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The Boo Radleys

Caught between the shoegaze/dream-pop and Britpop era, The BOO RADLEYS peaked when the combo couldn’t come up with a tune so commercially harmonious as the sprightly and transitional `Wake Up Boo! smash. For many fans of the band in leaner times, this, and the accompanying No.1 album, was the turn-off point after fulfilling a dutiful role in providing all and sundry sustenance over several glorious years. In essence, like so many rock-to-pop acts, the albatross-around-the-neck syndrome had come to bite the Boos in the bum; BLUR, OASIS and PULP would duly fight for scraps, whilst subsequent sales figures petered-out for the once mighty Scousers.
Formed 1988, in Wallasey, Merseyside, schoolmates Simon “Sice” Rowbottom (vocals/rhythm guitar), main songwriter Martin Carr, and another friend Tim Brown (bass/keyboards) – who was invited to join after teaching Martin how to play lead guitar – adopted the group name from a reclusive character in the book, To Kill A Mockingbird. After an initial period with Rob Harrison, the quartet was complete when they found sticksman Steve Hewitt.
The BOO RADLEYS worked hard on the Mersey gig circuit but no major deal was forthcoming. Come 1990, they finally found a home with small indie label, Action Records, whom, almost immediately, released their debut mini-LP, ICHABOD AND I {*5}.
On its merit, and with one track in particular (`Kaleidoscope’), the group were invited by the illustrious DJ John Peel to session on Radio One. Birmingham-born Rob Cieka subsequently filled a vacancy left by Hewitt, who re-joined BREED, and later became part of PLACEBO. This in turn led to them signing for Rough Trade Records, who found a willing audience for three popular EPs between late 1990 and 1991: `Kaleidoscope’ (now a Festive 50 fave!), `Every Heaven’ and `Boo Up!’.
With great things predicted by pundits from ever press orifice (Singles Of The Week etc.), The BOO RADLEYS signed on the dotted line to Alan McGee’s mushrooming Creation Records, where their psychedelic, shoegaze hue (a hybrid of MY BLOODY VALENTINE, PALE SAINTS and C-86 jangle-pop acts) made them favourites among the indie kids. The `Adrenalin’ EP (spearheaded by the short ‘n’ sweet MBV-cloned `Lazy Day’) opened their account in the early months of 1992, whilst their first real test arrived when the Ed Buller-produced EVERYTHING’S ALRIGHT FOREVER {*7} captured a place in the Top 60. Forever underrated and coming under the scrutiny of swanky MBV fans, its high spots were in the sonic fragility of `Spaniard’, `Skyscraper’, `Firesky’ and the wonderful `I Feel Nothing’.
McGee had somehow wangled a place for them on board the corporate Columbia Records machine, so high expectations were thrust upon them to make a buck or two. Chosen to sweep shoegazers off their feet, the double A-sided `Does This Hurt?’ and `Boo! Forever’, made inroads into the lower echelons of the charts, but both `Lazarus’ and forthcoming album preview `I Hang Suspended’, stalled at the gates of the Top 75. There was the possibility of the Boos being hung out to dry if third set, GIANT STEPS (1993) {*8} didn’t shift the necessary copies. As it turned out, infusing experimental sugary pop, screeching guitars and jagged brass accompaniment, the double-LP cracked the Top 20 thanks to resounding reviews from the NME et al. From the effervescent indie-pop delights of `Wishing I Was Skinny’, to Top 50 breaker `Barney (…And Me)’ – featuring PALE SAINTS’ Meriel Barham on backing vocals – and a re-spun `Lazarus’, the Boos were fast-becoming the next big thing; Meriel also combined well with Sice on `One Is For’ and `Rodney King (Song For Lenny Bruce)’. If there were pointers of the pop direction the Boos were to take, it was disguised well within the kaleidoscopic ultra-scans of `Upon 9th And Fairchild’, the strum-fest `Butterfly McQueen’ and freak-folk-y anchor piece `The White Noise Revisited’.
Early to bed, early to rise, The BOO RADLEYS subsequently stretched out their limbs on the aforesaid Top 10 alarm-call of `Wake Up Boo!’, the Special K factor from their similarly-titled No.1 concept album, WAKE UP! (1995) {*7}. More or less spoiled when played to death as the theme tune for ITV’s Breakfast Show, the quartet looked to have jumped on the Britpop bandwagon for further Top 40 cereal-killers `Find The Answer Within’ and `It’s Lulu’. If not for the stay-in-bed-for, retro-styled collective juices of `Martin, Doom! It’s Seven O’Clock’ (a DeLorean trip back to the 60s) and the hair-shaking `Stuck On Amber’, fans would forever be holding down the snooze button. A pity then that exclusive non-LP Top 30 hit, `From The Bench At Belvidere’ (b/w `High Falutin’), didn’t quite fit in to the pop-driven context of the set when released that October.
The Boos’ “Wake Up” call still ringing in one’s ears – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and coming so soon after a Sice solo set (`First Fruits’) – under the pseudonymous auspices of EGGMAN – the group were luring the youth of the day with clarion call, C’MON KIDS (1996) {*6}. A shit title for something so blatantly retro and Britpop-ish, this and its title track would only scrape up a lowly Top 20 position, while `Ride The Tiger’ (#38) fared even worse. In such a short time Carr and Co had left shoegaze-rock at the doorstep of time, opting instead for a sanitised myriad of WHO-like psychedelic bubblegum (examples `Get On The Bus’, `What’s In The Box? (See Whatcha Got)’ and `New Brighton Promenade’) that tapped into the 60s without much tapping of the feet.
Interestingly enough, one can always judge a group by its covers and The BOO RADLEYS were happy to wear their hearts on the sleeves in B-sides, including `True Faith’ (NEW ORDER), `Alone Again Or’ (LOVE), `One Of Us Must Know’ (BOB DYLAN) and `The Queen Is Dead’ (The SMITHS).
A shoe-in so – to to speak – to be taken under the wing of Mercury Records, when Columbia gave them the heave-ho Stateside, Creation Records were also having second thoughts when both the single, `Free Huey’, and the accompanying parent double-album, KINGSIZE (1998) {*6} only dented the Top 75 for one week apiece. Lukewarm reviews from patrons once their trusted compadres, there was an element of poor-man’s BEATLES or McCARTNEY in tracks such as `High As Monkeys’, `Blue Room In Archway’ and `She Is Everywhere’. And it was no use in sucking up to the songwriters’ guild via `Jimmy Webb Is God’, their time was up and the Boos blew it and knew it – they split the following May.
Carr stepped up to the plate to form BRAVE CAPTAIN; Sice would later re-surface with PAPERLUNG.
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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