Livin' This Way, Rockin' Rocket 88
Foottapping Records, FT030

Rocket 88 was formed in the summer of 1986 by a group of friends living in the Maidstone area of Kent with an interest in music of 1950's, playing rockabilly, rock 'n' roll and rockin' blues from the 50's and early 60's. The band had many personnel changes through the late 80's and at one point they were even a seven piece band with a fiddle player, harmonica player and two electric guitars, with a total of three lead guitarist changes. This did not stop the band playing all over Europe (France, Holland, Germany, Belgium & Czech Republic) and on all the major rock 'n' roll events in the UK, including 3 appearances at the Hemsby Weekender with approx. 4000 people attending. During this time, Rocket 88 also released a 6 track EP, an LP and numerous one off tracks on compilation LP's and made a TV appearance on the ITV telethon. Much of the band's material was now original.

At the end of 1990, Ashley Kingman (who took over from Tom Hayes) decided to immigrate to LA join a full time professional band; Big Sandy & the Fly Rite Boys. This caused Rocket 88 to split (long story). As a result of this Leroy and Steve joined another band (Jump Cat Jump) and Nick helped form a band called the Rockets, which Tom later joined and then they changed to become The Flytes. Since then, these bands have helped each other out by covering gigs or member holidays and kept in regular contact. Numerous LP's and CD's have been released and the band has continued to play at the major festivals including the US, most recently the Viva Las Vegas event, where Steve played drums with the Folsom Four, Nick has also played bass on many of these gigs. In 2002 Rocket 88 came back together for a gig in London's Canary Wharf, only the second time in 12 years. The band has since then fully reformed and you can expect to see them again on the major festivals in the near future. Nick and Tom also play together in another rock 'n' roll band named "Jack Rabbit Slim" (see "Hall of Fame").

Recently the band has recorded a new full length CD for Foottapping Records. 16 tracks in all, half of which are originals, written by various bandmembers. The album opens with "So Tired Of...", a great slapping rockabilly bopper with superb guitar breaks by Tom Hayes. "High Heel Booted Baby" is a strange but wonderful song with a crying fiddle that makes your skin crawl. "Crazy 'bout Her Automobile", a song Tom wrote, is right back on the rockabilly track with great vocals by Leroy Bradley (this guy's got a great voice!) and Tom doing his magic on the six strings. "Behind Every Book" changes the pace to a slower kind of rock 'n' roll, there's really much variation on this album, and much to enjoy.

"Remember Me" has kind of an early Johnny Cash sound to it, that slides over in some Paul Burlison riffs. With the additional harmonica by Matthew Linton-Smith the song sounds both classic and very original at the same time. The same style can also be heard on "The Day", which is followed by the rockabilly slapper "Gone Outta Here". Among the covers are fabulous renditions of Johnny Kidd's "Please Don't Touch", Gene Vincent's "Right Now", Chris Isaak's "I Want Your Love", Slim Rhodes' classic "Do What I Do", Johnny Horton's "I'm Coming Home" and Elvis Presley's "Roustabout". Great album with various styles and influences, accented by the use of fiddle and harmonica, great slapping and superb lead guitar breaks!

Rockin' Rocket 88 are:
Leroy Bradley - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Tom Hayes - Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Nick Linton-Smith - Double Bass
Steve Matthews - Drums
Matthew Linton-Smith - Fiddle, Harmonica, Rhythm Guitar

Contact information: 

Foottapping records
28 Cranford Avenue
Church Crookham
Hants, GU52 6QU

Reviewed by The BlackCat, 2004