My love for this song is not about how much of a classic it is (or isn’t) it’s about its simplicity. This track is a guitar and a voice. It could be church music, early blues, folk, pop, rock or a kid in a YouTube video. It’s a simple heartfelt song. Everything to the singer at the time, nothing much in the grand scheme of things.
Little Angels were a young English Rock Band who had a decent crack at the Big Bad Big Time in the late 80’s early 90’s with their own brand of hard rock and pop. Their sound came filtered through the major label USA feel and look of the era. They made music in thrall to Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams at a time when the rest of the youthful music scene in their own country was going baggy with The Happy Mondays or heading for Greebo behind the Stourbridge trinity of Neds, The Stuffies and PWEI.
Polydor really got behind the band after the Big Bad EP (featuring debut hit single Big Bad World) made some waves (there were a couple of Indie releases before that in The 87 EP and the brilliantly titled Too Posh To Mosh) and they got some choice support slots when up and coming US bands made their first visits to the UK Metal Underworld. We’re talking about Cinderella, Guns N’ Roses, Faith No More… Y’know. Those guys.
The bands major label debut album held a trilogy of singles that tickled the top 40 and got them on TV.
She’s A Little Angel, Kickin’ Up Dust & Don’t Pray For Me were becoming live favourites as the band expanded their sound to incorporate a horn section known as The Big Bad Horns. This would become the bands USP. They evolved from pastiche hair metal to a much fuller and more rounded sound for the second album Young Gods.
Unfortunately album number two was mistreated by fate when the BBC ditched their popular lead track Boneyard from the playlists. This was because the UK had just waded into the war in out in the Persian Gulf. Auntie had decided in true Orwellian spirit to bury any art that commented on death, doom, danger or (in sad fact) anything other than soap stars covering songs from old musicals over karaoke backing tracks. They were dark dark days indeed.
So Young Gods was pulled forward over the original album title Spitfire and all the Tour T-Shirts with a Devil riding a bomb Dr. Strangelove style became collectors items.
I had one. A long sleeve white shirt with the Spitfire Tour dates and a big red devil on the front. By this stage I was a fan. Every band I went to see had Little Angels supporting them. By the time I Ain’t Gonna Cry (proper shot at a big MTV ballad), Product Of The Working Class and the title track (Young Gods) had all been in the charts and they were headlining Hammersmith Odeon in their own right.
Album number three JAM was an altogether more serious proposition. The band had been burned by the business and put out a slick, strong adult rock record that couldn’t cause controversy anywhere anyhow except in how it would wrong foot the bands detractors (and there were many).
This band once seen and Muppet Babies to Def Leppard’s puppet show put out a record so assured and confident in it’s song writing and playing that it did away with most metal tropes and big hair choruses altogether and went in for things like acoustic ballads, reoccurring instrumental interludes and the disc finishes up with a cover of So Tired by The Kinks. Little Angels were big boys now.
That’s where It Ain’t The Way It’s Supposed To Be comes in.
This was a B-Side from a single on Jam. The A-Side in question was a cheesy folk inflected ballad called Sail Away. The band get away with it (just) because they were still those kids from a seaside town and had matured as a band to the point where they could be mistaken for Wet Wet Wet.
What makes this B-Side so impressive is that it’s possibly the best thing any of the guys in the band were ever involved in. A stripped down acoustic blues number about how the wrongs ain’t getting righted.
No hairspray, no pyro in a video, no horns, no pedal effects. Just guitar strings and a voice.
Within a year they had split. The brothers who founded the band Jimmy and Bruce John Dickinson formed stoner rock journeymen B.L.O.W. Jimmy later went into the Britpop Wars as one of Younger Younger 28’s.
Bassist Mark Plunkett was turned to the dark side and became Ronan Keating’s manager, Destroyer of worlds. We shall never speak his name again.
Toby went on to sing with Gun, Fastway, Dio Disciples and most recently Wayward Sons.
Michael Lee left to join The Cult, Echo and the Bunnymen & Thin Lizzy before finding his main gig in Robert Plant’s solo band. That was all before leaving us early to avoid the rush in 2008.
These kids from Scarborough achieved a lot in a short space of time. I saw them play with Ozzy Osbourne, ZZ-Top, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Tesla and on their own many times. They were never the coolest band to like but I had a lot of fun seeing them.
History can easily pass over a band like Little Angels with nary a mention. This Ain’t The Way It’s Supposed To Be.