Chris Sped­ding

The RAK Years

Classic Rock - - The Hard Stuff - David Quantick

Ex-Womble su­per­star-side­man’s solo col­lec­tion boxed and reap­praised.

It is the na­ture of the side­man – Mick Ron­son, Steve Crop­per, Ron Wood – to be to some de­gree anony­mous. The more peo­ple the side­man works for, the more anony­mous the side­per­son. But there are ex­cep­tions, mu­si­cians who’ve avoided the of­ten-sneer­ing tag of “just a ses­sion guy”. Some of these ex­cep­tions are rock leg­ends.

Chris Sped­ding is, with­out a doubt, a rock leg­end. His work for hun­dreds of ma­jor rock fig­ures – ev­ery­one from Bryan Ferry to The Wombles – has been heard and pur­chased by mil­lions, but as a solo artist, he’s known for one song, the semi-nov­elty hit Mo­to­bikin’. Cognoscenti – many at­tached to his work with Sharks and King Mob – also know that there’s a rich seam of solo work to be dis­cov­ered. It’s of­ten been hard to find and out of print, so ku­dos to Cherry Red for re­leas­ing this four-CD set of Sped­ding’s work for Micky Most’s RAK la­bel.

It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion, span­ning the mid 70s and the start of the 80s, and one which il­lus­trates both why Sped­ding is so re­spected and why he never quite be­came a pop sin­gles sen­sa­tion. His de­but solo al­bum, 1976’s Chris Sped­ding, is a fine set, vaguely sim­i­lar to the work Dave Edmunds was do­ing at the same time, with a swamp pop el­e­ment more fa­mil­iar to fans of the work of Link Wray (and the sheer joy and hi­lar­ity of Gui­tar Jam­boree, in which Sped­ding car­ries off the gui­tar stylings of ev­ery­one from Chuck Berry to Jimi Hen­drix). But what makes it Sped­ding’s own is both a sense of hu­mour in the lyrics and de­liv­ery and, of course, a snap­pi­ness in the gui­tar play­ing that few oth­ers can match.

Per­haps – along with his self-ef­fac­ing na­ture, not al­ways an as­set in a front man – it’s this ge­nius for brevity that set Sped­ding apart; very much an ad­her­ent of the ‘say some­thing once, why say it again?’ school of rock, his songs leap in, make their point and leap out again. By 1977’s Hurt, he was cer­tainly more in tune with the times, and – he never ac­tu­ally recorded with the Sex Pis­tols, as myth has it – the brilliant

Pogo Danc­ing sin­gle (recorded with the Vi­bra­tors) should have been a big­ger hit. Ever adapt­able with the very new-wave stylings of Gui­tar Graf­fiti, but he saved some of his best work for 1980s al­bum I’m Not Like Ev­ery­one Else, whose ti­tle track re­mains one of the best Kinks cov­ers around – and also works well as a five word ca­reer summary.

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