Heavy Metal Kidding
"We want to put the balls back into rock'n'roll," hollered singer Gary Holton across a crowded juke box. "Glam rock has had it, these people like Bowie. That whole factory has been over played. Mind you, I'm not knocking it, I'm all for entertainment, but I think the audiences have had enough of poofy music."
So there! Heavy Metal Kid has spoken, crossing his much-patched denims and revealing several inches of lurid purple lurex sock. Gary Holton, vocalist with the Heavy Metal Kids, had come into the office bearing gifts - a group t-shirt, several flexi-discs of their single Rock'n'Roll Man, shiny metallic stickers and a white label of their first album, Heavy Metal Kids. He and lead guitarist Mickey Waller sat while I sampled a noisy draught of gutsy rock songs.
Holton sings like Holder with a Hunter accent. "I was trying to sound like Bowie actually," he said reprovingly. Actually, the band are genuine East Enders. Gary was Pearly Prince of Camberwell when he was nine years old, and they play up the Cockney bit to the limits, Gary more than anybody.
Having gone to stage school which, he reckons, benefited him a lot with regard to his live performances with the band, he sung in Hair and played the Artful Dodger in the stage production of Oliver - hence the Fagin-type hat he wears on stage. "Those acting parts didn't really prepare me for singing rock at all," said Gary. "I used to get hoarse every night at first and I had to learn how to really sing loud. I am into theatrics on stage though. I definitely think an audience should be entertained and what we do depends on the particular audience we get that night."
"Their motto is that they don't care what happens so long as they get a reaction," states their publicity hand-out boldly. Does this include being crude and outragious? "It could do, we have a few tricks up our sleeve!"
How many embryo bands, I wonder, have been conceived "dahn the Speak"? Stamping ground of ageing superstars who hang round its murky corners hoping to be noticed, the after-midnight haunt of roadies on the rampage, London's Speakeasy must be on the way to becoming the two I's of the Seventies. At any rate, this is where the idea for forming the Heavy Metal Kids took shape. Gary Holton had been working with a band called Biggles, managed like HMK, by Rikki Farr. "We had all the equipment but no original songs," said Gary, explaining why Biggles remained grounded.
He actually met up with Mickey and the rest of the band in the South of France. The others were working as a backing band for a French pop singer and met Gary during sessions. They needed a singer, Gary fitted the bill, so they started rehearsing together. "The idea of the Heavy Metal Kids started as a bit of a laugh. We were down the Speak and the audience were getting a bit naughty so we started getting a bit heavy with them, know what I mean? When someone said 'Who are you?' I said 'It's the Heavy Metal Kids' and it sorta grew from there. Then we started dressing a bit on stage."
Their image is one of collarless shirts, waistcoats, patched rolled-up jeans, just the opposite of the glam rock bit. Musically, they think they're the complete opposite is Cockney Rebel. "They're all right musically, but they're writing songs of 1975 and we're writing the songs of 1962," said Gary.
The band have had some bad luck recently. Having had two tours supporting Humble Pie and Uriah Heep, their planned tour with Nazareth had to be called off due to drummer Keith Boyce contracting Glandular Fever. "It's a great shame because we get on so well with Nazareth," Gary commented. "We did a short European tour with them and they were very nice to us and very helpful. In fact we've been really lucky with the bands that we've worked with so far. It is frustrating to be a support act, but you've got to do it and it's much easier when you're working with good bands."
They don't try to be too technically ambitious either on stage or on record. They are mostly concerned with giving the audience a good time and enjoying themselves too. Their music is unpretentious, with straightforward lyrics and singalong choruses with harmonies courtesy of Gary, ex-Jimmy Cliff bassist Ronnie Thomas and keyboard man Danny Peyronel. An unusual feature of their music is a touch of reggae, influenced no doubt by Mickey Waller whose old band worked in the West Indies in the Bluebeat days and actually had a couple of reggae hits out there.
At least three of the album's tracks could have been put out as a single, probably pretty successfully too. "You know what the music scene needs?" asked Gary, brandishing his fruit juice (I had an 'eavy night on the booze last night"). "It needs melody. You've got to get the melody back into music and that's what we're trying to do...".