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Neo-rockabilly band Restless have been on the scene, on and off, for twenty
years and with the passing of time have become a band with cult status.
Their earliest singles have become collectors items, mainly because they
sold woefully small quantities compared to what similar bands were selling
at the time. If they'd have cut an album with Dave Edmunds in the early '80s
like the Polecats and Stray Cats did I'm sure they could have made a bigger
impression. The main man of the group is undoubtedly singer and guitarist
Mark Harman. He's an exceptional guitar, rightly acclaimed as one of the
best in the rockabilly world.
The band formed in Ipswich in the late seventies when teenagers Mark and his
brother Paul were joined by Ben Cooper who'd moved to the area from London.
Whilst the brothers had been picking away at the classics, Cooper pointed
them in the direction of the lessor known acts like Charlie Feathers and
Sonny Fisher. Depending who's story you listen to, the name Restless came
from either the Carl Perkins or Johnny Kidd and the Pirates song.
They made their live debut in April 1980 at Springlands Social Hall in
Sudbury, Suffolk with Mark Harman suffering from stage fright. The next gig
came a couple of weeks later in Colchester but they were blown away by the
Rockin' Shades. Unperturbed, they continued to practise and write some
original numbers. Among their earliest efforts were Ghost Town, Long Winding
River, Hightime, Blackat, Leaving This Town and one of the greatest
rockabilly songs of the last twenty years, Ice Cold.
They played a sort of audition gig for Roy Williams of Nervous Records at
the Royalty in Southgate, London, supporting the Deltas who were already
recording for Nervous. The net result was a single in 1981 (Ghost Town,
Leaving This Town and Long Winding River) being issued on the Sunrock label
of Sweden via a licensing deal with Nervous. With only 400 copies pressed,
the record sold out immediately and today sell for over £100. Things were
kicking off well so they started work on their debut album.
Roy Williams remembers, "I was DJ at The Royalty. I was also running Nervous
Records, and had signed up and released an album by The
Deltas. I honestly can't remember them 'auditioning for Nervous' at The
Royalty, although they may well have backed up The Deltas there. I know they
played together on a Rockhouse festival, 'cos I went with them. A lot of
this is, I must admit, an alcoholic blur. I have a poor memory of the period
Restless were brought to my attention by a guy I used to know called Bob
Plumb who was playing double bass in a band called 'Rockhouse' with Driftin
Den on drums..... I'd produced a couple of tracks by them for another label,
and he told me about this 'new young group with a wizard guitarist'. He
thought they'd be the kind of thing that I liked, so I told him to tell them
to send me a demo. Most of that demo was later released as 'The early years'
album. I thought they were brilliant! I played the demos to a lot of people
including Tony Martin of Red Hot Records, who at the time was getting
involved with The Blue Cat Trio. He told me that the guitarist was 'too busy
going doo-lally with it'. This just made me more interested!
Anyway, audition or not, I signed 'em up and made the first album in the
same studio that they'd done their demos in. It wasn't the best equipped and
was in a converted barn on the middle of nowhere, but it was one of the
easiest to produce and most enjoyable albums I've been involved with."
The album, Why Don't You Just Rock! is a neo-rockabilly classic. I loved it
at the time and still play it on a regular basis. Despite the quality of the
album, the band felt that they didn't always get a fair crack of the whip in
some venues because of their percieved lack of respect for the original 50's
sound. To quote from their website, "Thankfully a whole new scene, probably
fronted by The Polecats and the new Bluecats called NEO-rockabilly had
exploded on the continent, especially in Holland (where they did they first
gig abroad for the now legendary Rockhouse festival in Eindoven). Belgium,
France, and Sweden also had a growing 'NEO' scene so the band inevitably
headed there. It was a good time because fans across the water didn't care
if Restless played their own style of rock 'n' roll, they just got into it
anyway. One minute the boys could be playing Gene Vincent's "Pretty Pretty
Baby", and the next they could be ripping into Bens' "It's a scam!" This was
freedom not allowed in England 'till much later. Note perfect covers were
still the order of the day and it would only be much later that Restless
would be accepted and 'allowed' to bridge the gaps". They played the now
legendary venues like the Klubfoot, Brixton Academy, Hammersmith Palais,
Lyceum and the Town And Country supporting bands like The Damned, Spear Of
Destiny, The Pogues, The Clash and the Ramones.
After the second Nervous album, Do You Feel Restless, brothers Mark and Paul
fell out, resulting in Paul leaving the group to be replaced by Jeff Bayly.
Mr Blues a cover of the Marvin Rainwater track, reached number 4 on the
independent chart, a fine achievement. The band's sound altered with the
addition of guitarist Mick Malone, who'd just toured with Dave Phillips.
They signed with ABC and their profile went through the roof. They pushed
the album After Midnight and the singles Somebody Told Me and Just A Friend
with appearances on Radio 1's Saturday Night. Despite these minor successes
it was obvious that they'd lost control over their sound.
Further albums were issued and line-up changes took place, including the
addition of Frenzy's Steve Whitehouse on bass. The trend has continued with
the band disbanding then reforming. They have toured all over the world and
frequently release new product. Although they play very few dates nowadays,
their appearance is always a guaranteed showstopper.
NAME. LABEL. FORMAT. RELEASED.
The Restless! (Ghost town) Sunrock. (Sweden) 7" E P. 1981.
Why don't you... just rock! Nervous L P./ C.D. 1982.
Edge on you. Nervous 7" Single. 1983.
Do you feel Restless? Nervous L P./ C.D. 1984.
Mr.Blues.. Big Beat 7" Single. 1984.
England's Rockabilly Rebels! ( Mr. Blues.) Jax Pax 12" 3- track single. 1984.
Vanish without a trace. A.B.C. 12"& 7" 1985.
After Midnight. A.B.C / Madhouse L P./ C.D/CASSETTE. 1986.
Somebody told me. A.B.C. 12"& 7" 1986.
Just a friend. A.B.C. 7" Single. 1986.
Live and kickin'! A.B.C. L P. 1987.
Ice cold- 87 remake. A.B.C. 12" 4-track. 1987.
The early years '81-'83. Nervous L P./ C.D. 1987.
Beat my drum. Madhouse L P./ C.D/CASSETTE. 1988.
Radar love / Neutron Dance. Madhouse 12" Single. 1988.
Kickin' into Midnight! Madhouse L P./ C.D. 1989.
Movin' on. Madhouse L P./ C.D. 1990.
Tobacco Road. Madhouse 7" Single. 1990.
Number Seven. Madhouse L P./ C.D. 1991.
Figure it out. Nervous L P./ C.D. 1993.
Three of a kind. Vinyl Japan L P./ C.D. 1995.
The Lost Sessions. Vinyl Japan L.P/ C.D. 1996.
The Best of Restless. Nervous & Fury. C.D. and 10" L.P 1996.
Restless 'Unplugged' M.C.G.Vampirella C.D. 1997.
Restless 'Ghost town' M.C.G.Vampirella 7" E.P. 331/3 RPM 1998.
Do your thing Roadblock & Vinyl Japan C.D. & L.P 2002
Restless versus the Rizlaz Vinyl Japan 12" Single 2002
Why don't you just rock?
It's a Scam; Ice Cold; Why Don't You Just Rock?; High Time; Last Chance
Baby; Tag, Man, Tag; Long Black Shiny Car; Face In My Gin; Yellow Cab To
Midnight; Morning Comes Slowly; Blackat; Travellin; High Time #2; Later;
That's All Right
Cut at the Octopus studio, Restless' first album is an absolute gem with the
trio playing their nuts off. The bass and drums are in-your-face bright and
the guitar work is stunning. It's A Scam and the title track are dynamic
with some blood-clotting guitar from Harman - this was rockabilly for a new
generation. The highlight of the album and the best song they've done is Ice
Cold. It's probably the greatest neo-rockabilly song ever. Have you ever
heard a bottom-end like Last Chance Baby, an awesome, dirty sound that would
get anyone doing the rockabilly boogie. Tag, Man, Tag swings like a swing
(!) whilst the pensive Morning Comes Slowly is a real beaut. Another
neo-classic is the guitar-crazed Long Black Shiny Car, a song that would
have been their greatest ever moment if they'd never done Ice Cold. The
album sold 25,000 copies in the UK and had Goldmine magazine pleading
"Someone get these boys a U.S. recording contract fast!" when they reviewed
it in 1983.
Do You Feel Restless?
Bottle On The Beach; Here I Am; Fool's Gold; Down At The Swamp; Alabama
Jailhouse; Prisoner Of Love; Sob Story; Crack Up 'n Fall To Pieces; Sixteen
Tons; Baby Please Don't Go; Here I Am (dubbed); Sweet Surprise; Edge Of You;
Slidin' On Down The Hill; Why Didn't I Stay At Home?
The second Restless album was another enjoyable experience with a couple of
covers slipped in this time. Still with the original trio the album was
produced by Roy Williams and Terry Clemson at the same Lane Studios in
London that the Polecats were using. Tim Polecat also helped out with the
engineering on a couple of tracks. I like the controlled sounds of Here I Am
and Fool's Gold which are pure Restless. The acoustic sound on the old
rocker Alabama Jailhouse sounds fresh and vibrant as do the covers of
Sixteen Tons and Baby Please Don't Go. Prisoner Of Love and Edge On You are
neo-rab classics - in fact there's not a bad track here.
Restless - The early years
Rock The Joint; Hightime; 20 Flight Rock; Modern Romance; Sag, Drag and
Fall; Double Talkin' Baby; Something I Said; It's A Scam;
Why Don't You Just Rock?;
Bottle on the Beach;
Here I Am;
Why Didn't I Stay at Home?;
Slidin' Down The Hill;
Edge on You
Early years recordings and demos from Restless.
The original Restless demo plus the single. Restless recorded these
rockabilly demo tracks and produced them by themselves in the same studio
(Octopus) that their first album ('Why don't you ... just rock') would later
be made in. The last three tracks were recorded in a very expensive studio
in London for a Nervous Records vinyl 45 two years later. At about the same
time that the band were working on these demos, Mark Harman was also in the
Hot Rod Gang with Dave Phillips, and it was around this period that the
seminal Neo-Rockabilly 'Tainted love' was recorded.
What Can You Say; Somebody Told Me; The Face; Trouble Rides a Fast Horse;
Bye-b-b-by-by-bye; Do You Really Need To Know?; You Lose; How Can I Find
You?; Dark Blue Sea; After Midnight; Just a Friend
I gotta be honest with you here - I think this album is crap. Cut for the
ABC label, it was a big affair costing £30,000 to produce. They could have
saved a bit of dosh by leaving off the synthesisers, brass, backing vocals
and piano! Cooper had left the group by this stage and was replaced by Jeff
Bayly, but his bass is way down in the mix compared to the two Nervous
albums. Although a couple of tracks work okay like Somebody Told Me, Trouble
Rides A Fast Horse and Just A Friend (melodic, but more Erasure than Johnny
Burnette), the whole thing is a million miles from Why Don't You Just Rock?
Play a track like The Face next to Long Black Shiny Car, then cringe at the
difference. I was so disappointed when I bought this back in '86 and a
re-listen today hasn't changed my mind.
Beat My Drum
Radar Love; Neutron Dance; Beat My Drum; Do What I Do; London Boy; New
Orleans; Dance With The Devil; Get It While You Can; Tumblin' Down; Big
Wheel; Crossed Line; Ain't Got You; Just Can't Take It
After the band's short stint with ABC, they joined Madhouse and returned to
a three piece. Immediately it's got more balls than After Midnight with a
meatier sound and the emphasis again returning to the prowess of Harman's
guitar. Radar Love is a neat bit of psychobilly and there's some fine
neo-rockabilly in numbers like Neutron Dance, Get It While You Can, Tumblin'
Down and Big Wheel. Cooper lays a solid beat in the T-Rexish title track and
there's a glamrockabilly feel to Dance With the Devil as well. Do What I Do
is straight ahead, no-nonsense rockabilly while Ain;t Got You is given a
Chicago feel thanks to producer Pete Gage's harmonica. I've never been a fan
of the song New Orleans, but it's impossible to ignore Harman's scorching
guitar on this. Basically, a fine return to form after the ABC album.
The Lost Sessions
This is a brilliant straight ahead rockabilly outing with a dozen covers of
much loved classics that for the most part came to the UK's consciousness
during the 70's rockabilly revival. Mark Harman's vocals are spot on and his
guitar playing is mind-blowing. Listen to the playing on things like All The
Time, Break Up and Black Magic and soak up one of the genres best at work.
Picking a favourite is hard but I'd probably go for Morse Code. It's an
unrelenting album and is one to please both the rockers and the psychos.
© Rockabilly Hall of Fame®