The Ponderosa Glee Boys sprang out of the late 70’s Eric’s crowd and have since achieved a cult status as one of Liverpool’s great lost bands.
Encouraged to start a band by none other than Jayne Casey, Ponderosa Glee Boys emerged as purveyors of fine post punk. Rooted more in the Public Image Ltd school rather than the New York/Velvet Underground influences of much of the Liverpool scene bands at the time, the Glee Boys stood out.
For a while, all was going well. Managed by the inestimable Doreen Allen, gigs at Eric’s, Brady’s and the Royal Court gave people a chance to catch them live and they signed to Inevitable Records, home of fellow scenesters Wah! Heat.
But there the good luck stopped and the band petered out. Unfortunately, Inevitable went bust before any records could be released, their singer left and the Glee Boys soon split up.
However, some high profile gigs and a lack of recorded material proved to be a potent mix for creating a mystique that kept the band in the minds of those involved in Liverpool’s music scene at the time.
Then, out of the blue, The Ponderosa Glee Boys reappeared in 2018, to play a series of gigs in December of that year. This was made considerably more complicated by the fact that singer Carl Eaton now lives in Australia. The logistics involved here are enough to make most bands throw in the towel, but as we have seen, the Glee Boys are made of sterner stuff.
Having got back together, they decided against rehashing their old set, which was now over 40 years old, and instead bravely elected to write and rehearse a completely new set of songs. In three weeks. And then play it live to a crowd of discerning old Eric’s punks.
And, to their eternal credit, they made a stunning job of it. Those songs, once road-tested and worked on were then recorded for their long overdue debut album, Awake.
There is a common enough story that sees bands taking a far too long gap between recording albums; Stone Roses and Stereo MCs can claim five and eight years respectively between debut and their follow-ups, while Guns n’ Roses Chinese Democracy famously came 15 years after its predecessor.
But Ponderosa Glee Boys had to wait a colossal 42 years before their debut album was released. The joy, vindication and hunger was evident in their gigs. They had waited a long time for this and their gigs were a release of pent up kinetic and creative energy the likes of which I have witnessed few times in my life.
Guitarist Mike Mooney is incredible, as his pedigree (Spiritualized, Massive Attack, Echo and the Bunnymen) would lead you to believe. He is able to sound like three guitarists at once and give PGB an enviable wall of sound.
Bass monster Phil Hartley and drummer Mark Robson provide a superb rhythm section, tight and with just the right amount of groove and attack.
2019 saw the band back for another visit to District in what was fast becoming a festive tradition, before the COVID-19 pandemic sadly put paid to this year’s Glee Boys spectacular.
But, all has not ground to a halt for The Ponderosa Glee Boys. Carl has been busy down under creating a set of new songs, meaning we won’t have such a long wait for Awake’s follow up.
After taking such a long time to get their debut out into the world and after starting to again build up some momentum, second album Demigods of Bedlam will be with us as soon as pandemics permit.
In the meantime, Sun 13 can present the fruits of Carl’s labour so far in the form of five demos for album number 2.
The songs are a progression from Awake and differ in tone and ambition.
Carl says that “They sound a little different than if the band were playing on them, and I’m no Mike Mooney but I’m happy with what I’ve played and the overall direction the songs have and where they sit. The second album should see us move forward and keep trying to create a sound that our current environment represents, so I wasn’t scared to try a different approach with them in the studio.”
It looks like the brave attitude that saw Awake take shape is also the driving force behind Demigods of Bedlam, and that can only be a good thing.
Here at Sun 13 we are awaiting this with barely contained hunger. The Ponderosa Glee Boys have come back from the brink to become one of Liverpool’s best bands and we have our fingers firmly crossed that 2021 will be their year.
While some bands get a fair slice of the cake, others seem to be denied a place at the table for no discernable reason.
Just last night, Sun13 towers had a soundtrack of Thomas Lang to go with our Saturday night Malbec and the discussion turned to why, in a world where Sade can be massively successful and amass a 50 million pound fortune, is Thomas Lang not a household name.
The answer is as cruel as it is true – talent is not always enough.
In the music business, the cream does not always rise to the top and success seems to be as much down to lucky breaks and prevailing fashions as it does to talent or quality.
One band who have suffered this more than most is Candy Opera.
Taking their cue from the likes of Pale Fountains, Love and Aztec camera, Candy Opera made smoothly superior 80s pop music with soul.
Other bands loved them and Candy Opera supported the likes of The Pogues and The Go-Betweens. The media loved them, with great reviews in Sounds and Jamming magazines, along with a slot on Granada TV.
But for whatever reason, none of this seemed to stick, and Candy Opera split up in 1993, leaving only a few demos to prove their existence.
An astonishing 35 years later, Firestation Records heard these demos and fell in love with them. A long overdue phone call was made and Candy Opera’s debut album, 45 Revolutions Per Minute was finally released.
The album sold out almost immediately due to their legend growing in their absence.
Now Candy Opera are ready to release new album The Patron Saint of Heartache and lead single These Days Are Ours can be heard below.
The song is a classic slice of epic, widescreen pop music. It is also proof that talent does not disappear when we grow older.
These Days Are Ours starts with the line “All the best things of your life will pass you by in the blink of an eye“, a line made more poignant given the back story of the band.
The song casts an atmosphere of summer and, listening as the sun streams in through the windows, is as perfect a song as we’ve heard since, oooh I don’t know when.
If the rest of the album is as strong and skillfully executed as this, then Candy Opera’s indian summer could be just around the corner.
If this is the case, there would be a sense of justice being done and a wrong being righted.
These Days Are Ours and Candy Opera deserve a wider audience. Let’s get behind this record and demonstrate that sometimes talent can win out and the good guys can win.
Personally, I hope we see Candy Opera finally get their place at the table and get their slice of cake. They deserve it.