andrew matheson

“Sick On You” by Andrew Matheson

“Drummer wanted. Young, slim, must look, act & think like a star. No beards, no chrome-domes, no fatties”….

..being an example of the regular adverts placed in Melody Maker by Andrew Matheson as members of The Hollywood Brats came and went.

The Hollywood Brats, as you may know, are a footnote of a footnote. Akin to an English version of the New York Dolls only with even less success and, let’s face it, The Dolls were hardly breaking sales records during their all too brief lifespan.

The Hollywood Brats formed in the early 1970s and split up in 1974. Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of Britain’s Great Lost Punk Band is singer Andrew Matheson’s highly amusing account of their misadventures.

The popular narrative, with hindsight, is that the Brats were to influence the London punk scene of a few years hence, and that the world wasn’t ready for their flamboyance and aggressive musical approach. I’m not so convinced however I am sure that, on their night, they were a lot of fun, and the song “Sick on You” is a bonafide proto-punk classic (and which Brats keyboard player Casino Steel took with him to his subsequent punk inspired band The Boys).

The book “Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of Britain’s Great Lost Punk Band” contains many a puerile tale of teenage idiocy but most are also very amusing with Andrew often the butt of a lot of the incidents he relates.

Slade, the Sex Pistols, Chuck Berry, and many other fine artists get roundly slagged by Mr Matheson. It’s hard to tell how serious he’s being - probably not very, either that or his record collection is minuscule. I think it’s probably all one big pose. Either way, he can pen an amusing anecdote, and these are frequently accompanied by a witty turn of phrase.

Curiously, one person who emerges rather well from this tale is Cliff Richard who, somewhat improbably, took pity on the band, having heard Andrew’s description of their sordid lifestyle, and invited them to rehearse and take a break at his country house in Essex. Cliff was not around when they visited but was happy to give them free food and drink for a few days. This was the first time Andrew had ever encountered a duvet. Heady days. “I will really miss that duvet” he ruefully reflects at the conclusion to their stay.

The band’s somewhat predictable failure makes for a riotously entertaining story - what happens when delusions of grandeur come face-to-face with public indifference. I have the impressionAndrew Matheson has honed these tales over many years of telling them.

I devoured this book and could be heard chuckling regularly whilst agog at his complete idiocy and the appalling lifestyle he and his impoverished bandmates endured whilst trying to make headway in the early 1970s music business. The inability of The Hollywood Brats to get their debut album released anywhere but Norway, where it only sold around 500 copies, was enough to put Andrew Matheson off persisting with a career in music, and this despite, in 1975, Malcolm McLaren offering to manage him, and Mick Jones (later of The Clash) and Tony James (later of Generation X) also being desperate to form a band with him.

So, whilst the tale does not contain a happy ending, it makes for a funny, well written and engaging book about majestic failure and it’s one that embraces gangsterism, the Krays, Bongo Herbert, bikers, teds, Keith Moon, Malcolm McLaren, the Speakeasy, and much more. It’s a helluva ride.