January to June 2017 – the writewyattuk review: the first six months …

Welcome Strangers: The Blue Aeroplanes, touring in January 2017 around the UK

Blue Aeroplanes frontman Gerard Langley on the band’s early days: “When we started out, we got out of Bristol as much as we could, but would often be third on the bill, playing without a soundcheck. We thought we’d just run around a lot and make plenty of noise. You couldn’t hear yourself anyway. That’s kind of how all that started. Then there was having lots of guitarists on the last song – the most we had was 16 on Breaking in My Heart.

Looking Up: James Taylor, still out there, striving to move the room in 2017

James Taylor on John Peel’s support for the James Taylor Quartet and their 1987 breakthrough: “It was a good time, wasn’t it? It was nowhere near as saccharine and fascist as it is now. As long as you were doing something interesting and exciting, that was enough. These days it’s about kids coming out of college with PHDs in writing pop songs, which completely misses the point. Peelie was amazing, and got us started … completely.”

Band Substance: Rose McDowall gives her all at The Continental in Preston (Photo copyright: John Middleham)

Rose McDowall, on a tricky work/life balance relocation dilemma, leaving Glasgow in 1983: “It was Orange Juice who said, ‘Look out for Strawberry Switchblade’, and everything happened really fast. It was pretty exciting. We were very young, but I was married with a child, which meant a wee bit of extra work, as opposed to being a footloose, fancy-free teenager. When you’ve a child who’s already started school, it’s way more of an upheaval. But it was all good. I moved to London about two months before my daughter and husband moved down for definite, until we’d found a place to live.”

Tunnel Vision: Den Davis with Paul and Nicky Weller, About the Young Idea, Liverpool (Photo: Den Davis).

About the Young idea exhibition co-organiser and Jam fan Den Davis, on his most treasured item of memorabilia: “I find it hard to part with anything; I’ve kept it all so long, in such great condition. There’s so many items, but my autographed Skegness train ticket from 1981 is a fave. There will be a time I let it go though, as my kids don’t want to inherit it from me. They’re just not into collecting and nostalgia.”

Strictly Glamour: Brendan Cole, out on the floor, in mixed company in 2017

Strictly Come Dancing star Brendan Cole on swapping roofing and the building profession for ballroom dancing in his formative days in New Zealand: “I left (school) at 16, knowing I probably wasn’t going to follow an academic career – all I really wanted to do was get out there and look after myself. I didn’t want to have to ask Mum for $8 a week for my scooter petrol money. I wanted to earn my way up. I was always driven in that respect. I probably would have gone on to be a builder, have a building firm, run my own business. Instead I decided to try the dancing dream. That sounds weird, but I played lots of sport and was into everything. But the dancing was consistent.”

City Slickers: The Chesterfields tick off New York City … then contemplate Preston – Helen, Andy, Rob, Simon.

Simon Barber on the ‘magical mystery tour’ that set Somerset band the Chesterfields on their way to indie success: “We’d never played outside Yeovil, but a friend of ours was running a fanzine called Screed in the area and putting gigs on, bringing Bogshed and others down. He was asked by the Big Twang Club and Especially Yellow fanzine, run by Johnny Dee in Brighton, to organise a gig in a pub in the middle of nowhere. That was The Railway Inn, Templecombe, with two coachloads of indie kids from Brighton taken on a ‘magical mystery tour’ one Saturday. They didn’t have a clue where they were going, but visited Stonehenge and the Cerne Abbas Giant, then arrived for this gig featuring The June Brides, The Shop Assistants and us. Nobody had heard of us, but Johnny Dee and Martin were there, and I think Phill Jupitus was in the bar doing his Porky the Poet thing. We had the whole Brighton scene in this pub, plus all our mates. It was a fantastic night, and we were great. Davey was really on form, everyone loved him and us, and Martin pretty much signed us to Subway straight away.”

Truck’n’Roll: Doug Perkins and the Spectaculars take it easy (Photo: Dave Brown)

Jose Jacobs, aka Slim Spectacular, on how Doug Perkins & The Spectaculars got their name: “The original name was going to be The Spectacles, but we decided we needed something more ‘50s, and for some reason looked up who was the CEO of Specsavers, learning about Doug and Mary Perkins. We felt we couldn’t get a more rock’n’roll name than Doug Perkins. In fact, Doug became a big fan, the band having played the high street optician chain’s annual party at his Guernsey HQ before now, even writing the track, Love is Blind to mark the occasion. And talking of high-profile backing, BBC radio presenter Mark Radcliffe said on his Radio 2 folk show, ‘If you saw that name outside a pub, you’d probably go in, wouldn’t you?’”

Cole Deliveries: William and Lloyd Cole in liaison at Preston Guild Hall (Photo: Michael Porter)

Lloyd Cole on discovering punk as a sixth former at Runshaw College, Leyland, Lancashire: “I remember the day Never Mind the Bollocks came out. Two of us played hooky to get to the record shop first thing to buy it on the day of release. We both paraded our copies around college. Trevor Morris, however, ripped his up, then taped it back together first. That was how we met, and he pretty much taught me to play guitar. Our band, Vile Bodies, threatened to perform several times, but never did. We rehearsed in the front room of the Chorley two-up two-down I stayed in, gratis, courtesy of the lady who ran a funeral home across the street. She was a member at the golf club my parents worked at, and when they moved to Glasgow, I needed somewhere to stay to finish my A-levels.”

Wild Wood: Trembling Bells, still out there … in the big outdoors in 2017

The Trembling Bells’ Alex Neilson on how his older brother turned him on to underground acts like Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band: “I hated that music and pounded on the bathroom door when he was playing Trout Mask Replica, thinking he’d completely lost the plot. But then I grew to love it, and it kind of ruined other types of music for me. There’s no real going back to bands like Pavement from there.”

Stage Craft: Howard Jones gets stuck in, keyboard style (Photo: Jose Francisco Salgado)

Howard Jones on his recipe for surviving recent UK and US political shifts: “Whatever form it takes, we need to work together if we’re going to solve the global problems we have. Really, we have no choice other than to work together. That can take many forms and I believe people feel they need a say in what goes on all over the world. I totally respect that and think that’s a good thing. Above all that, we really need to collaborate and work together, and that’s hard to do if we’re separated, putting up walls and all that stuff. Philosophically, that’s where I’m coming from, but feel there are many ways of doing that. We have to find them though, otherwise we’re kind of doomed.”

Telecaster Strut: Katrina Leskanich, Wave-free, in live action (Photo: Sara L Petty)

Katrina Leskanich, on shooting 1985’s Walking on Sunshine video on a winter’s day by Tower Bridge: “It was bloody freezing! It was February 3. We had £1,000 to make this video with Chris Tookey, who’d previously directed a TV show called Revolver. It was the first we ever made and we didn’t have a clue. They told us, ‘We’re going down to the docks’. I didn’t know where that was. At the time I was living in Norfolk, near the military bases by the Suffolk border. We came down to London and were walking around what’s now an area of luxury condos and flats. At the time it was dilapidated, and I don’t know how we got permission to jump around in that warehouse. I remember people saying, ‘Mind when you jump, the floor’s really rotten and you could fall through’. They also kept saying, ‘Act like it’s really hot, but there was steam pouring out of my mouth, so I was told to sing but don’t breathe! It was crazy, but we filmed the whole thing in about an hour then did the inside shoot. I don’t even know where that was. I think by then the Jack Daniels had come out, and we didn’t really care. I was frozen to the bone. I just wanted it to be over. Of course, the boys are in big army surplus overcoats. They always had it so easy. I had to do all the dirty work, freezing my ass off!”

Guitar Man: Denny Walley in action, way back. And still a live force to be reckoned with.

Denny Walley, of The Muffin Men, on Frank Zappa suggesting he joined Captain Beefheart: “At the end of the tour, Frank suggested I played with Beefheart, trying to get him to get a band together again. Frank gave me the Trout Mask Replica album to listen to, which I’d never heard before. I went home, put it on, listened, and I’m going, ‘What the hell? Frank must be pissed off at me or something, man! Why’s he doing this to me? We’re friends! I think it took me until around the third time, when I really started to hear how deep the blues influence was. The most difficult thing for me was trying to find out where my guitar part was. What am I playing? Which way was up!”

Valley High: Public Service Broadcasting’s Messrs Wrigglesworth, Willgoose and Abraham in South Wales

J. Willgoose Esq. on the Manic Street Preachers’ support for his band, Public Service Broadcasting, and how that led to James Dean Bradfield guesting on Turn No More: “They’re such an incredible band and have been for so long. It kept getting more and more unreal. First, Sean (Moore) spoke very nicely about us in the NME, then we got asked to play with them a couple of times, then again at Swansea last year, when I’d already started thinking about this album. I decided to ask, thinking he can only say ‘No’. Even when he said, ‘Yes’ I thought he was being polite at first. I gave him ample opportunities to tell me ‘No’ for real, but he kept answering the phone!”

Song Craft: Russell Hastings, still in awe in 2017 (Photo: Warren Meadows)

Russell Hastings on mixing with the stars, and how From The Jam bandmate Bruce Foxton remains awe-struck by it all: “You sort of get used to weird things happening. We played a festival last year where Leo Sayer was on the bill, and he came and chatted to us. Then two months later we’re in Sydney, played this amazing gig, came off stage and after about five minutes the dressing room door burst open and Leo ran in. We had photos with him, then when he went, Bruce was asking, ‘Did that just happen?’ He has no concept of stardom! He doesn’t really get it, and is always quite surprised when he gets stopped. We’ve been all over the world and sometimes when you get stopped by people you have to take a second look and think, ‘Are they talking to me?’ Walking down the street in Perth, Western Australia, 9,000 miles from home, you think, ‘How can anyone possibly know me here?’ But it’s a joy really, a pleasure.”

Ritual Confrontation: Neil Sheasby, left, and co-founder Neil Jones, up close and personal with Stone Foundation

Neil Sheasby on Paul Weller’s support, input, and words of advice for Stone Foundation: “A lot of the time the tracks we recorded came together very quickly. And what you’re hearing, a lot of it is probably two or three takes. The five of us played together and added horns and strings after. Sometimes Neil (Jones) and I look at each other, thinking, ‘Was that right? Maybe we should do it again, fix this bit or that bit’. But with Paul it was like, ‘If it sounds good, it probably is, you’ve probably got it there’. I think what we learned was to trust our instincts a little more, and it was akin to the old soul records we like. We had a couple of days a week with a session booked, and we’d record the first batch of four tunes then go down again and do another two days, more or less live. He brought that feel to the project.”

Lining Up: Blondie 2017 style., four decades after their self-titled debut album

Blondie guitarist Chris Stein’s reaction to being described as the band’s ‘conceptual mastermind’ and to whether the New York outfit ever had a big plan: “I don’t know! I just try to put in my two pence here and there. I was always very optimistic and always felt things were going to work out. There never was a grand plan, but I think people liked the do-it-yourself aspects of Blondie. That was part of the appeal.”

The Author: Carl Magnus Palm, having delivered his latest mighty ABBA tome.

Abba fan and biographer Carl Magnus Palm on the moment Benny Andersson realised he had a bright future in music: “Benny tells this story of sitting alone in this dressing room before a Hep Stars concert, in some Swedish town, coming to terms with having this No.1 song. Apparently not only was he able to play the keyboards but was actually able to write songs that communicate with people and go into people’s hearts. He was only 19 and decided that if he could write one of those songs, he could probably write more. That’s the moment he decided that whatever happens with The Hep Stars, however many years that goes on, he’s going to continue in music. That’s going to be his career.”

Dream Rider: Ron Sexsmith, all the way from St Catharines, Ontario, and back in the UK in 2017.

Ron Sexsmith on how handy occasional royalties are from the likes of Rod Stewart, Katie Melua and Michael Buble covering his songs: “Yeah, it’s almost a living. I just bought a house. I never owned anything like that in my life, so that’s pretty huge. I have a lot of financial stress, and some records have done better than others. But every now and then you get something like Buble doing a song. I hope to get a few more of those! In my situation I’m living off publishing advances, but haven’t got one in a few years. I’m ‘unrecouped’, you know. I’m ready for another Buble cover!”

Anniversary Return: The Skids’ 2017 incarnation, with Richard Jobson centre (Photo: Stephen Gunn Photography)

Richard Jobson on an October 1977 visit by punk pioneers The Clash to his Scottish hometown, with The Skids supporting them at the Kinema Ballroom: “An amazing night! The Clash in Dunfermline? Come on! They were one of the few bands that came from the London scene that actually stood by some of the principles of punk and played places like Dunfermline. Others were a bit more aloof. I think we established a scene here, playing here a few times, with a cult following. All of those things together made it a viable place to come and play, and that was one of the great nights. (Joe Strummer) was a good guy, and never changed. I saw him not long before he died, had a coffee. He was always very generous with his time, and always very supportive of what I was trying to do. He was a hero! Yes, that was an amazing evening. And the idea that we managed to convince The Clash to come to Dunfermline, and were their opening act … although we were on stage before the doors opened!”

Live Wire: Justin Currie, out on the road with The Pallbearers in 2017

Del Amitri front-man Justin Currie on how Orange Juice and indie label Postcard inspired him to form a band: “I don’t think I would have formed a band without Orange Juice happening in Glasgow. That changed everything, and almost overnight Glasgow went from being this pub-rock backwater no one in the music press or record industry had any interest in, to being this place perceived as being incredibly cool. That was really just down to the four people in Orange Juice and Alan Horne of Postcard Records.”

Tour Masters: The Searchers, still out there. From left – John McNally, Scott Allaway, Frank Allen, Spencer James.

John McNally on how The Searchers missed out on being signed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein, but soon made the big time: “Brian later called us the ‘band that got away’. When he came to see us, we were all ‘pizzicatoed’, having been in The Grapes all night when he came to see us at The Cavern. We were on last and weren’t very good, acting the goat with a few drinks down us. We didn’t make the impression he wanted, so he passed on us. It was Les (Attley) who pointed out that everyone was being signed up and we didn’t want to miss the boat. He asked if we wanted to make a demo at the Iron Door, organising a company to nip in with all the gear. We did 11 tracks and he sent them around the companies, and luckily Tony Hatch at Pye Records picked up on it. We were on our way back to the Star-Club to do another stint when he asked us to come and record Sweets for my Sweet, which we did ahead of the ferry!”

Innovative Offerings: Alt-J pondering the writewyattuk verdict on mighty 2017 LP Relaxer.

Gus Unger-Hamilton on how Alt-J won’t be blinded by hype, despite more than two million sales from their first two LPs alone: “I think it does add expectation, once you’ve got to that level. You become nervous about maintaining it. Ultimately though, we’ve cultivated a large fan-base who enjoy our expertise and eclecticness … and they get it. That in itself gives us a freedom to do whatever we want and feel free to experiment.”

Rock & Rant: Ian Hunter, back out there with The Rant Band in 2017 (Photo: Ross Halfin)

Ian Hunter on what it was about Mott the Hoople that inspired the likes of Clash guitarist Mick Jones and Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott to love his band so much: “(Tony) DeFries managed us and David Bowie and wanted us to be like them – like we were from another planet, very distant, not speaking between songs. That’s what he wanted but that’s not what he got! We didn’t feel any different from the people watching us. And if someone was a bit short of money we got them in the back door. That’s what happened with Joe Elliott, and Mick Jones, and a few people like that. They had no money and would maybe jump off a train before it came into a station. The least you could do was let them in.”

Heading Off: Erasure’s Andy Bell, left, and Vince Clarke, in the driving seat (Photo: Doron Gild).

Former Depeche Mode and Yazoo synth star Vince Clarke on forging a successful working relationship with Andy Bell in Erasure: “We’d been auditioning people all weekend and when he came along his voice just shone. With regards to his personality we had no idea. It took us a while to get to know each other. But it turned out we are pretty similar, with similar political views for one thing. He’s an incredibly laid-back person and super-easy to work with. The other good thing is he’s totally not interested in computers, while I’m not so interested in recording vocals. We have our own little corners, and it’s a match made in heaven.”

Mirror Men: Ron and Russell Mael reflecting on their longevity in 2017

Ron Mael on how Sparks differed from so many other American bands in the early ‘70s, inspired by a number of ‘60s ‘British Explosion’ groups: “It was a dream. We always pretended in our own minds we were a British band, and really didn’t go along with the whole American sensibility of it only being about music. We thought that flash element was tied in, really loving bands like The Who and The Move. We were kind of aware of what we were trying to do. They aren’t traditional songs but in general we’re working in song structures. As strong as we want the music, it all came back to what the song is, and we’ve never lost sight of that.”

The writewyattuk review of 2017, part two, will follow very soon. Don’t touch that dial-up. Bet you can’t wait.

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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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