Picture sleeve for All Aboard b/w Cincinnati Fatback (BUY 3)
I recently did a retrospective on Stiff Records on one of my podcasts, and I made a mistake that I shouldn’t have. I played “both sides of the classic Stiff Records single, ‘All Aboard’ b/w ‘Cincinnati Fatback’ by Roogalator.” What I didn’t realize is that while I had the right version of “Cincinnati Fatback”, the version of “All Aboard” that I played was actually a re-recording of the song done for the band’s debut album, “Play It By Ear” (1977). So as a means of making amends for my error, I decided to make today’s featured single “All Aboard” b/w “Cincinnati Fatback”.
Roogalator was formed in 1972 by guitarist Danny Adler, an Ohio native living in the U.K. They played their first gig in November 1972 at a talent night at the Marquee Club in London. Response was lukewarm, and Adler eventually went to Paris to study jazz theory, putting Roogalator on hiatus indefinitely. When he returned to London in 1975, he formed a second Roogalator lineup with Bobby Irwin (drums), Steve Beresford (pianos) and Nick Plytas (keyboards). This lineup recorded a demo that resulted in a booking agency deal, but neither Irwin nor Beresford wanted to take things any further, so Adler and Plytas put together another lineup. They recruited Dave Solomon (drums), a former band mate of both Plytas and Beresford. Irwin, noting that the band was still missing a bass guitarist, gave the Roogalator demo to Paul Riley, a member of the successful pub rock band Chili Willi and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Riley joined the band just before their September 1975 (re-)debut, completing the lineup. Riley’s presence in the lineup helped attract press attention in the early days. Roogalator quickly became a fixture on the London pub rock scene, and the minimalist funk sound of the band gained a following, in spite of the fact that it was at odds with the country, blues, and early rock sound normally heard on the scene – or perhaps because of it. In November 1975, they recorded demos for United Artists Records and met Robin Scott, who would become their manager and producer, and the band continued to play gigs for the remainder of the year. In January 1976, they supported Dr. Feelgood in a show at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. The show was by their own admission a disaster, and it led to the departure, several weeks later, of Dave Solomon. Paul Riley also quit the band. Solomon was replaced by Bobby Irwin, and Jeff Watts was recruited to be the new bassist. In May 1976, Roogalator recorded a John Peel session, and embarked on a European tour. This tour was marred by the band having all their possessions stolen from the van, and both Watts and Irwin left the band. Encouraged by Robin Scott, Adler recruited a new rhythm section of Julian Scott (Robin’s brother) on bass and Justin Hildreth on drums. With this lineup, Roogalator signed a one-off single deal with Stiff Records early in the summer of 1976 and released “All Aboard” b/w “Cincinnati Fatback”.
“All Aboard” starts off with a drum fill, which gives way to a funky-sounding riff, and soon Danny Adler’s lyrics transport us back to the Ohio of his youth: “Well it was evening time when the train came rolling through/And we flagged it down with the flame held in the midnight blue”. This eventually gives way to the chorus: “Hello Cleveland, it’s a beautiful evening/Shine your light on me/Deep In your smoky soul/I know there’s rock and roll”. The verse and chorus are repeated twice before giving way to an instrumental break which includes a piano solo followed by an extended guitar solo (accompanied at one point by a chorus of “hey! hey! hey!”). The conclusion of the song has Adler speaking and imploring us to get the record stores to carry records “with those nice crazy sounds that are filling the town.” The song is quite unlike some of the early punk and new wave records issued by Stiff, but in many ways the iconoclastic Stiff Records was the perfect home for a band like Roogalator; it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the band had continued their association with the label. This song was, as mentioned earlier, re-recorded for Roogalator’s debut album, but the original version is better in my opinion.
“Cincinnati Fatback” was the flip side of this single, but this was in many ways Roogalator’s signature tune, and has found it’s way onto many Stiff Records compilations. The funky guitar is there, just as it was in “All Aboard”, but this time, it’s accompanied by an equally funky-sounding keyboard, as Adler tells the tale of a riverboat cruising the Ohio River: “Cincinnati fatback/Cincinnati fatback/That ass-kicking, finger-licking, chicken-picking Cincinnati fatback/And talkin’ about poontang/Right down to your ying-yang/Down on the banks of the Ohio”. What follows is several minutes of funk not unlike that of the Meters; moreover, the rhythm of the music mimics a riverboat cruise with its easygoing tempo. Once again, the ending of the song is not necessarily what you would expect: we get a music bridge, with Adler waxing poetically: “Yes I can still see/How it used to be/Watching those big maroon streamliners/Ease off into the sunset”. This gives way to a reprise of the song’s main riff before the song comes to an end, after one last crescendo from the keyboard. “Cincinnati Fatback” is a great song that gives this single a legitimate claim to being a “double A-side,” at least in the sense that both sides of the single are equally good.
This single (catalog #: BUY 3) was issued by Stiff Records in late summer/early fall 1976. Stiff Records was known for having interesting picture sleeves for many of their singles, and this was no exception: the picture sleeve was a parody of the “Meet The Beatles” cover, only with the members of Roogalator instead. This single was also issued in Holland by Dynamite Records, and the picture sleeve there was essentially the same, only without the “Stiff” logo in the upper left hand corner. Roogalator would issue another one-off single, this time on Virgin Records, in 1977: “Love and the Single Girl” b/w “I Feel Good (I Got You)”. Their debut album, “Play It By Ear”, was issued on Robin Scott’s Do It Records, also in 1977. That year, they played the “Front Row Festival” in November and December 1977, but soon afterwards, Nick Plytas left the band. Roogalator continued as a trio for awhile. Justin Hildreth was the next to leave, and was replaced by Nick Monnas. Feeling that Roogalator had run its course, Adler disbanded Roogalator in July 1978.