Reef have announced the 25th anniversary vinyl reissue of their 1997 number one album, Glow, out on November 25th via Hassle Hindsight and available to pre-order here.
Featuring the mega-hit ‘Place Your Hands’, the album was recorded in Abbey Road, Real World Studios and LA’s legendary Sound City Studios, with producer George Drakoulias at the helm. And it’s fair to say that Glow was the point where everything that made Reef so great – the spirit, the passion, the honesty, the undiluted energy – came together. It’s the sound of a band who were never short of talent or confidence firing on every single cylinder.
“I love every album we’ve made, but Glow is the one that really encapsulates the band,” says Gary Stringer today. “It’s emotional, it’s sexy, it’s passionate, it rocks hard. It’s everything Reef should be.”
Having burst onto the music scene in 1994, and with their debut album Replenish going Top 10 the following year, Reef were on a fast-track trajectory to international fame. But in true Reef style, there were no agonising songwriting sessions for Glow. It was written entirely on the hoof, wherever and whenever they had their instruments to hand – in soundchecks, between shows, in the band’s rehearsal space and the trusty blue VW van which carried them from gig to gig.
“We were just lost in music,” says Stringer. “The songs were flowing out of us. We were always rocking out somewhere. We were a band, that’s what we did.”
And that effortless ability to make music that connects straight to the heart – and feet – of fans around the world is demonstrated in the album’s lead single, ‘Place Your Hands’.
It was the perfect opening salvo – an urgent, swaggering anthem that plugged into the classic lineage that Reef had always drawn from. Next to Britpop’s posturing, this was a dose of unadulterated rock’n’roll honesty.
“Place your hands/On my hope,” sang Gary Stringer. Yet the song’s euphoric sound was edged with a different emotion. The song’s lyrics had been inspired by the death of the singer’s grandad while the band were on tour.
“That song is my personal take on grief. When I sing, ‘Place your hands…’, I’m asking for a hug. It’s not ‘Put your hands up’, it’s ‘Put your hands on’: put your hands on me, give me some love, I’m hurting.”
The song instantly connected with the public, reaching No.6 in the UK charts and giving Reef their second Top 10 hit. One of song’s biggest champions was DJ Chris Evans, who played the song heavily on his Radio 1 show. Evans also famously invited the band to perform on his anarchic live TV show, TFI Friday, where the band blasted out a brief version for the regular reader’s letters slot, It’s Your Letters, changing the lyrics for the show, and becoming a staple part of the show for the years to come.
But far from the explosive, rock-as-gospel feel of the finished track, the original version was much more sedate. “This bassline just started pouring out of Jack (Bessant) on the spot,” recalls Stringer. “I had a very gentle vocal at first, which was in keeping with the bass, then when Kenwyn (House, guitarist) came up with the D-riff, it was like, ‘Whoah, that’s changed the whole thing, I’ve got to change up the vocal.'”
That sense of unstoppable creativity was imprinted on the other songs they had written for the album. But there was a spikiness too. The cool kids of the weekly British music press had spent the past couple of years sneering at Reef for allegedly being out of step with the blossoming Britpop movement and its musical flag-waving.
‘Don’t You Like It’ was a reaction to the media and their constant attempts to bring Reef down. “Don’t you like it when I’m high?” sang Stringer, taking aim at the band’s detractors.
“It’s ‘don’t piss on my bonfire’,” he says. “And don’t get me involved with your Britpop nonsense, it’s not my vibe. I was never comfortable with that idea of wrapping myself in a Union Flag. I love the UK, I love the people, but music isn’t the Olympics – it’s flagless.”
And that devotion to music above all else is what’s kept Reef going for over a quarter of a century now, with a brilliant new album Shoot Me Your Ace released to much critical acclaim earlier this year, selling out headline tours across the UK and beyond, whilst becoming a firm favourite on the festival circuit with a much-acclaimed headline set on the Avalon stage at Glastonbury this year amongst many others.
This long-lasting success was set up by the fantastic album Glow. It captured the sheer rush of everything great about being in your early 20s and playing rock’n’roll. If Replenish had shown that Reef were a good band, Glow proved that they were a great one.
The album was released in early 1997 to universal praise and entered the charts at Number One.
“You don’t think, when you’re making a record, ‘Oh, this is going to go to Number One. You just make the music you make, and if people connect to it, then brilliant. Saying that, there was a very liquid celebration,” Stringer laughs.
The available formats include Transparent Blue, a Glow In The Dark webstore exclusive, Transparent Red indie retail exclusive and a Transparent Yellow HMV.com exclusive. All vinyl variants come housed in a hand-numbered spined outer sleeve and include a foldout insert with fresh liner notes from Gary, in conversation with esteemed music journalist Dave Everley.
Side A :
1 Place Your Hands
2 I Would Have Left You
3 Summer’s In Bloom
4 Lately Stomping
6 Don’t You Like It
Side B :
1 Come Back Brighter
2 Higher Vibration
3 I’m Not Scared
4 Robot Riff
5 Yer Old