Barrie Masters

Image © J Higgott

As the old blues song put it so succinctly  – another man done gone. The Southend music scene has lost one of its best known characters – Barrie Masters, lead singer with the legendary Eddie and the Hot Rods.

Even though Barrie hadn’t enjoyed the best of health in recent times, his death last month still came as a big shock to music fans throughout the land. Just like their peers Dr Feelgood and The Kursaal Flyers,  Eddie and the Hot Rods hailed from the Thames Delta and they too landed a major record deal.

The Hot Rods signed to Island Records in the mid-1970s off the back of their live shows which paved the way for the punk explosion that soon followed. Barrie was at the helm and with the exception of Lee Brilleaux there was no better frontman at the time on the British music scene. Barrie and Lee both lived on Canvey. They both knew how to entertain and were admired by numerous punk singers who, at that point, were still learning the game.

After a couple of decent but commercially unsuccessful  singles – Writing On The Wall and Wooly Bully – Island Records took a leaf out of the book of The Feelgoods’ label United Artists and went for a live recording to capture their Essex signing at their best. The EP Live At The Marquee remains a seminal ‘in concert’ release. It was garage-rock at his very best and paved the way for the classic Hot Rods’ studio album Teenage Depression.

The best was yet to come and in 1977 the second LP, Life On The Line, spawned Do Anything You Wanna Do, one of the best singles of the New Wave era (or any other era come to that). For that release the group was billed simply as The Rods. Why? I couldn’t fathom it out then and more than forty years later it’s a decision I still don’t understand.     

At around that time Eddie and the Hot Rods headlined a show at the Ipswich Gaumont which also included Squeeze and The Radio Stars on the bill. It’s a concert I’ve always regretted missing and I had to wait many years for my opportunity to see what by then was a very different line-up.

I did book the 1980s version of the group to play at the Ipswich Corn Exchange but only days before the gig Barrie became ‘unavailable’ and Hot Rods’ guitarist Warren Kennedy brought his own group to town instead! Barrie finally made it back to Ipswich in the following decade when The Hot Rods, with Richard Holgarth now on board, performed at The Railway pub.

In more recent times I’ve had the honour of organising three Eddie and the Hot Rods gigs – a storming Christmas show at the Cult Café  in Ipswich, a headlining set at the Bures Music Festival and finally a concert at the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket. On each occasion Barrie had the audience exactly where he wanted them – eating out of the palms of his hands.

Earlier this year Barrie bowed out of live work. The band did a farewell tour featuring members past and present. By all accounts they were magnificent shows providing a fitting finale for a wonderful British band. Rest in peace Barrie.           

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