In 1990, indie music was king. The glam-buster that was to be Nevermind, which would sweep away the shoe-gazing jingly-jangly Madchester sound almost as effectively as it erased the hair-sprayed nyeeeeeeah of glam metal, was still a year away, and flared faded denims and battered Doc boots ruled. The Stone Roses released 'One Love'. The Happy Mondays released Pills N' Thrills & Bellyaches. James released Gold Mother.
And the Quireboys released A Bit Of What You Fancy.
Yup, into the midst of all this baggy-trousered, hooded-topped, head-waggling, slack-jawed nonsense there appeared this dishevelled bunch of long-haired layabouts, clad in pinstripe suits straight from the racks of Oxfam, David Essex waistcoats and battered cowboy boots - not forgetting the obligatory carnation in their lapels, of course. They were cheeky chaps with a twinkle in their collective eye; they played gutsy, bluesy, Stones-style rock'n'roll and they were bloody great.
Now people who remember the early 70s somewhat more clearly than I do will tell you that the Quireboys were just a poor man's Faces, merrily repackaging their catchy riffs and good-natured, shambolic stage presence for a new generation of gullible teenagers. But us gullible teenagers, for whom Rod Stewart was associated rather less with brash and ballsy blues than with, um, tartan trews and 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' (er, frankly, no), well, we lapped it up.
Formed in the mid 80s by guitarist Guy Bailey and singer Spike (a.k.a John Gray, blue-eyed, gravel-throated sexgod and whay-ayed, card-carrying Geordie), the Quireboys were rock's last stand, before grunge rolled into town and shot the whole shebang to pieces. After unceremoniously booting out the guitarist who would become Wildhearts mainman Ginger, the line-up was eventually completed by Guy 'Griff' Griffin on rhythm guitar, Nigel 'ooh look a camera' Mogg on bass, Chris Johnstone on piano and Rudy Richman on drums.
Early singles 'There She Goes Again' and 'Mayfair' ( which is still one of my favourite Quireboys songs ever - how upbeat and cheering is that song?) didn't do much chartwise, but they did draw the lads to the attention of EMI. And once they had a deal with a major label under their belts, the band that started life as the Queerboys (and they used to work on a building site? Brave boys...) were ready to rock.
For the months surrounding the release of A Bit Of What You Fancy, the 'Boys were hot property, gracing the covers of all our favourite magazines (er, that'll be Kerrang! and Raw then...) and even breaking into the charts with singles '7 O'Clock', 'Hey You', 'I Don't Love You Anymore' and 'There She Goes Again' (again). Anyone who saw their gloriously drunken rendition of 'Hey You' on Top Of The Pops could hardly help but love them, as, crammed onto a stage designed for one skinny teenager and a synthesiser, they reeled their way through the raucous song, threatening at any moment to tumble off the stage and into the somewhat bemused-looking audience.
In my opinion, ABOWYF is a nigh on perfect album. From the ivory-tinklin', bass-thumpin' euphoria of '7 O'Clock' right the way through to the maudlin, drunken ballad that is 'Take Me Home', it's just superb, soaring from the melancholy heights of 'I Don't Love You Anymore' to the ridiculous gutter romp of 'Sex Party' via the folksy 'Roses & Rings', cheeky 'Long Time Comin' and soul-style spiritual 'Whippin' Boy' (okay so the idea of Geordie lad Spike pickin' cotton in the Deep South is a little silly, but there you go...).
And ridin' high on the crest of the album's success, the Quireboys took on the world. They toured the UK (including a barn-stormin' session at Donington), they toured the world, they released a live album recorded around the world. And then...
Well, then things kind of went a bit wrong. They released a second album, Bittersweet & Twisted, in 1993, but it wasn't a patch on ABOWYF, and it certainly didn't see any singles shooting into the charts. And shortly after its release, the band broke up.
Since their split, two further albums have seen the light of day: From Tooting To Barking (1994), a collection of early demos, and this year's Lost In Space, another live recording. And, er, well that's about it really...
Well, not entirely, of course. Most of the members are still kicking around somewhere. Nigel plays with a band called Nancy Boy (from the Queerboys to Nancy Boy... oh well). Guy Bailey has just formed a new outfit called Dog Kennel Hill, with glam metal rent-a-bassist Dave Tregunna, ex Lords of the New Church, ex Dogs, ex many many more. Their new album, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, should be out soon (although I doubt they'll be stocking it in Virgin).
Immediately after the Quireboy's split, Spike formed God's Hotel, and in 1996 he teamed up with Dogs D'Amour frontman and all-round gin-soaked genius Tyla, collaborating on an album called Flagrantly Yours (1996). He's now gone solo - backed by a seven-piece rock and soul band, that is - and his new album, Blue Eyed Soul, is available on a website near you. As for Griff, Chris and Rudy... I'm afraid your guess is as good as mine.
Okay, so the Quireboys' story is short and bittersweet. But this doesn't stop them being the greatest band of 1990, and producing one of my top ten favourite albums, A Bit Of What You Fancy, for which they will forever dwell in the Pantheon Of Glam. And in my heart.
Is it a coincidence that just as, back in 2000, I'd consigned every band in the Pantheon of Glam to rock oblivion, they're all now back in one way shape or form, alive and kicking. Or, in the case of the Quireboys, alive and shambling like raggedy arsed reprobates? Yup, by 2001 (oh ye of little faith), Spike, Griff and Nige were back together again and touring, and in 2002 they released the now classic album, This Is Rock'n'Roll, which showcased the band's trademark mix of gutsy, down'n'dirty, rock'n'roll blues and bottle of Jack maudlin nostalgia to perfection.
2004 saw the release of a follow up, Well Oiled - more of the same but just as good, kicking off in fine brawling form with'Good To See Ya', almost treading on the toes of Led Zep in 'You've Got A Nerve' and rocking the joint 'Sex Party' style with 'What's Your Name?'
Since then, the 'Boys have become a staple on the small venue circuit, touting their shambolic rock'n'roll wares at a smelly club near you, drunken good time guaranteed.
And Spike still found time to release a solo album, It's A Treat To Be Alive (although, given Spike's lifestyle, it's not just a treat, it's a bleedin' miracle...). From the inimitable Geordie swagger of opener 'Have A Drink With Me' (if you can keep up, I suppose...) to the melancholy closer, '7/11 Roses', there isn't a duff track on this delightful, heartwarming, heartfelt album.
Spike blends the Quireboys' trademark barroom blues with a wistful country and western twang that's only a ukele string away from Garth Brooks, then throws in a cover of Slade's mournful ballad, 'Everyday', for good measure. Stand out tracks have to be the charming love duet 'So Far So Good', 'True Friends', which, with its local references and Likely Lads refrain is so reminiscent of the Toon it should be painted black and white, and 'Lady And Her Daughter', Spike's answer to 'Eleanor Rigby'.
A new album from the Quireboys is always a treat, and 2008's Homewreckers and Heartbreakers was no exception. True, you won't find any surprises here: the album features the usual blend of good time, honky tonk rock'n'roll and melancholy bar room blues. The only surprise is that they haven't written a song called 'One For The Road' already.
'One For The Road' is definitely one of the standout traxx on an album bursting with mini r'n'r gems: a concise summary of Spike's life ('I know I took my chances... I just can't change my ways') with a big shouty chorus we can all sing along to - what's not to like?
The midnight melancholia comes courtesy of the marvellously maudlin, beer-soaked 'Late Nite Saturday Call' (we've all done it, got drunk and made that call we really shouldn't...) and 'Mona Lisa Smiled', a song that owes so much to Rod Stewart, he'll be sending round the boys.
With tales of hard drinkin', high livin' and bad lovin', Homewreckers and Heartbreakers is the Quireboys experience distilled onto a CD: if it came as a limited edition scratch'n'sniff it would smell of tabs and Newckie Brown. Like those rascally 'Boys themselves, it's a bit rough around the edges and you may feel as if you've heard it all before many many times, but you can't help loving it.
Feeling as if you're getting on a bit? Well, the fact that 2009 saw the Quireboys celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of A Bit Of What You Fancy ain't gonna make you feel any younger... To mark the occasion, the 'Boys released a remastered version of the album, complete with new photos, sleeve notes and bonus demo traxx.
And as if that weren't enough, those industrious rapscallions also recorded a new 'acoustic/Americana' style album, Halfpenny Dancer, featuring new versions of old faves, including 'King of New York' and 'Roses and Rings', as well as some 'surprise covers'. 'Oops I Did It Again'? That would be surprising...
And, well, that brings us up to date. Still raucous, still the epitome of British rock'n'roll, and still out there living the rock'n'roll lifestyle so we don't have to - where would we be without the marvellous Quireboys? As I've said before, it's a dirty job, being the saviours of old school rock'n'roll, but someone's gotta do it, and nobody does it better than the Quireboys.