Sweet Slag: guerilla jazz rock


I've never seen anything on the web about this bizarre band, so thought I'd post what little I've gleaned about them here. Consisting of of Mick Kerensky (aka Mick Wright, guitar, violin), Paul Jolly (sax), Jack O'Neill (bass) and the late Al Chambers (drums), they formed in Luton in 1969. Their disquieting music set despondent lyrics ("every day is a drag" claims the frantic opener to their sole LP) to heavy, jazzy rock that Kerensky describes on the back cover as 'stock rock', owing to his admiration for Stockhausen. Their weird name, incidentally, was drawn from a term for a carbonate of magnesia that occurs in China. They were decent players, but their music contains lots of dissonance and bum notes, as well as aggressively tuneless singing. They clearly didn't much care about record sales, which is just as well.

The first reference I've found to them comes in the August 1969 issue of ZigZag (number four), which announces that the quartet are on the bill for a 'bread-raising dance' on the magazine's behalf:


A whole year passes before the next press reference that I've encountered - Tracking With Close-Ups was trailed for release on the ever-unpredictable President label in September 1970 (see small ad at the top of this post), but eventually appeared in January 1971, in an ugly sleeve that showed garbage piled high in a tenement's back alley. Here's the press release that accompanied it (which contains the surprising revelation that Kerensky had been a member of Joe Cocker's Grease Band):


Both the small ad and the press release mention a projected single, but that never happened. In my research for Galactic Ramble, I encountered only two reviews of Tracking With Close-Ups. On February 13th Melody Maker described it as ‘Harshly contemporary, jagged, raw and essentially joyless. The playing is solid and straight-ahead, there’s a lot of convoluted improvisation, and they’re obviously a worthy band who deserve to be taken seriously.’ A week later, Disc & Music Echo wrote that ‘This album is notable for an awe-inspiring sleevenote, but the music doesn’t stand the build-up – lyrics lost in the noise, and a general confusion of sound that means you have to take the group’s talent on trust. They’re heavy, of course.’




Sales were minuscule, but they kept gigging. Here are some dates they played:



This small ad appeared in Melody Maker of December 19th 1970:


and soon afterwards Music Now ran this review of a bizarre-sounding charity show they played with fellow underground rockers Ghost, supporting hitmakers The Equals:

Music Now, January 30th 1971
By October they'd become a quintet (with the replacement of O'Neill with John Catlin, and the arrival of Keith Arnold on second guitar), and - perhaps deciding Sweet Slag was too commercial a name - had become plain Slag:


Sadly, global superstardom continued to elude them, and they apparently split soon afterwards.I don't exactly like their album, but it's pretty weird and challenging. As the great Aaron Milenski puts it in Galactic Ramble: 'It's unlike anything else you have ever heard, and recommended to everyone out there who thinks the world is nothing but a piece of shit.'