It was Lou Salvoni, drummer, producer and all-round driving force behind the album, who brought the Sniff'n'the Tears demos to Ted Carroll of Chiswick Records, not the most obvious choice for such a project in the middle of the punk rock hurricane. Though the label was more eclectic than just punk, it was still a fairly rock'n'roll operation. The Sniff demos had been cut a year or so before, when Lou had assembled some of the best players in London around singer / songwriter / painter Paul Roberts. This session team, who went on to cut the issued record, were drawn mainly from Lou's previous band Moon. The record was engineered by Barry Farmer from the legendary Pathway Studio, where the demos had been cut, and Steve Lipson who worked out of Regent's Park where the final album was made. It went down fairly easy, though the obvious choice of single, Driver's Seat, was re-worked and remixed several times before deciding that the early version was best.
By mid '78 everything was ready to go, when Chiswick started to negotiate a licensing deal with EMI in the UK. The single Driver's Seat and the Long Player, FICKLE HEART were put on hold until the new pact was inked. The 45 came out late '78 but stayed pretty low key until, in '79, it started to take off around Europe. By summer of '79 it was a Top 20 US single where both the single and album had been issued on Atlantic. The single finally charted low in the UK amidst a flurry of changes in the EMI sales force. The album mirrored the single's success internationally, charting Top 40 US.
This issue of the album has a couple of additions. A previously unissued song, Morocco Bound, debuts and it is a wonder that it was left off in the first place. Possibly it gave the impression of being a little too 60s-flavoured lyrically for the times. Then there is an early cut of Rock'n'Roll Music at a more sedate tempo. Again the speed of the issued version was maybe influenced by the times, though it gave the whole album had an edge that set it apart from what the Americans were beginning to cal AOR. It's definitely not punk rock but it is certainly not asleep in the groove.
It still sounds fresh, standing up as both a product of its times and timeless in that it is at heart twelve great songs (expanded to 13 plus the bonus alternative) played really well, with a great deal of feeling, by a very fine bunch of musicians.
Driver's Seat won't go away and is a perennial on radio both here and in America. In 2005 there's a very cool remix that we have promo-ed and even a more house style sample of the acoustic guitars kicking around the dancefloor.
So, some 30 years after the first demos, Chiswick Records is very pleased to be making available this special edition of one of their finest records, in a rare venture into digi-pak and with sleeve notes and other rare photos, while retaining the stunning Paul Robert's cover painting.
By Roger Armstrong