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Along with the Sex Pistols, Clash and the Damned, The Boys were part of the first wave of the mid-1970's UK punk explosion. Armed with an arsenal of killer Steel/Dangerfield songs The Boys became the first UK punk band to sign an album deal in January 1977 and subsequently released two albums, their self-titled debut and the follow-up "Alternative Chartbusters" in quick succession. Highly regarded by the music press and their contemporaries, their well-crafted songs, together with Steel and Dangerfield's layered harmonies, even led to them being described as 'The Beatles of Punk'.
On the 35th anniversary of the original release of "Alternative Chartbusters" these two classic albums have been given a special edition deluxe release on both CD & vinyl by Fire Records. Both albums have been digitally remastered to the highest quality (personally overseen by Dangerfield) and feature sleeve notes by Dave Henderson of Mojo along with song listing notes by Dangerfield. The albums also come with bonus CDs featuring previously unreleased material including Dangerfield's original home demo of "Brickfield Nights" and Plain's first vocal outing on "It Only Hurts When I Cry".
As Last FM puts it: "The Boys made arguably one of the best LPs of the 70s with their self-titled first album and provided the template for superior Pop Punk before even the Buzzcocks had got out of first gear".
The Boys were born in September 1975 when singer/guitarist Matt Dangerfield left Mick Jones and Tony James's fledgling punk band London SS to form a new band with ex-Hollywood Brats songwriter/keyboard player Casino Steel. Dangerfield's art college friend, guitarist Honest John Plain, was soon recruited. The following year they held auditions for the bass and drum roles with Kid Reid and Jack Black completing the line-up.
Matt Dangerfield had converted his rented basement flat in Maida Vale into a home recording studio. 47A Warrington Crescent became extremely important in the development of the UK punk scene in the mid seventies. Mick Jones, Tony James, Brian James, Rat Scabies, Gene October, Sid Vicious and Billy Idol were regular visitors. Amongst others, the Sex Pistols, The Damned, London SS, The Clash, Chelsea, Generation X and of course, The Boys, made their first recordings there.
In this hotbed of creativity Steel and Dangerfield quickly struck up a prolific songwriting partnership. Around June 1976 the now settled line up kick started a hyperactive period where a slew of sub-three minute Steel/Dangerfield-penned anthems were honed to perfection in Dangerfield's coal cellar during that blistering heatwave. As Casino Steel would later admit, "We never wanted any song to be longer than three minutes 20 seconds." And, in 1976, with a nod to The Beatles' melodic dexterity, the odd sneer and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, the duo became truly prolific songwriters who could knock a good 60 seconds off that target length.
The Boys made their live debut at London's Hope and Anchor in September 1976. Mick Jones, Billy Idol, Joe Strummer, Tony James and Gene October were all present and the venue was packed for The Boys' performance.
Just a few months later they became the first punk band to sign an album deal when they were snapped up by NEMS in January 1977. The band released the single 'I Don't Care', which became an instant John Peel show favourite, its picture sleeve housing a rambunctious slice of souped-up Chuck Berry-styled riffing by way of The Beatles. It was a must-have item. The grainy black and white cover photo featured the five-piece in shades and leather with skinny ties, the sound was like a rock 'n' roll version of The Jam's breakneck debut 'In The City' and the B-side 'Soda Pressing' had more of a flamboyant Heartbreakers-styled swagger to it.
"The Boys" eponymously titled debut album, produced by Dangerfield & Steel, was released on 23 September 1977 and entered the UK charts the following week. In the intervening years, the history of punk rock has been written and re-written and a whole heap of bands have been sidelined. The Boys' debut album, re-mastered here some 35 years later still sounds as fresh and immediate as it did back then and it also includes two classic punk rock singles in 'I Don't Care' and 'First Time' (the latter, along with The Undertones "Teenage Kicks", the ultimate punk anthem of teenage romance and adolescent angst). The album ("The Boys") was filled with the pop punk gems, the kind of immediate salvos that would elevate Buzzcocks into the charts.
A mere six months later on 17 March 1978 their second album "Alternative Chartbusters" followed - once again produced by Dangerfield & Steel. But, as the AllMusic site now recognizes, "Alternative Chartbusters" was way ahead of its time, a buried treasure that only got dusted off much later: "Condemned at the time for offering up little more than a straight carbon copy of its predecessor, the second Boys' album has since ascended to the pantheon of power pop greats, a combination of the band's own inestimable position at the forefront of what, by early 1978, was already a burgeoning movement, and their seemingly effortless grasp of the rudiments of, indeed, a great pop song."
Further to that, AllMusic also recognizes the odd transfer of influences. The scene-setting classic opening cut 'Brickfield Nights' had taken several pointers from the production style of Phil Spector and transferred them "to an urban English setting, something that The Ramones would embrace on future albums.
As AllMusic concludes: "The Boys were perhaps punk's saddest casualty. They could - indeed, should - have been enormous. But still the story of The Boys is one filled with great songs, an arsenal of killer hooks. Their directive was simple: to create hard-edged pop music, with enough bite to pass the burgeoning punk standards, but enough melody to get by in the mainstream. It says much for their ambition that, within two years, the so-called power pop explosion had grown up almost exclusively around The Boys' frantic majesty.
And people were still noticing many years later. Take this from Amazon in 2004: "If this album was released today, The Boys would be as big as The Strokes. "
The Boys remain a timeless concept, a flash of short, sharp angst, a fleeting Beatles-esque harmony, a crunching but melodic set of chords that it's hard not to be excited by.