Stack Waddy wasn’t a product of its time; instead, it was a raucous, raw reaction to the times. Borne in Manchester, England in the late 1960s. they arrived at a time when bands were growing more and more interested in making grand and heavily (over)produced albums that were way, way too clean and slick, Stack Waddy was a breath of fresh, freakish air. So, Who The Hell Is Stack Waddy: The Complete Works 1970-1972 captures the whole amazing lot of this brief and startling phenomenon.
When the band formed, it was agreed upon that the band would pay tribute to the music that inspired them, as well as offering up their own original material. A band borne in both tradition and innovation would naturally appeal to a man like John Peel, who signed them to his label Dandelion and quickly got them into the studio. Their self-titled debut album, released in 1971, was an impressive affair, a collection of blues-inspired garage rock that was equally influenced by the same wellspring that had inspired the British Invasion a few years before—namely, the blues. It’s an audacious move to launch your debut album with not one but two Bo Diddley covers, but that’s exactly what they did. “Road Runner” and “Bring It To Jerome” were audacious choices, but lead singer John Knail’s voice had just the right amount of insanity in it to create something truly spectacular—an agitated swamp-rock blues hybrid of which only Captain Beefheart could compare. (Worth noting is that the band only heard of Beefheart through their label owner, John Peel!) Not surprising, then, that they cover his classic “Sure Nuff ‘N’ Yes I Do” and make it their own. Other covers include a fantastic take on “Susie Q,” a straightforward cover of Cyril Davis’ “Country Line Special,” and a breathtaking cover of Them’s “Mystic Eyes.”
That’s not to say that their original material didn’t muster; the two originals, “Kentucky” and “Mothballs” fit so well in between their well-chosen covers that one wonders why they didn’t have more confidence in their writing skills. The bonus tracks confirm this; fine originals such as the breezy traveling blues of “Ginny Mae,” the funk of “Here Comes The Glimmer Man,” and the Black Sabbath-like “Hunt The Stag” all beg the question: why were these songs left to languish in the vaults? Answer: partially politics—“Ginny Mae” was to have been a single, but the band’s lack of success promptly saw it canned. The other songs? Who knows. Perhaps they were considered too raw for release.
If such criticism was the case, they quickly doubled-down on it, as their second and final album, Bugger Off!, was an even rawer affair. This time, the band wanted to make as much of a live record as possible, eschewing such things as multiple takes, overdubs, and anything resembling polish. The title comes from a statement made when Peel suggested they do something a little extra to one of the tracks. But Stack Waddy had a point, and their experiment worked: Bugger Off! lives up to all of the rumors about the band, and is some of the most exciting music you’ll hear. Once again, it’s a mix of familiar covers and new material; their take on The Rolling Stones’ “It’s All Over Now” and The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” prove their lineage, as is their homage to “Long Tall Sally.” Their take on the Captain Beefheart/Zappa collaboration “Willie The Pimp” is amazingly harder and more insane than the original—which is saying a lot.
Unfortunately, only a label like Dandelion would have been willing to take a chance on a band like Stack Waddy, and thus when the label folded in 1972, so too did the band, with Bugger Off! proving not only a humorous aside that played in with the record’s raunchy side, but also as an up-yours to the music industry from Dandelion, as it would be the label’s last full-length release. The bonus tracks from the band’s live Peel Session show that the band was a potent live act, one that simply deserved the chance to be exposed to a larger audience.
It’s a shame, too, that things didn’t work out for Stack Waddy; then again, perhaps the band never really stood a chance in the first place. While it might be something of a stretch to suggest that they’re a missing link in the history of punk rock, had their timing been a little bit later, they might have been given more credit in the history books. But judging from the band’s devil-may-care attitude, they probably have never cared about that. And that, of course, is as punk rock as it comes.
So, Who The Hell Is Stack Waddy?: The Complete Works 1970-1972 is available now from Cherry Red.
Hey! Did you enjoy reading this? By dropping a buck or two into our Patreon tip jar, you can help us thrive, which means we’ll be able to offer you more great articles like the one you just read. Join us today!