❉ Teenage revolution or star-studded sham? Cherry Red’s comprehensive round-up of teen glam band Hello’s complete works reviewed.
Hello. Not one of the top tier of glam rock bands, at least not in terms of UK chart action. Despite issuing a dozen singles in the UK only two of them ever charted, though both made the top 10. The much covered Tell Him (probably best known aside from the Hello version by the Exciters in the early 60s) and New York Groove, which was later covered by Kiss’ Ace Frehley on his 1978 solo album.
However as any fan of cult things will know, best selling far from equals best and Hello were one of the best bands to emerge in the UK in the early 1970s. Cherry Red have just issued a 4 CD box of their complete work which at around £20 gives you a lot of top notch glam for your money. Hello had glam credentials in spades, they were signed to THE glam label, Bell, worked with Mike Leander and like many a cult UK band were bigger on the continent and in Japan than in the UK and their discography covered in this box demonstrates. If you want sing along glam, booming handclaps and that patented muddy glam drums sound then you’re in the right place.
The line up was Bob Bradley, Keith Marshall, Jeff Allen (brother of Ultravox’s Chris Cross) and Vic Faulkner. Whilst neither of their UK hits were written by the band their original compositions more than stand up to the cover versions and songs custom written for them by Russ Ballard.
Their debut album, if you have the vinyl version, suffers from something that afflicted many glam albums, namely too many cover versions. It also does not offer up any surprises, if you know Hello’s style and are aware of the original versions of the songs they cover, you don’t have to hear them as you can easily imagine in your mind’s ear what they sound like. It was also very late in arriving, Hello issued their debut single in 1972 but the album ‘Keeps Us Of The Streets’ (in none more ’70s denim cover) did not come out until 1975 when glam was very much on the wane and pop fans waited for punk to be invented. Luckily the CD, like the others in the box, is stuffed full with bonus tracks of Hello’s early singles so the quotient of covers is reduced.
Their version of Let’s Spend The Night Together is better than Bowie’s for my money. Opening track Teenage Revolution couldn’t be more glam if it tried. The title! The booming drums and handclaps intro should have made it a hit but maybe Hello were just a bit too out of time. The self-written b-side The Wench from 1972 (when most of the band were 16) may be derivative but you don’t get enough boy bands wanting to be Black Sabbath these days.
Hello’s second album ‘Shine On Silver Light’ was only issued in Japan and for me is the weakest of the box. It’s all bit too post-glam MOR for my taste, though maybe that was what the Japanese market wanted. The bonus tracks are something else though with glam echoes mutating into heavier rock and maybe even a before their time new wave. My absolute favourite is Love Stealer from 1976 which should have been a massive hit. Had it been released in 1973 it probably would have been, but UK pop tastes had moved on and even a performance on Top Of The Pops (with Bob on crutches after he was injured playing football) could not tempt enough buyers.
The third album ‘Hello Again’ was only released in Germany in 1978, but who in that year would have wanted to buy an album by Hello? Had this album not had the stigma of being by a former glam rock boy band it could well have done better. Hello’s last single from 1979 is appended and is a prime piece of disco-rock’ along the lines of The Rolling Stones’ Miss You or Kiss’ I Was Made For Lovin’ You. But that was it. it was goodbye to Hello. Keith Marshall scored a big hit in 1981 with Only Crying, a typical hit track that you kind of forget exists until you hear it and it earworms it’s way into your brain again.
The fourth disc rounds up demo versions and outtakes, including some more in the you know what this sounds like without playing it cover version genre.
I hope I haven’t done Hello down, I only had a single disc greatest hits before and I was pleasantly surprised by how strong and consistent the material here is, especially the latter years. One look at the cover of ‘Hello Again’ (moustaches! beige leisure wear! skinny ties!) was enough to put me off, but you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover. Anyone with a passing interest in glam would find much to enjoy and even love on this collection. Check out some of the clips on YouTube of the band in the mid 1970s prime and if you like them there I guarantee you’ll also like the deeper cuts found here.
❉ ‘Hello – The Albums’ is out now from 7T Records, a Cherry Red Records label, RRP £17.99