BITCHES SIN - 20 Essential Sins (part 1)
The release of the Your Place Or Mine demos on CD, is definately one of the very few missing links for the true Bitches Sin fan, and in general every NWOBHM adept out there. The waiting for an official CD release of this wonderful rough diamond comes to an end with the release of this new double album; “20 Essential Sins”.
The demo, which originally saw the light of day in 1981, could already be downloaded from the bands website (www.bitchessin.co.uk). Bitches Sin had already reached the status of being the most popular, unsigned band over here in Holland, when the demo was released. They proved their strength with their marvellous demo tapes, which received very positive reviews in metal mags like Aardschok. The Your Place Or Mine tape (engineered by Stephen Buckley and produced by the band itself) was no exception to this golden rule. With the length of an LP, they couldn’t have pleased their fans more, in my opinion. For people, who were searching for a guitar sound breaking every speed record, and an 'in- your-face' approach, Bitches Sin ruled the underground scene. Their sound was rough, yet with a good sense of melody. Forget about all the Satriani's, Vai’s and Malmsteen's. I found my guitarheroes in the early eighties already with the brothers Ian and Pete Toomey. They turned flashing guitar solos into an art, and in my humble opinion, they could very well have been arrested for putting too much speed in their solos.
Listening to the recordings nowadays still gives me a very good feeling. The intro already predicts, that we're in for something special. And Sign of The Times is indeed a great start. It’s the ‘hitsingle’, at least in the eyes of the fans of NWOBHM, that is. And speaking as a fan, I admit that I liked the flipside of the single more than the original A-side Always Ready. The band won't blame me for that, I hope. This version sounds slightly different from the single version, by the way. But it still contains the rough edges, that I mentioned before. Flabbergasting guitar excorsism topped with a tight rhythm and finished with a touch of melody. I call this absolutely brilliant! Overnight sounds mean and again there’s a battle of 'Who’s the fastest guitar player in this band?’ going on in this song. Only two winners survived this contest, because they're both incredibly fast. Living On A Highway could easily be a crowdpleaser, when played live on stage. The title of the song is very suitable to sing along to, without getting too commercial. While the peeping tones of another fast axe attack destroys the dream of ever scoring a commercial hit. Thank God for this. What The Hell is on next. It has the perfect tempo to bang your head up on. And I regularly did, I have to admit that now. Fallen Star is the only song, that also made it to the Predator album (Heavy Metal Records, 1982). I wonder who they had in mind, when writing the lyrics to this song. Over The Top, with its Stand Up And Be Counted (Saxon)-like intro, shows the band were perfectionists in writing compact metal songs, including a mindblowing guitarsolo, a head and a tail. While in XF 2894, the instrumentalists can express themselves to the max. I should almost say, that I hear influences in this song, that could well be used for the later Flashpoint material. The sound of the song is broader than the average borders of heavy metal were back in those days. Maybe Thin Lizzy fans should check it out. XF 2894 can be seen as a little piece of rest, before they storm into Up For Grabs. And even though it only lasts a little bit over two minutes, you won't get away without the guitar salvos of the Toomey brothers. Hold On To Love is the final track on the Your Place Or Mine demos, which is where my part of the liner notes for this double CD come to an end. Even more than twenty-five years after its first release on tape, the songs sound fresh and show a lot of variation. Now I can only start praying that the Predator album, will be the next release on CD, by this Cumbria based band. If new material is not an option. Remember that life ain't a bitch with releases like this. For the Easter eggs of this killer CD, John Tucker will be next.
Toine van Poorten
20 ESSENTIAL SINS (part two)
It was Easter 1982 when Bitches Sin gathered at Moor Green studios to lay down two songs for a showcase demo. With the job done and an hour left on the clock, the band decided to quickly race through some of the other potential album material as one-take live-in-the-studio cuts with just the vocals overdubbed.
By this time, the band was very different to the one that had recorded Your Place Or Mine. In July 1981, Cockburn, Hodder and Knowles had been replaced by Tony Tomkinson behind the mikestand, Dave Newsham on bass, and Tony Leece on drums and then early in 1982 another line-up change introduced bassist Martin Orum and drummer Mark Biddiscombe. It was this line-up that spent a day at Moor Green and recorded the legendary session, the tapes of which then vanished into the mists of time…
Heavy Metal Records’ Paul Birch was keen to put out a Bitches Sin album, “so we did a one-day session at Moor Green in Birmingham,” recalls Ian Toomey, “to demo a couple of songs with a view to a deal which led to the Predator album. We did Runaway and Ridin’ High; they were the songs where we really put the time in, and when we were done, we still had an hour to spare. We banished Tony to the control room where he could keep an eye on things and give us some guidance, and ran through six other songs live in the studio so that Paul Birch could hear the band live as well. Then Tony overdubbed the vocals.” The two songs from the session not included here, by the way, are Aardschok and Loser.
“It all started with Ian recruiting Mark and Martin who he’d met at University in Coventry,” is where Pete begins. “We had some practise time booked at some rehearsal rooms; from memory we jammed a couple of ideas and then things began to roll. I think April Fool came together quite quickly. A lot of the other material came from ideas inspired by our first trip to Holland. Paul Birch wanted an album and wasn’t too concerned with the tracks so long as it contained Strangers On The Shore. We rehearsed for about a month (I think) then Martin suggested laying down a demo at his mate’s studio. My overriding memory of these sessions is of Tony being approached by the local winos as the second coming of Christ as he had very long hair and always wore an afghan coat.
“From memory, it was the jam version of April Fool that got Birch’s interest, which is why it became Predator’s opening song; as a jam it was ace, but as a studio track – the album version – I always felt it fell short of the mark,” he reckons.
“The session itself was really good,” recalls Tony Tomkinson. “We went in and recorded the two tracks, and then we ran through the other songs in one take. I stood in the control room and kept an eye on the sound – I’d always wanted to be a sound engineer and it was good to see how people worked the board – and gave general encouragement and thumbs-ups! Then I went in and did the vocals. Again, it’s all one take so it’s warts and all. If you listen carefully you’ll hear that I cut a line out of the third verse of April Fool and how I got over it was very, uh, interesting!”
The contract with Heavy Metal Records was duly signed, and the sessions for the album took place sometime in April/May 1982, with Predator appearing in June. The uncalled-for critical mauling handed down to Predator by Kerrang! has been documented over and over, but what many people have forgotten is that Sounds – the weekly music paper that had spawned Kerrang! – gave Predator a hefty four star (out of five) review. The damage was done at the time, but the release of this session redresses things once more.
The master tapes were thought to be M.I.A., but Tony had them all along. “Pete had given them to me to make some decent copies,” he explains, “but the reel-to-reel I was working with wouldn’t play them and I just ended up holding onto the damn things. Out of the blue, Ian ’phoned me before Christmas  and we ended up reminiscing about Moor Green and how he’d love to do something with the material but that the masters had been lost and I just said, ‘but I’ve got them here.’ There was a long pause and Ian said ‘you’re joking…’ He just couldn’t believe it. He came over that very night and collected them.
“The Predator album was such a disappointment,” he continues. “I was expecting to hear Moor Green all over again, but more so. We worked hard for five days solid and everyone was so excited and pumped up. I think the release of these songs finally sets the record straight and showcases this line-up at its best. This is what made Paul Birch at Heavy Metal records sit up and listen. Forget the album, this is the session that really does this line-up proud.”
“The important thing about Moor Green for me,” Ian adds, “is that you can really hear Tony as he should be heard, and that’s very important. Listen to April Fool, for example, and it really shows what he can do. He was a very versatile vocalist and that never came through on the album. And also, Mark and Martin came in very much at the very last minute and they did very well for us as well. This is the way Bitches Sin sounded. This is the way Predator should have sounded.”
20 Essential Sins rounds off with five choice, rare cuts. Overnight was the B-side of the December 1983 No More Chances single. “Overnight was Ian’s baby,” says Pete. “It always worked well live, the rhythm used to really drive it. Meanwhile, by now I was beginning to write stuff like Abduhl’s Boogie. The original version appeared on the 1983 State Of The Art demo which was a group of songs I’d written on my own or with Frank Quegan [the band’s new vocalist] that weren’t really Bitches Sin material.”
The final three tracks come from the UK version of the band’s second album Invaders. Re-recorded and re-packaged for the UK in May 1989, Invaders featured three new songs – The Cry, Destroyer, and Alligator – and to make way for them Invaders, Bitches Sin and Heavy Life were dropped from the material that made up the original 1986 American release.
20 Essential Sins, indeed. The final word goes to Ian. “I want this album to be a celebration of the music. It was only in recent years that we realised how much we achieved, and how well regarded the band had been. And looking back now, Your Place And Mine and Moor Green in particular were truly exciting times for all of us.”