Two more RetroChic gigs lie on the imminent horizon, in Frome and Bath, and on the way to rehearsal last Tuesday David (our guitarist) and I discovered a mutual interest in the music of late 80s proggers It Bites. As a result, between the rounds of arranging and transcribing yesterday I spent some happy time reacquainting myself with their small but diverse output.
The problem or advantage of It Bites (take your pick) was that they never stood still – the first album is poppy, the second proggy and the third rocky. Even since then their erstwhile frontman Francis Dunnery has moved all over the place in stylistic terms, going where the air of the moment takes him, while John Beck especially is one of the very few rock keyboardists whose work has proven inspirational to my own playing.
Such a sprawling set of styles means that it is hard to embrace absolutely everything It Bites did, but not impossible, because the vast imagination of that quartet and their quite exceptional musicianship made everything sound like fun, throwing out idea after idea just to see what happens.
It Bites were, I think, severely hindered by having Calling All The Heroes as their only and early hit, defining the band in a way that was wholly inaccurate, but those who stayed with them were amply rewarded. Listening to the difference between the official Calling… single and the later storming live version shows just how much the band had evolved.
Even though they are still out there and playing I speak about It Bites in the past tense, because I feel that ever since Francis Dunnery left the line-up has not been quite the genuine article. Once upon a time JEBO supported the new version of the band, and I was beside myself with excitement until they turned up very late and ate all our sandwiches. Meeting your heroes and all that…