Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bullet Belts and Bandanas – the story of one girl's obsession with Fast Eddie Clarke.


 I'm not going to lie.  When I first starting writing this article it was a straight up OG retrospective of Fast Eddie Clarke's career. I had dates, record labels, names of studio musicians; all carefully researched and recited in the same monotonic style you've read thousands of times.  Then I decided, you want cold hard facts?   Go to Wikipedia.


    I can't talk about this man and his guitar playing without being passionate.  This isn't a flash in the pan phase like when I get into a band, soak up all their music, get bored and move on.  I've got a stack of Jag Panzer, Attacker, and Gamma Ray CD's that fall under that category.  (Remember Power Metal??)

    No, no Mr. Clarke, or Eddie as I affectionately call him in my mind, go back all the way to 1988.  I was an awkward 15 year old pimply faced female with googly eyes and a uni-brow. The only solace I found was in soaking up outdated issues of British Heavy Metal magazines purchased at the local record store, the infamous Zig Zag in Brooklyn.  Every week I took my hard earned allowance and bought a stack of KERRANG! And Metal Hammer and poured through the pages, reading about all these bands who the average American metal head never heard of.

    It was through these magazines that I discovered Marillion, a band I would eventually travel up and down the east coast, and then across the country for (but that's a story for another day).  Magnum, all my precious NWOBHM bands, and then Fastway.

    All these articles were talking about the “new” album, On Target and how Fast Eddie Clarke was collaborating with some dude named Lea Hart to make this perfect hard rock album.  I looked at the photos; Eddie had teased hair poking out under a cowboy hat and about four bandanas tied around various parts of his anatomy.  The article briefly glossed over Motörhead. I remembered them. I had read about them in Hit Paraders Top 100 songs of all time issue.  They were the dudes with bullet belts strapped around their chests, posing in the desert somewhere.  I always wanted a Motörhead back-patch for my denim jacket too, something about their mascot Snaggletooth that epitomized true heavy metal hardcore toughness to my soft young brain.  So I put “Fastway” together with the dudes in the desert, came to the conclusion that Eddie was the “cute” one, and decided I had to seek out this On Target tape.

    Lo and behold the local Sam Goody had the cassette, along with another one called “Bad Bad Girls” that had a more recent copyright date.  (The cover photo had girls with bandanas over their faces, bandit style.  Notice a theme here?)  I bought both of them and ended up listening to the more recent one about twice.  On Target however had a permanent home in my cassette Walkman. (Yep I'm that old).  These were the days before the internet and instant access to everything you ever wanted to know about anyone ever.  I had no clue about the history of the band, didn't know these two tapes were the bands last grasp at something resembling commercial success.  Was too young to have seen them on tour opening for the likes of AC/DC and Saxon in the mid 80's.  My neighborhood didn't get cable television till the mid 90's – so I had never seen Fastway's video for “Say What you will” when it was in heavy rotation on MTV's headbangers ball. This was a totally new entity for me, and as far as I knew they consisted of these two cassettes.

    As I got older (and waxed away the uni-brow), I grew out of my awkwardness and started hanging around with anyone who was even remotely involved in the music industry.  This led to me dating musicians at various levels of success, mostly guys in cover bands in New Jersey belting out horrible versions of old Judas Priest nuggets.  I actually was engaged to marry the drummer from one of my favorite NWBOHM bands who I had met over the internet because of my promotional work with the British Steel Festival.  He toured all over the world while I babysat his son and his dog, and I didn't really mind.  He would always come home with presents and great tour stories.  Then I saw the promo poster for a festival he was playing in England in 2007 – Saxon, Girlschool, Tesla, and FASTWAY!

    “That sounds like an awesome fest!” I said, pulling out my passport and polishing my Doc Martens, “England is beautiful this time of year”
    “Hon, you know we can't afford to take you,” was the answer, “But I’ll bring you back some Cadbury's.”

    SO I got about three sacks full of British chocolates and found out Fastway went on directly after his band.

    “You'll never believe who we met at a stop on the motorway after the fest” Dude said to me when he got home, “We were all getting coffee and currant buns and tea cakes, when this old, gray haired dude in a leather trench coat and a bullet belt walks in.  We all knew he was somebody, you know? He just had that air about him.  And of course we're all wearing our band t-shirts and stretch jeans because we always have to look like rock stars.  So this guy orders his food, nods at us and walks out.  And this chubby dude that was with him nodded at us and said 'you boys in (ex's band name here) know who that was, right? That was Fast Eddie Clarke,”

    Dead.  I stopped eating my double Decker bar and could feel the drool coming out of my mouth.
    “Did you get me an autograph? Home phone number? Lock of hair? Something?”
    Dude shook his head, “I didn't want to be a fan boy.  Besides I didn't know you liked him that much.”
    I did say he was my ex, right?

    Now its 2012, and I read on the interwebs that Fastway released a new album, “Eat Dog Eat”.  I made my presence known on their facebook page and I’m sure the admin is sick of seeing posts like “FAST EDDIE IS THE FUCKING MAN! COME TO NYC BABAY XXXXX.  Interviews with Eddie seemed positive as he always  stressed he wanted one more tour or the US before he dropped dead.  The man is in his early 60’s and had Lemmy for a drinking partner, not to mention  he was hospitalized a few years back for vomiting blood, so every day above ground is a good day.  And then the rug was taken out from underneath Fastway.  Toby Jepson, the singer/bassist on the album and front-man for their handful of live gigs a few years back, re-joined his old band Little Angels and Fastway and my beloved Eddie were left to twist in the wind.

    Of course, being the kind, compassionate loony fan girl that I am, I posted on Toby's page congratulatting him on the reformation of LA but pleading with him to not forget Fastway.  My post got a  handful of “Likes” but no response.

     In  the most  recent interview I read with my future ex-boyfriend he sounded like Fastway was dead in the water now, and he seemed upset, saying how the band is jinxed.  I just wanted to hug him for that.

    Then two weeks ago on “That Metal Show” - the mainstream media's method of telling “normal” people what metal bands are cool – one of the hosts held up a copy of the new Fastway CD and praised the songwriting and musicianship!!  Validation from Eddie Trunk and his lackeys – what more could the band ask for?

    That’s where it stands today.   I keep hoping that somehow the band will make it over to the states, even if, selfishly its just to New York for a showcase gig or something, so I can finally tell Eddie about this one sided relationship that's been going on for longer than he's been sober!

--Rys

twitter @babypengy

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