The Big Kahuna (Fire)
I first met the embryonic Harbour Kings as Rollin’ Thunder when I was at Porky’s in Oxford Circus mastering “I Knew Buffalo Bill”. I can’t remember if I had heard their album “Howl” yet or not but they were memorably sweet, leader Ian Erics in particular affecting in his earnest, intelligent yet self-conscious extroversion. We chewed the fat and pledged to keep in touch.
Calling your band Rollin’ Thunder, and your first and, as it transpired, last album “Howl” is to not hide your love. Copping from Dylan and Ginsberg respectively, the raw, hungry and almost ready Sheffielders responsible debuted on Flicknife Records in 1986, inside the budget sleeve characteristic of true believer Frenchy Gloder’s haphazard, brilliant label that, amongst others including myself, brought us Nikki Sudden’s initial solo outpouring and a heap of Hawkwind, whose old tapes canny Frenchy bought cheap and would release with abandon over several years.
Upon its release I reviewed “Howl” for SOUNDS, praising its sweeping opener, “
I got to know the band pretty well, going to Sheffield once to interview Ian Erics, recording demos with the band for a planned sequel to “I Knew Buffalo Bill” (the tracks in question, “The Old Man’s Dream” and “Prayer of a Gunman” appear on the 2006 CD reissue of the album), and hanging out London when they would come down to play. Fire’s Clive Solomon loved the Kings and with the “Summercolts” EP(1990) and climactic “The Big Kahuna” – both recorded at Sheffield’s Axis Studios, owned by Comsat Angel Kevin Bacon, something of a mentor to the Kings – it was obvious that they were on a roll, making heavyweight rock. At this considerable remove – this material dates back nearly twenty years now – songs like “Tattoo” and “Grassfires“ sound aged not at all, the band’s sleepy, righteous and gifted management of their influences and inspiration impressive more now than ever.
The almost complete disappearance of The Harbour Kings has lately been a little thwarted by Fire’s reissue of their last two recordings, but it seems that apart from the usual signifiers of marginal mooring in the collective memory – a Japanese blog, a GEMM listing, a few eBay honourable auctions - they will be as much as lost. Listening to “Summercolts” “Tattoo” – maybe my favourite of their songs – it astounds me how beautiful it is, reverberating with Erics’ breathy, emotional vocal delivery and a battery of guitars ranged precisely, firing for effect right into your heart. “The Big Kahuna” was to be the irresistible one, produced by Canadian Cowboy Junkies pioneer Peter Moore, and in songs like “Dashboard Sun” and especially the overwhelming “Deep October” they built a sound the likes of which U2 claim but which actually eludes them: this is music innocent and intent to the point of abjectness.
One of the great Northern bands and one of a few British bands in the last two decades to do something interesting and real with their fixation on
Listen to the tracks below:
Forsyth County www.filefreak.com/files/171307_oxlzm/forsyth%20county.mp3
Rollin Thunder - Howl
Harbour Kings* - Summercolts