April 12, 2024

The late, lamented hard rock bassist Pete Way was a founder member of London rockers UFO in 1968, and remained a constant presence through their heyday in the New Wave of Heavy Metal. When he and the band eventually parted company in 1982, the first project he formed was Fastway with ex-Motorhead guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke. Way had contractual difficulties though, and even though his name was on the tin, he didn’t play on any of the band’s albums. So after a brief stint with Ozzy Osbourne, he formed Waysted with Scottish vocalist Fin Muir, and Way’s former UFO bandmate Paul Raymond on rhythm guitar and keys. The line-up turned out to be very fluid, but they released two full studio albums, a mini-album and a live set before breaking up in 1987, at which point Way rejoined UFO.

Waysted: Pete Way, 2nd right (holding the bass, of course!)

Waysted were destined to reform in 2000, but that is a story for another day. For now, the prolific Cherry Red label has gathered Waysted’s original 1980s catalogue and released it as a 4 CD boxed set entitled Won’t Get Out Alive – Waysted Volume One 1983-1986. The New Wave was still underway at this time, and what we have here is a set of classic New Wave heavy metal – it’s not particularly sophisticated, and the arrangements are not complex – think Judas Priest and Saxon perhaps, rather than the proggy pretensions of Iron Maiden or Diamond Head.

The set is arranged thus: Disc 1 contains the band’s first album, Vices from 1983, featuring the above-mentioned personnel plus Frank Noon on drums and ace axe-shredder Ronnie Kayfield. It consists of nine songs that don’t quite amount to 40 minutes, which sounds a bit short by today’s standards, but was pretty standard in the days before CDs. In this case though, it is bolstered by the inclusion of remixes of six of the tracks, including the excellent opener Love Loaded, which became the band’s most recognizable anthem in the early days. Apart from that, the adolescent song titles, such as Women In Chains, Sleazy and Hot Love, give a fair indication of where they were coming from. The final number is an unexpected cover of Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 punky hit Somebody To Love, which also features amongst the remixed tracks.

Disc 2 starts with the self-titled 25-minute mini-album Waysted from 1984, which only featured Way and Muir from that original line-up. Ronnie Kayfield had been replaced by Neil Shepard from the Jess Cox Band, (Cox, you may remember, was the original front man for Tygers Of Pan Tang), and Frank noon by ex-UFO alumnus Andy Parker behind the kit. It only contains five songs, but they range in length from the sub-3-minute Won’t Get Out Alive to the 8-minute opus Cinderella Boys. The CD also contains the live album, You Won’t Get Out Alive, recorded in Cardiff in 1984. Welshman Paul Chapman, also from UFO, had replaced Shepard, so the band now included three ex-members of UFO, Way, Chapman and Parker, with Muir still at the front. Not surprisingly, a couple of UFO covers make their way into the set, including an extended version of Too Hot To Handle, to close the album.

Waysted: Pete Way, (back, standing, brandishing a stool)

The final two CDs comprise one album each. Disc 3 presents the band’s second full-length studio album, the 40-minute The Good The Bad The Waysted from 1984. Three members from the previous year are still there: Way, Chapman and Muir, which is pretty much a record for this band. Parker had vacated the drum stool, being replaced by Jerry Shirley from Humble Pie and Fastway; Jimmy Dilella from Chapman’s short-lived previous band DOA provided keyboards and rhythm guitar. Without changing their style substantially, this set still represents a massive step up, musically. For the first couple of tracks, it’s the same old thing, notwithstanding that the opener, Hang ‘Em High, would be an excellent start to any album of classic rock. But third song, the anthemic heaven Tonight, is an eye-opener, starting as a piano ballad, then thundering into a catchy Summer-Of-69-style pop rocker. Keyboards play a far bigger part, with piano or synth intros often replacing the earlier full-on guitar riff launches. Dead On Your Legs is a blatant nick from Rod Stewart’s Hot Legs, with its cheeky glam-rock thudding rhythm, but again, it added a texture that was previously missing. And just for a bit of fun, the album closes with a rocking rendition of Chuck Berry’s, (or if you prefer, The Rolling Stones’), Around And Around.

And finally, on Disc 4, we have the band’s ultimate album for this iteration, Save Your Prayers from 1986, and the band reaches its pinnacle right here. A major change in line-up leaves Pete Way as the only original member; Paul Chapman remains on lead guitar, but the drum stool this time is occupied by John Ditedori, and Fin Muir is replaced by American vocalist Danny Vaughn, again from Paul Chapman’s DOA. The album is noticeably longer at about 50 minutes, but this version also includes the non-album B-side Fire Under The Wheels, plus a couple of 7” single versions, bringing the whole thing to over an hour. By this period, formative hard rock in this style was being overtaken by soft and hair metal, with bands like Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and Foreigner taking all the accolades. Waysted nods respectfully to such influences with the melodic and catchy single Black & Blue, and more Bryan Adams comes through in the second single, Heaven Tonight. But basically they stay true to their roots, powering in with the superb opening number Walls Fall Down, and the powerfully emotive Heroes Die Young. For the most part, keyboards take a back seat or are missing entirely, but a few numbers benefit from tasteful keyboard intros. Vaughn’s voice doesn’t have the raw, aggressive edge of Muir’s gravelly tonsils, but he still has the power, and to be honest, the slightly new direction benefits by sanding off that splintery edge. Having said that, Wild Night and the bonus track Fire Under The Wheels rock harder than anything in their catalogue up to this point. Jangly rhythm guitars and tasteful lead breaks throughout the album intermingle with the flashier stuff, and it makes a great mix.

Truthfully, Save Your Prayers can hold its head up alongside the best classic metal the ‘80s had to offer. Despite the multiple line-up changes, or maybe because of them, this final rock-out shows a band that could have been contenders, had not huge management issues and bad luck tied an anchor round their foot. As such, this set stands, not only as a potted biography of a developing band, but also as an accurate document of this early stage of heavy metal’s development; an excellent 24-page booklet fleshes out the bones nicely in both words and pictures. Pete Way was at the heart of the British rock scene from UFO’s first album in 1970, (the same year as Black Sabbath’s debut, mind, and only a couple of years behind Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin), all the way through the New Wave Of British Heavy metal, on through the melodic rock era and into the new millennium. He died in 2020, a week after his 70th birthday. Waysted formed a small slice of that career, but it provides a vital snapshot of the age. Look out for Heroes Die Young: Waysted Volume Two 2000-2007. I doff my cap.

Won’t Get Out Alive: Waysted Volume One (1983-1986) is released as a 4 CD set on 26 April 2024 by Cherry Red Records

Waysted, glammed up: Pete Way, centre