“Schoolboy Blues” is the infamous song the Rolling Stones recorded to get out of their contract with Decca Records, when they were told they owed Decca one more single before their contract was up. Again, be careful what you wish for or what you demand. Decca, of course, were horrified by the results and never released this officially.
Objectively speaking, this isn’t quite so bad. Musically speaking, it sounds like a rawer version of “Sister Morphine,” only with the subject matter being male prostitution instead of heroin. This is the Ramones’ “53rd and 3rd” six years earlier … only a LOT more explicit. So explicit in fact, that I will say this is … ahem … not safe for work. OK, you’ve been told the tale. Either listen or don’t listen.
Cock Sparrer had an interesting history back in the early days of punk. They were allegedly approached by the notorious Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1976 to become one of a group of bands he was trying to sign. According to the band, the deal fell apart due to McLaren not buying them a round of beer … or because they refused to cut their hair in the style McLaren wanted … or something … I don’t know. I got this off Wikipedia, so you know it’s true …
Anyway, they had a deal with Decca Records, recorded a self-titled album that was only released in Spain, mainly because Decca had fallen apart as a label by 1977. That first album is a damn fine punk version of the Rolling Stones and eventually became available under different names like “True Grit,” “The Decca Years,” and “Rarities.” Well worth checking out.
Sparrer didn’t release another album until 1983, but what they released was worth the wait. The sound of “Shock Troops” is less bluesy than the album recorded for Decca and more in line with the punk the day. The album has a nice sense of melody and toughness. “Where Are They Now?” is the great lead-off track.
A smokin’ late 1970s blues-punk cover of the Rolling Stones’s flower-power anthem “We Love You.” Very reminiscent of Australia’s The Saints, Cock Sparrer were a terrific band that just seemed to never catch a break. Rumor has it that Malcolm McLaren was apparently interested in the band, but the band dismissed him because he wouldn’t buy them a round. They signed to Decca Records during that storied label’s final days and only managed to see their records released in Spain. They hung in there, recorded some good albums, but never quite achieved the commercial success they deserved. Highly recommended is the “Rarities” album which compiles all of the recordings they made for Decca. A truly underrated album for the ages.