The return of...

Last year was quite a year for 70's punk legends SHAM 69 who saw both the departure of frontman Jimmy Pursey (who has since set up Day 21), and the formation of a new line-up which released the return to form new album 'Western Culture'. Vive Le Punk caught up with guitarist and surviving member Dave Parsons, and said "Tell us the Truth!"

VLP: How was 2007 for both yourself personally and for Sham 69 as a band?

“This has been a year of major change for both myself and Sham 69. At the end of 2006 Sham 69 parted company from Mr Pursey, there were many reasons for this, mainly that Jimmy would never play more than a handful of gigs a year while the rest of the band were desperate to get out and play; Jimmy would accept tours and dates from promoters and take large advance payments which went into his pocket only for him to cancel the tour days before we were due to start, it had also become like working in a dictatorship where no one was allowed to question Jimmies decisions. I've spent my life working with Jimmy (and therefore some of the best times were with him) but in the end I had to protect the reputation of Sham 69.”

VLP: What's been the biggest high?

“The hardest and almost impossible task I had this year was trying to find a replacement for Jimmy, therefore my biggest high was completing the new line up with no compromises. I found Tim V who had been on the Punk seen since the beginning, he knows virtually all the main punk bands and his best man at his wedding was Mark P - the godfather of Punk from ATV and sniffing Glue fame, so he came highly recommended. Tim’s a cockney and has been accepted by the Sham audience worldwide. On bass is Rob Jefferson, a veritable powerhouse who compliments my style of playing perfectly, Ian Whitewood remains on drums, being the longest serving sham drummer at over twenty years of fine service. Just to have found the right people with the right chemistry, and to finally be out there playing again, has without doubt been my biggest high.”

VLP: What's been the biggest low?

“The death of my father in law whilst I was away on tour, he was a great guy who lived his life the way he wanted right up to the end, not being able to say goodbye to him (I missed seeing my father before he died as I was in hospital myself having an operation) and not being there to give my partner the support she needed, as I missed going to the funeral as well. Also the death of one of my best friends, photographer and record sleeve designer Michael Beal, he worked with many bands including Johnny Thunders / The Only ones / Sham 69 / The Wanderers / John Cale / Pati Paladin and did the iconic cover for Eddie and the Hot Rods "Teenage Depression". A small tribute including some of his work can be seen on my web site”

VLP: What's been the weirdest thing that has happened to you in 2007?

“I don't know about the weirdest, but for me as a terrible flyer the most frightening thing was sitting in a plane at Heathrow on the run way for five hours while they sorted out a "technical problem", then when it was fixed, while we were taxiing out ready to take off one of the passengers started wildly shouting - there was fuel leaking out of the wing, you can just imagine my state of mind. Oh and the other thing was narrowly escaping death, just missing an out of control car which subsequently ended up a write off in a ditch, driven by a famous TV gardener who shall remain nameless.”

VLP: What's the most rock n' roll thing to happen to you guys in 2007?

“2007 has just been a mad year for us, after spending the last 20 years hardly playing at all, to suddenly find ourselves out on the road again is the most rock'n'roll thing, we've just spent the Summer playing major European festivals followed by a five week US tour taking in Canada and then a Japanese tour then back to the States for two shows on long beach then back home - then trying to get over triple jet lag, Sham was always primarily a live band and it was just criminal that we weren’t able to take the songs out to the people who wanted to hear them, I'm 48 now, but feel like 18 again - long live rock.”

VLP: How do you think 2007 has been for music? What are your top three albums of the year and why?

“I think it's been a very interesting year, I've heard loads of great stuff from all different genres, I've got a terrible memory so don't ask me what, I've managed to help out some local bands and have tried to give a helping hand to new up and coming bands - check out "Middle finger salute". As we've been doing little else this year other than working I don't think I've bought anything new, I think we're in for an interesting time next year what with bands like radio head etc deciding to give away there music for free, on one hand I'm for it and on others I'm not so keen, I think it's good for established bands who can make money from touring and merchandising etc, but for newer bands I think it may create difficulties, does it mean the end of a music chart and the final end of the record company? It's going to be an interesting year. Someone gave me a Miles Davis CD, I've never really been into Jazz before but this one just hit the spot.”

After a Christmas spent with his “partner and son in the Welsh mountains, doing a bit of walking and some mountain biking, just taking it easy” and taking a bit of time “to get my head together after a mad year”, 2008 looks like being every bit as mad as last year.

“We've just released our new album ‘Western Culture’ (Hollywood Hero, in the States) so we'll be doing much of the same, Europe / UK, the states and Japan again and hopefully south America and Australia, we've got some new songs together, so time permitting we'll be starting to demo some of those up as well. Incidentally, people are saying the new albums the best since the early days. We've got a reputation to repair and I think we're getting there, people can see that we're genuine, and if we say we're going be somewhere then we will - this is what we do and we love it, see you out there somewhere. Check the sham web site out for up coming gig details -” 


VLP: Just how crazy were some of the Sham gigs in the old days?

“It was just a mad roller coaster ride, from the Roxy to places like the Glasgow Apollo and Reading, at the time it seemed to go on for ever but in retrospect it was a relatively short time. The gigs were always great, we had such a great audience, it wasn't until later that we started having trouble from right wing groups who were only there for their own publicity.”

VLP: It seemed to happen pretty quick for you guys – next minute you were on Top of The Pops and one of the biggest bands in the UK?

“Yeah, it was a trip alright. I know this may sound arrogant, but it was no surprise to us that things happened so quickly, maybe we were naive but we all had total belief and faith in what we were doing, and in some ways this creates a bit of magic, when you have that focus, doors just seem to open. When young bands ask me for advice, the first thing I say to them is "the band has to come first, if there's anyone in the band who isn't a 100%, just forget it, keeping your day job just in case isn't an option".”

VLP: Which album are you most proud of and why?

“That's always a hard question to answer, I don't think I have one favourite, there's different bits of different albums I love and other bits that I know were never quite how I wanted them. At the moment I'd have to say the new album ‘Western Culture’ is my favourite, all the tracks have ended up the way I wanted, there's also a lot of energy in there, I think it really is the closest to the first albums, and nearly all the songs translate well for live work. In the end I think I have favorite songs rather than favorite albums, songs like ‘If The Kids Are United’, ‘Tell Us The Truth’ and ‘Borstal Breakout’ are all timeless, and songs that I never tire of playing.”

VLP: You briefly played in the Wanderers with Stiv Bators-can you tell me about Stiv and how the band was?

“This was after Jimmy left Sham the second time, he'd already left once and came back - that was when he was going to be the new Johnny Rotten, unfortunately Steve (Jones) and Paul (Cook) couldn't work with him, they said "he was harder to work with than Rotten". Anyway this time I decided enough was enough and called up Stiv in the States and asked him if he wanted to be the new singer, he said yes but wanted to call the band something different. We'd met Stiv many times before whilst touring the States, and he even got up to sing if the kids are united with us once. I enjoyed the Wanderers and had great fun recording the album "only lovers left alive" and two singles. We played a handful of gigs in the UK and did one US tour from which I returned to England and an isolation ward with Hepatitus. I was in hospital for over a month and sadly that was the end of the band. Stiv and Dave joined forces with Brian James and became Lords of the New Church, Rick joined what was then one of the first tribute bands, the Bootleg Beatles, and I formed Framed with ex-Girlschool bassist and vocalist Enid Williams. A small video (made up of stills) of the Wanderers can be seen on my Myspace site”

Eugene Big Cheese

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