There are bands that when the chips are down; be that unfortunate business decisions made, founder members having left, drug misdemeanours and naff albums recorded along the way, somehow miraculously turn the tide and record latter career highlights, dumbfounding critics and fans alike. Wolverhampton’s Peter Goalby was the lead singer in two such bands where good fortune smiled again, and he was a significant part of the reason why it did.
I’ve always considered the tagline “Big in Texas” a great slight to Black Country funk rock pioneers Trapeze. But then you need to look at how humongous the place is on a map. That they scored a bigger US album chart hit after their original bass player/singer left to join Deep Purple is easily forgotten. A while later after their second guitarist had gone off to join Budgie it left a vacancy that Goalby would fill, both supplying six string assistance and taking over the lead vocal role. The result proving a turnaround in positive live reviews and a grudging respect for their next studio album here in the UK. That it and a subsequent live album were bloody hard to get hold of in those long-ago days when you could only buy them in these quaint places that they called record shops wasn’t good for an ongoing career though.
Uriah Heep’s Mick Box future looked even more futile at the time. He’d lost his whole band (alongside suffering all the faux pas mentioned in the first paragraph). Putting together a new line-up with semi-established veterans as the new kids on the block of heavy metal were making a wave didn’t look good on paper. On record it was another matter, and a great part of that was due to bringing Goalby on board, not only as lead vocalist but as a major contributor to the song writing.
And all went well there for a while, with a resurgence of interest in the band and healthy record sales, only for poor production on a third album, while a manager/record company/publisher began selling the tableware out from under their noses. Unrelenting tour dates to keep the coffers going wasn’t enough for Mr Goalby and he jacked-it in.
For a brief time, it sounded like he might have a healthy career collaborating with John Parr (Famous for US #1 single ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’) on songs. While, Slade, Shy and Tigertailz got some backing vocals out of him. But basically, that was it. Word had it he went to work for Hiscox Cases, and I recall seeing him at a guitar exhibition in Birmingham some 20 years back. Then zilch.
The internet revealed little; bootlegged tracks from an unreleased album surfaced on Youtube infrequently, but it took 2019’s The Best Of Trapeze – Leavin’ The Hard Times Behind compilation to start turning a few heads and asking questions again. Aside from Goalby singing on a few tracks featured on Disc 1, purchasers received a second CD featuring Trapeze live, with Goalby appearing half-way through; his first live appearance with the band, being practically an audition.
Reaction proved positive, sales encouraging, it didn’t take a fool to work out there might be more Goalby gold buried away. Lo and behold, we now have Easy With The Heartaches, 11 tracks transferred from tape and subsequently mastered with personal involvement from the man himself.
These then are demos he recorded after leaving Heep. It seems he had a publishing deal but not a long-term record contract, and he still thought of himself as more a singer in a band, than a solo artist. With three tracks co-written and featuring fellow local legend Robin George on lead guitar you wonder why they never tried to get a group together. However, having took enough knocks he eventually decided to build a life for himself beyond the music industry’s public glare.
Good for him, a damn shame for fans. He was and possibly still is a great singer.
He also plays guitar on this album, with a lovely full-on right-hand strum across his electric’s dry toned strings. He’d played guitar with Trapeze of course, and prior to that with Fable, where he was also credited as a mandolin and violin player, but we don’t get any such treatments here.
In fact, aside from the aforementioned George, the only other musical contributors are Eddy Morton, who supplies three guitar solos, and Paul Hodson – Known for his work in bands like Ten and Hard Rain, who not only plays keyboards but is responsible for drumming/bass programming alongside arrangements and mixing.
So, what of the contents themselves?
Title track ‘Easy With The Heartaches’ pulls in quick, then chugs down for steady paced verses where familiar tropes of hard luck stories are related, then the guitars fall back eliciting prouder upbeat chords on the chorus as hopeful optimism is espoused. Lyrically, Goalby sits to one side of the cliché, with a turn of phrase that applies comparative allegories familiar enough for the everyman to hit the mark and ring true often.
To the outside listener most of the numbers are love songs, and often of the broken heart variety, with a few hoping or aspiring towards better times ahead. Heep devotees might view some of these as his contemplating leaving the band, with things not going quite as planned, however, at the time of writing them, as noted previously, he was hopeful he could get another band together. Either way, what we hear is a great voice lost to us for decades.
He has been up for the job in Rainbow, ahead of Graham Bonnet, but misunderstandings over what Blackmore was after apparently put paid to that. I may be wrong, but the man in black possibly wanted his singers to push their range to the very limit back then. Whereas, Goalby’s chops always appear to have been about how his voice sits within a particular song, and he can best deliver a line within it.
When, Trapeze’s Hold On came out I recall reviewers comparing him to Foreigner’s Lou Gramm. Well, I guess. To my mind, both the natural timbre of his voice, the way he breathes through the lines, and the emotive tones he issues forth are far closer to someone like Jess Roden, but with a rockier, less soulful influence. The fact they were born not a million miles apart might have something to do with the water, and Goalby’s time in Fable might be considered similar to Roden’s in Bronco.
But we digress, and it’s not just about the voice. What about the other ten songs?
Well, frankly, Meatloaf, Mr Mister, Heep, FM or Foreigner could have dipped into this collection and pulled out one or two for themselves. While there’s an overall AOR sound, Goalby’s voice and razor-sharp chord guitar playing prevents it going into the red on the wimp-ometer. There are a few new wave elements too, and not just from the keyboards but the rhythmic approach – That neither of those has dated, and from a time when computer programming was largely new to music, proves a thumbs up.
You have to keep remembering these are demos so the songs would have developed and may have altered dramatically should an album have appeared back then, rather than us having to wait all this time. Since it’s pretty good as it is, it could easily make you angry over what could have been.
That he still had the hunger to succeed is evidenced on second number, ‘Hold The Dream’, his voice resonating powerfully as he declares “a burning ambition to be star of the show, a conscious decision to never let go”. While a tad more laid back musically, here the keyboard melodies affect the work touchingly.
They take a semi-classical approach on the intro to ‘I Found Real Love’, a distant echoed voice indicating this is going to be a love story. Once it gets going however, you can see it could have gone two other ways when developed, be it a more rugged hook number or a ballad. Instead, there are sections that side-saddle the middle of the road. Should they have made it even smoother and replaced the guitar solo with a saxophone one, you wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been a hit for a lesser singer like Michael Bolton.
Big chords alongside keyboards give ‘Chance Of A Lifetime’ a somewhat mid-80s Quo feel initially but we’re soon into a chugging chord swing with big drumming and effects sounds alongside harmony vocals that will please Heep fans. Mind you, the brief instrumental section of new wave keyboards and slightly gonzoid guitar makes you smile and wonder what someone was smoking while leafing through their Jeff Beck and Alan Holdsworth collection on the day it got recorded.
‘Mona Lisa Smile’ features off beats that are affecting, with evocative keyboard touches. A delayed guitar chimes in and out, while quietly wailing solos from Robin George also inhabit the background sound. Lyrically, this is a more third person narrative and because of that difference seems to draw the listener in further, paying greater attention.
‘They’ll Never Find Us (Running For Our Lives)’ is an upbeat, speedy pendulum rocker that could have slipped onto Heep’s Abominog album and held its own. It’s a song of first love, possibly forbidden love, and seems to be imbued with an overall love of early Beatles too.
‘I Used To Be Your Lover’ follows naturally thereafter. Musically it grooves like a sturdy rocking slow dance, keyboards again adding emotion, guitar solo surfacing just when one you expect it and eloquently making the brief statement of it that is required. What takes this song into a whole other league and makes it my favourite is Goalby’s impassioned voice and the absolutely ace way he breaks that first line of “I” into a three-syllable rocking roar of pain and anguish… It’s classic, and brilliantly so… That my better-half kept giving me odd looks as I continuously sang it (badly) to myself during the weekly Sunday shop possibly shows how enthusiastic I am for the number.
Over semi-ominous keyboards, Goalby’s voice oozes out, dramatic chords are struck, guitars chug deep and slow, strutting singularly on the pre-chorus, then a little more upbeat as backing vocals chime in come the chorus. This is ‘Take Another Look’ and it features the album’s most profound solo. Play this to someone and tell them it’s Foreigner and they won’t blink an eye.
Keyboards skip daintily on ‘Perfection’ the singer reaches a higher vocal pitch here. And while the tune is quite mellow in tone, the song itself offers feelgood warmth, and is another earworm of a number with an anthemic love vibe come the chorus.
‘I Built This House’ is again reminiscent of Heep, and proves to be the most raucous number on the album. Guitar pick out arpeggios, bash out abrasive chords and counter the vocal melody across the length of the song, as he roars out in anguish as “a broken man”; the house he built having been for a woman, or possibly band, no longer part of his life.
Final number, ‘The Last Time’ plays cheekily as an upbeat melodic number with a big chorus to boot. Basically, it’s about him saying he’ll not have his heart broke again, so a nice pairing with the previous number and a great send off to the album, not least the classic way it fades out at the end. It’s a great little number, the kind you wouldn’t be surprised to come across on some old 70s Tops of the Pops rerun with girls dancing about in the background, as much a current rock club gig with added guitars set to 11 and an audience pumping their fists in the air.
Alas, I don’t think that’s going to happen with Peter Goalby, he seems content with life away from the crazy old music world. But at least we can get to hear this, and albeit listening and thinking of so many might-have-been choices where life could have taken a different route, I’m genuinely appreciative these recordings have now seen the light of day.
- Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
- Easy With The Heartaches is released via Cherry Red Records and is available now.
- Easy With The Heartaches
- Hold The Dream
- I Found Real Love
- Chance Of A Lifetime
- Mona Lisa Smile
- They’ll Never Find Us (Running For Our Lives)
- I Used To Be Your Lover
- Take Another Look
- I Built This House
- The Last Time