Formed: Edinburgh, Scotland, 1976
Band Bio Part 1 (Intro & 1975-1977) / Part 2 (1978) / Part 3 ( Aftermath) / Lineups / Discography
I HATE THE REZILLOS.
That's what I'd be writing if I was a complete cunt whose opinion could not be trusted. Depending on my mood, I rate these and the Skids as my favourite Scottish bands ever. Both get labelled with the new wave tag, but both had enough punk firepower for me to consider them proper punk bands. However, the Skids were prone to being a bit arty and a bit pompous, and no one would ever accuse The Rezillos of either: they married kitschy and catchy sci-fi songs with a well-honed and tightly-knit professionalism, played heir music fast and kept their songs short - that's what made them wonderful.
No amateurs, they famously rehearsed for months on end before making their live debut in November 1976. They had the artillery alright, provided by ace guitarist and main songwriter John Callis, who initially called himself Luke Warm before settling on the abbreviated name Jo. They had an absolutely invulnerable rhythm section (drummer Angel Patterson and a series of shit-hot bassists), plus the added novelty of two lead vocalists, Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds. Fay was prone to sporting Wilma Flintstone dresses and sung in a very heavy Scottish accent, contributing both charm and an underlying aggression to the vocal attack, whilst also throwing down some impressive go-go dancer movements. Reynolds - who had played drums in Callis' old covers/party band The Knutsford Dominators - was equally colourful, in possession of an immaculate pair of rock'n' roll vocal chords and choosing to sport wraparound sunglasses and dayglo clothes at all times. By the time the group first trod the stage they numbered eight people, including a female backing vocalist (Gail Warning) and a saxophonist (William Mysterious).
Unlike the other new bands at the time, the Rezillos were more concerned with fun than politics, and peppered their set with classics from the 60's, and not just the "cool" ones: boring stuff like 'I Like It', 'Wooly Bully', 'Glad All Over' and 'Route 66' all got the sped-up treatment. But whereas other bands would take the piss or pervert these songs for punky ends, the Rezillos played them with genuine love and affection. But really fast as well. They never claimed to be a punk band, and seemed bemused by the notion, and also resented any accusation of being revivalists.
Dave Smythe (bass): In March 1976 a guy called Alan Forbes [Reynolds] turned up at my door in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh. He had heard I was a bassist, and did I want to join a fun rock 'n roll band he was founding? I disappeared for a moment, and re-emerged wearing a teddy-boy fancy dress outfit, plus my guitar - You mean like this? I said. I was in - Alan clearly perceived that I would fit in with the band's unpretentious self-parodying ethos, while of course I was capable of laying down a mean rhythm line since I had been playing bass intermittently since 1961.
Jo Callis, Sounds, August 1977: Anyone that doesn't get a sustained feedback sound is called a revival band.
Eugene Reynolds, Sounds, August 1977: We're playing it [an old song] as it should be played, we're not copyists.
Hi-Fi Harris, NME August 1977: This is a tag that's been dumped on us. I dunno what New Wave is, what it's really meant to say. We're definitely not a punk band. But this New Wave thing seems to take in any band that's come out around now that's playing in, say, a more simple vein rather than the highly technical line. Having fun is what we're about, and if that's what the New Wave stands for, then we're definitely New Wave.
Eugene Reynolds, as told in Punk Rock: An Oral History, by John Robb: At the time we tried to distance ourselves from the punk scene because it quickly turned into a circus and everyone was suddenly a punk. One thing that really sickened us was being gobbed on. It first happened in Glasgow in a nightclub called Shuffles. We just could not believe it, and I still can't. We'd just stop playing and tell the idiots, "Either you stop gobbing or we stop playing". It's impossible to say if punk became an advantage or not at the time. Judging by the way our audiences had been growing in our early days I'd hazard that we would have made inroads without a punk scene, but the existence of punk certainly galvanised us and focused our direction.
The band's set consisted entirely of covers for the first few months, but this did not prevent them becoming Scotland's top punk band. Their boundless energy and zip made them the ideal night out. Things got even better when Callis asserted himself by writing originals, and these originals really were original. 'No' may have been a standard teen angst anthem, but it was a funny one. Elsewhere he wrote about alien invasion ('Flying Saucer Attack'), romantic liaisons with artists ('(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures), and how the future couldn't possibly compete with the past ('2000 A.D.'). The band was so popular that it played over 200 shows in its first year, which explains how they got so tight.
Joe Callis, Babylon's Burning: From Punk To Grunge by Clinton Heylin: The first Rezillos gig was Guy Fawkes night in 1976, in [Teviot Row] Union at Edinburgh University... Our first gigs were all cover versions... a lot of rock 'n' roll things like 'Bony Maronie', 'Something Else', 'C'mon Everybody'; [as well as] 'Sam The Sham', 'Have I The Right?'... When we started... it was pretty much 'suck it and see', and it could have been something that we'd have just chucked in after a few weeks; but at least we thought, if we can wind people up and stoke them up a bit, it'll be worthwhile doing it. To our surprise, [at the end of] the first Rezillos gig we got an encore.. Locally [it] took off remarkably quickly; and before we knew it, we were getting offered a lot of gigs.
ABOVE: Melody Maker, August 1977
By the time of the above interview the lineup had been pared down to a measly six - Warning and Mysterious were the casualties - and the truncated Rezillos had already released their debut single, the classic I Can't Stand My Baby / I Wanna Be Your Man, recorded in June and released August by Edinburgh-based indie Sensible Records, which had been set up Lenny Love, who was the local representative for Island Records. The disc was a double "b" side, and was recorded on the cheap at Barclay Towers, a home-recording studio set up in producer Tony Pilley's top-floor flat. 'I Can't Stand My Baby' was an ode to post-natal depression and was 2:35 of pure punk perfection, with razor-sharp guitars and great yelped vocals from Fife. The Rezillos never sounded this crazed again, because they were swiftly elevated to more salubrious surroundings via a deal with Sire Records, and as a result recorded in better studios with better producers and bigger budgets.
ABOVE: An advert, a Smash Hits lyrics request from 1979, and Eugene Reynolds
A revised five-piece lineup of the band - Harris and Smythe had left, and Mysterious back on board, this time on bass - recorded another stunning single in October, this time a double "a" side, (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures / Flying Saucer Attack! It came out in December and was a minor hit, bolstered by a short tour with the Ramones which nonetheless had some problems, when the Ramones management realised how good the Rezillos were and continually sabotaged them (on one occasion they instructed the Rezillos to begin their performance before the doors were even open).
Tony Parsons: Even the Ramones realized by the last date of their tour that the magic of The Rezillos had consistently stolen the Ramonic thunder on this tour.
After this they went off to New York to record Can't Stand The Rezillos, which they co-produced with Tony Bongiovi (brother of John Bon Jovi) and Bob Clearmountain, with help from assistant Lance Quinn. Simply one of the best albums ever recorded, it is an amazingly tight and well-produced, brilliant sequenced record with no lulls during its brief but action-packed running time. '(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures' and 'Flying Saucer Attack' were included in stronger versions, although 'I Can't Stand My Baby' lacked the cheap pizzazz of the original. Unfortunately, while the record was recorded in February it wasn't released until July, and by July Mysterious had fucked off, citing disappointment with the LP's failure to materialise.
Jo Callis, Babylon's Burning: From Punk To Grunge by Clinton Heylin: The album was about to come out when the Sire deal with Phonogram fell through, which initially to us was a bit of a disaster. It held up the release of the album for five or six weeks, which seemed like an eternity. We were all set to go off on tour and promote the album, but everything ground to a halt while Sire re-negotiated their distribution with Warners.
Mr Mysterious's replacement was Simon Templar, who joined the band just in time for the LPs release, as well as the recording of the A-Side of the Top Of The Pops single, which propelled them into the Top 20 and earned them a spot on the programme of the same name. (Either the producers of the show didn't listen to the lyrics or didn't care: "Alright! So you made the grade / Hold tight! To the buck you made / Just wait! You been rated for Constipated peak viewing time / Doesn't matter what is shown / Just as long as everyone knows / What's in fashion, what is seen / On the front of a television screen".)
Another spanking new single, the glorious space-opera themed Destination Venus, came out in November and stalled just outside the Top 40. Some people in the band, however, were not happy with its cover, producer (Martin Rushent) or expense (£5,000).
Fay Fife, Record Mirror, December 1978: We had no illusions about the business. We knew what we were getting into. But it's turned out to be even worse than we expected. They put invisible pressures on you - pressure to use a 24 track studio, with a producer. No one actually said we had to, but we knew we'd be in trouble if we didn't. The best sound we ever got was in an eight-track studio, producing ourselves. That cost £150 to do.
Eugene Reynolds, Record Mirror, December 1978: You get to the point where your original sound is so watered down, you're getting no pleasure out of it.
ABOVE: At the Glasgow Apollo, December 1978; and an advert for the LP recorded at the show
The single coincided with a 40-date tour with support act (and Sire labelmates) The Undertones, but this ended in the worst possible way (well, maybe not the very worst, but pretty badly): the group split up. Fife's pipes gave up early into the tour and many dates had to be cancelled, which lead to all kinds of lawsuits from various venues. There were festering resentments over various things - the cover art for the 'Destination Venue' single, factionalism between the musicians (Callis, Templar, Patterson) and the singers (Reynolds, Fife - then boyfriend/girlfriend), the LP delay - and all the usual complaints about musical direction. After making the decision to split the group bowed out with a rally of triumphant farewell shows. The very last one, at the Glasgow Apollo, was immortalised the following year on Mission Accomplished... ...But The Beat Goes On and the accompanying Cold Wars single. (This final show also marked the return of Warning and Mysterious.)
Michael Bradley, from Teenage Kicks: My Life As An Undertone: The demise of The Rezillos tour was very messy. For a show in Bristol Locarno they were replaced by what looked like random names picked out of an old copy of NME. Chelsea, who were known for only one song, 'Right To Work', and John Otway, also known for one song, 'Really Free'. It was horrible, made worse by seeing Joy Division making the trip down from Manchester only to be told that they weren't playing. They did look extremely disheartened when they learned that there was no room for them, now that Chelsea were playing. Thank God no one told them that we had nicked a set of their guitar strings a few days before.
ABOVE: At the Glasgow Apollo, December 1978
The split led to two new bands.
Callis, Patterson and Templar remained on Sire and formed the short-lived Shake (a.k.a. S.H.A.K.E. and Joe Callis S.H.A.K.E.), which went on to release a handful of singles to little interest. After that Callis and Patterson chanced their arms with dour post-punk types Boots for Dancing, but Callis' subsequent endeavour as a part of the phenomenally successful Human League did better for him.
Fife, Reynolds and Hi-fi Harris formed The Revillos, essentially a rehash of The Rezillos but with an even more 60's flavour, going onto record several excellent singles and two fine albums before splintering in 1985 when Fife and Reynolds ceased to be a couple. Following this Fife tried acting (IMDB credits her with just two roles, in The Bill and Taggart), while Reynolds formed a new band, Planet Pop, which did not record.
William Mysterious's friendship with Fife and Reynolds survived The Rezillos and in 1980 he joined the Revillos as well, for a short time. After that he recorded a single, 'Security Of Noise', as William Mysterious & Alastair Donaldson (his stage name and his real name, you'll notice). This was released in 1982 on his own Mezzanine label. He then did some production work, but his main job was studying to be an architect.
Smythe also played with The Revillos in 1980.
Fife, Reynolds, Callis and Patterson reformed The Rezillos in 2001 and continue to play and record.
ABOVE: The Revillos, posters for the reformed Rezillos stuff, and their 2011 comeback LP, Zero.
Singles / Albums
|I Can't Stand My Baby / I Wanna Be Your Man
|(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures / Flying Saucer Attack!
|Top Of The Pops
|Can't Stand The Rezillos (LP, 1978)||Destination Venus
|Cold Wars (7", 1979)||Mission Accomplished... ...But The Beat Goes On (LP, 1979)|
|Top Of The Pops / Destination Venus (Cassingle, 1981)||Can't Stand The Rezillos: The (Almost) Complete Rezillos
Bootlegs / Demos / Promos
|No / Babysitter (7", split with Ramones, 1992)||Radio Session
|Get Hip (LP, 2003)||Live @ The Silver Thread - 1977
|Paisley 26-10-77 (CDR)|
The Sire Machine Turns You Up UK LP 1978 (Sire): (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures
English Waves! Italy LP 1978 (RCA): I Can't Stand My Baby
Sharp Holland LP 1979 (WEA): Cold Wars
Scottish Kultchur: The Barclay Towers Compilation Album UK LP 1982 (Supermusic): Can't Stand My Baby / Getting Me Down / Good Sculptures
1-2-3-4 Punk & New Wave 1976-1979 UK 5xCD 1999 (Universal): I Can't Stand My Baby
No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion US 4xCD 2003 (Rhino): (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures / Top Of The Pops
THE REZILLOS - Official home page
LOUDER THAN WAR - Interview with Eugene Reynolds and Fay Fife