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Budgie

Ask the worth of these free-flying hard-rock birds to METALLICA and lesser-known squawkers, and they’ll probably tell you in no uncertain terms of their pivotal influence, having covered a handful of BUDGIE tracks over the years. Deserving of better from the British buying public who preferred the similarly-thrusting BLACK SABBATH and LED ZEPPELIN, high-octane lead singer/bassist Burke Shelley was always pigeonholed – if that’s the appropriate definition – alongside Geddy Lee; the truth was that BUDGIE were already a triumvirate of LPs underway before RUSH made their mark.
Formed 1967 in Cardiff, Wales, the dynamic trio of Shelley, Tony Bourge (guitar) and Ray Phillips (drums) were encouraged to keep the moniker simple and unthreatening after performing several gigs as Hills Contemporary Grass, and, in turn, Six Ton Budgie. Impressing the local south Wales club and college contingent, plus the people at M.C.A. Records (the residence of WISHBONE ASH, among others), the post-CREAM-like BUDGIE powered home their heavy-riffing, molten-metal courtesy of their eponymous debut album, BUDGIE (1971) {*7}. Clocking in at over 15 minutes of initial fame between them, `Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman’ and `Homicidal Suicidal’, showed elements of their own character rather than the buzzards preying around them at the time. Sadly, the UK-only 45, `Crash Course In Brain Surgery’ (made famous by the aforesaid METALLICA), only featured on American copies of the LP.
SQUAWK (1972) {*6}, proved again that the trio were more than adept to a few folky/BEATLES-esque cuts in `Rolling Home Again’ and `Make Me Happy’, but here the star of the show was the abrasively-titled `Hot As A Docker’s Armpit’; Shelley, Bourge and Phillips delivered yet another heavy-plodding, power-metal album in NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON A FRIEND (1973) {*8}. Hardly tame by comparison, although `You Know I’ll Always Love You’ and `Riding My Nightmare’ showed a subdued air to the proceedings, BUDGIE were truly uncaged for classics such `Breadfan’ (another track procured later by James Hetfield and Co), the glorious-to-gritty 10-minute `Parents’, `In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter’s Hand’ and a re-tread of BIG JOE WILLIAMS’ `Baby Please Don’t Go’.
For the Top 30 breakthrough, IN FOR THE KILL! (1974) {*7}, the BUDGIE formula was simple: hard-rock tempered at times by a touch of acoustics (here in the shape of `Wondering What Everyone Knows’) and menacing blues (`Running From My Soul’), but fans were only too delighted to succumb to an inaugural album appearance for `Crash Course…’, plus feasting rockers, `Zoom Club’, `Living On Your Own’ and the bludgeoning title track.
The previous album had been a short-stop for sticksman Pete Boot, who then gave way for Steve Williams just in time for their classy fifth album, BANDOLIER (1975) {*8}. The Top 40 record contained some of the hardest rocking gems of the day in `Napoleon Bona Part 1 & 2’, `I Ain’t No Mountain’ and the rousing `Breaking All The House Rules’, while slow-hand singer Shelley turned the volume down for the groovy `Slipaway’.
Switching labels to A&M and, in turn, releasing the wittily-titled IF I WERE BRITTANIA I’D WAIVE THE RULES (1976) {*4}, BUDGIE opened themselves up for a bit of backlash as they attempted a funkier, spacier, AOR-type boogie. The title track, `Anne Neggen’ and `You’re Opening Doors’, had elements of the beastly bird in them, but the lengthier dirges such as `Black Velvet Stallion’, were a huge disappointment to many fans outside America, where they had decided to concentrate their efforts.
However, BUDGIE flew back to their native land, possibly due to their second commercial and critical failure, IMPECKABLE (1978) {*3}. Not just in comparison to their previously high standards and the incumbent new wave scene, the cornily-titled set was a poor man’s ‘Zeppelin; only `Pyramids’ and the funky `Dish It Up’, pulling their weight.
It was no surprise when founder member, Bourge, bailed forthwith, his perch taken by John Thomas for RCA-Active’s shots in the arm, POWER SUPPLY (1980) {*3}, and some minor UK success with the commercially viable sets, NIGHTFLIGHT (1981) {*5} and DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1982) {*4}; the latter was notable for including a fourth member by way of keyboard player Duncan McKay (ex-COCKNEY REBEL and 10CC).
On the back of the NWOBHM scene, the un-budging BUDGIE stuck around for another five years without a contract, while subsequent versions of the combo arose from the ashes from time to time. Energised by a reunion concert at the Sunken Garden Theater, Texas, and the live LIFE IN SAN ANTONIO (2002) {*6}, Messrs Shelley, Williams and newbie guitarist Andy Hart, produced a retro-fied performance of some of their finest pieces.
Inevitably, BUDGIE’s comeback studio set was complete in 2006. With fresh axeman Simon Lees on board, the trio held it together for YOU’RE ALL LIVING IN CUCKOOLAND {*5}, further examples of how the mighty can still win over the odd head-banger, despite sounding cliched and out-of-date; the exceptions being `Tell Me Tell Me’, `Dead Men Don’t Talk’ and the 8-minute closer, `I’m Compressing The Comb On A Cockerel’s Head’.
© MC Strong 1994-2004 /GRD// rev-up MCS Jul2013

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