Stay What You Wanna Be
The Making of Budgie’s Never Turn Your Back on a Friend
1973. Led Zeppelin breaks The Beatles’ live attendance record in Tampa, Florida. The patent for the ATM is granted to Donald Wetzel, George Chastain and Tom Barnes. And in June, Welsh hard rockers issue their third full-length, Never Turn Your Back on a Friend. The years leading up to 1973 were auspicious for Budgie, who, along with Black Sabbath, UFO, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, are cited as the spark that would launch a thousand heavy riffs, a myriad of metallic sub-genres and this very magazine in the decades to follow. The Cardiff-based trio, discovered by producer Rodger Bain (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest), are coming off their second album, Squawk, with “Hot as a Docker’s Armpit,” “Rocking Man” and Side-B opener “Drugstore Woman” driving hard at and shaking the very foundations of rock music.
As with most bands, there was turmoil in Budgie—drummer Ray Phillips would find the exit—but that didn’t stop the hard-working, fire-spitting threesome from making the follow-up to Squawk in the form of Never Turn Your Back on a Friend. Donned with yet another timeless Roger Dean cover, featuring a better production, and opening with “Breadfan,” famously covered by thrash metal giants Metallica in 1988 as a B-Side to the “Harvester of Sorrow” single, Budgie helped usher in the Era of the Riff. Across Never Turn Your Back on a Friend guitarist Tony Bourge finds riffs and licks that would become staples—if not requirements—for any band vying for heavy metal gold. Likewise, the coordinated thump of singer Burke Shelley’s bass lines would tell legions of would-be guitar players that the four-string was a much hipper instrument, while Ray Phillips’ calculated-yet-animalistic drum hits would inform hordes of future skin bashers that Keith Moon and Bill Ward weren’t the only cool cats with two sticks. Songs like “Breadfan,” “You’re the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk,” “In the Grip of a Tyrefitter’s Hand” and the ever-magical “Parents” displayed Budgie as not just innovators of heavy but damned fine songwriters in their own right.
From Metallica and Alice in Chains to Iron Maiden and Soundgarden, Budgie were a major influence on generations. They may not be as prominent or name-drop worthy as Black Sabbath or UFO, but Shelley, Bourge and Phillips illuminated the pages of hard rock and heavy metal history nonetheless. It’s with great pleasure and long-standing respect that we are able to welcome Budgie into the Decibel Hall of Fame. Please, do enter.
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