Friday, 18 July 2014

Absolute Agony

You’ve got Paul Nashman, the former proprietor of the infamous Nasher’s second-hand record shop in Walcot Street, Bath to blame for this one, for until he alerted me to it earlier this week I was blissfully unaware of its existence (Nasher’s late and much lamented shop featured on the front cover of the 2002 Van Morrison album Down the Road).

Issued as the second 45 on the tiny Monza record label in 1980 (the first was a cover of 10CC’s I’m Not in Love by Edwina Rigby; the third, and last, was a 45 which coupled reggae versions of the Dallas and Waltons themes), Rabies is a Killer is the sole single from Leicester’s Agony Bag, a bizarre Rocky Horror/Jayne County hybrid four piece (plus their two delightful female dancers) which sprang from the ashes of heavy rock act Black Widow. Inspired in equal measures by Jethro Tull and the teachings of black magic witch/occultist Alex Sanders (known to his followers as Verbius) Black Widow scored a minor hit with their first album Sacrifice, which included their best-known song Come to the Sabbat. Imitating near-neighbours Earth (who, in August 1969 would rename themselves Black Sabbath) Black Widow had themselves risen from the remnants of bluesy pop band Pesky Gee! I’ll tell you more about them another day, and maybe share Nasher’s tale of the day he ran into BW’s guitarist and songwriter Jim Gannon (if he’ll let me), but one fun fact is that their line-up once included Romeo Challenger, the drummer from Showaddywaddy.

But for now, back to Agony Bag.

Often dumped into the catch-all NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) grab-bag, Agony Bag was formed in early 1976 by former Black Widow members Clive Jones (flute and vocals) and drummer Clive Box (known professionally as Bok). The band eschewed Black Widow’s infamous satanic stage show (where the band would mock-sacrifice a nubile young woman) in favour of a poorly executed Kiss-in-drag look. After four years of slogging around the Leicester pub circuit the band released their one and only single, Rabies is a Killer backed with Never Never Land, both sides of which were written by Jones. The group made a video to accompany the release, which I urge you to check out (it’s on YouTube), if only for the sight of a makeup-caked Jones dressed up in stockings and suspenders swinging from the rafters of a Leicester rehearsal room. He looks for all the world like Frank-N-Furter imitating a chimpanzee.

Little wonder that, shortly after the recording, bass player Geoff Bevan left the band and joined the fledgling Diesel Park West. Clive and Bok added Ian Watts on guitar and Mick Wright on bass but this new line-up lasted fewer than two months: the band folded altogether when Clive decided to leave at the end of November 1980.

Agony Bag were “a most unusual band and well before its time,” Clive Jones told Polish metal website Doomsmoker. “It also gave me the chance to write more and do lead vocals. Agony Bag was great fun and we were for sure the only band to have sex onstage and not always with our girl dancers! We did many tours of Germany and have a great fan base over there.” This would explain why the tracks were recorded in a German studio and why one chorus of Rabies is a Killer is sung in German.

Agony Bag recorded several other tracks, most of which are now available on the 2001 compilation Feelmazumba, and Rabies is a Killer recently turned up on the soundtrack of indie horror flick Jessicka Rabid. In recent years Clive has once again been playing and recording as part of a new line-up of Black Widow. If you’d like to know more about Agony Bag I urge you to check out überfan Phil Mulvaney’s website at, but for now, here are both sides of Agony Bag’s brilliant Rabies is a Killer.


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