Why do I love Budgie so much? Because they are an uncompromising, all-out heavy rock band. At the height of their popularity, in the early seventies, they matched and rivalled groups like Black Sabbath, Stray and the Groundhogs. Here is my biography of this group.
Budgie were originally formed in the late sixties in Cardiff, under the name Six-Ton Budgie, by Burke Shelley (lead vocals/ bass), Tony Bourge (guitar/ backing vocals) and Ray Phillips (drums). After playing a number of gigs in the local area, they shortened the name to Budgie as a contradiction of their heavy-rock style. Their first self-titled album, produced by Rodger Bain and released in 1971 on MCA, introduces the hallmark crunching riffs and weird song titles such as 'Rape of the Locks' and 'Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman'.
As on all of the first five albums, the band are unorthodox; neither overtly blues-inspired like Cream or the Groundhogs, nor underpined by keyboards in the way of Uriah Heep or Deep Purple. Perhaps their closest contemporaries are Paranoid-era Black Sabbath, in the use of sheer heavy guitar riffs (although Shelley has said, as a Christian, he could not relate to the satanic imagery of Sabbath). Burke Shelley's high-pitched vocal is highly unusual and has inspired many copyists, such as David Surkamp of Pavlov's Dog and Geddy Lee of Rush , while Phillips had an economical approach to the drums. Tony Bourge is not an entirely original guitarist (his solo on the cover of 'Baby, Please Don't Go' can be heard on Juicy Lucy's 'Who Do You Love?'), but he is very unconventional - his guitar is made to flow, scratch and scream by turn. Burke Shelley has described Budgie's way of working as the bass and guitar playing off each other with the drums filling the gaps. Surprising, he cites Led Zeppelin as an influence, as they were heavy, not by having a 'thick' sound, but by having a 'thin' sound and then belting it out. The first album, largely ignored at the time, is now seen as a classic of the genre and set the benchmark high.
Squawk, the second album from 1972, continues the trend of heavy rock and weird titles, as in 'Hot as a Docker's Armpit', and sales in the UK reached gold status. But, it is with Never Turn Your Back On a Friend that Budgie reached their highest point. Released in 1973, it has everything: the rolling riffs of 'In the Grip of a Tyrefitter's Hand'; the thoughful, psychedelia-tinged melody of 'You Know I'll Always Love You'; the light and shade of 'You're the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk'; the cover of 'Baby Please Don't Go'; the epic 'Parents'; and their signature song, 'Breadfan'. A later critic described 'Breadfan' as insipid, but it flows effortlessly, while paradoxically twisting and turning. It perfectly sums-up their technique in one track. Indeed, Never Turn you Back On a Friend is close to being the perfect heavy rock album. Ray Philips left the band soon after, to later resurrect the Six-Ton Budgie name, to be replaced by Pete Boot for album number four, In for the Kill.
In For the Kill (1974) contains some of Budgie's best tracks like 'In for the Kill', 'Crash Course in Brain Surgery' and 'Wondering What Everyone Knows', but padding is beginning to appear, such as the intro to Hammer and Tongs (on which you can clearly hear the Led Zeppelin influences) or the instrumental passage in Running From My Soul. Steve Williams, an excellent drummer, replaced Pete Boot for the more consistent Bandolier (1975), which has 'Breaking All the House Rules' and 'I Can't See My Feelings', along with their greatest hit, Andy Fairweather-Low's 'I Ain't No Mountain'.
If I Were Brittania I'd Waive the Rules (1976) is the first Budgie album to contain weak tracks and, worst of all, elements of cliche. Openers 'Anne Neggen', as the name implies, are repetetive and weary. So too is 'If I Were Britannia, I'd Waive the Rules', and these are the strongest tracks, meaining it is all downhill to the final Song. 'Black Velvet Stallion', a beautiful epic in the style of 'Parents', is the only track on the album to rank with the best of Budgie. Having switched labels from MCA to A&M, it is noticeable that the band appear to be softening their sound in an attempt at commercial success in America, which had so far elluded them. Impeckable (1978), with 'Melt the Ice Away', is an improvement on its predecessor, but the West Coast-feel shows a further attempt at acceptance in America. Ironically, music from Impeckable, along with The Tubes, Head East and Billy Preston, was used in the cult comedy film J-Men Forever (US 1979), but by then it was too late.
1978, the year that saw the release of Impeckable, was a difficult one for Budgie. Myf Isaac joined them as a ssecond guitarist for live work, but by the middle of that year both he and Tony Bourge had left the group to be replaced by Rob Kendrick from Trapeze. Later in the year, Budgie were dropped by A&M and Kendrick was replaced by 'Big' John Thomas, a fine player from the George Hatcher Band. The line-up of Shelley, Thomas and Williams recorded two albums for Kingsley Ward's Active Records, a sublabel of RCA: Power Supply (1980) and Nightflight (1981). A 12" EP, 'If Swallowed Do Not Induce Vomiting' was also released on Active Records in 1980. All tracks on the EP are reasonable, but lack the originality of the early Bourge-era Budgie. The 1993 CD reissue of Power Supply featured the If Swallowed Do Not Induce Vomiting E.P. as bonus tracks. 1982 saw Budgie return to RCA for 'Deliver us From Evil' (1982), their final recording for a major label.
In 1982, Tony Bourge rejoined original Budgie drummer Ray Phillips and bassist Alan Fish to form Tredegar with future members of Cloven Hoof, singer Russ North and guitarist Andy Wood. The band recorded a self-titled album in 1986 with Carl Sentance from Persian Risk on guest vocals. According to an article in Classic Rock maazine, Tony Bourge left Tredegar to become a French polisher, while Phillips continued the band as singer until the early nineties, when he resurrected Six-Ton Budgie.
Budgie, meanwhile, continued to have some success during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, playing the Reading Festival in 1980 and headlining in 1982. Also in 1982, they played in Poland, where they had built a following, and became the first heavy rock band to perform behind the Iron Curtain. They toured in support of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz, but stopped gigging in 1988. John Thomas went on to play with Tom Galley's Phenomena project in 1985.
Strangely, although Budgie had very little commercial success in America, they enjoyed a strong cult following in Texas, due to Joe Anthony and Lou Roney playing a Budgie track every day on KMAC/KISS radio in San Antonio in the 1970s. The band reformed using various drummers for one-off gigs in 1995 and for outdoor festivals 'La Semana Alegre' in 1996, both in San Antonio, Texas. In 1999, Budgie was officially reformed. Life in San Antonio, a live album, was recorded and released in 2002, with a lineup of Burke Shelley, Steve Williams and Andy Hart on guitar. Budgie toured the United Kingdom in 2002-6, as well as the New York City/ New Jersey area, Dallas and a few shows in Europe, including the Sweden Rock Festival and a return to post-Communist Poland.
In February 2003, Simon Lees was asked to join Shelley and Williams in Budgie. In September of that year, Lees recorded seven songs with the band which would later appear as bonus tracks on four of Budgie’s remastered albums: Budgie, Sqwawk, Never Turn Your Back on a Friend and In For the Kill released on the Noteworthy Productions label. During 2005 and 2006, Lees co-wrote and recorded an album of new material You're All Living in Cuckooland with Burke Shelley at the latter's studio in Cardiff. The album was produced by Burke Shelley and released in the UK on 7th November 2006 on Noteworthy Productions, accompanied with a thirty five date tour of the United Kingdom. Also in 2006, Lees played classical guitar on Black Velvet Stallion (2006 Version) for the remastered If I Were Britannia, I'd Break the Rules for Noteworthy Productions. Lees was not credited on the album. The following year Budgie played dates in Sweden and Poland. Having played 115 gigs consisting of four UK tours and nineteen shows spread across five countries outside the UK, Simon Lees left Budgie on 4th July 2007, three months before the band were due to play a three date tour of Australia. Following the departure of Simon Lees, Dio lead guitarist and songwriter, Craig Goldy, offered his services while Ronnie James was completing commitments with Heaven & Hell on their World Tour. In February 2008, Goldy accompanied Budgie on their first (five date) tour of Australia and has continued playing with Budgie as 'guest guitarist' for all of their shows.
Budgie's November 2010 tour of Eastern Europe had to be cancelled as Burke Shelley was hospitalised on Tuesday 9th November in Wejherowo, Poland, complaining of pains in his abdomen. A team of surgeons was quickly assembled and a 6cm aortic aneurism was diagnosed. Tests revealed that Shelley's aorta was leaking blood into the outer wall of the aneurism which could have burst at any time. He underwent a two-hour, 40-minute operation in the evening and was kept in the intensive care ward. After surgery, he returned to Britain for recovery, but no decision has been made on the future of Budgie.
Burke Shelley posted the following under Latest News from The Budgie Camp on the band's official website: "I'd like to say sorry to all the Polish and Czech fans for the recent cancellation of the tour dates. This is because I became ill just before the tour began and had to have emergency surgery in Poland. I'm now recovering at home and I don't yet know what the future holds. Thanks to all those who supported me particulary the Polish surgeons. Thanks also to all those who sent messgaes and thanks to God the Father and Jesus Christ my saviour and the Holy Spirit." - Burke
8th November 2011
With thanks to Wikipedia, The Budgie Official Website, Classic Rock Magazine and The New Musical Express Book of Rock 1 (1975) and 2 (1977) published by Star Books
1973 Never Turn Your Back on a Friend
1974 In For The Kill
1975 Best of Budgie (1)
1976 If I Were Brittania I'd Waive the Rules
1980 Power Supply
1980 If Swallowed Do Not Induce Vomiting EP
1981 Best of Budgie (2)
1982 Deliver Us From Evil
1996 An Ecstasy of Fumbling - The Definitive Anthology
1997 Best of Budgie(3)
1998 Heavier Than Air - Rarest Eggs (live compilation of 1972-1981 material)
1998 We Came, We Saw... (live compilation of 1980-1982 material)
2002 Life in San Antonio (live)
2004 The Last Stage (a compilation of previously unreleased material)
2005 Radio Sessions 1974 & 1978 (double album)
2006 The BBC Recordings (live compilation of 1972-1982 material)
2006 You're All Living in Cuckooland
Crash Course In Brain Surgery/ Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman (1971, MCA MK 5072)
Whiskey River/ Guts (1972, MCA MK 5085)
Whiskey River/ Stranded (1972, MCA 2185) - US-exclusive release
Zoom Club (Edit)/ Wondering What Everyone Knows (1974, MCA 133)
I Ain't No Mountain/ Honey (1975, MCA 175)
Smile Boy Smile/ All at Sea (1978, A&M AMS 7342)
Crime Against the World/ Hellbender (1980, Active BUDGE 2)
Keeping a Rendezvous/ Apparatus (1981, RCA BUDGE 3)
I Turned To Stone (Part 1)/ I Turned To Stone (Part 2) (1981, RCA BUDGE 4)
Bored With Russia/ Don't Cry (1982, RCA 271)
1986 Tredegar - the debut album by Tredegar, featuring Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips
1994 Remix and Rebirth - Tredegar compilation album
A SELECTION OF YOUTUBE VIDEOS FEATURING BUDGIE
This is a famous clip from the Old Grey Whistle Test broadcast by BBC2 TV in June 1975:
Who Do you Want For your Love?
I am not sure of the origins of either of these two clips. Breadfan became their signature tune and the cover of Andy Fairweather-Low's I Ain't No Mountain was their 'greatest' hit:
I Ain't no Mountain
Budgie Official Website
Bandolier, the fan site approved by the band
Budgie in Wikipedia
Originally posted on Tuesday, 8th November 2011