Already a veteran of the hard-rocking George Hatcher Band, electric guitarist John Thomas replaced Tony Bourge in the Welsh rock combo Budgie in 1978, and fans raised the type of dust that would be expected concerning a heavy metal band named after a bird that is nearly lighter than air and is favored by biddies. According to at least one scholar who has intensively examined the work of the group, Budgie fans are sometimes -- although hardly exclusively -- apt to like Budgie even though they admit Budgie is not very good. Unfortunately, not every performer can enjoy such a relaxed form of popularity, although it hardly results in a dearth of uncomfortable or insulting controversy.
"Inadequate" was one bristling yet simple summary of Thomas' competence, which in light of what happened with the band's career points to the usual crossroads between aesthetic and populist concerns. Thomas was a simpler player than Bourge, although not so simple as to repel brilliant players such as Randy Rhodes, apparently a close friend of the former axeman. Indeed, Budgie became imitative of the more appropriately named Black Sabbath, a stylistic move Thomas was able to put across with ease once Budgie's sets flew in front of the American heavy metal crowd.
Thomas has had major input into the group's songwriting since joining up, his collective body of co-written titles in some ways equivalent to a front-row seat at a vintage Times Square exploitation triple bill. The characters include a "Renegade," "Victim,""Hellbender," and "Gunslinger," enough to "Rock Your Blood" as a "Panzer Division Destroyed." A "Forearm Smash" could be delivered by a gung-ho rocker trying to repeat a track on his player; the evocative "N.O.R.A.D. (Doomsday City)" can be retroactively and comfortably viewed as nostalgia in the era when cheaply armed terrorists have replaced Communist nukes, even though there is always a "Finger on the Button" in the "House of a Sinner." To be fair, Thomas also helped write a lot of typical love songs with cheesy titles.