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  1. The Fleur De Lys (or Les Fleur De Lys as they were occasionally known) were a ‘60s rock band formed in 1964 in Southampton. They never had anything even approaching a hit but, whether by pure luck or devilish design, they made two singles which are now regarded as Mod/Freakbeat classics. “Freakbeat" is a very loosely defined genre, but is used to describe the more obscure, harder edged artists of the British Invasion era, their records often using Fuzz-guitar effects. The singles “Circles” and “Mud In Your Eye” are classics of the genre.

    I’ve known those two songs for a long time from various Psych/Freakbeat compilations and would love to own copies of the singles. But if I wanted either then I’m looking at around £1000 so that’s probably never happening. This compilation was released in 2022 (on lovely Orange vinyl BTW) and collects together the bands out-put in all their incarnations (Rupert’s People, Shyster and Chocolate Frog were all names they worked under) including both sides of those two sought after singles.

    “Circles” was released on the ultra hip (now and then) Immediate label. A cover of a Who song originally titled “Instant Party”, it’s one of those rare occasions where the cover version is better than the original recording. It adds a fuzz-wah guitar part that The Who’s version didn’t have. Other than that it’s a pretty straight cover, just better. By the time they released “Mud In Your Eye” just 8 months later the band had moved to Polydor records. This one features pounding drums, Beach Boys-ish harmonies and a proper fuzzed-up-freakout guitar solo. There should also be an honourable mention for their version of “Hold On” (released under the name of Rupert’s People and co-written by band member Gordon Haskell. More on him later). It’s a song that did the rounds in the late 60’s as I also own a version by South African singer Sharon Tandy (on which the backing band is the Fleur De Lys) and an absolute belting version by Ipsissimus (their only release). Rupert’s People had a good knock at it.

    Much of everything else that’s here is pretty run of the mill 60’s beat pop which explains why they never came close to a hit. It’s a thorough collection with great sleeve notes. Interesting side note is that Gordon Haskell, who we mentioned earlier,  went on to play with King Crimson (he was at school with Robert Fripp) and in 2001 had the Xmas No.2 single with "How Wonderful You Are”. Most bands don’t get to leave anything like as good as those two mid 60’s singles behind so they can hold their heads up among a slew of other wannabees at the time.

    Mud In Your Eye - https://youtu.be/zf4Jh_AgqYY

  2. Patrik Fitzgerald was a one man Punk Rock band, the first guy I remember being tagged with the label "the Punk Poet". Before signing with a major label and releasing this album he made 3 fantastic EP’s for Small Wonder Records, “Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart EP”, “The Backstreet Boys EP” and “The Paranoid Ward”.

    These EP’s bought him major label attention and he signed with Polydor to make “Grubby Stories”. The bulk of the album is Patrik and his acoustic guitar but on 7 of the 17 songs he plays with a band including Robert Blamire of Pentration, John Maher from Buzzcocks and producer Pete Wilson.

    The songs are mostly very short. Only 4 on the whole album clear 3 minutes and of the first seven songs none of them clear 2 minutes. The highlight of the album for me is “All The Years Of Trying” a proper epic at just over 4 minutes ! It features bass, drums and piano/keyboards and tells the tale of a failing musician who finally has the hit, finishing on the repeated line “Now you are a suck-sess”…autobiographical ? Maybe but Patrik never had that elusive hit (although there’s a song here called “When I Get Famous” so maybe he really wanted to be). “Ugly As You” and “Nothing To Do” mirror the themes of songs from the EP’s; “Adopted Girl” is the first of the band songs, it doesn’t veer far from the acoustic songs; “My Secret Life” is a little kitchen sink drama; “Little Fishes” equates life to being the proverbial little fish in a big pond. Songs about the concerns of the time as reflected via Punk.

    I loved the EP’s, there’s not a song here as good as “Safety Pin…”, “The Backstreet Boys” or “The Cruellest Crime” from those EP’s but this album takes me to a time and place and it’s a great reminder that record companies used to take a chance on stuff like this. I was lucky enough to see Patrik live when he opened for The Jam in 1978. I’ll always remember that tiny little figure on the huge Birmingham Odeon stage in front of a partisan Jam audience while I strained to hear the songs I knew from his EP’s. But I got to see him. He’s still making music, he released an EP in 2021, and long may he continue to do so.

    Make It Safe - https://youtu.be/oWKVxtQY6T4

  3. So there I was one Saturday morning 18 months or so ago driving in to work before 8am listening to our local BBC Station, Radio Shropshire. A record starts up completely unannounced, nice intro I thought; I like this singer, no idea what he’s saying but I like it; then the drums kick in and I’m bopping along in my seat and by the time the horns kick in I’m sold and I’m bouncing outta my seat (don’t worry I was on a quiet back road) thinking “who the hell is this ?”. 

    Thankfully the normally useless presenter (I only listen to the station for news, traffic reports etc.) informed me it was Sam Fender and “Seventeen Going Under”. Now my friend Chris up in Newcastle had been rattling on about Sam Fender for a long time. I’d watched a documentary he’d done for the BBC about Lindisfarne’s great songwriter Alan Hull but I’d not got around to listening to his music. To be honest I was at a point where I’d given up on any new music with anything to say even getting close to getting through to me (The Enemy, Sleaford Mods, Idles…yawn…heard it all before, plagiaristic nonsense) so to find this young man who could write a song and had a way with words and something to say that was worth listening to was a revelation. After Chris assured me it wasn’t a one song flash in the pan deal and everything else he did was just as good, I ordered this album. 

    This albums title song (track 1 side 1 perfectly setting expectations) is one of the best things I’ve heard in many, many (MANY) years. At its heart it’s a bloody great song and then Sam Fender lays out his life story for you, about growing up, about how he became who he is, about his Dad and his Mom, about his friends and all their troubles. And still he manages to make it into a something you want to be a part of, a communal experience in song. It’s remarkable. 

    One day I went down a YouTube rabbit hole watching videos of Sam playing live. Seeing him and his audience communing over these songs and their messages pretty much restored my faith in “the kids”, there’s hope that they haven’t all been ruined by “Britain’s X Factor has no Voice or Talent” homogenised shite.

    Like his debut “Hypersonic Missiles” many of the songs here address uncomfortable subjects, but there’s light here too. I don’t want to bore you with descriptions of individual songs again. Take it from me if you want, or don’t if you don’t, this is a bloody great record. Were it not for Cult Figures “Deritend” I would definitely have had this as my favourite album of 2021 and I’m not sure sometimes that this wasn’t it anyway.  If just one person came and told me they’d listened to this record because of what I wrote here I’d be made up. “Canny chanter but he looks sad” may be how Sam Fender sees himself, I can’t wait to hear what the canny chanter does next.

    Seventeen Going Under - https://youtu.be/WAifgn2Cvo8