THE DAMNED

YOU’RE SO VANIAN!

Back in 2002, to coincide with the release of THE DAMNED’s ‘Smash It Up’ retrospective, Dave Vanian took a stroll down memory lane with Hugh Gulland.

VLP: To begin at the beginning, how did the four members of the original lineup first meet?
D: Captain and Rat worked together, they cleaned toilets in the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, I first met Rat, I was in a band that never actually played a show, it was Chrissie Hynde on guitar, Rat was on drums and I was introduced to him by Malcolm Maclaren funnily enough. And it was like Malcolm overseeing it, there was another singer who I only know as Dave, it might have been Dave Zero, and he had perfectly white hair, so we looked like a couple of dominoes! We did a whole pile of sixties garagey numbers, but it never went any further, and basically Rat wanted me to meet Brian (James, original Damned founder), and Brian’s words were to Rat, I believe, ‘He looks like a singer, we’ll try him out!’. So I auditioned for the Damned, and the other guy who was asked never actually turned up, I was the only one, so whether they actually liked me…!

Brian had all these songs he’d been working on and wanted to fulfil this dream of getting an album together, and he was looking for the right people to work with, with the same attitudes. Till that time he’d never found anyone, but in Rat he found the perfect drummer, and I guess in me he found the perfect singer who’d give vent to his songs, and immediately I saw him play guitar I wanted to work with him. He was an amazing guitarist, there’s only so many guitarists who don’t sound like anyone else, immediately they play you know who they are, and I’d always been a big fan of Johnny Thunders. He reminded me in a way, he had the same kind of attitude, I liked that and I liked what he did. Of all the band, I imagine I had the least experience, Rat had been in several bands. And Brian was a little bit older than the rest of us, he’d been in bands previously, and Captain had been in bands with Johnny Moped. So I literally just lied my way into the business, I lied that I’d been in a couple of local bands out of town. I knew I could hold a tune ‘cause I could sing along to a record, at least I thought so!

VLP: The Damned were famously booted off the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy’ tour in late 1976, what was the story there?
D: When we were put on the bill by Malcolm, the Pistols had never really played anywhere, they’d played gigs in London and maybe one or two outside, but generally they pulled in 30/40 people. We’d been on tour quite a while, we had a big following by then, we were put on that bill to get people into the venues. Malcolm wasn’t taking any chances, he got the Clash, the Heartbreakers, he had a good bill. The day before the first show, they were on the Bill Grundy show, after the Bill Grundy show they were front page news, everyone was talking about the Sex Pistols and councils were banning them at the venues. Tickets had been on sale and I remember saying at the time, well, we can still play. ‘Cause I was thinking, these poor kids who’ve bought tickets, they’ll want their money back, this kind of thing. This was after the Pistols had swanned back in in their limousines, I might add, like ‘you can fuck off now, we don’t need you anymore’. And it was a case of, we’re ‘traitors’, ‘cause we still want to play, but Malcolm was looking for an excuse to dump us anyway, ‘cause he’d never wanted us on there, it was just a question of he couldn’t get the bums in seats. And then of course the whole thing fell apart anyway, only 3 of the shows were ever done and we all went home!

VLP: You had the first record release of the UK punk movement with ‘New Rose’, you must have worked very quickly with the earlier material?
D: The album was made within a week, just because that was the way it was, we were on the tightest budget you could imagine, we didn’t even have a brand new tape, we taped over someone else’s stuff. But it was brilliantly captured, the raw vibrant thing, they did a fantastic job, and Jake Riviera, of Stiff (records), realised what he had on his hands, it was all him really, and he realised if he got that stuff out quickly… we were just, ‘wow, we’re making a record’, a couple of years later we’re ‘wow, we’ve got no money!’ The same old story!

VLP: You seemed to arrive as these four distinct personae, you were like this gravedigger character and so on…
D: We were already… it was just sheer accident, not by design, that we all ended up in the same group. I think that’s what set us apart. Basically bands were all like-minded individuals and consequently looked the same, like the Clash, the Jam… but we were all extremely different from each other in every way, but where we came together was our love of music. In fact it’s still the same now, Captain and I like each other but we really don’t have that much in common. But when it comes to music it’s a magical thing, it’s a weird thing, and I think it’s the very differences that make the Damned work. And that’s why the music was pulled in all different directions too, it was quite a democratic process, there’s very rarely any arguing, it’s like what sounds good rather than who wrote what.

VLP: But how democratic was it in the early Damned with Brian?

D: He didn’t let anybody write anything! But you’ve gotta remember when we all got together, it was his band. But the thing was, when the second album came, there were reasons, we were rushed, various things, Brian somehow lost a bit of magic, he consequently said, ‘I’ll split the band up’. For a period of a month or so we wandered around wondering what the hell are we going to do next? We realised, perhaps we should try writing ourselves, putting something together. The Captain was pretty prolific, he had tapes he’d been doing in his bedroom for years. He was a guitarist to begin with, he played bass because he so much wanted to be in a band. So we tried it out, and surprise, surprise, it worked, it went on from strength to strength. I think it could have been the end of the band if we hadn’t all been writers without knowing it!



VLP: Yeah, because the third album Machine Gun Etiquette was quite a remarkable comeback…

D: I think the reason that happened is, the first album’s great, but it’s Brian only. I think if we’d all written, the first album would have been a lot different. I think that was good because the potential of the band hadn’t been reached, it was just one member. When everybody pitched in, it suddenly became, ‘wow there’s a lot more to this’, we hadn’t used up all our ideas straight away. Very often a group’s first album is the best thing they’ll ever do. Of our stuff, people like different stuff from different periods, but there’s always something that comes up on another album somewhere that surprises people, that’s what makes it worthwhile for me.

VLP: Yeah, the variety over the two CDs is remarkable…
D: Well, it surprises me! I took a trip down memory lane a while back cause we were gonna do some old numbers and I was surprised at how good the production was, how we’d edged it with things no one else would have done. There was no criteria that got in the way. There was none of this politics, doing it for any reason other than music-motivated. We never lied and said we didn’t want money, we’d have loved some money, but we’d never have sacrificed the music for it. Playing some of the albums, I’ve realised why we’re still broke, our integrity’s intact. I can look back and I’m proud of what I’ve done and that means a lot I think, I’d hate to sort of look back and think ‘Jesus why did I do that?’

VLP: There’s a certain psychedelic influence in there, particularly from the third album onwards…

D: Certainly for Captain and myself, that’s another meeting point. He likes stuff I wouldn’t like, but at the same time, he’s like me, he loves the wonderful ineptitude of a fantastic fuzz guitar, the feel of it’s just fantastic. It’s not necessarily played tremendously well, but everything’s in there, it’s got soul to it. Psychedelic music is always going to filter into the band.



VLP: Also in places you can hear the influence of that orchestral kind of sixties pop, like Scott Walker…

D: I was always a big Scott Walker fan, he had such a great voice. That was why I did ‘Eloise’, because all those grandiose melodramatic sixties songs, I loved all those, and I thought it was a shame no one was doing those anymore. And my main influences have also been film music, it’s something I have more of than anything else, and it tends to filter in, because I tend to think of moods and music as different ways of writing the three minute pop song. Things like John Barry, even Morricone, and things like John Carpenter, it’s endless.

VLP: Have you always found your audiences open to this? At first glance it’s quite a long way from what’s expected of a punk rock band!
D: With us, it’s always the case of Expect the Unexpected, and we always stressed anyone who was a Damned fan, or came to a Damned show, should come with open ears. It’s about having a wide musical spectrum and not being pigeonholed. I used to get annoyed with the punk thing because I thought that restricted what we were. I don’t give a damn now, but at the time I thought that’s wrong. What the name became known as, when ‘Punk’ was first coined, it was a diverse group of bands, who didn’t sound the same, the Adverts, the Jam, the Pistols, the Clash, none of them sounded the same, and the second wave of punk was all the same three-chord bands, and that was depressing. And then people thought that’s what it was, it became a fashion statement and I didn’t like that. The one thing we used to say about Punk, the rule about Punk was that there was no rules, that was what it always meant to me. There were no cultural divides, it didn’t matter what colour you were, and musically it didn’t matter what you did, it was the attitude that counted, how you did it. So I like to think that when we put orchestral pieces in with our music, it was never supposed to be pompous.



VLP: It’s odd that, although there’s always been a lot of fondness for the band, there always seemed to be a bit of bitchiness directed at you, not only from the press but from the ‘hipper’ circles of the punk movement…

D: We were the outsiders, it was kind of strange. We thought it was stupid, when someone talks to you, saying ‘what do you want?’ we’d say, ’well, we want money’, you want to have everything you want to have. Other people saying ‘we wanna change the world’ when they really didn’t want to, and people believed it. By being the most honest, we were also the most put down. And Captain’s buffooned image overshadowed his brilliant guitar playing and song writing. I’ve never understood why they can’t take Captain seriously as a great guitarist, when you’ve got Angus Young dressed as a schoolboy!
Maybe this anthology will redress that a little!
Well at least it’s well done and anyone who wants to know what it’s about, it’s there!

Many thanks to David Vanian and to Penny Brignell.

Hugh Gulland


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THE WOLFMEN

THE HOWLING

With

Former Ants-men Marco Pirroni and Chris Constantinou – or THE WOLFMEN – are set to play a Vive Le Rock sponsored album launch show (for new album ‘Married To The Eiffel Tower’ – out Aug. 22nd via Howl Recprds) at London’s famous 100 Club on Thursday 14th July, with Silvery in support and DJ sets from Paul-Ronney Angel (Urban Voodoo Machine/Gypsy Hotel) and Hugh Gadgit (Vive Le Rock).

In this classic Vive Le Rock interview, the duo take time out from their current creative frenzy to chat with us. Hugh Gulland enters THE WOLFMEN’s lair…

‘There’s a lot of stuff going on‘, considers Wolfmen bassist and lead vocalist Chris Constantinou, ‘but it’s fun, and it’s a lot better fun than just being in a band… that’d be really boring, it’s great that we’ve got our band, but, we have all these other things that we do as well…’

‘Projects which force you to do things that you’d never ever do off your own back!’ adds Marco Pirroni, a man whose already considerable CV seemingly expands daily what with the Wolfmen’s own output and the multiplicity of pies the pair have their collective fingers in. With their first album, a masterwork of punked-out glam rock entitled ‘Modernity Killed Every Night’ out in August, and a collaboration with Indian singing star Delar Mendhi hot on its heels, Marco and Chris are on one serious creative roll.

VLP: So how did the Wolfmen partnership begin? I gather you were initially working on each other’s solo projects…

M: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened… but I had the better name!

C: We didn’t have one actually! What happened, I had my own project, Jackie Onassid, which was going along, we were sort of trying to find someone who plays like… Marco! ‘Do you know anybody who plays like you?’

M: I don’t know what it is, either they don’t really want me or are just too scared to ask me!

C: I hadn’t been in touch with Marco for a while, I kind of always, just presumed he was so busy he can’t do this sort of thing…

M: I wasn’t busy at all!

C: So I kind of phoned up, ‘do you wanna come in’ and got together, and one of those things that wasn’t Marco coming in and playing obvious stuff… you could see it just needed to get together in a different way, start from scratch, and then we started writing some tracks together and I think one of the first we wrote was Kama Sutra, which is…

M: It was our ‘Metal Urbain’ period, do you remember them?

VLP: Sort of Parisian post-punk…?

M: Yeah, they weren’t post-punk, they were right in there.

C: So that’s where it started. You know, you sort of have periods, ‘this week I want to be Metal Urbain’! Next week, New York Dolls, Velvet Underground…

M: This week we are Roxy Music!

VLP: I was gonna say, listening, it struck me a lot of influences were that area of glam, that doesn’t get so much credit being a punk influence, like Roxy Music…

M: T Rex!

VLP: Berlin period Iggy maybe…

M: Yeah, that stuff was up, and… I don’t know if Chris goes as far as my total obsession with it, I’m psychotically obsessed with it!

C: Marco’s more… even I, with the band I was in, Drill, we supported Slade, and were signed to Chas Chandler who ended up producing us, and I didn’t quite get the whole glam thing as much as Marco, but I love… I saw Roxy on the Old Grey Whistle Test doing Ladytron, it just blew my mind, just amazing… the whole period of that band, T Rex, Jimi Hendrix, that sort of era for me was fantastic, all that stuff mixed together. But Marco was into a sort of different thing, a lot more glam stuff.

VLP: So that’s the sort of stuff, if you’d been sitting around in, say, Louise’s, (punk hangout lesbian club circa 1976) that’s what had fired you over the last…

M: No, before I went there, I think it was ‘76…

VLP: Well up to that period…

M: Oh yeah…

VLP: So it’s working its way through what you’re doing now

M: Yeah, it’s always in my mind!

C: I suppose the Tamla influence came in as well, ‘cause, the second period of getting together, we started listening to a lot of Tamla Motown, Northern Soul, I don’t think that comes out very much, it’s not obvious to anyone, but… just one of those things, you get an idea, ‘I want it to sound like something’ and it comes out completely different. It’s sort of our interpretation of it!

VLP: Judging by the biog, when you first got together, you started on a lot of soundtrack stuff?

M: Yeah, we haven’t had time to concentrate on it because we’ve been so busy, being ‘a band’, that’s the sort of field you really have to be in all the time, you can’t dabble in it, you have to do that and nothing else, so…’

C: It’s weird really, I don’t know if you saw those black and white fetish films from the 1918-20 period?

M: It was for the ICA, we got commissioned to the soundtrack for some silent movies

C: That was really interesting to do, and we’ve got a track in this film Dogging, we’ve got a cameo in it as well, that’s coming out later this year now, so we will get back into it, it’s just a case of time, we’re finishing the album, that’s coming out, and we’ve got the Daler Mendhi project, we’re really busy doing lots of different stuff, but the soundtrack stuff we really want to get into.

VLP: So what are these fetish films?

C: They weren’t really fetish films, they were just black and white, arty films…

M: I don’t think they were arty at the time!

C: No I guess they weren’t, I guess they were pornographic at the time, but they’re now perceived as… they were part of ‘Fashion and Film’, showing in New York and London, and one of them was 15 minutes long…

M: Which if you think about it is really long! A silent movie is silent, there’s no break, it’s all silence, so we had to compose a piece of 15 minutes, I’d never done anything that long!

C: We thought it was going to be easy, we started doing it… it was all just feet! You get this person shifting their feet from left to right…

VLP: It’s a foot fetish film then?

C: It’s a shoe fetish film, 1918-ish! We’ll get copies for you!

VLP: Yeah, I need to see that!

C: Yeah, we want to get back into that but prioritizing what we’re doing

VLP: The thing with Daler Mendhi, was that a bit of a cultural shock?

M: Not really… yeah, there are different scales (in Indian music), but we didn’t know that!

C: We didn’t really think about it in a logical way, it sounded like an interesting project, and ‘well, what are we gonna do with this?’

M: We did get approached, we get sent kind of projects, publishers send projects out every week, ‘our latest girl singer hasn’t got any songs’, that’s fine and everything, but not very interesting!

C: Yeah, we did some other projects, we were thrown some girl singers, one of them was particularly interesting, but couldn’t carry on doing it forever, it ran its course.

M: It would become this sort of toss and turny thing, ‘what possible angle can we do on this, what can we do that someone else wouldn’t do’, it’s not inspiring, I’ve got no problem making commercial music, that’s what I wanna make, but… there’s so many restrictions to aiming for the charts these days, it’s got to be this, it’s got to be exactly this… there’s a lot of pop idol sort of stuff!

C: We just started doing Silver Machine by Hawkwind, thought we’d play it at the gig, it was a massive hit! A massive worldwide hit, you listen to it, and you think, ‘what is this???’

M: That’s the sort of thing wouldn’t even get on BBC6 these days it’s so out-there!

VLP: There’s that video they show on VH1 sometimes with Stacia (Hawkwind’s ‘dancer’)…

C: She’s get her tits out, I went to see them when I was about 13, the only reason we went was Stacia, she’d get her tits out, we were just waiting, she had massive tits! And the strobe was going… and she same out on Silver Machine, so…

M: A lot of people who later became punks would’ve liked it, not necessarily liked Hawkwind, but would have liked that. It was the same time as Virginia Plain, the sort of rock n roll and synthesizer…

C: I also think it’s to do with the actual drumming, if you listen to it, it’s not ‘rock’, it’s laid back, not hard rock, it’s kind of really sloppy, just like the whole punk thing, if you listen to the guy from the Sex Pistols, he doesn’t hit the drums like a rock drummer, he’s got a sort of, dare I say it, I’ll probably get beaten up for saying this, but he’s got a Tamla, R&B feel to his drumming…

M: Having said that, Silver Machine is not a huge influence in my life, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever talked to anyone about it!

C: Are you embarrassed about me bringing that up!!! You’re the one that said we should do it!

M: I thought, what could we do as a cover that they won’t like much!

VLP: So you’re back to live work now then, gigging regularly…

C: I’m pausing on purpose to make Marco squirm! Marco loves playing live!!!

M: That’s not true Chris. I hate it! I held off from it as long as I can!

C: I had to bribe him with drugs, money, Kate Moss, had to introduce him to Kate Moss!

M: I hadn’t played live for 15 years, people would go ‘why not’, why the fuck do you think!!!

C: Since we started to play live, recording has become so much easier, when we started out we weren’t recording as a band, it was me and Marco, and machines, getting session drummers in, it was a very piecemeal sound…

M: I’ve always worked that way, but I think that’s because I liked making model tanks when I was a kid… yeah, Tamiya, they came in a plastic bag…

C: I was into airplanes, not tanks.

M: But we had our art director, we were always talking about the cover art to ‘that panzer, that tank’… it’s a shame to make those Tamiya kits because they’re packed really nicely!

VLP: I got all self conscious about making those in my teens, because, I thought at the time, getting into music, you can’t be into punk and…

C: You’re not gonna get girls, ‘wanna come back to my place and see my tank’! The end for me was when I persuaded my parents to buy me a Spitfire, one of those things you fly on a line, beautiful! Went out, started it up, it went up in the air, went around a few times, nose-dived into the ground, smashed to bits, and that was the end of my Spitfire! So I picked up the bass guitar, after that, a substitute! The only way to get a girlfriend!

VLP: Similar thing with trains really, but they named one after Strummer!

M: I never understood this adulation of The Clash… never understood it!

C: You didn’t turn up with the T-shirt, so you’re alright!

M: I used to like them before they released an album! But I never understood the whole ‘we are the victims, we are men of the people’… wasn’t them so much, it was the people who bought into it all! A Clash fan is sort of one cut up from a Jam fan isn’t it!

C: Yeah, the Daler Mendhi thing, anyway! We’re seven songs in, we’ve got three more songs to do, we fly back to India for two weeks to finish the album and then we’ve been asked to play in Canada, the festivals, do the Daler Mendhi tour of India, but we’ve also got our album coming out in August, and we’ve also got this Tibetan thing going on. (A lot of projects) would never come to the surface if you didn’t have the Wolfmen. The fact is if two guys like me and Marco were just sitting in our studios thinking ‘oh can we get this’, it wouldn’t come in, the fact that we have the Wolfmen, doing stuff, all this stuff comes to us, it’s more interesting, it’s good to have that across the board sort of thing.

M: It does make it a lot more interesting, I don’t know if I could stick to just the band, it’s not that interesting! (laughter)

VLP: You’re meant to be selling it!

M: It’s just not that interesting for ME, you know!

C: I think what it is, is just doing one thing, for instance, if we were to do our album, go on tour, come back, do another one and so on, it’s not enough, at our stage of our career it’s not enough, we need a lot of other stimuli which feeds the Wolfmen! I don’t think Marco’s putting it down…

M: I’m just saying, you need more!

C: And also to survive you need more financially, you can’t make enough money selling records… even if we’re selling…

M: Even top ten…

C: You need to do other things so the money we’d be getting from working on our project with Daler Mendhi will go into another project, feeds what we’re doing, our next album, but the great thing is we have the bedrock which is the Wolfmen, and without that we’d have nothing.

VLP: So everything can spring outwards from it and feed back…

C: And that’s the way we always wanted it!

VLP: Maybe that’s a model of what bands have to be now…

C: I don’t know, I guess you can’t make that much money…

M: It depends on how successful the band are and what they’re doing, if they’re touring all the time they don’t have time to do anything else… there’s huge outgoings, I keep hearing live is where you make money these days, well I don’t see any increase in ticket prices and I’d like to see the figures on that…

C: I think what it is, is that record sales are down…

M: They’re still making money live but they don’t make any MORE money live!

C: Fortunately for us so far, we have been involved in projects we’ve enjoyed doing, I don’t think unless it was for five million we’d be tempted to do some shit project I’d take two days to do…

M: For five million pounds, I don’t mind doing two days!

C: At this stage of the game it’s just… it’s quite good in some ways, a lot of younger bands say to us ‘it’s quite refreshing to see your attitude’!

M: I do feel bad meeting other bands because they seem so… happy! (Laughter)

C: We soon sort that out!

M: What are they happy about? Do they think this is going to get any better? ‘We‘ve won an award…’ wonderful! Do you think that’s the…

C: Miserable bastard!

M: No, but it’s like, winning some award, it doesn’t mean anything does it?

VLP: Your association with Adam… as people coming from the punk underground and becoming this huge phenomenon, did you feel at all conflicted?

M: In no way at all conflicted! What against my punk ideals? No, I didn’t feel in any way, because I didn’t know what punk ideals were! I’d never heard, I didn’t know what they were. Suddenly, a year later, there’s a bunch of rules, I wasn’t there that day when they gave out the rules! But obviously a lot of people were. Punk was actually started by The Sun! It wasn’t started by the Pistols or Malcolm. When The Sun put ‘how to be a punk’, with a picture of a punk, that’s what started it, and suddenly that’s how you would be a punk, and everyone else is reading saying ‘what the fuck is this? Bollocks!’ But the rest of the country, that’s what started punk!

VLP: So as far as time with The Ants is concerned you were doing your thing and going with it?

M: It wasn’t going with it, it was a calculated decision by myself and Adam, when he’d lost the (original) band, and I wasn’t doing anything with my band, it was like ‘we’ve got to get out of this ridiculous ghetto, or die trying!’ Or it’s not worth doing.

VLP: The received wisdom at the time was Malcolm Maclaren took The Ants over…

M: He got the band to get rid of Adam, he wouldn’t have done it himself!

VLP: So before you got together with Adam, you’d started with the Banshees?

M: Yeah, just for one show. We were never supposed to be together for 20 minutes!

VLP: But that was your fist gig?

M: Yeah, first gig I ever did

VLP: So from a very random beginning point…

M: Yeah, it was all like ‘what you doing tomorrow?’ really

C: A bit how it is today! It’s weird though, I ended up playing with Annabelle (Lu Win, ex-Bow Wow Wow, formed from original Ants line-up under Maclaren) as well after playing with you…

VLP: I presume no bad feeling with her about any of it…

C: Oh yeah, she was like totally…

M: She wouldn’t have had any bad feeling towards me and Adam, we didn’t know her, never met her!

C: No, towards Malcolm! I think everyone that’s worked with Malcolm, Adam… I can’t speak for Adam, but…

M: I don’t think Adam, why would Adam have any bad feelings towards Malcolm, he gave him the best break he’s ever…

C: I mean, I don’t know, I think Adam kind of got…

M: I actually met Malcolm with Adam, years later with The Ants, he came into the restaurant, Adam held his hand out, he shook my hand but he blanked Adam, Adam was like, ’what’s with him? I should be pissed off!’ I said ’well don’t you get it? You fucked him right over didn’t you!’

C: ‘Cause you’d made a mega success out of it, but I think with Annabella… I think she was young, and she also had a lot of… she felt like she was very manipulated by him, this barrage, so I think she felt quite bad towards him, the only things I’ve heard about him are pretty bad really…

M: He did do some brilliant things as well!

C: From everyone, apart from Marco! But I don’t know Malcolm personally, so I can’t really say anything about him…

M: Malcolm did some brilliant things, without which I wouldn’t be sitting here! They weren‘t particularly musical things, but that was the interesting thing about him!

VLP: The two of you did Live Aid, what do you remember about that?

M: The traffic light! We couldn’t see, someone said, ‘there’s a traffic light, and when it goes green you start playing!’ So we get on stage, we’re going ‘where the fuck’s this traffic light?’ Couldn’t see it!

C: I think I remember the night before, I think we stayed in a hotel the night before … I remember being there the night before, oh that was it, the biggest memory I’ve got is Marco telling me we were doing this gig, I’ve got my little diary still, it’s falling to bits, I’ve got ‘Benefit gig!’ I said ‘what’s this fucking gig we’re doing?’ And Marco said ‘it’s some charity gig’! So I put benefit gig in. You know how when you’re young, people tell you things like ‘it’s a charity gig’, that means Charity Gig! ‘specially when you’re a bass player! I kind of thought ok, fine, charity gig, turned up thinking nothing, so we did Live Aid, sound checked, I didn’t even think this is anything big or flash, we did the gig, still didn’t think anything, then a few days later realized we’d played one of the biggest gigs ever! It was a real sort of, switch on…

M: We had done big gigs before! We didn’t go from little clubs to Wembley stadium, we’d gone from well, large arenas to Wembley Stadium!

C: So I didn’t feel nervous at all, it wasn’t like nerves or any big deal, it was just another gig sort of thing, except we weren’t getting paid!

VLP: How long did you continue with Adam after that?

C: We did a tour, then it was all over… 85?

M: We kind of did that tour and it was at that point… I’d just been working five or six years nonstop, it was like, let’s take a break, I don’t know what I’m doing any more!

VLP: How was Adam with that? Because obviously there’s been a lot of publicity since about his illness…

M: At that time he was doing fine.

VLP: Are you in touch now?

M: No, haven’t spoken to him in a long time, I think he’s moved into the country, and I think he’s really doing what he has to do, to… you know, he’s been very seriously ill. A lot worse than people realise, and it’s not flu! It’s not like ‘all better now’! I knew nothing about it to be honest, and I’ve said all those stupid things, people said, ‘when’s he going to be alright, how long is this going to last? I’m sure he’ll be over this in a couple of weeks…’ sort of thing.

VLP: Has he been active musically lately?

M: Not at all, I can’t remember the last thing he did. But he doesn’t have to be active musically, he owes it to himself to do what’s right for him.

VLP: So Chris, you were involved with Chas Chandler as a manager, what was the story with him?

C: The story with Chas is, basically, my biggest memory of Chas Chandler, he used to come in… he was, as you know, Slade, Jimi Hendrix, all that stuff, and I don’t know how we ended up working for him, but we did, and Slade loved us, so we ended up supporting Slade forever!

VLP: What sort of period was that?

C: 1976, ‘75, something like that, I think it would have been before they went to the States, so what, ‘75? What were Slade doing then? It was after the film Flame. So Chas produced this band The Drill that I was in, and then he used to turn up, we went into the studio, Slade and Jimi Hendrix and that lot had recorded there, he used to turn up, order two sausage sandwiches, one with brown sauce, one with red, get The Sun, put his feet up on the desk and go ‘get on with it lads!’ And we’d sort of, you know, when you’re first in the studio, you think the producer will tell you what to do! And then he said, ‘look, it may seem like I’m not doing anything‘, but my theory is, as you can imagine from working with Jimi Hendrix – which he wasn’t! And I don’t know about Slade, but, he probably didn’t have to do that much! So he just thought, ‘just get on with it, if something disturbs me with my sandwiches, reading the paper, I’ll know it’s wrong!’

M: Having been a producer, I know if you’re not paying attention, if you’re just reading the paper while the band are playing, you’re not listening to it!

C: What’s really funny, after two or three years, when I joined up with Adam and Marco, I was hanging around in the clubs, and I met him again, he was with this beautiful Swedish girl, he was talking to me, and it was so weird seeing him on a different level to being how it was when you‘re young in a band for years, and it was just weird really. He died I think after that…

VLP: So you got to tour with Slade a bit…

C: Oh, that was amazing, yeah, that was fantastic! It was interesting because they used to have the same set every night! Exactly the same, same lines, say the same things, it was a show!

VLP: So this was before, they hit this real trough in the late 70s…

C: It was before that… they were massive. It was quite a big thing for us really. I remember that guitarist coming out and they used to take the piss out of him! Our guitarist was better than him, and he had one of those Watkins 30 watt amps, used to mike it up, and all of Slade used to get… Dave Hill had them going ‘look at this bloke! He’s better than you!’ and take the piss out of him, it was terrible! They said he had the worst taste ever, they showed us his suitcase, his suitcase was embarrassing when he used to go on tour… he was a lovely bloke! I tell you, all of them were really lovely, the drummer especially, you know, he had a car accident so, and they had to just rehearse numbers a lot for him in order to learn them… they were really good, great guys!

VLP: And I hear Marco now owns Dave Hill’s Superyob guitar?

M: Yeah, I still have that, I’ve given it to, they’ve started a big British rock n roll hall of fame thing at the Millennium Dome, I’ve lent it to them, ‘cause otherwise it’s just sat at home. I was playing, Adam and the Ants were doing six to seven nights, I was so bored I went for a walk one morning, it was hanging in this guitar shop window, and I went in there and I said how much is Superyob, they said ‘you can’t afford it’, I said ‘listen, I can afford it!’ ‘Listen sonny, go away, go away’, I said ‘listen, how much you want?’ They went ‘alright, 500 quid’, I said ‘done, let me have it!’ That was shit actually, they were bastards. I paid for it and sent them over for it, and when they came back, they said ‘oh we know who that was now, we didn’t know who he was!’ I said ‘what difference does that make? What, I was a wanker when I walked in and now I’m not?’

C: That was the other thing with Slade, I remember one of the roadies used to treat us like shit, I remember when I first started playing with Marco, the support band had the same roadie, and so, being in the main band, everything changes… ‘Oh!’ and he was sort of shitting himself. And as soon as we got into, I was the main band, and it’s funny, you always, want to get them back, but you don’t!

M: What’s weird about that, they forget don’t they? It’s like, coming from the club scene in London, this completely snide, fashion-y scene, and people, people in other bands, used to blank me. And two months later, ‘Hello!’ I was thinking, ‘but you blanked me six weeks ago, I don’t understand what’s changed now! What’s different about me, now I’m alright, now I’m your friend, but I was a wanker six weeks ago!’ Guess who’s the wanker now!

VLP: When you look about you now, what do you think has happened to that punk spirit of throwing people together, like with the Banshees, throwing people together to play the 100 club and doing that thing…

M: I’ve no idea if that exists in other bands, in what’s happening on the scene, ‘cause I don’t really think about it. I don’t think the punk spirit really applies anymore! It is now 32 years! It’s like, I can’t possibly have the same attitude to things I had when I was 16, I’d be an idiot! It doesn’t apply, it’s a different world! I’m now 49, and I don’t think like when I was 16! It doesn’t apply any more… it’s like the spirit of ragtime or the spirit of disco! Why doesn’t anyone talk about the spirit of disco, or the spirit of ragtime jazz, or the spirit of waltz!!! You can’t keep living your life like you’re 17!

C: It’s like saying, something that happened yesterday, you can’t do today, you can’t recreate what you did, you know, years ago, and I think that is the spirit of punk!

M: I think it’s like that White Stripes album, they made on 8 track, I kind of know what they’re trying to do, recreate the spirit of garage rock, old sixties records, I think that was a great thing to do and that was a great album and I thought ‘let’s try that’, but thought ‘no, because it doesn’t work’. Those great old garage punk records and sixties records which I love were made by people who only had one take, they didn’t have any more money. The White Stripes can go in and go ‘this doesn’t work, we can scrap the whole album and start again’, when they went to make Louie Louie and the singer comes in wrong, they didn’t think that’s great, no, they didn’t have the money to do it again!

C: Also there’s too much thinking going into, hopefully not in what we’re doing, it’s pretty much as it comes, we’re so old now we can do it instinctively and it’s more fun, it’s just great, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, who gives a shit!

M: The problem is, I don’t make mistakes! I can’t play with the frantic energy I had when I was 16 because I didn’t know what was gonna happen next, but I can’t do that anymore!

C: I equate it to saying to Miles Davis, do you think you can make a mistake! Because any note that he plays is wrong! So I guess, it’s the same thing with punk, is anyone gonna know! I think, it sounds like an excuse!

M: So if I play a wrong note, I can make it sound right!

The Wolfmen’s ‘Modernity Killed Every Night’ is out now on Damaged Good Records.

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TV SMITH

Former Adverts mainman TV SMITH, the hardest gigging man in punk rock showbiz, has just released his new ‘solo’ album ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’. TV kindly found time while (inevitably) on tour to respond to Vive Le Punk’s questions.



VLP: Just in general terms, how would you compare ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’ with ‘Misinformation Overload’?

“I think they both share a very strong selection of songs but have quite a different approach musically. ‘Arms’ is less reliant on electric rock guitar. On ‘Misinformation’ I played all the guitars myself, and it was a fairly straightforward rock sound, but on the new album I wanted to broaden the musical spectrum and integrate some more interesting instruments while still keeping the power and energy of the last album.

VLP: Haven’t you made a rod for your own back here? Just in terms of your prolific work as a solo performer, how on earth are you going to recreate some of those cross-current guitar lines on stage, or will you have to simplify them for performance? I’m presuming a lot of the lead lines are played by Tim Renwick (I have to say, stuff like ‘Open Up Your Heart’ (especially), ‘My Trojan Horse’ and ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’ reminds me of Jimmy Wilsey’s work with Chris Isaak. There’s a definite country influence too. That should shock the punk nostalgics!

“Basically I don’t try and recreate my albums on stage. In fact it’s the other way round: I write the songs on acoustic guitar, then go out and road test them at gigs solo. By the time I come to record the songs I have a good idea of the way I want them to sound and I try and aim for that. I like having a full band on the records because I think you get more out of repeated listenings that way, whereas a solo record is not something I’d personally listen to very often. Luckily over the years I’ve built up a collection of musicians and friends who I can call on when I want to make a record, depending on the sound I’m after – people like Tim Renwick who I know understands my songs and can put them across with his playing. The guy is a genius and I think he’s played some of his best ever guitar on this album.”

VLP: I noticed the unmistakable aroma of self-doubt on ‘I Wish I Could See Clearly’. I’ve always thought one of your songwriting strengths, going back through Adverts days and beyond, was in your ability to express confusion as much as certainty. You’re no stranger to phrasing a line of a lyric as an interrogative, are you?

“Well, if you’re going to be honest in your lyrics you have to take on board the fact that you basically don’t know what the fuck is going on. Anything else is just arrogance or self-deception.”


TV Smith in the Adverts days

VLP: Okay, other themes. ‘Get It Now’ – defiant, dance while your knees will still support you kind of thing – the album’s most optimistic song and a very different take on ‘consumption’ to that expressed in, say, ‘Clone Town’.

“Yeah, I’ve writtten a few songs around this theme and I have to keep coming back to it to make slight adjustments. I think this one fits in with songs like ‘The Future Used To Be Better’ from ‘Not A Bad Day’ and The Adverts’ ‘We Who Wait’, among others. The idea of the song is: consumerism as a lifestyle is clearly destructive, but you have to remember to enjoy your own life while you have it. Most people want more all the time and forget to enjoy what they already have, so they wouldn’t actually be capable of appreciating ‘more’ if they had it. I often find myself coming back to the same subjects when I’m writing songs. It’s a bit like hammering down a plank – you get to one end and find the first nails have popped up so you have to go back and have another swing at them.”

VLP: ‘It’s Warming Up’ – it’s about that old Egyptian river de nile ain’t it? Was very pleased you just stuck to the line of taking the piss and not sneaking in some silly homily at the end.

“Heh heh! I just decided, for a joke, to make a blatant statement that I didn’t actually believe myself: that mankind isn’t responsible for global warming. There have been a few theories like that going around, and when one of them gets made public you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief – back in the gas guzzler, no need to bother with any more recycling! Life would be so much easier if we didn’t have to be responsible so if someone tells us we’re not responsible we’re desperate to believe them.

VLP: ‘Backstage Bob’ – so how many of these phrases were genuine quotations? Because you’re a very warm performer, I would guess people see you as approachable offstage. But it sounds like you feel uncomfortable with unadulterated flattery as well as the falseness of the whole ‘backstage’ premise.

“This might shock you, but ‘Backstage Bob’ is actually totally sincere. It’s about a fan who was a great friend and willing to help me out at gigs, give me lifts in his car, even researched publishers for my ‘Tour Diaries’ book because I didn’t have time and would probably have never got round to doing it. He never wanted any thanks for it, he just said it was the least he could do to repay me for what my music gave him. When he died from a brain tumour a little over a year ago I decided to write a song for him. The only irony in it is that he would never have tried to “get backstage” – he just wasn’t that kind of pushy type of person – and his name wasn’t really Bob.”

VLP: Have you ever written a more musically complex song than ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’? Some observations, which may of course be hugely wide of the mark – the lyric here reminded me of Justin’s early New Model Army work (he was very good at painting pictures of the slow death/suffocation of the individual), but also, to an extent, Mike Scott of the Waterboys (probably cos you’ve got all epic, like). I do think it works terrifically well though. I presume you do as well, hence making it the album’s title.

“I often get compared with Justin and Mike, I think it’s fair to say we’re fellow travellers. As for ‘most complicated song’, I think ‘I Looked At The Sun’ on the Adverts second album, and some of those Explorers songs must be in the running! The structure of ‘Arms’ isn’t all that complex but the arrangement and musicianship on it is, and the lyrics are pretty devious. It’s nice every now and then to stretch out a bit and not feel you have to get a song over with in three minutes.

VLP: And your voice sounds uncannily like Vi Subversa’s on ‘Open Up Your Heart’, strangely enough.

“Good lord!”

VLP: Are you, in terms of spirit and intent, the trojan horse of the title of the last track – is this what you do, effectively?

“Yes. Obviously when you’re over fifty years old and still out there playing music with no particular mass appreciation of what you do there’s a certain feeling that you’re slipping your ideas into the culture undercover. Over the last few years I’ve been getting more and more people to gigs and selling more records than ever before but it’s purely through word-of-mouth – there’s no media push, no big business backing. Another reason that Trojan Horse is important to me is that it’s a song I originally wrote and recorded with Tim Cross and Tim Renwick as a demo in the mid-‘80s, at a time when no one was interested in what I was doing and I’d pretty much slipped off the musical map, kicked out of the music business by the charlatans who run it. I always thought, one day I’ll get this song our there and people will hear it…and now, my audience has found me again and it’s the right time. To me, that song is a symbol of survival.

‘In the Arms of My Enemy’ is out now on Boss Tuneage.

Alex Ogg

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UK SUBS

BORN A ROCKER, DIE A ROCKER

The undeniable godfather of British punk, Charlie Harper and his UK SUBS have set the benchmark for every home grown band that’s followed in their wake…

"We were playing the sold out Rainbow theatre, five thousand people there and we nicked this ladder and had it up to the dressing room, getting everyone in for free" says Charlie Harper, man of the people, punk rock legend and singer for the UK Subs for the last twenty nine years. We are in a Holloway Road pub talking to the man who is widely regarded as the grandfather of punk rock. A man who has played in nearly every country around the world, to literally hundreds of thousands of fans. He’s had his songs covered by Guns N’Roses and shortly after our interview will head off on tour to Russia to play a festival with Kiss! And the great fact about all this is that when I saw the band recently Charlie and the Subs played with more fire than most kids half his age (he’s sixty two!). From his early days in pub rock bands in London in the ’70s with people like Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham, Charlie has remained one of the most approachable, genuine and friendly guys on the scene. So just how did he get started?

"I wasn’t just playing what’s called punk rock, one year I was in five different bands. I was in a band with horns, I was also in a kind of Irish folk band. I love it all, there’s just good music and bad music, that’s all there is. I love ’50s stuff, there’s a great ’50s revival right now."

VLP: So how did you get into punk? The Subs were pretty much right there at the start.
CH: "It was a complete accident, really. My heroes at the time were people like Wilko Johnson and Doctor Feelgood, but no one really coined the word punk in those days. I was a big Wilko Johnson fan. He’d break a string and get a string pack out of his top pocket of his old mohair suit while he was still playing and singing and change the string while he was still playing and singing. And then there was the Kursaal Flyers and the bass player just kinda stood there staring at someone in the crowd like they were a real oddity. And then suddenly you’ve got the Sex Pistols and word went round ‘Have you seen this band?’ They kinda dressed really stupid, ’cause you know we used to go down to the Old Piccadilly Market and buy suits for fifty pence and put a couple of safety pins in the lapel, otherwise the suit was solid you know. And the Sex Pistols used to go for real sassy ten pence suits. They were the kind of characters which we don’t get now, there’s no real characters in bands."


UK Subs – classic second line-up

VLP: Today punk seems a bit faceless with kids doing it for a career almost…
CH: "I really try and encourage any kid I see with a bit of talent and say, ‘I’ve had a great life, I’ve toured just about every country in the world’, but to make a great band there’s got to be some great characteristics about the band and when The Clash came out for instance, they didn’t know a lot about politics, but the people around them were giving them all these ideas about the political situation and everything. So the young ‘uns have got to wake up – maybe they haven’t got it as hard as we had it.
When we played the Rainbow theatre, we had good line-up, and the place was full up, but in those days it was a strange kind of business music. We were pop stars, rock stars and we were poor as hell at the time. After that show I stayed at this party at a pub and next morning I had to get my ass up to Brent Cross and start hitching to Manchester while on a sold-out tour!"

VLP: You have had a lot of success, and music’s kind of taken you all over the world…
CH: "Yeah, there’s always ups and downs in every kind of career, life, whatever, but I wouldn’t change it for the world-it’s been brilliant. Yeah, we continue to go round the world and looking back it’s all worth it. We played a really big show in Poland, when no one had ever been there before. That’s when it was closed. I think we were invited because the government said if we didn’t go there’d be a revolution or a civil war! They listened to all our songs, but they didn’t really want us to play ‘Warhead’ -they thought that was too rebel rousing. We weren’t allowed to wear our solidarity shirts, but when we went on stage our drummer kind of snuck one on cause these were huge gigs with ten or twenty thousand people .It caused a few arguments because it was a kind of dangerous situation. Our drummer Kim Wylie insisted on wearing one. He lives in France now in a big farmhouse with a few acres and at the end of his drive he has a bit of old rotted bark nailed to a tree, and it’s got carved in it ‘Punk Cottage’. Born a rocker, die a rocker!"

VLP: So who is the most punk rock person you’ve ever met?
CH: "Well I’ve always said Wattie (singer from The Exploited) because they just took it a stage further than the Sex Pistols, the next batch was meaner and that’s what happened to punk. You’ve got bands like Discharge and Broken Bones with Terry Bones-far more dangerous people, and it went on and on from there."

VLP: Green Day, My Chemical Romance- its all termed punk but kind of different- what do you think of punk now?
CH: "I think it’s good you know ’cause you can’t go along the same old cranked up guitar level. I love it. I think punk is like a wild animal, you know stripped down-music stripped to the bone. I look at it like a tame domestic cat to a wild cat- and that’s punk rock. And the wild cat is far more beautiful cause it’s just stripped down, basic."

VLP: Have you ever played the Warped Tour in America?
CH: "Oh no, that’s commercial shit. Horrible commercial shit, probably sponsored by McDonalds and KFC. MTV for sure. That’s the music business that’s above us, and what we hate, but we are going on a big American tour with the Misfits and the Adicts soon. We’re very excited about it-this will be the biggest thing we’ve done since we went on tour in Europe with the Ramones."

VLP: So you’ve done thirty five US tours and this will be the last?
CH: "No, no. A couple of years ago I said that’s it, we’re finished, but then someone comes up with a good idea. We’ve been going over there every year since ’79 and we said we just wouldn’t go anymore. Then someone offered this Misfits, Adicts and Subs tour… It’s gonna be a great tour."

VLP: Any chance of you slowing down?
CH: "No not this year, and next year is the thirtieth anniversary of the UK Subs and we wanna do an album and a tour. If it all dies down after that we don’t care. You know I’ve gotta slow down a little bit."

VLP: How many gigs a year do you do?
CH: "I wear out a few wheelchairs, I’ll tell you that! We’re a band, we love gigging. It’s the most simple thing to us to be performing, whether its two to three hundred or a thousand. We’re always looking for ways to make our music more exciting. In our attitude towards music, it’s got to be exciting."

VLP: You’ve taken quite a few people under your wing in the band…
CH: "There’s a film coming out called ‘Punk’s Not Dead’-it’s about history through punk and there’s Alan and Ryan from the Subs in it and they’re counting who was in the UK Subs – ‘Oh after Nicky, Captain Scarlet, and that guy who died but he didn’t really die,’ and they come back and read off another ten people. It’s a really funny bit. Lars from Rancid is doing well and he was with us for a while too."

VLP: What does punk mean to you these days?
CH: "They always said if you want a job done proper do it yourself, and the whole DIY idea I love. We’re kind of doing our records ourselves now with Jett, our guitarist, and his tiny little record label-so it’s all gonna be like DIY-isn’t that what punk music’s all about. Forget the middle man, the middle man just runs off with all the money."

And with that Charlie is off down Holloway Road. There are more gigs to play and more fans to meet and you just know that as long as there’s a good band on he will be there, checking them out. Because punk’s in Charlie’s blood.

‘Warhead’ is out now on Jet13.
The UK Subs play this year’s Rebellion festival.

Eugene Big Cheese

UK SUBS FACTS

Formed 1977 in London.

‘Crash Course’ was their biggest selling album reaching No 8 in U.K charts.

Seven singles made the UK Charts, with ‘Stranglehold’ having the highest position at 26 (1979).

Charlie Harper was born David Charles Perez on April 25th 1944

Prior to forming the UK Subs, Harper was in five other bands, including R&B band The Marauders.

Two punk legends in their own right explain what Charlie’s contribution to punk means to them…

"The first record of an English punk band I ever heard was the UK Subs’
‘Another Kind Of Blues’. Little did I know that, at the age of nineteen, years later I would be playing guitar right beside one of my all time heroes Charlie Harper.
Charlie is one of the most humble people you can ever come across. He is the first guy at the party to greet you and normally the last one to leave. We have stumbled home many a late night together so I know this from my own experience. I’ve learned so much from him over the years and I hold him in high regard. I feel that he has helped me become the man that I am today – don’t know if that’s saying much! He is more of a father to me than anyone has been in my life, to the point where people have stopped us in the street and asked if he was me dad…Is there something I should know Charlie? You lived in Campbell in the early ’70s…
For that I will always love and respect him. His voice is unique and parallel to none. He has a style that has been often imitated, but never duplicated. In my opinion, his stage presence has made him the most exciting singer to watch in all of punk rock, much less in all of rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t know anyone who can do it with such consistency and still keep the audience at the edge of their seats night after night after night. He’s the Dean Martin of punk, only better.
For those of us who have been graced by his presence, you will know they don’t make ’em like that anymore, but that’s fine. I’m sure we wouldn’t want it any other way. Because there’s only one Charlie Harper!"
RANCID’s Lars Frederiksen

"Charlie Harper is a living legend who defined the punk experience. He was one of the first guys to put the audience on an equal footing and reject the stardust approach of being aloft and removed. He gets down there in the mosh pit and shares in the blood, sweat and cheers of Joe Public. That is the way to do it. If there is anyone from the old school I’d model myself after, then it would be Charlie Harper."
THE MASONS’/Former BUSINESS guitarist Steve Whale

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THE SEX PISTOLS

Four singles and an album. That’s all it took for THE SEX PISTOLS to become the most infamous punk band of all-time. Vive Le Punk takes a closer look at those defining moments in the Pistols story.

‘ANARCHY IN THE UK’

The Sex Pistols’ debut single was released in November 1976 on EMI and was a clarion call all for a generation. It was actually the second proper punk single to get released (a week later than The Damned classic ‘New Rose’) but that didn’t lessen its impact one iota. From Rotten’s manic cackle over the intro and Steve Jones’ huge guitar sound, ‘Anarchy’ sounded like no record ever before. Sure, there were touches of The Who or the New York Dolls in its raunch but this was another level.

Lyrically it was spot on. It was a mangle of ‘70s political confusion, with the singer looking for total personal freedom, “I wanna be anarchy” he sneered in the songs white heat meltdown. Few debut singles have ever been this good or had this much impact. Within a few weeks the band had been banned from most venues on their tour, record label EMI dumped them in a total panic and they lost a member when in February 1977 Glen Matlock was out of the band. Matlock was replaced by Rotten’s mate Sid Vicious, who couldn’t play bass but was the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll icon. After ‘Anarchy’ things were never going to be the same again. The Pistols’ Steve Jones has always maintained that after Bill Grundy they stopped being a band and became a freak show- he’s right of course but for one brief year it was the best ‘freak show’ in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’

For many this is the best ever single in pop history. It ticks every single box – fiercely exciting, brilliant production, a neat line in psychosis and a brilliant tune to boot. Add to this a great guitar sound and raw power and what else do you need? On a new label, Virgin, the band were stoking the fires of controversy releasing this anti-royal diatribe and nihilistic take on the rubbish state of Britain one week before the Queen’s silver jubilee. Whilst most people in the UK had tatty street parties and celebrated the rubbish German family that get away with sitting on top of the pile there were many dissenters. The Pistols was the rallying call for all those that didn’t agree with the decadence of the royals and they gleefully sent it to number one.

A psychotic rush of sound with some of the greatest guitar riffs ever, the Sex Pistols were firing on all cylinders for this single, which is a concise and deadly explosion. It’s hard to think of another number one that sounded so dangerous. Hardly any rock music sounds this powerful and intense. The record was kept at number 2 by the terrified authorities whilst everyone else knew that by far it was the number one selling record. A perfect pop moment.


‘PRETTY VACANT’



The closest the Sex Pistols came to pure pop was the anthemic ‘Pretty Vacant’. With words and lyrics by the ousted Glen Matlock it intros with that fantastic guitar arpeggio – the one that everyone learns on their guitars and then crashes into a deceptively simple four chord churning verse half-inched bizarrely off Abba’s ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’. The chorus is sublime. It’s a classic football terrace sing-along. ‘Pretty Vacant’ may not have been as immense as ‘God Save The Queen’ but it was still a delicious, nihilistic anthem for a generation fed up with crap Britain.

‘NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS… HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS’

The best album title of all time was coined by guitarist Steve Jones as a joke. It was the perfect title for the autumn 1977 album from the band who, by now, were dangerously surrounded by the bollocks of the media and the states attempts to crush them. The album was greeted with mixed reviews on release as the notoriously snooty music press was trying to push the band aside, but the record, which they had spent the summer working on, was a fantastically executed work. Again Jones’ guitars (and bass – as Sid was not very busy on the sessions) and Paul Cook’s great drums provided a perfect platform for Rotten’s sneering vocals). There’s a terror and neurosis in his singing that no-one has got close to since. The Sex Pistols were not a direct political band – this was the sound of a supremely intelligent, sharp individual with a chaotic and terrifying imagination. The songs are powerful, personal tirades and they were easily identified with that particularity weird and wonderful generation of psychotic mid-‘70s youth. Never has pop music sounded this vital and dangerous.

‘HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN’

Weeks after the album came the Sex Pistols’ proper last single. Yeah, we all know about the later cash-in albums but they are the work of a different band. Quite literally as they had already imploded by early ‘78 and the Pistols existed in name only for the next album, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’ – a footnote to manager Malcolm Maclaren’s situationist showbiz theories. There were to be great moments after ‘Holidays’ but this was the real Sex Pistols in action for one last time. The fourth and last single release came in the autumn of 1977. Ostensibly a ranting jackboot stomp about a trip to Berlin that year it could also be about the traps of the band’s image and reputation that Rotten felt especially after getting slashed by royalist thugs that summer. This is the singer at his most paranoiac and the ad-libbed “looking over the Berlin wall” vocal at the end is almost terrifying – and bizarre for a top ten hit. The song is many people’s favourite Pistols song from the mighty intro to the song’s chanting, churning psychodrama. Forget all the bullshit, the Sex Pistols were a genius rock ‘n’ roll band. Few bands have ever matched them for their intensity or had their influence.

The Sex Pistols have oddly become a classic British band sitting alongside the Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Stones – the very groups they set out to destroy. History still can’t make its mind up about them, the mythology sometimes drowns up the truth – people will still tell you that the band had no talent and couldn’t play but listen to ‘…Bollocks’ and you are listening to one of the best hard rock albums aver made – a powerful mix of guitar action with one of the greats vocalists of all time.

They existed for two short years but they packed more incident and controversy into that time than every other band does in a whole career. Luckily they could back it up with their music.

John Robb

For the story of the Sex Pistols from 1975-1978, check out the Vive Le Punk mini-mag that’s free with the new issue of Big Cheese! (out July 24th)

 

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THE BOOMTOWN RATS

THE RATS (Formerly-Boomtown) played this years Rebellion festival.

Here’s 15 Things You Should (or maybe shouldn’t) Know About…THE BOOMTOWN RATS

1) The Boomtown Rats were a legendary Irish New Wave group with Live Aid mastermind Bob Geldof on vocals.
2) The band, featuring original guitarist Garry Roberts and original drummer Simon Crowe, will be reuniting and are confirmed to play this year’s Rebellion Festival in Blackpool on August 8th followed by more tour dates. Geldof will not be participating…
3) The band originally started out as a rhythm n’ blues pub rock band before switching to New Wave years later
4) Their single ‘Rat Trap’, released in 1978, is widely considered to be the first New Wave hit to reach number one on the charts

5) ‘Rat Trap’ was also the first rock song by an Irish band to hit number one in the UK
6) The name ‘Boomtown Rats’ comes from a gang featured in legendary singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory
7) One of the band’s most famous songs, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’, was written in response to a school shooting in California carried out by Brenda Ann Spencer in 1979. When asked why she shot up her school, Spencer replied: ‘I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.’

8) ‘Banana Republic’ was released in 1980 and became the band’s last top 10 hit. It was written in response to the band not being allowed to play in their home country of Ireland due to fear of riots breaking out in the crowd

9) On the band’s 1981 album, ‘Mondo Bongo’ – which featured the hit ‘Banana Republic’ – the band began to experiment with more drum and keyboard based music, marking a distinct departure from their early guitar-driven sound
10) In 1985 the band released their final album, ‘In the Long Grass’ and the band performed at Geldof’s Live Aid – a mammoth global music festival that raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia
11) The band made their final performance in 1986 at Self Aid, a concert to benefit poverty-stricken people of Ireland. Geldof also assumed lead vocal duties with a reformed Thin Lizzy at the festival, which was held 4 months after lead singer Phil Lynott passed away
12) Before recently reuniting with Garry Roberts, drummer Simon Crowe was playing in the Celtic instrumental band Jiggerypipery
13) Roger Waters was sceptical in casting Bob Geldof as Pink in the 1982 movie Pink Floyd: The Wall. Apparently, he was unsure if Geldof could sing the vocals
14) In 2005 the band’s albums were all remastered, and two DVDs of past live performances were released along with a ‘Best-Of’ CD compilation

15) The newest incarnation of the band will feature Roberts, Crowe, Peter Barton of The Animals on bass and Darren Beale of The Electric Shepherds on lead guitar

‘The Best of The Boomtown Rats’ is out now on Mercury/Universal.
The Rats play The Rebellion Festival.

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COCK SPARRER

Exploding out of East London and influencing the evolution of street punk to date, COCK SPARRER are back with their first album in ten years, produced by Lars from Rancid, to show the young pups just how it’s done.

Cock Sparrer were formed way back in 1972, four East London school friends who had known each other since the age of about 11, with a penchant for West Ham United and the street-wise boogie of the Small Faces. Colin McFaull (vocals), Mick Beaufoy (guitar), Steve Burgess (bass) and Steve Bruce (drums), were eventually joined by Burgess’s cousin Garrie Lammin on rhythm guitar.
Gigs at the fabled Bridgehouse in Canning Town (owned by Terry Murphy, father of Gary Murphy, star of TV show ‘London’s Burning’) gave the fledgling band some experience of live shows, albeit often to one man and his proverbial dog, and thanks to another useful contact, a chap called Archie who was a doorman at the even more fabled Marquee, even graced the West End playing numerous support slots.

By now Cock Sparrer were supplementing their Faces covers with self-penned material, gritty-but-tuneful tales of life on the streets and football terraces, and building a following of like-minded hooligans. Famously, none other a personage than Malcolm McLaren got wind of this, and characteristically tried to get in on the act. He went along to the rehearsal room above The Roding pub in East Ham to check the band out, offered them a management deal and the chance to support his protégés the Sex Pistols at a strip club in Soho (presumably El Paradiso) but committed the ultimate faux pas by failing to get the beers in. Naturally, the boys turned him down, and who can blame them, the bounder.

However, when the punk explosion came, Sparrer, despite never really dressing the part, were ideal for the new movement: genuine street kids with attitude and great songs. A punk feeding-frenzy began among the record labels, either truly enthused by it, or, more often, just scared of missing out on the next big thing, and one of the latter was Decca. Despite adding the likes of Slaughter And The Dogs and Adam And The Ants to its roster, frankly, Decca never had a clue about punk, but that realization would only come later.
At first it all went swimmingly. At the label’s studio in West Hampstead the band were given Thin Lizzy producer Nick Tauber to work with, and, dream come true, a support slot on a Small Faces tour. Decca released two Sparrer singles, the all-time street-punk classic ‘Runnin’ Riot’ in July 1977, and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘We Love You’ in November of the same year, but sadly both failed to chart. The band had also recorded an album, and to make matters worse, for some reason Decca elected to only release it in Spain the following year. After Lammin left they sold their PA (which wasn’t actually theirs anyway) and tried their luck in the US, after which little was heard from the band for a while.

Sparrer’s resurrection came when Sounds journalist Garry Bushell included their track ‘Sunday Stripper’ on his compilation ‘Oi! – The Album’ in November 1980, alongside the likes of Slaughter And The Dogs, Angelic Upstarts, Cockney Rejects, 4-Skins, Peter And The Test Tube Babies and The Exploited. This endearing mixture of the old school and ‘New Breed’ brought Sparrer to the attention of a new audience, even if ‘Sunday Stripper’ was in fact a curiously low-key chugger, albeit with saucy lyrics.

A new single, ‘England Belongs To Me’ (originally ‘London Belongs To Me’) was released by Carrere in 1982, as was, at last, the first official Cock Sparrer album ‘Shock Troops’, recorded at White House studios in Chelsea, and what a belter it was. The band continued for a couple of years, with varying line-ups, and released the ‘Runnin’ Riot In ‘84’ album on Syndicate, but then went back into hibernation for a while.

By 1992 Steve Bruce was running the Stick Of Rock pub, putting on regular gigs, including several by an outfit called The Elite, whose guitarist was one Daryl Smith, son of the man who signed Sparrer to Decca all those years ago! Surprisingly, perhaps, rather than take a terrible revenge on the boy, as the original members of the band were planning to reform the band for a show at the Astoria, they instead recruited him as second guitarist. It was a huge success, with street punk enthusiasts travelling from all over the globe to attend.
Enthused, the band signed to German label Bitzcore, releasing the ‘Guilty As Charged’ album in 1994, accompanied by a full European tour, and another album, entitled ‘Two Monkeys’, followed in 1997.

Over the years, Cock Sparrer’s reputation and fan base has grown in a way that must be mystifying to anyone only aware of their early Decca years, and now they headline festivals over contemporaries who actually managed to trouble the charts. Why? Well, my guess is that it’s all down to the songs. Never the most frenetic of acts, Sparrer always delivered a tune you could shuffle the boots to, and a chorus you could bellow drunkenly to. In short, they’re a lot of fun and completely genuine.

The band released their new studio album mixed by Lars Frederiksen, ‘Here We Stand’, out on Captain Oi! now. The boys seem to be pretty pleased with it. “We are all thrilled with the result,” says Steve Bruce: “It’s our first studio album for ten years and the best thing we have done since ‘Shock Troops’. Writing, rehearsing and recording it was just like the old days, there were strops, sulks, arguments, walk outs, laughs, and a fair amount of drinking. All that was missing was a good old punch up! But I guess we’re getting too old for that.”

And Daryl Smith concurs: “I’ve always thought that on the recent albums the songs were great but the production let the side down. My goal was to get the band in a good studio and record in a way that could get the best out of the songs. I’m really happy that we’ve achieved that and got the album that we’ve always wanted. Lars told me that he can’t stop playing it and in his opinion it’s better than ‘Shock Troops’, which although a bit controversial, is a great compliment.”

‘Here We Stand’ is out now on Captain Oi!

Shane Baldwin

COCK SPARRER’S ALBUMS

‘Shock Troops’ 1982

‘Running Riot In ‘84’ 1984

‘True Grit’ 1987

‘Guilty As Charged’ 1994

‘Two Monkeys’ 1997

‘Here We Stand’ 2007

CHOICE CUTS

Download the following…

‘England Belongs To Me’ (‘Shock Troops’)
‘Argy Bargy’ (‘Shock Troops’)
‘Watch Your Back’ (‘Shock Troops’)
‘Running Riot’ (‘True Grit’)
‘Chip On My Shoulder’ (‘True Grit’)
‘Spirit Of ‘76’ (‘Here We Stand’)

INFLUENCED
Dropkick Murphys
Rancid
The Business

The London quintet’s sixth album ‘Here We Stand’ shows that they’ve still got balls, they’ve still got tunes and they’re sounding better than ever! We caught up with the geezers to talk about how they’ve already laid waste to Vienna this year and now they’ve set their sights on Blackpool again…

So how was the Vienna Rebellion festival for Cock Sparrer?

“It was a cracking weekend. Met up with a load of mates, old and new and generally had a great time. We hadn’t played outdoors before so were a bit unsure as to what to expect, wondering if we could generate the same atmosphere, but the crowd really went for it. There was no need to worry that there was no roof – the crowd were singing their hearts out and were as loud as ever. Great bands, great atmosphere and a superb venue – the new banner looked really great (the bloke who nicked our last one at Blackpool 2006 did us a favour).”

You guys are pretty much the biggest old school punk act in the world right now. How did that happen?

“Ain’t got a clue. Think we’ve just kept on doing what we’ve always done. We consciously try to make sure everyone has a good time at the gigs and we worked hard on “Here We Stand” to produce an album that we would be proud of and one that everyone could associate with Cock Sparrer. We think we achieved that. Having the largest number of backing vocalists of any band on the circuit must help – only limited by the number of punters that turn up.”

Is there any difference playing in Europe as opposed to the US?

“Don’t think so, same crazy bastards worldwide.”

You seem to be incredibly popular at Blackpool’s Rebellion festival. Is it a pretty special show for you?
“The last one we did in 2006 was sold out and had a great atmosphere. Blackpool is special but so was Vienna recently and Wolverhampton for the album launch. It’s the crowd that makes any particular gig a special show not the gig itself. There are loads of good punk gigs up and down the country – from other festivals to DIY gigs in backrooms of pubs (which some of us still manage to get to!) but Rebellion is definitely the social event of the year, having a few beers with old mates (checking who’s still alive), hearing some old favourites and there’s always loads of new talent coming through.”

Any surprises planned for Rebellion 2008?

“Playing sober (won’t happen), different running order (won’t happen), loads of new songs (won’t happen), getting to bed before 06.00 (definitely won’t happen).”

What is your favourite Cocksparrer song to play?

COLIN: “‘England Belongs To Me’.”

MICKEY: “The first notes of ‘Riot Squad’ are my favourite – that initial animal roar tells me it’s going to be another great night and makes what little hair I have stand on end.”

STEVE BRUCE: “‘Because You’re Young’ – great song, everyone sings it, it’s a doddle for me to play and won’t induce a heart attack.”

DARYL: “‘England Belongs to Me’ for the crowd response and ‘Because You’re Young’ for the song.”

And finally, what three things should fans bring to a Sparrer show?
“A sense of humour, strong lungs and the capacity to consume a vast amount of alcohol.”

Cock Sparrer headline the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool August 7th – 10th.

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BO DIDDLEY

THE ORIGINATOR

Becoming an icon for his early melding of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, the late legend BO DIDDLEY rocked the world with his driving hits and trademark rectangular guitar. Vive Le Punk salutes ‘The Originator’.

Born in McComb, Mississippi in 1928, Ellas McDaniel moved to Chicago with his foster parents he was seven. Having taken violin lessons as a child, it wasn’t until he saw John Lee Hooker play that he picked up the guitar. When not working as a carpenter or mechanic (and later in the ‘70s as a New Mexico Deputy Sheriff!), he played on street corners with friends as a band called the Hipsters (and later called the Langley Avenue Jive Cats). In 1951 he got a regular slot on the bill at Chicago’s 708 Club, alongside artists such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. In late ’54, he got together a harmonica player, bassist and drummer and recorded demos of the true classics ‘I’m A Man’ and ‘Bo Diddley’. Re-recording the songs at Chess Studios, ‘Bo Diddley’ was released in March 1955 and became an R&B hit single.

McDaniel decided to use the stage name ‘Bo Diddley’ and stories of where the name came from have passed into legend. Some people claim it was his nickname as a teenage Golden Gloves boxer, others say it comes from the name of a one-string instrument called a diddley bow. Bo Diddley claims that the name originally belonged to a singer friend of his adoptive mother.

Known as a true guitar hero, he penned driving rhythms and created what was known as the ‘Bo Diddley beat’, a rumba-like beat. His guitar was the rectangular-bodied Gretsch, nicknamed ‘The Twang Machine’, which he fashioned himself around ’58 and became his most iconic guitar. It is said that he created a guitar of this shape so it was small and wouldn’t get in the way while he was jumping around onstage during his energetic live shows.

Bo Diddley was banned from ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1955 when instead of playing an agreed cover on the show, he played ‘Bo Diddley’ instead. This infuriated Sullivan who banned him from appearing again and said Diddley “wouldn’t last six months”. He couldn’t have been more wrong, Diddley had hits through the late ‘50s and ‘60s, including ‘Pretty Thing’ (1956), ‘Say Man’ (1959) and ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover’. With hit albums, including ‘Bo Diddley’ (1958), ‘Have Guitar, Will Travel’ (1960) and ‘Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger’ (1960) and added to his growing legend.

There is no disputing that Bo Diddley was one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll. In 1972 he played with The Grateful Dead in New York and in 1979 he performed as a special guest for both The Clash and The Rolling Stones. Bo Diddley’s songs have been covered by everyone from The Clash (‘Mona’ during their ‘London Calling’ sessions) to Aerosmith (‘Road Runner’ on their ‘Honkin’ on Bobo’ covers album), The Jesus and Mary Chain (‘Who Do You Love’) and Eric Clapton (‘Before You Accuse Me’) to New York Dolls and The Lurkers (who both covered ‘Pills’). The song ‘Bad to the Bone’ is a re-working of Diddley’s ‘I’m A Man’ and Muddy Waters’ ‘Mannish Boy’ was a direct response to the song ‘I’m A Man’ by his younger rival. In 1964, Diddley and Chuck Berry recorded a 4-track release called ‘Two Great Guitars’, which contained instrumental, spontaneous jams.

Having been acknowledged with numerous accolades, Bo Diddley’s huge effect on music is clear. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987), as well as many more over the years, such as the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame. He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation (1996) and the Grammys (1998) and the track ‘Bo Diddley’ was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as “a recording of lasting qualitative or historical significance” in 1997. In 2003, US Representative John Conyers paid tribute to Diddley in the United States House of Representatives, saying he was “one of the true pioneers of rock and roll, who has influenced generations.”

Performing at various charity events and fundraisers well into his later years and still touring, Bo Diddley suffered a stroke and a heart attack last year. While recovering from these, he attended an unveiling of a plaque devoted to him on the National Blues Trail at his birthplace of McComb last November, which would be the last time he performed publicly. Bo Diddley died from heart failure on June 2nd, aged 79. His funeral was typically energetic, featuring a gospel band playing his music and a floral tribute in the shape of his trademark guitar. Tom Petty, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard all sent flowers.

Sending shockwaves through the music world in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Bo Diddley and ‘The Twang Machine’ changed blues and rock ‘n’ roll forever. To many he’ll always be the man. RIP Bo Diddley.

Ian Chaddock


THE BO DIDDLEY BEAT

This beat that Bo Diddley created has seeped through rock ‘n’ roll history. Here’s a list of just some of the songs that use the distinctive beat.

BUDDY HOLLY ‘Not Fade Away’
ELVIS PRESLEY ‘His Latest Flame’
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN ‘She’s the One’
THE STOOGES ‘1969’
U2 ‘Desire’
THE SMITHS ‘How Soon is Now?’
GEORGE MICHAEL ‘Faith’
ACE FREHLEY ‘New York Groove’
PRIMAL SCREAM ‘Movin’ On Up’
DAVID BOWIE ‘Panic in Detroit’
THE POLICE ‘Deathwish’
THE SUPREMES ‘When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes’
GUNS ‘N’ ROSES ‘Mr. Brownstone’

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THE CLASH

CLASH CONNECTION

Big Cheese looks at THE CLASH‘s singles collection and peels back some of the layers surrounding punk rock’s most vital band….

The Clash’s singles signposted a generation. They may never have been proper big hits, the band’s refusal to play the ‘Top Of The Pops’ game prevented most of them from even being in the top 20 but each one was a gem. They carried the consciousness of punk rock in each brilliant salvo, each one a missive from the rock ‘n’ roll frontline telling the band’s adventurous journey from punk rock machine gun guitars to New York rap-influenced salvos and all with a staccato heartfelt beat.

Bursting onto the scene in mid ’76 they were the sound of punk positive- if the Pistols did the necessary and brutal nihilistic thing scouring the bland pop world of the mid seventies the Clash set about with the rebuilding.

Each single was an education in itself: searing heartfelt lyrics from Joe Strummer coupled with Mick Jones’s genius guitar and arrangement skills. The rhythm section of Paul Simonon’s dub-influenced grooves and mostly Topper Headon’s killer drums were crucial as well.

The early singles that punctuated punk’s heyday sound deceptively simple, but are complex little beasts rushing round with an amphetamine-fed fury and sharp intelligence that has set the template for just what a punk rock song. Even 30 years later you can hear their influence all over bands from Rancid to Green Day to the Libertines and many more- a pretty bizarre catchall of guitar gunslingers who owe something to The Clash who are still perhaps the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band that ever stalked the earth. The recently released ‘Singles Box Set’ has all the singles, b-sides and remixes, a potted history of a band who never once rested on their laurels, who mixed and matched every rebel music there was into a huge sprawling collection of music that still make you want to get up off your arse and create. How perfect is that?

WHITE RIOT
As opening salvos go this is pretty much perfect. ‘White Riot’ is the Clash at their most 1-2-3-4. This song sums up 1977-staccato guitars played fast, sped up by the momentous Ramones gig at the Roundhouse in 1976 that made all the nascent British punk bands get up to speed. The Clash’s original garage band sound of souped-up sixties hipster rock ‘n’ roll went through a metamorphosis after Da Brudders’ sonic salvo. Much misunderstood, the song details the Notting Hill Riots that were chanced upon by Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon during the long hot summer of 1976 and asks why couldn’t the white man fight back as well.

REMOTE CONTROL
1977 was in full revolutionary swing and the Clash are the heroes of the counterculture, so what does the record label do? It puts out a single without telling the band. The Clash are furious- suddenly they realise that signing to CBS is not going to be the way they envisaged it. ‘Remote Control’ is a fine song but hardly the incendiary broadside required for the summer of hate. While The Pistols were releasing ‘God Save The Queen’ the Clash were being made fools of by the limp-wristed meddlers of the record label. It was going to be worth it though…

COMPLETE CONTROL
The band’s reaction to the ‘Remote Control’ debacle was fantastic, for many this is the finest punk single, a song about being trapped by your record label, a song of defiance and one of the first Clash songs that detailed their own battles. ‘Complete Control’ has it all: it’s anthemic, it’s heartfelt, it’s got a fantastic guitar solo and an amazing outro where Joe Strummer’s ad-libs sound like a man who has completely lost it as he rants and raves like a madman. It was sort of produced by the inventor of dub Lee Scratch Perry but you can’t really tell-it’s a nice link though between the vanguard of punk and the mastermind behind the genius Jamaican music.

CLASH CITY ROCKERS
In which the Clash go overboard on their own mythology and somehow it works. Great rock ‘n’ roll songs should celebrate the band as a gang and few bands have looked a much like a gang of street smarts as The Clash. Now widely recognised as the number one punk band after the Pistols’ messy auto destruction, The Clash swagger like all great rock ‘n’ roll bands should with a zigzag riff half-inched from The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’. It’s another song of defiance from The Clash- a subject matter instantly understood by the put-upon punk rock generation.



(WHITE MAN) IN HAMMERSMITH PALAIS

Perhaps the closest The Clash came to a signature tune and the song that always had the whole crowd singing along at Joe Strummer’s gigs right up to his heartbreaking death, ‘White Man…’ distilled everything that was perfect in the Clash vision. Many talked about reggae but The Clash were the first punk rock band to cross its intoxicating rhythms with their own spiel. On their debut album they covered Junior Marvin’s ‘Police And Thieves’, stripping the song down for a six-minute workout that was perfect in its simplicity. With ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ they went one further and wrote their own roots rock radical punky reggae party. Strummer writes about the alienation he felt at a reggae gig at the Hammersmith Palais that he went to with Clash mate and key player Don Letts in 1977 and also how he felt let down by the lack of revolutionary fervour coming from the stage. The song then addresses the punk generation and warns the revolutionaries that ‘the British army is waiting out there’. It’s a brilliant contradictory lyric that captures the confused and dangerous politics of the time, a time when revolution was in the air and a generation believed that if they listened to the records hard enough then the massed ranks of Doc Marten-ed youth could take the world. The Clash made music that made you feel like that.

ENGLISH CIVIL WAR
You had to be there to believe how militant we all felt. Walking down the streets dressed as punks was like asking for a civil war of your own, there was plenty of kick offs – Britain in the late seventies was a violent place – a place of lairy drunks battling punks, the inherent violence was driven right through the state. The song addressed the military, the British violence and the counterculture clashes. Based on an older Irish folk song, from around 1802, called ‘Johnny We Hardly Knew You’, which was almost forgotten until the American Civil War of the mid 1800’s when it was resurrected (and still sung in America) as ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again’. The Clash took the old folk song and turned it into a punk anthem, subtly making the point that punk was also the only genuine English folk music that could be heard.

I FOUGHT THE LAW
The first sign of the new Clash was this cover of Sonny Curtis of the Crickets garage band staple that was a hit for Bobby Fuller in 1966, hitting the top of the charts the week that Fuller himself was found murdered. The song is a wry take on hassle with the cops – The Clash had run-ins with the law but it was mainly for minor on-the-road stuff like nicking pillows from hotel rooms and minor drug busts. But out there on the British streets the thuggish old guard of cops were making their presence felt and many a young punk could identify with this song’s brilliant chorus.

LONDON CALLING
The initial punk scene had burned out in spiral of bad drugs and nihilism. 1979 was a scary year – apocalypse and right wing governments were the order of the day. The Clash returned to the scene looking for an escape route from punk’s studded straightjacket. Suited and quaffed-up looking like punk rock Mafiosi, it was the coolest look they ever came up with and one that the surviving band members return to this day. Apocalyptic fervour ruled the day, there was a darkness on the edge of town and people genuinely felt that there was going to be a nuclear war. The Clash caught all that paranoia in this, the title track of their upcoming double album. Hinting at the darker territories of the newly-emerged Joy Division, the song is a rumble of dark thunder, a brilliant evocation of cold war paranoia over a slashing guitar motif. An absolute classic.

BANKROBBER
Now really daring to break the mould, The Clash made this extraordinary record, a huge billowing cloud of dope-fuelled melodrama that unrolled a romantic spliff-driven drama about a bankrobber. The Clash never sounded so romantic as the song sprawls out and tells its atmospheric Bonnie and Clyde on the streets of Brixton tale. Recorded in Manchester surrounded by a bunch of 13 year old kids who would grow up to be the Stone Roses, ‘Bankrobber’ was a surprisingly huge hit and underlined The Clash’s potential escape route from the punk style that they had patented.



THE CALL UP

Further adventures in dub from the first single to be released from the band’s wholly ambitious triple album set, ‘Sandinista!’ The song may have been a laidback groove, another big sprawling epic like ‘Bankrobber’ but its succinct lyrics looked at the call up, warning of taking heed of the world situation and how it may come home to roost, the band’s anti-war left wing politics were still firmly in place as the cold war started to heat up.

HITSVILLE UK
Another release from ‘Sandinista!’, an odd choice as well, for the first time since ‘Remote Control’ the Clash had a single that sounded better as a key album track, a song that celebrated the plethora of small labels that had sprung up in the white heat environment of DIY punk, ‘Hitsville UK’ was one of the least known Clash singles.



THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

If punk tore up the rulebook for rock ‘n’ roll, rap was doing the same kind of thing on the streets of the USA. Always hip to the ghetto soundtrack, The Clash were instantly attracted to the new rebel sound literally pouring off the streets of New York City. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is perhaps the first attempt by a white rock band to harness the new rhythms, the new attack, coming off the streets and although they never get the credit for it, The Clash were first and foremost in introducing this new culture to many millions of ears.



THIS IS RADIO CLASH

At one time the Clash planned to have their own radio station. The radio then as now was at war with the white heat creatives, and typically boring. Punk rock was not getting a look in and with wild-eyed abandon Joe promised us a Clash funded radio station that would try and redress the balance. Of course it never came to fruition, but that was the beauty of the Clash- they dared to dream. This song is all that’s left from the grand idea. It’s another brilliant document of the band going native in New York City in the early eighties – another rap/punk crossover way before anyone else ever did it.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Joe’s new mohawk meant business: The Clash had been out of the picture for some time. Music had slumped into a morass of New Romantic tomfoolery, you either went with the flow or fought back. And the Clash only knew one way. The Clash’s new look was combat fatigues and big fuck-off boots, this was The Clash at war with everything, with everybody. The Clash were back snarling and angrier than ever and this song, one of the great Clash songs, was the manifesto. The Clash had been wandering: ‘Sandinista!’ was a sprawling fog of different sounds and styles, sounds and styles they brilliantly executed but many yearned for a return to the short sharp shock of the classic Clash. I can still pinpoint the minute when I first heard ‘Know Your Rights’, this was the Clash stripped down and back in action, a call to arms, it was the closest they every got to releasing their political manifesto but "with guitars" as Strummer sang. From Mick’s clanking guitar chords in the intro to the spaghetti western guitar break- this is one of the great Clash singles, the electric buzz of excitement was everywhere and after the triple album set of ‘Sandinista!’ the news that The Clash were doing a stripped down single album, ‘Combat Rock’ made many feel that the band were going back to their roots.

ROCK THE CASBAH
Topper Headon was the best drummer of his generation. He made the complicated sound simple- just listen to those records again, those drum rolls are blissful – Topper also wrote the odd song, including this, the Clash’s biggest ever hit. He played all the instruments as well. Joe dashed off a lyric about the religious and cultural tension in the Middle East and the Clash had their only top ten hit in America ready to roll.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO
Mick’s rock ‘n’ roll anthem sounded more like the Rolling Stones than The Clash, but then what’s the point of the Clash if they can’t play classic rock ‘n’ roll as well as hip hop and punk rock. The riff was actually pinched from one of Mick’s pre-Clash favourites, the Sharks, the swaggering stub toed riff that the song rides in on. This was the Clash at their most stadium friendly, a jukebox classic with accompanying video footage from the Shea Stadium support with the Who that shows the Westway wonders taking their rock ‘n’ roll to the masses in USA. The song is still a staple on American classic radio and still cuts through after all these years. Proof that the Clash were more than able to cut a populist rabble-rousing anthem if they felt like it.

THIS IS ENGLAND
The Clash’s epitaph. After the worldwide success of the ‘Combat Rock’ album Mick had been thrown out and the Clash had toured as an expanded five piece. The last album was a shoddy affair, mainly because of the bizarre production – an attempt to coerce Joe’s rudimentary punk anthems into some sort of Malcolm Maclaren style hip ‘Duck Rock’ hip hop extravaganza by people who didn’t know what they were doing. Joe is barely there and Paul is not there at all. It’s a shame as live bootlegs point to the songs’ capacity for great rowdiness and there are some brilliant lyrical twists and turns. They may lack Mick’s smart touch but there was still a good band lurking in the last line-up of the Clash. But despite all this, one song managed to survive the studio mauling. The Clash’s last single is Joe’s heartfelt paean to England, a sentimental and sad song of a country sold to the dogs – an anthem for the dispossessed and the broken that came out in the middle of the miners’ strike as the last great bastion of working class pride in the UK was crushed by Thatcher’s droogs. ‘This Is England’ is a lament to a tough time, a bruised yet patriotic song. It works perfectly and is an oddly suitable sign-off for the band as they staggered to a halt in 1985.



‘The Clash: Singles Box Set’ is out now on Sony/BMG

John Robb

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CRAZIEST BURNS IN ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!

Vive Le Punk takes a quick butchers at the craziest sideburns in rock ‘n’ roll history! If you have any more to add to this glorious gallery email us with a pic and info at info@vivelepunk.net.


ALVIN STARDUST – With sidies like this no wonder he found God!


CRAZY CAVAN – The hairy king of the Teddy Boys.


ELVIS PRESLEY – The sidies go hand in hand with the hit songs and the burgers.


BRIAN SETZER – The rockabilly legend’s face creepers are as wild as Stray Cats.


LINK WRAY – The rock ‘n’ heroes’ sidies rumbled down his face all his life.


NODDY HOLDER – With these beasts the glamtastic grandad has always Slade his sidie rivals.


JESSE HECTOR – The former Hammersmith Gorilla was indeed pretty hairy! Almighty face fuzz.

 

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X-RAY SPEX

 

So its true, Poly Styrene is putting on her X-RAY SPEX again. Here we have a quick look at their history.


X-RAY SPEX SPECS

 

X-Ray Spex formed in London in 1976 with the original line up of Poly Styrene on vocals, Jak Airport on guitars, Paul Dean on bass, Paul B.P. on drums and Lora Logic on saxophone.

Poly Styrene found members by placing adverts in musical papers NME and Melody Maker.

The band existed between 1976 and 1979, releasing five singles (‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours’, ‘Identity’, ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’, ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ and ‘Highly Inflammable’) and one album ‘Germ Free Adolescents’.

Their music, although punk-based, was less centred on nihilism and anger and more around colourful wit and mockery.

The first gig they played was at The Roxy in Covent Garden after just six rehearsals. It was energetic and messy – as can be heard on the ‘Live At The Roxy’ album.

Single ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours’, which was released by Virgin Records in 1977, has often been recognised as their best known song despite not hitting the charts.

Their lyrics often discussed rampant commercialism in an increasingly sterile and artificial world.

Poly Styrene refused to be seen as a sex symbol, stating that “If anyone tried to make me one I’d shave my head tomorrow”

Poly Styrene left the band in 1979 to release a solo album ‘Translucence’ before joining the Hare Krishna movement alongside Lora Logic who left the band in 1977 aged just 16.

The band reformed twice, once in 1991 sans-Poly playing a sell-out gig at the Brixton Academy and again in 1995 with Poly back in the frame.

Reforming without Poly was seen as a mistake by Lora Logic, who said “You can’t really have it without Poly”.

The second reformation led to the release of their second and last album, ‘Conscious Consumer’

The album was a commercial failure, mostly down to the lack of tour and promotion due to Poly being run over by a fire engine and breaking her pelvis.

Jak Airport died through cancer in 2004 after working for the BBC’s Corporate and Public Relations department.

The band is set to reform once again in September at the Roundhouse in Camden. The reunion will include original members Poly Styrene and bassist Paul Dean.

Lora’s mother was born in Finland, where Lora is now known as "The Godmother of Punk".

Touring and promotional work for ‘Conscious Consumer’ was cut short when Poly was run over by a fire engine in central London, luckily escaping with only a fractured pelvis.

 

X-RAY SPEX play Londons Roundhouse on Sept 6th. Look out for a full interview with Polystyrene on Vivelepunk soon.

 

 

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THE SAINTS

 

SAINTS AND SINNERS

THE SAINTS, are of course, one of the greatest bands in the history of punk. Late last year the original line up reformed in Australia, but meanwhile singer Chris Bailey is happily living in Amsterdam and touring with the new Saints line up. He released the last Saints album Imperious Delirium on Cadiz in 2006. Hugh Gulland got ‘stranded’ with the man!


"We must have been like hillbillies," recounts Saints frontman Chris Bailey of the Oz-rock legends’ first encounter with a record label "We didn’t even know what a record company was!"

Oblivious to the outside punk scene, these four teenage malcontents in the backwater of mid-70s Brisbane channelled their urban ennui into a ferocious set of amped-up R&B. Punk in all but name, the Saints had the sneer and the songs to match, although their refusal to conform to the scene ensured it would be some years before the rest of the world would catch up with them.

Chris Bailey remains an uncompromising artist to this day. Speaking from his current base in Amsterdam, he outlines the Saints’ transition from Brisbane no-marks to major players on the punk rock stage.

"When we were young, there was a record shop in town, that had lots of American blues music and rock ‘n’ roll stuff, and we were exposed to a lot of music that wasn’t mainstream. Because Oz music in the seventies was pretty fucking dull! And there was no music scene to speak of, so we grew up in some kind of Oz isolation. And lots of people say, ‘punk rock’ and all that, but we had no clue! No idea! We discovered blues music pretty early on, and R&B – that kind of merged into what we were writing, we’d kind of edit things down and learn as we went, but the whole ethos of the band was very much R&B, which I think is maybe a little bit different to what actually became punky rock, which was kind of a fashion statement for them, and music second, and for us the other way around."

Having established a local fanbase, The Saints came to EMI’s attention through pressing up their own single. Was there any precedent for a band doing that?

"I don’t know if it was a notion in rock ‘n’ roll, maybe in the fifties… I think it was probably – and this is a great thing – naivety. We didn’t know what we were doing, so we did the right thing purely accidentally. The only reason EMI picked us up, that coincidence, 1976 was happening in London, and a couple of reviewers gave us really over-the-top reviews! UK rags were hammering the single and then someone in Manchester Square said to someone in EMI Sydney ‘Get these boys!’ and they sent a couple of very shiny guys and they took us into the studio and bought us drinks, and it’s not quite the Beverley Hillbillies, but it was close!"

The resultant album, ‘I’m Stranded’, was a storming tour-de-force; overlooked by many at the time, ‘Stranded’ has since become widely recognised as one of punk rock’s landmarks. Bailey regards the long delay in public recognition with detached amusement. "We went into the Hall of Fame a couple of years ago in Oz, and Ivor, the drummer from the old days, made a brilliant speech, along the lines of ‘Look, it’s really nice you’re all hanging around giving us these presents; but, perhaps if some of you had’ve been here 25 years ago, it might have all been different!’ Which is very cheeky, but to the point!"

Essential listening: I’m Stranded LP (EMI). Also highly recommended is the recent Saints box set, All Times Through Paradise, also through EMI.

Hugh Gulland

 

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HENRY PADOVANI


FLYING HIGH

He was the original guitarist for Sting’s punk rock constabulary the Police and went on to play with trani rocker Jayne County. As he prepares to return to the UK to support the Police at Hyde Park with his band The Flying Padovanis, HENRY PADOVANI looks back over his rather interesting career.

Why did you decide to leave the Police just as they were breaking it?
"Well, the fact is that we were not breaking it and I didn’t leave just like that. When you have a guy like Sting in the band, even then, you want to have something new and exciting everyday to present him with. And in ’77, the police were not cutting it. We were not getting any gigs, mainly due to the fact that the punks didn’t look at us as one of their bands and would not really come to our shows. They were not interested."


Padovani (far right) in The Police

"Sting couldn’t place any of his songs in the repertoire as Stewart was driving the band and didn’t think people would be interested, fair enough and so after about 6 months together the morale was not the best. When andy came, it didn’t help for the gigs and for the audience, and it also changed the balance in the band, andy pushing Sting to write and bring more material while Stewart and I were trying to keep the band in the punk scene. That is it, really."

"Naturally, we started to argue more and more and the band was on the verge of splitting up. We tried being a four piece, but it didn’t work. The best was for them to continue as a trio, ok, not a trio that would try to break the ‘ punk scene’ but a trio that had a future doing a music that would draw from the punk scene but make it commercial. Thanks to Andy helping Sting bringing his songs to Stewart, that is what happened. But it didn’t happen in England at first, but in America. America was curious about the English punk scene, especially when rumor had it that punk bands couldn’t play. The Police had the idea to go to the US and present themselves as a punk band. A bright idea, especially with their brand new blond hairstyles but also with their great playing abilities. America loved them. Suddenly Americans thought themselves as hip and punks. But that was about a year after I had left the band…"

Their first single ‘Fallout’ was quite abit more punk rock than their later stuff, did you write it? How did it come about?

"When I met stewart, he wanted to form a punk band, having left curved air. We started to look for a bass player. He had about a dozen songs that he had already written and that we used to practise with his brother ian on bass and his girfriend Sonja Kristina on vocals, until sting arrived of course. Fallout was one of them."

And then you joined up with Jane County?

"The first time I had seen wayne county and the electric chairs, it was at Dingwalls and I had loved them. we went on tour together and I immediately got on well with the guitar player, greg van cook, an incredible player, à la jeff beck, yardbirds era. After I had left the police, I went back to Corsica for a short holiday. When I came back, I called greg as a friend to go out to clubs. He told me they were looking for a guitar player. I went to meet the band, we played one afternoon and they asked me to join right there and then."


Padovani in The Electric Chairs

What were the shows at the Roxy like?

"Incredible place where we saw the best punk bands in town, night after night. Packed everytime. People were cool and we knew that place was ours. One has to remember that those punks were building something bigger than them. All for one and one for all."

"Those punks were more like hippies really, and everyone was welcome. I remember the first day I went there, I had just arrived from France in England and sported a beard and long hair. The damned were on, that night. Nobody bothered me. at the contrary. I embraced that scene on the night and the next day, I went to cut my hair and beard. I wanted to be one of them."


Henry with Jayne County and the Electric Chairs

Why reform the Flying Padovanis now?

"Why not? We are the best at what we do. We were great then and I think we are better now. Apart from chris, the drummer, who has kept playing in the meantime, with thunders and joe strummer and glen matlock, paul slack and I have stopped playing for 25 years. But, somehow, we are even better now that we were then. Don’t ask me why or how, it is like that. we have it in our blood. Nobody does the music we do and I think that until we see a band that does it, we shall have to be on stage because the music we play and the way we play is absolutely essential to rock and roll. That is the way it is.we are a real band. much better than the sum of each of us."


Padovani in the reformed Flying Padovanis

You have quite a pedigree in the band-can you tell us about the band members?

"Chris Musto, as I said, played with Johnny Thunders, Joe Strummer and Glen Matlock. Paul Sack was with the UK Subs. But having said all this, their best band is the flying padovanis. They know that! And so do I."

Your sound has been liked to Link Ray and Dick Dale? Would that be right?

"Link Wray I would agree. We love link wray and we do some of his numbers on stage, things like jack the ripper, or ace of spades.. link wray has to be essential to rock music. All the guitar players I have met, have once in their life played rumble.. I believe Bob Dylan used to open his shows with rumble.. link wray is definitely an inspiration. Just cool."

"The other influence would be the ventures. It is Wayne County that gave me a record by the ventures, who got me instantly hooked to instrumental guitar music."

"Dick Dale is now well known because of the Tarantino movies. Thank you Quentin. But, I believe we never were into Dick Dale at all. It was the ventures and Link Wray."

"As of today, we have decided to drop any of the melodic numbers we used to do. It is more basic and hypnotic rock and roll. No effects. Just a guitar plugged into an amp, a bass and a drum kit. That is all."


Henry Padovani today

You are playing with the Police at Hyde Park -its a massive show. Are you looking forward to it?

"Absolutely. We are as a band and I am personally. Sting wanted us on that show and that is great of him. When I joined them at the Stade de France, in front of 160,000 people, I told them: I am going to play as a Flying Padovani. They all laughed. After the show, sting told he totally loved the way I approached the song. That is, I told him, the flying padovani way!"

"I know all the real police fans will be at the front of the stage and I know, because I receive a lot of mails, that they want to see my band. it will also be the very last police show in England. We will be doing our very best that night. We will be very hard to follow…"

How do you get on with Sting and Stuart Copeland these days?

"I get on very well. In fact, after I quit playing in bands, I used to see sting a lot, doing normal things like going to watch football, or tennis, or going to clubs, just hanging out as friends, in paris, in italy or wherever we might be. we probably exchange a mail everyweek."

"When I made a record 2 years ago, and we needed a sort of reggae rock drums for a song, I asked stewart if he wanted to play on it. He said yes and wondered whether I had asked sting, which I hadn’t.. I called sting and he asked me whether I had asked stewart.. i realised they would hardly talk to each other. I told them, hey guys why don’t we settle all this in a studio and I, yes I, henry will be the boss. We did and we recorded a song called welcome home, about environment. God knows if it helped but, 6 months later, the police reformed…"

"When they were to rehearse the show in italy, sting asked me to come down there and stay with them. I did and we had a great time. I knew that they would be doing great. They sounded amazing."

Thanks a lot for your time Henry.

Eugene Big Cheese magazine/Vivelepunk.net

THE FLYING PADOVANIS PLAY:

June
Fri 6th – 100 Club, supporting Pretty Things
Weds 25th – Eel Pie Club, Cabbage Patch, Twickenham
Thurs 26th – The Amersham, New Cross
Sat 28th – Ace Cafe
Sun 29th – Hyde Park (w/ The Police)

July
25th – 27th Fuji Festival, Japan

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THE CUTE LEPERS

 

 

GIVE ME YOUR DISEASE

The Briefs men get retro with a colourful collision of new wave, ‘70s punk, mod-revival and power pop that is THE CUTE LEPERS.



When punk rockers The Briefs decided to go on hiatus last year, vocalist/guitarist Steve E. Nix didn’t let it slow him down. Instead he formed The Cute Lepers with fellow Briefs man Stevie Kicks (bass), Zache Out (guitar), Josh Blisters (drums), Bent Rewd III, Analisa Leper and Miss Meredith (all backing vocals, tambourine and handclaps) to take the Briefs template and inject it with a more power pop sound.

Filled with female backing vocals and percussion, their pop sensibilities shine through in their unashamedly retro tunes. The Seattle posse are influenced by bands such as new wave pioneers The Cars, ‘70s London mod revival band The Chords, ‘70s American rockers The Jags and rock ‘n’ roll guitar hero Johnny Thunders. Adding all these sounds to the humorous Briefs classic punk-loving attitude has resulted in hugely fun, short, sugary blasts such as ‘Nervous Habits’, ‘Terminal Boredom’ and ‘It’s Summertime, Baby’.

With their debut full-length hitting shops back in April, its title reflects their love of all things retro punk rock – ‘Can’t Stand Modern Music’. If you feel the same then put on your dancing shoes and join the Lepers. Vive Le Punk caught up with singer/guitarist Steve E. Nix…

Hi Steve E, Eugene here from Vive Le Punk.

“Hi Eugene, nice to hear from you!”

So what has happened to the Briefs Steve E?

“Well, the Briefs have simply reached a point where there are no plans. I’m more interested in spending my time writing Cute Lepers songs and playing with this band, so that’s pretty much where things are at. Y’know… you’ve gotta spend your time doing what’s fulfilling and all that.”

And the Cute Lepers are part Australian/part American?

“No, we’re part Canadian though! I think that question refers to some untrue internet information. But hey, one of us is part Latino and one is part Asian and I’m adopted, so we’re kind of exotic… sadly no Australians though. Maybe once we get some horn players.”

You seem to be going for that classic power pop sound?

“Yeah, among other things. First wave punk, power pop, mod revival, the Rolling Stones. Hooks with a bite.”


You guys seem to love all the UK ‘70s type stuff. Got any faves?

“The Carpettes, The Boys, The Chords, The Lambrettas, The Starjets, Fast Cars, 999, Buzzcocks, Nipple Erectors, Damned, Elvis Costello… there’s tons.”

Your playing with Johnny Moped at the 100 club – are you a fan?

“Yep! The Nipple Erectors have recently confirmed that they’ll be performing as well. It’ll be Shane MacGowan and Shanne Bradly from the original line-up. We’re thrilled!”


And what can fans expect from the 100 club show from you and the Cute Lepers?

“It’s our first time overseas, so I think we’ll really be making an effort to put on an energetic show and play our songs well. We usually have a blast playing and we’re looking forward to playing the legendary 100 Club of course! You can expect abrasive guitars, three back-up singers smashing tambourines together and singing harmonies, a few excellent covers we’ve pulled from the UK mod/power pop closet, and you can expect a star struck group of Lepers… we’re playing with the fucking Nipple Erectors!”

The Cute Lepers play Londons 100 Club next Tuesday May 6th with Johnny Moped band and the Nipple Erectors.

‘Can’t Stand Modern Music’ is out now on Damaged Goods.

Eugene Big Cheese

 

 

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STIFF RECORDS

LABELLED

‘If it ain’t Stiff it ain’t worth a fuck!’ Just one of the enduring slogans from England’s greatest-ever independent record label STIFF, who introduced the UK to more legendary bands and songs than you can count.

Originally set up by Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera on a £400 loan from Dr Feelgood’s Lee Brilleaux in 1976, Stiff went on to sell millions of albums from the likes of The Damned, Elvis Costello, Madness, Ian Dury, Devo, Richard Hell and even Alvin Stardust! Renowned as predominantly a punk label, they released punk, new wave, ska, soul, mod, reggae and even calypso records. The label has recently been revived, without founder Dave Robinson, and has released new records by the likes of the Tranzistors and the no 1 album from The Enemy, so it seems Stiff’s days are not quite up yet. We spoke to Dave Robinson in his old rock ‘n’ roll stomping ground, Camden Town.

VLP: When you started Stiff Records you didn’t seem to have any rules, it seemed to be quite chaotic. Even the name Stiff – where did that come from?
“It came from the record company expression ‘To have a stiff’ which is to have a non-hit. So that’s really where it came from and then it lent itself to a lot of slogans thereafter.”

VLP: And of course the T-shirt still lives on, ‘If it ain’t stiff…’
“Yeah, the T-shirt is good. It’s been put out by a lot people.

VLP: You didn’t seem to have any rules when you started – you were just trying things out.
“Well, we were managers, we had groups, myself and Jake, when we started. We managed several groups and then we decided to make a label because we thought the major labels were crap – their idea of marketing was you would go out and tour forever and then maybe if the public discovered you the record label would get behind you, rather then the other way around, which is what we thought should happen. There was a great environment for promoting new music. Radio 1 at that time was actually prepared to put the oddest music on. 1 could be playing on the daytime playlist in a couple of weeks. There were five newspapers, weeklies, and so if you needed information or anything that was going on there was a great media format for the promotion of good music but the major record companies didn’t seem to have any attitude about it.”

VLP: You did The Stiff Tour, which was quite legendary. Who was on that and how did you do it?
“Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Nick Lowe and Wreckless Eric, those were the people involved. Dave Edmunds was playing with Nick Lowe and Larry Wallace was playing with the Pink Fairies who played with Nick Lowe as well. It was a very diverse musical evening and the idea essentially was that the package tour was big in England. When you had a hit in the ‘60s you were automatically added to the package to go around the country. You might just have one number, or you might have two numbers, or if you have a couple of hits you might get twelve minutes. It’s a diverse way in taking part in quite a lot of music and the universities in particular loved it. It was a great format. The universities were also excellent because they had funding from the Labour Government, society subsidizing it to a degree, and so they were able to get some very good music. And of course, you could play at a university and your audience was spreading all over the country as soon as they went home. It was a good time. I think that’s really what it was about. The majors weren’t doing it, so we decided we could do it and show people we were up for it. ”

VLP: And how crazy were The Damned for you?
“They were great fun. They were pretty naughty but they were a lot of fun. They were humorous people and I found over the years that we signed a lot of bands that had a sense of humour in their sound. The ones that took themselves super-seriously and thought that everything they did was phenomenal were always very difficult to get along with, kind of the demons of the business. Always been a pain in the arse. We have people who play good music but also didn’t take themselves completely seriously so there was an era of humour and interest around the place. Comedy, which I always thinks makes the difficult work of making a living from music much easier.”

VLP: Besides breaking a lot of the early punk artists you signed Madness, and then you moved on to things like The Pogues.
“It’s quite a cross section of music really. Anyone who was good we signed. That was the essence of it all, the actual style was up to the individual, but as long as they could write good songs and we thought the general public would take to them we put them on.”

VLP: Fantastic. Out of all the records you released is there any you rate as your finest?
“Well I think one of the best records we ever put out was certainly ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ by Ian Dury. When you think of the sax solo on that record and a few other musical elements it is fairly unusual even now to have that.”

VLP: Are you involved with the resurrection of Stiff Records?
“No I have nothing to do with it. I’m promoting this box set (‘The Big Stiff Box Set’).”

VLP: What are you up to at the moment?
“I’m doing some work for a couple labels in the States, quite a bit of Caribbean music of all kinds. This box set, plus I’ve started a new record label myself called Download Records, and I’m starting to look around for things to go on that. So I’m still busy at night, out getting drunk.”

‘The Big Stiff Box Set’ is out now on Salvo.

SINGLED OUT
The best singles from Stiff

THE DAMNED – New Rose (1976)
ELVIS COSTELLO – Watching The Detectives (1977)
WRECKLESS ERIC – Whole Wide World (1977)
LENE LOVICH – Lucky Number (1978)
IAN DURY & THE BLOCKHEADS – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (1978)
MADNESS – One Step Beyond (1979)
THE PLASMATICS – Butcher Baby (1980)
TENPOLE TUDOR – Swords Of A Thousand Men (1981)
KING KURT – Destination Zulu Land (1983)
THE POGUES – Dirty Old Town (1985)

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BAD BRAINS

PAID IN FULL

At least on paper this just does not work: An all black, all Rastafarian band playing a mixture of the most furious – and pioneering – hardcore punk blended with righteous dub and soulful reggae? Surely not. Yet almost thirty years ago on the crazy, go-going streets of Washington DC, just such a beast, named BAD BRAINS, first reared its dread upholstered head…

Fronted by HR (Paul Hudson to his mum) with brother Earl pounding skins, Dr. Know (aka Gary Miller) on guitar and a Mr. Darryl Aaron Jenifer on bass duties, the Bad Brains were, in short, awe inspiring. Initially formed – during the early 1970s – as a jazz-fusion outfit called Mind Power, these brothers in innovation were unsurprisingly shocked into action by those nascent punk pioneers on both sides of the Atlantic. Taking their moniker from an early Ramones track and peddling guitar-driven hardcore at previously unheard of velocities, a shocked US East Coast scene soon began to sit up and take notice. Speed wasn’t everything but, back then, it certainly helped and when coupled with the bass heavy trips into dub the quartet’s originality rightfully marked them out as genuine pioneers. Yet all wasn’t sweetness and light in their world. The problem? Only a select few could actually hear the Bad Brains play.

A legendary debut single ‘Pay To Cum’ (featuring what is, surely, the most energising guitar riff ever) was ultra-limited edition and even a self-titled debut album was issued on the cassette-only label Roir. Live excursions were almost exclusively limited to the East Coast of the USA (by now the band had relocated to New York City). Plus, a planned trip to the UK with a support slot to the Damned guaranteed was forcibly canned when the band were refused work permits.

Luckily, a chance to catch Bad Brains during this period – their finest hour, according to some – has recently arisen in the shape of the ‘Live At CBGB’s 1982’ DVD. Raw, fast and intense (and featuring some classic old school crowd slamming alongside nineteen choice musical cuts) it makes for fascinating viewing. Tensions on (and off) stage blatantly run sky-high and, taking this and various other factors into account, common consensus dictates it’s a minor miracle 1983’s second album, the majestic ‘Rock For Light’, ever saw the light of day. Yet despite the hassles, every fan of loud, brash, fast hardcore should be thankful that said collection did emerge. It’s stunning. Produced by Ric Ocasek of new wavers The Cars, it really rips with righteous fury. HR is on particularly spectacular form, his howling vocals almost literally hurled all over the warp speed guitar action. Twenty tracks in around forty minutes and then…whoosh, they’re gone and the listener is left jaw agape.

However, it was around this period that HR (London born, would you believe!) opted for the first of many spells as a solo artist. As a result, it was a four year wait until fans got to hear new, equally vital Bad Brains material. ‘I Against I’ was the album, a blast of scorching metalli-punk, with the by-now expected dub blasts thrown in, that further cemented their reputation. Then, regular as clockwork, off HR trundled once more, brother Earl in tow, for yet more solo work. It was around this era that I was lucky enough to catch the be-dreaded one live, rocking a poky yet atmospheric pub in Leeds. Abiding memories centre around the air carrying a heavy, heavy vibe and an equally heavy, heavy aroma of weed (far rarer than today’s
‘tolerated’ approach!), the man himself rocking like crazy and even encoring with a rather athletic back-flip. Go rastaman, go.

With the Hudsons away, the remaining Brains opted to recruit original Faith No More front man Chuck Moseley to fill HR’s shoes for touring duties until (are you spotting a developing pattern here?) the original line-up reunited for 1989’s ‘The
Quickness’ album. Thankfully, they made it to these shores in support of that particular collection and rocked – amongst other similarly glamorous venues – a sweaty, heaving Huddersfield Polytechnic.

Then HR departed (Trinidadian replacement Israel Joseph I sang on major label debut ‘Rise’), returned for 1995’s ‘God Of Love’ album prior to his most spectacular vanishing act yet, instigated by fist-fights with fellow band members and untimely drugs charges. And that was, apparently, that. Hardcore pioneers, the premier punk/dub crossover outfit and one hugely influential band vanished forever.

Well, until word got out that they were due to play the legendary, CBGB’s in New York. Touring followed and their highly anticipated eighth album ‘Build A Nation’ (produced by Beastie Boy, friend and long-time fan Adam Yauch) hit stores in June ’07 to positive critical and fan acclaim. In January the band announced they are working on a box set of 7” records. It seems you just can’t keep a bad brain down.

‘Build A Nation’ is out now on Megaforce Records.

Steve Lee

INFLUENCED

Gogol Bordello
The Slackers
Sonic Boom Six

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KILLING JOKE

IN REQUIEM

With extensive reissues of KILLING JOKE’s mid-eighties catalogue all lined up, unforeseen developments suddenly cast a shadow. A reflective Jaz Coleman talks to Vive Le Punk and looks back on the Joke’s Raven years.

“It’s hit us all hard. It hit me harder than my father dying.”

A painful subject hangs in the air, and it would be futile to try to avoid it with Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman at this particular point in time. In town to publicize the reissue of the band’s mid-eighties catalogue, Jaz maintains a philosophical front, and yet is clearly still reeling at recent events; a fortnight before our scheduled meeting, Joke bassist Paul Raven – whose original spell with the band these albums represent – died in his sleep of a heart attack. While the Joke have always managed to soldier on through adversity, it’s been a devastating two weeks in the band’s circle…

“He was the youngest out of us lot”, Jaz contemplates. “And, you know… too many years together. It’s been a hard two weeks, I’ll give you that.”

VLP: Had there been any sign his health was bad?

"I knew he’d had heart flutters for a few years, he used to tell me about them, he couldn’t lay flat on a bed because he’d get heart palpitations, so he used to sleep sitting up. You know, musicians don’t live as long as other people. Not always.”

VLP: The earliest of the reissues, ‘Fire Dances’ (1983), was the first of Raven’s albums with the band you’d kind of split up at a point the previous year, with you going to Iceland.

“Yeah, it was a very upbeat album compared to the spaces that we’d been in before, it lifted people a bit more. It was good to do that after the Iceland thing was a very misunderstood event, I just wanted a lifestyle change from all the rocking and rolling, I wanted to study more than anything else. Study classical music, study sacred geometry, and antiquities – just break out of the corny, clichéd rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. And then of course, we got back together, and so we do another album. At this stage in our career we were surrounded by a very famous East London gang! And they were just wonderful to us! We had our own Rolls Royce, free houses everywhere, we got meet Princess Diana and all these wonderful people, I met Jimmy Page and it’s the year it was all kicking off, we were doing vast quantities of cocaine! And generally enjoying life and having great gigs, it was a good time, a fresh start, we’d all moved to Geneva and it’s kind of ironic he died in Geneva because that was one of the happiest times of our life.”

VLP: That was around the time of this album then?

“Yeah, sure, we were doing ‘Fire Dances’, we all moved to Geneva, and that’s why it’s so funny he passed away in Geneva, and comforting in another way as well. I traced down everything he did in the last two days and last few hours of his life, to every detail, he’d gone back to all our old haunts Paul had, yeah, it was curious, but it was ‘good death’, if there can be such a thing. Whereas, everyone was grieving at his funeral, I want to turn it to celebrating a life, Paul accomplished a lot and kept going. But yeah, it hit us hard, and seeing all these old photographs and everything, you know.”

VLP: Did you already know Raven before he joined?

“Sure, he was good friends with Youth, they were seeing the same girl together! We’ve got this photograph of Youth and Paul with their arms around the same girl. And they were born on the same day which is the uncanny thing! And so it was a very easy transition. Youth always had much more of a recognizable sound than Paul, but Paul live would be great, he would give so much energy! They were different bass players and both with their virtues. So ‘83, yeah, we had a Rolls Royce Carmargue spray painted with Killing Joke, we were doing cocaine in the toilets of airports and generally having a loutish time, surrounded by, like, thugs! (laughs).”

VLP: ‘Fire Dances’ sounds far more celebratory than the previous albums.

“Yeah, we wanted to have something that lifted up our spirits, it was a very tribal album and some of ‘Dances’ is really about ancestor worship and well Paul died, his funeral was on All Souls Day or Halloween, it’s traditionally a day when you say prayers for the dear deceased, or when the souls of the dead come back to the world of the living to advise them on how to survive the cold winter months that lie ahead. And it was a good day, Paul, I could feel his conscious presence with us, it was almost tangible. So these are the things that have obviously been dominating my thoughts the last couple of weeks.”

VLP: ‘Harlequin’ is an interesting song. You’ve always tended to use this jester figure as a graphic device from the start.

“Always, absolutely, we use the triple snake symbol, which is actually like the headdress of the joker, it represents the Hebrew letter shin, and there’s another meaning to this, we use this triple serpent because in Killing Joke it takes three of us to make a decision for the band. We’ve always kept that tradition, it’s always me and Geordie, but we’ve always needed just one another person and that’s a band, otherwise it’s a fucking duo! So that’s the kind of symbolism. And the whole idea of the jester is very dear to my heart. In the beginning it was the futility of everything. The Killing Joke was the idea, the realisation, that you’re in the trenches, they’re going to blow the whistle, and you’re going to get your head shot off, and you’re being manipulated. This kind of feeling, and then it transformed to the kind of laughter that overcomes all fear, and it became a much more positive entity in my head. And the jester is a figure that I find myself fascinated with. You know, the hero dies, but the fool survives. And I’ve always liked this fool, he’s the only person who could legitimately hit the king. And I’ve always identified with this figure, because I find I can walk into places full of bankers or very wealthy people, or I can go to the poorest places in the world and be completely at home. So, I feel free. And I think freedom is it. I like to feel free, if I were in the mood to tonight, I could be on a plane tomorrow anywhere I want in the world. I’ve never gone for the big house thing, but I have gone for freedom. If I want to fly somewhere tomorrow, I’ll just go and do it, and I can do it."

"I’ve always gone for this, rather than a mortgage and a big car and all this shit, I don’t buy it! I’ve done all the tests, I’ve walked through London with 50 grand in my pocket, ‘you can have anything you want Jaz, what do you want mate?’, you know, I end up buying a book, maybe a cigar, take myself to dinner, I don’t know what to do after that. I think people will be shocked at how simple I live. I live real simple, I insist my partner, who’s my ex-wife, I live with my ex-wife now. Do you get your money back, no! But we live, just use a mattress, we own very little, I don’t like owning a lot of stuff, I don’t have a great number of possessions, I’m not this way inclined. (Only) books, I’ve got like 15,000 books in lockups around the world.”

VLP: So where are you now, mostly Prague?

“Mostly Prague at the moment, but there’s no normal years when you can say you’ll be here there or anywhere, I did twelve years in New Zealand but I’ve always come back for European summers, so I’ve got 2 summers a year. I’ve had no winters for 12 years, and that lifts your spirits! I’m gonna go and stay in Costa Rica for a couple of months, the good thing about writing for an orchestra is that you can do it anywhere. And so I just take all my bits and pieces, fuck off to a hotel and get it done. Like I say, I feel freer than most people. I do not like the direction the world’s going in and I can see myself as time passes on isolating myself, which was always my intention.”

VLP: Because you’re on an Island part of the time?

“That’s right, it’s 100km off the coast of New Zealand and it’s stunningly beautiful. 400 people and one policeman. But you know, I’m a driven person, I can’t be stuck out there all the time. I like travelling less and less, but it’s a fact of my life that I’m always travelling, I can’t foresee a day when I stop doing concerts or making music, I intend to go non-stop until death!”

VLP: The following record ‘Night Time brought chart hits, and your profile went way up – was there pressure with that?

“There was, it was probably the worst thing that happened to us at that time. ‘Give us another ‘Love Like Blood,’ you can do what you like for the rest of the album’, there was a massive pressure on us and of course we didn’t. I don’t think them putting pressure on us helped our creativity flourish, it was a pretty horrible time, I don’t remember that as some of our best, we had great times, but… it was a horrible market, ghastly market forces."

VLP: And of course you had your Eighties theme, while it’s a decade that’s culturally remembered as very trivial…

"Yeah, it was amazing we survived through the eighties, but we got through it! I prefer life now in a funny way. I mean, my life’s better now than it was then, especially in ‘85. There were loads of concerts, we’d been touring for so long but yeah, it did change, there was pressure to write something that was going to work on the radio, and this didn’t have a good effect on us.”

VLP: There’s a militaristic sort of feel to this album…

"It was a funny album because Walker and myself were the only people there to write it, the other two weren’t around us, so we basically got everything together ourselves and then showed the other two what we were doing in the studio and it was… my God, that session we were at Hansa Ton studios, Geordie caused over a million pounds worth of damage in one minute! He got this fire extinguisher, blasted me playing the grand piano with it, then went running down the corridors to the control room, blasted all the equipment in the control room with this fire extinguisher. And it had aluminium in the powder, this destroyed absolutely everything, over a million pounds worth of damage in one minute! He was just pissed up. Next morning I heard this noise and stuck my head out the door, Raven and Big Paul were there and Geordie was being carted off by the police! (laughs)”

VLP: Hansa’s in Berlin?

“Berlin, yeah. Bowie was in that very studio. Geordie got out of it, the insurance and bla bla. Amazing really. He’d go disappearing for fucking five days at a time on that session,
Geordie, and turn up again. It was an insane session, yeah.”

VLP: So pressure and chart success was getting to you?

“Oh everything, yeah. I remember, we were living over Hansa Ton studios, there was all sorts of people were there at the time, I’ll tell you who was there at the same time, Depeche Mode, and it was hysterical watching them, it was kind of like a school class the way they were putting down their music, had all these kind of mentors and people looking over them, they had to put down their synthesizers, I’ve never seen anything like it. Who else was there at the time, Neubauten, quite a few people. It was a great studio."

VLP: And it still would have been East/West Germany at that time…

“We would take the metro into Friedrichstrasse and pick up caviar and cheap vodka, and come back into the west and do it all, and I remember on that session, my girlfriend suddenly turned up, and I’m sitting with one of our roadies and my girlfriend in my room, and a couple of cleaning ladies are cleaning my room, suddenly there’s this fucking rattling sound, one of the cleaning ladies comes marching up with this fucking earring, and gives it to me, ‘Oh Patsy, here’s your earring’ ‘It’s not mine, Jaz!’ and there’s this deathly silence. And the roadie goes, ‘listen love, you’d have something to worry about if a load of golf clubs fell out’, and we started laughing and then I managed to get a good excuse in and wheedle my way out of it. ‘She was a friend of mine, she was gay, she split up with her girlfriend she just crashed the night, don’t give me any shit!’ Lie, lie, then deny! (laughs)”

“Yeah, there was a lot of violence. Me and Geordie had a really big fight there, full fists, then Big Paul bashed my girlfriend, split her nose apart. She was fucking drinking too much, and he was, you know, just stupid shit, it all got out of hand. Yeah, that’s when we started to drink! (laughs)”

VLP: I remember this weird story at the time, that Raven had this doppelganger?

“You know what? Absolutely true! This guy was claiming to be Paul Raven! Going all over Europe, getting into clubs in London, all sorts of things. And Raven was going mad by it. He had a nasty bike accident, the guy! Absolutely true, I remember this! We’ve had so fucking many homing loonies, I can’t tell you mate! I’ve had them come to my island from all over the world. Like real psycho homing loonies. That’s why I never communicate with anyone by letter or any other way. I do when I’m doing a gig, we’re really open people in Killing Joke, but generally there’s people, you don’t know what they’re really like.”

“Let me give you one example. I can give you ten! Straight off! Right, a woman that followed me for fourteen years and put her kid into the same school as my daughter and gave my kid loads of presents, real fucking psychos I’ve had! One wasn’t so long ago, this guy, was a Killing Joke fan, comes backstage at one of the Italian gigs, seems nice enough, but Geordie goes: ‘You, I don’t like you. Don’t know what it is about you, I don’t like you!’ Very astute and very intuitive, Geordie. And this guy turns up in New Zealand, ‘I’ve got relatives over here’, all this, seems nice enough, comes to see my concerts with the orchestra and he’s a music student himself. So I’m going out to my island, and I said to him, look you can look after my flat in Auckland and feed my cats for me. And we had a bit of a get together for some friends before I left for the island, and this guy comes, all my friends are there, and suddenly goes, ‘You’re trying to take over my mind!’ ‘Beg your pardon?’ ‘You want to sacrifice me in a black magic ritual!’ (laughs) I went, ‘Would you like to step outside?’ Man, you’ve got no idea! I took him to a priest, this guy, and said ‘You need help’, the priest said ‘Don’t send me one like that again!’”

VLP: You’re known for having occult interests, maybe that attracts them?

“Well I do but I don’t suppose it’s the way people think. Occult just means hidden, and I just don’t take an orthodox view of Christianity or the religions, I look at the science of religion or the common denominators, I’ve never been a devil worshipper or anything like this! Yes, I have done ceremonies, and rituals, but it’s more romantic-based, but people get ideas, the press or whatever! I consider myself a deeply religious man!

VLP: Yeah, because you said you were a lay preacher?

“That’s right. Do you know what, I have another career most people don’t know about. I’m with people when they’re dying, I bury people, I even marry people occasionally. I do all those things when I go back to the island, into my parish. I only did it for a practical joke, I studied theology, but became a priest really for a laugh, because I don’t really believe in priests!”

“There’s much to be said for Islam that says ‘It’s just between you and your god’. I take a magical view on the universe. Baudelaire talks about the forest of symbols, people can be symbols, but I view the universe in a magical context. For example, women and men, male and female, they can’t be described as like a plug socket on the wall! You don’t say about your wife that you fertilized her and now she’s going to reproduce! I’m just demonstrating that there’s a need for the poetic or the magical within our soul and I always try to enhance this. All a ritual is to me is enhancing the experience of this existence, and become more aware of it. When I do a great gig, to have the ability to say to yourself, ‘this is a great moment in my life’. Very few people have that ability, it’s an ecstatic experience, and it’s always in retrospect isn’t it with most people, but there’s always been death around me, people dying and I don’t take life for granted, you know, I try to love every day of my life and I’ll always keep the Joke marching on! We play so much better than we ever used to! It just gets better now! Much better, and I still enjoy it!”

VLP: You’ve said before a good performance is one you can hardly remember?

“Yeah, I remember going on stage and I remember coming off but in between it’s just like an oil painting. I don’t really remember any one moment, you get fleeting impressions, there’s so much exertion. I seek a trance-like state and I get that most of the time. I don’t remember a fucking thing! It comes through you, the whole thing comes through you, you become one with the soul of the crowd and the people. I love it!”

VLP: So that’s like a religious experience for you?

“It is, and I’ll tell you another strange thing about Killing Joke gigs, after I gig I feel the deepest sense of peace! Most people wouldn’t understand, but it really cleans your soul. There was a time when I was questioning what Killing Joke was doing because of my religious convictions, but then you look at the new testament, it says ‘a good fruit can not come from a bad tree, and a bad tree cannot bear a good fruit’, and I felt this about Killing Joke, it’s not like a lot of other bands. I find a lot of other bands morally bankrupt, there’s no concept of beauty, it’s all designed, the American punk scene or alternative scene, to shock. ‘I can say nastier things than you, I can show people jumping out of buildings’ I just didn’t get it, it wasn’t innate, it wasn’t coming from anywhere, it wasn’t a genuine frustration, it was just shock value. I hated that!”

VLP: On to 1986’s ‘Brighter Than A Thousand Suns’, it’s a comparatively polished recording.

“Yes, it was, almost too polished. The vocals are up too high in the mix and the guitars aren’t loud enough, and that’s the way I feel about it, although I deeply love the music on that album, ‘Twilight of the Mortals’ I think is a wonderful track, and ‘Rubicon’, ‘Chessboards’, great tracks. I love that album lyrically as well, it’s just got a mix on it that’s kind of representative of the times that we were surrounded by, ‘We need to put the vocals up more’, that’s what I mean about record company pressure and stuff like that. I still love that record, but I wouldn’t do it that way now. In fact, we might remix it, later on.”

VLP: Was it around this time you first went to New Zealand?

“That’s right, I started going to New Zealand from 1985 onwards.”

VLP: You expressed a lot of interest at the time in self-sustaining communities and so on.

“I’ve done that, we’ve got to develop it. I’d just got married in 1985, to a New Zealander, Mr and Mrs Passport! I had two children with her as well! I remember the year 1986, I couldn’t find any music I liked, and my favourite work of art, I walked around this place called the White Pearl Water Gardens, which was set up by a couple in a peninsular in New Zealand, and they’d changed this 90 acres so it was the most fertile place in the whole of new Zealand, and it was a complete experience walking through this place by these two horticulturalists. This profoundly moved me, and then I read The Magus by John Fowles, and I became incredibly, well, entertained the idea of becoming territorial, and having my own domain became suddenly important on that year, that was the sum total of my inspiration that year. I’m glad we’re not there now!”

VLP: The final album of these reissues, 1988’s ‘Outside The Gate’, is possibly your most controversial record.

“It’s not a Killing Joke album, it was a side project. It was never Killing Joke, it was never intended to be, it was an experiment on something else and it can’t really be categorised as Killing Joke as such.”

VLP: The Pauls weren’t involved?

“No, but I kind of used it as a way to get rid of one of the Pauls! I used the situation, I wasn’t getting on with Ferguson. Though we’re on great terms now, times change.”

VLP: I heard he worked as an antique restorer now?

“He works on, not just antiques, great works of art, restoration. But, yeah, I saw him last week, first time in 22 years. It was good actually, good to see him! We’ve all changed, to a degree. Now in a fight I could beat any one of them up! (laughs)

VLP: Hope it doesn’t come to that!

“No, I don’t think so!”

VLP: Outside The Gate’ is quite an eastern-influenced album.

“Yeah, you can trace my musical identity crisis way back to ‘The Pandies Are Coming’ on the third album. I knew there was a part of me that just didn’t belong in the United Kingdom or Europe for that matter, and it was the eastern part of my genes. I had a choice to either go to New Delhi to study oriental music, or Cairo. And I chose Cairo to embrace and study Arabic music, and that was really the best decision I made. It was just before I did the thing with Anne Dudley (‘Songs From The Victorious City’, 1990), went to Cairo and had good contacts there etc, it became a big part of my life. Arabic music, I love it. Thing about it, there’s 12 notes in an octive, 13 if you consider the full octave, but then with Arabic quarter tones, that gives you 26 notes. But then a great master says, ‘do you want me to flatten that quarter tone or sharpen that quarter tone?’, that gives you 52 notes to a scale, with the Arabic system, compared to our 13… It’s fascinating! It’s like they’ve let in a little bit of the darker forces, for a split second, there’s that kind of effect. I couldn’t work out, how the fuck are they getting that? So, my book, that’s coming out in 2009, will have every Arabic scale and mode, Persian, I’ve collected everything, because nobody’s ever done a complete work, this is just one of the things. I’m on my third piece of architecture! And architecture that I’ve designed so it’s all completely self-sufficient, everything’s recycled from it, and it’s relatively cheap to put up! So yeah, it’s a colourful life, there’s so much to do isn’t there?”

VLP: Yeah, I wonder when you sleep!

“You know, you’ve hit the nail on the head, I have massive sleeping problems. I can’t sleep, I can go ten days probably without sleep, I’m two hours, three hours a night!"

VLP: That’s worse than Margaret Thatcher was!

"Yeah, same sort of mental energy. In those two hours you can’t wake me, I’m a real deep sleeper, but then I’m up, and I can’t go back to sleep at all, so I have to occasionally sedate myself. That’s why, a lot of the alcohol in the last few years is, just trying to relax, I was getting panic attacks – the stress of this business is immense, there’s no way around it, you’ve got to somehow not let things get to you. And realise, it’s only a bit of fun!”

VLP: So what will Killing Joke’s next move be?

“Well, definitely two new recordings for us to do, and concerts. There’s a big demand for the original line-up, but that wouldn’t really play the later records so I’m gonna end up with two Killing Jokes! Benny, Geordie and me for one, and Youth and Big Paul and Geordie for another.

VLP: So Youth and Big Paul are definitely up for it then?

"Yeah, they want to do it. I’m aiming for the film, the book, and intense touring for our 30th anniversary, to raise money for Paul’s children."

The Killing Joke original line-up has reunited for the first time in almost twenty years for a world tour and will hit the UK in October 2nd and 3rd for two shows at London’s Kentish Town Forum. On the first night they will play their first two albums (1980’s self-titled album and 1981’s ‘What’s This… For!’) and on the second night they will play 1994’s ‘Pandemonium’ album and the Island Records singles from 1979-80.

Expanded editions of ‘Fire Dances’, ‘Night Time’, ‘Brighter Than A Thousand Suns’ and ‘Outside The Gate’ are available now from EMI.


RIP Paul Raven, 1961-2007.


(photo by Steffan Chirazi)

Hugh Gadjit

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SHAM 69


TELL US THE TRUTH!

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 www.daveparsons69.co.uk”

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 – www.sham69online.co.uk” 

THE GOOD OL’ DAYS…

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 www.myspace.com/daveparsons69.”

WESTERN CULTURE IS OUT NOW ON BAD DOG RECORDS.
Eugene Big Cheese
 

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