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Grand Slam: Laurence Archer's guide to long-awaited debut album Hit The Ground

Grand Slam
(Image credit: Grand Slam)

"It's a band, you know?" 

This may sound like to odd thing to say, but Grand Slam's Laurence Archer is in an odd position.

"It's not a project," he adds, keen to emphasise the point. "It's a band. I want it to be something with longevity. Something we put our backs into. Time. Investment. Money. Everything."

You can understand why people might be skeptical. Grand Slam were formed from the ashes of Thin Lizzy, settling on a line-up that featured Archer alongside the great Phil Lynott, with keyboardist Mark Stanway, guitarist Doish Nagle and Robbie Brennan completing the picture. 

Eight months on from their first live show in April 1984, having completed a summer's worth of touring and recording a memorable 'In Concert' performance for The BBC, the band broke up. 

And now, 35 years later, they're back. And while Stanway contributes to debut album Hit The Ground, Archer is the only one who remains from the original line-up. 

He's determined to make up for lost time, and to put the record straight. For while plenty of material from the Grand Slam archive has surfaced over the years, none of it has done the band's obvious potential justice.

"There's a range of demos and recordings from different places and strange mixes out there," explains Archer. "When we finished recording we'd go back to Phil's house and add experimental guitar parts and experimental vocals, and a lot of the stuff that's out there are those experimental mixes. They're not finished."

"It's always been in my mind to do this," he adds, "and to have these songs out in the public arena, representing the music in the way it should be represented." 

Hit The Ground is out now.

Gone Are The Days

"This is something I actually wrote in the late 80s. When I was thinking about the songs for the Grand Slam album I was sitting on my terrace in Spain, writing ideas and putting stuff together. I was listening to stuff I'd demoed and written in the past and I came across this song.

"It immediately struck home to me. I thought it'd be ideal for the band, ideal for the project. I took it in and we changed the feel of it a little bit, and went ahead and arranged it with the guys. We rehearsed it up and it became it was."

19

"19 is a song that was written back in the Grand Slam days. It was a collaboration between Phil and I. Phil went on to record it for his solo album, but he did it in much more of a poppy way because he had Paul Hardcastle producing. 

"Phil was very much into sequencers, and I think if he had carried on he would have experimented a lot more with them, and on the electronic side of music. Hence Yellow Pearl and those other songs.

"But the way I've done it is the way the we wrote it and played it live as Grand Slam, which is very much more as a rock song."

Hit The Ground

"A song I've had around for quite some time. As a writer you go through periods of time where you write songs down in a rough way, or you write songs down on paper and keep coming back to them. You keep moving things around and changing things around.

"I was doing this with Gone Are The Days, and suddenly this song came into my head, just the way it is on the album. And I thought I'd bring in some elements of Lizzy. It's a very subtle thing, but there's a little bit of twin guitar in there. A little bit of harmonising."

Military Man

"Again, this is from the stock of Grand Slam songs we originally wrote and played live. Like many of the others on the album, it's another one that I've always wanted to do. 

"It was one of the mainstays of Grand Slam back in the day, and I wanted to bring it up-to-date on and play around with some things, but not lose the Integrity of the song. Mike's [new singer Mike Dyer] done a great job on it, and I'm very happy about the way it's turned out."

Crazy / Dedication

"I wrote this slightly prior to Grand Slam, but we did it a part of a series of demos as Grand Slam for EMI at their studios in Manchester Square. 

"When we first started the demos Phil wasn't very well and didn't actually come to the studio, so myself and the drummer put down some ideas. So I ended up getting the backing tracks down for Dedication, Crazy, and tracks called Hot And Spicy and I Don't Need This

"Crazy, like Dedication, was an idea I'd come up with first for my band Stampede. But they were never recorded or demoed other than by me on a portastudio. Both songs came from that same session, right at the beginning of Grand Slam."

Long Road

"Long Road was a song I wrote about three or four years ago. A friend of mine who's the guitar player in Praying Mantis allowed me to record Long Road in his house – on my own, as an acoustic track – and I played it to a few people and everybody loved it. 

"I had a friend, Michael Fassberg, who was the guitar player from Bonafide. He unfortunately passed away due to becoming very ill over the period of recording the album. We decided to dedicate Long Road to him, and the lyrics became very poignant."

"It shows another side of the band and my writing, and it's a nice counter to everything else on the album."

Sisters of Mercy

"We recorded Sisters Of Mercy properly with Grand Slam, but those recordings never really saw the light of day, and I've heard that the tapes are not in a good state. 

"Again, it's from the main batch of songs that we used to play at the Grand Slam live shows. We're talking about 19, Military Man, Sisters of Mercy. They were the go-to Grand Slam songs back then, and I've always felt strongly about them."

Crime Rate

"Crime Rate was one we didn't play as much as I'd like, and I've always felt strongly about recreating it and bringing it to life. When I played it to Mike and the other guys, they all loved it. It's quite a relevant song in this day and age, with all the knife crime and gang warfare."

Grand Slam

"Just before I put Grand Slam back together I did a little 3G concert in Gravesend with Dave 'Bucket' Colwell [former Bad Company and Humble Pie guitarist] and Damo Fawsett. Each guitarist played his own set, and then we all played together at the end.

"At the time, I put together what became the Grand Slam band – Benji, Dave and Mike – and we rehearsed a couple of songs from my UFO back catalogue, some Gary Moore songs, and then we did 19, Military Man and Sisters of Mercy. And it was at that point I knew I had that right guys, that this would be the new Grand Slam.

"I'd written this instrumental to do as an opening number at at the 3G thing, and then when we came record the album, we all decided that it would be a great thing to do."