Don’t worry, the words Heavy and Metal are unlikely to be used together in this blog ever again. Thinking about it, I’m still at a loss as to why this mid ’70s act should have chosen to call themselves The Heavy Metal Kids. Yeah, I know they got the name from William Burroughs (that man name-checked for the second post running) but if you haven’t heard the Kids before don’t expect any Iron Maiden style bollocks.
Between glam and punk, several new bands emerged who would be touted as potential next big things – Jet, Deaf School, The Doctors of Madness and, of course, The Heavy Metal Kids being prime examples. And just to confuse matters more, the Kids were often called punks back then when that term was used more loosely than it would be just a couple of years later. I’m sure I even remember someone in the music press referring to Rod Stewart as a punk one time.
A quintet of rabble-rousing droogs, The Kids specialised in blasting out songs about birds and bovver like Always Plenty of Women and The Cops Are Coming. Bovver was big news back then and you wouldn’t have to turn too many pages of a paper like Glasgow’s Evening Times before you’d read about truants, football hooligans, glue sniffers, vandals or violent teenage gangs and their local reigns of terror.
The Kids looked to have all the ingredients of a success story, singer Gary Holton possessed a good bluesy voice and shared a similar sense of onstage theatricality as his pal Alex Harvey – Holton, like Alex, was also what might have been called a gallus case in Glasgow (translation: full of swagger).
The band, and Gary in particular, also demonstrated a knack for publicity, One day Gary would crop up in the Sun (I promise to never mention that paper again too) photographed cavorting with some page 3 girl, the next, the band would be filmed playing The Cops Are Coming live in Fulham for a documentary investigating violence at rock concerts by BBC current affairs series Panorama.
They played everywhere in London from the Marquee to Kensington fashion emporium Biba and also supported Alice Cooper in Britain and America and Kiss in the States before getting kicked off the tour. The band it would have to be admitted were no choirboys.
They could maybe have been a (not so) Small Faces for the seventies but earned only relatively minor success, no real hits but one appearance on Top of the Pops and a spot on The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Many future punk bands were fans. Tony James from Generation X first met Mick Jones of The Clash at a Kids’ show and several members of The Damned also rated the band. The Kids themselves observed the rise of The Sex Pistols at close hand – members of both groups drank frequently in King’s Road boozer The Roebuck and Gary began to suspect that Johnny Rotten had nicked some of his street urchin image and act. He let Johnny know his thoughts on the matter too.
By the time that the their third album Kitsch was released in the summer of 1977 as the punk explosion peaked, The Heavy Metal Kids were already looking distinctly like yesterday’s men rather than any next big thing.
Those who had predicted stardom for Gary, though, did get it right. Originally trained as an actor, he appeared very briefly in Quadrophenia but was given a much more important role in Stephen Poliakoff’s TV drama Bloody Kids, first shown in March 1980, before landing the role that he’ll always be best remembered for, cheeky Cockney chappie Wayne from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
From their self titled debut album this does start off sounding like one of those awful power/rock ballads but gets better as it goes along with a chorus not a million miles from a Status Quo style boogie. This is We Gotta Go:
Ian Dury was another artist who suspected that Johnny Rotten had borrowed from his act, feeling that he’d nicked his razor-blade earring and the manner in which he leaned in towards his microphone and sang. In fact, according to James Macleay’s book on Malcolm McLaren, Dury went to his grave annoyed at how ‘McLaren and Lydon had aped his style yet never given him any credit for it.’
Certainly both McLaren and Rotten had seen Kilburn and the High Roads on several occasions and The Sex Pistols had even supported them on the Kilburns’ very last show at the Walthamstow Assembly Hall but while Johnny might have taken note of Ian – and Gary Holton’s – sense of stagecraft, I doubt the influence of either made any real difference to the success of his Pistols.
Chris Thomas was a big fan of the Kilburns and produced their first single Rough Boys. As he told Ian Dury biographer Richard Balls: ‘The funny thing was, a couple of years later I was approached by Malcolm McLaren about possibly doing the The Sex Pistols, he set up a meeting with Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock, and they wanted me to produce them because they’d liked Rough Kids. I didn’t think anyone had heard it.’
Back in 1974, I don’t think I ever heard the single but I doubt it was ever given any airplay on Radio 1 and I would be amazed if any Clyde DJ had ever given the track a spin. I was also unaware that this footage existed until a few hours ago, here is Rough Kids: