wed 26/06/2019

Chas & Dave: Last Orders, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

Chas & Dave: Last Orders, BBC Four

Chas & Dave: Last Orders, BBC Four

The Cockney duo get bigged-up big time

Chas Hodges (left) and Dave Peacock: 'just like The Clash, The Smiths, Keats..."

Chas & Dave’s run of hits up the mid Eighties made them an alternative to the gloss of Wham!, Duran Duran and Culture Club. They had three chart albums in 1983. But was there more to their “rockney” music than a first take suggests? Were they more than a cockney slanted, pie ‘n’ mash Wurzels? This programme, prompted by their 2009 retirement, made a valiant – heroic – attempt to elevate them to the level of the greats. Peter Doherty declared them “just like The Clash, The Smiths, Keats”. Obviously, he was thinking of “Snooker Loopy”.

They are pretty great. But by not taking their good-time music at face value, the hyperbole paraded here killed their humour. Do we need to know the complexity of their vocal lines? That their harmonies were unique? What great musicians they were? Their music was never about that. It was about fun.

Dave Peacock offered that he “was in a band called The Rolling Stones. Not that lot”.

A lot was to do with past associations. Chas Hodges was, as noted, a jobbing musician. A journeyman. He played with the Joe Meek-produced instrumental outfit The Outlaws, who also featured the pre-Deep Purple Ritchie Blackmore in their line up. They backed Jerry Lee Lewis. The Beatles were below them on a bill. They backed Gene Vincent. He was than in stellar British soul band Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, who supported The Beatles. Then he went on to the fine British country-rock band Heads, Hands & Feet, who featured ace guitarist Albert Lee. Dave Peacock offered that he “was in a band called The Rolling Stones. Not that lot”.

The epiphany for Hodges came during a US tour with Heads, Hands & Feet. Singing in an American accent to an American audience became tiresome. He looked up his old friend Dave and they formed the duo Chas & Dave in 1972. They could have played London’s pub rock circuit, where they would have fit snugly alongside side Ian Dury’s Kilburn & the High Roads. But they rejected that scene, as it didn’t pay enough. They found their own pubs and built up their own audience. An extraordinary clip showed them playing an all-ages audience that would never have attended a Dr Feelgood show. This sowed the seeds of their success. As did their pedigree and friends, which got them onto the bill at Led Zeppelin's 1979 Knebworth concert and also meant Eric Clapton guested with them on TV. But the real break came with the use of their “Gertcha” in a TV beer ad.

Judging by the audience reaction at their farewell show, they’ll be missed

Roy Hudd was a fascinating contributor, talking about their relationship with music hall. Equally fascinating, and hilarious, was a squirm-inducing clip of them on a breakfast TV sofa, where they were examined like microbes under a microscope slide. Amazing.

What they’ll be remembered for though, is the catchy, irresistible, funny songs and their stand-out composition, “Ain’t no Pleasing You”. The death of Peacock’s wife led them to retire and, judging by the audience reaction at their farewell show, they’ll be missed. Also missed was a balanced look at Peacock’s history, and any acknowledgment that this programme was largely a reiteration of Hodges’ 1987 book Chas Before Dave. It was hard to escape the feeling that Chas & Dave: Last Orders was Chas, more than Dave.

Watch the video for Chas & Dave's “Ain’t no Pleasing You”

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