Led by guitar virtuoso and singer John O'Malley, The Nitros never failed to deliver the best neo-rockabilly you could hear, agremented with touch of blues and jazz, served by solid self penned songs and good choices of covers. Their recording carreer consists of 3 albums of their own and 2 as the backing band for Colbert Hamilton as well as numerous compilation albums. I can only encourage you to get this recordings (the original vinyl or the official mp3's) to discover or rediscover one of the great combo of the late 80's.

by Fred "Virgil" Turgis

The Early Years
The Nitros were formed around 1984 when Mark Swain (double bass) and his cousin Jon Attril (drums) recruited John O’Malley
“I met the band when I answered an advert in Melody Maker. Mark Swain & Jon Attrill had advertised for a Rockabilly guitarist so I went along to the audition. It was at Mark’s house in Tottenham, North London. I’d been in bands since about the age of 12 but this was my first Rockabilly band with a proper stand up bass, I was about 15 at the time”. In this early days of the band O’Malley wasn’t the lead singer but a guy called Gary Pudney who soon left to form The Griswalds (they released one ep on Raucous and also did one album on Nervous). “I didn’t think he was a great singer, well not right for the sound we were trying to get. He probably suited more of the Psychobilly sound when we wanted to be like Restless or the Blue Cats.” remembers O’Malley.
The remaining trio, with O'Malley taking over vocals duties, recorded "Destruction Road" for Fury Records and "Taxi Cab" and "Echoes Of Love" for Katz Keep Rocking. In 1988 the band released their debut mini-lp on Link. Mixing fast rockabilly tunes with O'Malley's inventive and jazzy riffs and a bit of blues, this album is a true masterpiece. The ability of each of them to write originals gives this 8 songs lp enough diversity to please the listener. Sadly this line up didn’t last long and the band parted ways in the late 80’s.
“Jon wanted to leave as he had a few personal problems and Mark was losing interest so things just went down hill.” explains the singer “It was good while it lasted and we did quite few good gigs and released Nightshades so it wasn’t all in vain.” Mark later formed the pornabilly (sic) band "The Shocking Truth where he can be found today.

Introducing Gary Day and Rich Taylor
O’Malley kept the name and the band going. This time with Gary “Gaz” Day on double bass who previously played with The Mysterons and The Frantic Flintstones and Rich Taylor on drums.
“When I got together with Gary and Rich it was like a whole fresh approach to what we were doing, they were more into the scene and the atmosphere in the band was better, it was more fun. Gary was and still is a great bass player and very enthusiastic towards what we were doing so the sound just got better” recalls O’Malley. They secured a contract with the Sun records of modern Rockabilly Roy Williams’ Nervous Records and went to the studio to record their second album called “Stompin’ Beat”. Issued in 1990 this one features some great moment like “Devil’s Ship” or the instrumental tune “Swingsville” which demonstrates that O’malley is really one of the best (and underrated) guitar player on the scene with varied influences “I’ve always liked Brian Setzer, he’s great. I started off liking all the usual rock’n’roll guitarist like Cliff Gallup, Franny Beecher, Danny Cedrone and Scotty Moore, they still sound good today. As I’ve gotten older my tastes have widened and yea, I listen to a lot of Django , Oscar Moore and Danny Gatton to try to take some of there style. But my all time hero is Jimmy Bryant, he was so fast and clean, absolutely amazing without a doubt.” The choice of the covers is also particularly clever as this is not 50's songs but tunes from The Polecats, The Beatles (I’ll Cry Instead) and Queen (Crazy Little Thing Called Love). And if it doesn’t have the freshness of “Nightshades” it benefits of a tighter rhythm section. Although the final result is great, the sessions didn’t seem to be that easy “Stomping Beat was especially a bit of a nightmare, the engineer was always stoned and couldn’t get anything done, in the end we had to get Pete Gage to take over and mix it, he kind of saved it.”

Side project
Around the end of 1991, John O’Malley was also a member of "Rabbit Action" featuring Phil Connor from the psychobilly band Skitzo on vocals, Mickey Wigfall on Bass, and Paul Moxon on drums.
“I’d known Phil from the early days of the Nitros, we used to be on the same bill together a lot and we became good friends. Phil is a great guy and I’d love to run into him again.” The band stayed together for a short while “but it just fizzled out”. In 1990 Gary went back to The Frantic Flintstones and brought Rich with him. Together they played on “Cuttin A Fine Line” (Rumble Records) and later “Jamboree” (Anagram). During this sessions, produced by Alan Wilson, Day suggested to reform The Sharks. He was drafted in on bass and recorded “Recreationnal Killer” in 1993. He also debuted his partnership with famous popstar Morrissey.

The third album and a guest vocalist
Still in 1993 the band released its third LP on Day’s short lived label Rockout : “Something’s Gotta Give”. Another very good one, with Boz Boorer (Polecats and many others) in the producer’s seat. Mostly self written with the exception of Wayne Walker’s All I Can Do Is Cry and Bobby Roberts’Big Sandy this one goes from wild rockabilly to the jazzy “Midnight Special”. A guest singer is also present on four songs
“Chris Harvey was with the band for about six months. A great singer but didn’t seem to fit in with our sense of humour. I haven’t seen him since he left the band, maybe he went back to Scotland.”.

Colbert Hamilton
The same year Vinyl Japan issued an album by Colbert Hamilton backed by The Nitros called “Still Taggin’ Along”. Colbert Hamilton aka The Black Elvis released his first album in 1984 on Nervous.
“We met Colbert when he used to work in Kensington market. We had seen him perform before and thought he was great. We approached him and found out he wasn’t with any band at the time so we got him in and it went from there. Colbert is an amazing singer and front man, he really knows how to put on a show. The two CDs we did together were cool, he had a load of his old songs he’d never recorded and I’d written a bunch of songs so we put them all together and out came the 2 CDs”. O’Malley has very found memories of the Japan tour backing Hamilton “It was great and we were treated really well, the crowds were just so into what we were doing, I remember me and Rich walking down the town and young Rockabilly kids stopping us to sign pictures and take our photo…cool.”
In 1994, the band and Hamilton returned to Nervous to release Hamilton’s third lp “Wild At Heart” produced by Alan Wilson (The Sharks) and featuring covers of The Reverend Horton Heat and Thin Lizzy.(Hamilton collaborated with Phil Lynott). For O’Malley
“Wild at heart is the best one, I wouldn’t change a thing about that one”

After the Nitros.
Although they never officially disbanded but each of them got involved in other projects. Day was busy with his own band The Gazmen and his work with Morrissey and O’Malley joined the heavy touring band “Good Rockin’ Tonight” with them he released numerous albums (and drew some of their covers too). He also formed The Poker Dots in Spring 2002 with Zac Zdravkovic and Spencer Lingwood, both were members of Good Rockin’ Tonight at that time. Inspired by The Platters, The Crew Cuts with a bit of Nat King Cole here and there they released one album on Vinyl Japan. When he thinks about his days in The Nitros, O’Malley says :
“It was good fun and I’m glad I was a part of it. We’re all still friends and who knows, maybe one day we’ll get together again for a couple of shows.” We can only hope it’ll happen someday.
"Something Gotta Give" is now out of print (sadly) but Nigthshades and Stompin' Beat have been released on the same cd in 2009 by Cherry Red /Anagram. With three bonus tracks and a booklet full of rare photos, this is a must have.
If mp3's are more your thing, Stompin' Beat, Wild At Heart (with Colbert Halmiton) and the songs from Outrage vol 1 and 2 are available at Nervous Records.

Nightshades - Link MLP 062
Stompin' Beat - Nervous Nerd049
Something's Gotta Give - Rockout Nit001
Nightshades/Stompin' Beat CDM Psycho 78

with Colbert Hamilton
Cadillac Baby- Vinyl Japan JRT02
Still Taggin' Along - Vinyl Japan JRCD05
Wild At Heart- Nervous Nerd076

Compilation albums
One track (Destruction Road) on I Love My Car - Fury Records
One track (Echoes Of Love) on Katz Keep Rocking Vol.1- Link
One track (Taxi Cab) on Katz Keep Rocking Vol.1- Link
One track (Big Sandy) on Twenty Blasters From Blighty- NV Comp1
One track (Running Out Of Time) on Outrage Vol.1- Rage 104
Two tracks (Midnight Special, All I Can Do Is Cry) on Outrage Vol.2- Rage 105
Three tracks (I'll Get Mine, Teenager's Mother, SOmething's Gotta Give) on Five Inches Of Pleasure-