The Great Outdoors were Birmingham’s great hope in the early ‘80’s. A flamboyant looking 4 piece led by singer Martin Silvers (who also ran the Highway 69 record shop in the city centre) and guitarist Simon Holland they seemed forever on the brink of the big time. If you need a musical reference then think somewhere around very early REM with a hint of 10,000 Maniacs all seen through a lens pointed at British Psychedelia including early Floyd and the Teardrop Explodes. I saw them live once, in a club in a hotel bar in Brum, and they absolutely blew me away.
By the time they made this, their only album, they had become a 5 piece by adding 2nd guitarist Julian Gibson, with whom I’d been in a band for about 10 minutes prior to him snagging this gig. With respect and love to Julian I don’t think they needed a 2nd guitar. Some of the songs on this record sound confused purely because it feels like a 2nd guitar part has been tacked on where it wasn’t needed. The prime example of this is what I would guess most would remember as the Great Outdoors great moment, “Acid Rain”.
I’d bought a cassette at the gig I saw them at which featured a demo version of “Acid Rain” exactly as I’d heard it live that night, and that night it had been an absolute highlight of the gig. By the time the album was released and Julian added, the song, to me, had become a stumbling confused mess (sorry mate).
The album was recorded in London and produced by Pat Collier (who would later do fantastic work with The Wonder Stuff among many others) and I’m not sure this would be one he would look back on too often. There are great songs on here, the single “World At My Shoes”, the beautiful “Bird In The Hand” and the Teardroppy “Glass Houses”, it’s the execution that’s lacking. The version of “Acid Rain” I’ve included below is the album version, the demo version did used to be available on YouTube but it seems to have been deleted. Don’t let the confused guitars put you off what is a fabulous song.
In the year after this album was released another wave of Midlands bands came along who did make the breakthrough, initially the Wild Flowers, Mighty Lemon Drops and Balaam & The Angel swiftly followed by Pop Will Eat Itself, The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, and the Great Outdoors window of opportunity was closed. For those that saw them play around the early to mid 80’s you’ll know how great they were, for those that didn’t you’ll just have to trust us.
Acid Rain - https://youtu.be/ELMn0fSIHNA