15 June 2009

Second Hand Record Dip Part 35 - String Driven Thing - Mrs O'Reilly

String Driven Thing - Mrs O'Reilly

Who: String Driven Thing
What: Mrs O'Reilly (b/w "Keep On Moving")
Label: Charisma
When: 1974
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: One pound

I freely and fully admit that (just for once) I'm going to come across like an ignorant pig-boy here, since before picking up this single in Camden I hadn't really ever given String Driven Thing much thought - never heard one of their albums, songs, or pondered greatly upon their rather peculiar name.  Nobody I knew had ever mocked them or recommended them to me.  They were just there. 

I've investigated a little further since, and it would seem that the band was a complete confusion, starting life as a folk ensemble in 1967, then shifting to a folk-rock medium in the seventies so they could scrape their jolly fiddles passionately in a proto-Waterboys type way, then losing so many musicians that they only had one original member left by the tail end of their careers. Key member Grahame Smith buggered off to join Van Der Graaf Generator, for example, and on iTunes some of the String Driven Thing tunes are labelled "Grahame Smith of Van Der Graaf Generator with String Driven Thing" which seems rather harsh.

Their career was apparently sidelined when one of their main members Chris Adams was hospitalised with a collapsed lung shortly before they were due to support Genesis on tour.  With no proper tour to bouy up support of their records, they remained rather underground, a situation they never quite recovered from despite numerous attempts.  

From what I can gather, "Mrs O'Reilly" stems from the poppier end of their career, and has a certain degree of Steve Harley-esque quirk and bounce going on in its grooves, but never really quite catches fire.  It's a jolly listen, but for my ears is marred by the presence of a saxophonist who insists on playing the same melody as the vocalist is singing.  I've always found saxophones to be rather trying in almost all pop songs, but when they're shoved so prominently to the front it's always going to subtract a certain something.

There's little doubt that some of the noises in "Mrs O'Reilly" are endearing, though, and the band probably deserved better than to support Lou Reed the next year and get booed off stage by his unforgiving fans.  

They're still going today and gigging around the country under the name "String Driven", and seem to have a cult following who hold them in some regard.   So there you go.   Apologies for the vagueness, but the second hand record dip section of this blog is prone to it from time to time.


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