The Lost In Rock And Heavy Metal: City Boy

Written by: AndMetalForAll
Published: 06.03.2012
Officially formed in 1973, City Boy became one of the most underrated bands in the 70's and early 80's in rock history. After the release of seven full-length studio albums and two major hits that put the band at the top of the charts in the UK and United States, City Boy are completely unknown for most rock fans. Several changes in the band's lineup, lack of luck and low commercial success throughout their career contributed for the disbandment of the band in 1982. Nowadays only a low number of fans keep the memory of City Boy alive, and by that reason the band is definitely one of the lost in rock and heavy metal. In my opinion, a band that should've received more attention and respect, composed of very talented band members and one of the few bands that were able to mix several styles with amazing quality.

City Boy formed in an era that heavy metal and progressive rock were arising with legendary bands such as Black Sabbath, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Deep Purple and many more. With all this, City Boy seemed to be off the spotlight. At the time of the formation of City Boy in 1973, they hadn't come up with anything new musically speaking. The progressive style that the band liked so much to perform was being performed by Pink Floyd and Rush for example; rock/pop elements of the band were surpassed by bands such as Chicago and Queen; so it seemed that City Boy were being taken off from the fame that they definitely had the potential to achieve but at the same time was so difficult to reach. The band began in the adolescent minds of Steve Broughton and Lol Mason when they met in prep school. In 1964, Mason met Max Thomas and two years later they recorded an acoustic album, left school and started writing songs. But the destiny was not kind for the three friends and Max Thomas lost track of Steve Broughton and Lol Mason, only to regain touch in 1969. At that same year Thomas suffered several nervous breakdowns and was confined to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. Independently of that unfortunate event, Mason, Broughton and acoustic guitarist Chris would pick him up each evening to spend the night jamming together. In the early 70's the four friends were already playing folk music in Birmingham. In 1973 the band was obliged by the Vertigo label to add an electric guitarist (Mike Slamer) and a drummer (Roger Kent) in order to be signed by that same label and change their name group to City Boy…well the rest is pure history. In a time span of three years the band released their first single and album which had moderate success. In nine years the band released seven full-length studio albums and twelve singles, some of those singles hit the UK and US singles charts.


Mark III(left to right): Roy Ward, Mike Slammer, Chris Dunn, Max Thomas, Steve Broughton, Lol Mason


The band never had a steady lineup throughout the years, which is one of the main factors that prohibited the band from hitting major success and enduring through the years. Four different lineups marked this band's history. Independently of that, one thing that must be recognized is the talent of each and every member of the band… truly remarkable. Great guitar solos, good riffs, beautiful vocals and an amazing mix of music styles. This band was definitely unique is one aspect, each member played more than one instrument in the band's studio albums; it's very rare to see that quality. For example, on the 1977 album, Young Men Gone West Max Thomas played parts of vocals, piano, harmonium, organ, keyboards, synthesizer, backing vocals; this situation repeated itself several times.

City Boy never had that radical and brash appearance, quite the opposite, all the members seem to look like six imitators of The Beatles' appearance. Nonetheless, they knew how "to kick some ass" when they wanted to give a more progressive direction to their albums. The album that I will quickly review is an example, The Day The Earth Caught Fire released in 1979 via the Import label. Although not being considered by critics as THE BEST album of the band, this was by far the most heavy, progressive, but also melodic/pop record the band had the pleasure to compose. The mix is just wonderful!! But not everything was perfect, they had bad-timing releasing this album in 1979: Rush just finished releasing the classic Hemispheres in 1978; Rainbow released, Down To Earth, in 1979; Pink Floyd released The Wall, the epic studio album, in 1979; and that wasn't all of the classic albums released in 1978 and 1979 that stopped City Boy from reaching worldwide success. They were great but not that great, they weren't able to overcome the odds and the success was just plain moderate.

The Day The Earth Caught Fire is a great demonstration of the talent of this underrated band. Technically it's almost perfect with very good riffs and sometimes bone-chilling solos. The vocals are a bit more aggressive than previous albums. But still they were able to keep more melodic and pop tracks, never forgetting the band's roots. Like I said above this was the most progressive record ever devised by the band, it was in The Day The Earth Caught Fire that the band composed their epic track of over twelve minutes, "Ambition". The band's performance was really great, always consistent with no flaws. With this album they gave a new direction to live shows with a more heavy and progressive sound. It's a solid album for every fan of the band but also for those who aren't and never were fans of this group. This is my favorite album of City Boy, it is much more rock oriented with a strong progressive part, but never forgetting the melodic/pop parts filled with great and inspirational lyrics. For me it's a 8.5/10.


Artwork of The Day The Earth Caught Fire


The Day The Earth Caught Fire track list:

1. The Day The Earth Caught Fire
2. It's Only The End Of The World
3. Interrupted Melody
4. Modern Love Affair
5. New York Times
6. Up in the Eighties
7. Machines
8. Ambition: Ambition/ Me and my Tarot/ Rev-On (The Crunch)/The End (Came Easy)


The next year, Heads Are Rolling was released. Critics called it the most technical album of the group, it was much more their style with amazing melodies and instrumental arrangements. In 1981 It's Personal was released, it was the less successful album of the band, nothing compared with the great sound, melody and technical arrangements in previous albums. In 1982 the band disbanded, mainly, because of lack of commercial success. In 2008, several City Boy albums, Book Early, Young Men Gone West, Dinner at the Ritz and the band's eponymous debut, were reissued. In October 2009, City Boy's last studio album, It's Personal, was released for the first time on CD.

In spite of all the history the band had, only a few people remember them, and those who remember will always associate this band as a "band of one or two hits", nothing more unfair for such great band. In my opinion, they were formed at the wrong time with the wrong style. Other epic bands were already making their mark in the music industry, "barring" the arising of City Boy.



Next, some of the hits: who never heard of "5.7.0.5", "Modern Love Affair", "The Day The Earth Caught Fire", "Cigarettes" or "(Moonlight) Shake my Head and Leave"?..if you don't remember or never heard of these songs, check below:










Hope this article can help the readers to extend their taste to some of the good rarities the music world has to offer.


 
Guest article disclaimer:
This is a guest article, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.




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BestaVermelha - 10.03.2012 at 20:00  
Once again congratulations and thanks for another great article. I think it is brightly written and really succeds in pass the history of the band and awake the interest of the reader. Hope you can keep up with these "The Lost In Rock and Heavy Metal" section.
I've just finished listen to their "The Day the Earth Caught Fire" album, it has a really nice prog touch and excellent use of the guitar and synths, the title track is, in my opinion, the highlight together with the closing "Ambition", but the more pop-rock commercial oriented songs drag the album down for me. Anyway, it's a diversified album that should appeal to fans of both 70's prog-rock as well as those who prefer more commercial oriented AOR from the 80's. Just for a side note, if you like prog and are looking for a "End of the World" concept, my favourite album with those characteristics would have to be the portuguese "10.000 Anos Depois Entre Vénus e Marte".
AndMetalForAll - 10.03.2012 at 21:05  
Written by Guest on 10.03.2012 at 20:00

Once again congratulations and thanks for another great article. I think it is brightly written and really succeds in pass the history of the band and awake the interest of the reader. Hope you can keep up with these "The Lost In Rock and Heavy Metal" section.
I've just finished listen to their "The Day the Earth Caught Fire" album, it has a really nice prog touch and excellent use of the guitar and synths, the title track is, in my opinion, the highlight together with the closing "Ambition", but the more pop-rock commercial oriented songs drag the album down for me. Anyway, it's a diversified album that should appeal to fans of both 70's prog-rock as well as those who prefer more commercial oriented AOR from the 80's. Just for a side note, if you like prog and are looking for a "End of the World" concept, my favourite album with those characteristics would have to be the portuguese "10.000 Anos Depois Entre Vénus e Marte".


Thanks for your opinion once again. I will certainly listen to your recommendation!!

greets,
AndMetalForAll

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