Silverhead live 1973 and 1974

Silverhead live 1973 and 1974
SilverheadlpActually….there a couple of more bands who deserve a day’s blogging before I move on to letter “T” (thanks Mitch and Neil). The first is Silverhead. Looking at singer Michael Des Barres gigography site, I reckon that I saw Silverhead three times, once supporting Wizzard at Sunderland Locarno on 13th July 1973, then supporting Nazareth at Newcastle City Hall on 19th October 1973, and then back, this time headlining, at Sunderland Locarno on 7th June 1974. I certainly remember seeing them at the Mecca (aka Locarno) and have my ticket stub for the Nazareth gig. These gigs blur into a glam rock’n’roll mist….
Silverhead were a British rock’n’roll proto-glam-metal band, with a style, sassiness and attitude, that made them stand apart, way out there from other bands of the time. Fronted by the singer and mime artist/actor, Michael Des Barres; the other members of Silverhead were: Robbie Blunt (guitar; went on to play with Robert Plant), Rod Rook Davies (guitar), Nigel Harrison (bass guitar; went on to play with Blondie) and Pete Thompson (drums). Silverhead only existed for two short years, during which period they recorded two albums, “Silverhead” and “16 and Savaged”, and played some crazy gigs which left a mark on anyone who saw them.
Looking back, Silverhead were way ahead of their time. The guys were the model for many sleaze/trash rock who followed. They all wore make-up, and Des Barres was a crazy, OTT frontman. There were hints of glam-rock in their stage show, but Silverhead were one hot rock’n’roll trash band, and Des Barres had a great screeching, raucous rock voice. These guys were fore-runners of punk, and role models for many sleaze/heavy metal rock bands of the 70s and 80s. I’ve just watched some video on YouTube of Silverhead live, and you can see exactly where Ratt, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses and even the New York Dolls (this was 1973 and Silverhead did tour the USA) got some of their ideas. Dave Thompson, in a review of their first album on AllMusic, calls Silverhead “the first and positively the greatest metal band ever to dress up like a bunch of weird-looking hookers.” And who influenced Silverhead? Well, you can certainly imagine that they listened to T Rex, and some of their music and attitude is not a million miles away from “BlockBuster” or “HellRaiser”; but they took the glamrock of Sweet and Bolan, coupled it with the loud rock of Slade and a hint of the Stones, and twisted it into something much seedier, rauchier and rockier. Live these guys were explosive with a high energy set which contained rock’n’sass classics, a couple of deep ballads, and the crazy adrenaline-charged screaming mania of Des Barres, posing bare-chested and wearing silver lurex trousers. They may have been playing to small clubs, or supporting more established acts, but you could tell, that in his head, Des Barres was already a big rock star.”Subtle as a flying handbag” (Dave Thompson, AllMusic).
Richard Cromelin reviewed a 1973 concert at the Whisky a Go Go, Los Angeles for Phonograph Record magazine: “Des Barres…loves to pose for the cameras, and like the best rock ‘n’ rollers he feeds off the energy that comes from the crowd in front of the stage…..He has a marvelous face as well, with sunken eyes and hollow cheeks that he uses to project a demonic, stylized sexuality…they make you feel their love of performing, their total involvement in and enthusiasm for what they’re doing.”

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mitch on September 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Nice blog Peter.

    Silverhead are one of my favourite bands of all time and were a fantastic live act. I was at all of the three gigs that you mention.
    Des Barres was one of the best front men around at the time – shirt off and constantly patrolling the stage cajoling other band members into giving it their all.

    The set lists were identical at the Wizzard and Nazareth gigs with no encore at either show –
    Hello New York, James Dean, Sold Me Down The River, Only You, Cartoon Princess, Bright Light, Rock Out Claudette Rock Out, 16 And Savaged, Rolling With My Baby, Will You Finance My Rock N Roll Band.

    Their headlining show in June 1974 at Sunderland Mecca was probably the best of the three. Their set included a couple of numbers destined for their third LP but as they were subsequently dropped from Purple Records the album never materialised.

    Highway were the support band and the Silverhead set list was –
    Really Gonna Rock Tonight, James Dean, Hello New York, Ball Breaker, Rolling With My Baby, Bright Light, More Than Your Mouth Can Hold, 16 And Savaged, Will You Finance My Rock N Roll Band / Roll Over Beethoven.
    Encore: Rock Out Claudette Rock Out.

    I had both of their album covers with me at the ’74 gig and after they finished their set I went backstage to have them autographed by all band members. I still have them.


  2. Posted by Neil Thompson on September 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Great stuff Peter, I was at all three gigs also – I regard them (and Heavy metal kids) as a big influence on punk and the Motley Crues/Hanoi rocks of this world. I can still picture all the gigs. The first one Michael wore jeans and he had ‘Sixteen and savaged’ sewn onto the knee of his jeans – ‘we’ve got a new album out’ he said – and he pointed to his knee! For the second Mecca gig he wore a very revealing skintight white pair of trousers. They walked on and he just sat on the small drumriser without saying a word – he eventually came up to the mike and asked ‘ How are you, Sunderland?’ I shouted out ‘;Champion’ and he said ‘ Oh champion are we, that’s good’ and they were straight into the first song – I was chuffed! My best memory of them though is walking into the city hall at the Nazareth gig. They’d just come on and the sight and sound that greeted you when you opened the foyer door was just spine tingling. Brilliant, brilliant gigs – all three of them.


    • Posted by vintagerock on September 24, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      Many thanks Neil. Your memory is so much better than mine! I agree that there are a lot of similarities between Silverhead and Heavy Metal Kids. Cheers Peter


  3. Posted by Steve on January 4, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I saw this brilliant band a few times in 1974 in London, at Dagenham Roundhouse and Chalk Farm Roundhouse. Me and my mates made some leather collars simply by cutting down old belts, as we noticed Micheal usually wore a studded collar. At one gig I noticed he was not wearing one and, while we were air-guitaring at the side of the stage I called to him and threw him my collar, which he tucked down the front of his trousers. Then when they came out for an encore he had put it round his neck. I also made up a big banner on a sheet, saying Welcome Home Marquis Michael And Silverhead, which he wrapped around himself at one point. Later I got it back and have kept it to this day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: