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Four decades after their formation, Stray Cats are back live and on our turntables. Brian Setzer tells of the band’s beginnings and that fateful trip to cold but rockin’ London…
Setzer, Phantom and Rocker: “As time goes by you get a little wiser and you realise ‘You know, we really had something good going…’”
Photo by Russ Harrington

Hey, cats and kittens. Those three wild guys from New York with the pompadours and the crazy tattoos, Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom – collectively known as Stray Cats – are back with their first new album in 26 years, entitled 40 to commemorate four decades since the band’s formation, and making a return to the stage. Of course, the Stray Cats initially broke up in 1984, and back then the idea of a 40th anniversary reunion would have seemed highly unlikely…

“I think the early success was just too much for us to handle at that age,” Setzer recalls. “We really didn’t know where to go next. Plus, being young, drunk and stupid, you get your blood up and then all of a sudden you’re having a fight with the other guys in the band. Then as time goes by you get a little older and a little wiser, and you realise, ‘You know, we had something really good going.’ Now we’re getting along better than ever.”

When the trio first appeared on the British music scene, they were totally unique in both visual style and musical approach. Their roots were firmly in American rockabilly, with inspiration taken from early Elvis, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran – and yet unlike some acts associated with the UK’s rock’n’roll revival that bordered on the satirical, the Cats blended a healthy dose of social commentary into their music. It wasn’t just singing about blue suede shoes and flying saucers (although there’s nothing wrong with that); Runaway Boys reflected teenage alienation, while Rumble In Brighton off ered a stark portrayal of the darker side of British youth.

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