THE PRESS RELEASE: “Their name may have made them sound more like rock ’n’ roll revivalists, but during the late ’60s and early ’70s, Brett Marvin & The Thunderbolts were one of the most highly regarded of the grassroots British country blues bands. Led by virtuoso guitarist Graham Hine, and featuring pianist and occasional vocalist John Lewis (subsequently better known as eccentric popster Jona Lewie), the Bretts – as they were known to their coterie of admirers – regularly backed visiting American bluesmen as well as being a popular live act in their own right. After two fine albums for the Sonet label, they scored an unexpected hit single with Lewie’s jaunty Sea Side Shuffle, which, credited to alter-ego Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs, reached the No. 2 spot in the summer of 1972. Lewis/Lewie then left, recording as a solo act for Sonet before joining Stiff, while his former band continued without him, issuing a third album and sundry stand-alone singles before gradually scaling down operations. This anthology includes everything that the Bretts, the Terrys and Jona recorded for Sonet (including 1993 CD Boogie Street, financed by Sonet UK’s later incarnation Habana Music), confirming that the bands had few equals in the Thames Delta country blues stakes, while Jona was an individual talent long before his late Seventies association with the Stiff label. Containing all the band’s albums, single releases, studio outtakes and live recordings as well as Jona Lewie’s pre-Stiff releases, The Sonet Anthology comprises six CDs housed in a clamshell box, with a 36 page booklet that tells the band’s story with the aid of Graham Hine, Jona Lewie and Sonet UK boss Rod Buckle.”
MY TWO CENTS: Near as I can tell, there were basically two kinds of British blues bands in the ’60s: Serious and silly. With their clattery percussion, zippy slide whistles and vague music-hall undertones, these blokes lean toward the latter category a little too often to get much respect as authentic bluesmen. But as a precursor to both the grittier pub-rock of the ’70s and the rootsier fare of Brinsley Schwartz, Nick Lowe and much of the Stiff scene, they’ve earned their place in history. And there are enough indisputable gems scattered throughout this set to make it worth a close perusal. Plus, the Top of The Pops clip below may be one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.