Nazareth are a Hard rock band from Scotland, formed in 1968. Along with other bands of the first generation of hard rock, such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath, the band played a key role in shaping hard rock and also laid the foundation for the heavy metal that emerged years later.
Their most famous albums are Razamanaz and Loud 'n' Proud from 1973 and Hair of the Dog from 1975. The individual band members have also been involved in numerous solo projects. With almost 60 million albums sold worldwide, together with the Simple Minds, they are the internationally best-known music group from Scotland.
Founding of the band (1968)
In 1966 Dan McCafferty, Darrell Sweet and Pete Agnew founded the band The Shadettes in Dunfermline (Scotland). They mainly toured small pubs and bars as a cover band. After two years they decided to make their own music and formed Nazareth in 1968 with their compatriot Manuel "Manny" Charlton.
The 1970s: Hard 'n' Heavy pioneering days
Nazareth and Exercises (1971-1972)
Nazareth initially toured Europe for two years. In 1971 the first album Nazareth was released, a Rock album with Pop music influences. The introductory track "Witchdoctor Woman" is a Hard rock track, as is the semi-ballad Red Light Lady about a regular suitor's forbidden relationship with his whore. "Fat Man" reminds of Black Sabbath with a low-tuned guitar and describes the tragic life of an overweight person who is avoided and ridiculed with an ironic undertone.
The slow ballad "The King Is Dead" closes the album. Arranged without drums, but with strings, synthesizer and polyphonic choir singing, this piece still occupies an exceptional position in the group's work. "Morning Dew" and "Dear John" were released as singles with moderate success. The group continued to work and published Exercises in 1972. This second album is also characterized by stylistic diversity and the search for a musical identity
and combines influences from Rock, Country and Folk music. Acoustic guitars are used as well as string instruments and synthesizers. In particular, the opening rock ballad "I Will Not Be Led" is dominated by a complex string arrangement. The group found their first opportunity to present the new repertoire at concerts outside of Scotland in the opening act for Atomic Rooster and Rory Gallagher.
These early performances were not well received by concert audiences. During the tour as support act for Rory Gallagher, there were even arguments with his supporters, as bassist Pete Agnew said in June 2004 in retrospect. When the record deal was already threatened due to lack of success, the group took one last chance given by the record company and convinced audiences and critics on a tour as support for Deep Purple. Their bassist Roger Glover left Deep Purple temporarily after the tour to work as a music producer and, impressed with the group's stage performances, offered his support to Nazareth.
Nazareth's commercial breakthrough came with the Roger Glover-produced album Razamanaz, released in May 1973, with which the group defined their own style in a symbiosis of Heavy rock, Rock 'n' Roll and Blues. The music was now shaped by the classic rock instruments electric guitar, electric bass and drums and by the hoarse, often screeching voice of singer Dan McCafferty, who regularly consumed a lot of alcohol during performances on stage. They described the group's appearance and attitude as hard-drinking, fun-loving, working-class Scots.
Roger Glover had produced the album's hard rock, raw, direct and driving, while leaving plenty of room for catchy guitar riffs and virtuoso guitar melodies, thus bringing Nazareth stylistically close to Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Above all, music critics noted a closeness to Deep Purple and their current releases In Rock (1970) and Machine Head (1972).
For example, the title track of the album, "Razamanaz" is considered a variation of the Deep Purple classic "Speed King" from the album Deep Purple In Rock. "Broken Down Angel", the lead single from the Razamanaz album, peaked at number 9 in the UK charts in 1973, becoming the group's first top ten hit. The second single "Bad Bad Boy" did the same, reaching number 10.
Loud 'n' Proud and Rampant (1973-1974)
Later that same year, the second Roger Glover-produced album Loud 'n' Proud hit the stores. It contained a cover version of Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight", which became an international chart hit and reached number 1 in the charts in Germany. The material was produced differently than Razamanaz, but musically it was the exact sequel. Nazareth impressed with the opening title "Go Down Fighting" with a playful speed that was very high for that time. In 1974, Rampant was released, also produced by Roger Glover.
The album's opening track was an epically long pre-heavy metal track titled "Silver Dollar Forger". There was a whole series of titles between Heavy rock and Blues as well as the two ballads "Loved and Lost" and "Sunshine". The Rock 'n' Roll song, "Shanghai'd in Shanghai" was released as a single. It lagged behind its predecessor, This Flight Tonight, in terms of sales, which continued to dominate the charts well into 1974.
Hair of the Dog (1975)
In 1975, guitarist Manny Charlton decided to take the producer's place and remained so for the next five albums. The first result was the album Hair of the Dog, the group's most successful album in the United States. The originally planned title Son of a Bitch was too delicate for the record company, which is why the album was renamed Hair of the Dog. The offending line was only included in the refrain of the title song. The album became one of the first reference albums for the Heavy metal, that would emerge years later. This was not only due to the title track, which metal bands still play to this day, but also to "Miss Misery", "Changin' Times" and the Crazy Horse cover "Beggar's Day" from their debut album,
Crazy Horse, which was adapted from Nils Lofgren. With its structure, Changin' Times was something like a new "Black Dog", but overall it was a bit more aggressive than Led Zeppelin's four-year-old title. The ballad "Guilty", a Randy Newman cover from his album, Good Old Boys, also included on the album, but was replaced on the US version of the album by the ballad "Love Hurts", a 1960 cover version of a track by The Everly Brothers, written by Boudleaux Bryant,
that was released in Europe as a single only. It topped the charts for months and became the band's biggest hit to date.
Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll and Playing the Game (1976-1977)
Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll was the first 1976 album. The first piece, "Telegram", then served as an opener at concerts for years. Nazareth told more and more stories about the dark side of life in their songs. Also, the romantic image that many outsiders had of the life of a rock star was disillusioned in Telegram, for example. With their attitude, they now set themselves apart from Glam rock's feel-good scheme, into which they were initially supposed to be pressed by their management. Nazareth set the stage for Sleaze rock, which was followed in the footsteps of many hair metal bands in the 1980s. Not infrequently, the lyrics of Nazareth revolved around brutal street gangs, crime and addictions of all kinds.
As angry and bitter as the lyrics of some tracks turned out, they stood in stark contrast to the friendly and down-to-earth demeanor of Dan McCafferty and his bandmates in public. Play 'n' the Game followed in the same year, from which the Blues song "I Want To (Do Everything for You)", originaly a R&B song from Joe Tex, and pieces like, "Born to Love", "Waiting for the Man" or "Somebody to Roll" emerged.
Expect No Mercy (1977)
At the end of 1977 the album Expect No Mercy was released. The album featured mostly Heavy metal songs, but there were also a few AOR songs and the ballad "All the King's Horses". It should also be pointed out that the band defined new degrees of heaviness, especially with the title song of the album, and "Revenge Is Sweet" or "Gimme What's Mine" and even broke down the boundaries of the emerging heavy metal. With these songs, you can even speak of the very first impulse for the Speed Metal that emerged a few years later, on which bands like Slayer were then able to build.
Especially with "Revenge Is Sweet", drummer Darrell Sweet perhaps played the first blast beat in music history. "Kentucky Fried Blues" and "New York Broken Toy" are groovy mid-tempo songs that unleash their aggressiveness through Dan McCafferty's grating voice.
No hit singles came from this album. However, North America discovered the group more and more. The album cover by Frank Frazetta shows two monsters dueling with a sword fight.
No Mean City (1978)
Towards the end of 1978, the group wanted to add a second guitarist to their sound. Ex-Alex Harvey band member Zal Cleminson came to Nazareth for the post. The album No Mean City was released with him. The title track lyrically explores the plot of McArthur and Long's 1930s novel of the same name. It's about rival youth gangs in the Gorbals, a slum in Glasgow, for Dan McCafferty and Pete Agnew, who spent their childhood and youth around this big city, so it's quite a personal matter.
The cynical and pessimistic undertone, which was also inherent in many titles on the predecessor, Expect No Mercy , also overlaid many of the compositions on this album. Just to Get into It, Simple Solution and Claim to Fame clearly stand out here. In particular, Hair of the Dog, Expect No Mercy and No Mean City are considered part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, (NWOBHM) which developed from traditional Hard rock at the end of the
1970s and was significantly influenced by bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Dan McCafferty possessed a rasping, raspy voice on these albums that's often compared to AC/DC's Brian Johnson. In her quiet, ballad-esque moments, Dan McCafferty's voice has a hint of Rod Stewart. The motifs from the No Mean City album were most often used for merchandise. For years they adorned shirts, patches, hats, peaked caps, posters, etc. After that, Nazareth never reached the quality of these albums again, since from 1980 the group's style was clearly oriented towards shallower and more pop areas and the fans missed the rough and aggressive sound of the early days.
The 1980s - AOR years
Malice in Wonderland (1980)
In 1980, the group turned production over to Jeff Baxter of The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan. The result was the Pop-rock album Malice in Wonderland. "Holiday" and the ballad "Heart's Grown Cold" made Nazareth famous, especially in the US market. The title, "Fallen Angel", tied stylistically to the opening title, "I Will Not Be Led", from the Exercises LP and shared a similar vibe. The USA and primarily Canada were the best sales markets for the group at the time, because they rarely visited Europe for a few years.
In Canada alone, Nazareth has sold around 15 million records since it was founded and each of their releases has been awarded a gold record . The group had nothing to do with the loud banging rock of yesteryear these days. Instead, they tried to force another single hit by releasing dozens of ballads that were so effective in the United States.
After the Malice in Wonderland-World Tour, Zal Cleminson decided to drop out to start his own group.
The Fool Circle (1981)
Again with Jeff Baxter, The Fool Circle was realized in 1981, which was stylistically very similar to the Malice In Wonderland album. Also in 1981, the band contributed their song Crazy? (A suitable Case for Treatment) to the soundtrack of the animated film Heavy Metal. Colleagues such as Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Grand Funk Railroad and Cheap Trick were also part of the musical accompaniment.
Snaz and 2XS (1981-1982)
Before the Fool Circle tour, Billy Rankin, a young guitarist from Glasgow, joined Nazareth. Likewise, John Locke - formerly of the group Spirit - followed on keyboards. The live album Snaz was created from this tour, and the next album 2XS was released in 1982. Nazareth became much more rocking than on the two previous albums, although it is no longer as "heavy" as it was in the 1970s.
Found a kind of division between "Heavy metal" in general back then, for example like Iron Maiden, Manowar, W.A.S.P. and much more, and "Hard rock" like AC/DC, Uriah Heep, Kansas, Styx etc., so Nazareth finally joined the rocking, melodic and softer direction for the next two to three years. Under the pressure to succeed from the record company, the whiskey rockers of yore turned more and more in the direction of pop stars with some rocking approaches. "Too melodic for heavy metal devotees, too rock for pop devotees" was a common clause in the media when the subject of Nazareth and their musical indecisiveness of the day came up. Live on stage, they still presented themselves as rockers, whereas on the LPs they appeared peaceful.
At the turn of the year 1982/83, the constant release of rock tearjerkers in the sense of great chart success reached its peak. "Dream On" hit the charts and became their first big hit since "This Flight Tonight" and "Love Hurts". The success of the single underpinned Nazareth's status as a stadium rock group suitable for the USA, but it should also be the group's last international super hit to date, as general interest in the major media has waned. However, at that time the Scots were the first western music group in Poland to perform in front of almost 150,000 spectators in a stadium and in Hungary they were the headliners at a festival in front of 120,000 fans. Eastern Europe became a new mainstay for the band for the first time. This should continue to expand immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Sound Elixir and The Catch (1983-1984)
Hard times came after "Dream On" was off the charts. John Locke left the band and there was a falling out with the record company A&M. Their manager disappeared overnight, leaving the group without a contract. Finally, in 1983, a new deal was signed with MCA. However, MCA didn't put much effort into supporting the group or the release of the new album Sound Elixir. That was probably one of the reasons why one of their best musical albums didn't make the big international breakthrough.
Titles such as "Whippin' Boy", "Rags to Riches" from Sound Elixir as well as "Boys in the Band" or "Games" by 2XS spoke to the soul of many young people in the 1980s and reflected in their lyrics the resistance to the establishment. Stylistically, Sound Elixir is comparable to 2XS, meaning there were some good Hard rock songs and plenty of AOR material, but there were plenty of fillers that didn't lift the album above mediocre. The supporters who had not yet jumped off often reacted at a loss.
The ballad "Where Are You Now" was conceived as a direct successor to "Dream On" and ran satisfactorily to some extent, but quickly faded into oblivion. Constant traveling and the lack of support from the MCA eventually led to Billy Rankin's exit instead. The group moved home to take a break and then re-released The Catch with its original line-up. The musical crisis was sealed, because this album is considered by many Nazareth supporters to be the worst. Only the title "This Month's Messiah" became a classic, at least at concerts.
In 1986 the group remembered their old virtues and tried to build on the old successes with Hard rock audiences. The recently completed album Cinema was followed by a two-year world tour, during which a (music) stylistic dilemma became increasingly clear: the audience was divided on what to expect from Nazareth and was therefore divided. The heavy fans of the past hardly gave the group a chance after their stylistic excursions in recent years, while the new fans expected more moderate rock, could hardly do anything with the Cinema material and turned away. As a result, Nazareth withdrew for some time in 1988.
Snakes 'N' Ladders (1989)
1989 saw the release of Snakes 'N' Ladders, a very political album that showed a new side of Nazareth's long career. The musical crisis of the last few years was over, and with this album Nazareth presented itself as a healthy and coherent hard rock group – although they had subscribed to smaller clubs again, but their music was purified. The album was a typical 1980s record, produced in a special way. She fitted in well with the hair metal groups of the day. The album is politically unusual in that Nazareth takes up explosive topics in the lyrics, such as human trafficking (Trouble) or prostitution for drug addiction "Donna, Get Off That Crack".
As mentioned earlier, Nazareth is one of the first groups to appear in Eastern European countries after the fall of the Wall. There they experienced something like a second spring, because the spread of black recordings had created a large audience in these countries who had been hoping for decades to be able to see the band live. The spectators came to the concerts in large numbers, and Nazareth filled stadiums there again, in contrast to Western Europe, where they only played in clubs.
Also in 1989, some producers of the ARD crime series "Tatort" became aware of the Scots. The track Winner on the Night is a ballad similar to "Dream On" and ended the Tatort episode "Herzverfallen" which first aired in the fall of 1989. At the same time, Nazareth's eponymous maxi-single was released.
The 1990s to today - a return to the heavy rock roots
No Jive and Move Me (1991-1994)
After a tour of Russia in 1990, the situation in Nazareth was again tense due to the lack of support from the record company. In addition to increasingly frequent internal disputes, this prompted founding member Manny Charlton to leave. He wanted to make Nazareth once again more commercial, softer and more chart-oriented. However, Dan McCafferty, Pete Agnew and Darrell Sweet all agreed that they were sticking with Hard rock with a metal twist for good.
It was clear that only Billy Rankin could fill the gap. They immediately got to work and recorded No Jive in late 1991. This album feels less overproduced than its predecessor, Snakes 'n' Ladders, and was heavier overall. The 1990s meant that Nazareth finally returned to its roots. Adult oriented rock was thrown overboard and the proportion of ballads reduced to about two per album. Heavy metal cadences dominate on No Jive, particularly on tracks like "Hire And Fire", "Right Between The Eyes" and "Cry Wolf". In late 1994, Move Me was released in Europe by Polydor and stylistically seamlessly followed No Jive. In 1995, Billy Rankin left the group again. He was replaced by young Scottish guitarist Jimmy Murrison. A new addition was Ronnie Leahy on keyboards. Upon their return, the group landed a three-album deal with SPV.
Boogaloo and Homecoming (1998-2002)
The studio album Boogaloo was released in 1998 and the live album Homecoming in 2002. On April 30, 1999, drummer Darrell Sweet died of a heart attack before a concert. The group was shocked and withdrew from all performances for some time. After a while, they decided to take on Lee Agnew, the bassist Pete Agnew's son, as a drummer and move on.
The Newz, Big Dogz and Rock 'n' Roll Telephone (2008-2014)
The recording of the comeback album was completed in autumn 2007 and as of February 29, 2008 The Newz album is available in stores. It is an anniversary album - 40 years after the formation of the group. The album was presented live as part of a world tour. The tour started on January 25, 2008 in Sweden. The album is geared towards the modern market, but also has classic Nazareth pieces in its repertoire. It was the first studio album in almost 10 years. On April 15, 2011, the album Big Dogz was released. The focus here was on very reduced 70s Hard rock with Blues influences in the wake of AC/DC and Rose Tattoo.
The band wanted to avoid overproduction accusations from some reviewers for The Newz. They turned to proven genre ingredients for which the band has been known since the early '70s. However, you won't find any songs like "Liar", "Road Trip" and "Warning" on this album, with which the band on The Newz aimed at modern metal, rather it offers a sluggish blues and rarely a fast rocking sound. This time there is less material for younger Heavy metal fans, but more for old-school hard rock fans who have been with the band from the very beginning, and that is the main difference to the predecessor The Newz, which was in both camps found recognition.
Yann Rouiller produced The Newz and Big Dogz. On August 28, 2013, Nazareth announced that Dan McCafferty had left the band. He cited his poor health as the reason. He had to cancel a concert in Switzerland after three songs the previous weekend. It was also announced that Dan McCafferty was suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease . The band announced a few weeks later that they would be taking a break for the remainder of 2013. At the beginning of 2014 an album was released on which Dan McCafferty had recorded all the vocal tracks. In 2014 the band went on tour with a new singer.
In February 2014, Linton Osborn was introduced as the new singer. The band's new album, Rock'n'Roll Telephone, was released in early June 2014. But early on, Linton Osborn had health problems, which made him quit in January 2015. Carl Sentance (Krokus) was hired as his successor.
Tattooed on My Brain (2018)
October 2018 the album Tattooed on My Brain was released via Frontiers Records. The 50th Anniversary Tour followed, which spanned 2018 and 2019, together with the German hard rock band Formosa as support.
Original guitarist Manny Charlton died on 5 July 2022, aged 80.
On 8 November 2022, Dan McCafferty died at the age of 76, thus leaving bassist Pete Agnew as the last surviving original member.
Influence on other groups and musicians
The influence the group had on later Hard rock and Heavy metal groups is evidenced by numerous reissues, above all the title Hair of the Dog from the album of the same name is often replayed. Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash acknowledged their influence, as did Hanoi Rocks' Michael Monroe. Guns N' Roses recorded a version of Hair of the Dog for their 1993 album The Spaghetti Incident, and Michael Monroe covered "Not Faking" It during his solo career. Warrant and Stonerider have also taken on the Hair of the Dog song. Metallica played an acoustic set at the Bridge School Benefit Concert in San Francisco on October 30, 2007, performing the epic Nazareth track "Please Don't Judas Me". Paul Speckmann and his Death metal band Master delivered a rewrite of "Miss Misery" a few years ago.
Performers from outside the hard rock scene, such as Jeanette Biedermann and Karel Gott, who recorded a version in Czech, performed the ballad Dream On.
At the beginning of their career, Nazareth attracted attention with their unconventional appearance. Their sombre demeanor - washed-out jeans, three-day beard and shaggy dark hair - displeased their management from 1970, because at that time they preferred to place the group between very successful Glam rock groups such as Slade, The Sweet and T. Rex. So Nazareth were given an initial advance and commissioned to stock up on glamorous stage attire at London's Kensington Market. So you can see the group in several forms, especially on old photos.
Around 1973, after Deep Purple and Nazareth appeared together in their dressing room, Ritchie Blackmore asked for a replacement for Ian Gillan in the person of Dan McCafferty, to which Pete Agnew threatened to "just break all his bones because Dan McCafferty once and for all belongs to Nazareth" In an interview from May 6, 2010, he states that he was not seriously asked by Deep Purple.
Nazareth almost got on board the plane that crashed the Lynyrd Skynyrd group members in 1977. Both groups were on a joint US tour at the time, and the Southern rockers invited the Scots to their group's plane. However, Nazareth had to decline due to a press conference and later fly behind.
Loud 'n' Proud (1973)
Hair of the Dog (1975)
Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll (1976)
Play 'n' the Game (1976)
Expect No Mercy (1977)
No Mean City (1979)
Malice in Wonderland (1980)
The Fool Circle (1981)
Sound Elixir (1983)
The Catch (1984)
Snakes 'n' Ladders (1989)
No Jive (1991)
Move Me (1994)
The Newz (2008)
Big Dogz (2011)
Rock 'n' Roll Telephone (2014)
Tattooed on My Brain (2018)
Surviving the Law (2022)
Pete Agnew – bass, backing vocals (1968–present)
Jimmy Murrison – guitars (1994–present)
Lee Agnew – drums, backing vocals (1999–present)
Carl Sentance – vocals (2015–present)
Dan McCafferty – lead vocals (1968–2013) died 2022
Darrell Sweet – drums, occasional backing vocals (1968–1999; died 1999)
Manny Charlton – guitars (1968–1990)
Zal Cleminson – guitars (1978–1980)
Billy Rankin – guitars, backing vocals, occasional keyboards(1980–1983, 1990–1994)
John Locke – keyboards (1980–1982; died 2006)
Ronnie Leahy – keyboards (1994–2002)
Linton Osborne – lead vocals (2014–2015)