An overlooked classic, or criminal record?

The Kids - "Anvil Chorus" (Atlantic Records - 1975)
A Classic Rock review

By the time the Heavy Metal Kids came to release this, their second album, they'd started to suspect that their name might be causing problems. They'd taken it from author William Burroughs, never imagining it would also suggest a sound with which they had absolutely no connection.


They were a rock'n'roll band par excellence, good-time boys who had more to do with the bar-room effervescence of the Faces than with the fire and brimstone of heavy metal. 


Discovered by 60s popstar Dave Dee and quickly signed to Atlantic, the Heavy Metal Kids were a hot ticket in the clubs and colleges, packing them solid as punters strained their necks to watch singer Gary Holton larking about in top hat and silver umbrella.


Their first, self-titled album, in 1974, sold disappointingly, but with the release of 'Anvil Chorus', they looked set for a breakthrough. They'd shortened their name to The Kids. Their audience loved them devotedly, and would surely expand. From the exuberant opening moments of the barrelling 'Hard At The Top', it was clear that their moment had arrived. Unfortunately, it also passed, but this album stands as a fine memorial to a band that had, somehow or other, reached greatness.


Their major problem was also their biggest asset: Gary Holton. An unpredictable character with a substantial appetite for drink and drugs, he was a de-stabilising but indispensable presence - a spectacular frontman and a raucous yet expressive vocalist.


Where Rod Stewart had made his connections through football and laddism, Holton was a sharp, wise-cracking, street-smart dude, every inch the Artful Dodger he had played as a child actor. His theatrical background informed his vocal delivery and stagecraft. He was slyly knowing, wickedly amusing, quick to smirk at his own idiocy and everybody else's, and knew when to ham it up and when to go for broke.


On 'Situation's Outta Control', he's melodramatic, outrageously cockney, transforming a simple ballad into a true audacity ; whereas 'The Big Fire' is a genuine epic, the grandest finale. Holton, however, seemed most at home with rumbustious material such as 'On The Street', 'Blue Eyed Boy' and 'Old Time Boogie', cutting a crackling and tuneful dash across the album and the stage. But the song for which the Kids are most fondly remembered now is 'The Cops Are Coming'. Always a live highlight, its blasts of romping rock'n'roll dramatise the story of a hooligan and a police officer, with Holton relishing his pantomime-style characterisation of the thug. In contrast are tracks which widen the scope : the rumbling, bass-driven 'You Got Me Rollin', the peculiar 'The Turk (an' wot 'e smokes)' and the belligerent 'Crisis'.


Yet for all its broad appeal, the album sold only a little better than its predecessor, and it remains a treasure shared by those few who knew and loved it - including former Damned drummer Rat Scabies, who has earmarked 'Crises' and 'The Cops Are Coming' for future covers.


After a third Kids album, 'Kitsch', Holton went solo, reputedly turning down Bon Scott's old job in AC/DC, then went onto fame in films and in TV's 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet', in the latter playing Wayne, a character not all that unlike himself. But he should have been a rock star. He looked like one, he lived like one, and he died like one, too. By 1984, he was trawling the pubs of London, bumming money for heroin. A year later, filming the second series of 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet', he overdosed and died. 'Anvil Chorus' is his legacy to the rock world.


Article by Carol Clerk


*Many thanks to Rod McKenzie at NME for this article.

Dedicated to keeping Gary Holton's memory alive since 2003.