Gor’ blimey, strike a light and welcome to the artist spotlight of Chas n Dave.
Pioneers of ‘Rockney’ music, which is rock and roll, pop and boogie woogie thrown together. In a Cockney accent. They are a weird act in that despite having opened for Led Zeppelin in 1979, being feted by The Libertines and having played Glastonbury to rapturous applause they are not, in any way , cool. They’re frankly, old fashioned and were so even when they started, But I’d argue there’s room for some occasional well placed nostalgia, even for times before you were born.
Formed in 1972, by Charles ‘Chas’ Hodges and Dave Peacock with Mick Burt on drums, they already had a strong background as session musicians and had played with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent. (The sample on Eminem’s “My Name Is” from Labi Siffre’s “I Got The (Blues)”? That’s them) They released their first album One Fing ‘n’ Anuvver in 1975.
It wasn’t till 1979 however that they cracked the charts, reaching the UK top 20 wth Gertcha.
“Gertcha’ referring to an expression of annoyance one might utter when, say, “Tottenham Hotspur couldn’t get one in” The chaps are huge Tottenham fans and have recorded six singles for Tottenham’s FA cup runs.
( Note for non Brits: It used to be commonplace for British football teams to record commemorative singles when they got to the FA Cup final. It took a long time before anyone realized how weird this was and stopped doing it.)
Once they hit the big time, British TV adopted them in a big way. They were given their own variety show (The Christmas special of which was repeated on TV as recently as last Christmas. They were also offered the job of writing the theme for Only Fools And Horses They were too busy touring to accept but did record a song for a special edition. (For reference to non Brits Only Fools And Horses still holds the fourth highest viewing figures ever on UK TV)
They recorded a single with “The Matchroom Mob” , a collection of the top snooker players of the time and an invaluable memory aid for the order the balls are potted in. Which, again, was at the time when snooker was routinely the biggest show on British TV (The 80s were a bleak time)
That level of success wasn’t going to last and they fell off to ‘relic’ status in the 90s as far as the wider media were concerned. They never stopped touring though and never failed to draw an audience. I’d imagine they put on a tremendously fun show and ‘fun’ and ‘cool’ have rarely been synonymous.
They got a boost in the 00s from The Libertines. They would regularly cover Chas and Dave songs live and sampled “Give It To The Girl Next Door” on the 2004 single “What Katy Did” This bump lead to them playing at Glastonbury in 2005. On the big stage too, not in a side tent.
They enjoyed this critical renaissance until 2009 when sadly Dave’s wife of 36 years, Sue, succumbed to cancer. They announced their retirement from performing with reference to her vital support to the act.
“Sue was instrumental behind the scenes for Chas and Dave, working tirelessly on the side of the business that musicians just aren’t good at.
“It’s accurate to say that without Sue and [Chas’s wife] Joan, there wouldn’t have been Chas and Dave.”
It took two years before they felt ready to perform again. Reuniting for some Christmas shows at the Indigo2 in London. ( Christmas is a good time for the fun ,and frankly, kitsch of Chas and Dave)
In 2013 they released their first studio album in 27 years, entitled That’s What Happens featuring Guest stars like Buddy Holly’s Drummer JJ Allinson, Jools Holland and Hugh Laurie who had this to say about them “They make it sound so easy, There’s this Latin motto – Ars est celare artem; ‘the art is to conceal the art.’ And that’s exactly what they do. The things they do, they do so well that people don’t realise how rare they are. I mean they can really really play.”
They’re still going and are planning live dates in June, Chas’ health permitting (He is currently being treated for throat cancer but they are optimistic). Hopefully they keep going for as long as possible as they are a group that plain makes people happy. Nobody comes out of a Chas and Dave show unhappy. I’ll finish with unquestionably their best song ‘There Ain’t No Pleasing You’ which is a more polished emotional number than most and is genuinely moving.