The Jags are a fondly remembered part of the late-70s/early 80s UK power pop explosion.
The quartet was formed in 1978 by the Yorkshire-based songwriting team of Nick Watkinson and John Alder with Steve Prudence on bass and Alex Baird on drums. In July of 1978, they signed to Island Records and released a promising four track EP.
Bassist Mike Cotton replaced Steve Prudence (who moved on to mod band Squire,) and Paddy O’Toole was added on keyboards.
Unfortunately, unscrupulous management made off with the bulk of the large advance they had received from Island, and The Jags were forced to keep a low profile for the rest of 1979 while they dealt with lawyers and accountants.
Their debut LP in 1980, Evening Standards, included the memorable Back of My Hand, which reached the Top 20. The follow-up, Woman’s World, barely scraped its way into the charts.
Though Evening Standards featured a really solid set of punchy power pop songs, critics focused instead on Watkins’ Elvis Costello-like delivery, writing the band off as mere mimics. Admittedly Desert Island Discs did sound like a rewrite of Oliver’s Army, and Back of My Hand seemed to be channelling elements of both Hand In Hand and (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.
As steam ran out of the power pop craze, the band attempted to change their sound a bit. 1981’s No Tie Like The Present, featured a slightly new direction (and some new personnel) but it was generally overlooked, despite containing strong singles in The Sound Of G-O-O-D-B-Y-E and I Never Was A Beachboy.
By 1982, The Jags had disbanded for good, though Back of My Hand had a revival of sorts in the 1990s, appearing on several compilations.