Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Count Bishops - "Speedball + 11" (Chiswick/Ace - 1996)

I was a huge punk fanatic in my teens. Basically i still am. I was trying then to catch or listen to whatever band sacked under this term. That was in the early 90s, so you must take notice that at least in Greece, was a period of time without internet. I have bought (naturally) many crap records in those days (Exploited, GBH etc...) and it took me much time and money to finally see clearly what was 'PUNK'. Through the pass of time, exploring by hearing many long plays or CDs, i came to 2 basic conclusions:
1st. Actually PUNK, wasn't a British discovery (I know you know it). PUNK existed and before the 70s of course (I know you know it too!). Bands like the Velvets,Televison or Patti Smith Group never was musically at least in those fields! If i must be honest, PUNK was just one band. The Sonics! OK, i can compromise here and add the Stooges too, but that was it!
2nd. There's a lie when you read in magazines that "77 punk wave", saved rock n' roll from the Prog Rock's tyrants. In the 70s, rock n' roll being saved by PUB bands. Period!
I copied here a piece from that says it all:

"In the year or so before punk finally emerged on the London scene, the Count Bishops were the kind of band you wished everyone could sound like - without ever guessing that very soon, they would. A mere handful of other groups shared the Bishops' eye for tanked up, dressed down, dirty-ass R&B - Eddie & The Hot Rods, Little Bob Story, Dr Feelgood and the Hammersmith Gorillas were the closest, and it was a sign of those prime movers' versatility that each of them brought something fresh to the party.
In the Bishops' case, it was a laconic sneer, a greaseball grind and one of the hottest guitarists of the age, Zenon DeFleur. As both writer and performer, he nails even the trickiest riff down flat, for the rest of the band to steamroller. Give him a dumb one and he flattens it himself."

Fuck yeah! All these aforementioned bands belong to this day to my favorites' pantheon! And the Count Bishops are on the top of that list! Filthy strollers, leather drenched vagabonds, ripped jeans and sneakers wearing bums even before the Ramones! Dirty ass R&B the way (it) should be played. I read many times that this record is actually a "speed-ed up version of the Rolling Stones debut"...Hell yes it's true! 
The original 'Speedball EP' featured just four tracks. This record started Chiswick label, home at first by bands such as Motorhead or the Damned and parent label of a very important re-issue company, Ace Records. The recording process of "Speedball" EP (whatta name!) thankfully had nine more dynamites in the same vein and energy! Ace re-issued this mofo back in 1996 in its full greasy and anti-hippie glory, and even though it's still in print (is it?), you can't find it easily at the record stores. It's Bo and Chuck basically via the British Boom adaption of the Stones and the Pretties! I fuckin' adore the Flamin' Groovies but sorry lads, never even came close to these heights of energy! Not even the Bishops themselves.The after "Speedball" period found the Bishops changing line ups for a few times and even if they're not "mellowed" their sound, they'll never again be in the state of this vitriolically high excitement. Their US native singer, Mike Spenser left the band and established the (mighty trashers) Cannibals, but that's another chapter that we probably explore through this space in the near future. Till then... Be Speedballed!


- Excerpt from Sounds, January 1976, Written by Phil Sutcliffe

"There was a time when the Swinging Blue Jeans moseyed into a studio, played the Hippy Hippy Shake for somewhat less than two minutes, decided that was alright and moseyed back out again - with a number one single.
That sort of carelessness (or should it be called spontanity) has been put to scorn by epic single makers from the Beach Boys to Queen but now a cosmopolitan bunch of roustabout pub rockers called the Count Bishops have loudly and proudly put the clock back.
Their current EP 'Speedball' (it ain't no soddin' maxi-single mates) is culled from 13 tracks of hot R&B laid down in five hours. I know this means they were tainted by modernism enough to take maybe half an hour on some tracks but you will agree that basically the statistics suggest all the doubts and hesitations of an express train.
The Count Bishops are Johnny Guitar (American on you-guessed), Zenon De Fleur (Polish/English on guitar, if you get the pun in his name, quite frequently the floor), Steve Lewins (proper English on bass) and Paul Balbi (Maltese/Australian on drums). The singer on 'Speedball' Mike Spencer, a New York buddy of Mr. Guitar, has already 'moved on'.
The band's French manager Larry Debray lamented: "Mike is a good mover, all the ingredients to be a good singer but his attitude was so unprofessional"
So Johnny and Zen are taking the vocals with a gentleman called Laurie, lately of the Michigan Flyers (who? ah well now...), temporarily on mouth-harp while they seek out a new front man.
Johnny, whose versatility extends to writing their intriguing Press handouts, said: "When we got together we rehearsed night and day for a couple of weeks" (a couple of weeks? te-he) "And then we went into Pathway Studios in Islington with the idea of getting down as many tracks as possible. It was 'We'll bring the amps, you guys bring the beer.'
"After eight or nine tracks we'd stopped and were listening to the playbacks and everyone was so enthusiastic we unpacked all the gear again and recorded four more including 'Route 66' and 'Teenage Letter' which we put on 'Speedball'."
Debray: "We captured the live sound which is very tight. The beginnings of a band. The accent was on energy level rather than refined recording."
There is certainly no danger of anyone describing the result as 'refined' but that raw, old sound (acknowledged Bishops' heroes are the early Stones and Yardbirds) is just what made them kick in the crypt. You have to laugh - and bop.
Debray is dubious about such praise though: "We think people aree too 'oooked on the nostalgia. This is R&B alive today! It's not just a matter of getting dusty records down off the shelf. The band is writing its own songs now it's got used to playing as a unit."
They have so far sold out the 2,500 initial pressing of 'Speedball' (Chiswick Records) and plan further recordings on the Franco-Dutch Skydog label for which Debray happens to be the UK agent. Another year and could R&B be back, could the Count Bishops be feeling good?

- The above piece taken from


  1. IMHO Ducks Deluxe the kings of pub rock blew all these guys away, saw them live and bought their great first two RCA albums,Coast To Coast,Nervous Breakdown,Daddy Put The Bomp etc etc wonderful stuff back then and has lasted well

    love the blog, many thanks for you sterling efforts

  2. Thanks for this Count Bishops - I hadn't heard them before and I like 'em. I live in the USA & was big in to the new music of the 70's but maybe they weren't publicized over here. I was a big Dr. Feelgood fan though and right off I think I like them better. And I saw the Ramones many times over the years from their beginnings at CBGB's (as well as Patti, TV, Dictators, Dolls, THeads etc.) & am still a big fan - so don't talk bad about the Ramones! Anyway, thanks for turning me on to something great that I hadn't heard & thanks again for for your great blog.

  3. @ Anonymous: Hey, Sean Tyla is the BEST! I got all Ducks' albums! Wait for a post for them. I just think of Bishops as the rawer of them all and in r&r raw is the word! At least for me. Thanks for stopping by!

    @ Tommy C: Of course I DON'T TALK BAD 'bout the brothers! All their records along with MANY boots are sitting next to me this moment! If i had to pick one band believe that would be the Ramones! I just made a camp here to highlight on Bishops man! Don't get me wrong. However I hate all this hype from the bottom of my heart on the Ramones. I can't stand to see big clothing companies stamp on their shirts da brudders logo! Thanks anyway, Tommy C and glad you liked the Bishops!

  4. Thanks.
    Dave Tice was the best Bishops vocalist. He's still rocking hard in Sydney. Go and see him if you ever got a chance.

  5. Just discovered these guys and every thing you said is true I love these guys Thank You