The Fabulous Poodles – Mirror Stars: The Complete Pye Recordings (2018)

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Mirror Stars: The Complete Pye Recordings 1976-1980 represents the first time in which all three of the Fabulous Poodles’ UK albums from Pye Records have been reissued and remastered. This new three-disc box set arrives today (June 29, 2018) via Cherry Red Records. In the meantime, they took a winding journey.

The band’s self-titled first album, produced in 1977 by the Who’s John Entwistle, was never released in the U.S. Instead, Epic Records compiled what they deemed as the best tunes from both that first album and their second U.K. project Unsuitable for the Fabulous Poodles’ 1978 U.S. debut. Also titled Mirror Stars, this project featured the same Hipgnosis-designed cover from Unsuitable. The Fabulous Poodles’ third album, Think Pink, was finally released untouched by both their U.S. and U.K. labels in 1979.

Ex-Spencer Davis Group bassist Muff Winwood superbly produced both Unsuitable/Mirror Stars and Think Pink. The unused album tracks from their first two U.K. LPs which didn’t find a home on the original Mirror Stars will be new to American fans who purchase The Complete Pye Recordings 1976-1980.

For the uninitiated, the Fabulous Poodles combined the urgency of the Who and the smarts and vocals of the Kinks into clever story songs, then wrapped them up in a New Wave/Punk package seasoned with a good sense of humor. As a band, they were a very exciting combo powered by Tony De Meur’s fantastic lead vocals and inspired guitar, Bobby Valentino’s unbelievably fab violin leads, Richie Robertson’s rock solid bass, and Bryn Burrows’ Keith Moon-like attack on the drums.

Their biggest U.S. single and best song is the timeless classic “Mirror Star,” a how-to-guide on being a rock star with just a mirror and a tennis racket! The other smaller U.S. radio hit the band is known for is the propulsive “Bionic Man,” which really deserved a much bigger audience. If ABC ever revives The Six Million Dollar Man on TV again, this song would be the perfect theme song for it!

Mirror Stars: The Complete Pye Recordings 1976-1980 presents the aforementioned albums in mini-LP cardboard sleeves slid into an oversized jacket, along with a generous slew of bonus tracks – including a non-album single, single mix versions, early demo and studio versions, previously unreleased studio material, and a terrific but too-brief live 1979 NYC concert. A fab color booklet details their original U.K. Pye discography of albums and singles, the band’s history, a cool photo collage of Fabulous Poodles memorabilia, many rare photos, and a new essay written by Tony De Meur.

Because there are so many great catchy tunes to highlight from each album, I’ll just run through the best of the lot: “Workshy,” a very catchy, lazy man’s theme song, which rocks like an early Who number – and actually features John Entwistle on bass! “Mr. Mike,” a ’50s rock ‘n’ roll romantic tale with a microphone as the star. “Cherchez La Femme,” about a woman chasing a French rocker; and “Pinball Pin Up,” a ’50s rock ‘n’ roll nostalgic love ballad.

“Doctor” continues on in that very muscular, upbeat Who/Kinks direction. The positively delightful ballad “Rosie Pink” showed their prowess in playing country rock, which they would do here and there. The Fabulous Poodles’ very first written song was the rollicking “Chicago Boxcar (Boston Back),” a dedication of sorts to an old 1950s haircut. “Oh Cheryl,” a pizzicato-styled ’50s love ballad, is yet another fabulous love song. If you ever loved the Small Faces and Kinks’ Music Hall-inspired tunes, then you’ll love the bright & bouncy “Toytown People.”

“Rum Baba Boogie” is a rumba-inflected, up-tempo dance tune with mandolin flourishes. The punky n’ spikey love song “Convent Girls” should’ve been a single. “Talking Trash” features what has to be the world’s first lead part played by a car starter, instead of guitar. This is hilarious, and a great song too! “When the Summer’s Thru” is a perfect musical tribute to all of those great 1950s rock ‘n’ roll ballads. “B Movies” is another cool, ’50s-loving nostalgia-flavored mid-tempo ballad, dedicated to those fun old flicks we’ve seen in movie theaters and on TV many times over.

Well, what can you say about the wonderfully naughty “Tit Photographer’s Blues”? Some guys would love to have those kinds of blues. It’s an inspired blues in rock n’ roll skin, dedicated to those “unappreciated” flesh photographers told in a very funny Kinks-like manner. “Suicide Bridge” is a strong cautionary tale about a notorious bridge in the North of London.

“You Wouldn’t Listen” is a fine Buddy Holly-influenced mid-tempo tune that could’ve been a hit for the man himself. “Pink City Twist” is a funny, wacky, upbeat little instrumental theme song from the Fabulous Poodles’ Think Pink album. The excellent and very muscular “Look What the Cat Dragged In” features a very rare Bryn Burrows lead vocal; he sounds a lot like Nick Lowe with Rockpile in this tale of an unwelcome party crasher.

The band also showed great taste throughout their brief career in what covers they chose, making most any genre uniquely their own: Highlights include the rollicking rocker “Roll Your Own” (originally from country singer Mel McDaniel); “Man with Money,” which out rocks the Everly Brothers’ original version; a fun “See You Later Alligator” (Bill Haley and his Comets); “Don’t You Lie To Me” by Chuck Berry, done in a Rolling Stones fashion), “I Love You Love” (Gary Glitter, later famously covered by Joan Jett); and “On the Street Where You Live” (from My Fair Lady), which has to be the most punk version of a Broadway show tune ever. I love their excellent take on the Amazing Rhythm Aces’ “Third Rate Romance”; in fact, I enjoy it a whole lot more than the original Top 20 hit version from 1975. A wonderfully bluesy, sweet-toothed cover of “Sugar Coated Love” is an inspired tribute to Lazy Lester’s swampy original.

Add to that a previously unreleased, full-on punk version of Irving Berlin’s “Pink Christmas,” with Bobby Valentino and Tony De Meur trading co-lead vocals to create a funny Christmas classic. You want a rocking Halloween song, you got it with the Fabulous Poodles’ very own “Vampire Rock,” and it doesn’t suck! Their superb last release was a non-album single, “Stompin’ with the Cat,” which originally arrived after their Think Pink album back in 1980. It should’ve have been a big hit. The Fabulous Poodles had such a natural affinity for playing rockabilly music. They could’ve been one of the first bands leading the rockabilly revival charge which the Stray Cats were just beginning to do in England.

This highly recommended box set is a godsend both for new fans and those who’ve loved and appreciated the Fabulous Poodles and really wanted to complete their collection by converting these albums to compact disc. Mirror Stars: The Complete Pye Recordings 1976-1980 is well worth adding to yours, so grab your own.


Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott has written for Shindig, Twist and Shake, Garage & Beat and Ugly Things. A big fan of all things rock and roll - especially the British Invasion, garage rock, psychedelic, new wave, folk rock, surf and power pop - he was a consultant on Sundazed Music's reissue of 'The Best of Butch Engle & The Styx: No Matter What You Say' in 2000, and has also provided liner notes for Italy's Misty Lane Records. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Steve Elliott
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