Personnel: Dave Tice (vocals, harmonica); Pat McMullan (vocals); Ruan O'Lochlainn (saxophone); Noel Norris (trumpet); Paul Balbi (drums, background vocals).
Liner Note Author: Charles Shaar Murray.
Recording information: Jackson Studios, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, England (02/18/1978); Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London, England (02/18/1978); T.W. Studios (02/18/1978).
Introduction by: Charles Shaar Murray.
The Best Of The Count Bishops is exactly what it promises, the very best of a band whose four year career swung from the snarling denouement of "Route 66," through to the less than livid (but damned good regardless) Cross Cut album, and barely put a foot wrong. Across its course, stinging singles, burning LPs and some positively lethal live cuts re-establish what a lot of people knew in 1976, but which history has conveniently overlooked ever since. Without bands like the Bishops (and the Bishops in particular), punk would never have known its parents.
The opening (and, in live form, closing) "Train Train" lets you know what kind of journey this will be from the outset. Featuring a feline Elvis vocal from guitarist Zenon De Fleur, the sound of the Bishops in sensitive rockabilly mode has a swirling darkness and a restless rhythm, and it rattles by as hellbound as any classic blues locomotive. Other band originals are similarly evocative and zealously antagonistic. But the true measure of the Bishops' importance comes with the cover versions. The Bishops may have been furiously retro in their musical tastes, but their delivery was primal young, loud and snotty beligerence.
Arguably, it was their exhumations of "I Want Candy" and Fleetwood Mac's "Someone's Gonna get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" which inspired subsequent versions by Bow Wow Wow and the Rezillos, although it goes without saying that the Bishops' versions are by far the fiercer. Similarly, the Jam might have been the first to chart with a revved-up cover of an old forgotten Kinks song, but they weren't the first to do it - fiery recreations of "I Need You" and "Til The End Of The Day" were already established Bishops staples.
The Bishops are usually filed under "pub rock" in music guides and encyclopedias and, theoretically, that's where they belong. Both geographically and chronologically, the band are inextricably bound by the boozy parameters of 1975-76. Musically, however, it's amazing that they didn't simply torch every bar that ever dared book them. Punk, as we are all extraordinarily tired of hearing, brought a vibrant new world to a tired old planet. Best Of The Bishops proves that new world wasn't so new to begin with. ~ Dave Thompson