When I first heard talk of the ‘eighties band It Bites in 1986, the associated phrase ‘prog rock’ prompted me to steer as great a distance clear as I could. I was one of the kids who’d fully supported all attempts by the punk and new wave movement to completely wipe ‘70s prog rock off the map of musical history. I couldn’t stand endlessly long songs, self-indulgent guitar and drum solos, or technique for the sake of technique, and since those were the features I associated with prog rock, any band billed into that category would be a band for me to avoid.
However, a short time after the release of the first It Bites album – The Big Lad In The Windmill – the drummer of a band I was in began to rave unstoppably about it. He was a great drummer with what was then a very modern outlook and approach. I was intrigued as to why he’d bought a prog rock album. Then I heard The Big Lad In The Windmill, and was hit by the scary thought: “If this is prog rock, then I think I might be in a prog rock band”. The music wasn’t a million miles away from what we were trying to do – except it was much better produced than our recordings, and the execution was a lot more sophisticated. I actually thought it was brilliant. It was entirely contemporary in its sound, the songs were very good, there were no unnecessary extended batterings of drums, and wailings of guitar were kept to an acceptable level… I’d never have categorised it as ‘prog rock’. It was one of the most valid developments of rock music of the period, I thought. Inevitably, I went out and bought it, on the audio cassette you see here.
My only real reservations were the track You’ll Never Go To heaven (which does move into trad prog rock territory), and probably the ugliest and most stupid electric guitar solo I’ve ever heard, on the song Turn Me Loose. You’ll Never Go To heaven isn’t a bad song – I just don’t have the patience for its drawn-out nature.
The actual tape is interesting. It’s a BASF chrome formulation in the usual (for pre-recorded) Type I format, and issued on the Virgin label. But the case doesn’t look very contemporary at all. It looks like a real oldie from the 1970s, with numbered calibrations below the tape window, and bizarrely, flat-head plastic screws holding the shell together. Extremely good listening experience though. As good as you could get in terms of production in ’86, and the quality has been captured very nicely on this analogue CrO2 tape.