CD Review – Alvin Stardust – The Magnet Albums

Back in the 1970s acts such as Alvin Stardust were seen by many as the very antithesis of progressive rock. Short, snappy highly commercial tunes were created aimed at being hit records, seemingly targeting the light entertainment world as much as the musical one. Such acts were more likely to turn up as guests on the Morecambe and Wise show than on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

In many ways Alvin Stardust was a manufactured act. The brainchild of the Magnet record label, Alvin Stardust was a character created to be along the lines of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and Gary Glitter and the other Glam Rockers. The man who most people would recognize as Alvin Stardust did not even sing on the first hit single. That was Peter Shelley, a signer songwriter turned record label executive who wrote, recorded, and sang on My Coo Ca Choo. But a face was needed for Alvin Stardust as Shelly was disinclined to adopt the role. A search found Bernard William Jewry, a talented singer who had been performing since the pre-Beatles 1960s, most notably as Shane Fenton. In creating his new character, Alvin Stardust developed a lot of his traits almost by accident. Jewry dyed his hair black for his new role, in doing so getting dye on his face and hands. Stick-on sideburns were employed to hide the stains on his face, and a pair of gloves used to camouflage his hands. These became recognisable Alven Stardust characteristics and a new act was born, notwithstanding the need to lip-sync on the new hit single.

This three CD box set is a fifty-four track collection of everything recorded by Alvin Stardust for Magnet Records. Disc 1 features Alvin’s 1974 debut album which reached No.4 in the UK charts. It includes the world-wide chart smash My Co Ca Choo, a UK number 2, Germany number 3, Australia number 1, and his sole British chart topper Jealous Mind which also hit No.5 in Germany. The second disc contains his 1974 self- titled number 37 charting album. It features the UK hit singles Red Dress which reached number 7, You You You achieving number 6 and Tell Me Why which reached 16 on the charts, along with the number 11 smash hit Good Love Can Never Die among seven bonus tracks. The final disc is the Rock With Alvin album from 1975, with eleven bonus tracks made up of non LP singles including the previously German-only 45 Sweet Little Rock ‘N’ Roller which makes its debut on this release. Phil Hendriks has supplied in-depth liner notes and the booklet also contains many of the picture sleeves from across the globe plus memorabilia from the era.

The music is a hybrid of glam pop and rock’n’roll, with Alvin Stardust coming across as something of a supersonic teddy boy. But Alvin Stardust has quite a decent voice and interprets the songs well, leaning a little bit, at times, towards impressions of Elvis Presley and others. The revelation, on hearing these recordings for the first time in decades, is the quality of the musicians. There are some excellent performances from most of them, but there is some stunning guitar work on some of the songs. It is impossible to pinpoint who is actually playing when as there are so many personalities involved, often with several guitarists, say, appearing on an album without defining who is playing on which song. There are also some eccentricities. Alvin Stardust was a part of the Green Cross Code road safety campaign in the UK, resulting in the track Be Smart Be Safe (The Green Cross Code Song).

This release is very much a snapshot of the earlier part of Alvin Stardust’s career, which then continued into the 1980s. The overall feel is that of an anachronistic rock’n’roller with one foot in the glamour and glitz of glam rock. It is a fun listen at times, with all the tropes and sounds of a then bygone era. Not progressive rock at all, but jolly enough.

Disc One: The Untouchable

1. My Coo Ca Choo

2. Be My Judy

3. The Bump

4. My Sweet Deutsche Friend

5 Jealous Mind

6. Dreambreaker

7. I’m In Love Again

8. High Fever

9. Dressed In Black

10. You’re My Everything

11. Guitar Star

Bonus Tracks

12. Pull Together

13. Alvin Stardust LP Jingle

Disc Two: Alvin Stardust

1. Red Dress

2. Heartbeat

3. Just Love Me Baby

4. Where’s She Gone

5. You, You, You

6. Chilli Willi

7. Jump Down!

8. Shake On Little Roller!

9. Tell Me Why

10. First Train Out

11. Blind Fool

Bonus Tracks

12. Little Darlin’

13. Come On!

14. Roadie Roll On

15. Good Love Can Never Die

16. The Danger Zone

Bonus Alvins Heartbeats Tracks

17. Chilli Willi

18. Chilli Willi (Part 2)

Disc Three: Rock With Alvin

1. Twenty Flight Rock

2. C’mon Everybody

3. Bony Maronie

4. Move It

5. It’s Better To Be Cruel Than Be Kind

6. Angel From Hamburger Heaven

7. It’s Only A Song Peggy Sue

8. Good Love Can Never Die

9. The Love Bug

10. Come On

11. Bye Bye Love

12. Never In A Million Years

Bonus Tracks

13. Sweet Cheatin’ Rita

14. Be Smart Be Safe (The Green Cross Code Song)

15. Here I Go Again

16. The Word Is Out

17. No Parking Space

18. Growin’ Up

19. A Hobo’s Life

20. Sweet Little Rock ‘N’ Roller

21. Save Your Love

22. Jailhouse Rock

23. Love Is Real

Line-up: many and varied

Release date: 14th January, 2022

Label: Cheery Red Records

Format: CD Boxset

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