Are you sitting comfortably? Then let London tell you a little story…
London: New album – The Hell For Leather Mob
London are a four piece formed in London in 1976. The original line-up was Riff Regan (vocals), Steve Voice (bass/vocals), Jon Moss (drums) and Dave Wight (guitar). They were managed by Simon Napier-Bell and recorded two singles, a 4 track EP and an album, Animal Games, for MCA Records in 1977. Most of their songs were written by Riff Regan (including the first two singles ‘Everyone’s a Winner’ and ‘Summer of Love’) or by Riff Regan and Steve Voice. All their records were produced by Napier-Bell at the IBC Studios in London. They toured extensively throughout 1977, first supporting The Stranglers and then as headliners in their own right. So good to have seen LONDON live a couple of times recently. An album titled REBOOT has just recently been put out on vinyl – and a damn fine slice of vinyl it is!
The Hell For Leather Mob contains more than enough gems to entice a smash ‘n’ grab gang out of their Jag, leaving the engine running of course.
I knew an album was in the pipeline a while ago, and then the disc arrived. The brown paper wrapper was eagerly ripped away unveiling the new album from London. A quick first play was a most enjoyable ride. So much so I hit repeat. This is a brilliant selection of 15 new songs forming together to build an audio ‘rocktale’. Between the tracks there are small sections of scene setting dialogue which carry you along perfectly into the next song. This is swinging 60’s London and features a tale of Ricky Tanner, an 18 year old grease monkey survivor, and his short but eventful time spent as a member of the notorious ‘Hell for Leather Mob’ led by master criminal Lewis Beretta.
Best played at maximum “you’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” volume.
The Hell for Leather Mob
The songs written by Riff Regan and Steve Voice have that wonderful London catch of guitar hooks and fine tunes. The disc starts with thunder and lightning FX, Riff shouts “Look Out” and we are off with “Whirlwind”. I make no secret of my admiration of this band going back to 1977 and this eagerly awaited album does not disappoint. It works so well. We are then whisked off to the Old Bailey and into track two – Beatle Boots. The song is soaked with London /Carnaby Street/Soho 60’s atmosphere. Some fine guitars, drums and hand clapping with Riff up front, it all comes together to make this a superb track and it has been released with a video. It flows like a story in one of those true crime magazines…
The radio tunes in and an announcer informs us Lewis Beretta has served his sentence and has been released from prison and we head into the album title track, Hell For Leather Mob. This is a real nod to those 60’s British crime / gangster movies such as The League of Gentlemen to Robbery, and The Italian Job, you know, those films that starred Stanley Baker, James Fox, Michael Caine and many others. If there is ever a resurgence of those classic B&W movies, or a remake of something like Too Hot To Handle – here is a perfect soundtrack! The album is packed with ridiculously infectious guitar riffs and some great humour and observation tucked into the lyrics. London supply the flashy cars and bundles of banknotes stuffed into a holdall.
Live from The Old Bailey
The album is full of buzzing rhythm and hazy 60’s atmosphere. London’s song writing heritage and production values shine out like a policeman’s torch beam in a London fog. If it was possible to convert the energy of the album into heat then what we would have is something resembling those hot sticky London nights. But what’s especially fresh and unique about this album is the whole story telling aspect. The audio clips bind the songs as the story flows. It’s not just a point blank shot from a sawn off shooter of pure music energy, but there is also the story behind the songs. Brilliantly executed. Riff Regan leads the brilliant London through what could be described as a wonderful heady mix of Mod, RnB and to top it all off, a generous slice of punk.
Beatle Boots: A video to accompany this track from the album.
Whipping it up!
Christine Keeler gets her own song “Belgravia cocktails then up to Cliveden”. The iconic “that chair” is featured in the sleeve notes – “Sitting by the pool spanking Russian spies”. We are taken on a trip to the darker seedier sides of the back streets of London with Madame Cornelius. We are then tied to a chair as we become the plaything at Candy’s House, a dangerous rockin’ rollin’ visit to a house of ill repute. We are led into the dark and dingy BDSM dungeon and treated to whips, pleasure and pain with plenty of guitar scrapes and whip cracks. Ouch! What a song. The lyrics to Keeler, Cornelius and Candy’s House paint such a vibrant, and at times painful, picture of the nightlife scene visited by the characters and The Hell For Leather Mob. The intrigue of being filmed through a two way mirror, you see, Riff and Steve have penned this “rocktale” with no holds barred.
This new album is just great from beginning to end but it really gathers momentum as the album and story progress. London even turn to a softer side, almost romantic, and sing This Guy’s A Mess. Then we are back in full London style as Robbed hits you as hard as a getaway car driven by Ricky Tanner himself. This song is full of sumptuous guitars and vocal harmonies Now dear reader the story evolves and we end with a blistering climax as guitars, bass and drums throttle up to deliver Cling To Black Leather the song fades leaving a lone harmonica taking you out. And like all good movies and crime novels I will let you unravel the story for yourself. No spoilers here! I never saw the band live back in the day but the unmistakeable sound and those hooks are still present and as impressive as they have always been. If you want to know what it was like to be in London during those heady 60’s years, then this album delivers. The Hell For Leather Mob contains more than enough gems to entice a smash ‘n’ grab gang out of their Jag, leaving the engine running of course.
A word with Riff Regan:
Why did you pick that period of history? – “Both Steve and I love the 60s. It was just a period of time when anything seemed possible especially if you were young. I think it’s the bands that really made it special. There were just so many – the Who, the Stones, the Beatles, the Small Faces, the Move – all knocking out ridiculously catchy songs week after week that everyone listened to on the pirate radio stations. If ever there was a golden period for pop groups it must be between 1965 and 1968.”
The album is so full of atmosphere and characters what research did you do? Love the cover imagery where did that come from? – “Well I was only 11 during this period so a lot of imagination was needed! Really my period of London was the mid-70s when the punk bands happened but of course a lot of the people involved had already been ‘faces’ in the 60s. Our manager Simon Napier-Bell and our publicist Keith Altham for example knew the 60s scene well. There are many references to icons of that period including Christine Keeler, Twiggy, Brian Jones, Jean Shrimpton, Ronnie Lane etc and of course the album has the striking Colin Pumfrett painting of Marianne Faithfull on the cover.”
Madame Cornelius and Candy’s House are so descriptive – anything you would like to share? – “There were stories about a certain house of sin in Surrey where showbiz types would hang out to ‘relax’. By all accounts there was a lot of naughty things going on and we heard about one lady who regularly whipped pop-stars and DJs in her dungeon complete with handcuffs, chains and two-way mirrors so others could watch from an adjoining room. We based Candy Cornelius on her.”
How did you record this? Did you plan it first and fit in the songs or did you ‘storyboard’ it? – “It all started when Steve and I were putting some songs together for a new album. I sent him the lyrics to ‘Hell for Leather Mob’ and he sent back this incredibly catchy tune that was almost like something out of a West End musical. I said if he was up for it, maybe we could try a different kind of album? Something like the Kinks’ ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ or the Who’s ‘Tommy’ or ‘Quadrophenia’? And so ‘The Hell for Leather Mob’ was born. Both of us are huge fans of the British gangster films of the 1960s. From the daddy of them all – Jack Hawkins and his embittered ex-army cohorts in ‘The League of Gentlemen’ (said to have been watched again and again by Great Train robber Bruce Reynolds as he planned the 1963 heist) to the brilliant ‘Robbery’ with Stanley Baker, and ‘The Italian Job’ with Michael Caine. Another good one was ‘Performance’ with James Fox and Mick Jagger.”
Did it take long to write and record? – Not so much the writing, Steve and I have written songs together for years now so we can do that fairly quickly, it was the recording that took ages. We had no money to make the album so we did it over a year on an ancient iPad using GarageBand. It took forever. It was a long process but fortunately we just got it finished before the Covid19 lockdown kicked in. Steve produced all the music playing nearly every instrument himself and then I added my vocals.
I also recorded the spoken links between the tracks that tell the story of Ricky, an 18 year old grease monkey, who falls in love with the daughter of a London crime boss and ends up on a Hampstead mansion burglary that goes tragically wrong. We set it in that part of north London as that was where Steve and I first got together with our original drummer Jon Moss when he walked out on the Clash after one row too many with Joe Strummer! People ask if we wrote it for the stage but in fact we didn’t; we just wrote it as a new ‘London’ album. Of course it may end up in the theatre when things get back to normal. I think it would work well as it has a sort of Damon Runyon feel to it only we’ve exchanged the seedy prohibition-era New York for 1960s swinging London!
It’s a very different London album in style but people seem to be enjoying it. There are 15 new songs on it and also some story links. Steve came up with the term ‘rocktale’ which sums it all up. It’s weird having a new album released but not being able to play it live. Hopefully gigs will return and we can get out out there and play it!
Go smash and grab your copy from iTunes here!
Track listing for The Hell for Leather Mob: Whirlwind/ Beatle Boots/ Stroking the Pussy (like Mr Blofeld)/ Hell for Leather Mob/ White Jag, Red Seats, Black Wheels/ Christine Keeler/ Madame Cornelius/ Candy’s House/ Wasp in the Car/ This Guy’s a Mess/ Robbed/ The Lawman/ Crimson in my Veins/ Killing Time/ Cling to Black Leather.
Keep in touch with LONDON and grab a copy of this new album here.
London are a must see band and are on my “go to” list. This album shows their strengths and there is still plenty of fuel left in the tank of London motor. This album deserves your attention. It is story telling and music at its finest. Best played at maximum “you’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” volume.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let London tell you a little story…
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