❉ If there’s such a thing as a Mud completist, this is the box set for you.
“The A and B sides for each single are arranged chronologically here and it’s great to listen to the hits again whilst taking in some ropey but interesting B sides and later tracks…“
If you hear the name Mud in relation to pop music, you probably instantly picture four men dressed in brightly coloured matching suits doing hands-on-hip dancing to a stonking rock’n’roll beat. For a short time in the ’70s, Mud were a permanent fixture in the UK charts with three chart toppers and a steady flow of smashes. Their career inevitably hit a trough with the demise of glam and the arrival of punk and new wave but this new 61-track chronological compilation from Cherry Red includes all their A and B sides from their seven years signed to RAK and then RCA/Carrere.
Line-up changes inevitably happened in this period but in their peak years Mud consisted of Les Gray on vocals, Rob Davis on guitar, Dave Mount on drums and Ray Stiles on bass. The band were long in the tooth before their first hit, playing the cabaret circuit (reportedly doing Cream and Doors covers!) and appearing unsuccessfully on Opportunity Knocks.
It was when they signed to RAK Records and came under the guidance of record producer Mickie Most and the hit-making songwriting partnership of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (Chinnichap) that their career really took off. The first two singles on this compilation, Crazy and Hypnosis, despite being strong tracks were just Mud singing over a backing track recorded by session musicians including Chas Hodges, later of Chas and Dave, Dave Mattacks of the Fairports and Pip Williams (later producer for Status Quo).
Their subsequent brace of singles, the magnificent Dyna-mite and Tiger Feet are pop classics and their long in the tooth mixture of old-style rock and roll and stomping tunes suddenly started appealing to the kids, making them regulars on Top of the Pops. In 1974 alone, their peak year, they had four top ten hits.
In a Melody Maker review of a gig from 1974 the reviewer writes of the audience, “The atmosphere is reminiscent of a school outing to a seedy sea-side panto organised by a Religious Instruction mistress, who’s missed the coach. Boys are burping. Girls are picking their noses. There’s a jubilant sense of freedom in the air.”
Rock and roll mixed with crowd noises and “party atmosphere”, on songs sung by a geezer who sometime tried to sound like Elvis, was an endearing combination. They even appeared in a (not very good) film Never Too Young to Rock,which starred other glam bands, along with Freddie Jones, Sheila Steafel and Sally James. After the long run of hits, the quality (that hadn’t been much evident on their self-penned B sides anyway) inevitably started to drop.
Les Gray went solo, and his solo tracks are included here. Dave Mount did a bit of acting and Rob Davis and Ray Stiles had a breakaway project called Roly, also represented on this set. Interesting cuts from the later period on here are Roly Pin, an instrumental that Bob Stanley included on his Three-Day Week compilation, and an instrumental spoof of the Ventures song Walk Don’t Run called Run Don’t Walk
Two of the band are no longer with us but Rob Davis had a later career co-writing songs such as Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head and the Spiller/Sophie Ellis-Bextor track Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love).
This appealing box set is excellently packaged and includes informative sleeve notes, and it’s great to listen to the hits again whilst taking in some ropey but interesting B sides. Relive your ‘70s childhood here!
❉ Mud: ‘The Singles 1973-80’ (3CD set, QGLAMBOX197) was released 21 July 2023 by Cherry Red Group, RRP £23.99. Cherry Red Records have been releasing and reissuing the most innovative and independent thinking music since 1978. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.
❉ James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre. His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1