A complete guide to the band Cheeky Monkey.
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Released on Big Deal in the U.S., Tone Vendor in Japan and Shoeshine Records in the U.K./rest of Europe
Way back around 1997 Michael Shelley was living in Brooklyn - bartending, playing music and doing a weekly radio show at WFMU where he came across some of the first few 7" releases on the Glasgow based SHOESHINE label. He liked what he heard, and thought his newly finished debut lp "Half Empty" shared some of the same musical sensibilities as the SHOESHINE releases. Michael sent an email to SHOESHINE asking if they were looking for any acts to sign and if he could send a tape over. Michael received an email back from SHOESHINE's Francis Macdonald saying "We're not looking, but send a tape if you like...". Michael knew Francis as the drummer/songwriter of the BMX Bandits & Teenage Fanclub, and his work with quite a few of the bands from the Glasgow scene.
A few weeks later Michael got a call from an excited Francis, who had received the tape and was listening to it & playing it for friends (and even for his Mom). The two talked for hours that first day. It turned out they had a lot of favorite music in common. At some point in that first conversation Francis suggested they write some songs together.
Michael received a cassette tape with song ideas from Francis shortly after. The first thing that caught his ear was a snippet of Francis singing the chorus of "I Wanna Live With You". Michael wrote some verse ideas & played them over the phone for Francis - together they worked out the bridge & finished the song up over the phone. Very exciting!
A few more songs were fleshed out over the phone and then in person, when Francis was visiting New York for a few days. The night before the recording began some covers were learned up: Michael showed Francis the Chixdiggit song "Gerry Cheevers" and Francis showed Michael Alex Chilton's "Free Again."
The album was recorded at Riverside Studios, in Busby, Scotland (just outside of Glasgow) in just three action packed days with Francis & Michael doing all the playing and singing. One way they saved time was by NEVER listening back to anything they recorded. If a take felt good, they moved on. The record ended up doing well in the UK & Spain, The U.S. and Japan.
The album also was released on an excellent looking 12" LP record on SHOESHINE, most of which got sold in Japan.
The Japanese CD version had one bonus track "Free Again" (a cover of an Alex Chilton song) which was also released as the b-side of the "I Wanna Live With You" 45 on Shoeshine.
The Japanese CD version had the following message printed on the spine:
In 1999(?) Cheeky Monkey (augmented on bass by Mark Scrufari) played their only live shows when they did a really fun two week tour of Spain playing some shows with The Zeros.
"The sound is similar to Teenage Fanclub, Tom Petty and the Traveling Wilburys. The opening track is brilliantly melodic with great hooks and a catchy-ness to rival flypaper." Arizona Daily Wildcat
"A delightful acoustic, rock an roll injected, shuffle beat driven heap of fun." Shake It Up
"Why is this such a good album? Sure, there are a lot of pop bands out there right now, but few sound as professional as Cheeky Monkey. The songs themselves sound as though they are a cross breed of Sebadoh and Weezer, with a dash of pink bubble gum thrown into the mix. Songs are so catchy you find yourself singing along before the song is even over." San Francisco Foghorn
"Four Arms to Hold You, an enjoyable collaboration between Francis MacDonald of Glasgow's BMX Bandits and New York power-pop tunesmith Michael Shelley, makes up in low-key charm what it lacks in formal slickness. Scruffily catchy tunes like "Monkey Man" and "Robert Lloyd" are casually performed but impeccably crafted, combining self-effacing wit and softhearted sensitivity." Entertainment Weekly
"This is crisp, clean, shot-from-the-hip likable pop rock--60's sound with a 90's sarcasm. Thank the lord for pop." Rock Love
"One listen and you can tell these guys are out to make serious music while having loads of fun. Cheeky Monkey tries its hand at anything from sex-driven fantasies to lonely ballads and just downright silly songs. Perhaps the most signature aspect of Cheeky Monkey is the randomly styled lyrics, which are not strange enough to puzzle, and not typical enough to keep a straight face. " Stanford Daily
"These guys sing and play well together. The upbeat pop tunes are boosted to a higher level by superior melodies and some killer vocals. Pure simple fun." Baby Sue
"A jewel of a record whose charm is instant and undeniable. The touching 'I Wanna Live With You' captures the jubilant optimism of new love; the dark and depressing 'Down' is equally beautiful, if considerably less cheerful. Cheeky Monkey's collective sense of humor shines on 'Big Dumb Boy' and 'Monkey Man,' an irresistible slice of jungle rock replete with big drums, a crazy Bo Diddley beat and punny lyrics. the album's sole cover is Chixdiggit's 'Gerry Cheevers,' a touchingly earnest song that successfully ties together a broken heart and the former Bruins' goalie. It's a fitting addition to this album, the musical equivalent of a slap shot between the pads." Amplifier
"A great buy at any price." Omaha Reader
Transatlantic duo Michael Shelley and Francis Macdonald get together to make �sweet jangly music� -- NME.
"Four Arms To Hold You is sure to be among the records of the year for all tune and turn-of-phrase minded listeners�it could be the soundtrack to your glorious summer." - The Glasgow Herald
"A sweet mid-Atlantic pop handshake between Glasgow scenester Francis Macdonald and New York indie sort Michael Shelley, Cheeky Monkey are a sublimely confident collaboration. Shelley brings Johnathan Richman and The Lemonheads to the party, Macdonald remind us of his Teenage Fanclub connections. Songs like 'Gerry Cheevers', 'Robert Lloyd and the mock-sexy 'Chasin' Each Other Around The Room' are lovable three-minute vignettes of life in lovelorn land" -The Scotland On Sunday
"Gloriously goofy, shamelessly soft-centred�a cocktail of heart combusting Fanclub-like loveliness and Jonathan Richmanesque whimsy" - The List
"Like Ben Folds Five meets the Fountains Of Wayne�brimming with happy hooks, effervescent harmonies and deft middle eights, over a jangly, mainly acoustic guitar backdrop." - Hot Press
"Breezy pop.simply charming" -Melody Maker
"Cheeky Monkey make beautiful jangly music on their 'Four Arms To Hold You' LP, out now on Shoeshine." -Kitty Empire, NME
"There are some marvellously slushy moments, like Robery Lloyd and the heartfelt tribute to American sportsman 'Gerry Cheevers'. -James Wirth, NME
"12 fresh-sounding songs" -The Sunday Post
"A worthy collection of quirky pop songs in the Jonathan Richman vein" -Glasgow Evening Times
"People will soon be going nuts for Cheeky Monkey on both sides of the Atlantic" -The Sunday Mail
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