The career of the Rezillos was short and punchy, just like their songs.
Coming from Edinburgh they emerged fully formed, had a couple of hits, released an album that was in effects a greatest hits record and then squeezed out a live record of their greatest hits album before they split. It all seemed to take about a year.
It was slightly more complicated, they started off as a kind of art school rock covers band with drummer Alistair Patterson, guitarist Jo Callis and the drummer turned frontman who was to become Eugene Reynolds. Like all the other ‘This is Pop’ artists the band contained some pretty good musicians especially Callis who seemed to be able to cover all bases from Berry to Clapton to Marvin (Hank not Gaye) without sounding old school.
In the early days it was a little more chaotic with a sax player, another guitarist and two backing singers. With various art school influences they began to adopt stage names with William Mysterious on sax, Hi-Fi Harris on guitar, Patterson changed his first name to Angel, Callis proved immune to this wackiness ( he was Luke Warm for a while but it didn’t last) and Eugene Reynolds is the name of a person he met in a summer job which seems to have rather missed the point. On the other hand, the backing singers threw themselves into the project with the names Gail Warning and Faye Fife, the latter so called because she was from Fife. (Fife in Scotland, frae Fife-ask a Scottish friend to explain if you don’t get it).
If it’s one thing all musician agree on is that band relationships are difficult, just ask Fleetwood Mac. Reynolds and Fife became a couple. Over time the band would split in two but for the moment it was all fun. The Rezillos were great fun live and getting so much attention that even London got to hear about them. This was partly due to the fact that they were gigging like mad through 1977. Faye Fife was promoted to co-lead singer relegating Gail Warning to the role of ex band member. Fife and Reynolds were proving to be a dynamic couple. Fife having a rather weird hunchback look as she scuttled about stage but combined with a dress sense that seemed to combine the swinging 60’s with the Flintstones and the fact that she was one of the first people to sing with a Scottish accent she was mesmeric. Reynolds was equally committed, at one point he had a suit made of plastic along with plastic boots. At the end of a performance he could literally pour out the sweat which had tricked into his boots though the course of the evening.
Local record label Sensible records but out their first single ‘ Can’t Stand my Baby’, it was pretty snappy and now the major record company’s realised there was money to be made from punk pop and came a knockin.
The band agreed to sign to Sire being impressed with a label that had the Ramones and the Talking Heads. At this point a couple of members left amicably not wanting to be professional musicians. Quite how playing 200 gigs a year didn’t already make them professional musicians is debatable but the Rezillos were possible the best educated band of the 70’s with a high proportion of the members going on to be architects at some point.
Incongruously for such a Scottish band they decamped to New York to record their first/only album. ‘Cant Stand the Rezillos’ was absolutely chock full of pop classics from originals such as ‘(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures’, Flying Saucer Attack, Destination Venus, to a couple of well-judged covers.
Then it all started to fall apart. There were record company problems resulting in delays to getting the record out, William Mysterious having switched from sax to bass got bored waiting and left, Fife and Reynolds got pissed off with the label while the musicians in the band tried to keep what had looked like a promising career alive.
It wasn’t all downhill immediately, The Band recorded ‘Top of the Pops’ with new bassist Simon Templar, it was considerably better than the LP version and is still a minor classic being kind of funny and knowing about a medium the band are bother sending up and sucking up to. A high spot for me has always been the bit where Angel Patterson refuses to mime his drum fill.
But that was the high spot and the beginning of the end, there was still a lot of unhappiness around Sire which seemed to be making as poor a job of selling a great band as they could. There was the split between the true love singer faction who got all the attention and the musicians centred around Callis who provided the songs and the musicality. Fife developed some vocal problems and the band called it a day bowing out with a live album which reunited them with some of the old members.
The band had been in the public eye for most of 1978, by Christmas they were no more.
As previously mentioned, the Rezillos were pretty slick musicians blessed with a lot of stamina ‘Someone is Going to Get their Head Kicked in Tonight’ probably being their fastest number and one that used to destroy me within 30 seconds if I tried to play along. They were great live but also pretty good on record with the advantage that, unlike Buzzcocks for example, they never had to sustain a career long after we had lost interest. Reynolds and Fife stayed true to the spirit with the Revillos which were a bit more kitsch but good fun. The musicians formed Shake which demonstrated the public had less interest in guitar pop than they had anticipated. Callis, of course survived into the 80’s by becoming a member of the Human League providing them with some much-needed musical input.
You can guess what eventually happened of course. The band reformed for a one off and then, as that was better than expected they did some more gigs then people started to leave again but the band continued to plough on playing to old fans who were curious to see what Faye Fife looked like in her 50’s. It’s a heady drug music and one that’s hard to give up as evidenced by the fact that their drummer, despite being a qualified architect, is still Angel Patterson. If he can play ‘Someone is Going to Get their Head Kicked in Tonight’ at the original speed I’ll be well impressed.