The Quireboys + Screaming Eagles + Massive Wagons
There’s a neat bourbon in your glass, a good woman on your arm and a long night of hard partying ahead. All you need is the band. And for those seeking a group of true Brit troubadours, capable of crafting the quintessential bar room experience with arena-style style hooks, look no further than the Quireboys.
There was a time when lead singer Spike and his happy go lucky cohorts held the copyright for good time rock and roll as they blazed an intoxicating trail across the UK, Europe and beyond. Boasting a bulging back catalogue of sing-along classics and an unerring ability to charm the most cynical of crowds, this instantly likeable combo fused hit singles with high profile support slots to ride the crest of the late 80s hair metal wave.
Whether crashing the top end of the charts with commercial standards Hey You, 7’O’Clock and the bittersweet ballad I Don’t Love You Anymore, or cajoling a capacity St James’s Park crowd ahead of headliners the Rolling Stones, there was no stopping a band burning with ambition and shining with enthusiasm.
Within two years of supporting Axl, Slash and co. at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Quireboys were being slated as Britain’s answer to Guns ‘N’ Roses. Their major label debut, A Bit Of What You Fancy, was exactly that. Fans at home and abroad lapped up a heartfelt collection of rough diamonds given a polished production and the record reached number two in the UK album charts.
What had started out as a notable yet untried north-south alliance in 1985 was suddenly becoming a musical tour de force. Newcastle-born Spike’s endearing collaboration with fellow Geordie boy Ginger (guitar), Guy Bailey (guitar), Nigel Mogg (bass), Chris Johnstone (keyboards) and Nick ‘Coze’ Connell always oozed potential. But a dangerous addiction to excessive partying often prevented real progress.
Then again, without the Quireboys there was no partying and it was the band’s ability to combine killer songs with excess all areas that made them hot favourites with fellow bands, mad-for-it fans and an ever-receptive media. Within months the original line-up were selling out London’s Marquee – without selling out. And it was that determination to do it their way – drink, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll et al – which saw the majors come calling.
By the time a deal had been inked with EMI, Ginger and Connell had gone and guitar-slinging slow burner Guy Griffin was showing the potential which would see him emerge as a driving force within the Quireboys for two decades and more. “Griff gave us fresh impetus at a time when we were on the brink of going places,” recalls Spike. “I suppose you could say he’s the glue which binds this band together.”
If early favourites Mayfair and There She Goes Again had taken a gang of vibrant newcomers to the top level of London’s live rock scene then the commercial appeal underpinning Hey You and 7’O’Clock proved the Quireboys were true contenders. Both hit singles remain staples of the band’s 2013 show and Spike added: “7 O’Clock was one of the first songs that we (Spike and Guy Bailey) ever wrote.
“We’d played the song at the Reading festival, at the Marquee, all over the place and every time without a chorus. But the line 7 O’Clock has always been there from start to finish.”
The same can be said for Spike. And if other Quireboys have come and gone then the enduring frontman, with his trademark bandana and shot of JD, has remained the one constant during the last 28 years.
If London was the platform required to showcase Spike’s star quality then the Geordie boy come good never forgot his North East roots. The Newcastle United die-hard penned a new take on Tyneside, ironically named Dirty Town, on the band’s 2008 record, Homewreckers and Heartbreakers, and yet it was the era-defining Mayfair which helped launch The Quireboys in the pubs and clubs across the UK.
“Mayfair will always be special to me,” added Spike. “It was the first rock club I went to in Newcastle as a 13-year-old kid dreaming of being a star. I saw my first gig there – UFO. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It’s such a shame it’s been replaced by a multiplex cinema and a load of trendy bars. I’ve sung that song all over the world and it always gets the crowd going. But in Newcastle they go mental!
“I love where I’m from and my roots. Dirty Town is all about the Toon and it namechecks places like the Quayside which have become part of the social culture up there. It picks up from where Mayfair left off I suppose.”
In tandem with Blyth-born guitarist Paul Geurin – a prime mover in the Quireboys for the past decade – Spike has continued to support the North East. The pair penned a charity tune for FA Cup giant killers Blyth Spartans in 2009 and supported The Robbie Elliott Foundation in 2012 (fronted by former Newcastle United defender Robbie Elliott) with the iconic Biking For Bobby – a song blasted out for the first time in front of 52,000 Magpies fans at St James’s Park.
At the same time the Quireboys have emerged as an acoustic act par excellence. Halfpenny Dancer, released in 2009, featured a slew of stripped down and reworked classics plus favourite covers. The band toured the UK and Europe playing ‘unplugged’ and complemented by a pedal steel sound perfect for their unique brand of British blues meets raw Americana. In 2012 an expectant Download Festival crowd was treated to both sides of a band riding the crest of a creative wave, with a full electric set followed by an acoustic show 24 hours later.
But with 2013’s Beautiful Curse the Quireboys are back where they belong – at the forefront of the British rock scene and delivering music made for sweaty clubs and massive festivals alike. Spike, Griffin, Guerin and keyboardist Keith Weir have emerged as a rock solid quartet capable of fusing the old with the new and providing these national treasures with a reliable platform from which to drive forward.
Locked away at renowned producer Chris Tsangarides’ Kent studio in the spring of 2013, the foursome took time out from supporting NWOBHM titans Saxon on a full UK tour to put the finishing touches to the brilliant Beautiful Curse. “We’re very happy with how it worked out,” added Guerin. “As a group Spike, Griff, Keith and I have been working together for some time and this album sums up exactly where we are as a band right now. It’s the sound of the Quireboys in 2013 and it’s a sound we’re very proud of.”
It’s already been a big year for Spike and the boys with an appearance on the 2013 Monsters Of Rock cruise – sailing from Florida Keys – and a slot opening up for prog rock legends Rush on the main stage at Sweden Rock. “That was massive for us,” added Spike. “We were treated like kings and all had our own dressing room! We played an acoustic set before Rush in front of thousands of fans and it was like some kind of dream.”
Backing up Beautiful Curse with a full UK headline tour this autumn – supported by Bonafide – it’s clear the Quireboys aren’t about to rest on their laurels just yet. Twenty-three years after ABOWYF catapulted the good time rock n rollers into the big time, the band is still crafting killer albums oozing understated cool and a well-intentioned swagger. “It’s a great time to be in the Quireboys and I love playing with such a great band,” added Guerin. “This is rock n roll – the way it was always meant to be.”