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Scotland had seen a lack of bona fide hard rock acts for a number of years, not since 70s combo NAZARETH had there emerged a contender to the throne. GUN and, in turn, The ALMIGHTY, were destined to become arena-rockers for the 90s, the former a bit funkier and with an alt-rock-esque U2 or INXS twist. Along with TEXAS (whose Sharleen Spiteri guested on their debut set) and Slide (anyone remember them?), Glasgow’s GUN were hailed as the saviours of the Scottish rock scene, although in truth, if any group was up to that mammoth task then it was PRIMAL SCREAM; GUN were essentially another bunch of workman-like grafters in the mode of DEL AMITRI or LOVE AND MONEY, albeit a bit heavier and steadfast.
Formed in 1987, GUN had stemmed from a couple of acts, the original band in early ‘84, then named Blind Allez, had consisted of guitarist Giuliano “Jools” Gizzi, singer Peter Scallan, bassist Cami Morlotti and drummer Stuart Thompson; Alan Thornton was to supersede the latter. Beefing up their sound with Ian Murray, who’d replaced guitarist Chris Bowes, they played gigs around the central belt (released one promo `Can’t Get Any Lower’), but then both Ian and Peter bailed, the former to Five Past Midnight, the latter to Alloa rockers Chasar (and later SAMSON). When guitarist David Aitken and singer Mark Rankin (the cousin of Sharleen Spiteri) were found in 1986, the group continued on as Phobia.
The turning point in the band’s career was three-pronged: 1. the change of their name to GUN; 2. the signing to A&M Records in 1988, and 3. Gizzi and Rankin’s astute recruitment of younger brother Dante Gizzi (bass, vocals), Scott Shields (drums) and, last but not least, Baby/Stephen Stafford (guitar), leaving Morlotti, Thornton and Aitken out in the cold.
The following summer gave the nation a first blast of GUN by way of their single, `Better Days’, an immediately catchy song that shot up into the Top 40 and paved the way for Top 50 debut set, TAKING ON THE WORLD (1989) {*8}. The songwriting was competent enough and the band did have a certain cocksure swagger on the likes of other minor hits, `Money (Everybody Loves Her)’, `Inside Out’, the title track and `Shame On You’. Airplay received, rave reviews garnered and looking er “gallus”, they caught the eye of Messrs JAGGER and RICHARDS who duly invited GUN to support them on the UK leg of the Stones’ “Urban Jungle” tour. But it would be without Stafford, who quickly became disillusioned and started his own solo career, his berth taken by Alex Dickson.
The band began work on a new album, GALLUS (1992) {*6}, a more organic, harder-hitting affair that almost made the Top 10, spawning the quintet’s first Top 30 single, `Steal Your Fire’. Depicting a sleeve photo of revered Glaswegian boxer Benny Lynch next to its title (Scots slang for “brilliant”), one wondered if the band were indeed punching above their weight or never going to last the distance, as only Top 50 positions were awarded to `Higher Ground’ and `Welcome To The Real World’.
In the event, Shields bailed out (later to JOE STRUMMER & THE MESCALEROS), his place taken by Mark Kerr, brother of SIMPLE MINDS’ Jim Kerr. Although still heavily involved with the recording of third album, SWAGGER (1994) {*7}, Dickson had already decided his time was up when BRUCE DICKINSON gave him a call. The first single from the set was a horrendous, club-footed re-hash of CAMEO’s funk classic, `Word Up’, although ironically/predictably, the song gave them a Top 10 hit at long last. Buoyed by the single’s success (and to be fair, it wasn’t wholly representative), the album went Top 5, but once again nowhere in America. `Don’t Say It’s Over’, `The Only One’ and `Something Worthwhile’ all reached the Top 40, although in an altogether typical descending scale for “rock music”.
An ill-advised hiatus to gather their thoughts had led to Mark moving over for namesake Stuart Kerr (ex-TEXAS), and the addition of a keyboard player Irvin Duguid was an obvious pointer towards where the band were going. In respect for the families of the Dunblane shootings, Rankin and Co decided on the slightly revised G.U.N., but the long wait had taken its toll, as did the Andrew Farriss-produced 0141 632 6326 (1997) {*5} – a phone number for band messages! – with Top 40 sales figures very disappointing. Not surprisingly, their new pop/rock-orientated material sounded more like a poor man’s INXS, but at least there were hits in `Crazy You’ and the not so mighty `My Sweet Jane’.
Although they never officially announced their split, the band shot off into the sunset to do other work; LITTLE ANGELS man Toby Jepson was a subsequent guest on a few late-90s reunion gigs. Over the years, GUN had worn their heart on the sleeves courtesy of B-side covers: `Let’s Go Crazy’ (PRINCE), `Don’t Believe A Word’ (THIN LIZZY), `Children Of The Revolution’ (T. REX), `Suffragette City’ (DAVID BOWIE), `Panic’ (The SMITHS), `Killing In The Name’ (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE), `So Lonely’ (The POLICE), `Are You Gonna Go My Way’ (LENNY KRAVITZ).
Long time down the line, singer Dante Gizzi and his glam-rock squad EL PRESIDENTE finally surfaced in the mid-00s; his brother Jools augmented in the songwriting department, while drummer Thornton had performed on their eponymous BMG-endorsed set, EL PRESIDENTE (2005) {*6}; other alumni were Dawn Zhu (drums) and the incoming Laura Marks (keyboards), Johnny McGlynn (guitar) and Thomas McNeice (bass). Appearances at T In The Park (twice!) and other festivals helped boost the sales of the album (even in Japan), while singles `100 MPH’, `Without You’ and `Rocket’ all entered the chart, albeit very briefly; they also covered PRINCE’s `Raspberry Beret’ and BUZZCOCKS’ `Ever Fallen In Love’.
A decade away from the limelight, the Gizzi brothers reunited GUN in early 2008, Tony Jepson once again depping for absentee Rankin, while Thornton made way for drummer Gordon McNeil (of GoGoBot); the `Popkiller’ tour EP was released in 2009.
With things looking upwardly mobile for GUN, though McNeil and Jepson had to return to other commitments, former LA PAZ and No Dice drummer Paul McManus, bassist Derek Brown and guitarist Johnny McGlynn (Dante was now lead vocalist) were behind the “comeback” set, BREAK THE SILENCE (2012) {*6}. Reinstating their need for pile-driving power ballads, producer Dave Eringa blended a mixture of The STOOGES and The Stones to come up with a record that flirted with the past but looked to the future; check out `Butcher Man’, the title track and `Last Train’.
The need for a second bassist Brown was evident when he left the following year, while the Gizzi brothers offered up another set in the shape of FRANTIC (2015) {*7}. With rivals THUNDER, BLACK STAR RIDERS (aka THIN LIZZY) et al, securing new releases on the hard-rock revival bandwagon, GUN were going to have a battle on their hands. Anthemic in a feel-good, gospel-ish way, fans were happy to raise their hands in the air for `Let It Shine’, `Hold Your Head Up’, `Labour Of Life’, the title track and others.
© MC Strong 1994-2002/GRD/GSM // rev-up MCS Mar2015

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