Quireboys pride themselves on “proper” rock ‘n’ roll

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 19, 1990

By Steve Newton

There are some bands out there that are just made to play in bars—they have that certain something that demands you sip a frosty cold one while wallowing in their raucous boogie noise. The Beat Farmers are one of those, the Georgia Satellites another. And a new band called the London Quireboys is in that league too. When these Quireboys start churning out their raggedy rhythm ’n’ boogie, it’s party time, no questions asked. It’s not surprising that lead singer Spike met his songwriting partner Guy Bailey in the type of establishment that the band has proved so worthy in.

“I met Guy in a bar in London,” says Spike (a.k.a. Jonathon Gray), “and we just got talkin’ about how we liked the same style of music and that nobody was playin’ good rock ’n’ roll any more. So he got a few of his friends down from the YMCA and we had a jam.” Five years after that initial meeting, the London Quireboys still have the loose, gut-bucket feel of a bunch of guys shooting for the Bar Band Hall of Fame. Just ask anyone who witnessed the British sextet’s show at 86 Street last summer. The crowd went nuts in response to every song from the group’s debut disc, A Bit of What You Fancy, and they’ll probably go nuts again when the band returns to 86 Street this Sunday (December 2).

According to Spike, audiences tend to do that a lot for his band. “Everywhere we play in the world we seem to get the same type of crowd,” explains the 24-year-old crooner. “They come to the gig expectin’ to have a good time and a good laugh. It’s like, ‘Let’s go see the Choirboys and get drunk!’ ”

Although fans of the Choirboys gorge themselves on the band’s heavily Stones- and Faces-influenced sound, the group did have to deal with a certain amount of critical flack when its debut album first came out. The similarity to the Faces was too much for some detractors, who slagged the band as copycats. Spike just slags ’em back.

“These people—I mean you ask them to name nine Faces songs and they’ll give you nine of Rod Stewart’s hits—they really don’t even know the Faces. So that doesn’t bother me at all. And I mean I’d rather be compared to them than half the other bands that are goin’ round these days.”

Spike—who got his nickname from the spiky hair he sported as a teen—is joined in the London Choirboys by two Guys—guitarists Bailey and Griffin—keyboardist Chris Johnstone, drummer Rudy Richmond (ex-Lone Justice), and bassist Nigel Mogg. The latter happens to be the nephew of former UFO vocalist Phil Mogg, who managed the Quireboys briefly when they were starting out (Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy’s wife, now handles the band). The younger Mogg cites his uncle’s band as one of his biggest influences, along with bands like Bad Company, Queen, Mott the Hoople, and, of course, the Rolling Stones.

One of the biggest thrills of the 25-year-old bassist’s career so far came when the band opened for Jagger and Co. for one show of the Stones’ Urban Jungle tour. “Mick and Ronnie watched some of the show from the side of the stage, and we met all the band afterwards,” spouts Mogg. “That was great!” Mogg and Spike and the other Quireboys are good buddies with another new band that pays serious homage to the Stones in its music—the Black Crowes. That group’s singer, Chris Robinson, hopped up on stage with the Quireboys in Edmonton a while back to lead them in the blues classics “Walkin’ the Dog” and “Hoochie Coochie Man”.

“They’re doin’ the same sort of thing we’re doin’,” claims Mogg in his thick Cockney twang. “Playing proper sort of rock ’n’ roll.” Before he signs off from Montreal, there’s one more thing to ask Mogg. It has to do with the liner notes to A Bit of What You Fancy, in particular the message at the end of a long list of thank-yous which reads: “Absolutely no thanks to Pacific Bell or Oki-Dog of Fairfax Avenue.” Mogg explains that the first “no thanks” is for the telephone company that kept cutting their phone off when the band was staying in L.A. That sounds familiar, but what about the Oki-Dog bit? Did some hot-dog stand in the City of the Angels cut their wieners off as well?

“Naa,” chuckles Mogg. “They just taste disgustin’.”

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