"One of the most spectacular, if sadly neglected, British bands of the mid-'70s, the Heavy Metal Kids straddled the eras of glam and punk with such effortless ease that neither genre has ever seemed entirely comfortable with them. Not for the Kids the succession of compilations and tributes with which the CD age has gifted so many of their peers; not for the Kids the awed accolades of a generation of future stars, raised on their high energy rock and dazzling visual flash. But for anybody who is in on the secret, the three albums which the Heavy Metal Kids unleashed between 1974-1977 represent the missing link in the story of Brit-pop, the bridge which links the Small Faces to Oasis, the Action to the Jam, and any other two points you care to mention.
As an accomplished child actor, vocalist Gary Holton first came to attention as a protégé of the Sadlers Well Opera Company during the early '60s and also played the Artful Dodger in an acclaimed production of Charles Dickens' Oliver. From there, he moved on to regular performances with the Old Vic Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company, before joining the touring company of Hair in 1972, aged 17. It was during this period that he began making the contacts which would lead him to form the Heavy Metal Kids two years later, with Mickey Waller (guitar, and no relation to the Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart drummer of the same name), Argentinean-born Danny Peyronel (keyboards), Ronnie Thomas (bass, vocals), and Keith Boyce (drums). The group's name, incidentally, was taken from William Burroughs - naively or otherwise, the band members never dreamed people might draw other, musical, conclusions from it.
Fronted by Holton's raucous Cockney accent and visually steeped in the paraphernalia of his theatrical upbringing, the Heavy Metal Kids made an immediate impact. Singer/songwriter TV Smith, whose punk-era band the Adverts would play several gigs with the Kids, recalled, "they cared about their look, wearing makeup on stage, dressing up special for gigs, which was the kind of stuff we were looking for before punk. Silly lyrics, funny, energetic on-stage." Guitarist Brian James (the Damned/Lords of the New Church) agreed. "The Heavy Metal Kids were great fun. Gary used to take the piss out of himself so much and they kinda filled a little bit of a gap, amongst all that pomp of the early '70s. You had the hippy side, you had the glam thing that was taking itself so very seriously, and then there was Gary and his boys, just being silly." He, too, was adamant, "they were ahead of their time."
Discovered by former Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich frontman Dave Dee, the Kids were signed by Atlantic Records and went immediately into the studio to record their debut album, Heavy Metal Kids. It was well received, but did little, a fate which many observers put down to the conflicting signals sent out by the band's name. Heading out for their first American tour in early 1975, the group dropped the Heavy Metal from their name, and gigged as the Kids alone. Recorded with new guitarist Cosmo replacing Waller, Anvil Chorus, their sophomore album, also appeared under this abbreviated name. It fared no better than its predecessor and, following a U.K. tour with Alice Cooper, the Kids parted company with Atlantic towards the end of the year. Further personnel changes included the departures of Peyronel and Cosmo, to be replaced by John Sinclair (keyboards) and Barry Paul, guitarist on the group's original demos two years earlier.
In December, 1975, the Kids signed with producer Mickie Most's RAK label, but before work could begin on their next album, Holton was loudly sacked from the lineup amid a storm of drink- and drug-related headlines. Plans for the remaining members to continue on without him, however, came to naught and, in late 1977, Holton rejoined the band for a handful of live shows and the long-delayed third album, Kitsch. But by mid-1978, he had departed once again and, this time, the band broke up.
Returning to acting, Holton landed roles in the disco movie Music Machine, the Who's Quadrophenia, and alongside Hazel O'Connor in the hit Breaking Glass. He also starred in the British TV movie Bloody Kids. His musical endeavors were now confined to strict one-offs: in December, 1978, Holton stood in for Damned vocalist Dave Vanian on a short Scottish tour, he also recorded a solo single, a stunning punk-country version of Kenny Rogers' "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" with the Boys' guitarist Casino Steel. But even the opportunity to replace the late Bon Scott in AC/DC could not lure him back to full-time rock & roll.
In 1983, Holton landed a starring role in British television's Auf Weidersehn, Pet, a light drama conceived by Quadrophenia director Francis Roddam and one of the surprise hits of the 1983-1984 season. He followed up with a memorable role in a Pilsner lager commercial and, in September, 1984, Holton returned to theater, appearing in the London cast of the 1950s Americana musical Pump Boys and Dinettes.
The following summer, he traveled to Spain to work on the long-awaited second series of Auf Weidersehn, Pet. It was there that he died, on October 25, 1985, the victim of a heroin habit which even the gossip-ridden London underground scarcely remembered".
"The Heavy Metal Kids never became stars, never won any readers polls, never had a hit record. But, if you could roll back time to that moment in 1974 when the very first needle hit the very first pressing of their eponymous debut album, it would be impossible to predict that sordid fate. Quite frankly, Heavy Metal Kids rises so far above the rest of the period pack that - Sparks and Cockney Rebel notwithstanding - there was no more exciting proposition to be found on the new-release shelves. Part unrepentant boogie band, part pub rock leviathan, and part good-time distillation of the best of Slade and the Faces, fronted by the utterly irresistible cackle of singer Gary Holton, the Kids' flash, slash, and sashay assault had a cosmic energy that could transform even the ballads ("It's the Same," "Nature of My Game") into fists-in-the-air anthems. A decade later, the band could have so rewritten the notion of the power ballad that suffering through the 1980s might never have been necessary; a decade earlier, the British Invasion could have been the new prog. Imagine Jim Steinman producing Them, and you're close to the majesty of Heavy Metal Kids. As it is, the only people who seem to have truly noted what the Kids were doing were the Rolling Stones -- the laconic reggae of "Run Around Eyes" is a dry run for the Stones' later romp through "Cherry Oh Baby." Heavy Metal Kids hits so many peaks -- "Ain't It Hard," "Always Plenty of Women," "Hangin' On" - that the end of the album comes so quickly that even they seemed to be taken by surprise. The closing "Rock n' Roll Man," heralded by one of the most triumphant roars in rock history, is followed not by the sound of needle scraping label, but by a violent reprise for what remains the Kids' finest hour: the stomping, storming "We Gotta Go." And that is not only a juxtaposition that will have you talking Cockney for the rest of the day, it also tells you everything you need to know about the Heavy Metal Kids. Nothing can be taken for granted - and nothing was. Including the fame and glory that this album still demands".
Source: All Music Guide
Tracklist: 1. Hangin' On, 2. Ain't It Hard, 3. It's the Same, 4. Run Around Eyes, 5. We Gotta Go, 6. Always Plenty of Women, 7. Nature of My Game, 8. Kind Woman, 9. Rock N' Roll Man, 10. We Gotta Go (Reprise).
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