Mark Rumble has just sent me a great photo of himself from this year’s Download Festival wearing his Saltyrockz Trust line-up T-shirt, then followed it up with a fine e-mail outlining his love for the French rockers. Now I know that French hard rock from the late ’70s and early ’80s may be an acquired taste, but what the hell? The reason the T-shirt was on Saltyrockz in the first place is sort of self-indulgent, because it just so happens that Saltyrockz designer Hunnsy and myself are both pretty obsessive about Trust. So much so that we trekked down to Toulouse in France together to see them on their last French tour in October of last year.
My love of the band dates back to 1980, when I managed to get hold of their soon-to-be-classic second album ‘Répression’ – in Germany of all places. Now for a confirmed rocker like myself it was a weird old package. The photo on the back of the album featured the group mingling with a load of English punks, a shot presumably taken on a night off while recording the album in London. Lead singer Bernie looked right at home, his short hairdo and pink punk tee shirt blending in perfectly with the style of the hour. The rest of the band, though, especially guitarist Nono, looked well out of place, yer archetypal rock stars with long curly hair cascading down over leather jackets bedecked with AC/DC pin badges.
This wasn’t the norm, but the whole offbeat style of the thing appealed to me. And once I’d had a listen to what was in the grooves I was totally sold. Has there ever been a band that sounded so angry? Trust’s sound was the purest of hard rock riffing. Those AC/DC pins really stood for something. But the intensity and ire that came from Bernie’s throat – part singing, part political hectoring – gave this band a whole other dangerous dynamic. With my A-level French put to the test I was able to work out that Bernie was writing lyrics that railed against injustice and, yes, repression in all its forms. Sword and sorcery? Do me a favour! This was hard rock that lived in the streets, not on the silver mountain! Trust was rock stripped to its taught and sinewy best and I thought they were the absolute bollocks.
Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris had the good taste to offer them the support slot for the ‘Killers’ tour of the UK (and not just because he fancied knicking their drummer Nicko McBrain, though that might have helped!) and I could hardly contain my excitement. Even better when they announced a headlining date at a little-known venue in Manchester’s Belle Vue area. I was 15 and more than ready to rock.
The rest of Manchester didn’t agree with me. At a time when Trust were massive, massive, massive in their native country the band pulled (and I really did count them) nine people to the show! It was a shock to me, but not as seismic as the shock it must have been to the group. No matter, Trust performed like they were at Madison Square Garden, putting in a stint that is still for me one of the greatest rock concerts I’ve ever seen. To this day I remember Vivi playing bass while sipping on a pint at the bar. He had one of those new-fangled radio mics, you see. Bloody marvellous! The height of cool.
Clearly the band took such rejection to heart and the next Trust album, ‘Marche Ou Crève’ featured a song called ‘Angleterre’ on the French version lambasting jolly old England. I took it very much to heart at the time, but not enough to fall out of love with the band. They didn’t put it on the English version, mind!
Trust has always been something of an exclusive club, a place where real aficionados of the genre could get serious about their hard rock. Snobbery? Maybe. But what the hell, the music was awesome. I remember spending a night with Samson guitarist Paul Samson (God rest…) round at his house years and years ago and all we could talk about was how awesome Trust were. Paul had got hold of a ‘no vocals’ mix tape of the album simply titled ‘Trust’ and without Bernie’s voice you only got more of a sense of how dynamic, tight and loose, raw yet refined the band were. It was, without getting too dewy-eyed, a quasi-religious experience.
Now of course as they say, all things must pass, and sure enough so did Trust. The band kept going, but by the time the album titled ‘Rock ’n’ Roll’ came out the fire had gone out too. Instead of raw energy and taut riffs there was a wimping out and a commercialisation that had nothing to do with the band’s original credo. I was saddened, but not distraught. Your heroes always let you down, after all. But at least these guys had left one hell of a legacy.
The trip down memory lane that was Hunnsy’s and my trip to see the band live in Toulouse last October was even more disastrous. The band had lost all heart, all passion, all drive. They had a bloke on stage with turntables scratching along to the tunes, for God’s sake! The old songs sounded perfunctory and the new songs sounded desperately like old men trying to be relevant and totally missing the point. We left after about 45 minutes alongside a fair number of equally disenchanted punters saying it was nothing short of a scandal. Perhaps it was as good a reminder as any that sometimes memories are better left where they are.
As I write this I’m listening to an awesome live album of the band at their rockingest peak back in 1980. It’s a thing of absolute joy, which means I can forgive any of the rubbish that passes for Trust these days. Trust marked my youth like few others and it’s for that reason alone that I’ll always be a fan! So thanks Mark, for the reminder of a classic hard rock band. Maybe you’ll enjoy the ‘Répression Dans L’Hexagone’ Trust tee that we’ve just released on Saltyrockz. It’s the name of that infamous 1980 tour of France when the Trust juggernaut crushed all before it and marked hard rock history for ever…
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