Saturday, April 20, 2024

RAMzine Classic: Budgie’s 1971 Debut

One of the most underrated bands in the history of heavy rock, Budgie. They formed in 1967 in South Wales and used various names including Ten Ton Budgie, before settling on just Budgie. According to founding member Burke Shelley this was because he “loved the idea of playing noisy, heavy rock” however calling themselves “after something diametrically opposed to that”. Shelley was the bass player and vocalist, Tony Bourge the guitarist and Ray Phillips on drums. They formed a true ‘power trio’.

They released their debut album in 1971, simply titled Budgie. This was to set the tone for all of their subsequent albums in every sense. The covers always feature a budgie, usually anthropomorphised into a human figure with a budgies head!

Each album features at least one amusing/clever/strange track title – ‘Hot as a Dockers’ Armpit’, ‘Napoleon Bona-Part One’, ‘If I Were Britannia, I’d Waive the Rules’ to name a few and on this debut the wonderfully imaginative ‘Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman’!

In the studio and live the power Budgie conveyed was greater than could be believed from just three musicians. Some would try to label them as ‘Prog’ due to their intricate time changes; some compared them to Rush (a trio with a bass playing singer) but Budgie was there first.

They ploughed their own furrow with their unique take on heavy, blues based rock. For reasons I will never understand, sales did not reflect their superb musicianship. Only their fourth album In For The Kill really bothered the charts, the others were left to fans to devour and gratefully absorb.

The debut was 41 minutes of raw energy, summed up by the lead off track, ‘Guts’. A typical Bourge riff backed by Shelley’s ever powerful yet subtle bass and Phillips straightforward thumping drums and, yes, changing times throughout.

‘The Author’ & ‘Nude….’ start off quiet and then assault the ears. ‘Rape of the Locks’ (about a haircut!), ‘All Night Petrol’ and ‘Homicidal Suicidal’ continue the barrage. Two short acoustic interludes, ‘Everything in My Heart’ and ‘You & I’ provide a breather on each side of the vinyl.

If you haven’t heard this superb band, do yourself a favour and buy it or get all of the MCA label releases in a box set, available now. Shelley is currently on hiatus after suffering pulmonary problems at a concert in Poland in 2010 and we wish him well.

Tom Dixon
Tom Dixon
North East born, South West domiciled music lover - mainly heavy rock & blues but not averse to other genres. I'm fortunate to have retired early & I can now take full advantage of the 40+ years I have spent collecting, listening, watching & playing (badly) & have enjoyed researching how blues in particular has shaped the music we know & love today. Now if only I could get my Strat & Musicman to sound in reality how they do in my head!

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