Budgie is a Welsh hard rock/heavy metal band from Cardiff. They are described by author Gary Sharpe-Young as one of the earliest heavy metal bands and a seminal influence to many acts of that scene, with fast, heavy rock (an influence on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and acts such as Metallica) being played as early as 1971. The band has been noted as "among the heaviest metal of its day". Notable Budgie songs include "Breadfan", "Sky High Percentage", "I Can't See My Feelings", "Crash Course In Brain Surgery", "Parents", "I Turned To Stone" and "Napoleon Bona - Parts 1 & 2".
Budgie formed in 1967 in Cardiff, Wales under the name Hills Contemporary Grass. Their original line-up consisted of Burke Shelley on vocals and bass, Tony Bourge on guitar and vocals, and Ray Phillips on drums. After performing several gigs in 1968, the band changed their name to Budgie the following year and recorded their first demo. The band originally formed under such names as Hills Contemporary Grass and Six Ton Budgie. Burke Shelley has said that the band's name came from the fact that he, "loved the idea of playing noisy, heavy rock, but calling ourselves after something diametrically opposed to that".
Their debut album in strong blues-oriented hard rock lines was recorded at Rockfield Studios with Black Sabbath producer Rodger Bain and released in 1971, followed by Squawk in 1972. The third album, Never Turn Your Back On a Friend (1973), contained "Breadfan", which was covered by Metallica in 1988, the band having covered another Budgie song, "Crash Course In Brain Surgery" earlier in their career. Ray Philips left the band before the fourth album In for the Kill! was recorded and was replaced by Pete Boot (b. Peter Charles Boot, 30 September 1950, West Bromwich, Staffordshire).
In late 1974, the band were joined by drummer Steve Williams for the album Bandolier, for live shows promoting this album and the follow-up, If I Were Brittania I'd Waive the Rules, the band were augmented by Welsh guitarist Myf Isaac, but both Bourge and Isaac left mid 1978 and were replaced by ex Trapeze guitarist Robert Kendrick. Music from the 1978 LP Impeckable was featured in the 1979 film J-Men Forever (shown frequently on the USA Network's "Night Flight" television series in the 1980s) which is now a cult classic. In late 1978, having been dropped by A&M and with no new recording contract, this line up floundered, and after 12 months Kendrick was replaced by "Big" John Thomas (b. 21 February 1952) in late 1979. This line up recorded two albums for Kingsley Wards 'Active' label: Power Supply (1980) and Nightflight (1981). 1982 saw them signed to RCA for Deliver Us From Evil their final recording for a "major label".
The band continued to have success during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, playing the Reading Festival in 1980 and then headlining the festival in 1982. They built a particular following in Poland, where they played as the first heavy metal band behind the Iron Curtain, in 1982. Also notable was their tour support of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz Tour.
The band stopped gigging in 1988, members went into studio production, occasionally guesting on other projects; Thomas most notably worked on the Phenomena CD with Glenn Hughes out of the Black Sabbath studios.
Although the group has had very little commercial success in America, they have enjoyed a strong fan following in Texas and they have been known to receive radio airplay from Joe Anthony and Lou Roney on KMAC/KISS radio in San Antonio in the 1970s, the band reformed using various drummers for one-off gigs in 1995, 1996 for outdoor festivals 'La Semana Alegre' in San Antonio, Texas. They toured in 2002-6, mostly in the United Kingdom, the NYC/NJ area, Dallas, and with a few shows in Europe including the Sweden Rock Festival and a return to post-Communist Poland. In 1999 the band reunited in Letchworth and officially reformed.
In 2006 Budgie undertook a thirty five date United Kingdom tour and a new album, titled You're All Living In Cuckooland, was released in the UK on 7 November that year. In 2007 they played dates in Sweden and Poland.
On 4 July 2007 Lees announced his departure from the band to concentrate on his teaching and solo career.
Following the departure of Lees, Dio lead guitarist and songwriter Craig Goldy offered his services while Ronnie James Dio was completing commitments with Heaven & Hell on their World Tour.
In February 2008 Craig Goldy accompanied Budgie on their first tour of Australia and has continued playing with Budgie as 'guest guitarist' for all of their shows.
Budgie's November 2010 tour of Eastern Europe had to be cancelled as Shelley was hospitalised on 9 November in Wejherowo, Poland with a 6 cm aortic aneurism. After surgery, he returned to Britain for recovery. Since then the band halted any activities, as Shelley can`t sing and play at the same time.
Musical style and legacy
Budgie's music is a cross between the progressive metal textures of Rush and heaviness of Black Sabbath. Burke Shelley's vocals have been compared to Geddy Lee due to his similar approach of high-pitched banshee wails (incidentally, Shelley and Lee are also the bass players in their respective bands). Although Budgie remained quite obscure during their early career, many future stars of hard rock/metal have cited them as an important influence and covered their songs, including Iron Maiden, Metallica, Van Halen, Melvins, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden.
- If Swallowed Do Not Induce Vomiting (1980, Active BUDGE 1)
Singles (UK-exclusive unless stated otherwise)
- "Crash Course in Brain Surgery" / "Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman" (1971, MCA MK 5072)
- "Whiskey River" / "Guts" (1972, MCA MK 5085)
- "Whiskey River" / "Stranded" (1972, MCA 2185) - US-exclusive release
- "Zoom Club (Edit)" / "Wondering What Everyone Knows" (1974, MCA 133)
- "I Ain't No Mountain" / "Honey" (1975, MCA 175)
- "Smile Boy Smile" / "All at Sea" (1978, A&M AMS 7342)
- "Crime Against the World" / "Hellbender" (1980, Active BUDGE 2)
- "Keeping a Rendezvous" / "Apparatus" (1981, RCA BUDGE 3) - UK #71
- "I Turned to Stone (Part 1)" / "I Turned to Stone (Part 2)" (1981, RCA BUDGE 4)
- "I Turned to Stone" / "She Used Me Up" (1981, Tonpress S-445) - Polish release
- "Bored with Russia" / "Don't Cry" (1982, RCA 271)
- The New Musical Express Book of Rock, 1975, Star Books, ISBN 0-352-30074-4
- Sharpe-Young, Garry (2007). Metal: The Definitive Guide. London: Jawbone Press. ISBN 978-1-906002-01-5
- Crocker, Chris (1993). Metallica: The Frayed Ends of Metal. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-08635-0.
- Official website
- Budgie biography from BBC Wales
- Artist page at Allmusic
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