Hello: The Singles Collection
Released 19 March 2021
2CD collection of all the single sides recorded in the 1970s by glam rock act Hello, who are best known for big hits Tell Him and New York City Groove. This set also has as a bonus three tracks taken from drummer Jeff Allen’s early 1980s solo singles….Ian Canty says Hello again…
Unlike the majority of glam rock pretenders, Hello actually qualified by age for a teenage rampage. The four band members Bob Bradbury, Jeff Allen, Vic Faulkner and Keith Marshall first came together in Tottenham, North London under the name The Age in 1968, when they were all just 12 years of age. Initially they acted as the backing outfit for singer Carol Hall, the daughter of their booking agent and in this form they put in an appearance on the ITV kids show Magpie. Parting company with the Halls in 1971, they celebrated this change by switching the band name to Hello.
Soon afterwards, they were taken on by the team of Russ Ballard and David Blaylock, the latter taking up the management duties and to this end got them a deal with the Bell record label. For his part Ballard, also a member of ex-Zombie Rod Argent’s rock band Argent, was a budding songsmith. Though Hello wrote their own songs, Ballard would supply most the a sides for their singles as they attempted to make a breakthrough on the UK charts. The band themselves had to be content with writing the flipsides.
It was a struggle to begin with, as the pretty listenable and dynamic You Move Me, C’mon and Another School Days 7-inches all flopped. The latter was a particularly engaging rocker, a tough and loveable version of The Troggs reset for glam times. Combined with the energetic drive of C’mon Get Together on the flip, it all made for a tasty disc that really should have done better.
The Bert Russell song from the early 1960s, Tell Him, was resurrected by the band for their fourth single. Enhanced with a contemporary racing beat, it slowly edged its way up the charts until it finally found a place in the UK top 10. Again it was furnished with a good self-penned flipside in Lightning. Going into 1975 everything looked bright for Hello, but for some inexplicable reason their excellent follow-up Game’s Up floundered. It did however makes a reasonable impact in Germany, a country that took the band to their hearts. Faced with this misfire, they fell back to the tactic of modernising another well worn cover, releasing an unsuccessful and fairly duff version of the Amen Corner hit Bend Me Shape Me.
After this second setback in a row, Hello struck big again with the Russ Ballard song/blues stomp New York City Groove, which made number 9 in the UK pop charts. This hit was the end of their success in their home country, but Germany remained fairly receptive to their brand of youthful glam stomping, with Hello charting there into 1977. New York City Groove’s cool, understated follow up with a nicely sly lyric Star Studded Sham possibly deserved to emulate its predecessor, but didn’t. Next the Teenage Revolution/Keep Us Off The Streets 7-inch release was pulled at the last minute by the record label, which couldn’t have done much for Hello’s confidence. They were two perfectly good if not earthshattering tracks off the band’s debut album, even if spring 1976 was late for their glam sound.
The next single given a proper release, Love Stealer, was their final one for Bell, as the imprint itself folded and parent company Arista picked up Hello instead. This had a far more laidback sound than before, one which recognised the need to revamp themselves in a rapidly changing music scene. Unfortunately, it was another record by the band that did well in Germany and stiffed in the UK. The song was later covered by Cliff Richard. On the other side of this disc was Out Of Our Heads, more of their standard and by now a bit dated glam beat.
By the time we reach the second disc of The Singles Collection, Hello were firmly in a downwards trajectory, with even Germany beginning to lose interest. The fairly standard rock-pop of Seven Rainy Days was issued on mainland Europe only and may have listeners recalling Smokie. It is pleasant enough, but you can see why it didn’t make a huge splash. B side Rebel is a touch more imaginative though. By the time of its March 1977 issue, New York City Groove knock-off Let It Rock must have seemed like it belonged to a different age, but it did at least make the German top 30.
Shine On Silver Light, in quite a different style, came hard on the heels of Let It Rock and did nothing. To be honest it wasn’t a strong record, MOR pop with strings really and not even that catchy. On the other side, galloping rocker Gotta Lotta Soul was a slight improvement. The more upbeat blues-rock of the Good Old USA/Midnight Strangers single did however restore them to the lower reaches of the German charts.
For their final UK 7″ Hello offered Heart Get Ready For Love, a limping pop-rock song that didn’t really suit a band that were much better off when making a pleasing racket. The tougher Slow Motion was an improvement that again tapped into blues rock and b side The In Place isn’t bad either. That the German follow up was an update of Hi Ho Silver Lining says it all about Hello’s standing in the late 1970s. Their final single was Feel This Thing, a good effort that had a danceable disco backbeat and an insistent hook. The longer DJ version is especially fine, so at least Hello went out on a high.
The band’s career ground to a final halt in 1979. Keith Marshall opted to go solo while Hello was in its death throes and he scored a UK hit single with Only Crying two years after the split. Drummer Jeff Allen also tried his luck with a single called Horoscope under the name Local Boy Makes Good in 1981. It’s an interesting enough new wave/electropop curio that isn’t a million miles away from what his brother Chris Cross of Ultravox was doing at the time. The flipside Hypnotic Rhythm is an epic sounding synth thing and Jeff must have been suitably emboldened to issue his second (and final) 7-inch Good Times under his own name. But this tune was far different in style, sounding like a throwback to glam in fact, with handclaps and squealing sax sat atop a big beat rhythm.
I reviewed the Hello – The Albums release in 2016 (you can read that review here) and while you’re not missing much if you already possess that set, The Singles Collection gives one a full rundown of most of their better moments at a reasonable price. The Jeff Allen single tracks are good to have, but hardly essential. Hello’s b sides were generally worth a listen, which makes this set of more value. For example, The Wench is a neat freewheeling rocker and Game’s Up had the brilliant flip Do It All Night, which is positively punky and really catchy. I couldn’t help thinking it possibly was a little wasted as a flipside, as it would have made a good single in its own right.
Hello never had the success of Bowie, Bolan, Slade or The Sweet, but were a good second string glam act. Game’s Up was a real gem and though their self-penned efforts were often consigned to b sides, they were more often than not equal to the outside songs foisted on them. I had fun listening to this and Hello certainly had their moments, far more of them than their “two hits wonder” status might suggest.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here