Budgie: a much under-rated rock band. Memories of gigs 1972 – 2005

Budgie: a much under-rated band. Memories of gigs 1973 – 2005
My first memories of Budgie were seeing their name on the bill at the 1972 Lincoln festival. I was at the festival and noticed in the programme that they were playing in the Giants of Tomorrow tent. I remember thinking that Budgie was a strange name for a band. I can’t remember if I actually went to see them; I suspect not, as I spend most of the time in front of the main stage. The next time that Budgie came onto my radar was an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test. They played  Breadfan and the riff just blew me away.  My friend had the album Never Turn Your Back on a Friend, and I spent hours practising and learning the riff. Not long after that I went to see them at the local Locarno ballroom in Sunderland. Seem to remember they started with Breadfan, and played it again as an encore. But they had other great rock songs: Parents, Zoom Club, In the grip of the tyre-fitters hand. The album Never Turn your Back on a Friend is a classic, which I played again and again at the time. Burke Shelley has a unique vocal style. By 1977 Budgie were a regular on the concert hall circuit and often played at Newcastle City Hall. By 1978 guitarist Tony Bourge had left the band, and original drummer Ray Philips had also departed some time ago. Burke Shelley kept the band going, and signed up new guitarist Robert Kendrick. I went to see Budgie twice at the City Hall in 1978. They were still drawing a respectable crowd, but not filling the place, and I was beginning to feel that their time had passed. However, the dawn of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal gave a kick start to their career and a spot at the 1980 Reading Festival, where I saw them play on the Sunday afternoon, kept them in the minds of heavy rock fans.
They returned to headline Reading in 1982, a gig I sadly missed. It was to be over 20 years before I saw Budgie again. In fact the band all but disbanded in the late 80s, concentrating on studio work, and not gigging at all. They returned in the late 90s and started touring the UK again around 10 years ago. Will and I took the chance to see them when they last came to Newcastle in 2005 to play at Trillians Rock Bar, which used to be The Man on the Moon pub in the 70s. The set consisted of some new tracks but the old favourites: Parents, Zoom Club, and of course Breadfan all featured. They were loud, in fact very loud, and the guitarist Simon Lees was excellent. Burke Shelley’s screeching vocals were as strong as ever and he played and looked great. It was really good to see them again. Will and I had tickets to see them again at Trillians a few years later, but the gig was sadly cancelled. The last I heard was that Burke Shelley had taken ill while on tour in Poland. The rest of the tour was cancelled and Burke returned home to recover. Hope he’s OK. Budgie are often forgotten, and are never given the credit they deserve. They were a pretty good solid rock band, who I remember with some fondness. Hope I get to see them again one day. I’ve just found a very old (and very small) programme from the Never Turn Your Back on a Friend tour. I must have got this (probably free) at Sunderland Locarno or Newcastle Mayfair in the early 70s. I didn’t know I had it. I’ve scanned it and added it to the post (see right).

8 responses to this post.

  1. I never saw them play live, but I agree that Never Turn Your Back On A Friend is a great album. The guitar riff of Breadfan is something else. I also really like the Bandolier album. I didn’t know that Burke Shelley had been ill recently. I hope he’s doing OK now.


  2. Posted by Tony Poolan on September 30, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I saw Budgie several times – sometimes their crowds were bigger than others. I saw them when they were touring NTYBOA In For The Kill and Bandolier.

    I always loved them and they were very good live.

    Tony Bourge was a terrific guitarist, sometimes jazzy, sometimes rocky and full of light and shade – when he left they were over really. Burke Shelley obviously was a good bassist and had a very different Geddy Lee like voice – but Bourge was their Joker.

    If I Were Britannia I’d Waive The Rules started the rot and they never recovered.

    It seemed a strange follow up to me.

    I know they carried on and still do but were and are a shadow of what they were.

    I still listen to them today and I have picked up the snippets of live radio stuff etc.


  3. I also went to see Budgie at Sunderland Locarno on the strength of seeing them play “Breadfan” on OGWT, they blew me away. The songs were so strong, they got a great sound out of a three-piece lineup and the song titles were …. different. I remember that a couple of mates and I sneaked backstage to meet the band, and I even got to strum Tony Bourge’s SG. I really miss those old days.


  4. Posted by Ian on October 17, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Budgie were always a great night out – the October ’78 show was a strange one: the support act were called Strife who were a plodding heavy metal trio, if I recall.
    Budgie were between record companies and had picked up Rob Kendrick (ex-Trapeze) on guitar, together with Burke and Steve Williams he played most of the old classics as well as a long number they’d written called “Ocean Rider” (or something like that) A song that AFAIK was never recorded, as Kendrick left before the band got a record deal, when they rode the coat tails of the NWOBHM.
    Before the show we met the band outside the City Hall: Burke and Steve were great, really friendly, Rob Kendrick – not so much.


  5. Posted by Don J Jeroski on April 1, 2020 at 6:26 pm

    Bourge was the man and they were totally under rated They needed to be promoted better as they could command an audience in their prime. Miss them greatly!!


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