Racey, Smash And Grab, 1979

Er…awful to admit, but it all starts here. My life in music seeded in the kitschiest crap of the disco era. I could probably write a full review of this album with my eyes closed while playing the album in my mind—the first album I ever owned. I got it when I was twelve years old. The song ‘Some Girls’ was number one on the charts in 1979 soon to be knocked off by Patrick Hernandez’s disco hit ‘Born To Be Alive.’ I got my mum to buy it for me on cassette tape. I think she was so surprised I’d taken an interest in music that she said “yes,” which surprised me just as much, because I never dreamed she would agree to it. Anyway, the story stops there for four years. Which is to admit that Racey’s Smash and Grab sustained me until I was 15. That’s not to say that I listened to Racey endlessly all that time. We had other LPs at home, mostly volumes from the Solid Gold Hits series, which were collections of chart-toppers in New Zealand. Nevertheless I knew Smash And Grab inside out. I diligently sat there with my finger on the REW/PLAY buttons for hours listening and writing the lyrics out to every song, most of which were about parties and sex, and er…one incongruously placed track about prison. So, parties, sex, and prison. According to Wikipedia, Smash and Grab sold 500,000 copies. Apparently, it was bigger in Australia than Abba.

So what is it? In my mind, Smash and Grab is a kind of precursor to the sound of the Supergrass debut. Very fast, punchy, catchy, exuberant teenage pop songs with lots of piano. Often the songs sound if there is actually a party going on in the background. But really, it’s about as cheesy as pop music gets. The most depressing thing about this is that in 2011 Racey still exist, a bunch of desperate old geezers still milking their top ten hits thirty years after the fact. The really funny thing is that there are two Raceys. One version consists of original members and the other version is original member Richard Gower with backing musicians, both of them still big in Australia apparently. It’s a sad place, Australia. So, on with the review, Bumstead…

Love’s A Riot…opens with a car screeching to a halt, a big drum beat, a piano roll and a lot of voices talking in the background, to sound like a party. It’s all about a square called Jimmy learning to party for the first time, and ‘falling in love’ [discovering sex]. “Everybody’s shaking on a Saturday night / Love was never meant to give you a fright / It’s just a little game you shoulda been playing.” We get the chorus about a thousand times throughout the song: “Hey baby / Love’s a riot / I don’t know why it took you so long to try it / Hey baby / Love’s a riot now.” Short instrumental break. Very bouncy piano/drum combo rhythm. The song follows the story of Jimmy the square meeting Suzy the slapper and them getting it on: “Well spaced out Suzy, never known to refuse / She gets it easy when Jimmy’s got the blues / Take him home baby / Show him a thing or two,” and the result? “Suzy was impressed / Jimmy was gone!” [‘gone’ as in blown away]. The wisdom? “You see what happens when you ain’t even lookin’ / You turn around and something starts cookin’.” So Jimmy and Suzy manage to do it all without anyone knowing; “And pretty soon you hear the patter of little feet.” It’s insanely repetitive, lots of ‘aah aah’ harmonizing in the background.

Such A Night…opens with a bunch of people yelling, talking and squealing at another party. This time it’s sung from the point of view of a square called Richard who wants to go to the party but he’s not allowed to because his ‘baby’ won’t let him. Cue a scene of Richard getting undressed to go to bed: “I heard a knock upon the door and somebody said / ‘Hey Richard whatcha doin’ in there? / Get yourself dressed and comb your hair / Don’t you think it’s time that you were gone / Comin’ up to my place / There’s a party goin’ on.’” But poor Richard is not allowed to, keeps telling himself “No I shouldn’t.” The chorus: “Such a night to have a party / Such a night to have a party / I got a whole lotta lovin’ and a whole lotta livin’ to do.” And then this “oooh oooh” harmonizing in the background. Insanely catchy melody. And I love this lyric: “Well if I could only get away and out on my own / I’d go up to the party and I’d go up alone / But every time I try to make my way to the door / My baby gets a hold of me and begs me for more.” Brilliant. It’s fast, almost like rap. And just like the first song, the chorus repeats ad infinitum until the song fades out as per the Chinn/Chapman songwriting team’s pop song formula. It seems that Richard never quite manages to get to the party.

There’s A Party Going On…and while we’re at it, hey, let’s have a song about parties. About the only lyrics here are: “Don’t they ever know there’s a party going on x 3 / All night (x 3) / Loooong.” Then they channel a little bit of Elvis, doing some of that old rock around the clock schtick: “Seven eight nine o’clock ten o’clock rockin’ / Turn the music up so we won’t hear the knockin’ / Eleven twelve one o’clock two o’clock three / Mighty good rockin’ / It’s guaranteed / Four five six o’clock seven o’clock eight / I got to get to work cos I’m already late.” There are some people in the apartment next door knocking on the walls and complaining. How dare they? “Don’t they ever know there’s a party going on?” Repeat this a thousand times. “Everybody (yeah?) / Feel the heat / Feel your body / Feel your feet.” I could quote the entire song off by heart. Love this bit: “If you’re walking to Birmingham / Jogging to New Jersey / Rollin’ to Rio / Flying to Frisco / Hustlin’ to Houston / Boogaloo to Boston / Anyway you travel / Anyway you do it / Make sure you can do it / All night long.” Rock’n’roll. Party on chaps.

Lay Your Cards On The Table…is where the songs start getting creepy. This is all about a chap gambling against his mates as to whether he can win the girl, hence: “Lay your cards on the table / Lay them two to one / My place, her place, it doesn’t matter / Lay your cards on the table / Now the stakes are high / I kiss the girl / You kiss your money goodbye / So lay your cards on the table.” In order to win the bet he has to stalk her: “You know I saw her at a party / On a Saturday night / You know I never even kissed her / Though I thought that I might.” The music here is a bouncy piano/drum thing, with a rubber band bass exactly like the three songs before it. The fellow in this song is worried that everyone’s betting he won’t get the girl. This has a pretty catchy kind of syncopated rhythm. Pretty danceable stuff. In the end, he succeeds, of course: “I cut the fellas down to size / And won the prize.” I wonder if the girl ever finds out that she was being bet on?

She’s A Winner…is essentially a date rape song, but I don’t think anyone realized that in 1979, least not me. Check out the lyrics: “Well / She knows what she wants / She’s got a mind of her own / She’s such a good looking chick / And she is never alone / She’s a getter / A real go-getter … Well, I can’t describe with too much accuracy / Just what she’s really like but you can’t fail to see / She’s a winner / She’s hot / A real guy’s dinner.” Okay, so she’s been compared to a meal, and he seems not to be able to stand the thought that he can’t have sex with her. We get the chorus in between every second line: “She’s a winner / She’s a winner / She just can’t lose / She’s so good lookin’ / She can pick and choose / She’s a winner / She’s a winner / And so damn hot / If you’re wondering what she’s got / She’s got the whole damn lot.” Here’s why he’s gonna rape her: “With her mind made up / She gets what she needs / She takes what she wants / Doesn’t matter who bleeds / She sets her sights high / Cos she loves to thrill / She’ll give you a damn look / And if looks could kill…” From what I can gather, this means he’s gonna have to make her pay for playing so hard to get: “Well, I met her one night when I was out on my OWN…” [Oop, no one else around, that’s not good] “…she was as cool as ice and as hard as a stone / I’m gonna GET her / You bet / I’m gonna GET her…” [Gulp, stalker alert.] “She’s such a good looker / I just couldn’t resist / I couldn’t stand the thought of my chance being missed / And so I told her / I wanna hold her…” and now we get straight to the rape scene “…With my mind made up / I TOOK what I needed / I TOOK what I wanted / The way that she did / I set my sights high / It was such a thrill / We got we needed and we said we will.” Presumably because he’s such a hot rapist stud, that’s what makes her a winner in the end, and so she marries him, of course.

Some Girls…is there anyone over the age of thirty who doesn’t know this song? Neat opening beat, sort of like train rhythm stuff, and a rippling piano riff to open into the bouncy bass line. Song seems to be about how some girls will [let you have sex with them] and some girls won’t [let you have sex with them]. Of course that’s all girls are good for right chaps? And you can fit all of ‘em into two camps – the wills and the won’ts. Amazing insight. What I always loved about Racey though, as a kid, was the little ‘rap’ pieces they threw in the middle of the songs – fast paced lyrics that were fun to sing along with: “I find your company to be / Some things come really new to me / Now that I know you socially / Obviously I’ll fall heavily / I’ve seen those looks you’re sending me / Is this the way it’s meant to be / Is there something we should talk about / Just give me time to work it out.” And then back to the stupidly catchy chorus: “Well I know I’ve got the fever but / I don’t know why / Some say they will / And some girls lie.” Repeat the chorus forever while the background harmonizers add some Beach Boys-type ‘oohs’ over the chorus. Repeat to fade out…as my poor twelve year old brain turns to mush…

Lay Your Love On Me…was the first single from the album. It has the same bouncy bass and piano as nearly every track on side one. In this case the singer is admitting to being a near pedophile: “Ooh yeah / Oooh yeah yeah yeah / When I very first met you / You were seventeen / Not just another teenage queen / And then I took you everywhere you’ve been / In and out of love and back again” [They had a lot of sex, in various positions]. Handclaps keep time. Next he rhymes ‘hearts on fire’ with ‘take you higher.’ Chorus:” Come on baby lay your love on me / Oooh baby let your love go free now.” [So he’s advocating a loose relationship?]. Then we get the deep voice dude singing the chorus, while party voices yell out “Oh yeah” (there’s lots of party voices in the background). And then we get the chorus again about seventeen more times. What I do like about this song is the squeaky little organ sound. And it is insanely catchy with lots of neat harmonizing.

Kitty…became a huge hit in 1982 under the title “Mickey” by Tony Basil. I was always pleased as a kid that I knew the original when the new version came out. I also thought the lyrics to the original rhymed much better, viz: “Oh Kitty, what a pity / You don’t understand / You take me by the heart when you take me by the hand / Oh Kitty, you’re so pretty / Can’t you understand / It’s girl like you Kitty / Oh what’d you do Kitty, do Kitty? / Don’t break my heart Kitty.” And then this awful line: “Now when you take me by the oooooh / Who’s ever gonna know?” Hmm. The song has the same thin organ line as the previous song, which is quite a nice touch. Then we get this spaceship sound in the instrumental break while someone whispers ‘Kitty’ ‘Kitty’ as though he’s panting during sex. It’s very catchy and the chorus repeats about nine hundred and fifty two times throughout the song.

Rah Stateway…is the only song that stands out for not being about sex and parties. It also has a quite a different vibe, much more subdued and shady, with a strange organ riff that I quite like. ‘Rah Stateway’ is a prison. “Said they’re gonna take me / To Rah Stateway / For a crime I did not do / I’m telling you / They said I done a murder / Said they all heard her / Said they saw a man run away who looked a lot like me / But I was at home / All on my own / But I just can’t prove it and I’m trying hard to do it alone…” [Oh hang on, is he getting done here for raping the girl in ‘She’s A Winner’?] Chorus: “Oh Rah Stateway / Looks like I’m gonna spend some time in you / Oh Rah Stateway / Looks like I’m gonna make my home in you.” Unfortunately the authorities catch another man but they decide to leave the singer in prison anyway – what for? Perpetrating all these dodgy songs on unsuspecting twelve year olds? “Now there’s three steel walls / And a door / And a little rubber ball in the corner on the floor / Now to turn the key / On me / And all I wanna do / All I wanna be is just free.” I like how at the end, the singer starts yelling out all these desperate pleas. “Said they’re gonna lock me away forever / I know they caught the man who done it.” This is probably the best song on the album. That organ riff and the electric guitar solo go great together.

Boy Oh Boy…staccato guitar part, “oh ummmm” sounding very much like the Beach Boys, before the horribly little boy vocal starts up. “The first time we touched I liked it so much” [underage sex?] and then straight into the chorus, “Boy oh boy / When I’m with you and it’s / Boy oh boy / What I can do with you / It was too much / When oh boy the first time we touched.” [Premature ejaculation]. “You came closer and closer / You put your head on my shoulder / And when the night it was over / I walked you home and we were alone again.” [Oh great, more date rape.] He’s so guilty about this all he can do is repeat the chorus again and again and again. This song is the most nauseating on the whole album, mainly for being 80% chorus and only 20% verse. Even my twelve year old self hated this song after about the third listen.

We Are Racey…is hideous – the Racey theme song. “We are Racey and we move with the speed of sound / We are Racey / And we’re happy that we’ve found / A way to your heart / With music / You know we wouldn’t choose it / You know we wouldn’t choose it any other way.” Ugh. Apparently they sing in sounds of light, and “We’re gonna take you in to the night / So if you wanna dance to the music / Or if you just wanna groove it / Come on come on and let yourself go.” And the song builds up to this momentous line: “Race with us / Keep the pace with us / We are Racey!! / We are Racey!! / And we are yooooours!!!” Then he tells us that they hope they’ll never lose their music to anybody else…which means what? That nobody else can play music? That we’re not allowed to like any other bands? “We’ll take you into the night / Into the night with music playing / We’ll play for you / We’re looking for your emotions /Across the widest oceans / Stay / If you want us to.” It has this horrid pop-anthem quality. Chiming organs, big heavy chord changes. Truly awful chaps.

So close listening has revealed all, eh Racey? A bunch of perverts living in an age when it was publicly acceptable to declare that you were sex starved squares, cheesy rapists and cornball pedophiles by slipping it through the radar in the form of super saccharine pop. Still, I quite enjoyed hearing this again. Maybe I should move to Australia.

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This was Alan Bumstead’s 20th Most Loved (Despised) Album of the 80s

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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