Song of the Day: Cowboys International – Thrash

I remember hearing reviews of Cowboys International back in the day, but I never actually bought any of their music until sometime in the 90s, when I happened across their debut album, The Original Sin, in a US Virgin Atlantic pressing. The band featured several players who would go on to make big names for themselves in the New Wave movement. Keith Levene [P.I.L.] and Marco Pirroni [Adam & The Ants] figured on guitars and Terry Chimes [The Clash] was drumming for them, but really, But that sat in the “slush pile” for many years, until I came across the CD compilation “Revisited,” which vocalist Ken Lockie issued himself several years back. When I popped the disc in the dash I was rewarded with a delightfully tuneful and varied selection of prime New Wave material ca. 1979 that offered all of the promise of the post-punk era with nary a hint of the decadent complacence that brought it all crashing down by the mid-eighties.

Today’s song is a perky little single that proffers a selection of pulsating electropop as performed by a group that is not pursuing that goal as some sort of attempt at being the “English Kraftwerk.” Instead, Cowboys International were content to use whatever styles necessary to achieve their goals without being hidebound about any of them. “Thrash” sounds like it could sit on the same shelf as OMD’s “Electricity” without breaking into a sweat. In other words, I should have been a huge fan of this group in 1979! Ken Lockie’s well mannered vocals do suggest worship at the House Of Bowie, as the liner notes state. But has Bowie ever sounded this cheerful? Be that as it may, the track sounds like one that might have made the cut on “Low” had it instead been crafted with the morose core that Dame David gave all of his songs of that period.

Virgin | UK | 7" | 1979 | VS 293

Cowboys International: Thrash UK 7″

  1. Thrash
  2. Many Times [Revised]
Ken Lockie managed to eke out a solo album after Cowboys International fissured [see 1981’s “Impossible” – which is still on my want list] and the reissue of this material on CD was followed by the should-have-been-long-awaited second album by Cowboys International, “The Backwards Life Of Romeo.” Twenty four years later and it sounded wonderful. Don’t be a stranger, Mr. Lockie! I don’t want to hear your next album when I’m 67!
– 30 –

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7 Responses to Song of the Day: Cowboys International – Thrash

  1. Echorich says:

    Cowboy’s International Original Sin is on of my ALL TIME FAVORITE ALBUMS!! I picked it up in the very small Punk/New Wave bin at Jimmy’s Music World in the summer of 1979. What got me to buy it was seeing Keith Levene, John McGeoch and Terry Chimes names on it. I think I had possibly read something about CI or maybe Ken Lockie in Zigzag Magazine at around the same time. So as I was want to do I bought it completely on faith (this is how I discovered the Bunnymen -my favorite group now for 31 yrs), Teardrop Expolodes and The Comsat Angels) and was greatly satisfied with myself when I dropped the needle on my record player in my attic bedroom that evening.
    You are very right. No one particular road driven down on this album. There are moment that remind me of Numan/Tubeway Army, PiL (obvious with Levene’s almost liquid guitar) and most definitely Berlin era Bowie! M(emorie) is very Human League Mk1…I could go on comparing in hindsight. I love the slow burn of Thrash and will find myself singing the lyrics to Wish to myself all day long at work to this day (“I wish for nothing, nothing…)! The fact is, at the time, Original Sin sounded clearly different and exciting.
    Cowboys International was a New Wave Supergroup without setting out to be that.
    As a trivia point, Lockie is also well know for and has made probably more in royalties for a song called ‘The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight’ which came out around 1984 (It’s on the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack to.) It was a club hit and Billboard hit for weeks that year and spawned a number of sample tracks in the early 90’s house scene. I believe you can find Lockie as an uncredited member of PiL around the time of Metal Box and again in 1982 on Commercial Zone ( I knew the former but not the latter album had his imput.)
    Definitely a great collection of music by a New Wave sojourner.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Do you have the “Revisited” CD? It’s a vastly different sequence of material with a single mix [“Aftermath”], a non-LP A-side [“Today”], and all B-sides appended to the program.”The ‘No’ Tune” is missing but “Too Much, Too Little” makes its debut here. This is exactly the type of album that I live for now; underplayed [to put it mildly] New Wave that I didn’t hear back in the day that sounds like it’s worth millions to my ears today! Lockie is just such a talented guy. For years he was just the guy that did some b. vox on “Sons + Fascination/Sister Feelings Call” by Simple Minds!

      I was aware of the “Dominatrix” tune. I used to see endless display ads for it in Billboard back in its heyday! But until recently, I had no idea the Lockie was involved. Thank goodness Mr. Lockie had something that generated income! Apparently, as of the early 2000s he lived in Roswell, GA where he released the two Cowboys International CDs [available on CD Baby]. I need to get all of his solo material he released on Virgin following the breakup of CI.

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      • Echorich says:

        I definitely need to pick up Revisited as what I have of CI on mp3 is very low quality. I have to admit without The ‘No’ Tune it’s just not complete, but certainly worth the quality boost. I left out one other band, that at the time I felt were their contemporaries, and that’s Magazine. Maybe not sonically similar (well maybe on Magic, Murder and the Weather) but there is an artist spirit that Lockie and Devoto seem to share.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – “Revisited” is still available on Amazon at cost but that won’t last forever. I suggest acting quickly. The great follow-up “The Backwards Life Of Romeo” is now a CD-R on Amazon. Wait, the group’s website store works today: CD Baby will sate your needs effectively:

          http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/cowboysintl

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Total Magazine love from this corner. I just got an e-mail from Wire-Sound stating that they are currently at work on the 5th Magazine album as I type! Yesss!! I really miss the wondrous John McGeoch but if Noko plays on the album, it should still be great.

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        • Echorich says:

          I tried so hard to get over to the UK for the Magazine shows in 09, just didn’t happen. The clips on Youtube make you feel like these guys HAVE to put out more music. They still sound vital and their music will always be vital. I am a huge fan of Magic Murder and the Weather, which most fans count as their least fave, but I feel had a lot of forward thinking on it.
          A perfect 2012 for me would be a new Magazine, Comsat Angels, Bunnymen, Ultravox and Heaven 17 albums. I’m always an optimist…

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  2. chas_m says:

    Thanks for the tip about CD-Baby — when I started reading this column I thought to myself (as I often do) “OH YEAH! Cowboys International! I never DID have much of their stuff in my collection and I should fix that!”

    Like

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