Downtown Flyers

Vertigo 6360 123 – UK LP
Mercury SRM-1-1060 US LP – released simply as Streetwalkers

  1. Downtown Flyers
  2. Toenail Draggin’
  3. Raingame
  4. Miller
  5. Crawfish
  6. Walking On Waters
  7. Gypsy Moon
  8. Burn It Down
  9. Ace O’ Spades

Roger Chapman – lead vocals, percussion, and harmonica
Charlie Whitney – electric, acoustic and slide guitars
Bob Tench – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
Jonathan Plotel – Bass and backing vocals
Nicko McBrain – Drums and percussion

Poli Palmer – synthesizer on tracks 4, 5, and 8
Max Middleton – keyboards on tracks 6 and 7
Pete Wingfield – keyboards on track 8

SONG BY SONG REVIEW by Patrick Little

This was the first full-fledged Streetwalkers album, with a backing band and the characteristic second vocals of Bob Tench. The US release was called “Streetwalkers” while the UK (and Europe?) title was “Downtown Flyers”, presumably because the 1st album didn’t make it to the US.

1.”Downtown Flyers”

The title track kicks it off, and I mean KICKS. Never had Family been this “catchy” in their songwriting, for reasons both good and bad. Funk-guitar intro (with two guitars) is followed by a go-for-the-throat angular riff. They really got the band-sound they wanted with this solid line-up. When the verses come in, all of the elements sound like they are circulating, especially with the echoed guitar lines. The song describes hanging with the working class type that Chappo and Co. love to portray. The Tench vocals are nice and prominent, and there is a cheesy bit of talk-box before the quick chorus. This song is great in that with the mixed song stages, they seem to have just the right amount of “cool”. Something they had a problem with in other songs. Not concentrating enough on the sweet parts, and too much cheese creeps in. Fade-out with the chorus lines.

2.”Toenail Draggin’”

The album continues with another dense double-guitar hook, and some excellent throw-down verses from Chapman. Charlie’s slide is on fire in this one. Recently I found a connection between this song and Atlanta bluesman Blind Willie McTell.


Excellent 12-string riff in this one… Hard rock indeed. Led Zeppelin, ca. 1976, comes to mind. A strong tight song; they didn’t fluff it up thankfully.


A gentle ballad featuring synthesizer from Poli Palmer.


I have no idea about this cover tune… anyone know the writers? The whole thing has some “noise gate” to make it kind of steely and boxed in. A blistering electric version of a New Orleans blues. My first taste of Streetwalkers was the BBC CD, so this was the first tune I heard. My first thought was: “Man, they went kind of basic, but this is somewhat scary”. My other thought was: “who is that other guy singing??”

6.”Walking On Waters”

“Walking On Waters” was something of an epic for them. The mundane verses remind me of Chapman’s future solo career, but the choruses are most powerful, and the vocals really go overboard here.

7.”Gypsy Moon”

One of the silkier moments found in Streetwalkers songs. Whispering acoustics, and Chapman really sounds like a different singer, hitting some of the lowest notes I’ve heard him do! Some sharp lap-steel lines come in for an electric solo. The tune is almost an on-the-spot jam. Some electric piano from Max Middleton. Drums enter at the end section, but very controlled like the rest.

8.”Burn It Down”

“Burn It Down” was another favorite, and features some great piano banging.

9.”Ace O’ Spades”


“Downtown Flyers”

The sole Chapman/Tench piece on the album, and a good vehicle for Chappo’s voice. This set the stage for the common Streetwalker theme of lower-class urban existence. Subtle guitar solo at the end fades into the distance, giving little indication of what’s to follow…

“Toenail Draggin’”

One of the best lyrics in a SW song, a celebratory, party-down, attitude piece about death and dying. Chappo’s growl-and-warble is at full strength on this one, and Charlie Whitney regularly underscores the whole thing with his typically smooth slide guitar. The a-cappella third verse is worth the price of admission all by itself. All true SW fans will have this one played at their own funerals…


Roger’s singing with himself on this one (Rolling Stone criticized SW for underutilizing Bob Tench as a second vocalist), but when you’ve got one of the great voices in Rock, why not use it twice? What helps make him so effective as a vocalist is he’s typically singing a song about life on the streets, and sounds like he’s spent his share of nights in the gutter. A definite highlight.


Probably the one musical style that seemed most in common with Family are the SW ballads. And as much fun as the raw rockers are, C&W could certainly craft a solid acoustic-based piece. What’s often overlooked is how well Chappo can handle a more traditional (dare I say?) crooning. Former Family member Poli Palmer contributes some good synth work.


Now here’s one where Chappo and Tench work well together. Taking turns belting out the lyrics and harmonizing on the chorus, this one is a nice Delta-blues cover aided by solid bass work from Jon Plotel and Charlie Whitney’s guitar. Maybe they should’ve let BT up to the mike more often…

“Gypsy Moon”

Another mellow SW song. Chappo trades vocals with himself, which harkens back to the Rolling Stone criticism. To be sure, Bob Tench had the credentials for broader use (former lead vocalist for the Jeff Beck Group) and certainly was used effectively in other tracks. But this one works well as an RC vehicle, and since Tench’s more traditional electric guitar style made a nice contrast to CW’s slide, it seems fair to say that overall Tench was a key contributor to the SW sound.

“Walkin’ On Water”

One of the top two or three tracks on this album, and one of SW’s best. The music is gritty, the vocals even more so. In addition to his typical throat-full-of-gravel delivery, RC adds some very effective phrasing into the mix. Max Middleton joins in on keyboards. Although SW covered a variety of styles, it’s songs like this that twenty years later seem to best epitomize their work.

“Burn It Down”

There were two SW studio tracks where they really stretched out. This one, and “Dice Man” on Vicious But Fair. Of the two, this by far is the one that works best. Urban poverty is the story again, with the music switching between verses delivered with the tension of a high wire act, and choruses that drive you against the wall. Pete Wingfield joins in on keyboards (good support, but a solo that seems a little out of place) while Poli Palmer returns for more synthesizer work. Whitney and Tench both carry their weight on guitar. Seems like they couldn’t figure out how to end this one, cause it begins to wind down, then shifts (just a bit awkwardly, perhaps) into…

“Ace O’Spades”

A haunting, ominous acoustic blues that closes out the album. In theme, it reflects back on “Toenail Draggin’”, but much darker in approach, with Chappo bouncing lyrics, mumbles, and groans off of Whitney’s slide guitar. Leaves the listener with the sense that, although the album may be over, SW would be back again. Be afraid, be very afraid…


Downtown Flyers
Said I’m home from work
Just a little ‘fore dark
Sat on my stoop
It’s 6:05 sharp
Dyno, Bernie
Henry the Bat
Licking for chicks, boy,
At the drop of a hat
Step-stepping downtown
Slipping around, round, round
Get-getting downtown
Slipping on down, down, down
We’re lovers, fighters
Possibly you
We’re Downtown Flyers
Modesty, too
Ah it’s Saturday night
For a flight and a fling
Get rid of your men, girls
Get rid of your rings
Hearing me babe’s
Don’t you hold any doubts
Tell lover boy
Get to hell and check out
Mama told Papa
Day I was born
“Got a rooster crowing”
Weren’t putting him on
“Be a lover, fighter
He’ll have modesty too
When it comes to lovin’
Said it’s just me and you”
Toenail Draggin’
Take me to the bottom
Roll me in my hearse
Take me to the bottom
Life’s bin a doggone curse
I want 8 crapshooters to be my pallbearers
Let ’em be pale ‘n’ black
I want 9 men going to the graveyard buddy
8 men coming back
I want a gang o’ gamblers gathered round my coffin side
A crooked card in my hearse
A game of blackjack played over me
Let the winner get his just desserts
I want 6 good poolhall rumblers
6 Streetwalkers to sing my song
16 racketmen gambling, while I’m rolling along
I want 22 bootleggers in some hotel
To drink to me from whiskey stills
I got 39 women to remember me good
How I passed by so swell
Take me to the bottom
Roll me in my hearse
Take me to the bottom
Life’s bin a doggone,
Bin a doggone curse
My head is achin’
My heart is thumpin’
But I’m going down boundin’ and a-jumpin’
Folks no need to stand around cryin’
Want everybody up and dancin’ when I’m dying
I want – One foot up,
Toenail draggin’
Throw me in that hoodoo wagon
Come here Mama with that can o’ booze
And gimme gimme what I choose
Take me to the bottom
Roll me in my hearse
Take me to the bottom
I’ve bin out on the street
Some rough and ready beat
Bin kept by downtown ladies on the game
Got hooked up once on shame
A regular ball and chain
Oh yes I’ve bin out when the sun turned grey
And, when it rains, it’s all rain
When it rains, it’s all rain
When it rains
Well I’ve bin down and broke
Just had to steal or choke
Bin kept on peanuts by the government
A shook up crazy kid
No matter what he did
He got the feeling that he did it all in vain
Well it seemed to get much easier
And I got up off the ground
Took myself to town and better things
But it’s funny how you see no end when
You don’t know the score
Never know what better times are for
Gypsy flames shine through the night
A fiddler plays, by campfire light
The dancer swirls – a barefoot child
The flicker of a smile
La-de-da, oh well, look at the time again
Barefoot child keeps swirling on my mind
Woodman, woodman, in your glen
Beyond the eyes and ears of men
Invisible about your task
Just echoes of your axe
La-de-da, oh well, look at the time again
Just echoes of your axe are on my mind
Miller on your daily grind
You make your bread to drink your wine
The waterfall that spins your mill
Then spins your stone to overfill
La-de-da, oh well, look at the time again
Your waterfall keeps spinning on my mind
Farmer walk your oxen plough
Tear up your fields tear up your ground
The seed you scatter on the land
Will reach the miller’s hand
La-de-da, oh well, look at the time again
The seed you scatter keeps falling on my mind
Crawfish – crawfish
Crawfish – crawfish
Ah well I went to the Bayou late last night
There was an old moon and the stars were bright
I put a big long hook on a big long pole
And I pulled Mr. Crawfish outta his hole
Crawfish – crawfish
Crawfish – crawfish
See I got ’em
See their size
Stripped and cleaned
Before your eyes
Sweet meat, look…
He’s fresh and ready to cook
Crawfish – crawfish
Now take Mr. Crawfish in your hand
Gonna look good in your frying pan
And if you fry him quick or if you boil him right
He’ll look much sweeter with each itty bitty bite
Crawfish – crawfish
Crawfish – crawfish
See I got ’em
See their size
Stripped and cleaned
Before your eyes
Sweet meat, look…
Fresh and ready to cook
Sweet meat, look…
Fresh and ready to cook
Crawfish – crawfish
See I got ’em
See their size
Stripped and cleaned
Before your eyes
Crawfish – crawfish
Walking on Waters
Walking on waters
Walking on waters
Walking on waters
Walking on waters is what you say, yeah
Wait a minute something’s wrong, babe
Something seems astray…
Call, call me a dancer…
Romancer is what you say
You think you know all the answers
Ah, you leading a street parade
There are plenty of dances
Plenty of steps to take a dream away, oo yeah
Pirouetting ’round my head babe
Maybe it’s just your way
Ah, ‘cos it’s you that’s the dancer
Romancing a dream away
You say I’m spinning ’round in circles
Revolving, revolving, revolving in such way
Caught in a whirlpool
Walking on waters is what you say, what you say
You say, you said, you say I’m spinning ’round in circles
Revolving in such way
Ah, caught in a whirlpool
I’m spinning ’round now is what you say
You’re pirouetting ’round my head babe
But maybe, maybe it’s just your way
‘Cos it’s you that’s the dancer
Walking on waters is what I say, what I say
I said we’re both walking on waters
You know we’re walking on waters
Ah, now walking on waters
Now walking on waters is what we’re both saying now
Walking – walking on waters
Walking – walking on waters
Walking – walking on waters
Gypsy Moon
Oh – girl at the window
You stand in the moonlight
Your eyes hit the starlight
And shine…
Say what you want to
Just mean what you’re saying
As I stand ‘neath your window
Ah your sister she’s a mover
Likes to know things, likes to do things
And beneath it, oh, there’s an artist
And she move me
She move me
And your brother he’s a thinker
He don’t know it, but he’s waiting, for the day that
He can do it
And he move me
Stay where you are
Now don’t you, now don’t you turn around, don’t put me down
So soon…
Ah hey there, there you are
Don’t spoil the view I have of you up there, Kingfisher blue
You’re coming through so lonely as you
Stare from your window
Stark eyes they whisper
Gypsy moon hits you…
Gypsy moon…
Gypsy moon…
Gypsy moon…
Gypsy moon…
Gypsy moon…
And your mother, she’s a raven
Such a lady
As she walk by on the pavement
Said she move me
Oh move me
But your father
Er, he don’t know me
Well he knows me, but he’s suspicious
He just sees me on the pavement
But he moves me
And you move me too
Gypsy moon
Gypsy moon
Gypsy moon
Burn It Down
Millions have cried for millions that died
Oh that’s right
Oo that’s right
For things that they strived, more millions just sighed
Oh that’s right
Oo that’s right
Made excuses and lied, stood numb stupified
Oh that’s right
Oo that’s right
And they’re wondering which side of the fence they should fall
Rats in the cellar their backs to the wall
Cornered, a rat can be very tall
No Solomon wisdom around
I just might
Burn it down
I just might…
Wakening mourning eyes
Bells and alarms ring out rise
But to wake up to screaming from dreaming ain’t nice
My neighbours are screaming from morning to night
About their screaming kids and who should provide
Walls are so thin
Mouths so wide
I just might
Burn it down
I just might…
I just might…
I bin a gambler all my life, yeah
Ace O’ Spades
I want 12 Policemen
In my funeral march
Pair o’ dice in,
In my shoes
And the judge who jailed me
14 times
Let a deck o’ cards
A deck o’ cards
A deck o’ cards
Let a deck o’ cards be his dues
I bin a gambler
All my life
When I go
This is what I crave
You send me poker players to
The graveyard
Gonna dig it
Gonna dig it
Gonna dig it
Dig it
Gonna dig it with the
Ace o’ spades

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