[sic] Magazine

The Reegs – Definitive Collection

They say ‘every cloud has a silver lining’. I still haven’t worked out how that helps me? But if anything remotely positive can possibly come from a great band falling apart, it can only be if the bandmembers continue in new projects and new directions. The snag is, you have to know about it. Somebody has to tell you. The music press? Yeah right! Forget it.

Blind chance led me to The Reegs. I was in Northampton, visiting a girlfriend and while she studied I liked nothing better than to browse the local, independent record shop. Every town and city had one. (I’ve probably been to most.) I could spend half a day, rifling my way from A-Z. Everyone said I had more money than sense.
I had no money.
But they were still right.

Let’s pause to consider the musical state of the nation. The Baggy scene was starting. Madchester, the second summer of love and the weeklies must have been creaming themselves. At last a ‘genre’ to hype. At last some stars to fill a gaping void that had existed for years since The Smiths broke up. Remind me when that was again? Ah, yes. 1987. Since then the weeklies had tried to peddle all manner of successors to The Smiths crown – The Wedding Present, The Sundays, Suede, House of Love, Manics, Ride. All good. None great. I mean, Suede… or The Smiths? Come on.
In any case The Smiths weren’t even THE best of the 80’s. That accolade belonged to The Chameleons at least until they imploded. When was that again? Ah yes 1987. Their timing really was that flawed. (Or was that another lot?)

I thought The Chameleons had gone forever. There I stood at ‘R miscellaneous’ holding this record with its weird, unmistakable, Reg Smithies artwork. The Reegs – ‘The Return Of The Seamonkeys’. Not The Chameleons then, but I still had to have it. I had to try. Nobody had told me about this. ‘Who the fuck are The Reegs?’ (Teach me for living down south)

I still wasn’t sure, wasn’t certain until I got back to the house and read the sleeve notes. It was Dave Fielding and Reg Smithies, the guitar axis of The Chameleons. The genius and… the genius. This time with new singer, Gary Lavery. I remember harbouring genuine worries that the music might be a let down. That it wouldn’t live up to standards and might somehow sully the image I had.

And then I played it.

40 seconds of electrifying intro – ominous drone, forlorn, ghost-town harmonica and rattlesnake percussion giving way to trippy guitar until finally the vocal kicks in.
“…..See my friends (Yay)”
Awesome, AWESOME start to a record. Any record. The Kinks, modernised, swathed in effects and psychedelia.
Of its time.

Separately, in any other band, they would be standout musicians – Reg the choppy one, Dave the dreamy one. Together their guitarwork synergised and entwined, like dancers. Fred and Ginger. Great alone. Beyond words together. Their music evoked such mystery. Take Teardrop Explodes ‘Wilder’ as a start point and add swathes of gorgeous delay effects. Psychedelia was coming back and The Reegs rather foresaw it all. Little wonder Peel was a champion.

And the words gave the music an added facination. The Chameleons had split acrimoniously. As a result the bitterness and betrayal felt by these men permeated out into their music. Many Reegs songs are barely veiled barbs, making ‘How Do You Sleep?’ look like ‘Love me do’.

This is probably your last chance to get this stuff. Deleted now, you’d pay top dollar to pick up The Reegs records on eBay. I’ve only mentioned one song in this piece! Luckily, every Reegs track is represented on this double CD anthology. But it isn’t about numbers. With many record purchases, you wonder whether you’re better off keeping your tenner in your pocket. Rarely in life do such albums come along whose value goes way beyond mere monetary measure. This is history. And yet still, somehow ‘now’. Still beautiful.

I miss these guys.