Thursday, November 09, 2017


    Funny, despite its suggestive name, Hard Meat didn't get much attention in the early 70's, and the situation hasn't improved much since. The two brothers who were the nucleus of the Birmingham-based  British rock trio are both dead. They were Steve Dolan, who died back in May 22, 2000 and Mike Dolan who was 67 when he passed on, August 2, 2014. He died of cancer at his summer home in Hisaronu, Turkey, and was buried there.

    Hard Meat could've at least been a "one hit wonder" with “Smile as You Go Under,” which I played on radio shows all the time, thanks to its promotion on one of those Warner Bros. "loss leader" samplers. Back in this stone/stoned age, one way new bands got popular was to AIRPLAY from trusted disc jockeys, especially the intimate type that were on during the midnight hours, when people were actually listening, with nothing else to do. Unless they had hard meat. 

    As I recall it (dimly), I liked to do a segue for this song, and play it right after the last notes of "Casey Jones" by the Grateful Dead. Which was, incidentally, the only Dead song I ever played. No. Not "Truckin'." Be a DJ. Play "Casey Jones" and segue it into your download of "Smile As You Go Under."

    One of the big helps for adventurous disc jockeys, especially on low budget stations, was the pioneering “Loss Leader” album compilations from Warners. They weren't about to mail every whole album to every small town or college station. For a buck or two, if you really cared about using your "power" to expose people to new talent, they’d mail you a single or double album set featuring the best cuts from their newest artists. That's how I discovered Fanny, Curved Air, Ron Nagle and these guys. 

        Hard Meat's first album was notable for their competent, bar band version of Bob Dylan's 'Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine." The second album was more adventurous and diverse, including flute, keyboard, and now-dated hippie-dippie indulgences such as "Ballad of Marmalade Emma and Teddy Grimes.” That one sounded like an outtake off one of Rod Stewart’s early Mercury solo albums (that dopey “Mandolin Wind” period). Its opposite was the surly, glum and sarcastic "(If you can't stop) Smile as You Go Under." 

         Warners did what they could, choosing a good cut to promose, and showcasing them on a tour of America. This earned them an unlikely long live show review in Billboard, literally on the same page as better known and middle-of-the-road acts including Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme’s debuting at the Copa, and Shirley Bassey blasting away at the Waldorf-Astoria.  

     Mike stayed in the music business via Bell Sound Hire, a company that supplied mobile sound systems for touring bands, including U2 and Show of Hands. He also worked as a sound engineer on a variety of projects involving Mike D’Abo and Ashley Hutchings, and sometimes got a call to take up his guitar for a session. He played bass on Mick Jagger’s "Goddess in the Doorway” solo album. Into his 60’s Mike could still be seen and heard at local gigs. How often he was introduced as the vocalist and leader of Hard Meat, I have no idea. Probably as often as he was introduced as one of the guys fronting earlier groups with his brother, The Ebony Combo or the The Five Dimensions (backing up R&B singer Jimmy Powell). 

    An obit in a local Birmingham paper didn’t even MENTION that he was in Hard Meat. The paper mentioned he was in the Cock-a-Hoops, and that he toured on the same bill “with the likes of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Procol Harem [sic] John Mayall, Wilson Pickett and Chuck Berry.”

    Just why this entry turned up reason at all. "Smile As You Go Under" is actually still on my iPod, along with some other odd “Loss Leader” stuff previously posted on this blog of less renown (including Hamilton Camp's "Star Spangled Bus.") I happened to hear it the other day and realize, "it's STILL a good one, with a message and a hook."  So, congrats, brothers, for making it to an obscure blog after you went under. Hope you're smiling.

SMILE AS YOU GO UNDER - Download or Listen online - NO PASSWORDS EVER

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