An early image of Chas and Dave and the last picture ever taken of the duo
This week one of my favourite musicians died. Chas Hodges was one half of cockney comedy music duo Chas and Dave. This week’s Bloody Classics will be a bit different. I’ve decided to give you all a brief history of Chas and Dave in Chas’ memory and to hopefully encourage more people to check out the music of these funny and clever lyricists. It would be a stretch to say that any particular Chas and Dave album had a long lasting effect on UK society, but I think they were very important as entertainers, and hopefully after reading this you will too.
Chas and Dave’s last appearance was at the British Summertime Festival in Hyde Park in July this year, but they have been playing together since the 1970s, first as session musicians and then as Chas and Dave. They have played with The Libertines and opened for Led Zeppelin at Knebworth in 1979
When Chas and Dave met in 1960, Chas was in a band called The Outlaws supporting Jerry Lee Lewis and fellow northeast Londoner Dave was in a band called The Rolling Stones (No, not THOSE Rolling Stones). They continued in various bands and as session musicians both separately and together for a few years before getting together to play as a duo. They even worked very briefly with Deep Purple, but my favourite fun fact about them is that they are both featured on Eminem’s “My Name Is” which samples a track that they played on as session musicians.
They self styled their genre as “Rockney” (and if you make up your own genre I feel like you definitely qualify as alternative) and they made heavy use of cockney rhyming slang and London-centric themes. It was a bit like a mix of Victorian music hall style artists, boogie woogie piano and rock and roll. Their 1979 breakthrough single “Gertcha” which is a song about the sound one of their dad’s makes when he is annoyed about something is a great example of the genre. At this time, even after the success of the merseybeat sound, many successful British artists were still singing with American accents. Much like the Beatles, Chas and Dave wanted to sing with their own voices, not just in terms of sound but in terms of their life experience. They definitely weren’t trying to appeal to teenage girls.
They released their first album “One Fing ‘n’ Anuvver” in 1975 and although it was not successful in the music chart it was championed by radio DJs including John Peel and they secured a deal with EMI for their next album “Rockney”. Their third album “Don’t Give a Monkey’s” achieved significant success with “Gertcha” , “Rabbit”, a song about a woman who talks too much (“rabbit” is cockney rhyming slang for talk - rabbit and pork = talk) and “The Sideboard Song” , about one of their sisters bringing home an inappropriate boyfriend.
By the early 1980s, they were famous as television entertainers as well as musicians, appearing regularly on variety shows and in a number of beer adverts. They even recorded their very own “Live at Abbey Road” album in 1981 where the studio was converted into an east end pub and and a group of their friends invited to enjoy the show. They were both fans of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and had great success with singles they released for the FA Cup finals the club played in in 1981 and 1982. The first of these “Ossie’s Dream” was their highest charting single up to that point, reaching number 5 (I’m not going to suggest you listen to this track however, because no innocent person should be subjected to England’s weird 1980s and 90s obsession with singing footballers).
They continued encroaching on the chart with their 1982 album “Mustn’t Grumble” and their most successful single, the rather maudlin; “Ain’t No Pleasing You” which reached number 2 in the chart. This chart seems incredible to me, Paul McCartney, Elton John, David Bowie and a host of classic 1980’s pop acts are all languishing below Chas and Dave.
“Margate”, their next single was less commercially successful but was used in an episode of the sitcom “Only Fools and Horses” so remained an ever popular live track. It’s about a family trip to the beach. Further chart success followed in 1986 with another sport related collaboration when “Snooker Loopy” featuring a group of British snooker professionals reached number 6 in the chart unlike their football songs, this is one I would recommend because it’s fun and catchy, even if, like me, your knowledge of snooker is limited.
The rest of the 1980s saw Chas and Dave release a number of collections linked to their television appearances as well as a greatest hits album and a couple of Christmas albums. Their highest charting album came in 1995 when they released “Street Party”. A mix of tunes popular during the Second World War and music hall classics released to coincide with national celebrations of the 50th anniversary of VE day. It rode a wave of national pride and sentimentalism to reach number 2 in the album chart.
In 1998, bizarrely, “Flying” one of their more generic album tracks from the 1980s was picked up by US radio and started being played widely. This prompted them to release some compilation albums in America as well as embarking on an American tour.
In 2003 and 2004 they played with The Libertines at the height of the band’s popularity. The Libertines said Chas and Dave had always been major influences on their work. This endorsement from the band of the moment opened up a whole new audience and with the exception of a hiatus in 2009, they have been touring and playing well received live shows ever since. In 2005, they played Glastonbury and in 2014 they sold out the Royal Albert Hall. Their final album “That’s What Happens” was released in 2013 and included cameos from Jools Holland, Hugh Laurie and J.I Allison (drummer from Buddy Holly and The Crickets).
If I’ve piqued your interest, but you don’t know where to start with their extensive back catalogue. I recommend you check out the 2005 release of their greatest hits which includes most of the tracks I’ve mentioned here as well as my favourite “Poor Ol’ Mr Woogie” and while you do, raise a glass to Chas Hodges, a talented and hardworking musician.