2007   JUNE 1   #152

Jeff Briggs - A Stranger's Just A Friend / Memories

A Stranger's Just A Friend (2:08)
Scruffy's Song (4:05)
Help Me Make It Through The Night (3:02)
Walking In The Sunshine (3:01)
Blackboard Of My Heart (3:24)

A dead ringer for Mick Ronson you would have thought that British singer-songwriter Jeff Briggs would have capitalised on his looks by joining a Spiders From Mars tribute band. But he was quite content to play on the British cabaret circuit churning out cod country and western fodder including these two privately-pressed discs.

The first presents a quartet of country covers including Jim Reeves' A Stranger's Just A Friend (the only selection worth including from this disc). The song is bad enough, but delivered in such a curiously flat, disinterested vocal Jeff's more likely to have made enemies than friends. He appears on the cover with a German Shepherd but from the way he's holding the poor pooch perhaps he was taking his idea of friendship a little too far!

The later 'Memories' EP takes Jeff's apparent dog fixation further. Here there's not only a mutt on the cover but we are treated to the self-penned Scruffy's Song which is a seriously skewed spoken word affair made from the point of view of a dog. A cut-price synth (replacing the electric piano on the earlier EP) plays a kitsch medley of Hearts and Flowers/White Christmas while Jeff as the doleful dog ('Scruffy') whines on about being rejected by a family because he got too big to look after. Or as Scruffy so beautifully puts it: "It wasn't very long before 'Isn't he lovely' had turned to - 'Go away!'" For some unknown reason the dog shares an accent with Slade front man Noddy Holder that only adds to the unintentional comedy. They say that the British are a nation of dog lovers but even the most ardent Crufts-botherer would baulk at this one.

By this point Jeff was in-house entertainer at Swansons Hotel, Jersey in the Channel Islands and it's so wonderful to think that he actually stood on stage performing this. Did he actually wear a dog skin? Someone must have liked the song enough to buy this disc and even got Jeff to sign it (and on the back of the sleeve the original owner has usefully added 'Swansons Hotel, Jersey 17.9.1980'). Whether or not there are more gems by Jeff out there waiting to be discovered remains to be seen. His song writing skills certainly leave a lot to be desired, although, more by accident than design there is a lot to enjoy in Scruffy's Song. If you're out there Jeff we salute you.

- Contributed by: David Noades

Images: Friend Cover, Memories Cover

A Stranger's Just A Friend
Media: 7" EP
Label: Sirius
Catalog: SP513
Date: 1978
Credits: Producer Dave De la Mare, Eclipse Studios, Cleveland

Media: 7" EP
Label: Sherpa
Catalog: TR1677
Date: 1980
Credits: Recorded by Tony Spence, Music Workshop, Jersey