2 August 2014

Sunfighter - Drag Race Queen/ Riding On Your Star

Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1976

Sunfighter came so close to making something of themselves, yet ultimately fell short of the mark for reasons which have perplexed some amateur pop historians since. They had a major record label deal with EMI, a well-respected of-the-moment rock producer in Roy Thomas Baker, and even an opening slot on "Top of the Pops" to promote themselves with.

It's not even as if this, their debut single, didn't sound as if it stood a chance. Filled with powerful rock vocals, snaking, subtle little hooks and detours and a slightly suggestive title, it must have horrified everyone involved when it didn't even chart. But while 1976 was a very sleepy year for popular music (as anyone who sat through BBC4's "Top of the Pops" re-runs for that period will know) change was still afoot, and it's quite possible that the slightly glam image and sound of Sunfighter was widely dismissed by many as passé. By '76 even the big names behind the movement were starting to struggle, and not even Sunfighter's stylistic similarities to Queen - who weathered the storm gracefully - saved them.

But what next for the group? Well, members Rob Boughton, John Hardman, Jeb Milne and Ricky Peebles did switch style to disco by '78, issuing the rather more boogie orientated "City Nights". It did well in various nightclubs but still wasn't a hit, and EMI finally lost patience and dropped them.

John Hardman has since become a successful session musician and recording studio owner, and is perhaps better known these days for being Sarah Harding's (of Girls Aloud fame) father. So, were Sunfighter ever as good as the best Girls Aloud records? No, frankly. But still, he deserves a bit more than occasional mentions in the tabloid press for his daughter's success - he was on "Top of the Pops" once himself, you know.

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