Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rockets - On The Road Again (1977) + Bonus Track

(French 1972-Present)
Put Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Devo and the more recent Blue Men in a swirly wind tunnel, sprinkle some Silver Paint and Disco Italo Vocorder space rock and you get..... LES ROCKETS!
.The Rocket's history starts in Paris (France), in the year 1972, when they were known under the name CRYSTAL. In 1974, they changed their name to ROCKET MEN (or ROCKETTERS) as five aliens, bald, with grey eyes, silver skin and space suits, recording the single 'Rocket Man' produced by Claude Lemoine, who would become their producer until 1983.
In 1975, they changed their name in ROCKETS and recorded a single 'Future woman'. In 1976, their first LP entitled, 'Rockets' was released in France, and the group launched a series of phantasmagoric live shows which involved vocoder, lasers, coloured lights, smoke and a bazooka fighting flames three.
The best formation (1977-1982) comprising vocalist Christian Le Bartz, bassist and vocalist "Little" GĂ©rard L'Her, guitarist and keyboardist Alain Maratrat, drummer and percussionist Alain Groetzinger, and keyboardist Fabrice Quagliotti have been through a number of name changes, being known as Rocket Men and Rok-Etz, among others.
Dressed up in matching silver suits with shaved heads and silvery gray facepaint, they no doubt caused quite a scene in the French rock clubs of the day. Their otherworldly appearance and heavy use of synthesizers and vocoders suggested a strong Kraftwerk influence, but there was more to them than that: The very first track on their 1976 self-titled debut album, for example, was “Apache,” a funked-up version of a faux-Spaghetti Western rock instrumental recorded by a 1960 British skiffle band called The Shadows. They later covered Canned Heat too, on their 1977 LP 'On The Road Again' (1977), which was released in a large number of countries. The American release was on the Tom n'Jerry label. . Their influences ranged pretty far beyond Ziggy-era Bowie and Krautrock—although that was clearly all part of the mix, too.

By 1979, Rockets had begun to enjoy some commercial success, at least in Europe, where their third album Plasteroid sold out in some countries almost as soon as it was released. By this time, they had developed more of a pop/New Wave sound and outfits that appeared to borrow rather flagrantly from Ace Frehley’s Spaceman look. But they had also perfected a highly entertaining live show that featured lots of robot dance moves and a scary, bazooka-like device with which lead singer Christian Le Bartz could shower the audience with sparks. Check the three-minute mark of this clip from an Italian TV appearance for a taste of the spark-bazooka; I’m pretty sure that even in Italy, they don’t let you get away with shit like that anymore.

Rockets peaked, both commercially and creatively, with 1980's Galaxy, a brilliantly campy piece of space-rock/synth-pop with blacklight-ready cover art and high-concept songs about space travel and cyborgs and other bits of sci-fi geekery. It sold over a million copies worldwide, but the band began to unravel soon thereafter. By 1983, both lead singer Le Bartz and drummer Alain Groetzinger had quit the group, followed shortly by their longtime producer, Claude Lemoine, and their bassist, “Little” Gerard L’Her. With a new British lead singer, Sal Solo, the remnants of Rockets squeezed out two more albums, 1986's One Way and 1992's Another Future—the latter of which gamely tried to update the band’s sound with some Brit-rave beats, but without much success. By 1993, the band was effectively defunct.
But nothing helps revive musical careers like a healthy dose of nostalgia—so you will not be surprised to learn that as of 2000, Fabrice decided to reform the band (initially with the name Rockets N.D.P.), but with a totally different line-up. This brought to an anomalous situation, as far as none of the former members agreed to hold a reunion. In fact, the last former member to leave the band was Alain Maratrat, in 1992. Rockets have resumed their existence, albeit in heavily watered-down form. The closest thing they still have to an original member is keyboardist Fabrice Quagliotti, who joined the group in 1977.
My first experience of the Rockets was quiet by accident. While trying to locate the latest release by a band called Nova in my favourite Import Shop, I was browsing the racks of vinyl 'gems' when a familar song came blaring out from the shop's speaker system. What's this I hear? A cover of Canned Heat's "On The Road Again" but the style of music was like nothing I'd ever heard before. The vocals were being sung through a Vocoder (not a Talk Box by the way - aka Peter Frampton) and backed by a mirage of Synthesier and Drum Machine sounds that gave this rendition a full on 'spaced out' feel.  I asked the guy behind the counter who the band was and he showed me the album cover. I was sold on the spot and ditched my original purchase plan. I walk out of the shop with yet another 'great find'.
Having recently seen them perform on stage thanks to YouTube, it is obvious that their stage show would have been something 'out of this world' to see with their barage of laser / light effects and use of sci-fi stage props.

Review (by Alan Bodwick)
Shave your head and paint yourself silver -  this halloween go as a member of late 70s French analog spacemen band Rockets. While you're at it pop this album into your system and be transported back to the futurepast of cosmic space analog world . You will be pleasantly suprised at the quality of this admittedly disposable and somewhat dated robo space pop- a mix of thick warm analog synth vocoder pop tunes including a great cover of "on the road again".  Yes that song that plays on every classic rock station.
More effective though are the Tangerine Dream inspired songs like "Cosmic Race" and "Astrolights" - hinting at some leftover French progressive music from a few years before and not afraid to include some funk grooves and chops! Much better then any Daft Punk AIR or any other atempted retro vocoder electronic acts of the last decade by a longshot! And I say this as a pretty big AIR fan. Please  check out their hilarious videos on youtube (original promo clip for  On The Road Again is also included in this post) and snatch this up as its become very rare despite the fact they sold millions of records in Europe in the late 70s and early 80s. In the end this is a likable record that occassionaly has moments of funky sublime brilliance and delivers with its dreamy moogs arps and catchy electronic grooves!
12" Single

This post consists of a MP3 rip (320kps) taken from my vinyl copy and includes full album artwork. As a bonus, I have chosen to include a 'live' version of "On The Road Again" taken from a CD Discography that was released in 2003 - a very different version to the original album release.  In addition, I have also included a flash video of this track which was used as the promo for the single. The single was released both in as a 7" and 12 " format. I think you will really like this album as it is quiet unique, if not just for their brilliant Canned Heat cover.
Track Listing
01 - On The Road Again   8:50    
02 - Cosmic Race     4:15    
03 - Venus Rapsody     4:18    
04 - Space Rock     4:00    
05 - Astrolights     6:10    
06 - Electro-Voice     2:48    
07 - Sci Fi Boogie     4:40

08 - On The Road Again (Bonus Live) 5:57
. .
Band Members:
Vocals – Christian Le Bartz, Gerard L'Her
Bass – Gerard L'Her
Guitar – Alain Maratrat
Keyboards – Alain Maratrat, Fabrice Quagliotti
Percussion, Drums – Alain Groetzinger

The Rockets Link (122Mb) New Link 23/09/2013


  1. that's a similar get-up to klaus nomi actually !

  2. One of the most undervalued groups in the world