The Great Northern Songbook - 8. Big Time
In April 1978 a wonderful song called 'Big Time' arrived in the record shops of Northern Ireland. It was the work of some teenagers from east Belfast called Rudi. They were already revered in the local punk scene as the instigators and the trailblazers. They were wise to The Ramones and the New York Dolls, they understood glam culture and Fifties rock and roll. They had attitude and they wore boiler suits, smeared with provocative words.
Guitarist Brian Young had learned his trade by playing along with Chuck Berry records like 'School Days'. These were the bedrock licks, as Chuck bent the strings and clanged the notes together to recreate the sound of a jumping horn section. By the time this idea had been knocked around by Keith Richards and by Johnny Thunders from the New York Dolls, the riffs had reached classic proportions.
Brian Young played his variation on a cheap copy of a Gibson SG guitar. The sound of his club catalogue Antoria was relayed though a Carlsboro Stingray amp with the "suzz" switch on full. And so, a killer song introduction was born.
It was recorded in Templepatrick in a studio that belonged to the Solomon Peres organisation. It was the band's first time in such a place, and the song was recorded live in an intense rush. The producer on that February 7 session was George Doherty, who was also dabbling with a combo called Pretty Boy Floyd And the Gems. But while the latter had questionable connections to the showband scene, Rudi were true to the promise of punk.
The vocalist was Ronnie Matthews, who delivered a sneering put-down of a local character with big aspirations and little soul. The chorus was like a playground taunt, the voice of the young and the self-assured. On the flip side of the record, a track called 'Number 1', Brian Young sang the lead. He declared that his picture should be on your sister's wall. Rudi, you see, were also about pop music. Brian had actually met the glam icon Marc Bolan in 1975 and he was confident that you could sell lots of records and still be cool.
Instead of a regular sleeve, the single was packaged in an A3 sheet, ingeniously folded. Once again, it was all about resourcefulness and working around a problem. This became a trademark of the Good Vibes label, and with the fourth release, a track called 'Teenage Kicks', the levels of achievement rose higher still.
But 'Big Time' was a critical part of that story, a roaring statement, the sound of a generation looking beyond negativity, realising that the act of being successful was born in your head and in your heart. It absolutely was time to be proud.