Wallis' pedigree reaches back to the early '70s, and a roll call of bands that included free-festival favorites the Entire Sioux Nation, former T. Rex percussionist Steve Took's Shagrat, Blodwyn Pig, Lancaster's Bomber, and, briefly, metal heroes UFO, before he joined the Pink Fairies in time for their third (and possibly finest) album, Kings of Oblivion. The band broke up following its release and, in 1975, Wallis reappeared in Motörhead -- a move that the guitarist unhesitatingly describes as preordained: "It was just as if the serendipity fairy had arrived, Lemmy had been 'imprisoned in Hawkwind,' and was now flexing his leathern wings.... It just had to be."
Together, Wallis and Lemmy alchemized one of the hardest-hitting bands of the entire pre-punk era, and the handful of shows that the group played during this period was nothing short of the absolute revision of all that had taken place before. Certainly their label of the time, UA, was absolutely baffled by the band, sending them into the studio first with Edmunds, then with former beat boom survivor Fritz Fryer, before deciding that nothing the band did was actually marketable. They were dropped from the label and the tapes were buried in a lead-lined box, figuratively if not literally. And they remained there until -- surprise, surprise -- Motörhead became late-'70s superstars, and suddenly anything with their name attached seemed eminently saleable indeed. On Parole, titled for one of Wallis' own compositions, was released in 1978 and has been available ever since.
Wallis departed Motörhead around the same time as they were dropped and, through early 1976, he led a revitalized Pink Fairies lineup around the London club scene as it lurched from pub rock to punk. By late summer, the Fairies had signed with Stiff Records and released the single "Between the Lines," the label's second-ever release. They also appeared at the first Mont de Marsen Punk Festival that August, a gathering of the clans that pitched the likes of Nick Lowe, Little Bob Story, and Eddie the Hot Rods into the middle of rock's latest firestorm. Of them all, the Fairies came out on top, but with a sense of timing that they had long since perfected, the group announced that this moment of absolute triumph was the ideal time to break up.
Wallis remained with Stiff, recording "Police Car" with Hot Rods bassist Paul Gray and drummer Steve Nicol for release in spring 1977. He also produced the first two singles by the Adverts, including the Top 20 hit "Gary Gilmore's Eyes," and became a star turn on the autumn 1977 Live Stiffs tour of Britain. Billed alongside Ian Dury, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Wreckless Eric, he took the stage with an all-star band dubbed the Psychedelic Rowdies; the Live Stiffs album includes an absolutely incendiary "Police Car."
Wallis began work on a solo album in early 1978, recording with Deke Leonard, Big George Webley, and Pete Thomas; unfortunately, record company politics saw the record shelved (it remains unreleased) and Wallis moved on. Further stints alongside Mick Farren were interspersed by gigs with Wayne Kramer and a decade-long songwriting career with Dr. Feelgood. A mid-'80s Pink Fairies reunion was bookended by Wallis' own bands, the Death Commandos of Love and the Redbyrds, while Wallis finally released a solo album, Death in the Guitarfternoon in 2001. While Wallis played occasional live gigs, he steered clear of the recording studio, though his back catalog continued to be reworked for his fans. Shagrat's Lone Star album was reissued in 2016, while Death in the Guitarfternoon returned in an expanded edition in 2017. 2017 also saw the release of Sound of Speed, a collection of rare and unreleased Wallis tracks. Larry Wallis died on September 19, 2019; he was 70 years old. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi
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