The Rich Kids - Ghosts Of Princes In Towers

The Rich Kids
Ghosts Of Princes In Towers

Released 1978 on EMI
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 27/10/2007ce

1. Strange One
2. Hung On You
3. Ghosts Of Princes In Towers
4. Cheap Emotions
5. Marching Men
6. Put You In The Picture
7. Young Girls
8. Bullet Proof Lover
9. Rich Kids
10. Lovers And Fools
11. Burning Sounds
CD Bonus tracks
12. Empty Words
13. Here Comes The Nice (live)
14. Only Arsenic

Glen Matlock-bass guitar, vocals
Midge Ure-guitar, vocals, keyboards
Steve New-guitar, vocals, keyboards
Rusty Egan-drums
Ian McLagen-Keyboards (on track 4)
Produced by Mick Ronson

Much has been said about this album over the years, most of it has been negative. The words "murky", and "cloudy" have been used over and over in describing the record's production by David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson. Personally I could never understand the criticism levelled at the record as to my ears it's an outstanding album that is head and shoulders above anything The Jam or Buzzcocks had yet released at the time. In fact there was a strong rumor at the time the group was forming that The Jam's Paul Weller was considering joining the Rich Kids (he of course was suffering a writer's block at the time of The Jam's second album.) While the Weller rumor never materialized guitarists Steve New (briefly a Sex Pistol) & Midge Ure more than carried the freight.

I have always been a big fan of Glen Matlock and at one time I thought he might become one of the great songwriters of his generation. Sadly Glen only sporadically showed his immense promise over the years most notably in the short lived group The Spectres. Of course Matlock will always be remembered as the guy who was tossed out of The Sex Pistols for allegedly liking The Beatles, however history has vindicated Glen as the guy who more or less shaped the Sex Pistols best songs and let's face it Sid Vicious was a musical nothing. Perhaps many people were expecting The Rich Kids to be the Sex Pistols 2, which they clearly weren't. Glen Matlock was his own man and a big fan of melody as was apparent when one first heard The Rich Kids. To me the Rich Kids had a similar approach to Generation X (another great group who were treated unfairly by critics.)

One of the reasons some were disappointed with the album "Ghosts Of Princes In Towers" might have been the astonishing 45's that preceded it, most notably the group's third single which carried the album's namesake. When it's all said and done the song "Ghosts Of Princes In Towers" was one of the great 45's of it's era, I would rank it along with "Another Girl, Another Planet" by The Only Ones, "Do Anything You Wanna Do" by Eddie & The Hot Rods & "2, 4, 6, 8 Motorway" by Tom Robinson Band, "Ghosts" is one of those great songs that makes you feel life surely is worth living (it can be lethal when listening to it while driving though!)

When encountering this album it's clear from the start that The Rich Kids are not Glen Matlock's trip alone, singer/guitarist Midge Ure steps up to the plate with some great songs that provide a nice contrast to Matlock's material. While guitarist Steve New and drummer Rusty Egan provide both flash and muscle on their respective instruments. Steve New would actually emege later as a gifted songwriter on the material from the group's aborted second album.

The opening number "Strange One" is just that, a strange opener that actually carries the post-punk sound of 1979 a year early, it reminds me a great deal of early Ultravox blended with the sound of late period Buzzcocks and even Wire. It's an impressive beginning and really sets the table for this great album. "Hung On You" is a blast of high charged power pop that sounds like the Dwight Twilley Band on steroids, this would have made for a smashing 45. Following it is the aforementioned title track "Ghosts Of Princes In Towers" which just never gets old and is as good as British rock gets, clearly a song for the ages!!! "Cheap Emotions" is nothing really special but is certainly worthy of an album slot as it bridges the gap to the most experimental track on the album Midge Ure's "Marching Men" (the group's 2nd single), this number is quite a change from the group's normal sound but it is fantastic in it's own right. Similar to "Strange One" the song leans heavily on keyboards and atmosphere before exploding in a rousing climax. This ends side one of the original record.

Side two opens with 2 reasonable power-pop charmers in "Put You In The Picture" & "Young Girls" both of which bring to the underrated UK group The Boys. The record closes out with one firecracker after another, beginning with the hell bent slasher "Bullet Proof Lover" this is followed by the group's debut single "Rich Kids" which of course is spledid, some have said this song sounds like The Monkees in that is a musical introduction the group itself in a similar fashion as "The Monkees Theme" I'm A Monkees freak myself so comparing anyone to The Monkees is a high compliment. "Lovers & Fools" is another wonderful melodic rocker with an interesting groove and rattling percussion (this would have also been a great 45 on an LP brimming with them.) The original album closes proper with the positively inspiring "Burning Sounds" which has the power of The Clash with the melodic grace of Gen X at their best! A fantastic finale to a truly underrated album that just begs for re-discovery. In my opinion The Rich Kids reduce anything Oasis have ever done to ashes.

The CD issue rounds up the group's 45 B-sides including the fantastic "Empty Words" & a rough and ready cover of The Small Faces "Here Comes The Nice." The final track "Only Arsenic" (the flipside of the "Ghosts" 45) is worth the price of admission all by itself. It ranks right up with the group's best songs and features a passionate vocal by Matlock and blistering guitar work. In fact leaving this song off the original album was a major error in judgement. The Rich Kids were planning a followup album to "Ghosts Of Princes In Towers" that never materialized until the 90's when several of the out-takes were compiled on the outstanding "Burning Sounds" collection on Rev-ola label. The Rich Kids did have a re-union of sorts on Glen Matlock's great solo album from 1996 "Who's He Think He Is When He's At Home" which featured Steve New and Bob Andrews from Gen X. Glen continues to record and who knows he may just one day deliver that masterpiece that I always though he was capable of.

Some similar albums you might enjoy:

1. The Undertones-The Undertones (1979)
2. The Only Ones-Even Serpent's Shine (CBS 1979)
3. Empire-Expensive Sound (Dinosaur Discs 1981)
4. The Skids-The Absolute Game (Virgin 1980)
5. The Gas-Emotional Warfare (Polydor 1981)
6. Gen X-Kiss Me Deadly (Chrysalis 1980)
7. The Lurkers-God's Lonely Men (Beggars Banquet 1978)
8. The Jam-All Mod Cons (Polydor 1978)
9. The Damned-Machine Gun Etiquette (Chiswick 1979)
10. Glen Matlock-Who's He Think He Is When He's At Home (Creation 1996)

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