Jason & The Scorchers were always a hugely popular band in our shop at Virgin Records in Portsmouth when I joined in 1984. Our assistant manager Paul Hensman played me the ‘Fervor’ mini-album at first and then in 1985 we were offered ‘Lost & Found’ which was eleven tracks of pure ‘cowpunk’ that we all fell in love with. At this point in time, most of the shop staff were into the Americana bands that were invading the UK shores including REM, The Dream Syndicate, The Bangles, Rain Parade and The Long Ryders amongst many others but the big difference with Jason & The Scorchers was the energy of their live shows and the way they blended country music and punk rock. The first time I saw them live was on 14th May 1985 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden supporting Los Lobos with Beltane Fire opening the bill. Elvis Costello also guested with Los Lobos that night and he gave the Pompey massive (three of us) a nod and a wave from our key position of front stage left. There were no safety barriers in 1985!
The next show I saw was at The Richmond in Brighton on 3rd July 1985. Mark ‘The Cat’ Steadman and myself decided to go, so we set off for Brighton in Mark’s mini with the soundtrack being provided by The Fuzztones ‘Lysergic Emanations’ album. After arriving in Brighton we teamed up with our friend Paul Windsor (now photographer for the Evening News in Portsmouth) and headed to the venue. We arrived at The Richmond and had a few drinks in the downstairs bar joining ‘Boring’ Bob Grover from The Piranhas who was drinking in his local. We then ventured upstairs to the first floor for the show and, once again, nudged and elbowed our way to the front of the stage to get the best view. The venue was at full capacity and extremely hot. As soon as the band came onto the stage they exploded into the set and the place erupted. However, halfway through the performance, we noticed that something was wrong as the floor around our feet started to disappear and a big hole appeared in its place where we could see right through to the downstairs bar. Despite our pleas for the band to continue to play it was regretfully decided to save a few lives and cancel the rest of the show due to the lack of floor! We decided to cut our losses and made our way home and regaled our stories to our colleagues the next day.
Little did I realise but I only had to wait a few hours to see the band again. While we were at work, Alan Robinson the Student Union booker at Portsmouth Polytechnic had negotiated a free show for the band that evening to celebrate American independence day. I was overjoyed but the rest of the staff were a little bit dismayed as they were setting off to London once the shop had shut to watch Bruce Springsteen play a dull show somewhere (probably Wembley – not a fan). I definitely had the best option for the evening in my opinion. Once I made my way down the front and, once again, it was an incredible live performance. We had a perfect view of Jason Ringenberg jumping off the drum risers alongside the balls of energy that were Warner Hodges (guitar), Jeff Johnson(bass) and Perry Baggs (drums). Ironically, the only other band I have seen that matched them for energy and showmanship has to be At The Drive-In.
I don’t recall seeing many, or any, performances after these three shows and the band’s profile never reached the heights that we thought could have been achieved but to witness the band during this era was unforgettable. I did manage to literally walk into a bar in Malmo in the late 90’s and caught a Jason Ringenberg solo show which brought back a lot of memories. I also ended up selling merch for him that night too. If you are into fast, energetic punk, country and rock music then you need to check them out. This video of them performing ‘White Lies’ at Farm Aid 2 in 1986 is the closest that sums up what the band were about.
Memories of the band from Mark Steadman:
“For the Scorchers as I can’t really remember the shows, but the Scorchers provided the soundtrack to many trips up to London to see bands. I remember The Prisoners at the 100 Club in particular. Red tinny tape recorder at full volume with ‘Lost and Found’. I think we made up an adjective to describe the experience ’Scorched’ says it all..
Punk – via The Clash and Joe Ely – got me interested in Country; The Scorchers returned the favour by taking country to punk, with ZZ Top’s engineer (Terry Manning) ensuring it was neither country or punk – just mighty fine rock n’ roll..“
Being 18 years old, watching 3-4 live shows a week, and working in a cool record shop was, for me, some of the happiest days of my life.
There’s also a great podcast called The Rock Block that currently has four interviews with the three surviving members of the band (Perry Baggs died of diabetes aged 50 in 2012) which are also worth a listen: https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-rock-block
- To Mark Steadman (Steaders) for his comments and his lifelong friendship
- Paul Windsor for his great photos for the past 35+ years