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The Chords

One of four mod revival combos from the capital (along with The MERTON PARKAS, SECRET AFFAIR and PURPLE HEARTS) – note that fifth-in-line The LAMBRETTAS hailed from Brighton – South Londoners The CHORDS were the closest clones to “Modfathers” The JAM; they even signed to Polydor Records!
Led out, from early 1978, by WELLER incarnate Billy Hassett (vocals, rhythm guitar), his cousin Martin Mason, main songwriter Chris Pope (guitar) and Paul Halpin (drums) – the latter transferring duties to Brett “Buddy” Ascott when he became their tour manager – The CHORDS more or less saw a gap in the market when Messrs Weller, Foxton and Buckler veered away from their concrete coda. Fourth in turn to have a “mod” hit (after “You Need Wheels”, “Time For Action” and “Millions Like Us” by their respective rivals above), their debut `Now It’s Gone’ bubbled outside the Top 60 for a few weeks in October ‘79, undermined by the influx of a more populous craze: the 2-tone ska movement of The SPECIALS, MADNESS and The SELECTER.
The song in fact was re-recorded from a Jimmy Pursey “JP” production that went awry after the SHAM 69 singer allegedly heckled top-of-the-bill The UNDERTONES while, earlier still, The CHORDS had performed as headliners at a couple of mod fests, that led to a inaugural session for John Peel and initial support from WELLER and the aforesaid “Angels With Dirty Faces” chanter. Were The CHORDS, then, the first post-JAM act to emerge – arguably, yes!
Timed perfectly to bring in the new year, the optimistic `Maybe Tomorrow’ cracked the Top 40, a wonderfully explosive three minutes that swayed heads and was the best song never to be written by PW. Their third single, the very derivative but direct `Something’s Missing’, stalled outside the Top 50, although in its wake arrived The CHORDS’ debut long-player, SO FAR AWAY (1980) {*7}; `Now It’s Gone’ available on its grooves, albeit on an accompanying 7-inch given free with initial copies. So much more riveting than other sets by their mod cousins, The CHORDS combined punk energy and both vintage/fresh sides of the mod movement, best served up on Pope’s own `Breaks My Heart’ and the title track, or on resounding renditions of SAM & DAVE’s `Hold On I’m Coming’ and LENNON-McCARTNEY’s `She Said, She Said’.
“Quadrophenia – The Movie” now out of the picture, the mod movement subsided as the poseurs found another craze to fasten their coat-tails onto; musically-minded rather than copying the Carnaby Street fashions, The CHORDS reeled off two further minor hits by way of `The British Way Of Life’ and `In My Street’, but it was all too much for a sacked Hassett, whose berth was filled by former VIBRATORS frontman Kip (alias Malcolm Herring). At this untimely intervention, the buying public lost interest almost immediately as subsequent singles, `One More Minute’ and `Turn Away Again’, flopped unceremoniously in 1981.
And when it became as case of “No One Is Listening Anymore” (the title of a belatedly-issued live set), The CHORDS duly rested their laurels and their instruments, and split that September; Ascott would later (2006) be part of Speakeasy!; until he joined the UK outfit POPE (with Chris); two sets `Grace Of God’ (2006) and `Tall Tales & Cheap Thrills’ (2009). CHRIS POPE also combined a solo career prior to/and on the back of The CHORDS originals re-forming in August 2010 for a single, `Another Thing Coming’.
CHRIS POPE & THE CHORDS UK were still going strong and about to undertake a handful of gigs in August/September 2015. Re-formed in order to complement “new toons” with that of a shelved second set from the early 80s, 2016 saw the quartet (featuring Mic Stoner, Ken Cooper and Sandy Michie), plus PledgeMusic, sign off a “comeback” album, TAKE ON LIFE {*7}. More CLASH or ROLLING STONES than The JAM or The WHO, the record owed as much to the Britpop generation than to the 60s or 70s; `Home Sweet Home’ (OCEAN COLOUR SCENE meets PRIMAL SCREAM, anyone?), `Get Me To Saturday Night’ and `Pillars Of Society’ recommended to anyone still energetic to fist-pump the sky.
© MC Strong/MCS Jul2015-Sep2016

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