Wednesday 26 February 2020

The Valves "Better Late..." Edinburgh Punk/New Wave Legends Finally Release Debut Album...! Featuring Exclusive Paul Slattery Photos.

Back in Episode 9 of Retrosonic Podcast, my colleagues Adam Donovan from The Jetsonics and Rock Photographer Paul Slattery were reminiscing about some of the great bands they both saw at The Nashville in London back in 1978. One such band were the Scottish Punk band The Valves and they both picked a blistering track of theirs called "For Adolf's Only" to play in the episode, which you can hear at our Soundcloud site here. Then a couple of weeks ago, Paul popped round to my place excitedly clutching a vinyl LP - it was The Valves 'debut' album, a lovingly packaged record that's only taken forty odd years to see the light of day and I smiled when I saw the ironic title "Better Late..." The album features one of Paul's photos on the cover and some great live shots in the insert, so I asked Paul to explain how he got to know and work with the band.

The Valves - Copyright Paul Slattery
"I’d already got The Valves first two singles which were released in 1977, "Robot Love" and "Ain’t No Surf in Portobello" which I’d played to death so I was mad to see them play live which I finally did, supporting The Zones at The Nashville in September ’78. They played a blinder and I came back to The Nashville a week later to see them support The Records. The Valves were a superb band with great tunes and catchy lyrics, but what I really liked was their humour. Dave was just a top frontman, the two Gordons were a fantastic rhythm section and Ronnie was a bloody good guitarist. The other thing I learned after the second Nashville gig was that they were all a good laugh and liked a drink so we all got on like a house on fire. I got a tape in the post soon after that gig, seven tracks which I thought would be the basis for an album. I didn’t know at the time though that I’d have to wait forty two years to see that album released! In October of ’78 I went up to Edinburgh to do a photo session with the Valves, walking around Greyfriars and Edinburgh Castle and then going down to Portobello Beach. It was a fun session and the band have been using these photos ever since. The evening after the photo session they played a late gig at the Yellow Carvel in Edinburgh. The Stiff Train tour had played that evening and they all came down to the pub to see the Valves play a packed out gig. Wreckless Eric wanted to sing with them but was so pissed he fell over before he could get on the stage. The home crowd knew all the words and went crazy - It was a wild night! I’m really chuffed the band have used the Portobello photo on the front of their finally released album "The Valves...Better Late" and a few of mine from Nashville and Music Machine gigs on the album insert. The album is a wonderful slice of Post-Punk R&B and it’s real feelgood music. A very nice package too. Bands come and go but I always had a soft spot for the Valves. That old demo tape I got from them has been played to death over the last forty years so it’s great to finally hear the songs on vinyl. If the band were to re-form and play a couple of gigs to celebrate this album release it would make my day." - Paul Slattery February 2020

The Valves - Copyright Paul Slattery
The Valves were originally from Edinburgh and the line-up featured singer and lyricist Dave Robertson, guitarist Ronnie MacKinnon, bassist Gordon Scott and drummer Gordon Dair. The band released three singles between 1977 to 1979 before disappearing, until now! They always regretted not releasing an album like so many of their contemporaries but finally, after years of preparation they have assembled a re-mixed and re-mastered compilation of demos, studio sessions along with three live tracks, for this superb collection on their very own Portobello Record Company.

The Valves - Copyright Paul Slattery
The Valves sound is a thoroughly entertaining and uplifting mix that zooms across the Atlantic and back again, picking up some varied influences along the way. There's the summery Californian West Cost harmonies of "Ain't No Surf In Portobello" and one of my favourites, the catchy Bubble-gum Pop of "Diana Barrymore". Then we hop over to the Lower East Side of New York to the Dolls swagger of "Mum & Dad" and “West End Club” in which Dave Robertson's gruff, snarling vocals remind me of the New York Dolls' David Johansen. Then it's back to the U.K. for some raw touches of Canvey Island Feelgood R'n'B on "I Don't Wanna Eat You" with its choppy Wilko style guitar and some wicked harmonica playing. "Anytime" would have made a classic Stiff Records single in the Costello and Graham Parker mould. However, the band specialise in their very own brand of tuneful Punk Rock and New Wave as perfectly captured in the album opener “Adolf's Only", The Valves' quintessential late 70's Punk nugget of a 7” single. They certainly have the tunes, "Sister Radio" is a masterclass in perfect Power Pop, packed full of the melodic suss of bands like The Nerves and The Boys. "So Stuck Up" is  a great up-tempo Punky R'n'B number but it's the slow burning and menacing remix of "Linda Vindaloo", which is undercut by a psychedelic sitar motif, that is one of the highlights for me. "Fab Front Loader" and "Walk Don't Walk" are both tuneful songs with stinging guitar riffs from Ronnie MacKinnon. A live version of "Robot Love" complete with robotic beeps and bleeps as backing vocals is followed by the storming "Haircuts From Mars" with its thunderous bass and rolling drums powering it along at breakneck speed. It’s great stuff! Hopefully this album will not only satisfy long-time fans such as Paul and Adam but also bring The Valves to the attention of a whole new appreciative audience. I wonder how long it takes until the follow up...?!

The Valves "Better Late..." will be released by the Portobello Record Company on March 13th, for more information check out the great The Valves web-site and Blog here. Photos copyright Paul Slattery. Live photos from the Yellow Carvel, 18th October 1978. Copyright Paul Slattery.

You can hear Paul and Adam talking about The Valves and their choice of track in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 9 below. The full Retrosonic archive is available at our Soundcloud site here.

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