SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG (ON MONDAY) : #108 : FRIENDS AGAIN

I’ve written extensively about Friends Again over the years as they were one of my favourite bands back in the early 80s and all these years later I can still listen to their entire output without getting bored, although I do get frustrated and pissed-off that Phongram Records made such a mess of things in terms of how to get tbe best possible studio sound out of them.

Fishing around t’internet, I found the press release that accompanied the sole LP, Trapped and Unwrapped and thought I’d reproduce it in all its glory:-

Friends Again are five young men from Glasgow. They have clear sight, strong ambition and a proven talent to deliver a promise. Chris Thompson (vocals, rhythm guitar, songs), Neil Cunningham (bass), Stuart Kerr (drums, harmonies), Paul McGeechan (keyboards) and James Grant (lead guitar, vocals, songs) go back together some way – school, college, punks and clubs. They will go a lot further ahead.

Friends Again emerged in 1982 with their independently conceived single “Honey At The Core”/”Lucky Star” – an immediately recognisable good thing to have and to listen to: a friend again and again. After six weeks of enthusiastic responses and fast sales on the Moonboot label, Phonogram enticed the group to make a logical decision; which meant that last year there was more honey with “Sunkissed”/”Dealing In Silver” and “State of Art”/”Winked At”. Just as excitingly, the band played hard, drawing more people towards what they do; a classic framework of tightly crafted writing.

Friends Again are bursting with raw charm. They may be a slippery group to define because they assimilate so much style and many styles into their sound they keep you on your toes. Is it the driving homegrown country swing that appeals, or the dramatic harmonies? Whatever sophisticated conclusion you reach, rest and be thankful that there is nothing evasive about their impact. They move, it moves, you move.

They have been writing long enough to stop being a well kept secret but they remain as fresh as this morning’s milk. Ask them what they do and you’ll get a host of different answers. The flexibility is as integral to their natural development as their lack of a cosy hip sensibility. According to Thompson: “James will say that we are a rock ‘n’ roll group and he’ll know what that means to him.” He will. James Grant’s hot guitars are the envy of every band in Scotland. He’s had more poaching offers than Jack Charlton [An English Football player]. He won’t go.

As for the country inflexions, Thompson points out that, yes, they could be there. He won’t force the issue anymore than he’ll admit to portraying a clean cut pop output. One thing they don’t do is jangle, on nerves or on strings. And they aren’t a postcard. “There are no songs where you can say that is a certain thing. People hear the songs in various ways. Someone told us it was good driving music, implying a certain American feeling. Well, in that case I think it’s just as good to listen to on the highway out of Hamilton or Lancaster…”

Just before their recent British tour (Strathclyde to Southampton), the group completed a debut album called Trapped And Unwrapped–a reference to the teething, or the thought put into practise. They started work with noted producer Bob Sargeant, then they got well mixed by Pat Moran at Rockfield. Due for release later this year, the songs show they won’t be typecast.

Thompson is as happy to discuss Joni Mitchell as Bowie, Tim Buckley as the Sex Pistols but Friends Again are happiest being themselves. What this is, doesn’t need to be experienced in a video or from the inside of a TV studio. It’s more illuminating to experience the group’s heart warming lyrical lullabies and intense blood racing melodies face to face.

After all the tired old men and too much tired young synthetic pop their vitality is all the more appealing. Direct emotional response is what they are dealing in.

Friends Again are … an invitation not to be ignored.

One of the great things about writing this blog over the years has been the contact from like-minded folk who have been generous in sharing or passing on stuff. One of the best instances was when I was given a file containing a load of demo and live recordings by Friends Again that haven’t ever been made commercially available. I’d like to share one of the unreleased songs with you today:-

mp3 : Friends Again – A Reader Decides

Sigh.

JC

4 thoughts on “SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG (ON MONDAY) : #108 : FRIENDS AGAIN

  1. thanks for this JC – would love to have heard a fully produced version. The fact JG’s vocals seem higher in the mix , gives it a bit of a later L&M feel

  2. I’ve commented before on FA – I thought they were a great band. Thanks for the opportunity to hear this demo – seems quite a strong song. I wonder why they ditched it.

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