Into 2016 … and 103,000 hits can’t be bad

Going Underground: Rick Buckler, down in the tube station (Photo: Tony Briggs)

Going Underground: Rick Buckler, down in the tube station (Photo: Tony Briggs)

As the hands reached midnight on New Year’s Eve, the minions behind the scenes at writewyattuk.com polished off the last of the Irish cream (explaining at least one of those empty bottles that next morning) and got to work on a selection box of quotes from interviews on this site from 2015, when we attracted a best-ever 50,929 page views – taking our running total to 103,104 hits since a speculative toe into the worldwide web’s waters 45 months earlier on March 29th, 2012.

While I’m playing the number game, all bar 8,000 of those hits came in the last two years, and (before you all doze off) those figures haven’t dipped under 2,500 per month for the past 18 months. As I’ve put it before, it’s hardly a viral concern, but certainly encouraging, even if my wordpress hosts don’t reckon we attract enough traffic to invite any advertising yet. I need to act on that front soon though. Something has to give – I spend far too long here without it being an additional source of income. Many writers are poorly paid for their craft (please don’t quote Jo Rowling’s earnings at me, because her success offers a rare example of a Willy Wonka golden ticket), and a lot of writing professionals I’ve got to mingle with these last few years remain second wage-earners in their household. But there comes a point where I may have to (reluctantly) jettison this part of my working life if I’m to keep a roof over my children’s heads. Just saying.

Highlights of the last 12 months? Well, again I’ve spoken to a lot of my heroes and admired authors, comics and musicians, and the stats show my biggest hits were this blog’s interviews with Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder and The Jam’s drumming legend Rick Buckler (both amassing more than 3,000 views), Stranglers frontman Baz Warne (affording more than 2,500 views), Squeeze songwriting genius Chris Difford (more than 2,000 views), Goodies/radio comedy icon Graeme Garden (1,500-plus views) and comedy/folk icon Mike Harding (more than 1,000 views). There were also impressive stats for features on Undertones frontman Paul McLoone, multi-hatted Archdruid Julian Cope, crossover classical artist Lucy Kay, go-to wildlife aficionado Steve Backshall, and the mighty-voiced Elkie Brooks and Carol Decker.

You can also factor in a number of the previous year’s interviews still picking up major traffic, not least those featuring Canadian comic Katherine Ryan, Stranglers bass legend Jean-Jacques Burnel and From the Jam’s Russell Hastings. And there was also a fair bit of interest in this blog’s feature/interviews with Slade’s Dave Hill, Echo & the Bunnymen’s Will Sergeant, Icicle Works’ Ian McNabb, Status Quo veteran Francis Rossi, Band Aid creator Midge Ure, self-styled Goth detective Noel Fielding, music and broadcasting legends Jools Holland, Mark Radcliffe, Tom Robinson and Rick Wakeman, Cast inspiration John Power, ex-Strangler Hugh Cornwell, Inspiral Carpets/Rainkings’ Stephen Holt, Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, The Chameleons’ Mark Burgess, Milltown Brothers’ Matt Nelson, Dodgy’s Mathew Priest, Smoke Fairies’ Katherine Blamire, country noir’s Gretchen Peters, The Nouvelles’ Johnny Jackson, Big Red Bus’ Dave Spence, comic actress Crissy Rock, chief Dubious Brother Monty Mottram, esteemed authors Cathy Cassidy, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Kate Long, performance poets Attila the Stockbroker and Benjamin Zephaniah, and Motown legend Martha Reeves.

Many more features didn’t quite get the coverage I expected, not least a few comedy stars (stand up Bill Bailey, Lucy Beaumont, Jo Caulfield, Alan Davies, Justin Moorhouse and Dave Spikey), although – as opposed to the afore-mentioned Katherine Ryan – only the last two bothered to spread the word. But I’m also sure there are a few features here that will finally get wider recognition as word spreads (including the pieces with Wolf Alice’s Joff Oddie, Polly & the Billets Doux’s Polly Perry, Finch & The Moon’s Lee Parry, Buzzcocks’ Steve Diggle, The Cribs’ Gary Jarman, Leftfield’s Neil Barnes, and Public Service Broadcasting mastermind J Willgoose Esq.).

Anyway, I had diarised a cobbled-together celebration of this blog’s 2015 product for last week, but only returned from a festive visit to my old Surrey haunts in the late afternoon of the final day of the year, then had to overcome soggy broadband connections in flood-hit Lancashire. So here we are now instead, a few days later, with a taster of what we’ve showcased this past year from interviews I’ve conducted. Many appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post over that period, but there are a fair few more, and you’ll find a link in each case taking you back to the original.

So, albeit a little late, I wish you all a Happy New Year from everyone at writewyattuk.com (yep, that’s still just me really), and thank you for your new or continued support. Furthermore, feel free to stay with us in 2016, as it’s bound to be another special one (not in a Jose Mourinho style, mind). I won’t promise anything specific now, but let’s just say big plans are afoot.

And now that’s out of the way, grab yourself a cuppa (and maybe something to dunk in it) or something stronger, because here we go …

January

Lotta Bottle: We'll drink to that, Carol

Lotta Bottle: We’ll drink to that, Carol

Carol Decker (T’Pau) on the camaraderie of the ‘80s retro circuit

I’m not in the industry with a capital ‘I’ anymore. We’re in our own little bubble now. I’ve come to be proud of myself, doing shows like Rewind with people like Tony Hadley and other pals like Martin Fry and Kim Wilde. We were the big-hitters of our day, and we’re still going strong. I’m proud of that. You get people who’ll knock it and say ‘give it up’, but I’ll just shrug it off. That’s the downside of social media – everybody’s a keyboard warrior and you get some nasty people who live to troll. But I’m proud of myself and my friends, and I’ve been a professional singer for 27 years, earned a good living, and provide for my family. The phone’s still ringing and the bookings still come in, so I must have got something right!”

Elkie Brooks (born Elaine Bookbinder) on that distinctive voice

I’ve always had a husky voice, from being a little girl. My mother’s friends used to call me Tallulah Bankhead. I remember my headmistress saying, ‘You sound like a boy, Bookbinder!” I could never get in the school choir because it would always be too high for me. But I discovered a lot of black singers when I was 11 or 12 who also sang in my key. So I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m not the only one!’”

Uniform Guide: Julian Cope

Uniform Guide: Julian Cope

Julian Cope (The Teardrop Explodes) on his penchant for dressing up in old military gear

I think that in order to make the best impression, it’s best to disguise myself as an invader. Also, I’d ask, ‘Who put the fist in pacifist?’ It’s very important not to fall into middle age, but constantly try something new that you didn’t know how to do. Pablo Picasso said, ‘I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.’ When I finally learned to drive at the age of 34, there was a certain sense of freedom. I still live with that sense of freedom, and I’m always trying to serve new apprenticeships. Punk taught me to adopt an attitude of positivity, then you can achieve something. And what makes me more useful than most is that I just won’t be beaten.”

Jo Caulfield on falling into stand-up comedy in the mid-1980s

People are very organised with their lives these days, but I wasn’t at all. By complete chance, I fell into comedy. I liked being funny, as a waitress or behind a bar. I realised that was quite good currency and got a thrill out of making mates laugh. But it wasn’t until a friend did an open mic. comedy spot that I went along. I remember seeing a video of Steve Martin. Before then, apart from Dave Allen, it was men in shirts telling jokes. None of it rang true. But when I saw Steve I thought, ‘He’s just an idiot – anyone can do this!’ not realising he was very skilful, but made it look that way.”

February

Lee Parry (Finch and the Moon) on the influences that brought him and partner Caitlin Gilligan together – from the Everly Brothers to Woody Guthrie

Those harmony-driven influences were a big part of my growing up. And with Caitlin, her brother plays that kind of set, and with her parents that kind of stuff is played around the house quite a bit. There’s a nice kind of organic, freedom-fighting kind of influence there.”

Guitar Icon: Will Sergeant in early live action with The Bunnymen

Guitar Icon: Will Sergeant in early live action with The Bunnymen

Will Sergeant (Echo and the Bunnymen) on recording Crocodiles at Rockfield Studios, South Wales

It was probably the happiest time of my life, until all the usual marriage, kids and the rest of that. We’d never really experienced that before. We were just scumbags from Liverpool, but then all of a sudden treated by nice people. You’d go to the fridge and it would be stocked full of grub, rather than getting by on half a tin of beans. It was just brilliant. Ultimately, you pay for everything, but we didn’t really think of that at the time.”

J. Willgoose Esq. (Public Service Broadcasting) on the band’s second album, The Race for Space and a mission to ‘teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future’

For me, the interesting stuff happens between the lines of the past and present. It’s just reframing the past, putting it in a more modern context, I guess. That all sounds pretty pretentious and highbrow though. Really, we’re just sticking a beat underneath satellite noises.”

BBC Favourite: Gretchen Peters (Photo: http://www.gretchenpeters.com/)

BBC Favourite: Gretchen Peters (Photo: http://www.gretchenpeters.com/)

Gretchen Peters on being championed by the BBC by the likes of Bob Harris, Jools Holland and Terry Wogan

They’ve been very supportive and helpful. You’re so lucky here to have people like that who champion music they personally love. It’s not everywhere you go that presenters can share what really moves them musically. I’ve found an audience so willing to embrace me, because I’m a bit of a hybrid. I’m a bit of a mutt, coming from a lot of different musical places – that didn’t seem to work for me as well in the States in 1996 as it did here. All the qualities that ensured I wasn’t a mainstream country artist there work for me in the UK.”

Johnnie Jackson (The Nouvelles) on his band’s relocation from Belfast and relaunch in Wigan, via Manchester

Our whole priority is just avoiding this whole X-Factor circus. All sorts of people seem to be sucked into this stardom idea. It’s not what we’re about at all. We’re a purist indie band. One venue recently said, ‘These guys are going to be playing arenas at £70 per head soon’, but that’s not us! It nearly got a bit too much for us, leading to our hiatus. There were lots of labels around and we weren’t sure if it was the right moment. So when we came back, we decided to launch ourselves in Greater Manchester. And it’s been a master-stroke. You get an element of peace in Wigan, you can focus on it all very easily and don’t get caught up in things. It was fantastic in Manchester, but the master-stroke was to get out, take our time and see if we really wanted this, away from the journalists and massive fan-base.”

March

Kazoo Kings: Old farts Graeme Garden and Barry Cryer on the set of BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue

Kazoo Kings: Old farts Graeme Garden and Barry Cryer on the set of BBC Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue

Graeme Garden, radio comedy stalwart and former Goodies star, on his Lancashire roots

I didn’t really see my Dad for a couple of years, he was abroad in the Medical Corps, picking up the pieces at the end of the war. But when he got back he moved to Preston and got a job there, we all moved down, and he and my Mum stayed for the rest of their lives. He was doing orthopaedic work and because of his war service was very interested in trauma surgery. One of the reasons he stayed was because of the Preston bypass, the first motorway, thinking there would be quite a lot of challenging trauma work. When he was running the casualty department at the old PRI, they were the first to put radios in the ambulances and send out to medical staff. I went away to boarding school when I was about eight, just coming back for holidays, but the family were there right until my Mum died two or three years ago. We lived just outside Broughton, and I went to the church school there. Funnily enough I was watching some Morris dancers the other day in the Cotswolds and one came up to me wearing a cheese on his head and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ I said I didn’t think so, and he said we were at Broughton School together. It’s a small world.”

Frank Cottrell Boyce, screenwriter turned children’s author, on being inspired by literature at school

I think it was around year six when I picked up the bug, doing that thing where you can make people laugh without being there. I had an amazing teacher, Sister Paul at my primary school in Rainhill, who if I wrote something funny, would read it out to the class. I would sit at the back, and even to this day if I’ve got a film out or a play or whatever, I’ll just sit at the back and think it’s just like being back in Sister Paul’s class.”

Library Legacy: Cathy Cassidy (Photo: Louise Llewelyn)

Library Legacy: Cathy Cassidy (Photo: Louise Llewelyn)

Cathy Cassidy, best-selling children’s author, on how libraries opened her eyes to reading and writing

I would go to visit libraries with my Dad and come out with armfuls of books. That was such an education to me, and the library gave me all that for nothing. If you didn’t like a book you could just take it back the next week. I discovered so many things, unveiled by that ability to just go in and pick something randomly off a shelf. I could never have become the person I am today without libraries, yet they’re under threat right now – including the three libraries I regularly visited. That breaks my heart. They say kids don’t read these days but we know different to that, not least through these children’s book show events and just how much it means to these children.”

Baz Warne (The Stranglers), on acceptance by the band and their fans as the front-man in his legendary outfit

They made me feel welcome and a part of it right from the word go. As far as they’re concerned, this is The Stranglers, and this line-up’s now been on the go nine years and we’ve done more than we’ve ever done, with the last two albums very well-received and JJ (Burnel) maintaining Giants is probably one of the best.”

Rasta Folkie: Benjamin Zephaniah gets serious

Rasta Folkie: Benjamin Zephaniah gets serious

Benjamin Zephaniah, Brummie author and poet, on choosing to settle in rural Lincolnshire

I’ve always gone on about multi-culturalism, and multi-cultural Britain means I shouldn’t just have to live in areas that are seen as multi-cultural. I have the right to live in a small village, even if I made a few jokes at first, saying I was the only Black in the village. I’ve been in this small village just outside Spalding for some time, and often meet people who say – if they’re relaxed enough around me – I’m the first Black person I’ve met. There are people there who have never been out of the area. I’ve a close friend who does my handiwork who’s never been out of that area. People tend to think those that live in the countryside are all rich and privileged. But rural poverty is brutal, probably even more so that inner city poverty. If the lights go out, you can meet on the corner in an inner city. In the countryside it really goes dark, and places really close. If you miss a bus, you’ve had it! There are lots of suicides too, lots of quiet drug problems, and real issues.”

Attila the Stockbroker on his reinvention as a performance poet 30 years ago

I’d been a bass player in punk bands, but I’d always been writing poetry and songs on the mandolin and wanted to earn my living out of it. My parents were both talented performers, and I just got this idea it would work getting up on stage between bands and shouting poetry. That’s what I did, and at the time I was doing this job in the city for a stockbroker’s company, hence this stage name. I went down quite well and it wasn’t very long before I was on the front cover of Melody Maker and getting sessions for John Peel.”

Sea View: Wayne Hemingway returns to his Morecambe roots

Sea View: Wayne Hemingway returns to his Morecambe roots

Wayne Hemingway, fashion designer, on his continuing love for hometown Morecambe

It’s not quite back to the vibrancy it had when I was growing up, but it’s certainly in a better position than quite a few seaside towns. It also has something quite a few of those don’t have – that amazing view across to the Lakes. There are very few things more dramatic than watching the tide coming in and going out at Morecambe Bay at the speed it does. And it’s blessed with a pretty good climate and a lovely long seafront you can cycle or walk along.”

April

Rick Buckler on the need to heal wounds with The Jam bandmates Paul Weller and Bruce Foxton

I’m actually sick to death of all that griping. To be honest, a lot of it has come from Paul’s camp. I don’t know why, but I don’t really even want to go there. This was really just from my point of view and the success of the band. It obviously had a big effect ton my life as well as Bruce’s and Paul’s but whenever I talk to fans there is this real connection that it had an effect on them as well. They were part of The Jam as much as we were. I think that connection was really important and don’t think you see that with many other bands.”

Crissy Rock, actress and stand-up comic, on being discovered by film director Ken Loach for a key role in Ladybird, Ladybird

I just thought I was going to be an extra. I’m just dead down to earth. My grandmother always said, ‘Earn respect, don’t demand it’. I’m an ordinary person who just happens to have an unusual job.”

Derry's Finest: From the left, Damian O'Neill, Billy Doherty, Paul McLoone, Michael Bradley, John O'Neill

Derry’s Finest: Damian O’Neill, Billy Doherty, Paul McLoone, Michael Bradley, John O’Neill

Paul McLoone (The Undertones), Feargal Sharkey’s replacement, on hearing the band for the first time in 1978

I was around 11 when Teenage Kicks came out and my first memory of the band is actually not getting to see them! They were scheduled to play a show in a small working men’s club in the Bogside, Derry, where I grew up. People were very excited about this free show, but I wasn’t allowed to go, because it would be full of ‘those punks’. I also remember a friend called Colm who had the Teenage Kicks EP and brought it to Mass. We were sat at the back looking at it. It had a couple of expletives on the back written on a wall, so there was this frisson of transgression about reading that in that setting! I was also fascinated by the fact that I’d never seen an EP before, the fact that it had two tracks on each side. What sorcery was this? Then there were those first Top of the Pops appearances. Even then I had an idea I was going to be a musician, an embryonic notion that this was what I wanted to do. Seeing these guys from your street up there proved to be an incredible lightning bolt. It absolutely short-circuited this idea that it couldn’t be you! These guys were not just from Derry, but were really ordinary guys who hadn’t even dressed up. There was this really powerful sense of, ‘That could be me!’ It was a tremendously important thing that they achieved. Let’s not labour the point, but Derry was going through really terrible times. Yet this was such a positive thing.”

Mike Harding on making it big as a comedian and folk singer

Years ago I was having a pint with Billy Connolly after a play I did for Manchester Youth Theatre. We were talking about someone else who’d not quite made it, despite being in the same situation as us on that folk stand-up circuit, and he said, ‘He was incredibly talented but he never went that extra mile’. The difference between genius and being very good is sometimes 10,000 hours of practise. I’ often sit down and work really hard at what I was trying to do with a show. I wouldn’t write down every word but I’d always have some kind of plan, so even though it looked like I was making it all up as I went along I knew where I was.”

May

Two's Company: Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, aka Smoke Fairies

Two’s Company: Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, aka Smoke Fairies

Katherine Blamire (Smoke Fairies) on the band’s love of science

Our imaginations are continually sparked by ideas of flight and space, and imagery to do with all that comes into our songs a lot. I feel like we’re always looking outwards. We’ve never been able to stop looking to the sky really. I don’t think we’re particularly scientific, although I do read a lot of books about things like string theory, trying to understand all that. I could probably cobble together some kind of spaceship, but I’m not sure how far I’d get.”

Matt Nelson (Milltown Brothers) on his band’s initial success

We could have gone very folky or could have gone a bit more jingly-jangly. At the time everything was dominated by that whole Manchester scene, so we had to play the game really. It wasn’t a million miles from what we were doing anyway. We’d had Barney playing organ since the start. But we styled our haircuts and wore baggy trousers. Actually, my kids can barely watch the videos now.”

Stephen Holt (Inspiral Carpets/The Rainkings) on recording again with his side-project

Raining Champions: The Rainkings

Raining Champions: The Rainkings

After Another Time, I wanted to do some new tunes. And when we recorded those first three songs they came out so well I felt we needed to do something again. After waiting a year and holding on to those, I felt they were too good not to be heard. Rather than chasing people trying to get them released, jumping through hoops and doing it on their terms … well, I’ve seen the mistakes some of the bigger labels can make and decided I can make those mistakes myself! With the Inspirals, there’s always been that get-up-and-do-it work ethic – making us think if no one else is prepared to do it, we’ll do it ourselves. It’s the old punk ethos really. So now – as The Rainkings – we’ve decided to have a go ourselves and be in control that way.”

Gary Jarman (The Cribs) on what it’s like to play in a band with his two brothers

We’re more like best friends really. As with most siblings, we argue a lot about petty things – but nothing major. With some artistic partnerships it’s usually about a clash of egos, but I like to think the three of us are pretty free of that. We’re all on the same team. The reason we started a band was because we all had the same influences, feelings and intentions, and that’s been unwavering over the years. We couldn’t imagine being able to get on with anyone else. It’s best to be in a band with people you trust 100 per cent.”

Van Go: Polly and the Billets Doux arrive at their next destination.

Van Go: Polly and the Billets Doux arrive at their next destination.

Polly Perry (Polly and the Billets Doux) on her band’s many influences

I think we’ll always remain a band with split personalities! We all love so many different kinds of music, and I like it that we bring in so many genres. But I feel we want to be a bit edgier, a bit heavier, take more risks, and we’re interested in bringing other sounds and rhythms in.”

June

Lucy Kay, crossover classical singer, on overcoming bullying

I was badly bullied. I’d moved when I was four to this new city, Nottingham, and didn’t really know anyone, and nor did my Mum. We had a different accent, and I just wasn’t very good at making friends. Also, Dad had left. Sometimes children need that stability. For me, my only rock was my Mum. I was bullied from around seven upwards. It went on until my 20s, actually. I joined the Cantamus girls choir, and was with them every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That made me unpopular and uncool, singing ‘God music’ as people saw it. By the time I was 10 or 11, people were saying they’d seen me on Songs of Praise, If I’d had any guts I’d have questioned why they were watching in the first place! At the time I was frightened, just wanted to keep my head down. People do anything to fit in, and some of those that bullied me were just doing it because others were doing it, thinking that was the way to gain power. The reason I decided to talk about all that is that my singing helped me through those bad times. That’s important for young boys and girls in that situation – if you have a passion for music or anything really, you’ve got to hold on to it. Whether you’re having a bad time at home, at school or anywhere, things like that can help. Music did it for me. I hate that it happened, but it makes you who you are.”

Jools Holland on the magic that still lives on in venues like The Empress Ballroom, Blackpool

Blackpool has a romance to it, and is one of the most iconic towns in Britain. When you have a place where people have gathered and enjoyed themselves over the years, even when they’re not there a certain resonance stays. I think that’s happened in Blackpool, particularly at the Empress Ballroom. All those that saw big bands there and enjoyed themselves – something of that stays in the room, even when all the people have gone.”

Creative Force: Neil Barnes, the main energy behind Leftfield today

Creative Force: Neil Barnes, the main energy behind Leftfield today

Neil Barnes (Leftfield) on the latest album and where the band are today

There’s always an honesty to the music. It’s genuine and comes from a genuine place. There’s an element of bravery too – after all this time I do feel like I’m jumping into the unknown a little. Some of the things that have happened in my life over the last two years have been very sad, and that’s reflected in the music. But it’s uplifting too. There’s a very emotional bedrock in everything I do, a genuine emotion that’s underneath it all. That’s precisely the feeling I’m trying to get across.”

Gary Taylor (New York Tourists) on his audition to join his band

I was looking for bands and scouring the internet and they messaged me off a website, leading to this nerve-racking audition. They had all their mates in the room, around 10 people in all. There were no songs written at that stage, so I sang a Kings of Leon song, Molly’s Chambers, and that’s how it all sort of kicked off.”

July

Francis Rossi (Status Quo), on touring after all these years

You look at the itinerary and it looks great – a few days here, then a day off. But when you’re doing it, it’s like … 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, then in the morning get on a private plane we use occasionally and fly to Vienna, get in our bus again, and oh, Jeez! I’m kind of sick of travelling, although 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 said, ‘Let’s go to Italy’, but I said, ‘I don’t want to travel’. He goes, ‘Yeah! We can get a nice hotel …’ I said, ‘I don’t want to stay in a hotel!’ I’ve been living out of suitcases since I was 16. Holidays for me are pretty much coming home and being here.”

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

No Hype: Wolf Alice

Joff Oddie (Wolf Alice) on finding success with fellow founder member Ellie Rowsell

It’s coming up to six years since we set out, 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.”

Martha Reeves (Martha & the Vandellas) on recording Motown classic Nowhere to Run 

I’d returned from the road, coming back a little weary, with a bout of flu, but was called to do a session, and you don’t let anything stop you getting to that Motown mic. We’d have competitions with the producers as to who’d get the next song, and with Holland/ Dozier/ Holland the most prolific songwriters, we’d push and shove to get to them. The minute I heard it, something inside 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’. I didn’t feel great, but the condition I was in was expressed completely in the deliverance of that song.”

Back Then: Steve Diggle, of Buzzcocks fame

Back Then: Steve Diggle, of Buzzcocks fame

Steve Diggle (Buzzcocks) on the writing process behind one of the band’s big hits

Promises was my song, but I left the verses at home! There’s a demo where I’m making the verse up as I go along. Pete was by the mixing desk, so it was just me, John (Maher, drums) and Steve (Garvey, bass). He said, ‘I think I’ve got some verses for that melody’. It was going to be a socio-political song about promises made by the Government. I said, ‘You’ve turned it into a **** love song!’ Having said that, it worked out well all round. That’s the thing with lots of the songwriting. We complement each other.”

Mathew Priest (Dodgy) on his band playing more rural locations now and again

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. 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 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.”

August

Bass Instinct: Tom Robinson (© Jill Furmanovsky/rockarchive.com)

Bass Instinct: Tom Robinson (© Jill Furmanovsky/rockarchive.com)

Tom Robinson, punk survivor and BBC 6 Music presenter, on owning a Grey Cortina in 1979

The first day I took it out I got into a race with some 17-year-old that had just started driving his father’s Vauxhall or something. He was racing away from the lights. The Cortina beat him, but I made the mistake – rather than going home and having a nice cup of tea – of pulling over to the side of the road to gloat as he went past. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a good driver and thought he’d drive really close and give me a scare. He rear-ended the Cortina just outside Shepherd’s Bush police station, writing it off. It had taken me about a year to get enough money to buy it too.”

Chris Difford (Squeeze) on touring and learning to get on again with songwriting partner Glenn Tilbrook

It’s been very good for us to go out and play with the bare bones, and I think people enjoy it. We’re taking the show to America at the end of the year, so we’ll see what they make of it there. That should be an experience. I think in time you do get to understand each other much better, so the process of time has really healed a lot of wounds, and we’re getting on extremely well. So it’s all good really.”

Kate Long, on working hard to make it as a best-selling author, whatever barriers you face

I’ve been a writer who can write when she needs to, managing to squeeze it in anywhere. I just set myself a word count and make myself get up to it. I think the less precious you can be about when and where you write, the more productive and the more practical it is, really. If you have nothing else to do other than write, you can claim whatever part of the day you like, for calling down the muse. But I’ve got children, a house, a job, and other things going on. I always have pen and paper somewhere, and if it comes to it, I’ll write on my hand. I’ve learned the hard way. If you don’t get stuff down, it vanishes. I once met a foster mum, at one point with five foster children in the house, who locked herself in the bathroom for half an hour early each morning, doing her writing then.”

Owl's That: Steve Backshall and a feathered friend prepare to tour

Owl’s That: Steve Backshall and a feathered friend prepare to tour

Steve Backshall, wildlife expert, naturalist, writer and TV presenter, on how nervous he felt first getting on a stage

I was very, very nervous, really scared. But everyone’s always so nice and kind, and the reception’s always really positive. Eventually you get this sense of warmth from the crowd, which sets you at your ease. Now I actually quite enjoy it. It’s very different from just being out with just a couple of crew in the wild. There’s an immediacy of reaction and positivity which is immensely rewarding, particularly getting to see a whole new generation growing up to do essentially what I do for a living.”

Justin Moorhouse, comic actor/stand-up comedian, on time and again being recognised as the guy from Phoenix Knights with the tiger face-paint

If I go somewhere with my daughter and she wants her face painted, I can’t be the one who takes her! Can you imagine it? ‘What do you want to look like?’ ‘Oh, like my Dad please!’ I’ve seen it before, face-painting at fairs, where people have actually had pictures of me“.

September

Keyboard King: Rick Wakeman lets loose (Photo: Lee Wilkinson /(http://www.lwmultimedia.co.uk/LWMultimedia.html)

Keyboard King: Rick Wakeman lets loose (Photo: Lee Wilkinson /(http://www.lwmultimedia.co.uk/LWMultimedia.html)

Rick Wakeman, keyboard wizard, prog legend and broadcasting regular, on his lesser-known past as a session musician

My wife was only born in 1974, and when we met she knew nothing of what I did. But around three years in, Morning was Broken was played on the radio and the DJ mentioned I played piano on that. She said, “You did that? That’s one of my favourite records of all time!’ About an hour later they then played Life on Mars, and she found out I was on that too, saying, ‘Hunky Dory’s one of my favourite albums ever! I think you and I had better sit down and you can tell me whatever else you’ve played on.’”

Dave Spence (Big Red Bus) on supporting The Stone Roses

We were given a tape and told we were supporting them the following week, and while we’d heard of them the first time we saw them was when we came off the stage at Preston Guild Hall and went back out front. We were just blown away by what they were doing. I don’t know what it held then, but the foyer wasn’t even full. It was just – and remains so – the most electric atmosphere I’d ever encountered at a live event. It was amazing, and they were riding the wave at the right time.”

Added Wisdom: Shaun Ryder (Photo: Elspeth Moore)

Added Wisdom: Shaun Ryder (Photo: Elspeth Moore)

Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays) on his band’s Manchester gigging roots

We played places like The Boardwalk, originally for around 300 people, then Corbieres, where we had a mad little show for around 100 people. To tell you the truth, small venues make for great rock’n’roll shows but terrified me. I can play 10,000 to 20,000 capacity venues and it doesn’t bother me – it’s showbusiness! But when you do the small venues … places like Corbieres, that’s where you got your stripes. There was no stage – you were eye-to-eye with the punters. And you’re at your most vulnerable when you’re wiggling your snake hips and someone’s staring right at you, 20 inches away.”

Alan Davies, stand-up comic and TV/radio regular, on choosing Little Victories as the title of his latest show

Actually I wanted to call this show – following on from the previous one Sex is Pain. But my Australian promoters asked if it might start attracting people expecting a different kind of evening. And I said, ‘That’s a fair point, well made! I’ll think of something else.’”

October

Waiting Game: Heaven 17's Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware

Waiting Game: Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware

Martyn Ware (Heaven 17) on the album How Men Are

We knew we were going to have to work incredibly hard to try and top The Luxury Gap, and spent a lot of time and money on that album. To their eternal credit, Virgin basically gave us a blank cheque and said, ‘Just go for it!’ We recorded it in Air Studios and spent £300,000 on that album. That would equate to way over a million now. We just threw everything at it, and I thought it was a really brave statement. The only reason it didn’t quite do as well as we and the record company hoped is because we were about to do This is Mine on Top of the Pops when Glenn (Gregory) ruptured his cartilage the evening before. He was in such excruciating pain that he couldn’t do it and was in hospital. The producer said, essentially, if we didn’t do it, we’d never work in this town again. And we never did get any more Top of the Pops appearances for the rest of that album.”

Bill Bailey on exploring his towns and surroundings while on tour with his comedy shows

It is a bit daunting, and there are the ups and downs, like being away from home. The novelty of hotels wore off a long time ago. What I tend to long for are the other experiences – to explore wherever I am, to get out there and get into the outdoors and educate myself a bit about every place I go to. I recognise I’ve been fortunate, and it’s a fortunate profession to be in, and I don’t want to squander that opportunity. I get the chance to go all around Britain, and see so much of it. I get the chance to go watching birds, walking and hiking. There’s always somewhere near the place I am which offers up some sort of interesting quirk about Britain, hitherto unknown.”

Pistols Offer: Midge Ure

Pistols Offer: Midge Ure

Midge Ure, former Ultravox frontman, on turning down Malcolm McLaren’s offer to join the Sex Pistols

It was more important that he got someone who looked the part than someone who could be the part. It was less about making music than it was about using music as a vehicle to sell clothes. I just felt that was wrong. You can’t ask someone to join a band without knowing what it is they do.”

Ian McNabb (The Icicle Works), on the process of writing his autobiography, Merseybeast

It was a completely cathartic and very therapeutic experience, and I’d recommend everyone to do the same. You don’t have to be famous or anything to just go through your life and try and write it down in an interesting and readable way, and you get to explain various things to yourself as well as other people.”

Taking Mic: Dave Spikey

Taking Mic: Dave Spikey

Dave Spikey on his brand of humour and a continued love for newspaper headlines

I consider most headlines to be punchlines. It’s the perfect definition, something you set up with an opening paragraph summarising it all, then tell the story, and bang – your headline draws attention to that story. There are two sorts, ones where journalists are really clever in the way they’ve done it, mainly with ambiguity and a play on words, then some you just shouldn’t publish, and I get sent them from all over the world now. There was one from The Baltimore Sun recently about the weather, which read ‘Eight and a half inches make June the wettest for a long time’. Just what were they thinking of? Then there are stories that just demand a punchline, like one from the Hartlepool Mail, which said how police boarded a shop in the harbour to arrest a drunken sailor in conjunction with the harbour police at 5.30am. You just wonder what they’re going to do with the drunken sailor that early in the morning.”

John Power (Cast) on enjoying life again with his band

We’ve been selling out on the night for pretty much the whole of this tour. That’s a really good sign. We’re not just playing the main musical strongholds. We’re playing all over the place, and places we haven’t really been for a long time or not at all. That shows us that out there’s a lot of affection for the band. And I think the audience needed to know that we’re out there and doing it, and we need to know they’re there. So this year has already been creative and positive. The band has spent a lot of time together and we’re also coming up with an album we never thought we were going to this time last year.”

November

Totally Wired: Noel Fielding is plugged in (Image: Dave Brown)

Totally Wired: Noel Fielding is plugged in (Image: Dave Brown)

Noel Fielding pondering which band in history he’d like to go back and join, given the chance

It would have to be the ‘70s, in the days of glam probably … or prog. Marc Bolan’s band, or a proggy rock band like Hawkwind. I love all that stuff, and Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. Me and Julian (Barratt) were obsessed with all that – the dressing up and the weird psychedelic, frightening stuff.”

Hugh Cornwell, former Stranglers frontman, on being labelled a punk back in the day

It was an opportunity, and no one can convince me The Police were a punk band, or Blondie were a punk band, or Elvis Costello was a punk. Yet we didn’t care what they called us. Who cares! It was an opportunity for us to break into the music business and gain an audience. And it’s funny, because all the people that were on the periphery were the ones that came through and on to bigger things.”

Monty Mottram (Dubious Brothers) on the ‘lightbulb moment’ that inspired the band

It was The Singing Detective. That pretty much changed my life, certainly musically. The way Dennis Potter juxtaposed the old music and made it darker. It was chirpy, sweet, 1930s’ and 1940s’ innocent music, yet he put it in a context of something that was much darker. That was one of the catalysts for what we eventually became. We were still synth-poppy, and didn’t really change until the first album. South America Welcomes the Nazis got a bit more swingy, but that darker old music hall, decaying Britain thing didn’t really happen until that first album.”

Richard Houghton, on his love for The Rolling Stones, the subject of his book, You Had To Be There! Live 1962-1969

Essentially, the Stones started out as a pub band playing music very few people wanted to hear and so the audiences were often no more than a handful of enthusiasts. The band would just step off the stage and wander up to the bar during the interval, and there are some great anecdotes from contributors, with Mick showing someone how to play the harmonica or Keith teaching someone a chord. Once the vibe about how great a live act they were started to spread, and when they’d had a hit with Not Fade Away, things started to take off very quickly.”

Electric Dreams: Lucy Beaumont waits for a bus home

Electric Dreams: Lucy Beaumont waits for a bus home to Hull

Lucy Beaumont on her hometown receiving City of Culture status for 2017 and what makes Hull tick 

“It’s had hard knocks has Hull, but deserves this. Let’s just hope people visit. It’s about the people, and the community spirit. People care about each other. That’s so important, and you sense it. When you’re proud of where you’re from it gives a place an atmosphere. You’re not living there because you have to work there, but because you’ve got roots there, and those bases are special. It’s been a long time coming, and we need some recognition. You wouldn’t believe the amount of professional actors, writers, artists and musicians who come out of Hull. For such a small place, it’s incredible, and people need to know.”

December

Mark Radcliffe, broadcaster/part-time rock’n’roll legend, on some of the puzzling decisions his former band The Shirehorses made

We made a lot of odd decisions back then, like doing a full tour and never having any t-shirts. I remember sitting in the pub, saying if we get these t-shirts done we’d have to go and see someone in Preston. We decided we couldn’t be bothered, deciding to stay and have another couple of pints. That was how our decisions were made. We weren’t exactly young businessmen of the year.”

Mark Burgess (Chameleons Vox), on finding success after approaching legendary DJ John Peel

It all happened very fast, in fact the day after our session for John Peel went out. And our lives completely changed. We were really surprised how incredulous people were when we later explained how we got on there. We didn’t realise the length people went to get his attention. All we did was go down and hang around outside the BBC, waiting for him, giving him our tape, talking to John for about 10 minutes. That was on the Friday, then on the Monday morning he phoned me – at our house. I thought someone was winding me up, doing an impression. He had to convince me.”

Alive Presence: Slade, 2015 style, live in Ekaterinburg, Russia

Alive Presence: Slade, 2015 style, live in Ekaterinburg, Russia

Dave Hill (Slade), asked whether he remembered playing Preston Public Hall with his band in 1971 and 1972

I guess we must have knocked on most doors in our country, and certainly did in Manchester, Liverpool, Preston … it becomes a haze. We were a young bunch of guys travelling in an Austin J2 van, then a Transit when we could afford it, travelling up to your neck of the woods, whether it be playing a ballroom, a Mecca, a pub … we covered a lot of ground. There was an awful lot going on with us. We’d been in the ball park a long time, but by the time we’d actually started to score a goal – a hit record with Get Down Get With it – we were everywhere. Certainly by ’72 and ’73 we were the biggest thing of the time, like The Beatles of the ‘70s.”

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About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/writewyattuk/ and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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