Label: Birds Nest
Year of Release: 1979
One for the "why isn't this record more collectible?" file. True, it looks unpromising. The label - with its heavy use of sauce-in-a-sachet brown and red hues and references to recording studios called "The Old Smithy" - seems small-town and of no real concern to anyone looking for anything apart from a regional seventies flop. On top of that, the band sound relatively unfamiliar and unchronicled.
Anyone with any faint memories of Robert Plant's activities during the seventies might feel a sudden urge to run to the till with this, though, and they'd have good cause. For reasons known only to himself - friendship and a love of the same music, presumably - Plant occasionally appeared on stage with obscure Midlands old-school rock and roll group Melvin's Marauders in front of a small number of pleased ladies and gentlemen in unlikely venues such as The Silverdales Caravan Club, Wolverly Memorial Hall and Stourbridge Wine Bar. His appearances were unannounced, and involved him grabbing the mic and singing the lion's share of lead vocals. There are a handful of stories online from people talking in a shocked fashion about Plant materialising at a very unpromising sounding gig, and while the internet allows such people to share these experiences, one has to wonder whether it has also put paid to such surprise turns taking place in future. Any whiff of Plant at a pub venue these days would send Twitter into a flurry of activity and the venue would be crushed beyond capacity in minutes.
Perhaps more amazingly, Robert Plant also appears on this single doing backing vocals, hence the "Mystery All-Stars" credit on the label. It's nothing at all like Led Zeppelin and everything you'd expect it to be from my description above - old fashioned rock and roll filtered through the seventies pub rock circuit, frantic, fun and enjoyable. Even without Plant's presence, I'm pretty sure this would have been a dead cert entry for this blog, such is its energy and urgency.
The complete personnel behind Melvin's Marauders has been lost in the mists of time, but Ian Hatton was definitely their lead guitarist. He went on to join Honeydrippers with the post-Led Zep Robert Plant, before eventually joining Heavy Metal band Bonham.
Birds Nest Records itself was a joint venture between ex-Elektra and Dandelion Records man Clive Selwood and Muff Murfin. Selwood chronicles the label's disappointing failure in his brilliantly entertaining memoirs "All of The Moves But None of the Licks", and notes with particular sadness that this - of all records - wasn't a hit.