Wednesday 26 August 2015

Powerpop - the Autographs

Back in 1977 there was a band called the Stukas, who released a couple of singles, most famously 'I Like Sport' (produced by our old friend Pat Collier). In a parallel universe, this is earning its writers a fortune as the theme tune to a hugely popular TV game show.

Anyway, one of the Stukas was singer Chris Gent, who'd been knocking around the music scene for a couple of years, sometimes under the patronage of Mike Batt. If you remember the Milk Marketing Board's advertising campaign 'There's a Humphrey about', you may conceivably also recall 'The Humphrey Song' written by Batt and released under the name the Mad Hatters in 1976 - that was Chris Gent.

It was another pop mogul, though, who gave Gent what should have been his big break. The tycoon of teen Mickie Most - trying to find himself a niche in this era of punk and new wave - saw a Stukas gig, and liked the material, particularly one of Gent's songs 'While I'm Still Young'. He wanted to sign the band, but it was too late: they had already decided to split up and this was their final gig. So Most signed up Gent and guitarist Raggy Lewis, who then recruited guitarist Jim Ward, bassist Dave Spicer and drummer Pete Tulley and named themselves the Autographs.

Released on Most's RAK Records in 1978, their debut single, 'While I'm Still Young', came with still further pop pedigree, being produced by Richard Hartley and Tommy Boyce - the former was the original musical director of The Rocky Horror Show, the latter co-wrote all the best Monkees songs.

Obviously my perception of this single is shaped by when I first heard it, but I don't know any record that captures the unfocussed hormonal rush of adolescence with quite such joyous energy. I'm convinced it's one of the great pop classics and should've been a massive hit. But it wasn't, and the Autographs never released another single.

Chris Gent himself went on to become lead singer of Will Birch's band the Records, in time for their third album, Music on Both Sides, but he's probably heard most often as the saxophonist on Secret Affair's debut single, 'Time for Action'.

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