The Records are probably best remembered for their cult classic and minor hit "Starry Eyes" -- a near-perfect song that defined British power pop in the '70s. And while they never quite matched the success of that record, their high-quality output from 1979 to 1982 has not only held up better than most of the era with its timeless appeal, but has also served as a blueprint for the various waves of British and American power pop since then. Some have gone as far as to call them "the British Big Star," which is probably a fair comparison -- within their genre, they're seen as giants, yet the general public has missed them for the most part.
The band was formed around 1977, when pub rockers Kursaal Flyers broke up. The drummer from the band, Will Birch, and vocalist/guitarist John Wicks, who had joined the Kursaals in the last stages, began writing together, inspired by the pure pop tradition of the Raspberries, Badfinger, and Big Star. By 1978, they had completed the group by adding bassist Phil Brown and guitarist Huw Gower. After a series of live gigs, they released their debut, "Starry Eyes," on the independent Record Company label in November of the same year. They received some valuable early exposure on the Stiff label's Be Stiff tour, which led to their signing with Virgin Records.
Wicks and Birch continued to churn out should-have-been-hits pop classics over the next three years and three albums -- 1979's Shades in Bed (released in a slightly modified form as The Records in the U.S.), 1980's Crashes (which found Jude Cole replacing Gower), and 1982's Music on Both Sides (which replaced Cole with Dave Whelan and added another vocalist, Chris Gent). Aside from a minor hit with "Starry Eyes" in the U.S., their efforts were criminally unrewarded. The band broke up in 1982, though they re-formed temporarily in 1990 to contribute a track to a Brian Wilson tribute album. Birch went on to become a notable music critic and historian; he also compiled several compact disc reissues, including Naughty Rhythms: The Best of Pub Rock. Wicks began a solo career in the mid-'90s, appearing on the Yellow Pills, Vol. 3 collection with a song co-written with Birch, "Her Stars Are My Stars" -- a pop gem that picked up right where they left off. "Starry Eyes" continues to be a cult pop classic -- still heavily requested on alternative radio retro shows. ~ Chris Woodstra