In the tradition of The Kinks and the Small Faces and around the same time as Ian Dury and Squeeze, Chas & Dave wrote and recorded exceptionally witty songs about life in London, performed with a strong affection for all things English reminiscent of many of the great Music Hall artists many years previously. In their case , however, the musical accompaniment to their sharply observant material was neither rock nor punk but solid, no-nonsense Rock’N’Roll style which had been their background and inspiration.
Pianist Chas Hodges and guitarist Dave Peacock were widely experienced around the British rock scene of the 1960s and early 70s before deciding to do their own thing together. Touring as a duo and using additional session musicians on their recordings, they eventually enlisted Mick Burt (another much-travelled musician who had gone back to his original trade as a plumber) to back them on drums. Chas had worked with the legendary producer Joe Meek, backed Jerry Lee Lewis, played with Mike Berry and the Outlaws, along with Ritchie Blackmore, and also the highly respected Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, which had Burt on drums. He then joined Albert Lee’s cult band Heads Hands and Feet before playing with Dave and Albert in Black Claw. Dave had been equally active, Starting out in The Rolling Stones (no, not them!) in 1960. Spells with The Tumbleweeds, Mick Greenwood, Jerry Donaghue, and the above mentioned Black Claw followed prior to the pair coming together to go out on their own as Chas & Dave.
Their debut album ‘One Fing ‘n’ Anuvver’ was released on the Retreat label in 1975 earning critical acclaim from the likes of John Peel among others. This self-produced offering was perhaps the first (definitely the strongest) example of cockney Rock ‘n’ Roll, with song titles such as ‘Ponders End Allotments Club’ giving a strong North London angle to the genre. Their proudly cockney vocals and exuberant good humour, blended with their love for genuine Rock’n’Roll, led them to title their 1978 EMI album ‘Rockney’ (later to become their label name) which featured some top quality songwriting and was championed, before their commercial success, by the influential DJ Charlie Gillett. Two years later they were spotted by an advertising exec at a pub gig playing their composition ‘Gertcha’; he signed them up to make ads for Courage beer and lucrative popularity naturally resulted as well as awards for the ads themselves. ‘Gertcha’ became their first Top Twenty chart entry. They followed up with ‘The Sideboard Song (Got my Beer in The Sideboard Here)’ from their third album ‘Don’t Give A Monkey’s’ , and their two most successful singles, 1980’s ‘Rabbit’ (from the same album) and the fine, more reflective ballad ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ two years later. In between they recorded their first live album – ‘Live At Abbey Road’ – for EMI. The famous Studio One being converted into an East end pub for the occasion with friends and industry invited.
More popular recordings came along with ‘Margate’ and ‘London Girls’ and a move into the sporting world, collaborating with the Matchroom Mob on ‘Snooker Loopy’ in 1986, and Tottenham Hotspur FC on their FA cup final songs. The 80s also saw Christmas releases with collections of their favourite old time songs brought back for a new audience. The boys still found time to contribute theme tunes for TV shows such as ‘Crackerjack’ and ‘In Sickness & In Health’. Regular appearances on our screens as well as their own TV specials boosted their profile to household name status. Perhaps the high point of the decade though was being presented with the ‘Red Book’ by Eamonn Andrews on the TV show ‘This Is Your Life’ during the show’s heyday in 1985.
Throughout the 90s they switched their attention to new projects. They worked with the late Johnny Speight – creator of Alf Garnett. And they recorded a collection of songs to commemorate the 50th anniversary of V.E day in 1995. This proved to be their most successful album to date hitting number two in the charts (kept off of the top spot only by Take That’s farewell album). The accompanying video was equally successful. They also returned to the advertising world when Heinz Baked Beans used ‘The Diddlum Song’ for a successful TV ad campaign in 1993. In 1998 they had an unexpected breakthrough in America when radio stations started playing their track ‘Flying’ in heavy rotation, resulting in overwhelming public response. This lead to them being snapped up by US label Cleveland International and ‘The World Of Chas & Dave’ album was released to cash in on the buzz, which it duly did, winning them scores of fans in the states including Jack Clement, legendary engineer at Sun Studios (who is credited as having discovered Jerry Lee Lewis no less).So 25 years on, the boys found themselves touring the US for the first time.
In this new century, Chas & Dave’s appeal has never been greater or more varied. The audiences are getting younger without the boys deliberately trying to appeal to the youth, and new bands are citing them as a major influence. None more so than The Libertines, who when asked who they wanted on the bill with them on their London shows in 2003/2004, didn’t hesitate… Chas & Dave. The shows at The Brixton Academy & The Kentish Town Forum were a huge success with Pete & Carl from the band joining Chas & Dave on stage for a couple of numbers. This glowing endorsement from the band of the moment opened a lot of people’s eyes and ears to Chas & Dave.
In 2005 Chas & Dave joined forces with EMI once more resulting in two top selling CD releases. The year also saw their long overdue debut at the Glastonbury Festival as they packed out the acoustic stage with over thirty thousand fans singing along. The year ended on a high with a sold out christmas beano at the Shepherd’s Bush empire which was filmed by EMI for a debut DVD release.
In 2009, Dave’s wife Sue, a driving force behind Chas & Dave’s career, passed away after a brave battle with lung cancer. You can read more about this remarkable woman here. In the wake of this, Dave decided to retire from the band.
In 2011, Chas & Dave reunited for a hugely successful tour. Highlights included three sold-out nights at the London Indigo2 as well as storming sell-out dates at The Liverpool Cavern and the Glasgow o2 ABC. Initially intended to be a final tour, the fan reaction was such that the boys couldn’t stay away and resolved to tour again. They ended the year with two special nights back at the Indigo2 commemorating the 30th anniversary of 1981’s Christmas Jamboree Bag album.
In 2013 Chas & Dave marked the 50th anniversary of their friendship by signing a new record deal with Warner Music Entertainment and releasing their first new studio album in since 1987’s “Flying”. “That’s What Happens” was recorded at Studio 2, Abbey Road – “The Beatles Room” – with Grammy-winning bluesman Joe Henry (Solomon Burke, Allen Toussaint, Elvis Costello & Bonnie Raitt) on production duties. It saw Chas and Dave return to their roots with a collection of early R&B, skiffle and rock n’ roll classics alongside new takes on songs of their own. The album highlighted their finely-honed, versatile musicianship and intricate vocal harmonies and featured a crack team of musicians and special guests including guitarists Albert Lee and Martin Taylor, Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ drummer J. I Allison and on keys Jools Holland and Hugh Laurie. Upon release the album quickly became a firm favourite with critics and fans alike and put Chas & Dave back in the upper reaches of the UK album charts for the first time in a generation. They finished the year by not only appearing at the Royal Variety Performance for the first time, but providing the show’s finale piece – with the likes of Gary Barlow, Robbie Williams, Jessie J and many others joining them on stage to sing “London Girls”.
They confirmed their resurgence in 2014 by selling out their first ever headline show at the Royal Albert Hall and being presented with the Nordoff Robbins Icon award at a ceremony that included fellow award winners such as Tom Jones, Pharrell, Jimmy Page, and Paloma Faith. And in 2015 they were invited to perform at the VE Day 70 concert at Royal Horseguards in front of 15,000 people and a live BBC 1 audience to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
In early 2017 Chas was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. He spent much of the year receiving successful treatment and managed to return in time to play a storming set at Hyde Park in the summer, as well as complete a set of re-scheduled dates up to the end of the year.
Chas & Dave surprised everyone in January 2018 by announcing that they were recording their first album of new songs since 1987’s “Flying”. The album “A Little Bit Of Us” was recorded at the studio belonging to their old mate Brian Juniper (the man who introduced the two of them back in 1963) and was released on their classic Rockney label through Cooking Vinyl Records in April. Everything about “A Little Bit Of Us” is pure Chas & Dave – right down to the cover art which features a photo taken by Chas, and the title painted by Dave.
The album’s release coincided with the boys’ second sold-out show at the Royal Albert Hall – which was even more spectacular than their first show there in 2014 featuring a full string section as well as the ever-dependable sax players. And they followed this up with another Hyde Park appearance in front of a crowd of 50,000 with their old mate Eric Clapton headlining.
Sadly, these two remarkable outings were to be Chas and Dave’s final live appearances as Chas succumbed to Pneumonia and passed-away on September 22nd. The huge public outpouring of sadness coupled with celebration of Chas’ life culminated in a memorable tribute show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in December, featuring appearances from performers who were Chas’s friends and past collaborators as well as his favourite artists such as Eric Clapton, Albert Lee, Joe Brown, Paul Whitehouse and many more. The show was, of course, presented by Dave and raised over £40,000 for Chas’ chosen charity WaterAid. A fitting tribute indeed.
As long as there is the music, Chas – and Dave’s story won’t end there. And with the Chas & Dave Gold album entering the UK album charts in the top ten recently it’s clear that the love for their music is as strong as ever. Further releases are planned, and of course the new West End stage show of Only Fools & Horses will feature some classic Chas & Dave songs as well as brand new songs that Chas wrote for the show with the show’s star Paul Whitehouse.