Milltown Brothers – Long Road (Stanley Records) – a writewyattuk review

LONGROAD_210x210mmA staggering 24 years after their debut album, Slinky, put Milltown Brothers on the map, this somewhat-elusive Lancashire outfit are back and on winning form.

A lot’s changed since their first spell of (admittedly moderate) fame, hits like Apple Green, Here I Stand and Which Way Should I Jump? having promised a bright future.

If they ever achieved their potential is debatable, but that first long player managed in excess of 100,000 sales worldwide. And while market changes suggest that won’t be matched, we can but hope. For fourth album Long Road certainly deserves attention.

It’s the self-same Milltown Brothers that started out, siblings Matt (vocals/guitar) and Simon Nelson (guitar) joined by Nian Brindle (drums), James Fraser (bass) and the returning Barney Williams (organ/ piano).

Following on from 2004 comeback Rubberband, the new album was recorded in Spain, where James Fraser was recently based, and a little nearer to home.

And that South East Spanish vibe, tempered by North West England earthiness, seems to have been translated into a country feel, with the help of the MB production team, namely Mark Jones and Coldplay-collaborator Mark Phythian.

There are elements of Tom Petty on the more mellow title track and lead-off single Long Road, the slide guitar hinting, rather fittingly, at those Notorious Byrd Brothers.

It’s an introspective album for sure, the opener perfectly encapsulating its over-riding themes – Matt ruminating on future concerns, but summoning up plenty of hope and love to see us through.

As with several tracks here, it’s a song to put a smile on the face and stoke up happy memories, a truly inspiring starting point that should provide ageless festival fare, encapsulating those moments when the sun finally comes out again, or sets somewhere in the distance.

Matt Nelson’s voice still has the boyish charm that first grabbed us back in the ‘90s, but there’s an added maturity that suits him, with Part of Me perhaps the link between first-time-round Milltown Brothers and today’s reinvigorated model.

Back Again: Milltown Brothers in Spain during the recording of the new album, Long Road, with Barney missing, presumed brewing up

Back Again: Milltown Brothers in Spain during the recording of the new album, Long Road, with Barney missing, presumed brewing up

A sparkling indie vibe suggests early Railway Children as much as formative R.E.M. or Sugar, an infectious chorus and Simon Nelson’s guitar licks enough to make the cynical sit up and take proper notice.

The more laid-back Bad Un has Western overtones, but for all its country noir and late Johnny Cash inflections it could as easily hail from a hidden corner of Nick Cave or Robert Forster’s back-catalogue, and is just the right side of miserable.

I mentioned a certain outfit from Athens, Georgia, and Michael Stipe and co. spring to mind again on the almost-anthemic Rockville, in what could be a belated tribute and follow-up to Reckoning’s penultimate track.

At least on paper, country shouldn’t really work from a band with a BB postcode, but Ireland’s The Thrills expertly pulled off a similar trick, effortlessly bridging that gap between American and Western European indie. And here again it works well.

Think indie country, swapping those sweeping Mid-West plains for the West Pennine Moors – maybe down to this 11-track opus for the most part being set down in Granada and worked on back in Oswaldtwistle.

On Portrait, another Red Rose outfit with stateside influences springs to mind, Starsailor, one of the bands that arguably went on to claim Milltown Brothers’ indie pop princes’ crown.

Matt’s vocals certainly pass for James Walsh’s in places, and Simon’s country guitar returns on Don’t Go Crying, a further track echoing The Thrills, albeit swapping Santa Cruz for Seville … or even Sabden.

Incidentally, its mid-’70s feel puts me in mind of Faces. If you doubt that, listen again, imagining Rod Stewart’s voice instead.

There’s more of a late-‘80s crossover pop to Hideaway, Nian Brindle’s driving drums fuelling arguably the closest echo to that Madchester scene sound this band skirted the edge of way back then.

Not for the first time, Matt’s vocals are Dylanesque, and talking of His Bobness, a band that once gave us a Byrdsy take on It’s All Over Now Baby Blue channel a bit of Roger McGuinn on Solitude.

Way Back: Milltown Brothers, first time around, West Hollywood, 1991

Way Back: Milltown Brothers, first time around, West Hollywood, 1991

In fact, throughout this album, elements of under-playing are used to great effect. Imagine the laidback Atlantic indie folk of Bon Iver with Bon Scott singing (admittedly at his most restrained), on a long player alternating between acoustic and power chords.

Just when we think we have the 2015 Matt Nelson sussed, comes a curveball – the radio-friendly Boy Kisses the Girl‘s near-helium tone of its verse offset by a deeper, altogether-catchy chorus.

Meanwhile, Daniel Lanois-era Adam Clayton-style bass underpins it all. It should be a hit of course, but I won’t hold my breath. There is after all very little justice in this world.

The mightily-fragrant Perfume again takes us to a different plane, Fraser’s bass and Brindle’s beat carving out a little ’70s boogie, the Detroit Spinners-like backing vocals working it (darling), putting an inspirational spin on the daily grind.

And that takes us nicely to the denouement, the affirming Alive, a closing lullaby that also fits that festival mood, Barney Williams’ simple piano and Matt’s dreamy lyric and vocal suggesting a reflective, feelgood statement of sorts.

What’s more, this is a band seemingly averse to over-egging the pudding, the song lengths throughout leaving us hungry for more, with no tune over-played and no lyric over-wordy.

You could be critical, wondering why it’s taken so long for Milltown Brothers to fulfil the potential they undoubtedly showed early doors.

But let’s just be thankful they finally came back, and are now sharing their fine songcraft with us again.

For a writewyattuk interview with Milltown Brothers’ frontman Matt Nelson, from May 2015, head here

And for details of how to get your hold of the new Milltown Brothers LP, band news and forthcoming dates, head to their Facebook page here

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Holding Dodgy to the Light – the Mathew Priest interview

Heading Left: Dodgy 2015, from the left - Nigel Clark, Andy Miller, Mathew Priest, and most recent addition Stuart Thoy

Heading Left: Dodgy 2015 – Nigel Clark, Andy Miller, Mathew Priest, and most recent addition Stuart Thoy

It’s been four years since festival favourites Dodgy returned to the fold, and 15 years since their double-platinum selling third album, Free Peace Sweet saw them at the peak of their commercial success.

But don’t for one moment think their best days are behind them. Far from it actually, judging by 2011 comeback LP, Stand Upright in a Cool Place, which garnered a number of rave reviews and media plaudits, and rightly so.

Clearly, the band are enjoying each other’s company again, and that last album was no retrogressive step, Dodgy displaying a certain chemistry and plenty of creativity on a recording The Word called ‘the record of their career by a country mile’.

On that offering, lead vocalist/bass player Nigel Clark, drummer/backing vocalist Mathew Priest and guitarist Andy Miller suggested echoes of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Fleet Foxes, and even The Lilac Time and Ron Sexsmith for these ears.

And now – augmented by fourth member Stuart Thoy, who joined in 2012 and has taken on bass and harmonica duties – they’re building on that resurrection with an album they reckon is their best yet, the band that once encouraged us to ‘keep the leaf burning’ now advocating we Hold Up to the Light their latest set of songs.

First time round, Dodgy were only together seven years but sold more than a million records worldwide, releasing three albums and managing 12 top 40 singles, at least two – the seemingly ever-aired Good Enough and Staying out for the Summer – remaining staples of radio playlists.

Along the way, they sold out Brixton Academy for three nights in a row, and enjoyed an unprecedented 90-minute Saturday evening slot on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival in 1997, just before Radiohead.

First Time: The Dodgy Album, from 1993

First Time: The Dodgy Album, from 1993

I won’t go too deep into the back story here, but from their 1993 A&M debut The Dodgy Album I was pretty much hooked, that opening sequence of Water Under The Bridge, I Need Another and Lovebirds setting the tone perfectly.

In retrospect I’m not sure if they’d totally worked out who they were at that stage, with nods to fellow Britpoppers like Blur and The Charlatans as much as The Beatles and The Who. In fact, Dodgy were definitely a band that always wore their influences on their sleeves – from contemporary to classic ’60s.

But somehow they got away with it, and it’s fair to say the revered Ian Broudie got it about right first time around, production-wise.

Then came the Hugh Jones years and the two fine albums he produced that made them, 1994’s Homegrown (with a little extra help from Broudie on three tracks) and 1996’s Free Peace Sweet in many respects providing a fitting soundtrack for my life in that period.

You could say they were ‘having it large’ around then, but it was all over too soon. A further album followed, Real Estate in 2001, but it was from an alternative five-piece Dodgy, without Nigel. As it is, I really like that album. It has some great moments. It’s just that it’s not the Dodgy we knew and loved. Maybe they should have called themselves something different.

So Mathew, remind us what happened next, and what about that 2001 interim LP?

“After all our success, the organisation got bigger, and instead of it just being me, Nigel and Andy, there would be two people between you and the singer, or a manager, or a guitar tech.

“Before you know it, you’re more like islands, with around 18 people on the road. The relationship between us started to break down because of that.

“Also, Nigel had two kids in quick succession at the end of the ‘90s, and I didn’t appreciate at the time how drastically that can change your life, especially as me and Andy were still going out, loving all the premieres and parties. I do understand now.

“Nigel’s life had completely changed, and things were different. But now it’s absolutely fantastic, and we completely and utterly learned from our mistakes – you don’t let anything get in your way.

“We were best mates, and are again now, but let things get in the way back then. Me and Andy were quite bitter about our livelihood and our dream being taken away.

Van Tastic: Homegrown, from 1994

Van Tastic: Homegrown, from 1994

“We kind of limped on with a different singer. There were some really good moments, but it just wasn’t right.”

One of the reasons Mathew understands it all a bit better is that he’s a dad himself these days, with a 15-year-old son. So how did the original band finally get back together?

“We started getting a few offers through, which meant me and Nigel had to talk, including one about a God-awful TV programme called The Reunion.

“We got asked and out of courtesy went down to London, met, talked a bit, and realised it was a complete joke and didn’t want to do it.

“But it got us talking, and I was managing a band in Birmingham, so when I went to see them, I’d pop in to see Nige, and realised it was thawing.

“We took it slowly, and after a reunion tour – which was all about nostalgia – we realised there was unfinished business.”

Then came that comeback LP, and with it a whole load of great reviews for a seemingly more mellow Dodgy.

“Yes, it’s that classic cliché from the ’90s, there’s always been a dance element to our music … and there’s always been a folk-rock element to our music!

“We’d always been into Neil Young, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young were heroes of ours, and you’re always looking for a band that all of us agree on.

“When we first came together it was Jimi Hendrix and The Who, while Miller had his Genesis or Pink Floyd, I had my Small Faces or Otis Redding, and Nigel had The Clash.

“Similarly, Fleet Foxes were a band we all loved, essentially because they sounded like The Beach Boys and Crosby Stills Nash and Young.

“We had one track, Tripped and Fell, which was a blueprint for the album. Once we’d done that, we recorded it in this farm outbuilding, with this view of the Malverns.

Tree's Company: 1996's Free Peace Sweet

Tree’s Company: 1996’s Free Peace Sweet

“It was beautiful weather at the time, and that just infused the music, giving it all a real mood and sound.”

Mathew sent demos out and got a great reaction, the trail leading to Matt Pence in Denton, Texas, known for recent work with Midlake and John Grant.

“We went over for a few days. You can imagine it – these quintessential Englishmen in blazing sunshine. He really brought out the majesty in that album, and we got the most phenomenal reviews, the best of our career.”

Back in the mid-90s, this was a hard-partying band, and while their original fan-base may be a little longer in the tooth these days, it appears that they’ve returned with a vengeance to that live scene, always such an important part of the Dodgy experience.

Recently, they’ve gone down a storm at Feastival, BT London Live, V Festival, Glastonbury, Wychwood, Strawberry Fields, Hardwick Live and Kendal Calling, to name but a few big shows, with many more in Europe.

They’re also down to play Bestival at Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle of Wight in September, their final summer gig.

“We’re really happy about that. We know we’re not really going to be playing Reading or T in the Park these days, where there’s more of a younger crowd, but Rob Da Bank to his credit is very eclectic and I’d been pushing him for a while for this.

“We played with The Jacksons at the Hardwick festival near Durham and I told him he had to get them. They were phenomenal.

“I didn’t think any more of it, but then saw in February he’d booked them. So I called him and said, “You do realise we come as a package? We’re the official Jacksons support band!’

“I kept persisting and sent him two tracks from the new album, and he finally went for it, which is great.”

After that, Dodgy are set to showcase the new album with their biggest UK tour in two years. Before we get to that though, I’ve clearly got some catching up to do with Mathew Priest, who I tracked down to his own rural base near Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Five Piece: The Nigel-free Real Estate album from 2001

Five Piece: The Nigel-free Real Estate album from 2001

This is clearly a band that puts in the legwork, and it transpires that Mathew heads up to his native Worcestershire to rehearse in the company of fellow Midlands lad Nigel, while fellow Dodgy survivor Andy Miller drives up from London to join his old bandmates.

“We base ourselves in Pershore, where Nigel is, using a studio there, but you don’t really need to be too close these days, with communications as they are.”

The album tour – proof that they ‘haven’t just been dicking around’, I gather – starts at The Fleece in Bristol on October 23rd and ends at Liverpool Arts Club on November 28.

“Did that use to be the Krazyhouse? Only that’s a place we’ve wanted to play for a long time. Liverpool is one of my favourite cities, and the weekend starts there on Thursday lunchtime.

“We got offered Eric’s there and we’ve played there before and had a pretty good gig, but we were offered a Sunday or Wednesday.

“We could have done it, but I know what our fans are like now. They’re getting a bit older and don’t really want to go out on a Sunday night.”

Was the old crowd back with them again when they reformed, or was it a case of going back to square one?

“We split up in around 1998, just before the whole internet revolution and people getting PCs – or at least before Facebook, iphones and all that.

“Back then, the community of fans was literally built through gigs, physical newsletters and interviews.”

That was the era of the mailing cards that fell out of CDs, I recall.

Comeback Album: 2011's acclaimed Stand Upright in a Cool Place

Comeback Album: 2011’s acclaimed Stand Upright in a Cool Place

“Exactly, usually addressed to somewhere in Leamington Spa. So in a way we weren’t as intimate with our fans – so to speak – as we are now. But now it’s a real family.”

That social media surge has opened everything up, not least to crowd-funding initiatives and so on.

“Yes, but as soon as you do you’re almost saying you’re a cottage industry and don’t need the wider world.

“It’s changing a bit, but there’s an attitude that bands are funding themselves so they’re not really proper anymore.

“That’s unfair because there are a lot of great records coming out through all that, but we’ve avoided that so far.”

You say you don’t want to be seen as a cottage industry, but your only show in the North West this summer suggests otherwise – a seemingly-unlikely visit on Friday, August 7th to Ribchester Village Hall, a rural Lancashire venue not far off my patch. So are you on the village hall circuit after all?

Mathew laughs, but then adds, “Well no, not quite! That’s down to Carl, of course.”

That’ll be Carl Barrow, the Ribble Valley-based head honcho of Hollow Horse Events, a smalltown promoter and live music aficionado, a friend of this blog (with a feature on him here) who just happens to be a great believer in bringing national bands to under-used community venues.

His CV for such events – not only at Ribchester, but also Chipping, Hurst Green and Whalley – has already included Midge Ure, Nick Harper, Ian McNabb, Lisbee Stainton and The Travelling Band.

“Yes, and he’s passionate about all that. He booked us for Hurst Green originally. That went well and we came upon a great band supporting us that night, The Ragamuffins.”

The Ribchester date is the third of four ‘fan gigs’ arranged by Dodgy, with the others in Devon, Gloucestershire and Shropshire.

Unlikely Venue: Ribchester Village Hall, set to host Dodgy on August 7th

Unlikely Venue: Ribchester Village Hall, set to host Dodgy on August 7th

“What I love is how organic these gigs have come about. They’ve not all been devilishly planned. People tend to contact us and ask if we’ll play their local pub, and it’s generally people with Dodgy tattoos.”

I think that’s with a capital ‘D’, but I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s both. I should add at this point though that –as far as I know – Goosnargh-based Carl Barrow does not have a Dodgy or even a dodgy tattoo. But Mathew’s on a roll now.

“The chap in Shrewsbury, for example, has a tattoo of us on his chest. Invariably they’re just lovely people. We’ve made lots of lovely friends, and it gives us a chance to be informal, play lots of songs from the new album, play a lot longer, and have a really good chat.

“At one gig we had a mass pop quiz, and with quite a few of these coming up, we decided to call these ‘fan gigs’, specifically getting in a lot of songs from the new album.

“There’s just something about these shows. For one we’re doing down in Tiverton in Devon, it’s been set up by a guy who just happens to run a pub and has a Dodgy tattoo on his calf …”

I wonder at this point if that fan’s a dairy farmer, but I’m guessing he means on the landlord’s leg rather than his young livestock.

“We last played there around 18 months ago, and just rammed out his garden, playing a semi-electric gig as I call it.

“This time he said he’ll get a stage in if we do a full electric gig, and has also promised he’ll hire a gospel choir. He’s threatening to get three girls in to sing, which I think is his way of making sure we play Grassman.”

Three Piece: Dodgy after the reformation - Andy, Mathew and Nigel

Three Piece: Dodgy after the reformation – Andy, Mathew and Nigel

Didn’t you have the London Community Gospel Choir on that first time around?

“Yes, but I don’t think he’s hiring them in. Actually, that was Janet and Michelle, the latter going on to do the lead vocals on Lola’s Theme by Shapeshifters.”

Talking of great singers, I caught talented singer-songwriter Lisbee Stainton at the same Ribchester Village Hall venue last summer, in another winning Hollow Horse Events show. There’s a review here, but let’s just say for now it’s a very intimate venue.

It will be a different vibe with Dodgy, but as long as they can find it, I’m sure they’ll love it. But why Ribchester?

“Well, we have a gig at Mugstock, near Glasgow, on the Saturday, so wanted to find something for the Friday. And again, this will be a nice build-up for the tour and the album too.”

So why’s the new album called Hold up to the Light?

“The title’s down to Nige, who’s always writing. It’s my job to try and stop him and say, ‘Let’s just finish what we’ve got going here’!

“We were in a rehearsal and he started playing this beautiful folky tune with a lovely melody. I just said, ‘Wow! What’s that lyric? Hold your dreams up to the light? That’s lovely!’

Plugged In: Mathew Priest listens back to the writewyattuk digital recording to check for anomalies

Plugged In: Mathew Priest listens back to the writewyattuk digital recording to check for anomalies

“Nige said, ‘That’s not the lyric … but let’s call it that!’ So we wrote this song together and felt there was something quite special about that.”

It sounds a bit like the story about Eric Clapton mis-reading George Harrison’s writing when the Beatle added a ‘bridge’ to a certain Cream song they co-wrote, which subsequently became known as Badge.

Then again, I expect that kind of thing from a band who put the track Homegrown – a big favourite at writewyattuk hq – on third album Free Peace Sweet rather than second album Homegrown – a nightmare for Dodgy fans with OCD tendencies.

“Exactly, and this is a track that’s not going to be on the album, but we just loved the idea – like holding an old photo negative up to the light and it becoming positive.

“It could also be about seeing cracks in something, or the religious side of it all. There’s just something about that imagery, it felt good.”

There’s a further chance to hear the new songs streamed live over the internet in mid-August, when the band’s final fan gig of the summer, at Stroud, Gloucestershire, on August 14th, will be thrown out to a wider audience. Can Mathew explain what that’s all about? Yes he can, as it happens, albeit a little tongue-in-cheek.

“It’s something the young ’uns are doing, apparently. We got offered this gig, they film it and stream it live, and people can buy it.

“We’ve been trying out something similar via this app called Periscope, streamed live onto Twitter. In fact, we did a gig in South Shields, and there were 200 people following the stream.”

Selfie Time: Mathew poses with Jade from Little Mix in South Shields

Selfie Time: Mathew poses with Jade from Little Mix in South Shields

Was it at that gig that Mathew was posing for photos with Jade from Little Mix?

“It was! That was brilliant. I teach at an EBD school (for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties), and two girls there love Little Mix! They were made up with that.

“We have a guy with us from Blackburn. He’s more or less our ‘consumer’. He’s a dentist by trade, but loves the band and has become part of the management team really.

“He helps keep us in touch with what fans will like and what they won’t.”

Clearly, Dodgy isn’t like pulling teeth for him then.

“Exactly! He liked the idea of the stream and talked us into giving it a go. And it ‘s certainly a great way for fans in Australia and America to see us without having to come over.”

At this point I ask Mathew about another date on the tour, the Boileroom on November 6th in my hometown, Guildford, with support from Kodiak Island, a new band formed by a further good friend of this blog, Jo Bartlett (with a link to a July 2014 interview with her here).

Jo was previously with Mathew in the Yellow Moon Band project, between Dodgy incarnations. Furthermore, I gather Dodgy played the last-ever Buzz Club, the Aldershot West End Centre night run by Jo and her partner Danny.

Side Project: Mathew had a spell with The Yellow Moon Band between Dodgy incarnations

Side Project: Mathew had a spell with The Yellow Moon Band between Dodgy incarnations

“Jo, Danny and I go way back, to when she was a receptionist at Ultimate Records. We got on so well, she was such a laugh, and we’d go to shows, like the first Screamadelica show by Primal Scream at the Empire Ballroom in Leicester Square.”

In fact, on the Guildford front, I mention how the town’s music festival, Guilfest, played a part in the band’s successful re-emergence, Dodgy having proved a success there in 2008.

It just so happens that was one of their first appearances following an untimely delay after guitarist Andy Miller fell out of bed and a tour had to be cancelled. Mention of that brings a shudder from Mathew.

“We were supposed to tour in late 2007, but on the Saturday before the tour started I got a call from the tour manager, and apparently I went grey when I was told that Andy had fallen out of bed and broken his arm.

“Only Andy could have done that. We’d decided to get back together and had a week rehearsing, in what was a very emotional time.

“It wasn’t just the emotion of getting back together, the butterflies in the stomach and all that, or worrying if I was going to get on with Nigel and Andy.

“Around that time, our lighting man – who had been with us since 1993 – was fighting a brain tumour, and he died that Monday. We went to his funeral on the Friday, then the next day found out the tour wasn’t happening.

“But in a way it was kind of good that we had to wait that little bit longer to get out there.”

Next year it will be two full decades since Free Peace Sweet and the peak of the band’s success. But as great an album as that was, I have to break it to Mathew that I’m forever seeing second-hand copies in charity shops.

“Oh yeah? Well, worldwide it sold nearly a million, but I suppose now CDs seem quite quaint.”

Water Under: The trouble with Andy, Nigel and Mathew is ...

Water Under: The trouble with Andy, Nigel and Mathew is …

Quaint maybe, but there are still too many CDs in my house. In fact, I think I’ve still got Homegrown on vinyl too. Incidentally, what happened to the van pictured on the cover?

“I think that’s in storage somewhere. A fan’s got it, we keep saying about getting it back out, and he says, ‘Well, it’s going to cost a bit of money to get it working’.

Did Mathew ever get to a stage where he couldn’t bear to hear Good Enough or Staying Out for the Summer on the radio or TV?

“I’ve never personally got sick of hearing them. That was always the dream, and we were lucky enough to have 12 hits, at least three or four proper crossover hits.

“It’s lovely, and a lot of people still get very excited when they hear those songs.”

Back to the present, and word has it that Cenzo Townshend, who has worked with Florence Welch, Primal Scream and U2 among others, heard the demos and demanded to mix some tracks.

Stand Upright In a Cool Place proved a great way to announce Dodgy’s return. So is the new album part two of that journey?

“It’s a lot heavier, but also more poppy and commercial. Stand Upright was more like Homegrown, a guitar album. This is more like Free Peace Sweet, a lot more eclectic.

“We’ve got Vanessa from Ultrasound on three tracks. In places it sounds like Burt Bacharach, one song sounds like Black Sabbath, another like Primal Scream, one like Simon and Garfunkel …

“It’s just pushing things out, trying new sounds, but with more potential singles. Stand Upright wasn’t so much about that as the three of us coming together again.

“This is us laid bare!”

Tickets for Dodgy at Ribchester Village Hall are priced £10, available from Ticketweb via http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/event/dodgy-tickets/ or from Carl Barrow on 07824 488410.

And for the latest from Dodgy, including the album tour details, try the band’s official website here

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Buzzcocks Going Steady – the Steve Diggle interview

Show Buzzness: Buzzcocks, 2015 style. From the left:  Chris Remmington, Steve Diggle, Pete Shelley, Danny Farrant

Show Buzzness: Buzzcocks, 2015 style. From the left: Chris Remmington, Steve Diggle, Pete Shelley, Danny Farrant

To get the right tone for a feature, I love to find a little footage or play a song that best sets a scene. And with this week’s interviewee, I was spoiled for choice.

Would it be rare footage of that historic first Buzzcocks gig, supporting Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976, or any number of hit singles that set this highly-influential  Manchester outfit once dubbed punk’s Beatles?

Would I plump for anything from the seminal Spiral Scratch EP, the first three albums that hooked me, or something from their considerable catalogue since reforming in 1989?

As it turned out, I went for Love is Lies from 1978’s Love Bites, one of the first songs that made me realise this was no one-dimensional band and that guitarist Steve Diggle could deliver memorable songs too, just like front-man Pete Shelley.

And it turns out that the song’s writer is impressed by my choice.

“Yeah, that’s a good song – a hidden little gem, that one, and our first acoustic song, really.”

Well, it did feature a bit of acoustic guitar. It was also perfectly placed on Love Bites, a nice contrast to all those great Shelley songs.

“Funnily enough, we played that at a gig in Dublin, as we were playing the first three albums again, and someone said to me that was the pivotal track of the album.

“I’d never really thought of it like that. I wrote more on the first album, like Fast Cars, Autonomy, and all that, but then I met my girlfriend and wasn’t writing much.”

Steve laughs at this point, his tone suggesting he was a little too busy elsewhere back then.

Love Bites: The second Buzzcocks album was the first to snare this scribe, then aged 10

Love Bites: The second Buzzcocks album was the first to snare this scribe, then aged 10

“But I started picking up again on the next one, then later on. Getting back to Love is Lies, we played it live in Australia a few years ago. I think that’s in people’s hearts as much as the other ones.”

I then make Steve, now 60, feel old, letting on how I was only 10 when that second album came out, having got into the band via my brother and his mates, learning the words via Smash Hits to defining hits like Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) and Promises, the latter a joint Diggle and Shelley effort.

Promises was my song, but I left the verses at home! There’s a demo where we’re having a bit of fun and I’m making the verse up as I go along. As I was doing that, Pete was by the mixing desk, so it was just me, John (Maher, drums) and Steve (Garvey, bass).

“We were working out which songs we had, and Pete said, ‘I think I’ve got some verses for that melody’.

“The difference was that it was going to be a socio-political song about promises made by the Government. I said, ‘You’ve turned it into a f***ing love song!’”

“Having said that, it worked out well all round. That’s the thing with lots of the songwriting, particularly later on. We complement each other.

“On our latest album, The Way, we alternate songs between us. We did an album years ago with a lot of my songs at the back half of the CD and a lot of his at the front, but this time we’ve gone for variety.

“It’s not just one kind of thing. And these days with people more impatient or less concentration, it’s a good thing.

“It’s a similar thing with the live set we do now, probably opening up with two or three of the old classics, then putting in a new one, then another older one, and so on.

“That way, there’s no problem with people not knowing the newer stuff. And it’s worked better than we thought – the new songs blend in.

“In fact, I think the new songs are the highlight now. In a full set, we’ve doing six or seven news ones, but they’re sprinkled out, and the new ones go down well.

“We went to Germany, Holland and Spain a while ago and because they knew the new album, everywhere we played they were singing along, which amazed me. You’d have thought they’d known them for years, as they were singing along at the front.”

The Way: The latest long player shows plenty of trademark Buzzcocks passion

The Way: The latest long player shows plenty of trademark Buzzcocks passion

I put it to Steve that the latest album is pretty much trademark Buzzcocks without being retrogressive, while the old songs sound just as fresh today. So they’ve obviously got it right somewhere down the line.

“There are a few darker moments as well, which I like about this album as well – there’s a bit of light and a bit of dark throughout.”

You obviously still enjoy playing live. You certainly do a lot of it.

“Yeah, well, it’s what we do really. And we’ve got such a back-catalogue. There must be around 150 songs.

“There’s always going to be one people will complain we didn’t do. But there’s a lot to choose from.”

It’s not just the Diggle and Shelley show of course, with Chris Remmington on bass for the last seven years and Danny Farrant having managed nine on drums.

“Well, I’ve had a few solo albums and other projects over the years, and Chris was with me for that too. So we’ve known each other well for about 15 years.

“Chris and Danny have blended in really well, and we get on great. Personality-wise and everything, it flows really well. The classic line-up was great as well.”

Does Steve think with the benefit of hindsight the initial 1981 split (when the band featured that ‘classic’ post-Devoto line-up of Diggle, Shelley, fellow-founder member Maher, and Garvey) was inevitable? And did they need that time apart?

“I think we did, looking back. The wheels fell off the wagon. For around five years it was quite intense. We had singles out every two months and were a hard touring band.

“We toured everywhere between being in the studio, and between all that had to write new songs. There was a lot going on.

“We embraced all that, and it was fantastic, but you reach a point where you realise you have to take a step back, and that’s kind of what happened.

“The idea was just to have a year off. At the time we found it a bit devastating, but I went off and did Flag of Convenience and Pete had his solo career.

Debut Album: Another Music In A Different Kitchen was the first of two sublime Buzzcocks  LPs in 1978

Debut Album: Another Music In A Different Kitchen was the first of two sublime Buzzcocks LPs in 1978

“To me, working with other people made it a great time. It was something new, and I enjoyed all that.

“Then it came full circle. We realised we had a good thing at the beginning, so let’s see how that goes again.

“I was playing in Germany and France, billed as Buzzcocks FOC, and we were asked by an agent to do an American tour. Since then it’s been a never-ending tour.

“We didn’t actually plan to get back. We said we’d do that American tour and see what we had.”

Next summer it’ll be 40 years since the beginning, at least 30 of those as a fully-functioning outfit, given the initial break and the fact that Steve wasn’t there at the beginning. Or so I understood, until he put me right.

“No – I’ve been there all the time!”

Wasn’t it just Howard Devoto and Pete at first, with you arriving later, something to do with their spell at the Bolton Institute of Technology?

“I was there at the beginning! I blame Wikipedia for any confusion! It says on there about some bassist and drummer, but they just did a gig at a college.

“It’s a bit of a misnomer, that! They weren’t playing Boredom or anything like that, it was more covers like White Light, White Heat.

“I was going to form another band, then met them – by mistake really. I joined and we had just a few weeks to open for the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall.”

Ah yes, that fabled event that no-one seems to agree on the finer details of, involving two Sex Pistols appearances, six weeks apart in the summer of ’76, which proved a defining moment for Factory Records, Joy Division, New Order, and The Smiths. Let alone Buzzcocks.

“Yes, it was at that first gig that I met Pete and Howard, and within a few weeks we came back. They said they were putting this band together, Buzzcocks, and I said I was set to meet up with this other guy and form my own band.

“It’s got a bit misconstrued. It was Malcolm McLaren who introduced me to them, saying, “Here’s your bass player!”

“The guy I was set to meet and the person they were set to meet were still outside at the time. So we met instead, had a rehearsal the next day, and that’s how it started.

First Footing: Buzzcocks Mk,I made just one single, but it was a classic. And then Howard Devoto moved on, forming the rightly-lauded Magazine.

First Footing: Buzzcocks Mk,I made just one single, but it was a classic. And then Howard Devoto moved on, forming the rightly-lauded Magazine.

“So our first real gig was at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. They’d only just met as well. Howard had put a note up in college, saying somebody wanted to play some Velvet Underground.

“Pete answered it and someone at the college joined them for a gig, which apparently was a bit disastrous, the drummer playing All Right Now through the whole set!

“But for me, the real Buzzcocks started when me and John Maher, who turned up a couple of days later, joined those two.

“That was the Buzzcocks that was on Spiral Scratch and the Buzzcocks that opened for the Pistols a few weeks later.”

You may already know the story, but I’ll try and fill in a few gaps, something set out in Dave Nolan’s I Swear I Was There – The Gig That Changed The World (and an accompanying Ralf Little-narrated 2001 ITV documentary involving Devoto, Shelley, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, Tony Wilson, and many more).

It seems that when Shelley met Devoto at college in Bolton, they spotted a Neil Spencer review of Sex Pistols in the NME and decided to check out this subversive outfit who shared similar influences, like The Stooges.

They drove down to the capital and sought out the band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, at his shop, Sex, and went on to see the Pistols twice one weekend.

In fact, Shelley and Devoto were so impressed that they offered to put the band on back in the North West, a notion that McLaren, keen to spread the word, readily agreed to.

And while their college turned down that chance of hosting the Pistols (thus missing its place in history), Devoto and Shelley hired out the Lesser Free Trade Hall for around £35.

I would add that the rest is history, but because of all the differing versions, not least those in Ian Curtis biopic Control and Tony Wilson biopic 24 Hour Party People, it’s all become a bit confusing as to who was there and what happened.

Among the estimated 30-plus attendees at the June show, with prog metal outfit Solstice supporting – Buzzcocks were supposed to play, but weren’t ready in time – were many future leading lights, not least Martin Hannett, Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner, Mark E. Smith, Mick Hucknall, Morrissey, Paul Morley, Tony Wilson, and a certain Steve Diggle.

“I sat at the back talking to Pete about what we were going to do with the band. I had these ideas about this band I was going to form, he had his ideas too, and then we met Howard, who was working the lights at the back.”

That initial Sex Pistols visit went down so well that McLaren told Devoto, ‘Let’s do it again!’ Hence a second show on July 20th, 1976 – this time with Buzzcocks ready and also involving Slaughter and the Dogs – with tickets priced £1, and a full house of around 150.

Devoto Days: Buzzcocks in '76 (Photo found via http://punkygibbon.co.uk/)

Devoto Days: Buzzcocks in ’76 (Photo found via http://punkygibbon.co.uk/)

Yet for all the power of the main act, Paul Morley saw the Buzzcocks’ proper live debut as the highlight of the night. And Steve Diggle won’t argue with that.

“Really, that’s how it started. As for all this about Bolton College … I’m from Manchester, not Bolton!”

In time, with the startling debut EP Spiral Scratch their only vinyl product, Devoto moved on to form the well-loved Magazine, Garth Smith came and went, and a little jockeying between positions led to the line-up that truly made it. And although that was all a long time ago, Steve Diggle remains passionate about the on-going Buzzcocks story.

While clearly proud of his roots, and still with an unmistakable Mancunian accent, Steve’s been based in London for around 20 years now. That said, he frequently returns to the North West, and my excuse for speaking to him is a Buzzcocks show at Chester Live Rooms this Friday, July 24th.

Then there’s the Blackpool Rebellion Festival appearance event at the Fylde resort’s Empress Ballroom on Saturday, August 8th (with details here).

“We’ve done the Rebellion a couple of times now, and kind of like to do that. It’s the polar opposite to the X-Factor really! It’s people voting with their feet, invading Blackpool and making it all colourful for a week or two.

“We’ve just done Glastonbury Festival, and it’s a bit different from that. That’s becoming a bit more of a corporate thing, whereas this is more heartfelt, I feel.”

Buzzcocks are then back in Manchester on Saturday, October 10th, starting the 25th anniversary celebrations for the Academy venue, as they did all those years ago at the Oxford Road venue, which has since hosted more than 1,600 gigs, its artists performing to more than three million fans.

On the night they will be supported by Marion and Goldblade (with details here), and Steve is looking forward to that special return.

“Yes, we were first to open there, and it’s a busy time for us. Between all those, we have a big festival in Portland, Oregon, and another massive one in Canada. We’re playing some huge places.”

Pop Idols: Buzzcocks on the front of Smash Hits in 1978

Pop Idols: Buzzcocks on the front of Smash Hits in 1978

So what does North America make of the Buzzcocks, 2015 style?

”They love us! We’ve been there a few times, with our own show in Toronto then this Amnesia Festival in Quebec, another crazy thing.

“We did the Riot Festival last year in America too, bigger than Glastonbury and moving between Toronto, Chicago and Denver, with around a week between shows.

“You can’t get anywhere without one of those little buggies. We do a lot of shows like that over there, which maybe people don’t realise over here, thinking we’ve just disappeared for a while.”

Meanwhile, The Way, Buzzcocks’ ninth studio album, is the first in which they went down the crowd-funding route, via Pledge Music.

For a band whose first release, the seminal Spiral Scratch, was cobbled together DIY-style with the help of £1,000 borrowed from family and friends, it brings it all full circle, despite their later major label success.

“It seems that one big corporate animal sucks up another these days. We were on EMI for years, and they owned the early catalogue, which is now with Warner Brothers.

“We thought we’d try out this crowd funding, as it’s almost like the old days where you’d go to the record shop for pre-orders, giving them the money for something that’s not in for another three weeks or so.

“We just thought it would allow us to make the album we wanted and make it quick. When you’re dealing with a record company it can take months and months.

“These companies are few and far between these days anyway. We just wanted to try this new approach and see what happens, and had a window in which we could do it.”

Going back to your days with United Artists, I gather you signed for them the day Elvis Presley died. Do you have clear memories of all that?

“Kind of, because we signed the contract on the bar at the legendary Electric Circus in Manchester, rather than at a big hotel or corporate office.

“That was some venue. There was an old cinema there, in Harpurhey, near Ancoats, and it was somewhere the Sex Pistols and The Clash’s White Riot tour visited too.”

It’s clear from listening to Steve that Manchester still has a special place in his heart, despite having moved away so long ago. In fact, I’m not really sure he moved away at all.

Vital Vinyl: The first compilation album, 1979's Singles Going Steady

Vital Vinyl: The first compilation album, 1979’s Singles Going Steady

“Not really! You can take the boy out of Manchester, but … Actually, Liam Gallagher lives near me. He’s been down here years as well.”

How about Pete Shelley – where’s he based these days?

“Funnily enough, he’s gone even further afield. He’s in Tallinn now, Estonia, having married a girl from out there, moving out around two years ago.

“When we travel, we often have to meet him in London or some airport elsewhere.

“We left Manchester for various reasons, and I met a girl down here. I wasn’t planning on leaving Manchester.”

Is Steve a family man these days?

“Well, not really. I’ve got a son, but he’s 23 and doesn’t live with me.”

Did he follow in your footsteps?

“No, he’s doing art, and has just finished at Saint Martin’s and is just working out what to do in the art and fashion world.”

You could argue that Steve’s in that sector too, in his own way. It’s just that his art involves six strings and a band that inspired so many more to form, let alone a tribute TV pop quiz. Several acclaimed names on the scene have since spoken of the Buzzcocks’ influence, and there was even a Mojo inspiration award for the band in 2006.

“Yeah, absolutely! I thought my lad might take the same route, but you know how it is … you always go the opposite way to your parents. He’s finding his own way in life.”

And will there be any 40th anniversary dates for Buzzcocks next year?

“Yeah, we’re just talking about that, trying to figure out what to do. It’ll be something special, like a tour maybe. It could be our last major tour, just doing specialised gigs after that, here and there.”

Comeback Album: June 1993's Trade Test Transmissions

Comeback Album: June 1993’s Trade Test Transmissions

Whether Garvey and Maher will be involved remains to be seen. But perhaps he could get John Lydon, Glenn Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook down to mark the occasion, seeing as they were there for his first gig. Actually, he could get them to sit at the back this time.

“Well, Morrissey used to sit at the back taking notes years ago, in his old trenchcoat. He had long hair then.

“But yeah, we’ve come all this way on the journey, so let’s just see what happens. Either way, it should be a bit special.”

At this point I start reminiscing (as always seems inevitable when talking to my old heroes), telling Steve how – while I missed them live first time around – I was thrilled to see them a couple of times when they reformed.

First there was the Martin Hannett memorial festival, Cities in the Park, at Heaton Park in Manchester, on August 3rd, 1991, with The Wonder Stuff top of the bill and The Fall on fine form, as well as the likes of New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Cabaret Voltaire, Frank Sidebottom and John Cooper Clarke. But for me, the abiding memory was of finally seeing the mighty Buzzcocks.

Then, even better as it was a far more intimate gig, there was a show at one of my favourite venues, The Old Trout in Windsor, on June 17th, 1993, putting on a blistering set as part of their Trade Test Transmissions tour.

“I remember playing there. Wow!”

And here they are all these years later, with Diggle and Shelley still at the core, and the band still going steady.

“Absolutely, yeah! The great thing is that I think the band’s got better over the years. It just seems to go from strength to strength.

“There’s a broader perspective to the shows now, particularly with some of the newer stuff in there. It’s like it’s still growing, you know!”

That can’t be bad, not least as I would put this band’s first three albums – Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Love Bites and A Different Kind of Tension – among my favourites of any era.

And then there are all those great non-album singles beyond the Spiral Scratch EP, not least What Do I Get?, Love You More, Promises, Everybody’s Happy Nowadays, Harmony in my Head

“Well, even Liam (Gallagher) said to me, ‘Forget Oasis, forget The Stone Roses, and all that – Buzzcocks are the best band to come out of Manchester!’

“That’s not a bad compliment, is it? I never thought he’d think of it like that. Of course, I said, “Oh, I don’t know about that. We’re all good from Manchester!”

400-366Tickets for Buzzcocks at the Live Rooms, Station Road, Chester, this Friday, July 24 (7pm doors) are £20 (advance) via the box office on 0871 220 0260 or this link

And for the latest from the band, check out their official website or follow them via Facebook  or Twitter

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Calling out around the world – the Martha Reeves interview

New Beat: Martha Reeves and her band at Preston in December 2013  (Photo copyright: Ruth Hornby, http://ruthhornbyphotography.co.uk/)

New Beat: Martha and her band at Preston, late 2013 (Photo: Ruth Hornby, http://ruthhornbyphotography.co.uk/)

It was 10.30am local time in Detroit, Michigan, when I got through to soul legend Martha Reeves, and she still had a little packing to organise before heading to the UK.

Within a couple of days she’d be thrilling crowds at the Cornbury Music Festival in Oxfordshire and the Mouth of the Tyne Festival in the North East, followed by dates at The Duchess in York ((Monday, July 13th), The Arts Club, Liverpool (Tuesday, July 14th), a sell-out at London’s Blues Kitchen (Friday, July 18th), then Clitheroe’s Beat-Herder Festival on her 74th birthday (Saturday, July 18th).

Three more appearances are scheduled from there this month (starting with The Boiler Room in my hometown, Guildford), with more to follow in August and September. And that’s just her UK schedule. Not bad going for an Alabama-born performer who has been entertaining crowds for 55 or so years.

In fact, I reckon she must be getting quite adept at this travel malarkey now, after all these years of world tours.

“Well, I can remember most of the things I need to bring!”

I’m in revered company here, albeit only via the wonders of telecommunication wizardry. And it’s fair to say Martha coined the sound of summer in certain respects, with classic hit singles like Dancing in the Street and (Your Love Is Like A) Heatwave.

You don’t need to be from the States to appreciate the sentiment of those truly international seasonal love letters. That’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?

“Very much so, and we’re blessed to be able to come over to the UK in the summer for a change. Usually we’re there November and December, so I’m looking forward to seeing your beautiful flowers and lovely crops, watching your country turn green. It never goes brown like our country, getting more green as summer goes by.”

These Memories: Martha Reeves

These Memories: Martha Reeves

Last time I saw Martha live was in December, 2013, and she even did a couple of carols in a rousing set at 53 Degrees as a special guest for Preston’s Got Soul.

While we’re talking big hits, how about Nowhere to Run? They don’t get much better. In fact, Martha previously said songwriters Holland Dozier Holland coined something special there that she could really relate to. Can she expand on that?

“I’d just returned from working on the road, coming back a little weary and with a bout of flu, but was called to do a session, and you don’t let anything stop you from getting to that Motown mic. and record those hits.

“We would have competitions with the producers as to who’d get the next song, and with Holland Dozier Holland the most prolific songwriters at Hitsville USA, we’d push and shove to get to them.

“So when they told me they had a song, I showed up at the studio, and the minute I heard that, something inside me said, ‘You’ve got to sing this – this is exactly how you feel. You’ve got nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, so you better sing, however bad you feel’.

“There’s a bit of a whine in there. I didn’t feel great, but the condition I was in was expressed completely in the deliverance of that song.”

So, all these years on, can you still picture yourself in that studio?

“I can, and Ivory Hunter is singing in the background with The Vandellas, in this case Betty Kelly and Rosalind (Ashford). When you listen again, you can hear his voice, kind of showing them the emotion.

“But it’s a Holland Dozier Holland song, so the producers worked as well together as the artists. We all worked together!”

That teamwork brings me nicely on to the early Motown revues that visited the UK, this nation soon falling in love with Martha, The Vandellas and the label itself. And what a pedigree – from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye through to Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Temptations.

Early Days: The Vandellas back in the day. From the left -   Rosalind Ashford, Betty Kelly, Martha Reeves

Early Days: The Vandellas back in the day. From the left – Rosalind Ashford, Betty Kelly, Martha Reeves

Do you thing the strength of the competition around you made you work harder and brought the best out of you all?

“Oh yeah, we had some we didn’t want to follow, but always tried to make the stage hot for the next act. And nobody wanted to come on after Stevie Wonder!”

Martha knew Stevie from a very early age. I’m guessing there was always a sense that he was going to be a star.

“He was discovered conducting an adult choir in a Pentecostal church, playing a Hammond organ with the seat as well as the singers … at the age of eight!

“Ronnie White of The Miracles, God rest his soul, told Berry (Gordy, the label boss) he was at church and saw this kid, saying, ‘You’ve got to see him!’

Berry said, ‘Bring him to the studio’, and Ronnie did just that. I was there in the A&R department at the time.

“There were very few children in the studio at any time, so when he wandered to the door, we said hello, and I asked his name. He said, ‘Stevie … What’s your name?’

“I told him and he said, ‘You sound like a nice person, but let me see what you look like’. He put his fingers all over my face, at which point I realised he was visually challenged.

“He then started doing things, kicking a waste basket, turning the paper out then starting to play the bottom of it. I said, ‘Wait a minute, kid!’

Wonder Kid: Little Stevie Wonder in 1964 (Photo: http://www.steviewonder.org.uk/)

Wonder Kid: Little Stevie Wonder in 1964 (Photo: http://www.steviewonder.org.uk/)

“He then went to the telephone and started making noises with that, so I was saying, ‘Give me the phone, kid – you’re gonna call Russia!’

“From there he went to the typewriter, making rhythms and ruining the ribbon as there was no paper. I said, ‘Stop it, kid!’

“He carried on across this small room and found this little piano, sat down and started playing it like nobody’s business! We wound up doing the cartoon, Mighty Mouse.”

At this stage, Martha gives me a rendition of the theme down the phone, that great voice coming through.

“I was amazed how talented this child was. Someone then came to the door and said, ‘Stevie, your interview’s in Studio A, and I realised he was there for an audition.

“I followed him down, although the office was closing and it was time to go home. He then sat at the grand piano, the one Paul McCartney just recently refurbished, and started playing.

“I knew he could play the keyboard but was amazed how well he could play that grand!

“They then gave him some drumsticks and led him to a full set of drums, and he played them like he knew Gene Krupa!

“He also played a xylophone belonging to Jack Ashford (of Motown’s house band the Funk Brothers), and they sat him on a stool and gave him bongos and he played them like he came from Jamaica or somewhere.

“He never sang a word, but then stood up, went in his pocket and picked up this little harmonica and started playing that.

“Berry Gordy remarked, ‘This kid is a wonder! And I think that’s how he got his name.”

That’s just one great Martha Reeves first-person anecdote from such a magical period in music history, and while she quickly adds, “Oh, I’m sorry – I talk too much!” I don’t want to put her off – even if I am secretly worrying about my next phone bill.

Her brief mention of Paul McCartney brings me on to her date this week at Liverpool Arts Club, and I ask how much of an influence The Beatles were to her.

Fan Club: Detroit's own spin on Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr

Fan Club: Detroit’s own spin on Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr

As it is, I think I already know the answer, not least on account of her band’s cracking version of George Harrison’s Something.

“They were a huge influence, and came to Motown, singing everybody’s songs but mine! Of course, they did Martha My Dear too!

“I later met George Harrison and sat with him. He showed me a songbook and told me about all the songs he had a part in writing, And it was a majority.

“That was a joy. We sat at the piano in my apartment in Los Angeles and had such a good time going through that book. It was wonderful meeting him, so I had to record one of the songs, and George has a special place in my heart.

“I also met often with Mike McCartney (Paul’s brother, previously of The Scaffold). He’s a real good friend, came to Motown, and we walked to the museum.

“Then of course, one of the first shows I did was Ready Steady Go in your country, with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things, Small Faces … I could go through so many!

“Then there was the show with Dusty Springfield on the BBC …”

I was going to mention Dusty, another great artist you sang with.

“Yes, she and I met at the Brooklyn Fox in New York. The compere introduced me, and she was having a ‘lonely fit’ in her dressing room on the top floor.

“She’d bought some china and was throwing it about, smashing it against a wall, and yelling insanities – not profanities of course, she was a Catholic girl!

“She was very angry at her manager, who’d left her for a while, left her there alone. She didn’t know anyone in America, so I was pushed in the room and told to see what’s wrong with her!

“When I went in, I started throwing china too, and we became immediate friends.”

TV Times: Martha and Dusty join forces for Ready Steady Go's Sound of Motown in April 1965

TV Times: Martha and Dusty join forces for Ready Steady Go’s Sound of Motown in April 1965

Funnily enough, I was watching footage of the two of you duetting on Wishin’ and Hopin’ this very morning.

“That was a thrill! She was a good artist, and we had such a great time harmonising.”

It’s 53 years since Martha’s first Motown single, I’ll Have To Let Him Go, and it wasn’t a great success. Was that a frustrating time, or did you always believe?

“That was written for Mary Wells, but she was leaving the company and the union man had come down hard at that time – it was Berry’s house and wasn’t unionised.

“They came in and got more pay for the musicians and singers and imposed time limits and we could only record if there was an artist at the mic.

“I was in the office, taking dictation, adding to lyrics, co-producing, doing a lot of things, when I was called in to sing this song as the union had made a surprise visit!

I dropped what I was doing, the song was demonstrated to me by ‘Mickey’ Stevenson (Motown’s artist and repertoire director), who discovered me in the first place, and I sang it from my heart.

“When Berry Gordy heard it he said, ‘Put those girls who sing behind Marvin Gaye on Stubborn Kind of Girl behind Martha Reeves.

“Of course, Marvin was a drummer first. I saw the company grow from that early stage, and feel so very proud and honoured to have been one of the premier artists at Hitsville USA.”

While her earlier recordings largely failed to break through, Martha and band-mates continued to back Marvin Gaye and sing with him on stage, and in time emerged from the shadows with 1963’s Come and Get These Memories and (Love Is Like a) Heat Wave.

It seems a long time ago that we lost Marvin Gaye (31 years, to be precise), who of course co-wrote Dancing in the Street, someone else you knew so well. It must have been a huge shock.

“I miss him so much. I miss Tammi (Terrell) as well. I miss Florence (Ballard), I miss Paul … (I guess she means Paul Williams of The Temptations there). I miss all those artists. We started out together.

Halcyon Days: The sound of summer, Vandellas style

Halcyon Days: The sound of summer, Vandellas style

“They’ve gone to heaven, but I’m still here, glad to be here and sing these wonderful songs, discovered, produced and written by the wonderful 17 writers on the staff.”

Martha has a reputation for being outspoken, or being ‘given to plain talk’ according to Gerri Hirshey in the fantastic mid-’80s biography, Nowhere to Run – The Story of Soul Music.

Is that something that came out of her background? Not so long ago, she put in four years on Detroit’s city council, for instance. As the third of 11 children, did she have to shout louder to be fed sometimes?

“No, but I did a lot of feeding! I thought at one time I was born to be a servant, because I was Momma’s helper as the oldest girl.

“With eight siblings underneath I’d go to play after doing my housework and have to take four little guys and four little girls with me in order for Mom to get some rest and finish what she was doing.

“So I guess I learned about leadership and authority, and had to be intelligent to deal with all those personalities.

“When I came home there was hardly anywhere to sit, so after school I did lots of activities and rose to the position of captain of the cheering team in high school.

“Sure, I had to take the lead in a lot of situations, but I’m glad I had that ability – as I ended up with over 100 Vandellas!

The personnel of her backing band has certainly changed over the years, but since 2010 it’s been something of a family affair, with Martha joined by her sisters Delphine and Lois, the latter having previously backed Al Green and having served from 1967 until The Vandellas first wound up in 1972.

Does that sibling link help Martha get over the slog of the travelling?

“I’m a sort of pioneer with this, so there’s a leadership responsibility. I don’t get tired of music – I get tired of housework, and I’m not that great a cook!

“Singing and going to church, praising God and lifting my voice – the gift God gave me – I can’t get tired of that!”

Gospel’s played an important part in Martha’s story, and not just through the band name‘s nod to Della Reese, one of her earliest inspirations.

Motoring Martha: Soul legend Martha Reeves is back in the UK

Motoring Martha: Soul legend Martha Reeves is back in the UK

“I don’t know many singers who didn’t start in the church, and as a matter of fact there used to be an unwritten rule that the elders of the church chose the ones to sing.

“The ones that couldn’t quite manage the harmonies in the choir became ushers, Sunday school teachers, or something!”

I take it that it was your father’s calling that took you from Alabama to Michigan in the first place.

“Exactly. Back then, it was very difficult for Blacks to get jobs, and his oldest brother moved to Detroit to a job at Henry Ford’s motor factory, a lifesaver to that generation as we could get a minimum wage and have a decent life.

“My uncle found a nice residence and a good job and sent for his brothers. Then our Grandfather, the Reverend Elijah Joshua Reeves moved to Detroit and started the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“I spent most of my time there, and couldn’t even listen to secular music until I was 11. It was all gospel!”

Well, it hasn’t done you any harm, has it?

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me a foundation, and I knew what I wanted to be early.

“I practised, I rehearsed and had lessons every years so I might be able to maintain and fulfil my dream to be a performer.”

Last time I caught Martha live, in Preston, she had an eight-piece band, mostly from the UK. How about this time?

“I’m going to be as surprised as you are! I leave that to Larry Crockett from New York, who will be leading my band.”

Hot Stuff: That breakthrough Vandellas waxing, from '63

Hot Stuff: That breakthrough Vandellas waxing, from ’63

Is that ‘Mr Sticks’, your drummer? I remember him well from 53 Degrees.

“That’s him! We’ve got a few guys who are regulars too, because I’ve been coming to the UK now for maybe 55 years!

“I insist on musicians. I can’t sing to tracks – those things they use now and call music!”

I can’t imagine you putting up with anything less than 100 per cent commitment to the cause from your band.

“True. Some of the boys study the Funk Brothers style of playing and have great joy when they can achieve it.

“You can’t really write what they play on a chart, but some of the guys take time to listen to what came out of the studio.

“Some of those sounds were stomping on boards, snapping fingers, rattling chains, using hammers, clapping hands. And in the early days it was all four-track recording.”

Yet Martha and the Vandellas’ 1963 album Heat Wave was recorded in just a few hours, between shows in Baltimore. They must have had true discipline.

“And a love for doing it. I had a passion, and still have. We came back from this engagement at the Royal Theater, Baltimore, and overnight recorded all the songs.

“It was a case of learn a song, take a minute, go back in the studio, come out, learn another, go back in the studio …

“It turned out really great, we went back to Baltimore and were on the stage at 12 o’clock to do the first show of that day.”

And you still had time to do a few backing tracks for Marvin Gaye on the end of the session, I believe.

“We did! And it was wonderful. Holland Dozier Holland didn’t get sleepy, and neither did I!”

When The Vandellas split in 1971, Martha said, ‘Men broke up my group’. Those were different times, weren’t they?

Golden Trio: The songwriting partnership of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland came up trumps time and again

Golden Trio: The songwriting partnership of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland came up trumps time and again

“Well, the first lady left in ’64, as soon as we had the hit with Heat Wave, she got married, and we had to keep going.”

Martha eventually left Motown in 1972, but continued to expand her musical horizons, in time establishing herself in her own right as a singer-songwriter, her collaborators along the way including James Brown and Bruce Springsteen among others.

She also headlined a national touring company of the musical Ain’t Misbehaving, and for three years toured the UK in the musical review, Dancing in the Street, while continuing to record her own albums.

“I recorded Martha Reeves on the MCA label with Richard Perry, then went on to two albums on Fantasy in Berkeley, then recorded on Arista Records with Clive Davies, then recorded my own self-produced album. I’ve been continually in the studio, and the business has changed.

“Berry Gordy knew how to get records played, distributed and a lot more that as an artist I’m not so aware. But you can do it on the internet now, and don’t even have to go in a studio. You can use your basement!”

Do you have to work hard to keep that great voice in shape these days?

“No, just use it every day!”

Given the chance, what would you tell the 21-year-old Martha if you were to go back to that time just before the first album took off?  And was that a difficult time?

“No, it’s all been joy. I can’t thing of anything I would do different. I’ve paid attention. I can still remember good times.

“It’s all joyful, even now, talking to you, because you care enough to call and speak to me, make articles and have people made aware of the fact I’m still here, still vibrant and still willing to carry out my career.

Second Sitting: Martha's follow-up solo album, from 1976 on Arista

Second Sitting: Martha’s follow-up solo album, from 1976 on Arista

“I thank God and I thank the people who listen and the DJs who play the music! It’s all pleasure.

“I’ve got a son, I’ve got three grandchildren, a great grandchild, and another baby coming.”

And I guess all your grandchildren are old enough to properly know what you do for a career and about your fame.

“They take it lightly, they love me, and showbusiness is not a big thing to them. It’s all about the quality time we spend together.”

With Martha doing the Beatherder Festival just up the road from me in Clitheroe, Lancashire, I’m guessing she’s used to being ‘discovered’ by new generations.

“Yes, I’m looking forward to all these dates, and I’ve been promised a Guinness cake that day, because Guinness is my drink of choice.”

That sounds good, and might be the secret as to how she’s still singing so well. Either way, I’m sure she’ll go down a storm on this tour.

There’s not really been a time when the UK fell out of love with Martha, but I put it to her that the initial days of the Northern Soul scene proved important in keeping that torch alight.

“Well, yeah, and that all started at Wigan Casino. We made our friends then, going there and starting our shows at two in the morning, dancing and singing until six and daylight.

“That’s where we made our roots with the Northern Soul … years ago! I’ve got fond memories of all that too.”

Burning Question: Martha's still waiting to find out when

Burning Question: Martha’s still waiting to find out when

Finally, you might have been asked this a few times before, but Jimmy Mack – any indication as to when he’s coming back yet?

“I would hope he’s coming back, you know. I wouldn’t have been singing that song all my life if I didn’t think he’d be coming back. I just wish he’d come on!”

So there you go. And do yourself a favour – go and witness this soul legend for yourself. And if you know Jimmy Mack, bring him along on the night.

For details of Martha at Liverpool Arts Club, head here, and for more on the Beat-Herder Festival in Clitheroe, try this link

Martha’s official website is here, and you can follow her via Facebook or Twitter.

And for the writewyattuk verdict of Martha’s December 2013 at Preston’s 53 Degrees show, head here.

 

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Status Quo – Symphony at the Tower, Hoghton

Quo Time: The Symphony at the Tower crowd get ready to rock (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

Quo Time: The Symphony at the Tower crowd get ready to rock (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

The forecasts hinted we might be in for a downpour at Hoghton Tower on Friday night, and the clouds were looming as we waited for the main act.

But by the time the mighty Quo were belting out 1976 hit Rain on this lush site, we even dared sneak the odd look skyward, secretly thinking we might just get away with it.

I won’t even contemplate how far into their stellar career Britain’s most successful singles band were when the members of both Lancashire supports were born.

Both openers, Good Foxy and New York Tourists, had a ball though, and weren’t above showing their delight and gratitude at being part of this special 30th birthday celebration for the nearby St Catherine’s Hospice.

Fleet Foxy: Clitheroe openers Good Foxy take it all in (Photo: Good Foxy/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

Fleet Foxy: Clitheroe openers Good Foxy take it all in (Photo: Good Foxy/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

Good Foxy, from Clitheroe,  were perfect openers, with hints of The Associates, Muse and Radiohead in George Banks’ vocals from a promising up and coming bluesy outfit.

A moment of poetry between songs brought to mind Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, while there was more of a Doors and Led Zep feel elsewhere.

I’d like to say their spirited rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe took me back to the Isle of Wight in 1970, but that was for a family holiday two months before (and I was only two).

New York Tourists, from Blackburn, also shone, front-man Gary Taylor summing it up by letting on how he’d expected to be at the bar watching rather than being up there supporting such legends in front of so many people.

Lining Up: Just another day as Blackburn's New York Tourists pose backstage with the Quo (Photo: New York Tourists/Adam McGrath Photography)

Lining Up: Just another day as Blackburn’s New York Tourists pose backstage with Quo (Photo: New York Tourists/Adam McGrath Photography)

The nerves didn’t show though, his solo vocal intro on Dead Man’s Leather setting the tone for a relaxed last four songs that did the band great credit.

And while they couldn’t stick around, having to hot-foot it away to Preston’s Glastonferret Festival, they too did themselves proud.

It’s clearly not about age anyway, judging by the amount of stage covered by the four outfield players in Team Quo, with all the zip and sparkle of many a younger band.

Founder member Francis Rossi, 66 years young, warned us all the same, telling his adoring crowd ‘things might happen’ when you come to see a band as old as his, advising them to get their cameras ready should one of them collapse.

Old School: The Quo were rocking all over the stage. From the left: Leon Cave, Rick Parfitt, Francis Rossi, John 'Rhino'Edwards, Andy Bown (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

Old School: The Quo were rocking all over the stage. From the left: Leon Cave, Rick Parfitt, Francis Rossi, John ‘Rhino’Edwards, Andy Bown (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

While there have been many health scares and a fair bit of hard living over the years, Rossi and fellow mainstay Rick Parfitt never gave less than we could have hoped for.

The same goes for bass player John ‘Rhino’ Edwards (29 years in) and keyboard/ guitar/ harmonica player Andy Bown (39 years). In fact we’re talking 169 years’ service from those four, and it showed in the tight playing and sheer stagecraft.

And if you’re going to have a big celebration, why not ask a legendary five-piece who have proved over the years they know how to party?

Bringing youth to the proceedings, and no less vigour, was drummer Leon Cave, a mere two years with the band but clearly a big hit with his team-mates.

Caveman Go: Leon Cave steals the limelight while his band-mates take a nap (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

Caveman Go: Leon Cave steals the limelight while his band-mates take a nap (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

At one stage the rest of them left the ’Caveman’ to it for a drum solo. We can only presume it was a case of power naps all round, all those years on the road ensuring this is a band that can sleep through anything.

And throughout the set it was maximum rock’n’roll, Quo never letting up and showing us what a great band they are, from the opening bars of ultimate party-starter Caroline onwards.

That joyous start was just the first of many great moments as they worked through an array of formation guitar stances and trademark moves.

Sometimes it was Parfitt and Rossi together, then  Bown and Edwards slipped into line, and from there any combination of those four showcased a tried and tested format that brought plenty of smiles form an audience spanning the eras.

Hoghton High: The crowd warming to the Quo (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

Hoghton High: The crowd warming to the Quo (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

And the sound? Well, they can still belt them out, yet never over-play, and proved note perfect all night, despite being between gigs in Germany and Austria.

The bulk of the set came from those treasured ’70s albums and singles, and I made it just three from this century in a 22-song set.

Paper Plane, one of three selections from 1972’s Piledriver, had this nostalgic scribe on a high, with enough of a summer breeze to ensure a fan down the front could put his aviation origami skills into practise, releasing his own tribute creation.

Among a handful of newer songs, 2007’s Beginning of the End proved there’s still life in the old dogs, the backing vocals making this an all-round crowd-pleaser.

Rhino's Charge: John Edwards and Andy Bown in action at Hoghton Tower (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

Rhino’s Charge: John Edwards and Andy Bown in action at Hoghton Tower (Photo: Symphony at the Tower/Bradley Hamer Photographic)

The earliest single we were treated to was 1970’s Down the Dustpipe, part of a five-song medley book-ended by further fans’ favourites What You’re Proposing and Again and Again.

We got their bluesier side on 2002’s Creeping’ Up On You, while the sing-along In The Army Now went down a storm, even if the inclement weather was being kept at bay.

And after the Caveman’s solo came four Quo classics to see us out, Roll Over Lay Down, sole No.1 Down Down, Whatever You Want and John Fogerty’s Rocking All Over the World – 30 years to the week after its triumphant outing at Live Aid.

Except they didn’t leave, our special guests returning once more to treat us to three great rock’n’rollers which they’ve made their own, Steamhammer’s Junior’s Wailing and Chuck Berry’s Rock’n’Roll Music and Bye Bye Johnny sending us home on a high.

As we made back for our cars, the rain started to fall, but I reckon it was planned, an endorsement from the gods on this warm summer night for a legendary band’s top entertainment.

Besides, the lightning lit the way, the cheery charity volunteers directing us out ensuring the smiles stayed on the faces after a cracking night of live music, and all for a great cause.

In Crowd: The star-struck New York Tourists pose with the audience at Hoghton Tower (Photo: New York Tourists/Adam McGrath Photography)

In Crowd: The star-struck New York Tourists pose with the audience at Hoghton Tower (Photo: New York Tourists/Adam McGrath Photography)

In the build-up to Symphony at the Tower, writewyattuk spoke to legendary Status Quo founder member Francis Rossi, with a link to that feature here.

This scribe also caught up with Gary Taylor of New York Tourists, with a link here, and ‘Classical Dark Angel’ Lucy Kay, who was on the bill for the following night’s event finale, with a link here.

For the latest from Status Quo, including details of their latest UK tour later this year, head here

To find out more about Good Foxy, who have an album on the way, go to their Facebook page here

And for the latest from New York Tourists, also set to release their debut album, try their Facebook page here.  

 

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Rollin’ Home with the Quo – the Francis Rossi interview

Saint Francis: Mr Rossi leads the singing as rock legends Status Quo get down down

Saint Francis: Mr Rossi leads the singing as rock legends Status Quo get down down

When you phone a rock’n’roll legend, you don’t expect him to answer within two rings and launch straight into a breezy rendition of a classic from Singin’ in the Rain.

“Good morning, good morning!”

What’s more, that vast Status Quo back-catalogue included a 1976 top-10 hit in which the band revealed they ‘can live without the rain’.

So Francis Rossi (for it is he), you sound very chirpy this morning – is that a typical way to start your day?

“I’m in showbusiness!”

And you never switch off?

“Well, if I tell you why I’m chipper, it’s too long a process, but it’s to do with what they call oil pulling. Not down there, no, no …”

He’s off already, alternating between a bit of rock’n’roll cheek and a few more philosophical moments.

“You can either do it with olive oil, sesame oil, or I’ve been doing it with coconut oil. We’re all doing it at work. It clears out various toxins and leaves you kind of ‘la, la, la!’

“And anything that makes me feel like that in the morning, I’m going to have a go.”

The Quo: The band rock out, again and again

The Quo: The band rock out, again and again

I’ve had my own morning ‘upper’, I explained, a quick blast of Status Quo’s Caroline doing the trick before I called. In fact, it never fails to hit the spot.

“Well, that probably does the opposite for me, doesn’t it! Cor, d’you know … I’ve had this thing for some years now where I like to be on stage but I’m frightened to go on, and stay like that until I’m finished.

“A few weeks ago I heard Graham Norton on his Saturday radio show, saying, ‘Two more tunes and I’m finished – yippee!’ And I thought, ‘oh’ – whatever the gig is or whatever job one’s got, everyone’s really glad to finish.

“It’s an odd one. We’re all doing the jobs we always wanted, but … that’s how it goes, I suppose.”

Francis is clearly in a pensive although cheerful mood. Perhaps he always is.

I explain how, as a Lancashire-based Woking FC fan, I feel my team should run out to Caroline, on account of Francis’ long-time Quo compatriot Rick Parfitt having spent his formative years in the Surrey town.

I also let on that I would suggest Down Down, but maybe that’s not such a great vibe for a football team.

“No, I can see that. Caroline would be quite good though. Sounds like a good idea to me … and I’d have the PRS!

“I’m not really sure how much that is these days, mind. When I was 19, someone told me it was so many pence at the time. I don’t think about all that now though. I just keep going.”

He certainly does. That leads me to a little history, Francis having first formed the band that evolved into Quo with Alan Lancaster in 1962.

Past Days: Status Quo, the early years

Past Days: Status Quo, the early years

A few personnel and name changes followed as The Scorpions became The Spectres, then Traffic (until confusion with Steve Winwood’s band), Traffic Jam, then The Status Quo.

Under that later handle, they had their first top-10 hit, the early 1968 psychedelic wonder Pictures of Matchstick Men, the personnel by then including Rick.

Francis already knew him, having played in their respective outfits at Butlin’s Minehead and clearly hitting it off.

The writing was on the wall, and they’ve now worked together as Status Quo, as they soon became, for 47 years.

And next weekend they’re not so far from my patch, playing an open-air gig at Hoghton Tower, between Chorley and Preston, Lancashire, for a date which just happened to fall 30 years – give or take a few days – after the band gave us that perfect start to Live Aid.

“Is it really 30 years? Wow! When Bob (Geldof) first asked me and him (that’ll be Rick, I guess), we were with Phonogram and not doing anything in the summer, which was kind of unusual.

“We were quite dismissive when Bob was explaining it all (a poor Irish accent follows). But when we got there and did the show, well …

“It wasn’t until we walked out though, when we thought, ‘Oh!’ The amount of press coverage for a start …”

You had the perfect slot as well, didn’t you?

“Oh yeah! We didn’t have a problem with going on and getting finished, and it proved to be the best slot you could have.

“But no one knew it was going to get like that. And the audience was just unique.”

So where has that time gone, Francis?

“I don’t know. The older you get, the faster the time goes. And that whole relativity thing freaks me out the older I get.”

Five Live: Status Quo, the current line-up (Photo: Danny Clifford)

Five Live: Status Quo, the current line-up (Photo: Danny Clifford)

Quo’s Symphony at the Tower date seems to be sandwiched between a few more in Germany. Did the tour manager get confused as to where Preston was?

“It’s always like that, this time of year. You look at the itinerary and it looks great, with a few days here, then a day off, but when you’re doing it, it’s like …”

There are a few of these moments in our interview. Francis is very animated on the phone, but to the point where even so I can’t exactly see his expression. I’ve got a fairly good idea though.

“We go to Germany tonight, we’re back Tuesday evening, then on Thursday one of our tour buses goes to Europe and the other takes us to Preston.

“We’ll come out of Preston and go to a hotel … yeuch! … then in the morning we get on a private plane we use occasionally and fly down to Vienna, I think, to get in our bus again, and … oh, Jeez!”

I take it from that the travelling doesn’t get any easier over the years.

“No, it doesn’t, and I’m kind of sick of travelling. I like it when we’re actually in the bus and moving, and there’s no show.

“My brother retires in a week or so, and he said, ‘Let’s go to Italy’, but I said, ‘I don’t want to travel, brother’. He goes, ‘Yeah! We can get a nice hotel …’ and I say, ‘I don’t want to stay in a hotel!’

“I suppose I’ve been living out of suitcases since I was 16. Holidays for me are pretty much coming home and being here.”

‘Here’ is Purley, near Croydon, I believe, not so far from his Forest Hill and Sydenham roots.

Rossi Rocks: Status Quo ever-present Francis Rossi (Photo copyright: Danny Clifford)

Rossi Rocks: Status Quo ever-present Francis Rossi (Photo copyright: Danny Clifford)

I tell him I had a similar conversation with Jean-Jacques Burnel about travelling not so long ago, the legendary Stranglers bass player having similar hang-ups about all the time on the road. Of course, he’s only been doing it for a mere 41 years though.

“Lazy buggers, ain’t they!’

“Actually, I remember someone who worked with us talking about The Stranglers when they were coming up, and I thought, ‘What a terrible name!’

“But now I think, they’re old school and pretty much establishment, as much as they’ve still got that look. And these guys are still going!

“We all definitely felt that punk movement wasn’t going to last. And no one thought John Lydon would be doing ads for butter or something, dressed as a country gent – kinda weird!”

Fair point. So, Hoghton Tower – it’s a lovely setting. Have you been there before?

“I’m not really sure until we get there, but I don’t think so. But sometimes you do turn up somewhere you haven’t done before, which is quite refreshing really.”

I take it fundraising for the hospice on the night means a lot to you as well.

“Any we do supporting those serious charities do. Some of my wife’s family are here, they’re American, and we were talking about this.

“Some of the charities out there are iffy, yet something like this at a hospice is properly watched and kosher.

download (1)“I do find it weird that our society needs charities. It’s a political hot one. But my gardener’s parents are both getting Alzheimer’s and he’s struggling to find them somewhere to go, and these are people perhaps just 20 years older than me.

“I think hospices like this are very good, and make me think about the Macmillan people who looked after my mother so well when she was dying.”

At this point, the 66-year-old briefly becomes the interviewer, asking, “How old are you, if it’s not a rude question?”

It’s not. How can I put it? I’’ve been around as long as Rick Parfitt’s been in your band.

“Fantastic! I like people that are older! Well, in 20 years you’ll be older than I am now. How about that?”

It is a sobering thought.

“I moved about seven years ago, only about 100 yards, and had this fabulous mature garden, and I’m trying to do the same with this place. I said to the wife, ‘In about 15 years …’, then realised I’ll be 81 then. That can’t be right, can it?”

Then again, I tell Francis, I look at pictures of my parents when they were my age, and they look a lot older than I think I do now.

“I suppose so, but things go through one’s mind about your childhood or adolescence, and I still picture my Dad as I last saw him, and I’m about 35 years older than he was in my mind. Anyway, where were we?”

Hoghton Tower, I think. So, apart from 100% Quo, what can those at next weekend’s outdoor show expect – something loud and live, a bit of an acoustic hits jukebox, or a bit of both?

“Well, we might work on acoustic sets for future years, this will be an electric show.

“We got an email yesterday about volume and how that’s becoming more of an issue everywhere in Europe. It doesn’t really work when we have someone like Rick though, the loudest rhythm guitarist in the world! But perhaps we are moving to a more acoustic show.

Thirsty Work: Status Quo in live action

Thirsty Work: Status Quo in live action

“As for this one, I’d love to say it’s going to be the best show ever seen. But I don’t know that yet.

“I could say we do have at stage left two ladies kissing – lipstick lesbians. And on the right side there’s two Chippendales for the ladies. But actually, it’s just us lot.”

And you’re not going naked for this gig, like on the cover of the Roundhouse live Aquostic – Stripped Bare publicity shots, are you?

“No, it’s funny really that people have picked up on us being naked for that. They’ve seen our legs before, they’ve seen our tops before, and the bits they haven’t seen before were covered by guitars!”

So I’m guessing it’s yourself, Rick, Andy Bown, John ‘Rhino’ Edwards and the relatively-new ‘Caveman’ on the night?

“Yes, Mr Leon Cave, our drummer. Actually, he plays guitar and bass better than any of us. Everytime he picks up a guitar in the dressing room, we’re like, ‘Keep it simple, boy!’ He’s really good.”

It must be odd for him. You have different levels of new boy, really. You’re up to I don’t want to think how many years (53, actually), Mr Parfitt’s been in the mix for 48 years, then coming up on the inside, next year it’ll be 40 years for Andy and 30 for Rhino.

“Isn’t that ridiculous!”

In any other band there’d be long-service awards, but not in the Quo. How do you think their apprenticeships are going, anyway?

“I think I might keep them now. It’s weird though. Time just sort of goes by. When John joined, people were asking, ‘What’s it like playing with the younger generation?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’

Bare Faced: Rick and Francis cover themselves up

Bare Faced: Rick and Francis cover themselves up

“I actually call him John Boy, because of that boyish look. Bastard! Whenever he falls asleep, I try and put streaks of grey in his hair. But it ain’t working.

“Leon has brought a lovely vibe to the band though. I’d thought about having him involved a few years before, having used him on solo work.

“A lot of being in a band that people don’t realise when they’re young is that you’re all kind of mates together and as you get older you grow apart because you are different people.

“But Leon has brought a nice kind of muckership to us. John calls him ‘Neph’, as in nephew, and his dad’s more or less the same age as me.”

With all that in mind, and with 500 weeks on the album charts and more than 50 hit singles before the last century was even over, are you getting any closer to calling it a day? Only it doesn’t sound like it, despite your thoughts on the travelling.

“It must be getting closer. This French interviewer said to me, ‘You said once you want to die on stage’. I said, ‘Yes, I was a dickhead. I do not want to die on stage!’

“I’d rather die at home, in my bed, with my family around me. It’s on the cards now though. I say now to the audience, ‘You realise when you come to see an old band there is a responsibility that one of us may fall over?’

“I also said the other day, ‘Remember Tommy Cooper? Well, you lot will probably have your phones out if we fall over!’

“But to get to 66 … I’m definitely in the death zone. It’s reality.”

I’m sure you’d have been a big success whatever you took on, but I’m not sure if you’d have been happy with the Rossi family’s ice cream empire, for example.

Could you ever have taken up any other profession, do you think?

“No, I don’t think so. I had no education. I was a dumb git. However, in the last couple of years I’ve been approached by Rossi’s, the company bought off one of my relatives, and we may actually go into re-launching Rossi’s Ice Cream.

 “My cousins are already going, ‘You can’t go back to that!’ But we went to this place near Southend where they make it and it’s so much like how my grandfather used to.

“I would have said no, but I went, tasted it and went back to seeing it another way!”

“Going back to the old days, a mobile ice cream seller would buy a gallon of our beautiful ice cream, put it in his machine, add two pints of milk and a pint of water.

“So people ended up saying it doesn’t taste quite the same. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Anyway … sorry, I’m waffling again!”

Well, ice cream is nice with a waffle after all. And while we’re on Francis’ family tree, seeing as he’s back for dates in Blackpool (Winter Gardens, November 28th), Manchester (Palce Theatre, November 29th) and Liverpool (Echo Arena, December 1st) later this year, I mention how his Mum’s side were from Liverpool.

“Yes, I’d go to Liverpool for my holidays, and a few years ago went through Crosby, where my grandparents were. But I didn’t really recognise it too well.

“Actually, my Italian family lived in a huge house in Forest Hill in Mayow Road, while my family from Crosby lived in Myers Road, so everyone was like, ‘Do do do do’.”

That’s Francis singing the theme of The Twilight Zone, by the way, rather than a later hit by The Police.

“They said that house was haunted, and I remember being there and hearing this piano playing in a huge vacant front room, then seeing a nun walk past, into the scullery.

“I mentioned this, and they said, ‘What nun?’ I can still see her walking through though.”

Another Place: Antony Gormley's men in the sea have a certain resonance for Francis Rossi

Another Place: Antony Gormley’s men in the sea have a certain resonance for Francis Rossi

You have ghostly ‘iron men’ in the sea at Crosby now, of course, thanks to Antony Gormley’s impressive Another Place sculptures, which arrived on the shoreline 10 years ago.

“Yeah, I think those are fabulous! I don’t for some reason have that same feeling about Angel of the North, but do for those.

“It‘s just something that grabs me, taking me back to being on the shore there and getting cockles with my uncle. I loved going to Liverpool.

”I remember travelling up, sat in the back of the car with a Pekinese and one of those red Scottish blankets.

“We’d leave really early in the morning, when it was still dark, and get there at 10 or 11 at night sometimes.

“I remember just laying there while we were moving, nodding … I think that’s why I love travelling in a bus these days.”

Going back to meeting Rick when he was playing in a cabaret band, The Highlights, at Butlin’s in Minehead, do you think it was destiny?

“Sometimes I do, others I don’t. I was brought up a Catholic but don’t believe in that anymore, with apologies to anyone who does.

“I was taught that God was all seeing, all knowing, all loving, all powerful, but I’m not sure about that and the theories about creation.

“I’m the same with the Big Bang Theory for that matter. For that to occur it would have to be in a space, so how did the space get there?

Deep Impact: Star Trek's Captain Picard, a big influence on Francis Rossi

Deep Impact: Star Trek’s Captain Picard, a big influence on Francis Rossi

“But then one night after recording in the ‘80s, we went to watch Star Trek, and Captain Picard was talking about, ‘From the far flung corners of the universe …’

“I was wondering just what the hell he was talking about – which seemed a complete contradiction. But then I felt, ‘That’s it – everything just is!

“In most religions there’s this idea that ‘as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. And that’s just how it is with the universe – everything just is!

“We are just part of the ‘all’. But how it begins or ends … fuck knows!

“Have you read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything? In that, he gets it down to this one singularity which is so infinitesimally small.

“He then says, ‘You might want to stand back now because there’s going to be a Big Bang. But where are you going to stand back to?’

“So now you see – you should never have asked me that question! Then again, maybe the candle grease is still working!”

I’m not quite sure where I can go from there for my last question, but carry on anyway.

So is there one Francis Rossi or Status Quo track or album you feel more people should be raving about – one that somehow the masses missed out on?

“It depends what foot I’m on. Sometimes I feel that way, other times I’m just glad that millions around the world did get it.

“We all as acts and artists feel the whole world is watching, when really they’re not, particularly these days when even more of us are insignificant.

“I was saying to Rick as we came out of Bournemouth last year that in the ’70s when bands came to town, it was big news.

“Now they’re in seven nights a week, whatever big town or city you’re in. So it’s kind of less special for an artist wanting to feel loved. But that just makes him a dickhead!

R-1545330-1227390047.jpeg“Getting back to your question though, I had this song I wrote for the Rock ‘Til You Drop album (1991) that I thought would lead to the planet standing still, listening to what this boy’s done.

“They didn’t, but the joy is that there’s a handful of songs which I don’t give a shit whether people like or hate, because they make me feel so good, and proud of them.

“I tell this to my sons and anyone I work with. If you write those songs, when you hear them, you’re solid gone.

“And that will happen to me all my life … or whatever’s left of it.”

This year’s Symphony at the Tower events, featuring two nights of live music at Hoghton Tower, end a month of celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of St Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall, near Preston.

While Status Quo and co. perform on Friday July 3, the following night (Saturday, July 4) sees BRIT Award-winning classical vocal group Blake headline, supported by Britain’s Got Talent star Lucy Kay, a show closing with a firework finale set to the music of The Heart of England Orchestra. 

For tickets and further information, visit www.stcatherines.co.uk, ring the hospice on 01772 629171 or drop in at the hospice in Lostock Lane, Lostock Hall, PR5 5XU. There’s also a Facebook event information page here.

And for more from the Status Quo camp, including further dates later this year, with extra special guests The Wilko Johnson Band, head to their official website here

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Cool as Wonderland – in conversation with Wolf Alice

Cool Runnings: Wolf Alice - from the left: Joff Oddie, Ellie Rowsell, Joel Amey, Theo Ellis

Cool Runnings: Wolf Alice – from the left: Joff Oddie, Ellie Rowsell, Joel Amey, Theo Ellis

I’ve admitted before that this blog is occasionally guilty of donning Captain Sensible style New Rose-tinted specs, looking back wistfully on the good old days (whatever the subject matter).

But while inspired by so much great music from ‘way back’ (typically-vague writewyattuk time terminology there), there’s plenty of new material to love right now too, with some shining examples featured over the last few days via the BBC’s TV and radio coverage of Glastonbury 2015.

One such fantastic example involved a live set on the Park Stage by Wolf Alice, in the week their debut LP, My Love Is Cool, saw the light of day.

At one stage it looked like they was going straight in at No.1, but in the end they had to settle for second spot after a late sales flurry for Florence and the Machine linked to their own late elevation to Friday night headliners in the Foo Fighters’ absence.

It didn’t matter anyway, Wolf Alice’s Glasto appearance proving to be a triumph, what had already been a big week for the North London four-piece gathering further pace.

While the rain did its best to dampen spirits at Worthy Farm on Friday afternoon, Ellie Rowsell and co. were undeterred and on something of a creative and emotional high.

It clearly takes more than technical and meteorological problems plus late sales switches to unseat them, as I suspected after a chat with Joff Oddie the day before, the Somerset-bound guitarist having briefly pulled off the road.

We started talking about the band’s unexpected midweek UK album chart top spot, and I put it to Joff that these were unprecedented good times for the band.

Flowered Up: Wolf Alice have made a  debut album to be proud of

Flowered Up: Wolf Alice have made a debut album to be proud of

“Yeah – kinda weird! I don’t think anyone expected the album to be sitting where it is at the moment. It’s nice though, and word seems to be spreading.

“Sometimes you can’t help yourself having a look, searching ‘Wolf Alice’ on Twitter or whatever, and it’s all a bit overwhelming really.”

It’s deserved, and in a sense it’s everything you’ve worked towards. It must still come as a shock though.

“Yes, but at the end of the day those things are numbers, aren’t they. It’s not really what’s important … but we certainly weren’t expecting it.”

I recall hearing how fellow Glastonbury 2015 guest Paul Weller, when The Jam signed to Polydor in 1977, making out he was more excited by having found an old Who badge down his sofa. So is, ‘They’re just numbers’ Joff’s variation on that ‘cautious of fame’ theme?

“Well … I think we can all be in agreement that numbers don’t equal quality. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

He should really avoid such hackneyed expressions like the plague, but we’ll gloss over that, not least as he was super-excited at the prospect of Wolf Alice’s second Glastonbury Festival.

“Yep. Last year we were at the Peel Stage, and this year we’re at the Park …”

Glastonbury Heroes: Wolf Alice enjoyed a triumphant set in Somerset last weekend

Glastonbury Heroes: Wolf Alice enjoyed a triumphant set in Somerset last weekend

Having reminded myself of that footage from 2014, you were definitely on an emotional high back then too.

“Oh yeah! It was probably the most nervous we’d ever been. To play on that iconic stage, having all been there as kids to watch people, with our mouths open, thinking this is so incredible …

“Not that we didn’t enjoy last year, but I think it’s going to be a lot more of an enjoyable experience this time.”

The 22-year-old reveals that his first Glastonbury was in 2010. So who impressed him most on that occasion?

“I’m racking my brain, but don’t think I saw many headline bands that year. I do remember seeing The Dead Weather.

“But the wonderful thing about Glastonbury is that – and this sounds awful, being in a band and as a music-head – the most fun I’ve had there had nothing to do with music.

“It was more a case of running around a field with my mates, getting kind of blind drunk.”

Despite the sheer size of the whole event these days, and be it down to the leylines or whatever, it still seems to retain that magical feel, all these years on.

First EP: Wolf Alice's Blush

First EP: Wolf Alice’s Blush

“Yeah. It’s a strange one. There’s definitely a different vibe there, one very unique to Glastonbury. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. And that’s just about going, let alone playing.

“It’s so amazing just to be part of something so iconic. It’s almost a British institution.”

I take it from that you plan to stick around long after your 5pm set on Friday?

“We’ve got Saturday and Sunday off, so we’ll probably spend that … getting blind drunk and running around a field!”

Any bands in particular you want to catch between those mad mud sprints?

“Yeah – a bunch of people, as we’ve been discussing on the way down. I want to see King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, while Young Fathers could be quite cool.

“I also want to see Swim Deep’s set, mates of ours who’ll be on the Other Stage …”

Actually, Austin Williams from Swim Deep joined the band on piano for a BBC backstage Glasto session which hopefully you can still find, their fantastic cover of The Scissor Scissors’ 2004 hit Take Your Mama including Sympathy for the Devil–like backing vocals.

It’s a wonderful rendition, the ever-so-cool Ellie and her four mates in great voice, the lead singer struggling to get her head around the lyrics at one stage and getting giggly.

That humour seems typically Wolf Alice, despite the sheer ferocity of some of the songs and the fact that their name is taken from an Angela Carter short story about a child raised by wolves.

Take by way of further example their inspired cover of Katy Perry’s Roar or last year’s Glasto surprise, a beguiling take on Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game.

They’re clearly enjoying life together at present, basking in the glory of that first LP’s release and the reaction to it. You could say, on the 150th anniversary of a certain Lewis Carroll creation, it’s a case of Wolf Alice in Wonderland.

Creature Songs: The second Wolf Alice EP

Creature Songs: The second Wolf Alice EP

I decided not to run this past Joff, but asked if there were ever any doubts. Every band has its low points, after all.

“Yeah. I’m not blowing our own trumpet by saying we’re successful, but half the battle in getting any level of success is a certain percentage of confidence.

“You’ve got to be able to see your end goal and it’s got to be obtainable. So I think that was always at the back of our minds.

“That said, everyone has their shit days, when you think, ‘Bollocks, I quit!’”

So will success go to their heads?

“Yes! Definitely! Number one, I’m going to get a helicopter straight out of Glastonbury, straight into the rich band.”

Joff pauses for thought, then adds, “OK, no … I should hope not.”

Maybe you could get your ‘suave punk bassist’ Theo Ellis, who apparently loves a little permanent body etching, a new helicopter tattoo instead.

“Yeah, maybe! He’s racking them up is old Theo.”

There can’t be much of him left without a tattoo, can there … without getting graphic.

“Probably … he might turn into a black and white doodle himself.”

So is it singing drummer Joel Amey who instigates the partying off stage, leading you around muddy fields after a few drinks? Or are you all secretly very level-headed?

First Love: Wolf Alice's debut album, My Love Is Cool

First Love: Wolf Alice’s debut album, My Love Is Cool

“Yeah, I think so. But it’s just that Glasto thing. Everybody just kind of loses their inhibitions … in the best possible way.”

Is there a big difference between the Ellie Rowsell we see live and hear on record and the supposedly ‘quietly polite’ Archway lass (who turns 23 this month) you know off stage?

“Well, I would hope so. This is the strange thing – people thing they know people and think they have some kind of relationship with them.”

Fans in general do tend to think they have some kind of ownership through buying an artist’s records and seeing them at the front of a stage.

“Yes, especially front-people. What I find strange is people putting others on pedestals. It’s fine to put the work on a pedestal if you like it. That’s fantastic.

“But there’s also that other level of fanaticism and that ‘I love you’ line. It doesn’t really compute.”

The official band PR suggests that behind the ‘effortlessly visceral’ Ellie, guitarist Joff is the ‘insular romantic, picking out folk tunes on an acoustic backstage then noodling the hell out of his solos when the lights go up’. Is that about right?

“Oh really? I see! I know the girl who wrote that, so I’ll ask. Ha! I don’t know. I do like to keep myself to myself sometimes.

“Touring is quite full-on, and there are always a lot of people around, in your face, so quite a lot of the time I do tend to take a back-seat.”

Close Encounter: The breakthrough Wolf Alice single, Fluffy

Close Encounter: The breakthrough Wolf Alice single, Fluffy

It must seem like an age since February 2013’s debut single Fluffy signalled the start of a public clamour for this Camden outfit.

They have after all slowly worked towards this big moment, their sound evolving, giving us a bit of everything en route, via that year’s Blush EP then last year’s Creature Songs EP, alternating between indie ballads, folky anthems, and Hole-like ‘grunge screamers with big poppy choruses’.

And all the way along there have been plenty of live dates in Europe and the US, the band ‘noodling away’ on their apprenticeship while fighting not to be pigeon-holed.

So has this album seemed a long time in coming?

“Oh well, yeah! For me and Ellie it’s coming up to six years since we set out, and for the rest it’s three or four years, or something like that.

“But I think we’ve done it right. A lot of bands get to a point and release an album when they’re not ready and the songs aren’t ready, and they haven’t quite got the fan-base either.

“They seem to think if you release an album based on hype, it will do well. But it’s been proved these last couple of years that doesn’t really work.

“You need that fan-base that buys tickets to come to your shows, gets involved and has enough of a narrative to get into and stay with the band.”

Giant Peach: A Wolf Alice crowd favourite

Giant Peach: A Wolf Alice crowd favourite

I suppose the fact that you’ve reworked a few crowd favourites on this album shows how you’ve moved on during that past couple of years. I loved the songs as they were, but you can see how you’ve progressed all the same.

“Definitely. What we’re producing now is a lot more … you know ….”

He falters there. Is it a bit more ‘you’?

“I should hope so, and I think it’s chilled out a bit since the earlier stuff. We were maybe overly-loud and overly ferocious then.

“But I think that was a reaction to not being listened to in the beginning. Now we’ve got to a point where we’ve been able to show another side as well.”

And hone that spirit a bit?

“Yeah, definitely.”

So how much of an influence was producer Mike Crossey (who previously worked with Arctic Monkeys and Foals, among others) on the album? And was the band’s choice?

“Erm, he was recommended by the label, and he was alright … yeah.”

Joff seems a little reticent to say too much. I try again. It got a bit intense at times in the studio over your five-week recording stint in London’s Wood Green, didn’t it?

“Yeah, but I’m sure it does with everyone, really, and he’s good at getting a good performance out of you.”

Judging by the results, he’s not wrong, and My Love Is Cool is a joy to behold, a sparkling debut with so much depth.

Friendship Group: Wolf Alice's Bros

Friendship Group: Wolf Alice’s Bros

It’s stunning in places for these ears, from the Smoke Fairies-like ethereal feel of measured opener Turn to Dust and the already-familiar but neatly-reworked Bros – where we really get started – onwards.

There are traces of Harriet Wheeler in Ellie’s vocals on both, before the blown-away qualities of slow-building powerhouse You Love’s Whore, complete with its glorious stop-start structure, our front-girl finally going ballistic around the three and a half minute mark.

That seamless switch between breathy and manic continues on You’re a Germ, Joel vocally shadowing on the lead-up to a mighty chorus, while Lisbon takes me back to the sheer indie pop of The Primitives.

Alternatively, Silk carries a moody undercurrent reminiscent of The The, with gallons of invention, anthemic in places amid Catatonia-esque mass vocals, its huge sound never too polished.

The more laidback Freazy is in effect Wolf Alice’s theme tune and this album’s title track, joyously-catchy and the perfect statement that leads us to the guitar-happy rock fruit that is Giant Peach. Imagine Can’s Mother Sky crossed with Black Sabbath’s Paranoid.

In comes Joel at that supercharged moment for the more dreamy Swallowtail, his own dulcet tones working a treat as we gather pace ahead of a mighty finish, Ellie given a welcome breather ahead of the sweet electronica of Soapy Water.

There’s no mistaking the unmistakable opening bars of the frantic, thrilling Fluffy from there, again subtly rearranged to great effect, taking me back to Elastica at their best.

And like the album itself, it’s not a second too long, The Wonderwhy soon seeing us out in reflective style on an album this cool collective can truly be proud of.

You can judge for yourself of course, and I recommend catching them live while you’re at it. And beyond Glastonbury, Wolf Alice have more big festival dates coming up in the UK and Europe, including Leeds and Reading, Jersey Live, Latitude, Longitude, and T in the Park.

Then there’s an eight-date tour, heading between Bristol Academy (September 16) and Brixton Academy (September 26).

Float Upstream: Wolf Alice have taken to the indie scene like, erm ... musicans to the water

Float Upstream: Wolf Alice have taken to the indie scene like, erm … musicans to the water

That also takes in Birmingham Institute (September 17), Glasgow ABC (September 19), Newcastle University (September 21), Sheffield Plug (September 22), Southampton Guildhall (September 23), and Manchester Albert Hall (September 25), the latter giving me the initial excuse for talking to the band.

“We’ve toured pretty extensively over the last couple of years, and while I don’t think we’ve done the Albert Hall up there before, we played The Ritz not too long ago, which was super-cool.”

With that, Joff had to break away, running back to rejoin the band transport and head further west ahead of his big weekend.

What a winner it proved to be too, and you can still catch their 45-minute set via the BBC website at time of going to press.

Starting with a ‘sit up and take notice’ Fluffy, a dynamic You’re a Germ and an intense Your Lover’s Whore, they were straight out of the traps, but the epitome of charm and mischief between songs.

There were three songs from Blush and two from Creature Songs in a set identical to a secret gig on the William’s Green stage the previous night, by all accounts.

A beaming Ellie declared the band were ‘having the best time ever’, despite heavy rain from part-way through.

While she clearly owns the camera, she struggled with her mic. stand, employing commendable limbo skills to carry on singing ‘Don’t leave me here’ (rather fittingly) from the floor on The Wonderwhy, Joff soon coming to the rescue.

Think Pink: Ellie, in the dress that beguiled Glastonbury first time around, and the band take a break

Think Pink: Ellie, in the dress that beguiled Glastonbury first time around, and the band take a break

The weather was inclement by the time we reached Bros, Theo announcing, “Everyone’s f*^*ing friends in this field, so let’s all have a dance’.

And after Joff implored the crowd to ‘get ready to go hard’, Giant Peach took the vibe to new levels, inspiring a mud-charged mass pogo.

Theo told the assembled it had all been a ‘dream come true’ before finale Moaning Lisa Smile, Ellie soon ‘out of control’, gliding aloft a sea of hands during a memorable bout of crowd-surfing. briefly returning to help Joel out on drums before heading back out there.

It’s been an amazing year for Wolf Alice, and we’re only half-way through. Where they go from here is irrelevant to a point, but I can’t see why they shouldn’t take it up a whole ‘nother notch.

Until then, they have every right to revel in what they’ve achieved so far. And their love is indeed cool.

To find out all the latest from the band, including details of this year’s festival dates and the September tour, head to www.wolfalice.co.uk.

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