Nine Below Zero – Don’t Point Your Finger (1981)

FrontCover1Nine Below Zero are an English blues band, who have a cult following throughout Europe, and were most popular during the period 1980–1982.

The band was originally formed in South London in 1977, by guitarist and lead vocalist Dennis Greaves. He was joined by bassist Peter Clark, Kenny Bradley on drums, and vocalist and harmonica player Mark Feltham. They were originally names ‘Stan’s Blues Band’, and for the next two years they played in London clubs.

In 1979, while playing at The Thomas A’Beckett pub in the Old Kent Road they accepted an offer from former musician Mickey Modern to manage them. Modern persuaded the band to change their name. Greaves chose Nine Below Zero after the Sonny Boy Williamson II song. Modern was signed to A&M Records and he persuaded A&M to give him a record label, M&L Records, to launch Nine Blow Zero.

In 1980 the band released their first album, Live at the Marquee, which was recorded on 16 June 1980. Bradley was replaced as drummer by Stix Burkey. By the end of that year they had built an audience, particularly amongst fans of the new wave of British heavy metal attracted by their high-energy, fast-tempo sound. They headlined at the Hammersmith Odeon and featured Alexis Korner, a long-time champion of new electric blues talent.

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In 1981, they released their second album, Don’t Point Your Finger, produced by Glyn Johns. Johns complained the bass was too basic for the new songs, so the band subsequently replaced Clark with bass player Brian Bethell. The band appeared on The Chris Tarrant Show, The South Bank Show, O.T.T., The Old Grey Whistle Test, and the BBC2 comedy series The Young Ones performing “11+11”. They also supported The Kinks and The Who on tour. Don’t Point Your Finger reached number 56 on the UK Albums Chart. Their third album, Third Degree, contained “11+11”, written by Greaves and Modern. The album spent six weeks in the chart and peaked at number 38. After this, the band split up. Bethell joined The Blow Monkeys and Feltham went on to session work, most notably for Rory Gallagher. Arnold became manager of The Truth, and refused Modern’s suggestions to re-form Nine Below Zero. In 1990, IRS Records’s interest in The Truth was fading, and Modern persuaded Feltham and Greaves to reunite for a tenth anniversary concert.

Arnold – now worked at Harvey Goldsmith Ents – promoted the band at the Town and Country Club. They added Gerry McAvoy and Brendan O’Neill from Rory Gallagher’s band on bass and drums. In 1992, Feltham left due to musical differences and was replaced by Alan Glen. Feltham returned in 2001 and the band has continued to tour and record. In 1995, harmonica player Billy Boy Miskimmin was added.

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In 2005, their track “Go Girl” was included in the Of Hands and Hearts: Music for the Tsunami Disaster Fund compilation album. In 2007, Nine Below Zero performed two acoustic concerts, producing the DVD Bring It On Home, including a live CD. Blues guitarist Gary Moore joined the band on stage to promote the DVD. In August 2008, Nine Below Zero appeared at the Rhythm Festival in Bedfordshire and later opened for Chuck Berry at The 100 Club. In 2009, the band started working towards a show to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of their debut album, Live at the Marquee.

Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze offered to record the album that Greaves and Feltham had been writing. They recorded It’s Never Too Late – their first collection of new songs since Refrigerator. European tours followed, including supporting Jools Holland and Paul Jones.

In 2011, they worked with Tilbrook under the name The Co-operative. In July 2011 one track, the Beatles song “You Never Give Me Your Money” was used on a Mojo magazine special celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road. The band were preparing for a tour in 2012. Gerry McAvoy left at the end of 2011 to pursue a solo career.

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2012 saw the return of Brian Bethell who played on Third Degree. The new lineup started performing in January with shows in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, as the band enter their 35th year.

Following on from 2012’s remastered re-release of Nine Below Zero’s live debut Live at the Marquee came a double instalment; remastered editions of the first two studio albums Don’t Point Your Finger and Third Degree, each with a separate disc of bonus material, was released on 24 February 2014 through Universal Music.

A nationwide month-long 22-date tour in support of The Stranglers began on 27 February 2014.[citation needed] The band then undertook a 35th Anniversary tour in Autumn 2014.[citation needed] The second half of 2016 saw the release of the band’s first “big band” album, this new line made their live debut at Glastonbury Festival in June after which the big band toured extensively through the autumn and beyond. On 27 October 2018, the band played King George’s Hall, Blackburn, supporting Bruce Foxton’s From The Jam, with Russell Hastings performing lead vocals with songs from The Jam’s All Mod Cons. (wikipedia)

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For many discerning fans, Nine Below Zero far outpaced the Jam wannabes that doomed Britain’s so-called mod revival era. They even opened for the Who, whose favorite producer, Glyn Johns, oversaw this second A&M album. (Like other 1979-era revivalist bands, the group has re-formed on an intermittent basis.) Nine Below Zero show themselves as sharp players with plenty of hooks up their sleeves. Stix Burkey and Peter Clark whack out a disciplined rhythm attack without fussiness or flourishes, leaving the interplay to singer/harpist Mark Feltham and the main songwriter, lead guitarist Dennis “The Menace” Greaves. Greaves’ tunes successfully execute ’60s R&B toughness, yet are updated enough to grace a teen scooter fanatic’s good books. “One Way Street” is a punchy, doing-it-my-way anthem (“They told me to go by the book/But look at the time that it took”), while the roughhouse R&B of the title track and “Treat Her Right” come across like a speedier Yardbirds.

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The feel’s that close, but Greaves and cohorts have the skill to pull it off. The group expresses their bluesier side on “Ain’t Comin’ Back” and the slow-burning “Sugar Mama,” and also dips back into ’50s-style roots rave-ups with a credible cover of “Rockin’ Robin.” “Helen”‘s trebly poppiness offers another nice diversion, being a working stiff’s plea to his anxious wife (“You’re the one I’m thinking of/When I come home late from my job”). An unpretentious sense of humor also makes itself heard on the title track and “Liquor Lover,” which chides a girlfriend who’s too fond of the fizzy stuff (which is reminiscent of how Rockpile sent up overeating on their own “Knife and Fork”). Greaves’ quest for authenticity occasionally falls flat; “Three Times Enough” is as barely disguised a rewrite of “The Train Kept a-Rollin'” as you’ll ever hear. However, the group’s enthusiasm is contagious in all the right places, as typified by its anthemic closer, “You Can’t Please All the People All the Time.” Don’t let the revivalist tag stop you from putting this album in your collection. (by Ralph Heibutzki)

Listen to this high speed, high energy R & B … or: the Pretty Things meets The Blues Band …

And they know of course Chuck Berry … listen to “Doghouse” … and The Kinks … listen to “Treat Her Right” … and enjoy the powerful sound of Nine Below Zero !

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Personnel:
Stix Burkey (drums)
Peter Clark (bass)
Mark (The Harp) Feltham (vocals, harmonica)
Dennis (The Menace) Greaves (vocals, guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. One Way Street (Greaves) 3.43
02. Doghouse (Greaves/Turner) 2.21
03. Liquor Lover (Greaves/Turner) 2.52
04. Helen (Greaves) 3.42
05. Ain’t Comin’ Back (Greaves/Turner) 2.53
06. I Won’t Lie (Greaves) 3.42
07. Treat Her Right (Head) 2.23
08. Three Times Enough (Greaves/Burkey) 1.58
09. Sugar Mama (Burnett) 5.08
10. Don’t Point Your Finger At The Guitar Man (Greaves/Turner) 2.44
11. Rockin’ Robin (Thomas) 2.23
12. You Can’t Please All The People All The Time (Greaves) 5.18

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