10 June 2018

Chaser - Red Rum/ Country Boy

A glam rock song about a lovely horse. And it's rather good.

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1975

Red Rum was everyone's favourite horse in the seventies. The three-times Grand National winner was given endless excitable press, and ended up with his bemused horsey face on cash-in T-shirts, mugs, posters and probably belt buckles for all I know.

While faintly glam rock tinged songs about racehorses might therefore seem strange from the perspective of the average person living in 2018, in Red Rum's case, it's understandable. You could argue that anyone trying to produce a stomping glam number about him was actually living up to the standards and expectations of their time - a squeaking analogue synth, a glitter beat and a tune about an equine champion was, really, none-more-mid-seventies.

The studio group Chaser also do a solid job of bigging up the champion horse, with buzzing, squeaking guitars, galloping rhythms, and a soaring chorus. Lyrically too, they appear to both celebrate and feel some sympathy for Red Rum, asking "Is that a tear in your eye?" and speculating that he might want to feel "free" - which is both an odd and interesting question for a single of this nature to ask. "There's a bottle of wine at the end of the line" they try to reassure him, which is even more peculiar for reasons I don't need to underline.

Nonetheless, the production and melody here ensures that the song is anything but a cheap cash-in, and it actually sounds like a very solid pop song indeed. The songwriters Steve Jolley and Tony Swain would later have enormous success writing for Bananarama, Imagination and Alison Moyet, as well as undertaking production work for Spandau Ballet and - er - Wang Chung, so this isn't too surprising. "Red Rum" was a flop, but it was really just an early experiment in their careers which does give some hints of the success to come in the next decade.

Besides those two, the studio group consisted of Richard Palmer and Nick Adams on guitar, Ray Bailey on bass and Brian Grant on drums. Suffice to say, after "Red Rum" flopped, they disbanded and weren't heard from under the name Chaser again, presumably all moving on to other business.

As for Red Rum, this was far from the only single to celebrate his greatness. Other flops were also released by Christopher, Robin, Alice and Ted and Len Marten, but so far as I'm aware, he never did have a hit single written about him despite his popularity. You obviously can't be a winner all the time.


Anonymous said...

If you didn't give background, my first thought of Red Rum is the little boy in the movie The Shining, who kept saying it because its murder spelled backwards.

Fanny Blancmange said...

Thanks for this. I know of one other track dedicated to the Muhammad Ali of UK race-horses but that one's pretty lame, pretty 'Pebble Mill At One'. The titular supernag even switched on Blackpool Illuminations one year, by being led through some light-beam whose being broken thus acted as the switch.

Always thought Shergar deserved better than a fate worthy of Jimmy Hoffa.