Monday, September 10, 2012

New Wave for the New Week #162

North London's Neo-Neon-Rockabilly guys, The Polecats, started out thumping a stand-up bass and slinging their geetars as a trio (Tim Polecat, Boz Boorer, and Phil Bloomberg) joined by a succession of drummers, playing under the name The Cult Heroes around 1977 or so.  With Punk Rock being the cultural kick in the UK at the time, they soon discovered difficulty getting booked on Rockabilly shows:  their name sounded more like one of those upstart punk bands.  Early drummer Chris Hawkes suggested the name change before departing, and by the time Mercury Records scooped them up in 1980, they were forever more The Polecats.

Combining straightforward Rockabilly with a healthy dose of '70s Glam (Bolan's "Jeepster" and Bowie's "John I'm Only Dancing" were among their choices for cover songs and would provide them two minor hits in their home country), and wrapping the whole package up in early 1980s New Wave style, The Polecats became a popular live band.  Their 1981 debut album, Polecats Are Go!, was met with positive response back home.  With The Stray Cats starting to find radio success here in the States and spearheading a minor Rockabilly revival  (see The Rockats, Robert Gordon, etc.), it's no surprise that The Polecats' record proved to be a decent seller here as an import-only LP.  It should have been a natural for Mercury's American arm to jump on the fad and issue Polecats Are Go! domestically.

In typical American big-label fashion, they screwed up.  They waited a year and a half, and finally issued a seven-song EP, containing a few tracks from the LP and a few single sides. Make A Circuit With Me did, however, include its mighty title track, a killer rave-up that saw minor airplay on MTV, and remains The Polecats' calling-card single to this day.

The inexplicable lack of support from their record label left the band at a crossroads; the gap was filled with the release of Cult Heroes, a collection of early recordings, some of which were vintage cuts from when they used that name.  But most of these were also simply early versions of songs that had appeared on Polecats Are Go! in a more polished form.  A short live record, Live And Rockin', also appeared and offered some new material, but the time to strike had passed.

The Polecats soldiered on, however, maintaining a presence on the underground Rockabilly circuit and, in 1999, signed with a Japanese label to release an all-new collection, Polecats Won't Die! By now they had dropped much of the Glam edges and New Wave affectations and focused more a traditional, driving Rockabilly sound, a decision that served them well.

In the years since, a handful of "Best Of" compilations have surfaced, all offering different permutations of, essentially, the contents of Polecats Are Go! along with assorted live tracks and studio throwaways.  Any of them are fine, but your best bet is to find the CD reissue of the first album.

This week's NW4NW entry offers two clips from The Polecats.  First, of course, their classic, "Make A Circuit With Me," followed by a clip of their take on Bowie's "John I'm Only Dancing."  Enjoy!