NICOLA JUNCAR talks to rockers Thunder, who are at Newcastle City Hall tonight.
THUNDER once described themselves as the “biggest rock ‘n’ roll band you’ve never heard of”.
And it’s not hard to see why they feel that way.
They’ve toured the world several times over and have been on the same line-up as rock legends such as Aerosmith, Metallica, Kiss, Van Halen and Bon Jovi.
Yet despite their success and an eventful 20-year career which has just seen them release their ninth album, they’ve received very little TV or radio exposure.
So how can they still be selling records and pulling in the crowds?
The answer’s simple to guitarist and the band’s main songwriter Luke Morley, who believes their continuing success is down to hard work – but more importantly, enjoying themselves.
Having met in 1971, when they were 11, Luke and singer Danny Bowes have been playing in bands since they were 15.
Their first show, with Harry James on drums, Ben Matthews on guitar and keyboards and Mark ‘Snake’ Luckhurst on bass, was in front of just 35 people in July 1989.
But more shows followed, including two dates at the NEC in Birmingham opening for Aerosmith.
Luke said: “We just decided to get out there and play. We knew our ability to play live would make us friends and if we only played to 10 people we felt confident that those 10 people would tell their mates and another 10 would be along to the next gig.
“We grafted and we enjoyed it, and it worked!
“We went from a pub in Shepherd’s Bush to headlining three sold out nights at Hammersmith Odeon within 15 months.”
Their debut album, Backstreet Symphony, was a huge success and their follow-up album in 1992, Laughing on Judgement Day, went straight into the album charts at number two – being held off the top spot by Kylie’s Greatest Hits.
However, the rest of the 90s proved to be a tough decade – not just for Thunder, but for all traditional rock bands, as grunge and Brit Pop took over the airwaves.
Luke said: “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect us but it was hitting all the rock bands. We didn’t want to go down the grunge route. It didn’t suit our style of playing, so it was better to just persevere.”
The gamble has eventually paid off as the last 18-months or so has seen a huge rock revival, kick-started by the reunion of Led Zeppelin and last month AC/DC found themselves at the top of the album charts – something that probably wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.
Thunder have also benefited from the return to form as they toured with Whitesnake and Def Leppard this summer – two other casualties of the 90s grunge phase – and were able to put all their efforts into recording their ninth album, Bang!
Unlike most bands, however, Thunder decided not to record their songs in a studio and instead plumped for a castle, in Somerset.
Luke said: “We’ve always made our best albums in a rural, English setting so Walton Castle was the perfect location for us.
“We had cables and wires running everywhere but it was definitely worth it, as it’s the best sounding album we’ve ever made. We even befriended the local landlords, who were inconsolable when we moved out.”
Source: Chronicle Live
The English band Thunder is back with their 9th studio album “Bang!”. Like a lot of English bands there is nothing flashy or outrageous about Thunder and like a lot of their European counter-parts they have largely been ignored here in the states but loved throughout Europe and Asia. They are not a band whose music is going to start a musical revolution or change the world, but the things you are always going to get from Danny Bowes, Luke Morley, and the boys are a solid performance with some great songs from start to finish.
“Bang!’ gets started with “On The Radio”, which is a classic Thunder song that can proudly stand up with songs like “Dirty Love”, “Flawed To Perfection”, and “I Love You More Than Rock-n-Roll” to name a few. Bowes sings the truth in fact that the band has survived in the music business for over 20 years despite the fact they have received almost no support from radio or video channels. Morley, one of the most underrated guitar players in music, lays down a great bluesy riff with a great solo and a touch of slide guitar. “On The Radio” is a song that will have to tapping your foot and singing along after one listen.
“Stormwater” has another great blues riff as it starts off and with the bass lines laid down by Chris Childs. It is not a sing along song like the album opener but with its great solo and jam feel to it it is definitely another can’t miss song.
“Carol Ann” starts out with a little acoustic and slide guitar courtesy of Ben Matthews and Luke Morley, but this mid tempo rocker has a gospel feel to it when you throw in a little piano and with the back up vocals and hand claps. With a solo perfect for all the air guitar players out there and a great chorus Thunder could have yet another classic on their hands.
“Candy Man” is not a cover of the Sammy Davis Jr. staple, but it is another great song that can easily stand and fit in with any number of songs in Thunder’s catalog. While I hate to beat a dead dog, for the life of me I can’t understand why Luke Morley does not get more respect as a guitarist, his playing on this song and album as a whole is excellent.
If there is one weak spot on “Bang!” it would be the ballads. Unfortunately when it comes to ballads by Thunder I always compare them to “Love Walked In” and “A Lover Not A Friend” which isn’t fair because those two songs are absolutely great songs. But there is one on “Bang!” that comes close to equaling those two, that being “Watching Over You” which seems to be a duet between Bowes and Morley and is another great performance.
“Miracle Man” covers a familiar topic, TV preachers trying to get people to save their souls by emptying out their pockets in the name of religion. While Bowes sounds angry when singing about the subject he still makes the song a great roll the windows down and sing along song.
Following in the foot steps of “Englishman on Holiday” comes “Turn Left at California”. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear this song covered by any number of country artists. It is almost a country song as it is with Thunder playing thanks to the banjo and harmonica used in the song. This is a great road trip song.
“Love Sucks”, “One Bullet”, and “Honey” finish out the album with “Honey” being the best of three as it is yet another song that can stand proudly with any of Thunder’s more recognizable songs.
Like I said earlier Thunder are not going to change the musical landscape with this album. But you are definitely going to get more “Bang!” for your buck with this album than a lot of the bands that are actually getting airplay these days.
You can hear samples of Bang! by clicking on the song titles below!
Danny Bowes – Lead Vocals
Luke Morley – Guitars & Vocals
Harry James – Drums & Percussion
Ben Matthews – Guitars & Keyboards
Chris Childs – Bass Guitar
Frontiers Records announces the mainland Europe (excluding the UK) release of “Bang!” – THUNDER’s 9th studio album – on November 7th 2008.
Thunder are entering their 20th anniversary year with a brand new album recorded in 2008 at Walton Castle, near Bristol, in England. In a never ending quest for new recording experiences, the band decided not to return to Spain, where they recorded “Robert Johnson’s Tombstone”, instead opting for a seriously old castle in the west of England.
Singer Danny Bowes says: “We’ve known Marge the owner for years, and always felt her castle would make a great studio, but it was only last year that we decided to see if we were right. She loved the idea, so we dipped a toe in the water by shipping our recording kit down there for a few days, just to try it out with some guitar overdubs and percussion. It was perfect, with 2 foot thick stone walls, and loads of different rooms to choose from, everything sounded brilliant. It was a no brainer, we had do the whole album there, so we invaded the place, recorded 20 + songs, and stayed for 3 months. Marge loved it, and she got on the record too!”
Guitarist Luke Morley says “We’ve always made our best albums in a rural, English setting, so Walton Castle was the perfect location for us. We had cables and wires running everywhere but it was definitely worth it, as it’s the best sounding album we’ve ever made. I knew we had a great batch of songs so it was a question of giving ourselves the best possible circumstances to bring them all to fruition, and we definitely function better when we’re having fun. We moved in, set up our studio, frightened the local wildlife and befriended the local landlords (who were inconsolable when we moved out), as were the better looking sheep in the neighbouring field, well that’s what Harry said anyway…”
The band is also finalizing some tour dates in Europe for the beginning of 2009 to be announced in the near future. “Bang!” is once again a great collection of songs, assembled and delivered in the way only Thunder know how. Several are surely destined to become future Thunder classics.
On The Radio; Stormwater; Carol Ann; Retribution; Candy Man; Have Mercy; Watching Over You; Miracle Man; Turn Left At California; Love Sucks; One Bullet; Honey
A new 30 second audio clip of the new songs will go up on http://www.thunderonline.com every week between this week and the release date.