Tuesday, February 19, 2008


“Namali” / Bees Make Honey

Pub rock didn’t stay in that mellow, countrified groove for long—not with their audiences urging them to get wild every night. If you listen to studio recordings of Bees Make Honey, they rollick along in a rambling honky-tonk mode, but I’ve got a disc of live performances that shows them cutting loose – hoohah!

I suspect you couldn’t help but dance along to this song, no matter how crowded and sweaty the venue (or how sticky the floor). These songs were recorded in 1976 live at the Nashville Rooms, which along with the Tally Ho and the Kensington were the prime pub rock venues. This was actually a later Bees Make Honey line-up, the earlier ones having gotten discouraged and quit in 1975. The only constants were Irishmen Barry Richardson and Mick Molloy. (Rod Demick, a later addition, wrote and sings this track.) But as the liner notes to this great 2-CD collection Back on Track point out, the Bees were “too high on music, too low on image, to make it big.”

High on music indeed—that’s what I get from “Namali.” It’s basically just another song about a girl the singer digs. The lyrics aren’t much, a lot of “I’m a fool for you” and “Can’t get you out of my head” type stuff. But this band is playing impressively tight—at first the instruments bounce around in different directions, but like a whiplash they jump back together to hit those three big rhythmic chords at the end of the verse. The main thing is the chorus, which punches urgently through its chord changes up the scale—it’s like shifting gears, the motor running louder with each phrase: “Na-ma-li! / Got to find out / Gotta find out / Gotta find out / The right way of getting thro-ough to you.” I love it when men beg like this.

Then, suddenly, they click into another mode for the bridge, legato and dreamy and minor-key folky: “Playing my guitar, working out my line / At every place from here to who knows where / Maybe I was born to cast my fortune to the wind, / But I don’t want to travel down a road that never ends.” It’s like an entirely different song; maybe he is just trying out another way of getting through to her (remember Stephen Bishop playing the guitar on the stairs of Delta House during the toga party?). More and more these days, I love tempo changes; that’s how you know you’ve got human beings on deck, not a drum machine and a metronome. Was it disco that killed tempo changes?

Beneath those rockabilly riffs, the whole thing’s moving in the direction of power pop. Like a Pinter play, it’s all in the silences, those split seconds when the whole band stops abruptly right on cue. Were Bees Make Honey major artists cruelly ignored by the music industry? Maybe not, but for sure they were enjoying themselves the night they recorded this song – and I’m betting their audience was having fun too.

Namali sample

1 comment:

Uncle E said...

So glad you're dedicating an entire week to pub rock. A precurser, of course, to bands like the Clash, the Damned and the whole late 70's power pop revival. They brought fun back to Rock and ROll. Joe Strummers old band, the 101'ers was vital in the PR scene, as was Nick's band (but I am SURE you're saving that for last, right?)
Yet another great post.