Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Rock 'N Roll Revival From Rocky Sharpe & The Replays

In the same revivalist vain as Shakin’ Stevens, Ol ’55 and Alvin Stardust, Rocky Sharpe & The Replays sought to bring the music and fashion of 50s rock ‘n roll and doo-wop back into vogue during the late 70s and early 80s. The English vocal quartet came together in the late 70s and comprised Rocky Sharpe (AKA Robert Podsiadly), Helen Highwater (AKA Helen Blizard), Johnny Stud (AKA Jan Podsiadly) and Eric Rondo (AKA Mike Vernon). Earlier Rocky Sharpe had worked with the backing group The Razors (circa 1972) in and around Brighton, and which had included Den Hegarty and Rita Ray who formed another retro-outfit Darts (‘The Boy From New York City’ - UK#2,OZ#34 in 1978). Eric Rondo (AKA Mike Vernon) also produced much of the group’s recording work, and he’d earlier worked with Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack.

Rocky Sharpe & The Replays performed and recorded mostly covers, and their first hit came in late 1978 with ‘Rama Lama Ding Dong’ (UK#17), originally a hit in 1961 for The Easels (US#21). Another hit single followed soon after with 1979’s ‘Imagination’ (UK#39), originally recorded by Harry Reser’s Orchestra. Both singles were lifted from the group’s debut album ‘Rama Lama’ which also featured covers of songs by the Earls, the Skyliners and the Orlons among others. A couple of minor hits followed over 1980/81, including a cover of ‘Martian Hop’ (the old Ran-Dells hit from 1963 US#16, revived on the OZ charts in 1974 #44). The song came from Rocky Sharpe & The Replays second album ‘Rock It To Mars’ the cover of which featured the group members in a distinctly Devo-esque pose. During this period Rocky Sharpe & The Replays also credited a backing group called The Topliners, who were essentially the touring band for the four vocalists.

Rocky Sharpe & The Replays continued to performed to packed houses on the touring circuit though big time chart success seemed to elude them, that is until the single ‘Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)’ rocked onto the charts in April 1982. Lifted from their third album ‘Let’s Go’, the song was originally a hit in 1962 for Ernie Maresca (US#6), and reached as high as #19 on the U.K. charts for Rocky Sharpe & The Replays (OZ#39). It was the last of five singles to chart for the group on the Chiswick label. A move to the RAK label didn’t prove fruitful with just the one minor hit ‘Clap Your Hands’ (UK#54) later in 1982. The group tried once more in 1983 with the Polydor released single ‘If You Wanna Be Happy’ (UK#46), but it seemed the rock ‘n roll revival was over, and Rocky Sharpe & The Replays didn’t repeat their earlier chart triumphs again.

Rocky Sharpe & The Replays went their separate ways at the end of 1984, having released four albums and seven charting singles in total, and most importantly having brought a lot of joy and positive energy to audiences around the world (Britain and Europe particularly). Helen Highwater (AKA Blizard) has gone on to acting and screen-writing as a profession including credits on Eastenders. There’s not much information out there on the Podsiadly brothers (Rocky Sharpe and Johnny Stud), though Jan (Johnny) wrote a review on the first three albums re-released a few years back on Ace Records. Eric Rondo (AKA Mike Vernon) continued to be a producer in high demand, working with Dr. Feelgood, Eric Clapton and Level 42 to name a few.

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