Some American bands are great. Some I'd be glad to have in my collection if I could find them, but how many stupid Grateful Dead wannabes and loser bar band and supper club lounge rock records does one country need!!!!? None is the answer, but we have about a zillion. From the trash pop of The Frederic down to the morbid sickness and irritatingly talentless Strawberry Alarm Clock there are so many bad American records you could, if your taste was bad enough, have about 600 horrible American albums. At a time when exciting music was being produced in this country so was absolute drivel and the sheer volume had a lot to do with it. Everybody wanted to get in on every trend that was going on in America from the psychedelic era through the metal era. It would not sour completely until grunge and alternative came along, but there were too many bands without enough to say or enough musical abilities to make them worthwhile. Megaton have few American bands who can match their quality, but in all fairness for brilliance you'd have trouble beating them out with a lot of good to even great British bands. Megaton were long believed to be British because of the ultra rare and expensive UK press on Deram (which I could have had for $60 back in 1994 and didn't even have that much money then....), but that is completely wrong. They were basically a studio project formed by British vocalist Jimmy Bilsbury previously of The Magic Lanterns and ex members of the German group Die Anderen which had made two amazing albums one called KANNIBAL KOMIX and the other under the moniker Apocalypse. I could go on further in my introduction, but let me get straight to the point here: Megaton is the best album there is in a loaded genre and for the expensive price tag on any pressing of it by now they are a case of quality matching the rarity and expense. As the German press sounds amazing I'm very happy with it and when you consider this is a German based record it also makes more sense to own it as a German original issue.
So you're probably wondering now what makes these two albums so good. Read further.
-Megaton's Amazing One Off Masterpiece A Classic Of Hard Rock Pop Psych-
Megaton are astonishingly good. This album is a masterpiece and an unlikely pairing of 60s influenced pop hooks, early 70s melodic rock, and all out screaming Led Zeppelin alike hard rock riffs and vocals. Personally, this is a better album to me than Elias Hulk as much as I love them and wish I owned their record. The vocals are better, the songs are better, and so is the playing. A unique album, it actually is the third in the Die Anderen trilogy with a new singer/co writer in Englishman Jimmy Bilsbury who had been the lead singer in the fantastic pop rock group Magic Lanterns. As far off from them as you can get is what you'll hear from him in Megaton. He sings with some real ferocity and throws in the Robert Plant wailings here too. His tough R&B gets an extra push from his unexpected banshee-like screeches. There is plenty of variety in Megaton too. There's great melodies, really impressive and lighthearted much of the time lyrics, sharp cutting guitar work, and awesome riffs in every song. For my ears this is a dream record- perfect from start to finish.
"Out Of Your Own Little World" reminds me of what would happen if Steve Winwood had stepped into Led Zeppelin with pop hooks and thickly German accented harmonies. Bilsbury sounds amazing- spot on! Also, the extended guitar solo is mind melting. The vocals couldn't be stronger or better, the melodies are awesome, and you'll groove on the Latin percussion rhythms which are another Megaton trademark. Where Apocalypse were as dark and menacing as their name implies Megaton are very different from that. The band Die Anderen changed from album to album and this album seems to capture the best of early 70s melodic hard rock as much as Kannibal Komix is a great pop psych record and Apocalypse is fantastic for a heavy psychedelic freak out album. I'd suggest tracking down all three, but get the German of Kannibal Komix as the triple foldout cover and sound quality beat the shit out of the American issue which also omits "Die Anderen" as the band name. The band didn't do very well commercially at the time and for no good reason Megaton did not reverse this trend. Not enough people could hear them at the time and as they didn't really do much outside of the studio they partially have only got themselves to blame or else thank because they made music they believed in and music that mattered maybe unfortunately only to them at the time. Megaton, however, I think well should have made them a worldwide sensation. From the powerhouse riffing to the melodic rock last two tracks which are outstanding this album packs the best of everything in.
"Niagara" and "Wanna Be A Hero" are two more hard rockers with classy guitar work, frantic vocals, and in the latter some excellent anti war lyrics. "Niagara" is a nonsense lyric that may only have sense in him blowing off every girl who tries to turn him on whilst "Wanna Be A Hero" is an angry slamming of the consequences of pointless warfare. The cutting lyrics attack every war as a blatant abuse of human rights and a brainwashing of young people to go off and get killed for their country with the heroic actions not worth the losses. I would agree. Most of Megaton is about having a good time, but one serious track is a nice change of pace from the carefree nature of the rest of the album. Give full marks to the whole band- this is superb musicianship mixed with sloppy raw power reminding me a good deal of the UK bands Stray and Free as well as Led Zeppelin. Dare I say even better than the nearly equally awesome Leafhound!? I think I would say that!
"Fairy Tale Song" captures Megaton at their most out of this world nonsensical with screaming crazed vocals turning Alice In Wonderland into something only Jimmy Bilsbury could make sense of. For the fiercest track on the album it's also lyrically the most humourous together with Side One's closing track "Coo Cooki Choo." Megaton is hard rock with killer pop hooks. Catchy music for when you feel down and depressed. If you want an album that will pick you up look no further. I want to dance to this album when I play it. I always shake around and move a lot when it's on. It makes me feel brilliant! Personally, I'm a big fan of Magic Lanterns and British pop in general. I also love some American 60s through 80s pop. There is a bit of The Grass Roots during their peak in here too which is fine with me. I think that "Shame Shame" is a great song, but is outclassed by other tracks on the Magic Lanterns' album which have more depth to them. The Magic Lanterns albums were a solid thing for Jimmy Bilsbury to use as a springboard for when Megaton mixed the solid pop with solid hard rock. If you want really furious loud blasting dark hard rock then look elsewhere. If you have an open mind and especially if you like melodic hard rocking albums look no further.
"Coo Cooki Choo" is as you can guess from the title a bright, silly, fun, happy track about getting high and having a good time. I can get high on music I don't need drugs. There's a lot of congas, timbales, marracas, etc on this album with Latin and African rhythms lending some exotica to the songs. I like percussive grooving riff heavy rock a lot so this is really cool- you can dance to it as I said. The world is a very upsetting place. People are selfish slime a lot of them and politicians lie through their teeth at us. It was a different place back then, although the issues go back a million ages. When I'm sick of the world and sick of other people bringing me down I go to music for the cure that never fails. I love "Coo Cooki Choo," but don't let this song make you think smoking tons of pot will solve your problems- you will end up brain damaged! Drugs were one of the main things that demolished the 60s. The more drug use there was the less real issues were being solved. People's fantasies that they thought drugs would bring out more instead turned to a nightmare. With the high casualty count of drugs and alcohol it's pointless to argue against my anti drug beliefs. I saw what it did to my mates in high school and it was a major tragedy to have to break off every friendship I had when the damage of drug intake ruined all of them. I love "Coo Cooki Choo" for how fun it is, but don't think this good time lyric about marijuana makes it or any other drug a good way out.
Side Two is in some ways even better than Side One. It continues the solid rock, but progressively the songs get more melodic rock/pop oriented and Bilsbury sings so well you just won't believe how good this guy is! His performances in every track on Megaton put him up there with the best. I mean the best. Steve Winwood, Paul Rodgers, Robert Plant, Rod Stewart, Glenn Hughes- this guy is up there with them all! "Carry It On At The End" is almost Afro Rock- lots of rhythms, tribal harmonies, and some unexpected Reggae influences also. Not being afraid to try new things is always good. If you want hard rock with a high freakiness factor this is closer to the great band Lake than hard rock or Lucifer's Friend at their most straightforward and least histrionic. It rocks and rocks hard, but the melodically oriented songwriting which for some people will leave them wanting something more noise than content have always had me convinced this is better than nearly all the most over the top screaming albums of the time especially some of the utterly horrendous sub Deep Purple bands of whom only Warhorse is worth investigation. I won't name anyone specifically, but I think you may know who I mean. Leafhound is a great record, one of the best ever, but remember that Pete French is a real singer and Leafhound had real songs. Some people put Megaton and Leafhound down because they don't fit in with Stonewall or the other American rubbish bands of that all screaming no melody kind. You're better off with New York Dolls and Aerosmith. I think you get my point. Melody is needed in hard rock. Where would Sabbath have been without it!? NOWHERE! Black Sabbath, the classic bands, they don't include Deep Purple for me as if I want something out there I prefer it to at least have some intelligence. Do I really have to say it? Iron Maiden- that is where I draw the line. I like some of it, but you won't find any of their albums in my collection. Judas Priest did it a lot better. Bruce Dickinson's tantrums and screaming fits are done in by more interesting singers such as Tony Mills in Shy and that other Tony dude Tony Harnell before TNT sold out on INTUITION. Back in the 70s there seemed to be more of an emphasis on songs and melodies which by the 90s were killed off by noise. I love heavy metal. It's one of my favourite kinds of music, but I want my metal with substance.
The further Megaton get into Side Two the more melodic the songs get and "Woman I'm Gonna Make You Mine" rocks with great soulful vocals, driving guitar riffs, and Bilsbury's trademark boogie rock piano which brings to mind some of Peter Hecht's work in Asterix and the band they became Lucifer's Friend. Do you Like John Lawton? You'll like Bilsbury. I love them both! "Woman I'm Gonna Make You Mine" I wish had been a hit. I'd way rather hear any song off Megaton than the throw-it-out-the-window rubbish of the Doobie Brothers who for me are probably the worst of the worst from America in the 70s. Jeff Skunk Baxter's name is true only in that all he can do is stink, but he ain't cute like a skunk more like a pile of crap! If I start to hear a Doobie Brother's song I scream for the station to be changed. Awful! My most hated commercial rock hit of the 70s indeed is "Listen To The Music" which is utterly useless. If I want commercial I'll stick with The Eagles thank you.
There is nothing wrong with radio friendly music and I don't understand what the big problem with that is supposed to be. If a song is catchy and quality at the same time how can you put it down and trash it? Megaton will not be your cup of tea if you are a snob. So don't be such a snob! People get into some strange things. They don't like melodic progressive rock so for them it starts and ends with Canterbury Fusion which I've never liked. Early Soft Machine is awesome and so is early Caravan, but they wrote real songs. The vocals were not tuneless they were just under the music. I usually prefer the vocals to be right on top of the music which is how they are in Megaton also in most AOR. So the question can be asked about Megaton as a proto AOR band. I would say definitely yes, but AOR of a different kind. This is a unique album. The production job is a bit rawer than the music itself which is very radio geared, but also very clever. There's some outright weirdness too.
"Man In An Aeroplane" is the strangest track on the record and leans towards progressive pop without the form and structure of the other songs. This track sounds like Die Anderen in a weird and experimental version of God Knows What! Unreal to the point of surreal. A lot of Megaton is coming out of what happened to Germany in World War 2 and that is common for German records of the 70s. It was an awful and tragic loss that saw a madman rise to power and abuse his own people to the point of utter devastation and the crushing of a whole world in war. War is the worst thing. I don't understand the point of getting young men killed for an "idea." That idea is always ill-founded and a lie. We haven't learned. "Man In An Aeroplane" is about a guy who runs out of gas in his plane on a mission and who falls into a well. Not a happy lyric.
After the one downer come the two most perfect upbeat songs of Anglo/Germanic pop rock before Lake "Life Was Easy Yesterday" and "Tomorrow Never Comes My Way." No other record I can think of has two songs this good to close the album. The melodies are fantastic and the Elton John influences I'm fine with! I love some of Elton John's songs and these two would have fit well on one of his early records or on the Orange Bicycle record which featured three John/Taupin covers. However, the sound is more European and more like Lake who may well be my favourite band. "Life Was Easy Yesterday" is sparkling pop- wonderful! The groovy piano riffs and sweet harmonies are awesome. "Tomorrow Never Comes My Way" is a great melodic pop/rock song with emotive soulful vocals and a surprisingly Band influenced pastoral take on early 70s rock. I've not mentioned The Band before as only in this song is the influence really visible, but they did a lot for music. In many ways they ushered in the 70s with their melody rich songs and earthy warm vocals. The Band were catalysts. So were The Hollies, but unfortunately the promise of the two didn't last as long as I wish it had. I guess you get a bit of everything on Megaton. Find this album, please track it down. It really is special and you can't lose. I would say that here there is the absolute zenith of the early 70s- the very best there is! Music from a time that I can happily imagine when I listen to all the great classic 60s/70s/80s rock bands. Keep an open mind and you'll be surprised at what you'll find!