Mama’s Boys are a good band to be talking about on St Patrick’s day. Surely Ireland’s finest heavy rock band of the ’80s.
Mama’s Boys consisted of three McManus brothers from deepest darkest Ireland. Tommy played drums, John played bass, and Pat played guitar. Pat also played an electric violin, which was an interesting twist on one or two songs.
At Knebworth, supporting Deep Purple, they covered Slade’s “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” but of course I had never heard it before so like a teenage girl listening to Westlife or JLS (or Oasis?) I just thought it was their song. The rest of the set was equally memorable to my young ears.
They did have some decent tunes of their own too. Straight Forward (No Looking Back) told the story of Lot’s Wife to a heavy metal beat (that’s a joke for the religious contingent) and featured a decent singalong bit for the crowd to warm up to.
Runaway Dreams had a killer riff and featured a ten minute electric violin solo – something which in retrospect was pretty courageous in front of a drunken rain-sodden crowd with empty bottles in their hands. They got away with it. Perhaps the more “refreshed” members of the crowd thought it was Jimmy Page up there doing his Dazed and Confused solo with violin bow and Les Paul.
They released an album the following year called “Power and Passion” featuring a half-dressed girl reclining over a chair on the cover. This was in sharp contrast to their previous album cover which featured a topless girl reclining over a chair. I turned the sleeve inside out when I finally got the courage to buy that one to avoid uncomfortable questions from my parents. The Power and Passion album did come with an free gift: a large poster of the album cover, only this time the girl had taken her clothes off. I didn’t realise this when I asked to see the poster at my local “Our Price Records” and they unfolded the offending item with a knowing smirk.
I bought the cassette.
I never understood the policy of metal bands and album covers. Did they sell more copies if they featured naked / scantily clad girls? Or dreadful pictures of the band looking ridiculous? Or were they just looking to embarrass sensitive teenage boys? I’m just asking…
I saw the band and their electric violin twice more, once at Milton Keynes Bowl supporting Marillion, and then a headline set at the London Astoria supporting the next album a year or so later. Sadly by then, they had hired a lead singer whose CV included stints with Cliff Richard and they had taken a very radio-friendly direction.
In so doing they lost their identity and Radio took the only possible course of action in the circumstances, and ignored them. Ironically their lead single from that album was called “Waiting For a Miracle”. They certainly would be. The band split soon afterwards.
Sadly, the drummer (Tommy McManus) died in 1994 after losing his battle with leukaemia. A sad note to end on, so let me say now they became my favourite band in 1985 and their song “Needle in the Groove” is a lost classic. I’ll drink a glass of Bushmills to them tonight.
In 1985 they were better than U2. In my eyes anyway.
Record #22. Mama’s Boys – Needle in the Groove