The Chords. A very British way of life.

21 Jun

For any band to class themselves as openly Mod takes a lot self belief and that belief would have had to have been ten times stronger in 1978.

During Punk’s snotty heyday, South East London’s The Chords set out a stall that was classically Mod and quintessentially British,The band released one album and a wealth of singles that still stand up as some of the best of the late 70’s.

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The Chords should have been huge. They charted regularly, played packed out gigs at were at the forefront of the Mod Revival scene which rode across  Great Britain during the late 70’s and early 80’s. The irony in the title of the band’s song ‘Something’s Missing’ feels sadly poignant looking back at what could have been.

Amongst others, Paul Weller and Jimmy Pursey were fans, with the latter signing the band to his own label. The band also did a Peel session, received rave reviews, supported The Jam but after a gig with The Undertones, Jimmy Pursey put the proverbial boot in and this is where things changed dramatically.

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Pursey’s idea of storming the stage during a gig with The Undertones with his new band didn’t go down to well with the audience who in reality were probably not the biggest of Sham 69 fans anyway. A riot broke out and The Chords (who were supporting) saw the disrespect to The Undertones as unforgivable and the way that Pursey wanted the band to move in was far removed from anything they wanted themselves. The Chords left Pursey behind as they were in no position to compromise the path that they wanted to go down.

The band members admit to this day that they needed decent managerial guidance but it just didn’t appear to be on the horizon. With this dilemma The Chords decided to go it alone. Surprisingly, this approach worked for a while. TV appearances came, sold out shows at London’s famous Marquee were the tip of an ever growing iceberg. Decisions had been made and results were being seen.

Just when the band seemed to be getting their heads above the murky waters of the music business, bad luck struck and the band started sinking fast.

Internal feuds, a strike at BBC television just as the band released a new single, and with no manager to sort the mess out the band struggled on and Polydor Records gave the band a chance to make one final impact.

‘Turn Away Again’ was the last single the band released and despite the band reaching their potential, so much more could have been achieved with the right guidance. Listen to the ‘This is What they Want’ compilation and I am sure you will agree for a band going against the waves of Punk in its prime, you’ll see why the Chords created huge admirable ripples then and now.

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The Chords were stubborn in a no compromise kind of way. That is something that should be held in the highest of regards. The band didn’t sell out to make a quick buck and in terms of having something to hold dearly and be proud of, The Chords can hold their heads up high up have earned a rightful place in musical history!

The Chords still have many fans to this day and the fact they still play gigs is testament to that.

I managed to catch the band live during a gig and DVD release show and trust me on this, The Chords are still capable of something special.

My first visit to the Rhythm Factory in East London was to be a special one.

As soon as I reached the bar expectation was in the air. A really mixed crowd waited for the DVD of The Chords’ history to start and I lost count of the conversations that I became involved in. I have to say that the people drinking before the gig were some of the friendliest I have come across in all of the gigs I have been to.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, the DVD launch. The documentary ‘What Became of the People we Used to be?’ is a history of the band from the people that were there. If you want to know anything about The Chords, then this is as good as a place as any to start. The documentary charts the rise and fall of the band during the late 70’s and beyond and is told with real humility.

Even now, the band members speak with a fondness for the music and friends that they made. It wasn’t all roses and the band knew their failings but watching the film, I felt this is what made The Chords special. They were just ordinary working class blokes who could write a bloody good song or 20 and for me and many others that is the perfect combination for good honest music.

The DVD is well worth a watch and is well put together. A history of the band was well overdue and they way in which the story was portrayed was perfect.

Then it was time for the gig…

Firstly, original vocalist and guitarist Billy Hassett now resides in Japan and therefore the vocal duties were down to founding member and song writer Chris Pope. As I was seeing the band for the first time, the absence of Hassett was cause for concern. I shouldn’t have worried, Pope did the job and he sure plays a mean guitar.

With Pope at the helm, the band went through a set that would put many bands to shame. ‘British Way Of Life’, ‘Something’s Missing’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ were as fresh and as poignant as ever. Song writing of this quality just doesn’t age, which can’t be said for me, as after getting caught up in the dancing, I felt like my dodgy moves had been pushed to the limit.

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Half way through the set a Kip Herring, the band’s second vocalist took to the stage. Kip sang on a couple of numbers which he co-wrote with the band. “One More Min” and “Turn away again” Saw The Chords and Kip Herring in fine fettle. This was a nice touch to the night, as Herring was part of the band’s history and as this was what the night was all about.

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Kip Herring on Vocals

Special mention must go to the musicianship on the night. Everything was held together by some amazing drumming, Pope’s guitar sounded punchy with clarity and the bass player didn’t shy away from being heard. At the end of the gig, someone actually said to me, “They’ve still got it.” And from what I had just seen, I had to agree.

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One Response to “The Chords. A very British way of life.”

  1. David Sullivan June 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    For Fxxxck sake please do another bloody gig,Ill finance it you have to beleive in what you lot can do

    Sully From Oxted

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