In the mid-Seventies, away from the pop charts but working hard at the coal face of the live music scene, one of the more entertaining bands on the London circuit was The Heavy Metal Kids.
They straddled glam and punk without really fitting into either genre; one thing they definitely weren’t is heavy metal (the name came from William S. Burroughs). I suppose the nearest thing to them was The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
They brought out three albums between 1974-77 but they seem to have disappeared into a musical black hole – there’s no nostalgic cult around them, no cut-price compilations revered by fans, and you never hear musicians citing them as an influence.
Like the SAHB, their live performances were big on visuals, thanks largely to singer Gary Holton – a protégé of the Sadlers Well Opera Company during the early 1960s who had played the Artful Dodger in an acclaimed production of Charles Dickens’ Oliver.
Holton formed the group with Mickey Waller (guitar(, Danny Peyronel (keyboards), Ronnie Thomas (bass) and Keith Boyce (drums), using his Cockney accent and all the experience acquired with the Old Vic Theatre Company and the RSC, as well as the touring company of Hair,
Discovered by Dave Dee, the Kids were signed by Atlantic Records and their debut album was well received, but did little, a fate that also befell their second – the splendidly named Anvil Chorus – released under the abbreviated name The Kids.
After a tour with Alice Cooper, they changed personnel and signed with pop guru Mickie Most’s RAK label – only to sack Holton amid a storm of lurid headlines about drink and drugs. He rejoined the band in 1977 for a handful of gigs and a third album, Kitsch, but by 1978 they had broken up.
After a short stint as a stand-in for Dave Vanian on a Scottish tour by The Damned, Holton returned to acting, appearing in Quardrophenia and Breaking Glass (alongside Hazel O’Connor) before hitting the big time in the popular TV show Auf Weidersehen Pet, playing the womanising Cockney Jack-the-Lad, Wayne.
In between came a solo single, a punk-country version of Kenny Rodgers’ Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town with Casino Steel of The Boys. In 1985, in Spain to film the second series of Auf Weidersehn, Pet, Holton died from a heroin overdose. Perhaps one day The Heavy Metal Kids will be reappraised.