Loud, belligerent and uncompromising Manchester four-piece Stack Waddy (not to be confused with Stackridge. I hasten to add!) can best be described as purveyors of progressive blues-and-psych-infused heavy rock. The band’s very existence was a mere flash in the deep pan of underground music – two brief years basically, from 1970 till 1972, recording for John Peel’s Dandelion label (where they stuck out rather like the proverbial sore thumb amongst the parade of gentler hippier, trippier acts in that stable). Stack Waddy (the name came from a character in Mad magazine) drew its members from local R&B band The Knails (singer John Knail and guitarist Mick Stott) and power outfit New Religion (bassist Stuart Banham and drummer Steve Revell).
The resultant musical mix was dynamic in the extreme, a real horse-frightener, with a blistering charge and proto-punk vocal work that had distinct shades of Edgar Broughton especially, or at times Beefheart tho’ not quite his growling guttural depth of throat (compare and contrast the cover of the good Captain’s Sure Nuff ’N’ Yes I Do on Stack Waddy’s first album, f’rinstance). The Stack Waddy soundscape was exclusive but unpretentious, and in the context of the prevailing “proggy” musical climate of the time decidedly rough-house and unsubtle – heavy riffing, raucous delivery, not altogether unlike early Pretty Things I guess (but whoa, go check out Stack Waddy’s ultra-raw, pounding take on Rosalyn that could almost be a proto-Damned outtake). Their collection of covers ranged across rock’n’roll and blues but also logically took in Frank Zappa’s Willie The Pimp (that had also featured Beefheart, y’ recall), grinding covers of Kinks and Stones hits, and (less logically) the Jethro Tull hit Love Story (brilliantly revived!) – and even a cheeky Devo-like deconstructive tryout of The Girl From Ipanema! And then there was the frenetic harmonica-fuelled Country Line Special to rave on over. There was in comparison less of an obvious sense of structure to their own material, however (which comprised about half of their repertoire), with a great sense of controlled jamming honed in live performance thus not altogether aimless (despite a slightly chaotic, shambolic overall impression), and with laudably tighter playing than that description might suggest. First-album cuts like Mothballs and Mystic Eyes may have seemed mildly impenetrable, but hell, did they get a groove going! The self-penned numbers never really got as much of a chance on the second album, apart from three five-minuters (including the Canned-Heat-in-crazed-overdrive vibe of Repossession Boogie and the looser Meat Pies ’Ave Come … ), but you could say there was also a certain perverse appeal in the very lo-fi, sandpaper-like quality of the assortment of covers that made up the majority of the album. It was certainly (in the words of the estimable John Peel) “naked, real and very, very exciting”.
This three-disc set is subtitled The Complete Works 1970-72, and gives us the band’s two officially released albums (Stack Waddy and its intentionally off-putting, insultingly titled two-years-on followup-cum-swansong Bugger Off!) plus Hunt The Stag, a whole glorious, invaluable disc of visceral between-album studio and live recordings, outtakes and rarities, all really confirming what all the fuss was about. This third disc includes the four tracks making up a stonking “far-gone”1971-vintage BBC In Concert set where they were the support act for Dion, then going through his singer-songwriter phase (oh wot a combination!…).
Very much “get on down” anti-image cult rock, in other words; “punk before the term was invented” (as the excellent booklet essay so accurately puts it), and, though often quite primeval, both entirely likeable and surprisingly satisfyingly “together”. Yet folks didn’t really know how to take ’em (apart from the ever-prescient John Peel of course, whose own liner note to Bugger Off! opined that “rock isn’t about smoothness and cleverness”). So go rip yer speakers out and get off on this hefty, highly cathartic dose of Stack Waddy!
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