So who the bejesus is Bernie Torme I hear you ask. Dublin born Bernie like millions of young Irish men before him and after took himself over to the big smoke of London, looking for fortune and adventure. Arriving in the mid-seventies with guitar in hand and the sounds of Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher and a certain Mr. Hendrix ringing in his head, Bernie quickly got caught up in the exploding punk scene. Forming the Bernie Torme Band with Phil Spaulding (now a very, very expensive session player – think Mick Jagger’s band) and Mark Harrison (later a member of Shane MacGowan’s Nips), they toured with the likes of The Jam and The Boomtown Rats. But unlike the other 3 chord wonders Bernie could play guitar with a ferocity that would even impress Jimi himself. Bernie was the guitar hero of punk.
After punk mutated into new wave or went underground – depending on who you ask, Bernie took up an offer to join heavy metal hero’s Gillan, fronted by ex-Deep Purple screamer, Ian Gillan (that name used to mean something once kids). Torme played on Gillan’s most successful albums, including the UK number 1, “Future Shock”. After Gillan took its course, Bernie took up the very difficult task of stepping into Randy Rhodes shoes and help Ozzy Osborne finish his US tour after the tragic death of Randy. The eighties saw Bernie form his own band with future LA Guns front man Phil Lewis and a super group with Twisted Sisters, Dee Snider. The nineties saw Bernie join together with Chris Jones and John Pearce, both of UK punk legends The Anti-Nowhere League to form the Electrics Gypsies.
Now you ask why you’ve never heard of him. Seems to be a combination of Bernie getting board being a sidekick, bad luck (Torme with Phil Lewis should have been huge in the sleaze metal eighties) and stupid record companies (Desperado with Dee Snider.) “Punk or What” from the Bernie Torme band is the true gem of the 3 CDs I was sent to review. It’s a collection of archived recordings from the punk days of ’77 to ’79 – Demos, Singles and Radio Sessions. And unlike a lot of the punk stuff from those days, this sounds fresh and holds up to the standards of today. Think if The Who (“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”, is covered) had come out of London in ’77 with Jimi Hendrix on lead guitar.
“Demolition Ball”, released under the band name Torme, originally came out in the early nineties and now is re-released on Bernie’s own Retrowrek Records. “Demolition Ball” is a fine slab of guitar driven sleazy heavy metal that just didn’t have a chance after the Nirvana explosion. The funny thing ‘bout listening to Torme is why the band didn’t strike it huge in the late ‘80’s metal explosion. I used to read Kerrang religiously between ’86 and ‘92 and I honestly don’t remember them doing one thing on Torme. I do remember them bitching about why there were no UK bands able to compete with the hair metal coming out of the States at that time. Then jumping on the latest no hopers out of Scunthorpe or some other crappy provincial English town (anyone remember Wolfsbane?) as the next big thing, when the answer to their payers was right under their collective noses, selling out the Marquee Club on a regular basis. Wonder what Bernie did to piss ‘em off.
“Scorched Earth (Live 1999-2001), by the Electric Gypsies is stripped down, live, loud and raw rock’n’roll. The guitars are explosive and the rhythm section give the guitars a punk rock kick up the arse. There is a cover of the Sex Pistols, “Pretty Vacant” which is incredible and unlike other metal bands that have covered the Pistols (Megadeth, Motley Crew), these guys get it ‘cos they were there.