- Profile: Phantom, Rocker & Slick
Boy, is it tough to find information on this band. And I guess that makes sense, since they were only together for two years and two albums. After Brian Setzer left Stray Cats, Rocker and Phantom teamed up with Earl Slick to form Phantom, Rocker & Slick. The resulting sound was ballpark rockabilly but far enough removed to be something completely different. Slick, having played with David Bowie and as a studio musician for more artists than you can count, really helped shift the sound.
Their self-titled debut stayed on the U.S. charts for about 20-25 weeks. The single Men Without Shame broke into the Top 10. The follow-up, My Mistake, didn’t fare as well. The album included appearances by Keith Richards (My Mistake, lead guitar) and Nicky Hopkins (No Regrets, piano). The following year they released Cover Girl, which came and went without much notice. (I’ve never heard anything from Cover Girl.) After that, the guys went their separate ways, thus ending their illustrious grab for the silver ring.
I probably would’ve never known anything about PR&S except … in 1985, I had a brief little fling with a sweet, young thing (actually, she was a year older than me), and she bought the Phantom, Rocker & Slick cassette for me. My first thought was This girl has no idea who am I or what I like, which was quickly followed with a proper thank-you and some words similar to I can’t wait to hear it (and if that makes me seem like a dick, well, it is what it is).
I listened to it a few times, consigned it to the cassette heap, and quickly forgot about it. Within a month, the girl was gone and I’d moved on. But over the ensuing 5 years, this one song, No Regrets, kept making unannounced, surprise appearances in my brain. Eventually, I dug the cassette out, and would listen to that song repeatedly. After a few years and probably hundreds of listenings, the cassette started producing this squeaking sound that would actually come through the stereo speakers, so I sadly bid the cassette farewell. I was a dirt-poor student at the time and, even if I could’ve afforded to buy an album, PR&S probably wouldn’t’ve been high on my list (even though my opinion of the album had changed mightily over the years). Anyway, by this point, I’d heard it so many times that I could listen to No Regrets, from start to finish, in my head. I even convinced one of my bands to let me sing it as part of our regular set list and, believe me, that’s a testament to how good the song is and not my vocal abilities. It’s just a great song.
Off and on over the years, I’d hit Amazon and Google, just to see if I could find the album. Surprisingly, EMI has never reissued either PR&S album. In ‘85 and ‘86, CDs were still the up-and-coming thing, and most music was only available on vinyl and cassette. So neither album has ever been available on CD. Most cassette versions are probably garbage or collector-only at this point. You can still find the stuff on used vinyl. But what the hell? It’s 2011. Shouldn’t everything be available by this point?
I can’t speak to Cover Girl, but that first album was good. It needs to be reissued. After doing some trawling, I found the following quote from Slim Jim Phantom source:
PR&S was a great record. I’m proud of it. For me at the time, it was very different, different writing, playing, look etc. Hopefully some day they will issue it on cd. Lee and I have tried to petition the label for years - nightmare - you would figure they wouldn’t need to be told, Keith Richards is on it, Nicky Hopkins etc. Two Stray Cats and a Rolling Stone, you figure that would warrant a re-issue.
So, Phantom and Rocker realize it’s good stuff and are trying to get it reissued. And, not surprisingly, EMI is ignoring the demand and keeping music locked away in a vault rather than making it available to be heard and enjoyed. I wish Phantom and Rocker the best of luck because I agree, this stuff needs to be made available. If not on CD then digitally.
Earlier this year, I finally got around to obtaining a copy. My first listen was pure joy. I forgot how much I loved these songs, and I surprised myself at how many of the songs I was immediately able to sing along with. No Regrets doesn’t hold sway the way it once did, but the other songs have stepped up and more than filled the gap. What You Want is fantastic. Lonely Action should’ve been a single. Time is on My Hands is just powerful. Every song contains it’s own little kernel of joy. Each is fascinating in its own way.
PR&S managed two official videos: Men Without Shame and My Mistake. Following are links to the videos on YouTube, and following that are fan-produced videos of the remaining songs. Enjoy.
Men Without Shame
Youtube link because who knows why it wont’ work. Bastards.
What You Want
Time is on My Hands
Sing for Your Supper
Well Kept Secret
Runnin’ From the Hounds