One of Britain’s top session guitarists of the ’70s (even participating in records by the furry Wombles!), Chris Spedding has had a truly aberrant solo career. A veteran of numerous outfits starting in the ’60s, Spedding made several LPs under his own name before joining Andy Fraser’s post-Free band, Sharks, who made two hard-rocking LPs in 1973 and ’74. (Spedding also played on one of Sharks vocalist Snips’ subsequent solo outings.) After that band split, Spedding released a succession of LPs that combine exquisite rock guitar with lackluster vocals and songs so vapid as to be virtually nonexistent. (On a 1970 Japanese release, he dispensed with vocals entirely.) The highlight of Chris Spedding is a novelty item called “Guitar Jamboree” which features Spedding aping various guitar heroes in a show of chameleonlike virtuosity.
We pick up the story later in 1976, however, when Spedding teamed up with the then-unrecorded Vibrators for a great single, “Pogo Dancing,” the first punk dance record. Hurt, Spedding’s next LP, is a more solid follow-up, thanks to Chris Thomas’ crisp production. The material is generally better, and there’s one outstanding number, the ominous “Lone Rider.”
Guitar Graffiti finds Spedding meandering again, producing a crass attempt to cash in on his new wave credibility (legitimately established through his seminal alliances with the Sex Pistols and the Cramps, for whom he produced demos, and the Vibrators). The worthwhile track is “Hey, Miss Betty,” the only one produced by Thomas; the song is a rocking homage to ’50s bondage queen Betty Page.
In 1979, Spedding surprised everyone by joining the Necessaries, a New York band that included former Modern Lover Ernie Brooks. Though he kept a low profile — refusing featured billing within the group — the combination of his dark pop ditties and leader Ed Tomney’s preppie sensibility never melded. Spedding added brilliant leads to Tomney’s material, but his songwriting still lacked coherency, and in some instances he abandoned guitar for keyboards. Spedding split without fanfare after less than a year (he was gone by the time the Necessaries made their LP in 1981), returning to England to record I’m Not Like Everybody Else, an album of his Necessaries-era material.
Friday the 13th is a live set on which Spedding is joined by former Sharks/occasional Talking Head bassist Busta Cherry Jones and New York drummer Tony Machine. Featuring a selection of songs from all the above-listed albums, Friday the 13th was released primarily as an ersatz retrospective of his RAK material. Showing off Spedding’s guitar work in the context of some extended soloing, it’s the best of the lot.
Spedding does a fairly good Dave Edmunds turn on Enemy Within, mixing a few rock’n’roll classics (“Love’s Made a Fool of You,” “Shakin’ All Over”) with unprepossessing originals, filling them all with twangy guitar work and serviceable vocals that somehow resemble Mark Knopfler. “Hologram,” co-written with Marshall Crenshaw, is a highlight of this likable record.