Comes in a jewel case with an attractive 16-page booklet including lyrics to all songs, comprehensive CD liner notes notes written by Gary Miller & Glenn Miller, a selection of contemporary photographs of the band line-up featured on these sessions, full recording details and credits, etc.
Signed copies (by Gary Miller) are now available on request (at no additional cost). Simply make your choice by selecting from the various options in the 'Signed/Unsigned' box at the checkout.
Includes unlimited streaming of The First Few Drops [1994 Reissue]
via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
18-track re-issue version first released in 1994. The original 12-track version (released in 1991) was a compilation album of The Whisky Priests two 1988 12" EP's 'No Chance' & 'Grandfatha's Fatha' (plus one additional track - 'Shut Doon the Waggon Works' [demo version] which had previously been released on a various artists compilation album).
This version adds 6 further bonus tracks, including the three tracks which appeared on the band's debut 7" single 'The Colliery', plus three previously unreleased early demo versions of tracks which were later rerecorded for the band's debut 1989 album 'Nee Gud Luck'.
Original CD liner notes:
Together, the two of us formed The Whisky Priests in August 1985, after our final year at Gilesgate Comprehensive School in Durham, playing our first gig on 4th October 1985 at Fowlers Yard, Durham City.
Our mutual interest in music and our native North East England formed the initial basic template for our ideas and, in the years since, we have had to battle against a variety of set-backs just to keep that basic idea alive and kicking. Constant line-up changes have led to over thirty different members along the way, which has made things far from easy for us, plus we make no secret of the endless recording and publishing agreement disputes and the overall music media and industry apathy towards our cause. This has only made us more determined in the pursuance of our vision to its ultimate conclusion, through good times or bad, for better or worse. Perhaps one of the largest obstacles we have had to overcome has been the fact that we have been somehow forced into the position of achieving our goals almost totally unaided. It would have seemed inconceivable at the start that all these years down the line we would be running the band as a self-managed, self-financed, self-motivated and self-contained business, making all our own decisions as well as running our own fan club and mailing list, plus much more. And yet, here we are! And in spite of everything, we firmly believe we have got to this stage with our integrity and self-esteem intact.
Now that our four-year term with Celtic Music is finally at an end and ownership of all our own material has reverted back to us, we are proud to be able to reissue our first three albums on our own Whippet Records label, in special new editions, with repackaged booklets and bonus tracks.
We have always prided ourselves in our independence, as well as the special relationship we seem to share with our following. It is difficult to imagine that we could have reached this far without the enthusiasm and sheer loyalty of those who have stuck with us through it all and helped drive us on through all the difficult times. You have left us with many truly wonderful memories and experiences - long may they continue!
This special reissue is dedicated to you…
Thinking back now to the very early days of the band, recollections are somewhat hazy, although we do carry some fond memories of this time.
Early line-ups of the band consisted almost entirely of old school friends including, from the very beginning, Michael Stephenson and, later, Bill Bulmer, who had initially been the band’s ‘manager, roadie and confidant, before he replaced banjo player Mark Kelly. The four of us had been in the same year at school together and for a long time had been very close friends. Sticks, a few years older than the rest of us, turned up one night at a drummer-less gig at the Queen’s Head, Gilesgate, Durham (Whisky Priests gigs without a drummer had been common in the early days!) and offered his services during the two set interval as, he informed us, his drumkit was stored only a few doors away from the venue at his parents’ house. We tactfully turned down his offer to drum for us that night, with the promise of a full audition at a booked rehearsal a few days later, which he came along to, passed with flying colours, and was welcomed into the fold.
The line-up of the band on these recordings, although not the original line-up, was the first really solid line-up we ever had. These were, in a way, the band’s ‘halcyon days’. Full professionalism was still a few years away and there was a lot of naivety, freshness and youthful energy in our approach as well as a great spirit. Although aspirations tended to be limited to having a good time together, enjoying a basic camaraderie, we felt, even at this early stage, that The Whisky Priests had great potential and underneath this there was always a driving force and a belief in what we were doing.
Although we have to date toured all over Europe, visiting more than a dozen countries over the years, the line-up presented here never played outside the UK.
The band’s first ever recording session took place towards the end of 1985, after only two gigs had been performed, when we recorded our first original Whisky Priests song (written by Gary), the long forgotten ‘Danny’s Hard Life’, for a compilation album of local Durham bands called ‘Twelve Go Mad In Durham’.
In January 1987, we received what for us in our naivety at the time seemed a major ‘break’, when we appeared on one of the very last editions of the now legendary Channel 4 music-based television programme ‘The Tube’. We opened the show, introduced by Paula Yates, performing what can best be described as a somewhat awkward and amateur, yet spirited, version of the North East of England traditional ‘standard’ ‘The Blaydon Races’, which at the time was an integral part of our live set. This led immediately to a would-be ‘manager’ taking us on and promising us the earth, and initially financing the recording of our debut 7” vinyl single ‘The Colliey’ b/w ‘Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny’/’The Clog Dancer’. The single was recorded and mixed over two days. Approximately 1000 copies (about 930 in fact) were pressed and these were all sold at gigs or given away as promotion.
We can remember the vocal tracks for the song ‘The Colliery’ requiring a seemingly endless amount of retakes because our ‘manager’ at the time and the studio in-house producer/engineer both took a severe dislike to the song being sung in our native dialect, and insisted on the vocals being redone again and again until the dialect had been toned down sufficiently for their wishes. Being naïve and young at the time, we went along with this and, as a result, the vocals on the final mix lack any of the real power, emotion and strength of delivery required to give the song the necessary effect. This was the first and last time we have allowed ourselves to be dictated to in this fashion and have always fiercely stuck to our own beliefs since. In addition, the fiddle and banjo on all three tracks are so obviously out of tune and regularly out of time.
Unfortunately, due to lack of care and foresight at the time, the original master tape of ‘The Colliery’ session was lost and the only source available for re-mastering was a copy of the original 7” vinyl pressing, which was not of particularly impressive quality.
Despite these various technical shortcomings, however, we decided it was important now to include these tracks, warts and all, in order to present a fuller account of our early career, bearing in mind that during this period we made very few studio recordings and, with the benefit of hindsight, we regret somewhat that we lacked the opportunity to have recorded more material at the time.
Shortly after the release of ‘The Colliery’, we parted company with the manager who had not quite given us the earth he had promised and, left completely to our own devices again, 1988 became our most active year up until that point. We played as many gigs in one year as we had played in the previous two years combined, plus we set up our own independent record label, ‘Whippet Records’, and self-financed, released and promoted two 12” EP’s, ‘No Chance’ and ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’, sowing the seeds for the future, when we would eventually become a totally self-contained business enterprise, in the form of a ‘cottage industry’. The EP’s were recorded and mixed less than four months apart, onto 8-track tape, in two days each. The studio costs were £175 for ‘No Chance’ and £145 for ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’. The recordings are therefore no more than basic ‘demo’ quality, but we feel they successfully captured the essence of the band at that time. Approximately 1500 of each were pressed.
When we listened to the playback of ‘Wise Man’ once it had been recorded, we noticed the sound of the crash cymbal was intruding heavily onto the rest of the music. Unfortunately, because the whole drum-kit had by then been mixed down onto only one track, this meant that drummer, Sticks, had to rerecord the drums in their entirety over everything else (in addition, we had not used a ‘click’ track, making this task even harder) and if you listen to the last instrumental section at the end of the song, you can hear the drums going slightly out of time with everything else!
The song ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ was inspired by a poem written by Sticks about the true-life experiences of his own grandfather, who had witnessed his father killed in a coalmining accident.
‘The Ghost of Geordie Jones’ was recorded and mixed as a last-minute decision in a spare half-hour. The song, by Glenn, was newly written and we had never even rehearsed it together before we recorded it. We gave this song its final title after we had recorded it.
When the ‘No Chance’ EP was released, it was reviewed in ‘Sounds’ magazine as ‘accordions on acid’ and ‘compulsive dementia’, and was also one of the Top 5 Singles of the Week, reaching the ‘Sounds’ Phone-in Play-list.
The initial idea had been to follow ‘No Chance’ with our debut album but we hurriedly decided to hold back recording the album until the New Year, in favour of a second EP, which would follow ‘hot on the heels’ of ‘No Chance’, in order to consolidate the first EP, and hopefully gain us further promotion in advance of the album. So we re-entered the same studio, the Pigpen in Trimdon, County Durham, at the earliest opportunity and recorded the six tracks which would make up the ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ 12” EP, and then things suddenly began to go wrong. Within a couple of days of the records reaching the shelves of our distributors, Red Rhino, they went bust and into liquidation, without our knowledge, while the records ended up collecting dust for weeks. We were blissfully unaware of the whole situation, until we received a ‘stroppy’ telephone call from someone at the offices of Rough Trade (the head company of the Cartel, of which Red Rhino had been a member) in London, informing us, in no uncertain terms, that if we failed to reclaim our records immediately from the Rough Trade warehouse, they would all be destroyed within two days. We acted quickly and rescued them and then sold them all at gigs and on mail order, but the damage had been done, leaving us without distribution of any kind for our product. To add insult to injury, Michael and Sticks simultaneously quit the band shortly afterwards, cutting us right down to a three-piece by the beginning of 1989.
Of the three ‘demo’ tracks included as bonus tracks on this CD, we felt the version of ‘Jenny Grey’ included here, which was recorded shortly after the song had been written, captured a somewhat different feel to the later version on ‘Nee Gud Luck’, warranting its inclusion here. The final tracks on this CD, ‘Collier’s Rant’ and ‘The Rising of the North’, also differ in some way to their later versions and feature a very early incarnation of the band, representing the earliest recorded material presented here.
With the demise of Red Rhino and the break up of our first truly solid line-up, the end of 1988 marked the end of the first major era of The Whisky Priests. What happened next is another story…
(Gary Miller & Glenn Miller, August 1994)
“‘The First Few Drops’ is a collection of EP’s, singles and demos that pre-date the first album. A mere 18 songs on here show a band that although young and inexperienced were still capable of songs of great power and emotion. Some of the songs on here were re-recorded for ‘Nee Gud Luck’, as these were recorded with an earlier line-up. ‘Grandfatha’s Fatha’ is a brilliant song, telling at great pace the death of a man down the pit, witnessed by his own son. It is this song that typifies for me what The Whisky Priests are all about. There is loads pf emotion and passion, a real closeness to the subject matter (this is a true story, concerning the drummer Sticks) and energy and vigour.
The Whisky Priests are not laid back folkies with a finger in the ear but rather northerners capturing the power of their heritage and not compromising their ideals. It is either music that you will love or hate, there is no middle ground and there is not meant to be.”
(From joint review of ‘Nee Gud Luck, ‘The First Few Drops’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Kevin Rowland, ‘Feedback’, UK, Issue 29, 8th June 1995.
“‘The First Few Drops’ is perhaps the best CD to see where The Whisky Priests came from as it contains their early EP’s, singles and demos. Many of them are rough and ready and do show an eagerness and ability that anyone with any sense could tell would lead the way to a pretty impressive career. One or two traditional tunes such as ‘Dance To Yer Daddy’, ‘The Clog Dancer’ and ‘The Bonnie Pit Laddie’. If there was any doubt about where the lads came from, then this is the album that has more roots than the New Forest. Their first Instrumental Medley is here splendidly played like their lives depended on it. There are 18 tracks on here with even the demos sounding rather accomplished.”
(From joint review of ‘Bloody Well Live!’, ‘The Power And The Glory’, ‘When The Wind Blows, Billy Boy’, ‘The First Few Drops’, Nee Gud Luck’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Dave W. Hughes, ‘The Modern Dance’, UK.
“Having been brought up on the manic talents of The Pogues and The Saw Doctors I was delighted to discover another group who are able to impart in their music that special thing – the ability to make me feel exhausted when it is over. If you are ever in need of motivation and drive then these North Eastern lads will deliver.
However, if you like your tunes to be vocally perfect and predictable, then the tones of lead singer Gary Miller will upset you greatly. Despite several listenings I am still left thinking that it is ‘Rigsby’ up there belting out the words. But that is the beauty of this CD – its individuality. Who can honestly say that they have ever heard other voices like Shane MacGowan or Davey Carton? Likewise, Gary Miller is now able to join that select band of frontmen who transform average into excellence.
The underlying theme throughout this CD is the misery and hardship that was, and is still suffered down the Geordie-land pits. The way the tracks are presented though, lifts you up and out of any threatening doom and gloom, into great enjoyment.
Following the recession of The Pogues back into mainstream normality, lapsed fans of their culture surely must be taken over by this offering, with tracks such as ‘The Hard Men’, ‘Wise Man’ and the incomparable ‘No Chance’. It could be time to start jumping around again!!
Such obvious talent and enjoyment deserves the success that it will almost certainly achieve.”
Martin Holden, ‘Folk North West’, UK, Spring 1995.
“The Whisky Priests now have their entire catalogue under their own control and these re-issues are a confident celebration of 9 years of hard work and determination to keep Gary and Glenn Miller’s basic idea of an English Northeast band on the road. So far there have been over 30 different band members as line-ups have changed and changed again. Gary Miller has written 32 of the recorded tracks, plus 4 further collaborations with Glenn Miller and one with Mick Tyas, and Glenn has written a further two. Also included are well-known ‘Trad’ songs and tunes from the N.E., which have been part of their repertoire from the beginning. They have also written many more songs, which are as yet unrecorded – a prolific outpouring of energy and creativity, which also characterises their live performances. All 3 re-issues include a 16-page insert booklet with words for all the songs, the story of The Whisky Priests so far, in three instalments, and a selection of archive photographs.
The twin ‘likely lads’ from Durham with a schoolboy vision in 1985 are now independent businessmen without losing their integrity and self esteem. An inspiration to all of us who attempt to create our own contribution to the global ceilidh. Enjoy the fruits of their labour at a bargain price!”
(Joint review of ‘The First Few Drops’, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Jenny Coxon, ‘Folk Buzz’, UK, Spring 1995.
“Reading the sleeve-notes of these reissued early Priests albums, you find a tale of indie tenacity of the first order. To say that that tenacity and clarity of purpose fuels the music puts it mildly. Whether you like them or not, you have to admit that without the likes of this band, music would be a weaker-kneed constituency altogether.”
(Joint review of ‘The First Few Drops’, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Steve Morris, ‘Brumbeat’, UK, 1995.
“Passionate in your face from the start to the finish, these CD’s show the early development and unique Priest style taking form. All three feature bonus tracks, sleeve notes and lyrics, making each excellent value for money. Hard driven folk rock with rare verve, it’s honest, hard music and ideal for foot to the floor motorway driving.”
(Joint review of ‘The First Few Drops’, ‘Nee Gud Luck’, ‘Timeless Street’, reissue 1994 versions), Mark Hughes, ‘First Hearing’, UK, 1995.
released October 1, 1994
The Whisky Priests line-up on this recording:
Gary Miller – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bouzouki, Mandolin
Glenn Miller – Accordion, Backing Vocals, Bouzouki
Michael Stephenson – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Bill Bulmer – Mandolin, Harmonicas, Bouzouki, Backing Vocals
Sticks – Drums
Gary Miller first rose to prominence with internationally renowned folk-rock band The Whisky Priests (1985-2002), founded
with his twin brother Glenn - “the Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of Folk Music". In 2010, following long-term illness, he released ‘Reflections on War’, his debut solo album and first CD of all new material in 10 years and returned to international touring....more