Shakin’ Pyramids

  • Shakin' Pyramids
  • Skin 'Em Up (UK Cuba Libre/Virgin) 1981 
  • The Shakin' Pyramids and Lonnie Donegan EP (UK Cuba Libre/Virgin) 1981 
  • Celts and Cobras (UK Cuba Libre/Virgin) 1982 
  • Shakin' Pyramids (Rock 'n' Roll) 1983 

Few neo-rockabilly combos are as down-home folksy as Glasgow, Scotland’s Shakin’ Pyramids. This trio not only avoids electricity, they barely condone musical instruments, having started out as a pair of busking acoustic guitarists and a singer/harmonica player.

The corrupting touch of fame lured them into adding electric guitar, acoustic bass and a spot of drums to Skin ‘Em Up. The album pounds furiously, putting your average megawatt metal band to shame. Songs — mostly non-originals — zip by at a blinding rate; the record’s only flaw is its brief running time. Then again, if brevity be the soul of this music, the Shakin’ Pyramids are a rockabilly Ramones.

Probably the first credible skiffle recording made in a generation, the 7-inch EP with Lonnie Donegan (Scottish-born skiffle king who popularized “Rock Island Line” in 1955 and is best known for “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight”) offers four old songs (including “Wabash Cannonball”) and one original in a joyous traditional setting.

Like the Ramones, the Pyramids have a growth problem. Celts and Cobras offers a higher percentage of their own songs, but on it they’re accompanied by piano, accordion, electric bass and even — gack! — a string section. More dismaying is the band’s descent into schlock-pop consciousness: instead of Eddie Cochran and Link Davis tunes, we get the Everly Brothers and Gene Pitney. The band still rocks, but they’d better figure out where they’re going.

The American release (whose cover pictures and sleeve lists them as a quartet) distills the two albums, featuring mainly originals.

[Scott Isler / Ira Robbins]