Hell’s Angels – a track that always makes me laugh as it brings back memories of sitting in that control room with Pete Jenner looking out at the anarchy in the studio. They were having a ball.
It seems a little at a odds with the rest of the album – a seven and half bit of mayhem. At least that’s how it seems to me.
There’s a bit of a story to it.
EMI, who had just signed Roy to the Harvest label, were looking to promote him. They had expectations. They thought Roy could be big. They thought that a hit single would be a good step to promote the album so they were applying a little pressure.
It provoked Roy’s usual response. When he was confronted by people he considered as part of the establishment it seemed to cause his hackles to rise.
So eventually he decided to do as they requested and produce a single. He went away and wrote Hell’s Angels. It was a deliberate attempt to create something that he knew could never appear on Top of the Pops or get radio play. The lyrics were not Pop friendly!
I remember the session. It was very late. I think the Nice had been performing at some club in London and came along to the studio after the gig. Roy taught them the song in five minutes and they recorded it live in the studio. At one point Blinky, the bass player and Lee Jackson the drummer, lost the rhythm and Roy can be heard vocally giving him the beat.
This is Roy on electric guitar! He was having a great time! The studio was rockin’ as they romped along into a meandering jam. Then the backing dissolved and it was just Roy’s guitar – Roy brought them back in with his prompt.
It was party time.
There had been debate about cutting it to remove the drop-out and in the end I think they just dubbed a vocal on the beginning. Roy and Pete Jenner loved it and decided to put it on the album just as it was.
Up til then Roy’s albums ended with mad laughter. This was the ideal ending.
Somehow it completed the gamut of styles on the album – from angry poetic rant against society through serene love songs to humorous fun and ending with this bit of anarchy.
They offered it to EMI as a single but for some reason – maybe the lyrics, or the seven and a half minutes, or the madness of the track, they turned it down as a single.
I suppose the irony was that they already had a single. If they had released Another Day it might have propelled Roy and the album into the stratosphere. Thank heavens that did not happen!
Free Speech!! One Each!!
if you think you need a better deal why don’t you just take one
like the Hell’s Angels
put your foot down, let’s get out of this town
fancy seeing all of you here, well I don’t know
fancy seeing all of you here
dressed up in your government gear, paying taxes
never thought you’d make it to here
If you think you need a better world why don’t you just make one
like the Hell’s Angels
live your own law, lick your own paw
fancy seeing all of you slugs, well I don’t know
fancy seeing all of you mugs
drinking all your government drugs
well I don’t know
helping all your government thugs