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The Count Bishops

 
The American Press

Miscellaneous

 

Mag / Paper unknown  -  Date unknown
 
Count Bishops  -  "Speedball" (EP)  -  Chiswick SW1

This band is an international hybrid (England, Australia and Brooklyn) turning out versions of what the British call classic R'n'B:  "Route 66", "I Ain't Got You", "Beautiful Delilah", "Teenage Letter" with maximum energy (this ain't called "Speedball" for nothing). Nothing new here, not a thing. But, dammit, this stuff has the kind of drive that the Feelgoods only wish they could put on vinyl. Set the controls for max vol and rock out!
(w/glossy pic sleeve; inquiries to Chiswick (pronounced CHIZ-ik) Records, 3 Kentish Town Road, London NW1, England. Or, if your import dealer does business with Skydog, who put out "Grease" and "More Grease" by the Flamin' Groovies, ask them; Discophile should be able to get it).
 

 

Mag / Paper unknown  -  Date unknown
 
COUNT BISHOPS  -  "Speedball"  -  Chiswick SW1

Another EP, this one from old blighty. A bunch of lads from Australia, England and Brooklyn do a selection of what the British call "classic R&B":  "Route 66", "Beautiful Delilah", etc. Much in the vein of Dr. Feelgood except more energy and better songs, in fact a bit like the early Stones. A nifty glossy picture sleeve, too. Write to Chiswick (that's CHIZ-ik) Records, 3 Kentish Town Road, London NW1, Eng.
 

 

Mag / Paper unknown  -  Date unknown
 
Meanwhile a more cosmopolitan search for the offbeat reveals a significantly unique item in "Speedball", an exercise in rabid and magnetic Britian R&B courtesy of the '76 London pub scene. The group is The Count Bishops, and this, their first release (a picture sleeve EP) on the Chiswick label, drops hints of a power soon to come. The songs are "Route 66", "I Ain't Got You" (side one), "Beautiful Delilah", and "Teenage Letter"; all of which are on par with the electricity of early Pretty Things and Stones. The arrangements are compact and tense, but most important LOUD! Grippingly tight hold of the musical reigns here is what generates the impact and throttles your mind. You don't have to be a connoisseur of R&B to appreciate this disc. Copies of "Speedball" are available through Skydog Bizarre Distribution, 33 Praed Street, London W2, UK.
 

 

Who Put The Bomp!  -  Spring 1976
 
COUNT BISHOPS  -  "Speedball"  -  Chiswick 1 (EP)

The Count Bishops bring Pretty Things consciousness back to the London pub scene (and motorbikes too .... ).

Finally, a new one:  this four track EP dates from last year but you'd swear it was 1965 as The Bishops power through vintage Londonized R&B with as much velocity and as little regard for the original nuances as The Rolling Stones or Pretty Things in their prime. Every bit as good as Dr. Feelgood, with "Beautiful Delilah" perhaps the standout (other tracks: "Route 66", "I Ain't Got You" and "Teenage Letter").
 

 

New York Rocker (?)  -  Date unknown
 
DMZ - BISHOPS  /  A TALE OF TWO BANDS

Every band wants to make a record. Some get on vinyl by saving their pennies and putting it out themselves; others get the pennies thrown at them. Whatever the case, there are more small label and one shot records (mostly 45s) on the market today than ever before. Despite threats of vinyl crisis, those discs just keep on coming. Granted, most of the stuff isn't exactly hit material, but then again, it's not always intended to be; it's just a real, playable, same size and shape as the real thing RECORD.
Now, suppose that you're a solid little R&R unit and you want to make a record. You're totally cashless and don't know a soul in the biz. All you want to do is make records and play rock 'n' roll and have fun and make some money. What can you do? If you're too cashless to make your own, you've got to go shopping; if no one's making offers, you've got to go after them. Maybe you'll cut a demo. But just suppose somebody catches your act and wants to make records of and for you. What do you do? Maybe it's not such a fantastic offer; maybe you won't be rolling in green. But kid, they'll put you on record, a real record with your name on the label. A bona fide collector's item for relatives, the ideal Xmas gift, tangible proof positive to show Ma and Pa, who kept sayin' all that noise wouldn't never mount to nothin'. It's a record, God bless it, and it's yours.
Okay, so suppose a label's interested. Let's follow the budding careers of two R&R bands, who've been around for a couple of years, who were picked up by real labels, and who now have different things to say about their companies. One British, one American. One on Chiswick, one on Sire. One The (Count) Bishops, the other DMZ.
The Bishops came together in the summer of 1975 as The Count Bishops, named after a NYC motorcycle gang. Johnny Guitar had moved to London from Washington, D.C. (Yep! He's a Yank) and met up with Zenon De Fleur (say that real slow and imagine the posture of old Zen after a couple dozen pints) and singer Mike Spenser, both formerly of a band called Chrome. Zen and Johnny, guitarists, joined up with Paul Balbi, an Australian drummer extraordinaire, and bassist, Steve Lewins. Together they became a hard driving rhythm and blues outfit.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in London town, Ted Carroll sat pondering behind the counter at his Rock On record shop. An R&B/R&R enthusiast, Ted decided it was time to get a real rockin' label together and, with partner Roger Armstrong, formed Chiswick Records. They knew The COUNT Bishops were JUST right for the label, having followed the growth of the band since their CHROME days. The first Chiswick release was an EP, one shakin', rockin' four songer that covered the coolest R&B tunes, "Beautiful Delilah", "Route 66", "Teenage Letter". Now these were still the early days of independent 7" releases. It was hard to locate the record in '75, a year before punk rock had begun to brew its tepid stew. As a small company, Chiswick didn't really have the cash to promote the record on any level, but the band gamely toured England and (by the spring of '76) the Continent. In May, they recorded their first LP "Good Gear" for Dynamite Records, a Dutch label (also real small), and the now classic 45 "Train Train" (b/w "Taking It Easy") for the Dynamo label. The LP was released on Dynamite, but Chiswick bought up the rights for "Train Train" before it was vinylized in Holland.
From the start, The Bishops had operated on a one shot level with Chiswick - a wise move in dealing with such a young company , however well intentioned. Johnny claims that "Train Train" could have been a hit had it received proper promotion. Chiswick was having a hard time keeping up with the demand, and as the record climbed the charts, new pressings were delayed for several weeks. This prevented much larger sales that could have been possible had the supply and demand been met on time. But that's all in the past. The record is still available, and a must in every decent collection:  both sides are solid American R&R. The Bishops, having fired their singer months earlier, Zen and Johnny were vocalizing on tour and on the LP, as well as on the "Train Train" 45. They found a front man in Dave Tice, an Australian who joined up just in time to record "Stay Free" b/w "Baby You're Wrong". It should have been a hit, but I can't recall seeing any extensive promotion in the British weeklies, and when people don't know about records, how are they going to know to buy them?
An LP, "The Count Bishops", was released in July '77 and sold about 10,000 copies, not bad, but seeing as the record sold that many on limited radio play and the band's live following, I imagine it could have sold several times that amount had it been distributed and properly promoted in the States. That autumn, Steve Lewins left the band and was replaced with Pat McMullen, just off tour with Screaming Lord Sutch. The fall tour ended up at the studio, where enough tracks were laid down for a third LP (the second for Chiswick). Meanwhile, The Bishops recorded a live gig at London's Roundhouse, and the resulting tapes were so incredible that it was decided that a live LP should be released prior to the planned studio tapes. "Live Bishops" was released in April '78 on both 10" and 12" discs. Again, the album is selling well though promotions aren't exactly drawing my eyes anywhere.
Although Chiswick hasn't been able to promote The Bishops' records to the extent that a larger label could, they have at least recorded consistently excellent material and packaged it beautifully as well. The production of all The Bishops' sides has been well matched to their sound. Now let's see the other side of the record making coin with Boston's DMZ and their escapades before and during their tenure with a larger label (Sire) and find out some answers to this vinyl quandary.

Dave SECORT
 

 

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June 17, 2003

 

 

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