Jet (Glam)

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    Jet (Glam)

    From the outset, Jet was regarded as the first supergroup of glam. Bassist Martin Gordon and pianist Peter Oxendale were former members of Sparks, their time with the band incorporating the recording of the seminal Kimono My House album and attendant "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" hit single. Vocalist Andy Ellison and drummer Chris Townson were ex-bandmates of Marc Bolan in the 1960s band John's Children -- Townson had also played with the Jook. And guitarist Davy O'List was little short of a living legend, following stints with the Attack, the Nice, and the formative Roxy Music. Producer Roy Thomas Baker, meanwhile, was highly regarded for his work with Queen; Jet's clothes were crafted by Elton John's tailor; they shared their management, the RAM agency, with Gary Glitter. In terms of dream teams, they were unbeatable. The fact that Gordon was also a songwriter of intense originality, gifting Jet with a repertoire that was equal parts humorous, quirky, and memorable, was surely simply icing on the cake.

    Gordon formed Jet immediately following his departure from Sparks in spring 1974; apparently, he and the Mael brothers fell out over Ron Mael's domination of the songwriting duties, with only one of Gordon's songs, "Cover Girl," ever even coming close to breaking into their repertoire -- it at least made it into the rehearsal room. Still it was a battle that Gordon could never hope to win and he was sacked just days before the group was scheduled to appear on television to promote "This Town." Sparks manager John Hewlett promptly drafted in Trevor White and Ian Hampton of the Jook to replace Gordon; the bassist himself immediately teamed with Jook drummer Townson; he, in turn, introduced Ellison.

    With Oxendale having departed Sparks at the same time as Gordon (he was originally hired to provide backup keyboards on-stage) and O'List recruited after the band heard his contributions to Bryan Ferry's latest single, the hard-riffing "The In Crowd," things moved quickly. Management and a record deal with CBS were in place by late 1974 and, following a handful of low-key club shows in the new year, Jet was finally unveiled in March 1975 as the opening act on labelmate Ian Hunter's first U.K. tour. Their first single, O'List's "My River," appeared simultaneously, followed in May by the Jet debut album and a second 45, "Nothing to Do with Us." Unfortunately, neither critics nor audiences were impressed -- so loudly had the bandmembers' backgrounds been trumpeted by their label that the group's own originality was completely overlooked. People were simply disappointed not to find a mélange of Roxy, Sparks, and John's Children. Further damage was done when Townson broke his leg playing soccer; he was replaced on tour by Jim Toomey, ex-Colin Blunstone's band (and subsequently, a member of the Tourists). The band also gained further unwanted attention and notoriety when it was pointed out that the album's sleeve design (by Roslav Szaybo) bared a strong resemblance to Marvel Comics' Mr. Miracle strip -- New Musical Express journalist Charles Shaar Murray was even able to include the actual issue and page number in his review of the album.

    Amid the chaos and hostility, Jet collapsed. O'List quit first; he was replaced by Ian MacLeod, an unknown who had, in fact, been in the running for the guitar slot in the first place. Oxendale also departed, but with Townson now recovered and back on board, Jet was dispatched to a secluded countryside studio to work up material for their sophomore album. Rehearsals and demoing were still under way when they learned that both CBS and RAM had dropped them. Material from this period would later appear on disc two of Jet's Nothing to Do with Us: A Golden Treasury anthology. Ellison, Gordon, MacLeod, and Townson now recruited former Jook/Sparks guitarist Trevor White to the band -- Gordon and Townson alone also joined White on his 1976 "Crazy Kids" solo single. White also assumed production duties for a set of Jet demos requested by Island Records; the group recorded four songs: "Antlers," "Don't Cry Joe," "Dirty Pictures," and "Sail Away." Island rejected all four, at which point Townson quit the music business altogether. His bandmates were equally dispirited, but made the rounds of the record labels regardless, finally striking gold with the independent Chiswick Records. Pausing only while the band changed their name to Radio Stars, Chiswick released "Dirty Pictures" as a single in spring 1977. Weeks later, it was soaring up the U.K. indie chart and two years of wretched underachievement were finally at an end. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi