the other three. 

Prior to the release of The Game’s Up the album was well received by critics. They were impressed by  an album of carefully crafted pop and rock. However, when The Game’s Up was released in 1980 by Chiswick Records it failed to chart. Neither did the singe  Poison Pen Mail nor Rodeo Drive. Only One Love charted and that was in Holland where it reached thirty-eight. This was a far cry from a year earlier when Sniff ’n’ The Tears enjoyed a hit single with Driver’s Seat and their debut album was charted in three continents.

Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse for Sniff ’n’ The Tears it did. They were demoing the songs for their third album when Pau Roberts headed off on holiday. He was in for a surprise when he returned.

During his absence, Loz Netto announced that he was leaving the band to embark upon a solo career. He asked the other band members to join him. The only one that agreed to join his new band was Mick Dyche. However, the two departures meant that the very future of the group was at stake.

By then, Paul Roberts was the only original member of the band. Despite losing the two guitarists he decided that the band should continue.

Paul Roberts began looking for new recruits and brought onboard guitarist Les Davidson and Jamie Lane who became the group’s permanent drummer. The new lineup would recorded Sniff ’n’ The Tears’ third album Love/Action.

The ten songs on Love/Action were written by the group’s songwriter-in-chief Paul Roberts. He led a band that featured new drummer Jamie Lane, bassist  Nick South, guitarist Les Davidson and keyboardist Mike Taylor.  Producing the album was Mike Howlett.

He was brought onboard after Sniff ’n’ The Tears’ manager Bud Prager said that he felt the album would only succeed if the group used a producer. Several names were considered and eventually they settled on Mike Howlett who had produced their debut album Fickle Heart.

Sniff ’n’ The Tears had just a month to record Love/Action. After a few days rehearsing, the band began recording the album and just two weeks later it was completed. This meant that Mike Howlett and Paul Roberts had a  week to mix the album at a studio in Hamburg used by Kraftwerk.

When Love/Action was released in 1981 it was very different to their debut album Fickle Heart which Mike Howlett had produced. That was just three years earlier, but music had changed and so had production values. He had produced a slick and polished album of pop-rock that featured an early eighties sound. This won over critics and Love/Action which was released to plaudits and praise. 

Sadly, when Love/Action was released by Chiswick Records in 1981 it failed to trouble the charts. Neither did the lead single That Final Love nor the followup The Driving Beat. It was hugely disappointing.

So was the lack of commercial success in North America where the album generated a lot of interest prior to its release. The first couple of weeks there was a lot radio play which then dried up. This left Sniff ’n’ The Tears and their manager wondering why?

It turned out that there had been changes in MCA in America and the new CEO sacked a lot of a staff. He also decided to cut the company’s roster in North America. This included Sniff ’n’ The Tears. However, they were still signed to Chiswick Records in the UK.

However, the group’s time at Chiswick Records came to an end after their fourth album Ride Blue Divid was released in 1982 and failed to chart. It was a similar case with the single Hungry Eyes. For Sniff ’n’ The Tears this spelt an end to their Chiswick Records’ years when they were dropped by the label in 1983.

Of the four albums that Sniff ’n’ The Tears released during  the Chiswick Records’ years, their oft-overlooked third album Love/Action was the one that got away. It was an album of slick and polished pop rock that was bang on trend and should’ve introduced the group to a wider audience. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. However,  nowadays, Love/Action is regarded as a hidden gem and is without doubt one of Sniff ’n’ The Tears finest albums that was the album that could’ve transformed their career.

Cult Classic: Sniff ’n’ The Tears-Love/Action.

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