Hammersmith Gorillas Remembered

Written by www.punk77.co.uk
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hammersmith gorillas remembered alex gottschalk jesse hector zani 5

Although their music wasn't punk, per se, The Hammersmith Gorillas (later simply The Gorillas) deserve to be ranked along with the finest of the class of 1977. The band's association with independent labels--most notably Chiswick--their raw sound, frenetic live performances and overall back to basics attitude make them as punk in spirit as many of their more heralded contemporaries.


Jesse Hector was the prime chimp behind the band, a man with by all accounts a larger than life personality. A native of Kilburn, Hector had been playing rock and roll with a number of different combos since the time of Elvis Presley, starting with the aptly named Jesse Hector and the Rock & Roll Trio (at the tender age of 13) and continuing to sharpen his skills with groups like The Clique, Crushed Butler and Helter Skelter through the 1960's. It was in 1971 that he formed the Hammersmith Gorillas, a band whose notoriety lasts to this day.

The Gorillas 1974 single on Penny Farthing, a manic cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me", backed with the equally wonderful "Leavin' "ome" caught the ear of Chiswick luminaries Roger Armstrong and Ted Carroll. Hector was already a known quantity to Armstrong and Carroll, being a regular face at their Rock On record stall. The Gorillas recorded a session for them above the Hope & Anchor pub in Islington. For various reasons, the recordings didn't see release and The Count Bishops beat out The Gorillas as Chiswick's first release. However, The Gorillas kept the faith and the single "She's My Gal" b/w "Why Wait Until Tomorrow" became Chiswick S4.

/hammersmith gorillas remembered alex gottschalk jesse hector zani 3.By this time the Gorillas were a fixture on the London pub circuit. Roger Armstrong recalled their unforgettable live act: "This was rock and roll as she is spoken, yelled, ranted, torn apart and not quite put back together again." Another single, "Gatecrasher" b/w "Gorilla Stomp" and a show stealing set at the 1976 European punk festival in Mont DeMarsan, France, put the Gorillas squarely on the map.

1977 saw front page Gorillas features in the likes of "Sounds" and 1978 saw the release of the album "Message To The World" (originally released by Raw, and in currently being pressed by Damaged Goods). Nothing on the LP matches the energy of the early 45's, suggesting that perhaps the Gorillas were best heard on singles. Nonetheless, there are some bona fide rockers on the album and the eye-catching cover alone makes it worth tracking down the re-issue.

Like so many other deserving acts, time passed TheGorillas by. To an extent, they were upstaged by the more lyrically outrageous and colourful punk bands. (Although the outlandish facial hair and glam clobber the band sported is now as memorable as anything the safety pin brigade was wearing at the time). Another factor was Hector's apparent reluctance to submit to the slog of making it. According to Armstrong "He hated the whole idea of playing every shit hole in the UK in order to build an audience. In his mind he was already a star... thinking about it, it was probably the fear of failure that really stopped him from being successful". The 1981 death of stalwart bass player Alan Butler was also a set back from which the band never recovered. With nary an ape like roar, The Gorillas faded from the scene.

While big time "success" has eluded Hector in the conventional sense, he's become a beloved cult figure in the international music scene, seemingly growing in stature with each passing year. Certainly any current garage band owes a spiritual debt to Hector, Butler and their assorted drummers for keeping the flame of raw and raucous rock and roll alive during that period.

The discography of The Gorillas is small but vital. In addition to the aforementioned album, there is also the absolutely mandatory "Gorilla Got Me", a grab bag of singles, unissued tracks, and an adequately recorded version of the Mont De Marsan gig.

hammersmith gorillas remembered alex gottschalk jesse hector zani 4.

For more information, check out the "Mohairsweets" website for many things Gorilla and Hector related, including an lengthy interview with Roger Armstrong from which the above quotes come from.

© Words -Alex Gottschalk, #1 Gorilla Fan.

Used by The Kind of Permissionwww.punk77.co.uk
Read 2318 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:27
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