Lager and limo
Boozin' Bristolians Jaguar take Geoff Barton for a ride
Open the door and relax for a moment in the luxurious leather upholstery. Turn the ignition key and listen to that purring coming from the engine compartment in front of you. Slip it into first: the gear lever moves with a smooth, liquid action.
A tentative touch of the accelerator and the purr becomes a growl. Foot down and the growl becomes a roar. Up with the clutch and through a haze of smokin' rubber and screamin' tyres ... Jaguar pounces!
You may remember I reviewed Jaguar's debut single 'Back Street Woman' in the first wondrous Wooargh! column a few weeks back. Released on the Heavy Metal Records indie label, 'Woman' explodes with Vardis verve, almost punky power, and is the first of the group's songs to really impress me. For I must admit that up 'til now I've always classed the outfit as a little run of the mill: their demo tape was worthy but uninspired and their track 'Stormchild' on the 'HM Heroes' compilation album was less than outstanding, even in the face of dismal competition.
'Back Street Woman', however, is another story. The guitar turns over like a bulldozer engine with sooty spark plugs, the rhythm section pulses out an 18 pint hangover throb, the singer opens his lungs and bawls like a foghorn and the end result is, not surprisingly, one helluva noise.
Encouraged by the Wooargh! write up, three of Jaguar visited the Sounds office the other day, wondering politely about the possibility of an interview. With such self-effacing manners and homespun 'Ooh-aar' accents, how could I refuse?
So when did Jaguar first begin to prowl? 'Spandex and Iron Maiden influenced' guitarist Garry Pepperd is the first to speak up: "The band was formed by me and Jeff (Cox, bassist) in Bristol in December 1979. We put an advertisement in the local paper for a drummer and this guy Chris Lovell came along. I don't think we knew what we were letting ourselves in for."
Lovell himself, who admires Cozy Powell, Cliff Davies of the Nugent band and Animal from the Muppets, pipes up: "I saw the ad and I thought, what the hell, I'll go along and have a go. But I didn't exactly acquit myself terribly well. I made a cock up of everything, played out of time, either too fast or too slow. It was a nightmare."
So howcum you took him on? "We had too," says Cox. "He was making such a Godawful row. Giving him the job was the only way to make him stop."
"I'd only been playing for a year at that time though," qualifies Lovell. "I've harnessed myself now." Jaguar's first singer Rob Reiss joined the band in April 1980 and the now complete team went straight into the studios to record a demo.
"We sent it off to the Battle Of The Bands competition," explains Pepperd, "and eventually a letter came through saying, congratulations, you've made it through to the Bristol heats. Our first gig on May 2 was in the finals of the contest. We got a good reaction from the judges and came fourth. We were well pleased.
"Lovell takes up the story: "Then we just gigged through the summer, around and about the Bristol area. In December 1980 we recorded another demo, put it together with the previous one and placed an ad in Sounds to try and flog it. We were pretty successful — we've sold around 540 of them now, which is tremendous."
Through a notice in the excellent Dutch HM fanzine Aardschok Jaguar came to the attention of one Frits Gijsbertse, a Netherlands-based promoter.
"He wrote to us saying he could fix us up with a few gigs over there," says 'old man of the group', 21 year old Cox. "So we caught the ferry and it went really well. In fact we're going back over in February to play some more dates."
Heavy metal, it seems, is very popular in Holland. And surprisingly the young, short-haired windmill waifs over there seem to prefer NWOBHM-style bands to more established artists.
"The kids are really into the new British stuff," relates Pepperd. "Sammy Hagar played Amsterdam Paradiso to only 100 people, whereas we pulled over 500 last November."
"Holland has been really good for us," adds Lovell. "When we were over there last ! did a promo interview on the radio and just as a joke I said that people had better watch out because 'Jaguar are gonna rock your clogs off!' It was really corny and afterwards I was wincing and thinking, God, how awful, I wish I hadn't said that.
"But then a day or so later we were walking down this street when suddenly these kids appeared from nowhere, started following us and shouting, 'Rock your clogs off! Rock your clogs off!' Much to my surprise it's become a real catchphrase over there now."
Jaguars 'Back Street Woman' was released in the second week of November '81 and sold out of its initial pressing of 4,000 just after Christmas.
"We're happy," says Pepperd. "For a first single on an independent label by an unknown band, those figures can't be all bad."
'Woman' features aforementioned vocalist Rob Reiss, who has since been replaced by one Paul Merrell. Gillan and Rodgers influenced, Merrell enjoys 'sex and beer in vast quantities and in unison' and is ex- of Stormtrooper and Hell Razer.
Stormtrooper I know a little about, but I well remember Hell Razer who not so long ago were hyped on the smallest of scales as 'a glam rock band for the '80s'. I saw a gig of theirs in disco-pub Waves in Kingston-Upon-Thames and the band hardly attracted an SRO crowd. In fact, there were only six people in the audience! That is to say me, my companion, a middle-aged couple who'd obviously just strayed in off the street for a grope in the dark and two punk girls who'd probably taken a wrong turning on their way to an Exploited gig.
Not surprising therefore that Merrell, according to Lovell, "Became disenchanted and decided to come home. He's good now, give him a couple of months to get into the material and he'll be even better."
But what happened to his predecessor?
Lovell: "He didn't really pull his weight," (Ironically, a review of a Jaguar gig at Tiffanys in Bath once described Reiss as 'portly', so he couldn't have been trying very hard at all.) "Plus he wanted to get married I think, he just didn't seem to be that interested. Also, locally, he wasn't that well-liked in heavy metal circles. He joined us and got a bit big- headed."
Jaguar are in the process of putting together their next single, a devastating little ditty entitled 'Axe Crazy'.
"It's really fast," reports Cox with some glee. "That's what we're trying to do, get faster all the time."
"Energy and excitement," chips in Lovell, "that's what it's all about. We're not slow and doomy, we just crank it up, press down the gas pedal and lay on speed, speed and more speed."
The dividing line between the new HM and new punk is becoming thinner every day
"1982 is going to signal the purge of Jaguar," concludes Lovell. "Everybody's going to know the name by the end of I the year. It's going to be plastered everywhere. There'll be no escaping it."
And I've a feeling that that's no idle boast.
(Geoff Barton, Sounds, 30/01/82)