Approximately a year before Spinal Tap would take the world by storm, four attention-seeking manboys were about to embark on their world tour of Grantham. The trials and tribulations of this bunch of wannabe world famous heavy metal musicians became the subject of a fly-on-the-wall rockumentary ingeniously entitled Bad News Tour. No recording contract, no management, no crew, it was ruthless in its depiction of a band about to embark on their long, long journey to fame and fortune. Following what should not, perhaps even could not be defined as an explosive gig – which only four people (and a dog) were fortunate to attend – they split up soon after, only to reluctantly reunite when Frilly Pink Records, armed with a record contract, teased them out of retirement – or more aptly, anonymity – and into the studio. Tensions within the band remained as high as ever they were, and while a gig at The Flying Horse would have been, shall we say, “astonishing”, the opportunity to play the 1986 Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donington could not be refused. After all, to quote Vim Fuego:
“Donington, I mean it’s just unbelievable, it’s like the heavy-metal centre of the universe and Bad News are going to be there… this is big league, all we have to do now is blow Ozzy of the stage.”
And though Ozzy dismissed them as “fucking awful”, Scorpions said they were “Scheiße”, and Lemmy labelled them as “the worst kind of pimply shit of the worst kind of city ghetto probably populated by winos, junkies and general all-round fuckups”, that performance, the ensuing riot, and the merciless beating that the band somehow survived cemented the band’s position in heavy metal history. Fortunately for us all, all of this was captured in their second rockumentary broadcast in 1988, More Bad News.
But where are they now?
According to rhythm guitarist Den Dennis and drummer Spider Webb, the post-1988 fates of the Bad News members were as follows: Vim Fuego (aka Alan Metcalfe) and Dennis returned to painting and decorating; Colin became a bank clerk (no surprise there, huh?); and Spider retired to the West Country with his partner and three kids. Bad news for us all, yes? A sad loss to metal, and music in general, I think you’ll agree. I mean, to think that they’d be as rich as the Stones if only they’d sold as many records as them.
Comprised of a vocalist/guitarist with an ego so inflated that any semblance of self-awareness is utterly obscured, a tone-deaf rhythm guitarist who can’t tell the difference between a D and a G chord, a merry prankster on drums that is unable to resist the urge to play a 45-minute solo every time he picks up the sticks, and a barely adequate bassist who overestimates his importance in the band (and sexual allure) and consistently clashes with the lead vocalist over onstage primacy, Ade Edmondson’s creation was and is a work of genius. Bad News is everybody’s first – and worst – band.
Ripped-off riffs, self-indulgent lead breaks resplendent in off-key bends and unnecessary fret-wanking flamboyance, and lyrics about booze, bikes, and battle-beaten warriors – or as Sally Freidman would put it, “just macho-male egotistical dominance along with orgiastic bloodletting and violence against women” – against a backdrop of what can only be referred to as an arhythmic section all wrapped up in dirty denim, shabby leather, and scrotum-squeezing spandex, Bad News are the exhilarating, the excessive, the hilarious, the ridiculous nightmare that is heavy metal. Many a rock star have said how they cringed, even took offense, when they saw Spinal Tap. And though Spinal Tap may be true of the big boys in the big bollocked world of heavy metal (Anvil, anyone?), Bad News is where they all began. And indeed, some remain.
And now, at last, and I assume due to high demand, the Four Horsemen of the Rock Apocalypse, leaders and saviours of the wild ride to oblivion and ecstasy, are back! Sort of. Cherry Red have brought together their 1987 eponymous debut album (produced by Queen’s Brian May) and the 1988 Bootleg, this latter a recording of outtakes from the sessions for their debut, in a 2 CD package.
And it’s f***ing hilarious.
And while the songs on Bad News are a wonderful parody of heavy metal in all its overblown and pubescent glory – who else but this band of mismatched miscreants could utterly crucify Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ in such sloppy and side-splitting style? – the band discussions on Bootleg that rapidly deteriorate into merciless verbal and physical abuse are hysterical (heaven forfend that someone take it seriously).
Rock is dead, some say. No, it’s not. It is but a teenager trapped in a permanent state of arrested development. Spend some time with painter/decorator/lead guitarist/lead vocalist/“lead everything, really” Vim Fuego (né Alan Metcalfe), rhythm guitarist Den Dennis, drummer Spider Webb, and bassist/banker/cry-baby Colin Grigson and you’ll see what I mean. Forty years apart, heavy metal in 1983 and heavy metal in 2023 aren’t that different.
The only issue with this collection is that it’s impossible – impossible – to get through in one go. You’ll find yourself time and again having to quickly find the pause button it and then skip back a few seconds because you’re laughing so hard at what’s been said, sung, or played.
Words by Jason Guest
- Available through Cherry Red Records from 18 August 2023 here
CD1: BAD NEWS (1987)
- Hey Hey Bad News
- Warriors Of Ghengis Khan
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Bad News
- Drink ’Til I Die
- Cashing In On Christmas (Let’s Bank Mix)
- Cashing In On Christmas (7” Version)
- Pretty Woman
- Life With Brian
- Bohemian Rhapsody (Take 1)
- Hey Mr. Drummer
CD2: BOOTLEG (1988)
- Bad Dreams
- Double Entendre
- Locked In
- M. Farmer
- Cashing In On Christmas (Dub)