by P. Edwin Letcher
1976 was a weird, transitional period in the music world. Just a few years earlier, “glamour” had changed the look and sound of your average pop band. Androgyny and flamboyance reigned supreme as the yardstick for rebellious rocker behavior. In a few more years, the landscape would be ever more segregated into practically warlike zones populated by punks, progressives, dinosaurs, etc. For a while, though, there were plenty of bands that came up with an individualistic fashion statement and embraced the vision of being a wholesome pop band that could develop their own sound, write some well-crafted material, get a few breaks and become the next Beatles… or at least the next Lovin’ Spoonful.
Two such outfits, Los Angeles’ The Quick and Britain’s Slik, had a lot more in common than just names that rhyme. It seems to me that both groups must have been exposed to the happy-go-lucky sounds of the 1910 Fruitgum Co., Ohio Express, the Archies and all the other kid-friendly groups as part of their musical upbringing. Both bands debuted on a major label and had a crack production team behind them. The Quick put out exactly one album, Mondo Deco on Mercury, which was produced by Kim Fowley and Earle Mankey, a couple of rock veterans who were on the prowl for a marketable new wrinkle. Slik also released one album, a self titled affair on Arista, under the guiding hands of Phil Coulter and Bill Martin, another pair in search of the next big thing. Both bands opted for hair cuts that were a little shorter and much more stylish than their hippie predecessors, and dressed as a unit in a modified preppie mode. The Quick chose black and white, satiny togs for the cover of their lone album, with two members decked out in mock sailor duds. I believe Slik borrowed fairly heavily from The Bay City Rollers for their general vibe, but lifted their hair styles from ’50s teen idols, and found some baseball players’ uniforms to pirate for their photo shoot.
The Quick featured a lead vocalist, Danny Wilde, who went on to front Great Buildings and then the Rembrandts, whose Friends theme song, “I’ll Be There For You,” has been a tremendous success. Slik had a lead vocalist, Midge Ure, who went on to bigger and better in Ultravox, Visage and as a solo artist. Of the two ensembles, I prefer The Quick. They are bouncier, wrote most of their own infectious, glucose-rich material, and did a masterful job turning the Beatles’ “It Won’t Be Long” and the 4 Seasons’ “Rag Doll” into peppy pop confections that out-cute the originals by far. Though couched in youthful angst, their tunes, “No No Girl,” “Hillary” and “Hi Lo,” are ooey gooey, good time fun. Slik had a somewhat slower paced, power ballad approach, fell back on their producers for much of their songwriting and tried to turn the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” into a plodding, heavy-handed brooder. But some of Slik’s songs, like “Bom, Bom,” “Requiem” and “The Kid’s a Punk,” would have worked well as background fluff for some Saturday morning animated puppy band.
I purchased both albums, when they were “hot, new commodities,” while I was going through a phase in which I was actively looking for something “different.” In retrospect, the Quick sound a bit like the Ohio Express or Tommy Roe crossed with the Dickies. (Hmmm, I wonder if Leonard Graves Phillips and crew got any of their inspiration from the adrenalized, helium-happy antics of Danny Wilde and his buds?) While the Quick are shown chowing down on ice cream, bananas and other sweet treats on the cover of their album, Slik sounds more like the Banana Splits. Like the Monkees, the Jaggerz and various others, Slik probably thought they were pretty street tough, but at least half of their material would appeal to Turtles fans. It’s a shame they didn’t have a heavy member with an Anglo Afro. Both bands would likely have abhorred being labeled bubblegum boppers when they were trying to carve out a niche for themselves but, dagnabit, they both smack of over produced, schmaltzy, teen dance fever.