Original transfer by Marcus Mossmann (R.I.P.) at PHONOGRAPHIC ARTIFACTS in March 2021.
Audio cleaning, restoration and mastering by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in April 2021.
The ultimate reissue of this eternal NWOBHM classic!
Looking at it from today’s perspective it all seems pretty clear cut. When the Brabbs brothers, Mark on drums and Peter on guitar, met up with bassist/singer Algy Ward in the spring of 1980 to form Tank, they had the vision to fuse punk and metal. It took them less than two years to become the most popular original crossover act of the early 1980s. So far, so simple. But as it’s often the case in life the truth was much more complex.
“Nothing was planned,” elaborates Mark, the younger of the two Brabbs brothers, today: “Peter started with music a while before me. Our parents were always very supportive. My brother, obviously being my elder brother, was into heavy rock: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and all that sort of stuff. And I started listening to his records, and Uriah Heep was in there too. We both became great fans of Deep Purple, that’s probably our favourite band, for both of us. That’s how I started learning drums, from the album »Made In Japan«. Hearing Ian Paice playing drums made me wanting to play drums because he sounded so good. And my brother Pete was a big Ritchie Blackmore fan. So as kids growing up I used to jam with Pete in his bedroom on cardboard boxes, a biscuit tin was my snare drum and a tambourine was my hi-hat, and I used coat hangers for my sticks. Pete was playing in another band at the time and he had a great drummer. I used to watch this guy play. And then someday there was a band playing at our local tennis club. The guy behind the drum kit asked me: Do you want a go? I just got up – I never played on a drum kit before, just my cardboard boxes – and played ‘All Right Now’ by Free. I just sat there and played it right through to the end. My brother probably was 13 at the time and I was eleven. Pete just ran straight home and said to my mum: ‘You got to buy Mark a drum kit because he is amazing.’ I probably wasn’t amazing, I probably was crap ... My parents bought me a drum kit for my twelfth birthday. And that was it … My brother and I used to have different bands. It was always him on guitar and me on drums, and this and that. We had a band called The Brabbs Band – obviously. That’s when we first met Algy. That’s quite an old story … We were both popular in local bands and once had a gig in a local pub. It was a sell-out. After the show we went backstage, pouring with sweat. The door burst open and there was Algy. We had never met before. Algy pointed at us, me and Pete, and said: ‘One day I am gonna be in a band with you two.’ That’s it, and he walked out. And we were like: who the hell was that? Algy was with The Saints at the time. And then he joined The Damned. And when he left The Damned, he found me and Pete. That’s how Tank was formed.”
After The Brabbs Band (and before Tank) Mark was active in a band called The Heroes: “Once we started doing different stuff, I was taking music a bit more serious than my brother Pete. He was still playing a lot of guitar but he used to have a full-time job, can’t remember what it was now, whereas I went to art college after school for five years and obviously carried on playing in bands. Art college was the place to go if you wanted to become a musician back in the seventies. So I was in a lot of different bands. The Heroes was a good band, with a guy called Peter Fenton on guitar and vocals, he was with Siouxsie And The Banshees. In fact, he formed Siouxsie And The Banshees together with Siouxsie. And then he was sacked from Siouxsie And The Banshees because they caught him playing an Eagles album. Them being punks they couldn’t handle this, so they sacked him. And then he formed a band called The Heroes. It was like a powerpop band. A little bit punky, with a Generation X kind of sound. And that was getting quite a lot of record industry interest. That was The Heroes.”
The Brabbs brothers grew up in Croydon (where Tank had their base as well), Mark explains: “Croydon was well-known for being an ugly town but if you live somewhere, you don’t see the ugliness – that’s your home. It was great, lots of musicians around South Croydon, that sort of area. You know, you are only 45 minutes away from Brighton by the seaside. And 30 minutes the other way and you are in London. A good place to live. We also had this record shop called Beanos, I remember that very well. This was in central Croydon. We actually had a local Tank pub, where we used to meet on a Saturday lunchtime, called The Ship. A really good pub, a heavy rock pub, it’s still there. It was a minute’s walk from Beanos, just up the road.”
In contrast to speculation by the music press of the day, when Tank was formed in the spring of 1980, there was no master plan whatsoever. “To be perfectly honest, we didn’t know what we were going to do,” laughs Mark Brabbs today. “Algy always wanted to play with me and Peter because we were proper rockers. Peter and Algy got together first because I was in The Heroes. And we were still getting quite a lot of record industry interest. But Peter and Algy wanted me to be their drummer and that was a bit difficult. Peter and Algy used to just jam all the time, Pete and I were still living with our parents at the time. I used to go out on a Saturday night and come back on Sunday morning when my mum and dad would be having breakfast. They said to me: ‘Have a look in the garden.’ There were Pete and Algy sitting in the lounge in the garden jamming, and they had been there all night, surrounded by empty bottles of vodka and beer. And all they used to do was jam, jam, jam. So they really were the backbone of Tank because they more or less wrote the first album there and then in the garden. When we eventually got together we all had our own influences, we all loved Deep Purple, the early ZZ Top stuff. Obviously Algy had a punk feel because of The Damned. I hated punk when it first came up. I was a proper heavy rocker, with long hair, jeans, flares. But when I went to art school and jammed with a couple of those guys, I felt the energy of punk, you know, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, I liked this raw energy. The punk element certainly came in with Algy and myself. Pete was just into down the road heavy rock. We didn’t plan to be like anyone, we just jammed and wrote songs. And Algy would come up with some lyrics there and then. Some of them worked, some didn’t. As we were all Deep Purple fans we were originally planning to get in a singer and a keyboard player, a keyboard player who could also play guitar. Like in UFO, a keyboard player who could sing and also play guitar. And we wanted a lead singer. We weren’t intending to be a three-piece, we weren’t intending to copy Motörhead, like a lot of people kept saying we did. The only reason we stuck with a three-piece was because of the record company. Our manager brought the top A&R guy of DJM Records down to see us and we sort of played him like five songs. And he said: ‘Right, I love it. I will sign you on the spot.’ And when we said, well, we gonna get a singer, he said: ‘No, don’t do this. You are exactly what we were looking for, a three-piece.’ They wanted the power of a three-piece. He said: ‘Don’t go anywhere, don’t meet anyone.’ So the record company were the ones to tell us to stay as a three-piece. That’s how it was.”
The label was Kamaflage Records, they just had a handful of bands, and Tank certainly was there number one priority. “Yeah, they were very good,” states the Tank drummer. “They were actually a part of DJM Records, Dick James Music Empire, which had Elton John and some of the early Beatles stuff. Up until they signed us, their catalogue was very middle of the road. Tank had lots of attitude and volume. They felt we were a bit too tough for their catalogue, so they formed Kamaflage as a sublabel. This was a separate company within DJM. So that’s how it was. And then they signed a band called Tytan, which was Kev Riddles from Angel Witch.”
In addition Kamaflage also had Baron Rojo and Bernie Tormé on their books. The main label DJM had released both singles of Adrian Smith’s band Urchin back in the seventies as well. This was probably the first heavy rock band they signed …“They also had Dave Colwell on their books,” laughs Mark Brabbs, “‘Bucket’, who later was the second guitarist in Paul Samson’s Empire. He is a great friend of mine. In fact, ‘Bucket’, well, he’s Dave, we just call him ‘Bucket’, that’s his nickname, he is still great pals with Adrian. He has written a couple of songs for Maiden, for their B-Sides. He is still in association with Maiden. I was left back in the Iron Maiden football team when Paul Samson’s Empire toured with them. When I was younger, growing up, I was playing for Chelsea and Crystal Palace. But then I discovered beer, women and drums. And then football training went out the window. But that Maiden tour was great, we did England, Scotland and Wales. We didn’t do Ireland actually, which is a shame as it’s always a good crowd. Paul Samson was a lovely fella, by the way, he died way too soon. A great guitar player. He died much too early. That was a great tour, that Maiden tour (‘Somewhere On Tour’, 1986).”
Tank got their first real break when they supported Motörhead in late 1981, that was even before their first album »Filth Hounds Of Hades« had come out. “We shared the same management with Motörhead,” explains Mark Brabbs. “That was The Damned’s management as well. But when Algy parted company with The Damned, Doug Smith got rid of The Damned and kept Algy because he had more faith in his project. That’s how that came about. The tour before the album was the European tour. We toured all over Europe, which was great fun. We shared a tour bus with Motörhead, so you can imagine the partying that was going on...”
The Dortmund gig from this European tour in 1981 was later released as a live album as well. “But the quality is actually awful,” finds the younger of the two Brabbs brothers. “Our mixing engineer just recorded on a tape cassette. A couple of gigs. Somehow someone got hold of it and released it. This has got nothing to do with me, unfortunately. We didn’t know it existed. Murray on the desk, our live engineer, also filmed a gig once. But I don’t know where that went. Somewhere there is a film of us playing in Dortmund on that tour. So we need to find out where that went.”
The legendary »Filth Hounds Of Hades« record was originally released in the spring of 1982. The album was produced by Fast Eddie of Motörhead fame (rest in piece, mate!). But how much producing did Eddie actually do? Was he just a name on the back sleeve of the album and a drinking buddy or did he do proper engineering work? “Well, to be fair, he really didn’t need to do much as a producer,” reminisces Mark Brabbs today. “We’d been touring England for about a year and a half with the material from the first album. And then of course we did this massive European tour with Motörhead, who we knew anyway, they were mates of us anyway. We finished the tour on Christmas eve 1981 and we were in the studio to record »Filth Hounds Of Hades« on December the 29th. So we were very well rehearsed. Nothing needed production, apart from the mix. No real input as a producer from Eddie, although he had done the Girlschool stuff and he had done a few other things. No doubt, he knew his trade. But I think for our first album as a producer it was fairly easy. But he still did a good job on »Filth Hounds Of Hades«. No question. I loved Eddie.”