Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published September 8th 2019
1979 - even if you weren't there, enjoy
This album came up in my discussion of the year of awesome that was 1979, it being the first chart album I ever bought. This brought about the general consensus of "What?" amongst readers when I mentioned it. An album that nobody remembers, and yet which was all over the place a scant 40 years ago? What is this flimflammery?
Well, this is Smash And Grab by Racey (1979), an album that is forgotten by and large today.
As a band, Racey were around for scarcely a cup of coffee. They released this album, filled with songs by the Chinn/Chapman writing duo that had a hand in just about everything in the 70s (I met one of Mr Chinn's young relatives when I was a teacher, and she was a very cool kid, and spoke highly of him as a person, so I am going to take it that he is awesome). And then… gone. But they had two absolutely mammoth hits, spawned and even mammother (more mammoth?) cover song a few years later, and, yeah, that's that, really.
However, the album is packed with great songs. There is the constant background buzz on most of the album of a party going on somewhere, as if it was recorded live in someone's living room, and that really adds to the slightly different feel of the record. Yes, a lot of these songs have party sounds as background noise. I don't think I've heard that on another record, so it is certainly unique.
I really should be doing this one with sides and everything, but in the mid-2000s I transferred it to my computer so I could edit out the few bumps and cracks a (then) 30 year old record had gathered over the course of being listened to too much. The original album is still there, but I am listening to my nice, cleaned up version, and so it is just the songs in order.
And so, without further ado, here are the tracks:
'Love's A Riot' Car coming to a halt, the party is then in full-on mode and we have a song that sounds like a reject from an Easybeats album. However, with that constant clapping and those background noises coming through, it is a fun way to start, even if the lyrics only flirt with the edges of making sense. I think it's about a guy losing his virginity. Maybe. Who cares? Fun track.
'Such A Night' Straight into the next track. Backing harmonies and better singing make this track a step up, and the lyrics are weird. A guy refuses to go to a party because his girlfriend wants him to go to bed with her. And he's almost complaining about it? However, as an 8 year old, I didn't get it; as an older teenager when I finally understood what was going on, I just found myself asking why would he want to go to a party? Now I'm an adult, and that question still stands. Wow, that's a deep breakdown for a harmless pop-rock song.
'There's A Party Going On Let's keep that party theme going! Complaining about people complaining about them having a party. That's the morality of this track! Not sure if it's meant to be tongue in cheek or if it's meant to be a legitimate complaint about complaints. In the 70s, it was hard to tell the difference. Still, the fun sing-along style of the tracks just keeps on going. The verses are not the best, but the chorus was certainly sung by my very young mates at the time. One of the lesser songs on the album.
'Lay Your Cards On The Table' I had no idea what this song was about when I first heard it. The gambling metaphor went right over my head and so I thought, 'meh.' But as I got older, I realised it was quite a strange song about gambling with the girls you pick up. Or maybe making a bet with your mates that you can score at a party. I don't exactly know. This song is where the people in the background party join in – they add to the "Ah-huh!" bits. Yeah, another fun song.
'She's A Winner' A song in praise of some woman. That's it. Typical song of the time (and many other times as well, come to think of it). The songs are starting to sound a little alike by this time in the album. That is an issue because, taken alone, most have been quite good, but one after another it can be a little like aural wallpaper. Still, not a bad song.
'Some Girls' And we come to the first of those massive hits that Racey had. I remember at Scouts we had a game where we had to mime a song and everyone else had to guess what song it was. We did the opening three seconds of this track's video clip and people got it straight away. It was that pervasive at the time. This track stands out with its opening jangly piano, and the entire song was known by nearly everyone I associated with. It is still a joyous song, and currently sits as my favourite on the album.
'Lay Your Love On Me' And straight away we have the next song that broke the charts at the time. Slightly different from the other with that piano now sounding more like an electric keyboard. This also has double-tracked lead vocals, which makes it different to the other songs here, and the harmonies are amazing. Again, this song was everywhere, released before the album in 1978. What made this song different when it came out was that backing party; we didn't realise that was going to be the theme of the whole album! Still, really cool song.
'Kitty' And now we come to the song that was outperformed by its all-conquering cover version, as I have mentioned before. I liked this song and was actually annoyed when Toni Basil released her cover version because I knew it would just overshadow the original. I was right. Of course, time has seen me soften towards Toni's version, but I still prefer the original. However, to break up things, here is Toni Basil's song '[Mickey':
'Rah Stateway' A song about being sent to gaol for a crime he didn't do. It is a different sound to the rest of the album, which is a positive, without that party going on, but as a song it did not do much for me.
'Boy Oh Boy' As a kid, this was my favourite song on the album, conjuring mental images of Buddy Holly purely through a similarity of song title ('Oh Boy!' was a favourite Buddy Holly song of mine). Again, no party, but this didn't need it. I really liked it. I had a sort of female friend who I kissed a reasonable amount (and, to be fair, she kissed me a lot too) when I was 8 (the things we do as kids!) and this song reminded me of her (name: Amanda… though I am sure she'd not remember me at all). Even now, it feels like a song of such innocence: "It was too much/ When, oh boy, the first time we touched…" Such a sweet song.
'We Are Racey' And we close with a bizarre ballad where they sing about themselves and how they are happy we like their music. I hated this song as a kid, but I don't mind it as much now. It's just a weird song. After an album about love and partying (going to gaol notwithstanding), to then have a bit of a self-congratulatory back-slap seems odd. And the lines: "We are Racey/ And we welcome you to our show…" on the album's final track is… odd. Yeah, that's this song in a nutshell – odd.
Okay, I admit, I am possibly pushing the definition of "classic album" to its very limits with this choice, but since I wrote that 1979 column, I keep going back to it, so I thought I would share. You can certainly do far worse than this album. Yes, it is probably a little of its time, but does that matter? Really? It's fun, most of the songs are catchy (if not slightly male-centric), and the whole thing is a fine way to spend 40 minutes of your life.