Brendan Crokler is described as a sympathetic, maybe rough, Pubrocker with big ears, one of the most pleasant musicians to come out of England.
He came to professional music rather late in the mid 80s, most prominently known for his work with Dire Straits offshot Notting Hillbillies.
Brendan Croker was born in 1953 in Leeds, where the Mekons met and were found. His love was with with country blues and folksongs: like music by Sleepy John Estes, jesse Fuller and Blind Willie McTell. He started out in the british pu-rock-scene, never really interested in rock career thinking.
Round 85 he gathered some musicians around him and founded the 5 O’Clock Shadows with
Mark ‘Mr.’ Creswell: g, voc
Nigel Brooke: b, voc and
Graeme ‘TRaffic’ Pollard: dr, perc, vov
Croer didn’t want top play the authentic blues or country stuff, he was always thinking of a varied mixture of related styles (Blues, Rockabilly, American Folgsong …) , which should be combined in an original way. How he set his ideas into work has been compared to Ry Cooder, his rather smoky voice, his brittle guitar playing. But that never said anything against his originality.
In 1986 he released his debut album ‘A Close Shave’ on the indie label ‘Unamerican Acrivities’, which was only known in smaller parts of the universe. This followed several months later by his second attempt ‘Boat Trips In The Bay’ (originallly to be released by Rhino); this time he had 2 new members in the 5 O’Clock SDhadows: David Cury: dr and Marcus Cliffe: bs (he prodced the album too). Both records brought mainly covers of quite unknown blues- or folksongs, sometimes you hear a Reggae or a south-american jive or other ‘exotic’ styles.
In the meantime Croker along to the Shodows had another project running with an old pal: Steve Philiips, who didn’t only play the guitars buit build them too. This was the basis for the later Notting Hillbillies. Through Philips, who had been befriended with Mark Knopfler for some years, he got in contakt with Knopfler, with whom he had already jammed around Leeds before. Mark K. got interested in B. Croker’s music and wanted to assist the duo. To the sessions he brought alog Guy Fletcher, who played keyboard and guitar with Dire Straits. But it lasted a few months till they had their first show.
Through Knopfler Croker got contact with London musicians as well. He had been playing with the Mekons before as well as on Tanita Tikaram’s debut LP, where he sang on ‘He likes the sun’. For the British TV-series ‘On The Big Hill’ (about the climbing of Mount Everest) he wrote the soundtrack – alpng with Steve Philips.
His third album ‘Brendan Croker and the 5 O’Clock Shadows was produced by John Porter. Croker was the first artist to be signed by Silverztone, Andrew Lauder’s label. On this album Croker is joined yb Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher from Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, Tanita Tikaram and others. There were 2 Shadows left: Mark Creswell and Marcus Cliffe. (Both were jazz musicians, who had studied at the Leeds College of Music.) Now the music is much more polished, the edges are gone.
Until now Brendan Croker was relatively unknown. This changed when in 1990 the first Notting Hillbillies album was published: ‘Missing … Presumed Having A Good Time’. This was a Croker album too, all songs were sung by him. The album sold quite well and was followed by a 6 weks tour through the UK.
After a short intermission the 4th Shadows album was released: ‘The Great Indoors’. It was released together with Dire Straits opus: On Every Strets. It remained in the that shadow and was hardly noticed.
A Close Shave (1986), Unamerican Activities
Rereleased 1988 by Muich Records (Netherlands) as CD, with 2 Bonus tracks, joined by Flaco Jimenez
Boat Trips In The Bay (1987) Red Rhino
Brendan Croker and the 5 O’Clock Shadows (1989) Silverzone/BMG
The Great Indoors (1991) Silvertone / BMG
with the Notting Hillbillioes: Missing … Presumed Having a good time (1990) Vertigo
Dim Subooteyo – Lakeside (album) (SNAT 001)
see Mekons discography too.
Listen Brendan Crocker on 121 web Radio !