They're often included as part of glitter, but Mud were never very glam really. They made rock & roll party records that, for a brief moment, fitted in with glam, but which outlasted the style and ushered in a new one.
They started out in Mitcham, South London in 1966 playing stuff that was heavily influenced by the likes of Geno Washington and other soul acts: 'We used to call ourselves the smallest soul band in the world,' says bassist Ray Stiles, 'just a four-piece doing all these brass riffs with just bass, guitar and drums.' By all accounts they were a tight little act even then, as well as being phenomenally hard-working. But they had, like everyone else, to endure a series of missed opportunities before anything happened: record deals with CBS and Phillips and an appearance on Opportunity Knocks came and went without a hit.
It was only when The Sweet suggested to their songwriters, Chinn & Chapman, that they should check out out this unknown band wowing the club circuit that Mud got a chance. The first recording was 'Moonshine Sally', but it wasn't much cop and didn't see the light of day until years later. The initial singles - 'Crazy' and 'Hypnosis' - instead gave us a wholly unexpected and obscure concept: tango-glam. The band were decked out in lounge lizard suits, albeit flared, and given songs that were clearly Chinnichap (the use of the neologism 'hypnotistic' was a dead giveaway) but had a tango undertow to the inevitable stomp.
As both Stiles and guitarist Rob Davis now admit, these records were made with session-players (including Pip Williams) and it wasn't until 'Dyna-Mite' - originally offered to and rejected by The Sweet - that the band got to play on the singles and, not coincidentally, got their first top ten hit. That was at the end of 1973. The next two years saw Mud run rampant across the British charts - they had the biggest-selling single of 1974 with 'Tiger Feet' and the Christmas #1 with 'Lonely This Christmas', and were the most successful singles act of 1975.
Within this latter achievement, however, was an indication of the decline of Mud's career. In terms of newspaper coverage, 1975 belonged exclusively to the Bay City Rollers; Mud sold more singles only because they released six of them that year. Of these, four were on the RAK label, three of them after the group had left the label and the Chinnichap stable. The other two, admittedly, were new recordings on the new label, Private Stock, but there was only one more top ten hit to come.
Mud had jumped the Chinnichap/RAK ship in a search for a more rewarding level of royalties. But there was another factor that affected their career: the critical consensus that Chinn & Chapam were puppet-masters who controlled their largely invented acts. By this stage, Mud had been playing together for nearly a decade and didn't see themselves as a manufactured group. So when they got the chance to release their own records on Private Stock, they were determined to eschew cover versions. Which - in retrospect - was a mistake, because their own song 'L-L-Lucy' wasn't a patch on the old Curtis Lee song that Ray Stiles had discovered, 'Under the Moon of Love'. As Showaddywaddy discovered to their benefit a year later.
Mud did have other successes after 'L-L-Lucy' - there was 'Show Me You're a Woman' written by Phil Wainman and John Goodison and 'Shake It Down' and 'Lean On Me', both produced by Pip Williams - but time was slipping away. Again in retrospect (it makes life so much easier, dontcha think?) maybe Mud should have headed for the light entertainment mainstream that Showaddywaddy so gleefully embraced.
As it was, the band split up and the various members went their own way. Rob Davis joined Darts - he was on 'Let's Hang On' - whilst Ray Stiles joined The Hollies in the mid-80s, just in time to enjoy their #1 revival of 'He Ain't Heavy'. Rob is now a successful writer/producer in dance and pop (he co-wrote the likes of Spiller's 'Groovejet' and Kylie Minogue's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head'). Meanwhile Les Grey, the frontman, kept playing under the name of Mud.
1973 Crazy (#12
1973 Hypnosis (#16)
1973 Dyna-mite (#4)
1974 Tiger Feet (#1)
1974 The Cat Crept In (#2)
1974 Rocket (#6)
1974 Lonely This Christmas (#1)
1975 The Secrets That You Keep (#3)
1975 Oh Boy (#1)
1975 Moonshine Sally (#10)
1975 One Night (#32)
1975 L-L-Lucy (#10)
1975 Show Me You're A Woman (#8)
1976 Shake It Down (#12)
1976 Lean On Me (#7)
Mud's version of 'Under the Moon of Love'