HAMMERSMITH – Hammersmith (That 70’s Guy Retro Review)

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When I first decided to do this series, my initial intention was to review obscure, unknown albums that were a fave of both mine and my group of friends. As I progressed, I started to add lesser known older albums from popular bands. Well this month’s hidden gem falls completely into the original concept. It is the fantastic 1975 debut album from Canada’s Hammersmith. Let’s just say if you have heard of this album, you must be Canadian or old or both. If you don’t fall into these categories and have heard of this band or album, I would love to meet you!

Hammersmith was a Canadian rock band from Calgary, Alberta, that existed from 1975 to 1977, recording two albums which were released nationally by Mercury Records during that period. Even today, there is very little info surrounding these guys. Wikipedia lists the early line-up of the band comprised Doran Beattie on vocals, Dan Lowe and Jeff Boyne on guitars, Royden Morice on bass guitar, and James Llewellyn rounding it out on the skins. Beattie, Lowe, Morice and Llewellyn had previously played in Painter. The band signed to Mercury Records, which released their eponymous debut album in 1975. Boyne and Llewellyn subsequently left and were replaced by Craig Blair and Dale Buchner. A second album, It’s For You, was released in 1976, but lack of commercial success led to the band being dropped from the label in 1977 and splitting up later that year.

Painter had some commercial success in the early 1970’s and I had the 1973 45 of “West Coast Woman”. It was an extremely hard rocking song, somewhat in the vein of “Mississippi Queen” and showed signs of what was to come in terms of how hard rocking Hammersmith really were.

Hammersmith starting hitting the AM radio airwaves in 1975, first with “Feeling Better” and then with “Late Night Lovin’ Man”, with the latter being a highlight of my Wednesday evening countdown of the Top 40 on CKOC Hamilton. I wondered how high it would jump that week. Hammersmith in the mid 70’s Canadian music scene, fitted perfectly alongside other great acts like Octavian, Brussel Sprout, Fullerton Dam, Studebaker Hawk and Pagliaro just to name a few. It was a great time to be young and a music fanatic.

Hammersmith – Hammersmith (Released 1975 on Mercury Records)

Side 1

  1. “Late Night Lovin’ Man” – right off the start, you get the classic mentioned above. Lead guitar intro and cowbell leading in to an amazing riff laden, sing out loud chorus. Doran really had a great voice and they never shied away from a sweet harmony section. Brilliant guitar solo and rocking finish. Great memories and a slice of Canadian 70’s rock and roll right there!
  2. “I’ve Got a Right to Know” – another fave that uses that psychodelic “swish” that a lot of songs used back then. Not sure what you called it? Short, sweet, straight to the point rocker with amazing vocals.
  3. “Money Rock” – a funky rocker with a great chorus and again some great vocal melodies and a nice solo. Maybe not the most played song on the album but still a great tune. And yes, James LLeweyln really loves that cowbell!
  4. “Breakin’ Down” – great rocker with some nice guitar ripping throat in the background.
  5. “Daybreak” an amazing guitar driven FM cut that really rocks deep with Royden pounding that bass throughout. This McCoys cover song was written by the iconic Rick Derringer who was in the prime of his carreer at the same time.

Side 2

  1. “Feelin’ Better” – side two starts with the heaviest rocker on the album, dual guitars pounding and the layered soloing is brilliant. Lowe and Boyne at their best here! 3:22 never souded so good. Man, I sure wish someone would re-record this beauty with today’s treatment!
  2. “Nobody Really Knows (Why the Sun Goes Down)” – probably my personal fave on the album. I go back in time once again air guitaring and singing badly out loud with the headphones on disrupting my family upstairs again. This is my goosebumps song! Its that damn chorus and haunting guitar I guess.
  3. “Low Ridin’ Ladies” – probalby the most played song amongst my friends and a popular choice at parties and social gatherings – yes, back then we would get together and go to someones house and just listen to music with each dreaming within their own minds. What other song would mention “skin book”? P.S. The Low Ridin’ Ladies were on 10 speeds in our minds.
  4. “Funky as She Goes” – the follow up single to “Late Night Lovin’ Man”. The intro sounds a bit like “Play That Funky Music” before PTFM. Great Hammersmith sounding guitars and solo. A real “funky” song.
  5. “Open Up the Sky” – as with most albums back then side two ends with the “anthem” of the slbum. Some fabulous guitar strumming intro leds into some amazing riffing. A perfect slow burn bluesy mid section with Morice shing once again.

There she be, annother fine classic Canadian rock album that set the tone for many more to follow in their footsteps.

Actual picture from the show.
Actual picture from the show.

Ok, now time to change the topic for a minute. Let’s talk KISS. I had seen KISS one late night on ABC’s In Concert (in black and white), they sang “Firehouse” and “Black Diamond“. Being 14, I damn near shit myself. In fact, I think I did.

Life was never, ever the same. I could write for hours about my love for KISS, but one thing was for sure. It was so cool being a KISS fan before ANYONE else we knew who they were! That year we dressed up as KISS at our high school Halloween dance (I was Paul) and NO ONE knew who we were – we even won first prize as we were freaking everyone out. Funny thing was, the very next year at the dance there was about 10 sets of KISS costumes as now the world was catching on. Then one night our dream came true, KISS toured through on the Destroyer tour.

April 26, 1976 Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto Ontario Canada was the night. And wouldn’t you know it?

The opening act was none other than Hammersmith! Two for the price of one and life was good!

Soon after that, Hammersmith rode off into the sunset but not before leaving behind a legacy of memories that will live within my forever.

How could you not love that name or that album cover? They had heavy written all over them. The album as far as I know has never been released on CD but if you get a chance, YouTube a couple of their songs. You won’t be disappointed.

When there’s nothing shaking and you’re tired of faking with a skin book. You need a real look!

You look at the low ridin’, slow slidin’ low ridin’ ladies

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