“They need educating,” chief boogie woogie pianist and part brain of infamous 70’s duo Chas & Dave, Chas Hodges declares. “I’m always asked do you go down North of the border because of our brand of music. We go down well wherever. We played Glasgow recently and we had two thousand Glaswegians singing along to ‘London Girls’, so there’s your proof. You won’t understand it until you’ve come down to one our gigs and seen it for yourself, so get down.” So Quenched did. And joined by the 600 strong grooves swelling across the tumultuous floor of Manchester’s The Ritz, Chas & Dave cut the hackneyed cockney stereotypes often tied with their pub sing-along flavoured music away. Buoyant, elementary and brisk in execution, Chas was right. Events like this need to be seen.
Born out of North London in 1975, the rockney branded pair have always had a love affair with the homespun rumbles of Skiffle music – “we don’t do cockney classics, even this new release [2013’s ‘That’s What Happens’] we went back to our skiffle roots. We didn’t want to go copy skiffle, we wanted to do it one hundred percent our way,” – and their romance with London life – Chas & Dave hit the charts prominently with their 1981 hit ‘Ossie’s Dream (Spurs Are On Their Way To Wembley’ but their flirtation with Tottenham is described as “we’ve done our involvement with them and they don’t form part of our future careers because although we love them, music is our lives” – colouring their music. Full of infectiously choreographed patterns of piano from Chas, assailing 12 bar passages from Dave Peacock and vocal melodies so drenched in accentuated musings that they make even Danny Dyer seem middle class, each track seems destined to soundtrack any cavort at a local brewing house.
‘All By Myself’ – taken from their latest release and generated by the trilby and dungaree fashioned trio [Chas’ son Nick now stars as beat producer in the absence of recently departed Mick Burt] where Chas’ spontaneous piano melodies would flutter sharply across the pacey tones of Dave – ‘London Girls’ – “give me a London girl every-time, I want a London girl,” being chanted by an army of Mancunians typified the excitement conjured by the threesome as the group broke in unison to allow Chas’ sandy voice to resonate out – and ‘Margate’ – quintessentially devoted to the coastal region when compared to the Costa Brava and laced with a good, old-fashioned party soaked spirit – kept the audience gyrating and united in their quest to have some Saturday night fun.
Thanks in part to their escapades supporting The Libertines in 2004 – Chas remembers “it was nice when Pete and Carl said we were big influences when they first started out and we did gain a lot of fans who said they saw us for the first time at those shows. I mean new fans are born every day and at least once a week on Twitter I get a message saying their four-year old has been singing ‘The Sideboard Song’ – the Londoners have embedded themselves within the new-wave thoughts of the country’s hipster revolution. People looking for a tease with 1970’s culture use Chas & Dave as their go-to men. Here. with the likes of ‘Gertcha’ – their breakthrough track of 1979, full of driven piano fused with battling bass and musings of a father revulsed with typical everyday issues – and ‘Snooker Loopy’ – originally recorded with snooker players Steve Davies and Willie Thorne [his hairs all gawn] – it’s easy to see the appeal of insouciant tempers merging with fierce musicianship.
‘Rabbit’ – incredibly astute vocals combining in a manner closer to Dizzee Rascal than a pair of 60 odd year old Londoners, with Dave rapidly firing off a phrase which is then caught by Chas who then returns it swiftly back – and ‘The Sideboard Song (Got a Beer in the Sideboard Here)’ – once more combining quickening vocal utterances and more blues stylised piano sequences – Chas & Dave’s chief compositions, brought the curtain down on another jolly in Manchester.
To some Chas & Dave could be perceived as some jokey lads from London more interested in cramming rhyming slang into their tracks than contagious melodies. But as Chas says “they need educating.” So get educated.
Words by Clive K Hammond