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The Rezillos

+ {The Revillos}

Edinburgh’s REZILLOS ticked all the boxes for youths retracing their early-70s glam roots or the young-at-heart attempted to recreate their 60s bubblegum roots. First of all, they were punk, secondly they were fun (with no stuck-up pretentions or snobbery that was a given among the genre’s pseudo-elite fanbase) and, for many acolytes north of the border, they were the only Caledonian punk-rock combo around at the time – SKIDS were just warming up. Regrettably, The REZILLOS were short-lived, splitting late in 1978 when the movement was going through a cull of purist-punk-pop outfits unwilling to take a step into the future, or try four chords! The subsequently re-vamped REVILLOS had a further several years spinning out records on the fringes of the once colourful and buoyant scene.
Formed in March 1976, the ensemble had the distinction of having two pseudonymous focal points in fashion-friendly lead singers Eugene Reynolds (aka co-songwriter Alan Forbes) and Fay Fife (aka Sheilagh Hynde). Backed unobtrusively by space-age cadets, Luke Warm (aka co-pensmith guitarist Jo Callis), and art student colleagues Mark “Hi-Fi” Harris (guitar), Dr. Dave/D.K. Smythe (bass) and Angel Paterson (drums), The REZILLOS emerged from Lawrie Love’s Sensible Records with the semi-legendary treasure, `Can’t Stand My Baby’. Three-chord dumbness in the vein of the RAMONES, but with the subtle advantage of Fay’s Scots brogue, the double-A dirge (backed by a re-tread of The BEATLES’ `I Wanna Be Your Man’), sold out its limited copies in weeks.
As well as being the first fruits of their deal with Sire Records (home to RAMONES, ironically), `(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures’ marked the debut of new man, William Mysterious (aka Alastair Donaldson – from folkies SILLY WIZARD), recruited as a replacement for early departees, Smythe and Harris. By the summer of ‘78, The REZILLOS were performing their tongue-in-cheek, `Top Of The Pops’, on that self, same programme, as their multi-coloured wig-out climbed up the charts.
A debut album, CAN’T STAND THE REZILLOS {*8}, also gate-crashed the Top 20, offering up for closer inspection the band’s obsession with American beat/girl groups and general trash culture, while competing with British influences such as DR. FEELGOOD. Off-kilter and always uptempo, the band touched on decade-plus-old dirges such as The DAVE CLARK FIVE’s `Glad All Over, GERRY & THE PACEMAKERS’ `I Like It’ and Earl Vince & The Valiants’ (aka FLEETWOOD MAC’s) `Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight’, while they’d chosen to fit in all the essential 45s and some B-sides.
Mysterious didn’t hang around very long, his berth taken by Simon Templar (not a Saint, but Mr. Broomfield) and backing vocalist Gail Warning/Jamieson. This revised line-up cut the `Destination Venus’ single, a record that carried on the group’s incessant sci-fi malarkey, albeit without the clout to crack the Top 40. The after-thought swansong set, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED… BUT THE BEAT GOES ON (1979) {*5}, only served to stick several covers of golden oldies among the live Xmas audience; these were:- The ISLEY BROTHERS `Twist And Shout’, The SWEET’s `Ballroom Blitz’, The EXCITERS’ `Tell Him’, Cannibal & The Headhunters’ `Land Of A 1000 Dances’, The KINKS’ `I Need You’ and Barry Gray’s `Thunderbirds Are Go!’.
Splitting before the year was out, The REZILLOS splintered into two fractions, with Callis, Templar and Paterson forming the short-lived, Shake – Callis would subsequently join the more successful HUMAN LEAGUE – while Fife and Reynolds remained on much the same track with The REVILLOS. Featuring a line-up completed by drummer Rocky Rhythm (aka Nicky Forbes), a returning Harris, and a trio of female backing singers, the new-look band immersed themselves even further in retro Americana with a string of singles, `Where’s The Boy For Me?’, `Motorbike Beat’ and `Scuba Scuba’. Despite encouraging press, neither these nor an album, REV UP (1980) {*7}, notched up sufficient sales, as the group underwent constant personnel upheaval with Mysterious and new man, Kid Krupa (aka Jonathan McLoughlin), coming and going.
Over the course of the next three years, the band hopped from label to label as they continued to crank out inimitably-titled material like `(She’s Fallen In Love With A) Monster Man’ and `Bongo Brain’. Their subsequent LP, ATTACK! (1983) {*6}, was duly withdrawn after only days on the shelves – one assumes – although some of the tracks found their way on to the subsequent exploitation release of-sorts, “Attack Of The Giant Revillos”, in the 90s.
Following a final couple of singles for E.M.I., the band called it a day in 1985; Fay moving into TV acting and subsequently appearing in the likes of Taggart and The Bill. Like spiritual descendants BIS, the band were big in Japan, choosing the Far East as their destination for a mid-90s reunion tour and the title of an album, LIVE AND ON FIRE IN JAPAN (1994) {*5}; TOTALLY ALIVE! (1998) {*5} was delivered for Sympathy For The Record Industry. Unwilling to take a back seat when the likes of The CRAMPS and The B-52’s were still knocking on the doors of success, The REVILLOS and, in 2009, The REZILLOS (Fife, Reynolds, Paterson, Callis and bassist Johnny Terminator), were dealing out further fun-packed adventures. Dispensing with Callis and Terminator (superseded by Jim Brady and Chris Agnew respectively), the odd single filtered out from beyond the Caledonian cosmos. `Out Of This World’ and its PRETTY THINGS B-side cover of `Rosalyn’ in 2011 was trailed by a live version of `Top Of The Pops’ the following year.
In an era of musical resurrections, the quintet’s ZERO (2015) {*7} set brought back memories – and not all of them bad. The REZILLOS were from a time long lost and the sounds they relayed went even further back into doo-wop, surf-pop, girl-groups and everything cheesy about music of a half century ago. Still, if one could still pogo from a Zimmer-frame and laugh like a lunatic at punk-rockers rolling about in the aisles, then one will strike it lucky with the riff-tastic `(Take Me To The) Groovy Room’, `Life’s A Bitch’, `Spike Heel Assassin’, `Nearly Human’ and the Batman-esque title track. Worth digging your high heels in for more than a few wigged-out trips – this is no “zero”!
© MC Strong 1994-2003/GRD / rev-up MCS Jun2013-Mar2015

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