Terraplane - Black and White (Cherry Red Reissue)

A surprisingly pleasant trip down memory lane...

South London rockers Terraplane were one of British hard rock’s nearly bands. As an independent act in the early eighties they made all the right moves, building up a large and fiercely loyal fan base based on their energy filled live performances, and, most importantly, a handful of truly great songs. In vocalist Danny Bowes and lead guitarist Luke Morley they also seemed to possess the next great British rock songwriting duo; Maybe not in the Jagger /Richards or Page/Plant league just yet, these two still exhibited enough about them to suggest big things for the band in the future. There was a definite something going on for Terraplane when they signed to major label Epic Records IN 1985.

And that’s where it all went wrong. The ban had released a couple of independent singles which, without smashing any sales records, managed at least to harness some of that live fire I was talking about earlier and gave a decent representation of the band and all it’s raw, exciting talent. But Epic put the band in the studio with a pop producer, Liam Henshall, who, despite being a fan of the band, and who undoubtedly helped them in the arrangement/songwriting area, was just too enamoured with the idea of chasing hit singles. Consequently Black and White, the band’s debut album, turned into what was seen as something of a bloated, unappealing turkey. It charted at number 74 in the British charts, saddled the band with a fair bit of debt, and then sunk without trace. 

Things got worse for the band when their second album Moving Target fared poorly too, it’s more soulful feel alienating what was left of their fanbase, and the band called it a day shortly thereafter. Of course it all turned out nicely in the end as Bowes, Morley and drummer Harry James went on to form Thunder, one of Britain’s greatest ever hard rock outfits, so all’s well that end’s well, eh?

Listening to Black and White again now, nearly thirty years later, without the attendant hangups of being a nineteen year old headbanger, is a surprisingly pleasant experience. Despite all the eighties production bells and whistles welded on to the songs by producer Henshall, there is some great material here; Not only that but the band has thoughtfully provided a couple of those early indie singles – most notably the excellent I Survive – and some live an demo recordings too so you can compare their unfettered brilliance with their major-label counterparts to see just what a rotten job Henshall did with the band. Black and White is a work of it’s time for sure, but the sheer appeal of songs such as I Survive, the title track, I’m the One, When You’re Hot and I Can’t Live Without Your Love means that this is well worth a listen for hard rock fans with an ear for a melody and a great voice. 

Black and White is out now on Cherry Red Records.