Frankie Says: “Relax … The Vig Will Gig!”

Vigilante rock band

It’s pretty cool to have a history teacher who drums in a heavy rock band. Yes, it is. And it’s particularly cool if said band are genuine purveyors of bona fide “no nonsense rock ‘n’ roll.

The drummer: Gary Brace. The band: Vigilante (formerly Judah), one of the best established heavy rock bands on the Cardiff/South Wales rock scene, circa ’79 – ’83. And damn, they were good. They really were. Bogey’s Rock Club, The Great Western, The Lion’s Den, Cardiff University Students Union. They saw a thousand faces (well, a few hundred anyway) and they rocked them all. The twin guitars of Pelele and Jones were top notch. Brace’s drum solos were endlessly entertaining, as he frequently left his drum stool to give anything he could find a good whack.

They played mostly original material, but they also slipped a couple of Skynyrd and Lizzy tracks into the set. Indeed, their version of Lizzy’s ‘Still In Love With You’ was so good that you could almost have believed, just for a few seconds, that bushy-haired bass player and vocalist Andy Hinton was Phil Lynott. They even did a charity gig in our school hall that drew quite a crowd. That particular gig was notable for the large quantities of the Budgie E.P. ‘If Swallowed Do Not Induce Vomiting’ that seemed to be in circulation – on sale at the back of the hall for just 20p a pop. (I bought 4!) Gary, it transpired, was good mates with Budgie drummer Steve Williams, and played the drum kit that Williams had used on Budgie’s ‘Power Supply’ album.

I still have a 3-track demo from that period: the catchy ‘Heartache’, the Budgie-inspired ‘Long Term Suicide’, and the classic ‘Victim of Circumstance’. Pelele, Jones, Brace and Hinton – classic stuff! It shows the quality of both their songwriting and playing, and it shows, perhaps, that for every band that makes it, there’s probably a hundred others who could have.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxKOGAxkz54

Of course, times change and people move on. In this case Pelele moved on. After much discussion, the rest of the band decided to keep the name, recruiting a female vocalist (Sandra) and keyboard player (Ian). After an enforced hiatus, Vigilante re-emerged with a new sound and a completely revamped set list. (Frankie says: “Relax, the Vig will gig!”) And damn, they were still good. The new songs, which took the band in a softer, more melodic direction, had the virtue of being more immediate in a live setting, and the band further extended their reach with a session for the BBC on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show. My friends and I joined the fan club under the group pseudonym ‘Brett Peters’. We continued going to the gigs. I even fixed them up a place on the bill at a Southampton University anti-racism gig – though unfortunately they had to withdraw. We all kept our fingers crossed and hoped that the band would continue to grow.

But alas, it was not to be. Thrash and glam metal claimed the mid and late 80s and, by then, Vigilante didn’t quite fit the mould. I seem to recall attendances at gigs dwindling. Then real life took over. The singer married the bass player, leaving the rest of the band to concentrate on their day jobs. But it was fun while it lasted. Everyone should have a local band to follow and champion. British heavy rock has always been something of a bottom-up movement, sustained by the loyalty and enthusiasm of the grass roots fan. I hope this never changes.

 “Death row ain’t no place to go, oh no!”

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  1. Beneath the Surface … No Shortage of Musical Talent! « Words and Music

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