THE JETS (By Shaun Mather)
The Jets are a self contained unit, a three-brother rockabilly band who have been stalwarts of the UK rocking scene for nigh on thirty years and show no signs of letting up. They were lucky enough to be around during the hey-day of the rockabilly revival that enabled them to score a handful of chart hits. They are a multi talented set who can switch between instruments as they play a mixture of rockabilly and doo-wop - and they're equally adept at both. Whilst they have produced nearly a dozen fine albums, it's on their live shows that they really show their class. With their rockabilly beat and the doo-wop singing it's no exaggeration to say that they sound like a sextet. They also have the looks and stage craft to back up their musical prowess, and are as good as anything out there.
Their story starts back in the early 70's when brothers Bob and Ray Cotton formed BRAD with Andy and Dave. They played local gigs around the Northampton area. The Jets as we know them came to full fruition in 1978 when Andy and Dave left the band to be replaced by the youngest Cotton brother Tony. The brothers soon started to make an impression on the rocking scene and with help from Roy Williams and Stuart Webster (Wild Wax show) they landed a contract with Soho Records.
Two singles were issued on Soho, Rockabilly Baby/James Dean followed by Sleep Rock'n'Roll/Hey Baby. Not many copies were pressed so they're collectable items nowadays. What the singles may have lacked in volumes shipped, they more than made up for as PR items, as the band were soon signed to Lightnin' Records.
In April and May 1980 they cut their first album at the Becks studios in Wellingborough, Northants. Recorded in the evenings after the boys had returned from work or school, they were joined on some numbers by Johnny Paris (Johnny and the Hurricanes) and Mickey Gallagher and Davey Payne (Ian Dury's Blockheads). Simply titled, "Jets" the album was licensed to the major EMI label. It was the start of a heady decade for the band. The two singles taken off it were Who's That Knocking / I Seen Ya! And Let's Get It On / Hit It On.
It was the second EMI album, 100% Cotton that was to be the breakthrough record. Produced by the inimitable Stuart Colman who was riding high on the charts as producer of Shaky at that time. Within six months of release, three singles from the album had cracked the charts, Yes Tonite Josephine (no. 25), Love Makes The World Go Around (no. 21) and The Honeydripper (no. 58). I can remember seeing them on Top of The Pops and thinking how cool they looked in their matching clothes. To date they've appeared on British television no fewer than sixty times including five appearances on Top of The Pops.
By the middle of the decade they'd enjoyed no fewer than 9 hit singles and although they haven't had one for the last twenty years, they continue to record and tour. They are one of Britain's most respected bands and a ticket for one of their gigs guarantees a good time.
The band's influence is massive, and nowhere more obvious than with the new kids on the block, Bad Boys. Formed in December 1996 at a family get together, they consist of the Jet's sons. Tragically, ten year old Kyle died in February 1998, but the boys have continued in his name and have appeared at a lot of the UK's big festivals with their dads. Recommended listening:
EMI - EMC3356
The first album showed a young band covering all the rocking bases with plenty of energy and enthusiasm. There's some really strong covers here, including a cracking Booger Red that showed that the boys had their vocal harmonies mastered out from the beginning. Who's That Knocking and Hershel Almond's Let's Get It On are also great.
EMI - EMC3399
The Jets biggest selling album which made it into the UK's top 30 album charts in 1982. It's a step up in the progression of the band, in that they wrote half the songs and showed a greater range than the debut. The three hits are here with Love Makes The World Go Around and Yes Tonite Josephine being particularly special. Josephine was a brilliant single that left me gutted when it stalled instead of getting into the top 10. Other highlights include their own ballad, Your Heart with some lovely vocals from Bob and other originals Shout, Shout, Love Bug and the pile-driving, Hideaway, which I thought would have made a better single release than The Honeydripper. Come to that, so would Steppin' Out Tonight.
NERVOUS - NERD021
A neat little rocking album that features another fine mix of covers and originals. Highlights for me are Jitterbggin' Baby, Charlene, Open Up Your Heart and Slippin' In. Best of all though has to be the manic stomp of Millionaire Hobo, Lonnie Donnegan on speed.
KRYPTON - KRYP200
Much the same as Session Out, this one goes a step further and sees the first signs of their now distinct sound (try Razor Alley for this slightly heavier treatment). Penny Loafers is a tasty cover but my favourite here is the double-entendre, I Didn't Like It. I've always wanted to hear this live but to no avail, perhaps in South Wales in May!!
ALL FIRED UP - JETS LIVE
KRYPTON - KRYP202
A live album made sense for the third release on their own Krypton label. After being introduced by the one and only Paul Barrett, they launch into a cracking version of Ain't That Lovin' You Baby. The majority of the tracks are covers with originals coming in the shape of Nervous, James Dean, Rockabilly Baby, Razor Alley and Love Bug. Pick of the covers are Runaround Sue (they are the kings of this doowopabilly) and Jack Earls' Sun classic, Slow Down. TURN UP THE GUITAR
KRYPTON - KRYP203
My favourite of their albums, it's got the brilliant Thunder Road, to me it's the best thing they've ever done. Talk about ass-kicking rockabilly - it's superb. Plenty of goodies here, including Girls, Talk Alnight and a show-stopper on their live shows, the Drifters' Fools Fall In Love. On this album they finally sound like their own band, much more than just another cover band.
KRYPTON - KRYP205
Hard rocking CD from the band that sounds more like Turn Up The Guitar than 100% Cotton. And so it should, they've mastered their own unique brand of rockabilly and this album finds them right in that niche. The opener, (You Just Don't Know How To) Treat Your Man kicks the disc off in fine, throbbing style, followed immediately by a strolling doo-wopper in Oh Baby Please. Other highlights include the title track, When The Cat's Away, the hard rocking What A Fool and the Dionish Little Orphan Girl. Best of the lot for me are Put My Lips All Over This Town and my favourite, the peppy Lookin' Pretty Good. For a change of style there's the bluesy rocker Pussy Cat and a great acoustic blues instrumental, Nashville Blue. A great modern album with plenty of diversity and twelve of the seventeen tracks written by Jet Ray Cotton.
THE CLASSIC COLLECTION
KRYPTON - KRYP206
I gotta be honest here. This is my least favourite Jets album by a long shot and I think it's because I don't need to hear any more versions of Great Balls of Fire or Jailhouse Rock. These songs have been nailed before, and there's plenty of lessor known but equally great songs out there waiting to be cut. I can understand why they did this album though and I'm sure there's a market for it, it's just it's not my favourite. Two numbers that really do work well though, and are great additions to the Jets catalogue are I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday and Pretty Little Angel Eyes.