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Whenever I ask someone if they know a British hard-rock band called Thunder, they usually start humming the beginning of AC/DC’s ”Thunderstruck.” This is frustrating for three reasons. Firstly, ”Thunderstruck” is not exactly AC/DC’s finest hour; secondly, comparing AC/DC to Thunder is like comparing construction workers to architects (AC/DC being the laymen of rock); and thirdly, you get pissed off at Luke Morley and his gang for choosing such a misleading name for their group. Or did they?

To be fair, perhaps the name wasn’t always as misleading as it is today. When you are listening to Backstreet Symphony, Thunder’s debut from 1990, you realize that while never the laymen of rock, back then, the group’s sound was more akin with their slightly one-dimensional name (in all fairness, the name “Thunder” does bring heavy metal to mind, doesn’t it?). And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with heavy metal or Backstreet Symphony for that matter. It’s a fine album, featuring such Thunder classics as “Love Walked In” and “Dirty Love,” not to mention the fantastic “Don’t Wait For Me,” which I rate as one of the best heavy blues ballads ever recorded. However, regardless of its strengths (and there are many), this album is only a slight indication of the absolutely brilliant things to come in a just a few years.

What am I getting at here? Well, Thunder could always rock (they still can) but to this fan at least, it’s always been their more pop, soul and folk oriented tunes that have formed their most impressive body of work and set them apart from their peers. Songs, such as ”Better Man,” ”River Of Pain,” ”Love Worth Dying For,” ”Forgotten Town” and ”Numb,” stand as tall evidence of the fact that this group is a contender not just in hard-rock but in a plethora of genres including soul – not something many hard rock bands can say!

The most impressive aspect about the group’s principal songwriter Luke Morley is his ability to write across genres and still put his own stamp on the songs. Listen to this guy’s chord changes and his signature hooks – brilliant stuff. “You Still Need A Friend” and “I’m Dreaming Again” are proof of Morley being capable of writing melodies with the best of them but unlike many writers with heavier leanings, Morley is also an outstanding wordsmith able to write lyrics that go beyond the obvious. This becomes very apparent when listening to our track of the week, “The Pimp And The Whore.”

Dealing with the craziness and anything-for-money attitude of show business, the lyrics of “The Pimp And The Whore” remind us what the Idols TV show and its numerous spin offs are all about and how little they have to do with being a real artist.

You've got one destination...celebrity
You'll be the toast of the nation, you'll live on TV, you will see
Can I make it clear from the start?
You don't need an opinion as long as you look like the part

Morley should know, as this is a group that entered the music business during that tediously embarrassing era of hair metal and was for a brief while made to look the part. Having said that, the best lyrics usually come from experience, which is probably why the words on this track are so vehement throughout with lines such as “Come out of the closet, we'll hit no. 1” and “While I count the money you preen and they swoon.”

Musically speaking, ”The Pimp And The Whore” falls somewhere between rock and pop and as a result, brings to mind the John Lawton era Uriah Heep. As a matter of fact, the song would have fit quite nicely on Heep’s ”Fallen Angel” and this is largely due to the fantastic voice of Danny Bowes. Bowes, although not as well-known as many of his peers, can take on just about anyone and win hands down. Don’t take my word for it, listen to ”Does It Feel Like Love?” on Thunder’s Laughing On Judgement Day album and you’ll understand what I mean.

However, there’s more to “The Pimp And The Whore” than Bowes’ vocals. Listen to Morley and Matthews’ stellar guitar work. The main guitar riff is by far, one of the sleaziest that ever graced a Thunder song. In fact, the riff is so sleazy that it brings to mind Andy McCoy of Hanoi Rocks, one of the greatest rock’n’rollers of all time. Other thrilling moments include the adventurous, soul-flavored bass by Chris Childs (check out the bass fills in the intro), tasteful keyboards by Matthews (love the Hammond bits) and James’ driving Motown beat (four-on-the-snare) in the middle eight as well as his drum fill leading to the middle eight.  What’s more, everything here works together so seamlessly that you find yourself in awe of the group’s performance. But that’s Thunder for you – a hot little band that never ever lets you down.

The intriguing thing about the Shooting At The Sun album that features our song of the week is that it was Thunder’s first release on their own record label, STC Recordings, which they founded to avoid future controversy with record companies. When asked to elaborate on this, the drummer Gary James pointed out that the group had "been fucked around by record companies so much in the past that it made sense to do it all ourselves.” This, I am sure, is a sentiment shared by many artists. Still, the sad fact remains that record companies (like all businesses) exist to make money. Their first responsibility is to the shareholders, not the artists. 

Now, before we drift too far away from the topic of pimps and whores, I have a bit of a story I’ve been saving to tell you. A friend of mine once accidentally picked up a prostitute after a long night of drinking and partying in New Orleans. Once he realized his mistake (after getting off a cab outside his hotel), it was already too late as he had taken up quite a few hours of the prostitute’s time. Not having even properly kissed his companion, my friend refused to pay her anything. He apologized for the misunderstanding and sent the girl away, thinking that was that. You can imagine his surprise in the morning, when he ran into the girl’s pimp in the parking lot. Mind you, this guys was nothing like the flimsy pimps from the seventies movies. Au contraire! He stood roughly two meters tall, was broad-shouldered, thick-chested and demanded $400.

The only problem was that my friend didn’t have any money and he told the pimp as much. The pimp grabbed my friend by the chest and shook him violently for a moment. Then, all of a sudden, he let go, took a step back, straightened my friend’s suit and while doing it, sampled its material with his jack-hammer of a hand. “Hugo Boss?” the pimp asked. “Yes,” my friend answered with a shaky voice. “Italian virgin wool?” the tower of a man continued. “Yes,” my friend repeated, wondering how a pimp wearing an Adidas track suit would know all of that. “I’ll take the suit,” the pimp said with a satisfied nod. My friend explained that he was on a business trip and that he didn’t have any other attire with him. The pimp pointed to his carry-on luggage. My friend shook his head and looked down. “No sweat. We will swap. I have a van parked over there,” the pimp exclaimed. And lo and behold, that’s what they did. My friend gave the pimp his suit, which the giant folded neatly into the back of the van. Without a word, he gave my friend his track suit, jumped behind the wheel, wearing nothing but boxers and sneakers and drove off.

By the way, contrary to what most of you might think, it’s surprisingly uncomfortable wearing clothes that are way too big for you, or so my friend told me. But that wasn’t the only uncomfortable thing on the flight home for him. After an hour on the plane, he concluded that the Adidas suit he was draped in had lice in it – he felt like scratching his skin off. However, the lice weren’t the worst part of it at all. You see the scary encounter with the pimp had caused my friend to wet his briefs a little and much to the delight of his fellow passengers he was slowly but surely beginning to stink to high heavens. That bit my friend never told anyone – don’t ask me how I know.

P.S.

Check out this awesome interview with Luke Morley from 2017.

https://www.eonmusic.co.uk/thunder-luke-morley-eonmusic-interview-february-2017.html

Thunder at Donington in 1990.


Track Sponsor Of The Month: Effigy by The Impersonators

“Effigy” describes that moment in all our lives, when we realize that we‘ve grown tired of protecting our ego, that moment when we are done worrying about how we appear to others. Rather than wanting to be cool or important, we want to be happy and discover our true identity. And the best way to achieve this is to kill our ego.


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About the curator - Tommi Tikka

Tommi Tikka - Music to Curator

Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.

 

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