WriteWyattUK 2019, in quotes – the first six months

As another busy year for the WriteWyattUK website draws towards a close, an annual opportunity arises to wander back through a few of our 2019 feature/ interview highlights, with a chance to click on each highlighted link and relive those moments in full.

January

Drum Major: Mike Baillie in live action for the Skids at Newcastle Academy in June 2017 (Photo: Mick Burgess)

“I just remember the whole chaos and this rush of energy, the whole place going absolutely crazy. Richard (Jobson) still talks about it, and how important it was to be accepted by your idols. It was completely surreal that this could happen in your grubby little grey town. It was an amazing experience.” Skids drummer Mike Baillie on the Dunfermline punks supporting The Clash at the Kinema Ballroom in August 1977

Complementary Therapy: Pauline Murray with Penetration at Preston’s Continental (Photo: Gary M Hough)

“He found a different way to write the love song. Love songs have been written again and again and again. Most of pop history is based around the love song. But he had a different take on the love song, more of a realistic take, which was what punk was about – trying to say what was happening for real. So ‘Orgasm Addict’ – who’d ever written about that? Or a song about falling in love with the wrong person? The gay side of it. Nothing had been expressed like that in the love song. A lot of stuff about punk was expressing all things in a new way, and by being nihilistic you actually get something come out that – putting all the other love songs to one side. And I’m sure someone like Pete Shelley was a Bowie fan. You can hear a lot of Bowie inflections in what he sings. But it was a new take on the love song, and teenage love was different to how teenagers expressed love in the ‘50s, ‘60s, or even the ‘70s. It was like, ‘We’ve had enough of all these slushy love songs. Let’s look at what love is really like’. And it’s quite angsty, y’know.” Pauline Murray, of Penetration, on losing close friend and Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley

Live Presence: Kirk Brandon, back in live action in 2019, this time with The Pack (Photo copyright: Warren Meadows)

“Looking back, the lyrics to the songs were simplistic, aggressive, confused, funny and silly – much like myself at the time. Life consisted at the time of trying to survive on the streets and squats of the south London – the whole period was funny, violent, grim and all at the same time, the band mirrored its surroundings – so no excuses made. The band’s first gig, now consisting of myself, Canadian brothers John and Simon Werner and Rab, was as much a shock to the band as to startled filmgoers. I remember they showed Marlon Brandon in The Wild One before we went on, so we were all juiced up for some kind of riot! What actually happened was about 150 people with thousand-yard stares stood stock-still, stunned at the power at the noise of the band – we were fucking angry! A lot of the shows we played ended up in mini-riots and many venues were trashed. One night we played Deptford, South London at The Crypt, and I recall thinking, ‘Great, everybody’s dancing!’ Only when we had finished our set everybody was still dancing – in fact they were all trying to kill each other. We left the stage as The Crypt was being deconstructed.”  Spear of Destiny/Theatre of Hate frontman Kirk Brandon on first band, The Pack, who regrouped in 2019

Uke Lee Device: C.P. Lee, still very much in love with Manchester all these years on, by all accounts

“If you mention it internationally, people tend to think of MerseyBeat, but that was only a couple of years, and while The Beatles were of course a fantastic influence on music, they left and never went back, whereas here in Manchester … I know Liverpool has had its renaissances since, and some great bands, but it’s more fits and starts on the Mersey, whereas Manchester’s had this consistent trudging towards a musical nirvana. We had a quiet bit when the Chief Constable shut the clubs down, but musicians revolted and founded a cooperative, a tremendous thing that kept it spinning.” Writer/broadcaster/ lecturer/performer C.P. Lee, extolling the virtues of his home city over the main regional opposition

February

Odditorium Exports: The Dandy Warhols, celebrating 25 years and a little luck in the business

“Luck only gets you so far. You have to work hard, take advantage of the luck. We already had a pretty decent work ethic under our belts before the serious luck happened.” Dandy Warhols guitarist Peter Holmström, whose band had their biggest slice of luck in the UK through ‘Bohemian Like You’ being used on a Vodafone TV ad

Gray Day: David Gray was back with his 11th album in 26 years in 2019, with a tie-in tour thrown in

“Who doesn’t love those two? I mean Marvin … we’d all be thanking him forever for  What’s Going On? if that was the only thing he’d ever done. It’s just knockout. To get some of that feel … and I’ve got that soul in the way I perform. That’s my thing. I’m a British soul singer in a way. That’s where my voice goes. It’s got a natural bluesiness. To dig into that and that kind of feel and sense of scatting off the rhythm, and being playful within the frame, those things get me high and so excited, working off the beat that way.” David Gray, on being compared to Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder by this scribe

Tunnel Vision: Norman Watt-Roy, Wilko Johnson and Dylan Howe, going underground (Photo: Leif Laaksonen)

“Funnily enough I had a heart attack, while playing with Wilko at Hampton Court (Lido) in 2017. I wasn’t in any pain. We were coming up to the end of the set and I just felt really weak. I told Wilko, ‘I can’t play’. I took my bass off and Wilko looked round and said to Dylan, ‘Do a drum solo!’ I came off and they called an ambulance and I got rushed to hospital. The guy in the ambulance was looking at his machine, saying, ‘You’re actually having a heart attack now, Norman. I said, ‘Am I? I’m not in any pain’. But within three hours they’d operated and put this stent into my arteries and I was fine. I took a month off then we went to Japan and started another tour! They took me to St George’s at Tooting, because they knew I lived in Fulham, and that’s one of the best for heart care. I later got to know my surgeon, Zoe, very well, and she told me it was a minor heart attack, but I was very lucky to be surrounded by people and for the paramedics to be there, being an open-air festival. She said there are people who have felt a little funny, gone to bed and died in their sleep, so I was very lucky. Since then, people have said how the Grim Reaper’s tried to get both me and Wilko, and failed!” Blockheads/Wilko Johnson bass player Norman Watt-Roy on him and his boss’ brushes with health in recent times

Happy Wending: Glenn Tilbrook, back out on the road, in headline and support act roles (Photo: Rob O’Connor)

“In a nutshell, my belief – and it’s almost an old-fashioned belief now – is that the role of taxation and Government is to provide these things for people, so this sort of situation doesn’t happen. As a society we’re slipping backwards to an older time where there were poorer people who were despised, thought of as lesser people, and rich people who may or may not deign us with their magnificence. And if I look back on my life now … growing up as I did and as Chris did in council housing where we had space to play and they were well maintained … that was the ’60s, and in many ways that was the golden age of the Welfare State. I don’t look back on things and get nostalgic very often, but about that I do. There was still Cathy Come Home, there was still private landlords milking poor people and being heartless, just as there are today, but the problem is that all that stuff is growing now.” Squeeze singer/guitarist Glenn Tilbrook, who was supporting food bank charity the Trussell Trust on his band and solo dates in 2019

March

Three’s Company: Steve and his acoustic bandmates James Lascelles and Barry Wickens, doing the rounds in 2019

“I’ve no regrets. At the age of 21 when I walked away, I’d done my three-year indentures, had 120 words-per-minute Pitman’s shorthand and had covered some really good stories, particularly in my last year at the East London Advertiser. We were in Krayland, opposite The Blind Beggar, covering some big news. It wasn’t provincial anymore, and in those days local papers were always run by juniors – around two seniors and five juniors. Every Wednesday night we put the paper to bed in Dagenham, and the next morning we’d find our stuff all over Fleet Street, because it was all good national news. I enjoyed it. I liked the life, until I grew tired of it – having spent a lot of time in Bow Magistrates’ Court, wearing the seat of my trousers out, covering stupid shop-lifting stories. But I was writing songs and playing in folk clubs at that time. The only downside of it all and the only point I regret was that leaving all that really distressed my parents. My Dad was pretty heartbroken. I hadn’t got anywhere to go. In those days you could leave a job and get another. But I was on the dole for around 10 months, busking, writing songs and forming Cockney Rebel. But I’ve had a great life – 45 years of this and I’ve still got an audience.” Celebrated singer-songwriter Steve Harley, on his days as a London newspaper reporter while moving towards his chosen career 

Sole Men: Fisherman’s Friends await the next influx of emmets, media interest, and good tides for singing at The Platt.

“The first time we officially walked out as a group was on the Platt. That was the first time we decided we were actually going to do this. We were planning to go to America to join up with some singing friends over there. At some point we were having a rehearsal over in Billy’s chapel, and just said, ‘Right, let’s not have a rehearsal over here, let’s have it on the Platt. We didn’t advertise. That was the start of it really, and we never really looked back.” Jeremy Brown, on vocal group Fisherman’s Friends’ first public performance in their home town of Port Isaac, North Cornwall

Dropping By: Gretchen Peters at Glasgow’s Cottiers Theatre in 2019, with Barry Walsh, left, and Conor McCreanor

“Just little glimmers – they’re little fireflies in a jar at this point. They’re not real songs. The thing I do on the road that I am able to do is catch ideas and write them down and squirrel them away. The thing I’m not able to do is flesh them out, finish and edit them. That’s really a kind of hammer and nails aspect of it, and that’s the thing that really requires that downtime.” US country noir singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters on the complications of trying to write songs while out on tour

London Calling: Esteemed broadcaster Gary Crowley, still at the top of the dial. Ask nicely and he’ll give you a smile.

“All these bands were coming through, and I don’t forget that I was incredibly lucky – brought up a stone’s throw from my school, and that was on Edgware Road, where I saw Joe Strummer go into the café there, and got an interview with him. This was the Metropolitan Café, sadly no more, so when we went to the fish and chippy to spend our money, I literally bumped into him. I said, ‘Oh my God! Listen, we’ve just started a punk fanzine, and Joe – would you be up for an interview?’ And I can only assume that he was impressed by my hutzpah! I got back to school, told a couple of pals, and then the word got around. This would have been early summer in ’77. I said, ‘Can I bring a friend’, and he said, ‘Of course’, but when word got around, I think seven or eight turned up from my school at (The Clash’s Camden HQ) Rehearsal Rehearsals. And bless his cottons, he couldn’t have been more welcoming.” Radio DJ and TV presenter Gary Crowley on his chance meeting and subsequent interview in 1977 with The Clash’s Joe Strummer while still at school

Vest Behaviour: Neville Staple in action at Glastonbury Festival (Photo: John Middleham)

“The way we brought ska to the mainstream was by mixing Jamaican music with the English style, which at the time was punk. The movement helped transcend and defuse racial tensions in Thatcher-era Britain. The actual black and white chequered imagery of 2 Tone has become almost as famous as the music itself. I remember the massive reactions to hit songs like ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Too Much Too Young’ and ‘Gangsters’, and fans still write to me about my rugged, energetic and fun stage presence.” Neville Staple on the legacy created by the initial 2 Tone bands, including the Coventry outfit with which he broke through, The Specials

April

Guitar Man: Dean Friedman, who was most likely heading for a venue near you in 2019, four decades into his career

“Here’s the thing, I grew up listening to all kinds of music but always had a special affinity for folk singers like Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Bernie Taupin, storytellers who painted pictures in their songs. There was a narrative where you could really envisage what was going on, almost a cinematic quality. That was something I aspired to do, starting out and to this day, and someone like Chris Difford … I know Squeeze are acknowledged as a legendary band, but I think they’re even better than they’re given credit for. Someone like Chris, I don’t think he has any peers as a lyricist.” Cult US singer-songwriter Dean Friedman, not just a fan of Half Man Half Biscuit

Three’s Company: Ian Hunter (centre), Morgan Fisher and Ariel Bender, reunited in the UK, with Ian’s Rant Band

“I heard Jerry Lee Lewis do ‘A Whole Lotta Shaking’ when I was 15 or 16 and thought, ‘Oh, thank God! I’m here for something’. There was nothing before that. I didn’t understand why I was here. A lot of people don’t know what they’re doing, then they hear something or see something and know what they’re supposed to do.” Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter on his 1950s’ rock’n’roll lightbulb moment

Nouvelle Chanteuses: Phoebe Killdeer and Melanie Pain were out front when I saw them at Gorilla in Manchester

“It all really happened as a little accident. I was dating a musician who was looking for a singer for his project. He asked me to record a demo. I wasn’t singing at all at that time. I was maybe 20. He said, ‘Could you sing it, so I have something to send to singers?’ I recorded that and he sent it to producers and people he knew, among them Marc Collin, who said, ‘I like the voice of this girl singing. Can you give me a phone number?’ He called me and I said, ‘I am not a singer’, he said, ‘Perfect!’ It all happened super-quick after that. I went to his studio, we did two tracks, first take – the two songs I did for Nouvelle Vague, ‘This is Not a Love Song’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’.” Nouvelle Vague singer Mélanie Pain looking back on her big break in music

May

All Together: The Undertones and The Neville Staple Band, playing live together in 2019, the Spirit of ’79 still intact

“The main thing was that we were always huge fans of music, and were soaking everything in – a wide variety of music. That was the core for me, Damian, Mickey and Billy anyway.  We’d just play records. Our entire life revolved around listening to music, trying to find out new sounds. It was like osmosis almost. It came on to us, and once we’d got signed and knew this was our job – at least for the next few years – we wanted to make the most of it and try and write as many songs as we could. It wasn’t always easy. I remember the sessions for Hypnotised, when Mickey’s father died halfway through, so we cut the recording off. And we realised before that we hadn’t enough songs written to finish the record. So we went back and wrote two or three other songs, between those recording sessions. I’m sure every musician would say the same though – if you’ve got a deadline and the pressure’s on, that focuses you.” John O’Neill, recalling the writing process behind those first two wondrous Undertones LPs

Bull Park Life: The Undertones, ’79 style. From the left – John, Feargal, Billy, Mickey, Damian (Photo: Paddy Simms)

“Laurie was a very well-known Derry photographer, normally taking pictures of rioters or buildings or local singing competitions and showbands. The session was done by Bull Park, famous in Undertones folklore, near our headquarters – O’Neill’s, Beechwood Avenue – and where we always played football. We did a few corny showband poses, deliberately, and he wanted us to go a bit further, put our hands out. John especially wasn’t having that! But we picked what we liked, and I really like that cover. I especially like the front cover, it shows us as we were. There’s no thrills. We were a pretty ugly-looking band! And it’s very punk. No pretence.” Damian O’Neill, on how photographer Laurence O.Doherty and the band came up with that debut Undertones LP cover

Bearded Theory: Alan McGee, out on the road and telling tales throughout 2019, and still the inspirational figure

“I had five quid in my pocket, and I was effectively, technically homeless. But I managed to squat. These were the days when you didn’t need to be homeless, back in the ’80s – you could squat.I was there for about six months, then got a little bedsit. If I couldn’t have done that, I couldn’t have made it in London. I look back now and wonder how the fuck I done it really. I came with no money but actually made it work. Unbelievable really. I’m not saying I’m really talented. I have got talent. I’m not denying that, but the truth is that even if you’re the most talented person in the world, the odds would still not be fantastic. I really did it because of the tenacity, I suppose … that tenacity I got from Glasgow.” Alan McGee, music industry exec., label owner, musician, manager, and much more, recalls moving as a 19-year-old from Glasgow to London in 1980

Celebration Ratio: A Certain Ratio, going strong in 2019, celebrating four pioneering decades (Photo: Kevin Cummins)

“Football was my life really. All I wanted to do was play for United and play for England. And I was lucky enough to play for United until I was 17, signing schoolboy terms at 15, becoming a ball-boy. But at 17 I broke my ankle badly, was at a loose end, and finally found myself in A Certain Ratio.” Jez Kerr, on a late career switch from being on the brink of top-level football to joining Factory Records-bound industrial punk-funk pioneers A Certain Ratio

Wild Wood: Jim ‘Jim Bob’ Morrison, long after his Carter USM days, takes to the trees (Photo: Paul Heneker)

“If we made one mistake it was naming a famous album 30 Something! But you can’t really go back on that. I remember around then a meeting with a lawyer or accountant type, advising us to get pensions, saying nobody in the music business would work beyond 50. That’s massively untrue now. But at the time the idea of anyone being in a rock band beyond that age … I had little to do with the financial side. I’m the same now. I switch off when anybody’s talking about all that. My manager now seems obsessed with spreadsheets, but there could be anything on them. I have to pretend I read them!” Jim Bob Morrison, ex-Carter USM, on his lack of interest in the financial side of the music industry

Boat People: From the left, Darek Mercks, Pip Blom, Gini Cameron, Tender Blom (Photo: Raymond Van Mill)

“Well, I did know what he did with the band, because he always told stories about that, but it was really nice recently playing with them at the John Peel Centre (for Creative Arts, Stowmarket, Suffolk). That was so much fun, our two bands together and lots of people who knew each other. A very special moment. I really like seeing them touring as well, and playing gigs in the UK. He’s showed us lots of videos and pictures, all that kind of stuff. I thought it was so cool.” Dutch indie star Pip Blom on sharing a bill with her Dad’s band, John Peel favourites Eton Crop, at the Suffolk venue named in the legendary DJ’s honour

June

Space Invaders: The Membranes’ John Robb and Rob Haynes at Preston Conti in 2016 (Photo: Joel Goodman)

“With the nature of The Membranes we always try to move forward. No point in repeating ourselves. This album’s more about the choir and the amazing harmony of the human voice. When you get 20 people sing the part at the same time, it’s a transcendental experience … quite beyond … at the highest level of sound as possible … pure harmony. And in these discordant times we’re living in, pure harmony is an interesting concept.” John Robb waxes lyrical on the subject of rightly-acclaimed 2019 Membranes double LP, What Nature Gives … Nature Takes Away

Folk Roots: Eddi Reader swapped busking for the charts and international recognition (Photo: Genevieve Stevenson)

“I was a massive folk music fan, and what I liked about folk was that it was a brilliant alternative to Amanda’s Wet T-shirt Night in the local disco, y’know. I found a lot of solace in folk music. To go in and hear unaccompanied females sing in a Scottish accent, songs of love, murder, death and life, I kind of felt I didn’t need anything else. My family were a bit worried – ‘what’s all this folk music?’ They didn’t really get it. But I was going to all the folk festivals in 1979 and 1980, when it was all dying. I was there at the latter half of the pre-folk revival and remember how well attended it was then. The first would be Inverness Folk Festival in April and I was there as a young punter. I’d sneak in the back and you’d get a floor-spot. It was a place where you could perform. You couldn’t perform anywhere else, unless you had sound equipment and were in a band. If you were in a folk club you could stand on stage and ask if you could sing or play something and there were a lot of people my age who did the same thing. That graduated to busking and singing those songs, like ‘Lord Franklin’ and Blues Run the Game’, learning about the alternative music scene. And the alternative scene for me would have been Gram Parsons, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. All of that had been dying a death during the late-‘70s. But the folkies were all for it.” Singer-songwriter Eddi Reader on her folk roots

Band Substance: Brix and the Extricated, including the Hanley brothers, released an acclaimed new LP in 2019

“It was more luck than good fortune that I ended up playing the one instrument that none of them played. I had no musical training whatsoever. I was going to learn guitar at school, but my Dad wouldn’t stump up for a guitar case. He said we’ve still got the box it came in, so he put two strings on the cardboard box. And there was no way I was carrying that to school, so I never pursued it.” Brix & The Extricated/The Fall drummer/music writer Paul Hanley explaining how he ended up behind a kit

Cancer Beware: Mark Radcliffe doing his bit for North West Cancer Research’s #SpeakOut awareness campaign

“I was lucky really, my cancer was visible – it was a lump in my neck. They got to it quite quickly. But they call it a silent killer as you’ve no idea of knowing what’s going on there. With any sign, you need encouraging to get it checked out. I think blokes tend to think, ‘Oh, it’ll be nothing’. And not necessarily just blokes. Some women are like that. It’s a very simple message – just get it checked. It’s amazing, if you catch something early – things that would have killed you 10 or 20 years ago – they can get you back from that point now. They said with mine it would have killed me in months, not years. So I’m lucky to be here and I’m enjoying life – loving every day.” Broadcaster Mark Radcliffe with his personal spin on the importance of early diagnosis for cancer treatment

Stay tuned for part two of our 2019 WriteWyattUK feature/interviews’ quotes special, pop kids. 

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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