Phil Rambow and I go back a long way, back to New York in the mid-seventies when he was exploring the limited prospects offered by a career in the catering trade. He was the best buddy of a mate of mine who was kipping on my couch, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. In the eighties we played together in a cricket team, the Old Ruffians, made up from employees and hangers-on from the Rough Trade record shop in Notting Hill, and since Phil is a Canadian it says a good deal about his powers of concentration that he managed to master the labyrinthine Laws of Cricket. Keith Allen, our demon fast bowler, used to bring his toddler daughter Lily to watch the games.
Phil’s band The Winkies somehow slipped between the cracks during that unsettled period when pub rock begat punk, releasing one album on Crysalis before splitting up, Phil heading for New York and the kitchen apron. Then he found his way back to the UK and a solo career in the new wave, an ‘almost famous’ cult figure who released a truly great single (‘Fallen’) in 1979 and, much more recently, the ironically titled album Whatever Happened To Phil Rambow. He’s appeared here and there on records by others, always with distinction, at one time alongside Kirtsy MacColl with whom he co-wrote ‘There A Guy Works Down The Chip Swears He’s Elvis’, a UK number 14 hit for the much-missed Kirsty in 1981.
That same rousing, wry and unforgettable slice of rockabilly whimsy is the lead song on a newly released five-track EP by Phil’s latter day berth, The Tex Pistols, a quintet of fellow travelers from the same era as himself, all with impeccable CVs but less to show for their honourable toil that they perhaps deserve. Phil takes care of vocals and rhythm guitar – he used to enjoy strumming mine back in that NY flat – alongside Paul Riley (vocals, bass), Geraint Watkins (keyboards), Martin Belmont (lead guitar), Bob Loveday (fiddle) and Pete Thomas, the world’s tallest drummer. Sarah Jane Morris adds backing vocals. The previous of all these characters ropes in a list of convictions as long as your arm, and includes sharing a cell with a couple of Beatles, a Stone, a Zep, Van The Man, Elvis Costello, the Cash family (father and daughter), Randy Newman and that distinguished posse of outlaws lassoed into service by Nick Lowe.
As you would expect, the Tex Pistols serve up a seriously appetizing ‘Chip Shop’, complete with a couple of cheeky ‘Elvisisms’, sounding a bit like Los Lobos to me, with Watkins’ accordion adding a mouth-watering touch of Cajun gumbo to the pot. Elsewhere on the EP we have ‘Cold Cold Heart’ with Phil doing his best to emulate the sorrowful melancholia of Hank Williams; a lively ‘Train Kept A Rolling’, the 1951 blues rocker that was once a staple in Yardbirds’ setlists and on which Zep cut their teeth during their first ever get-together; more crawfish bayou on ‘Louisiana Blues’; and, finally, a superfast live (from Depford, not Baton Rouge!) ‘I’m Coming Home’, another zydeko workout on which Martin Belmont steals the show, throwing down a feisty challenge to Albert Lee and maybe even James Burton.
The EP has been released to launch a fund and awareness in support of UK Prostate Cancer, so you’ve no excuse not to dip into your pockets and splash out a fiver, not much more than the price of a pint in these parts. Go to https://www.rdjrecordings.com/Shop/DownloadDetails?rid=RDJ_RE_15
for a CD or a download at a mere £3.50.
In the meantime, The Tex Pistols can be experienced live at The King and Queen, Wendover (July 2), Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club, London (July 4), London’s Balham Bowls Club (July 7), and the Cornbury Festival (July 9).