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Feel the noize! In addition to the usual selection of lurex legends, Eyeplug digs deep to discover long-forgotten gems of glitter from pop culture’s litter bin.

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Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Glam 0 Comment

Andrew Matheson (The Hollywood Brats) Interview

The Hollywood Brats: Probably the best band you never heard of…

I got a few questions about The Hollywood Brats and your new book but we do not have to follow the script, we can just see where the conversation leads us.

AM: ‘Scripts are rubbish, let’s just trot, let’s go crazy. I am at the Dorchester actually having a little bit of a bash for The Hollywood Brats as the album came out last week and a paperback version of the book came out yesterday, so we have been knocking them back so please forgive me if we go off base here.’

So it’s an album and a book launch?

AM: ‘Indeed and it’s sponsored by Grey Goose so we have had a few vodka’s here. Oh by the way if you want a nice Vodka go for Grey Goose.’

Firstly, I would just like to talk about your memoir ‘Sick On You’, which is your failed attempt to turn The Hollywood Brats into rock n roll stars. It is a hilarious read and it has been almost impossible to put the book down. Did you find writing the book difficult?

AM: ‘It was not difficult to write at all the whole story is insane it was completely bonkers. I mostly worked from diaries, Brady (Euan Brady, Brats guitarist) and yours truly kept meticulous diaries although I did have to amend them somewhat as they were a bit salacious.’

What was you inspiration for starting a band in the first place? In the book, you talk with great humour about your hatred for music that was around in the early 1970’s. It would be fair to assume that this was one of your inspirations for starting a band?

AM: ‘Exactly, hatred is one of the purest emotions and I still have banks of it I really do. I absolutely detested music at that time, it was denim, it was old, bald guys, it was drum solos, guitar solos that went on forever and played by people who could barely play and it was bloody gongs, do you remember gongs? That music drove me nuts and still drives me nuts to this day and something had to be done and I thought I was the man to do it’.

Speaking of ‘gongs’, a man who did occasionally play one was Keith Moon and apparently he delivered a tray of drinks to you and the band after a gig at the Speakeasy?

AM: ‘Yes he did and he was a really lovely man and also a bit of a champion for us in the ensuing weeks until he forgot who we were, (laughs) but he was very nice to us and what a gentleman too and he was one of my heroes – and what a brilliant drummer.’

The Brats were originally called The Queen and you hit Freddie Mercury at The Marquee over band naming rights.

AM: ‘You hit Freddie Mercury you are going to have your knuckles scarred by those teeth right? Actually, I just gave him a backhand and I was just trying to swat him away as one would with a Middle Eastern fly. It wasn’t anything you can consider a fight let me tell you.

I want to talk a little about the debut album, which was recorded at Olympic Studios.

AM: ‘What a fabulous studio that was probably the best studio ever and probably is to this day, the types of characters that were there when we were recording was astounding too, The Eagles, David Bowie, The Bee Gees, Donovan.

Didn’t David Bowie walk in during one of your recording sessions and said he loved one of your songs. I think the song was ‘Nightmare’?

AM: ‘Yeah, Bowie did come in and he also let us listen to what he was doing at the time and it was the brilliant ‘Rebel Rebel’, (Hums the guitar riff) brilliant riff and then he came in and heard what we were doing, because that was the norm at Olympic, you know you could just wander around and listen to what each other were doing etc. Bowie liked what we were doing, he nodded his head like mad and tapped his stack-heeled toes and said ‘luv it! luv it!’. He was a lovely man and a low-key gentleman as well.’

The album did not get released at the time. How did you feel about that?

AM: ‘I immediately looked for a razor blade to slit my wrists (laughs) and not finding one. It was heartbreaking because I knew we had delivered something. But alas timing is everything and to quote from the Bible (not that I read one) is that ‘to everything, there is a season’.

It has been argued that the album is a Proto-Punk classic and listening to it now it has not aged a day.

AM: We delivered what we wanted to deliver and that is a good thing but nobody at the time wanted it at all. Everybody hated us and the closest we came to a deal was with Bell Records or some such idiotic label like that, who had people like David Cassidy on it and then they heard the Brats and told us they did not want anybody who sounds like that on their label. That was just the prevailing attitude at the time.’

Well the album was delivered with attitude and it is a dirty gritty in your face record and it could be argued that it was an influence on Punk Rock.

AM: ‘There was no Punk Rock when we actually made it and we recorded it in a vacuum. Everything was so vacuous at the time and all we knew was that everything needed to be shaken-up, grabbed by the lapels and driven mad. I mean you did not want your parents or your older brothers liking what you were into too. Rock n Roll had gone off the beam at that time, so we were trying to address that core problem’.

I would just like to return to the book, which has been critically acclaimed. Are you flattered by the positive response to your memoir?

AM: ‘I am very happy about it and people have said such nice things about it. It is a bit difficult for me to answer this question but yes I am very pleased at the way it has been received. It has warmed the cockles of my soul let’s put it that way.’

Well it is an incredibly funny book and it has the humour of Spinal Tap except The Hollywood Brats were so much poorer.

AM: ‘(Laughs) so you have a sense of humour? I like that’.

I hate to mention this but I would argue that too many comparisons have been made between yourselves and the New York Dolls. It is clear from the book that any musical or aesthetic comparison was a coincidence only.

AM: ‘It makes good sense to mention it and it is just one of those bloody weird things that happens in this world. When we first saw their picture in the NME, we were aghast as they were doing a similar thing to what we were doing. I respect the New York Dolls, but we wiped the floor with them musically’.

You were given a copy of the Dolls debut album and you were not that impressed by what you heard.

AM: ‘No, not at all because we had built them up in our minds so much and we were like, oh my God how can there be another one of us? When we heard their music we wiped our brows and went phew. We didn’t dislike the Dolls or anything like that, but we thought this was serious competition until we dropped the needle on the record.’

Cherry Red Records have recently reissued the album with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material, and after four decades since the album was recorded do you think The Hollywood Brats are finally getting their dues?

AM: ‘Well I don’t think there are any dues. You do what you do and you just put it out there and the devil takes the high most. You put something out in the marketplace and let the marketplace decide and if they were not ready then but ready now, so be it. I am not bothered in the slightest by the way, I am having fun and what is happening now has engendered loads of new opportunities for me. I am having a blast. For God’s sake I am at the Dorchester having a party and if you want Vodka then make it Grey Goose.’

I have heard a rumour that the BBC is making a documentary?

AM: ‘They are and I am being filmed right now as we speak’.

Really? Are you involved behind the scenes? What part are you playing in its production?

AM: ‘I am the boss of everything that is being recorded by the BBC except your show. You’re the boss of that.’

You recently appeared at Glastonbury. How did that go?

AM: ‘Glastonbury was absolutely amazing. I had never been before and it was utterly amazing, the people were fantastic and it was as muddy as I had been told it would be.’

How did a dapper man like yourself deal with all that mud?

AM: ‘They told me I would have to wear wellies. Can you imagine me wearing willies? I told them no chance and I managed to get to the stage looking immaculate.’

So you were there to promote the book?

AM: ‘Yes I was applauded on and applauded and cheered off and they gave me drinks throughout the talk, and that is how I judge the standard of how things are going (laughs).’

Finally, I have heard that the Brats have reformed. Can we expect a tour soon?

AM: ‘You know what? I read that in Mojo recently and I thought is that right? I better get singing or something. We have had offers from all around the globe and who knows. We are all alive and well and we all have our own hair, which is essential for me and if you’re going to reform and one of us were bald I wouldn’t allow it. To answer your question yes I think it might happen and you will be the first to know.’ ‘Oh and by the way, if your’re thinking of having a Vodka then try Grey Goose’.

GRAB YOUR COPY HERE


Longjohns recent Hollywood Brats LP review is below

In 1971 an 18-year-old Andrew Matheson arrived in London with just a guitar, a few quid and a head full of ideas about forming the perfect Rock n Roll band. Matheson drew up a five-point list that these band members would have to adhere to and the rules were simple. You had to “think like a star’’, have great hair (preferably straight hair), must be slender, young, and absolutely no facial hair and above all no girlfriends.

Matheson found his kindred spirits in the shape of Norwegian Stein Groven (Casino Steel), Euan Brady, Wayne Manor and Lou Sparks. These members would form the nucleus of The Hollywood Brats and Matheson’s attempts to turn these disparate bunch of Brats into bone-fide rock stars failed abysmally, and this glorious failure is told in hilarious detail in his recent memoir, Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of Britain’s Great Lost Punk Band.

The Hollywood Brats also recorded what might be considered one of the first British Proto-Punk albums of the 1970s, and it has been re-mastered and re-packaged by Cherry Red Records as a vital 2-CD set, which includes their one and only long player, plus a bonus disc of  “Brats Miscellany’’, featuring, rarities, a few cover versions and a number of tracks that were muted for a second album. The set also includes detailed liner notes with written contributions from Matheson and Casino Steel.

As this album suggests The Hollywood Brats should have carved out a niche for themselves, but the tale of the Brats really is a tale of starvation, struggle, comedic bad timing and bad luck. Whatever momentum The Brats were starting to build-up was then quickly thwarted, when Matheson opened up the NME one morning in 1972 and what looked back at him was a band that were the total mirror image of themselves.

The New York Dolls were another tough Rock n Roll band with an equal amount of androgynous glamour, but they had the added bonus of having a record deal, a publicity machine and (sadly for the Brats) a tour booked for the U.K.  The comparisons visually and musically are obvious, and although both bands ploughed a similar musical furrow it is a mere coincidence only as Matheson explained that he had never heard of the Dolls until he picked up the NME on that fateful day in 1972.

The Hollywood Brats debut album is played fast and loud and has the swaggering attitude of the Rolling Stones and T-Rex thrown in for good measure.  However, the Brats were amplified just that little bit louder, and took the gender-bending pretensions of Glam that little bit further by smearing themselves in “Cleopatra Eye Liner’’ and “Cherry Blaze Outdoor Girl Lipstick’’. One can only imagine Matheson preening on stage in his glam rags, puckering up his ruby red lips to sing The Crystals classic “Then He Kissed Me’’ (featured here) to the baying violent mobs that frequently attended their live shows.

It would be too easy to get side-tracked by the doomed failure of The Hollywood Brats but two things should be remembered. Firstly they looked great and steered well clear of food encrusted facial hair, “upper lip fringes’’ and the dirty denim, which was so prevalent in the 1970s. Secondly, they recorded a lean, mean, muscular album that had songs that were full of bravado, wit and spades full of nihilism.

The album never saw the light of day in the U.K but was subsequently released in Norway before Cherry Red Records happened across a copy of this ultra rare album in 1978. It is largely thanks to them and Matheson’s brilliant memoir that The Hollywood Brats have not been confined to the dustbin of musical history. Although the album may not be an out and out classic there are still a handful of great songs on it, plus it has the added bonus of being played by glamorous lady boys draped in feather boas and dripping in lipstick, mascara and red nail varnish.

The album has attitude and it sounds lean, raw, and dirty and as Matheson explains in his memoir he was “driven by the purest of all emotions, which was hatred’’. Matheson made no attempt to hide his complete disdain for music that he considered was full of it’s own self-importance and he argued that “music needed to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken up’’.

Matheson steered these London ‘belles’ away from standard boring guitar noodling and dull drum solos and the ubiquitous Prog Rock pretensions that were so prevalent at the time. Instead The Brats aimed for something much more visceral, efficient, tough and above all sexy and provocative, but sadly for the Brats no one at the time was listening.

Listening to the album will probably draw the listener to the conclusion that The Hollywood Brats sound like a hybrid of the Stones and the New York Dolls. However, the album should be taken on it’s own merit, and there are a handful of great tracks, including album opener, Chez Maximes, Nightmare, Courtesan, Zurich 17, and Tumble With Me, which are all Glam rockers, have tough guitar riffs and sound equally trashy and vicious.

However, the album has the one stone cold classic and it is the hate-filled closing song Sick On You.  The vitriol poured out by Matheson towards a girl he no longer loves is delivered with such snarling venom and when he spits the opening words “you wanna know what it’s like condemned to live with you, it’s some kind of suicide, some phase that I went through’’, the moniker “Proto Punks’’ may indeed be fully justified.

There is definitely a correlation between The Hollywood Brats debut album and Matheson’s memoir that they are almost mutually dependent on each other, and should be enjoyed together. This album has the swagger and attitude you would associate with the Brats Glam Rock peers but, has the added impetus of rage and frustration thrown in for good measure. The Hollywood Brats were condemned to failure and obscurity but their combustible anger filled music would inadvertently manifest itself in Punk Rock, so perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies.

BUY IT HERE VIA CHERRY RED

Long John

Charming Chap and a new sharp force for Eyeplug, being a toppermost writer with a keen appreciation for things of quality and distinction. A well known face on the London ‘Mod’ Scene but with an open mind and heart. Got a strange interest in Pirates? One to watch out for!

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July 26, 2016 By : Category : Articles Features Front page Garage Glam Interviews Music Punk Rock Tags:, , , ,
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Silverhead and Michael Des Barres – Scenester Reviews

Silverhead (Purple 001)
16 and Savaged (Purple 002)
Live At The Rainbow (Purple 003)

Three LPs of work by one of the glam rock period’s great forgotten bands, Silverhead, and its singer, later turned actor, Michael Des Barres, is surely one of the year’s most unexpected re-releases. Purple Records have done the honours, and included a wealth of bonus material in amongst the original music and artwork.

‘Silverhead’ appeared in 1972, at the height of the Glam Rock period, its cover styled in Art Deco interlocking frames and featuring singer Michael Des Barres in voluminous baggy trousers, his face a scary clown mask, his hands conjuring 7’’ records out of the air, and arranging them in an elegant arc to complete
the arabesque.

silverhead

Musically, it’s easily the best of these three LPs, opening with ‘Long Legged Lisa’, with its slow, choppy intro lick and salacious lyric. The slide guitar work is classy, but the band knew which way the wind was blowing in rock, and kept to the glam/trash model as far as they could. With its cast of character like ‘Sharp Shootin’ Sheila and the aforementioned Lisa, it’s hard to say whether this was all inspired by Marc Bolan, Muddy Waters or John Gay, but it’s good, trashy fun, so who’s bothered?

‘Underneath The Light’s steady rocker is brought to life with a good, tight lick and Michael’s in fine voice, with some capable screaming guitar riffs thrown in for good measure. ‘Ace Supreme’s exciting riff masks some horribly clichéd lyrics, but that was far from being a crime in the glam 70’s.

‘Johnny’ sees the acoustic guitar getting an airing, in a rather half-hearted lament that was an obvious play for a US FM audience. ‘In Your Eyes’ sticks with the mawkish sentiment, and rather shows up the limitations of Michael’s voice in this piano-led number. Such material would be best left to the expert in this field; your Elton John.

Happily, this introspective section is over with, and it’s back what Silverhead do best; the great, throwaway scuzzy rock of ‘Rolling With My Baby’. It’s a shame to follow this up with ‘Wounded Heart’, the band taking a walk on the Gospel side, and to no great effect. No matter, ‘Sold Me Down The River’ sees them back on the wrong/right side of the road again, with a classic turnaround for the traditionalists out there.

‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’ is surely to be regarded as Silverhead’s fighting song, a plea to be taken seriously, at a time when many lesser bands were achieving greater, often undeserved success. The short, sharp ‘Silver Boogie’ has a charm to it that puts you in mind of ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, and is a fairly unique way to close this debut LP.

Bonus tracks have more going for them than most CD fillers; ‘Ace Supreme’s thunderous echoing sound shows what a great live prospect they were, and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’ in the live arena is a revelation; great, scorching hot guitar licks pepper the lengthy take, and again the powerful sound showing evidence of no mean ability. The clearly audible female laughter suggests a surreptitious recording, somewhere in the audience, and all of Michael’s various attempts to fire up the crowd are there for posterity.

‘Sold Me Down The River’ has more desperate jollying up to its live outing, to little effect, and then we’re into the 7’’ versions of ‘Ace Supreme’ – a potent start-up, the homoerotic tale worked well, ‘Oh No No No’s tepid rocker and ‘Rolling With My Baby’s well produced, tighter sound, surely hinting at great things
to come.

silverhead_16andsavaged

‘16 and Savaged’, their second LP was released in 1973, and sporting the sort of cover image that would be unlikely to go down well in today’s more sensitive times. The LP’s nine tracks have been expanded to include live and unreleased material, more than doubling the musical content.

‘Hello New York’s guitar skids the LP into action, in a sub-Alice Cooper piece of jet-rock, and lets it settle in our brains by following it with a slow roller, ‘More Than Your Mouth Can Hold’ (ermm…) the US style vocal delivery perfect for this type of unashamedly dirty rocker. ‘Only You’ follows hot on its heels, some fine bluesy guitars leading up to a grand swell that reminds this listener of Humble Pie at their raunchiest.

‘Bright Light’ opens well with a swaggering guitar lick and rocks steadily throughout, but the shouted vocal turns out too jokey to carry what’s otherwise a good, steady roller. The generic 70’s stomper ‘Heavy Hammer’ doesn’t do what it says on the tin, but the wild ‘Cartoon Princess’ more than makes up for it. The talking guitar intro, topped off with ‘yacking’ vocal and punctuated with a neat bass turnaround keeps the momentum up, until the long lead out.

Sticking to what they know best, ‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’s title tells you all you need to know about this generic rocker, and it’s a shame that the chorus is as weak, with such a great title as this. The unfortunately named ‘This Ain’t A Parody’ sounds exactly like one, a slow blues with a predictable ‘crone’ voice, typical of many rock songs of the era. Closing track ’16 And Savaged’s powerful drum battery and slick guitar lick perfectly complement Michael’s performance as, at last, he lets his voice rip, in obvious 7’’ single material.

This is where the official LP ends, but the reissue extends to double the tracks, starting with a somewhat homoerotic tribute to the even then, much eulogised James Dean. It possesses some gritty guitar, a throaty vocal but cliché’d lyrics are all too evident. We continue in this vein with ‘Marilyn’, a standard rocker but with little else to recommend it.

Two Michael des Barres’ solo outings, and a change of pace in ‘Leon’, with its starry, Disney-fied opening, a little reminiscent of Elton John’s output of the time, it’s a gloomy tale of receiving news of a friend’s death in Amsterdam. The welcome bluesy rocker, ‘New Moon Tonight’, has the makings of a single in it, with a good, clean vocal sound and tidy backing. A brace of live tracks from the band follow, with an echoey sound that suggest ill-attended gigs in large, impersonal halls; either that, or the Nazareth/Uriah Heep headliner fans shoved off to the bar whilst Silverhead strutted their stuff. No matter; their guitars are strong, Michael’s vocal is helped by the weird acoustics, and the band play like their lives depended on it.

silverhead_live_rianbow

‘Live At The Rainbow London’ credited to ‘Michael Des Barres – Silverhead’ has only one cover version, the pugnacious, fuzzy closer of ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, but there are riffs aplenty before we get there. ‘Hello New York’s hard, rocking guitars complement Michael’s harsh delivery well, into the steady chugger, ‘James Dean’, the voice far better than on record, and buoyed up by good guitar work. ‘Sold Me Down The River’ creeps in, Michael’s Jaggerisms well to the fore, and the song ends with a mild-dare I say it?-mellow ‘Man Of The World’-style riff.

‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’ is prefaced by a long and predictably lecherous explanation of the song’s genesis, doing nothing to help what is basically a reliable rocker of a song, followed by the slow lament ‘Only You’. ‘Ace Supreme’ turns up like the proverbial bad penny, fouling the air with its twin exhausts, and ‘Rolling With My Baby’s piercing guitar uproar rolls along well, but the strain on Michael’s voice is all too evident here. ‘Will You Finance My Rock And Roll Band’ has some excellent staccato guitar, and may well be Silverhead’s finest hour.

The second half, recorded at the Paris Theatre, London, opens with the great, driving ‘Hello New York’, tightly delivered, the announcer leaving us to wonder how Silverhead were ever placed on the same bill as Peel-endorsed, jaws harp enthusiast hippie duo, Medicine Head. ‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’ works tolerably well, but ‘Rolling With My Baby’ has the sort of chops we all came for, a standout live track. ‘Bright Light’ sticks to the template, closing with ’16 And Savaged’, given pepped up guitars and powerful drums to great success with the crowd, and the very old fashioned BBC announcer’s voice kept in, just for the hell of it. It’s not over; an alternative, highly aggressive take of ‘James Dean’ hints ta what might have been and the classic rocker, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ putting the tin hat on it.

Why Silverhead didn’t become stars, is a little beyond me. They had the look, the star quality and the chops, as the live LPs attest. What may have been their Achilles heel, was how they sounded in the studio. Compare and contrast their Live At The Rainbow (where they supported the mighty Nazareth) to the sound of ’16 and Savaged’; the latter is a pale shadow of their live thunder. Perhaps their sound just couldn’t be captured in the antiseptic confines of a studio. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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September 22, 2016 By : Category : Front page Glam Live Music Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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The Hollywood Brats – Longjohn Reviews

In 1971 an 18-year-old Andrew Matheson arrived in London with just a guitar, a few quid and a head full of ideas about forming the perfect Rock n Roll band. Matheson drew up a five-point list that these band members would have to adhere to and the rules were simple. You had to “think like a star’’, have great hair (preferably straight hair), must be slender, young, and absolutely no facial hair and above all no girlfriends.

Matheson found his kindred spirits in the shape of Norwegian Stein Groven (Casino Steel), Euan Brady, Wayne Manor and Lou Sparks. These members would form the nucleus of The Hollywood Brats and Matheson’s attempts to turn these disparate bunch of Brats into bone fide rock stars failed abysmally, and this glorious failure is told in hilarious detail in his recent memoir, Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of Britain’s Great Lost Punk Band.

The Hollywood Brats also recorded what might be considered one of the first British Proto-Punk albums of the 1970s, and it has been re-mastered and re-packaged by Cherry Red Records as a vital 2-CD set, which includes their one and only long player, plus a bonus disc of  “Brats Miscellany’’, featuring, rarities, a few cover versions and a number of tracks that were muted for a second album. The set also includes detailed liner notes with written contributions from Matheson and Casino Steel.

As this album suggests The Hollywood Brats should have carved out a niche for themselves, but the tale of the Brats really is a tale of starvation, struggle, comedic bad timing and bad luck. Whatever momentum The Brats were starting to build-up was then quickly thwarted, when Matheson opened up the NME one morning in 1972 and what looked back at him was a band that were the total mirror image of themselves.

The New York Dolls were another tough Rock n Roll band with an equal amount of androgynous glamour, but they had the added bonus of having a record deal, a publicity machine and (sadly for the Brats) a tour booked for the U.K.  The comparisons visually and musically are obvious, and although both bands ploughed a similar musical furrow it is a mere coincidence only as Matheson explained that he had never heard of the Dolls until he picked up the NME on that fateful day in 1972.

The Hollywood Brats debut album is played fast and loud and has the swaggering attitude of the Rolling Stones and T-Rex thrown in for good measure.  However, the Brats were amplified just that little bit louder, and took the gender-bending pretensions of Glam that little bit further by smearing themselves in “Cleopatra Eye Liner’’ and “Cherry Blaze Outdoor Girl Lipstick’’. One can only imagine Matheson preening on stage in his glam rags, puckering up his ruby red lips to sing The Crystals classic “Then He Kissed Me’’ (featured here) to the baying violent mobs that frequently attended their live shows.

It would be too easy to get side-tracked by the doomed failure of The Hollywood Brats but two things should be remembered. Firstly they looked great and steered well clear of food encrusted facial hair, “upper lip fringes’’ and the dirty denim, which was so prevalent in the 1970s. Secondly, they recorded a lean, mean, muscular album that had songs that were full of bravado, wit and spades full of nihilism.

The album never saw the light of day in the U.K but was subsequently released in Norway before Cherry Red Records happened across a copy of this ultra rare album in 1978. It is largely thanks to them and Matheson’s brilliant memoir that The Hollywood Brats have not been confined to the dustbin of musical history. Although the album may not be an out and out classic there are still a handful of great songs on it, plus it has the added bonus of being played by glamorous lady boys draped in feather boas and dripping in lipstick, mascara and red nail varnish.

The album has attitude and it sounds lean, raw, and dirty and as Matheson explains in his memoir he was “driven by the purest of all emotions, which was hatred’’. Matheson made no attempt to hide his complete disdain for music that he considered was full of it’s own self-importance and he argued that “music needed to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken up’’.

Matheson steered these London ‘belles’ away from standard boring guitar noodling and dull drum solos and the ubiquitous Prog Rock pretensions that were so prevalent at the time. Instead The Brats aimed for something much more visceral, efficient, tough and above all sexy and provocative, but sadly for the Brats no one at the time was listening.

Listening to the album will probably draw the listener to the conclusion that The Hollywood Brats sound like a hybrid of the Stones and the New York Dolls. However, the album should be taken on it’s own merit, and there are a handful of great tracks, including album opener, Chez Maximes, Nightmare, Courtesan, Zurich 17, and Tumble With Me, which are all Glam rockers, have tough guitar riffs and sound equally trashy and vicious.

However, the album has the one stone cold classic and it is the hate-filled closing song Sick On You.  The vitriol poured out by Matheson towards a girl he no longer loves is delivered with such snarling venom and when he spits the opening words “you wanna know what it’s like condemned to live with you, it’s some kind of suicide, some phase that I went through’’, the moniker “Proto Punks’’ may indeed be fully justified.

There is definitely a correlation between The Hollywood Brats debut album and Matheson’s memoir that they are almost mutually dependent on each other, and should be enjoyed together. This album has the swagger and attitude you would associate with the Brats Glam Rock peers but, has the added impetus of rage and frustration thrown in for good measure. The Hollywood Brats were condemned to failure and obscurity but their combustible anger filled music would inadvertently manifest itself in Punk Rock, so perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies.

BUY IT HERE VIA CHERRY RED

Long John

Charming Chap and a new sharp force for Eyeplug, being a toppermost writer with a keen appreciation for things of quality and distinction. A well known face on the London ‘Mod’ Scene but with an open mind and heart. Got a strange interest in Pirates? One to watch out for!

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June 29, 2016 By : Category : Features Front page Glam Music Tags:, , , ,
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Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine by Andy Bell – Scenester Reviews

Andy Bell

Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine
(Strike Force Entertainment SFE045)

The upbeat ‘Statement of Intent’ opens Andy Bell’s seventh studio collection, and from the word go, it’s on its feet, weaving and punchy. The cavalcade of ‘liggers and leeches and fair weather friends’ are dealt with economically, and Andy even sucker-punches the listener with a spat-out ‘Go To Hell’

‘Beautiful Libertine’s weaving melody sets the scene for a lamentation about the romantic Paris of  poets and philosophers, long since replaced by today’s smart neighbourhoods and tourist traps. Undeterred, our runaway seeks out the French capital’s more dangerous pleasures in lesser visited arrondissements, in some of the most elegant lyrics on this CD.

The sinister, Brechtian ‘Loitering With Intent’ takes delight in its vengeful diatribe, suffused with sardonic humour. Accompanied only by piano, Andy continues the Weimar cabaret theme in ‘This Town Needs Jesus’, a matter of fact, slap-down story of disgust, disease and despair with the age-old possibility of an offer of redemption. The tinkling sound of a piano playing at a party punctuated by police sirens opens  ‘The Slums We Loved’, a reminisce about a past many would choose to forget. Our narrator has fonder memories in this song of the low neighbourhood which provided at least a shelter, a pub to visit and a dark corner for an exciting tryst.

‘Lady Domina Bizarre’s opening telephone message makes certain the listener knows what he or she is in for, and then throws them straight into a full blooded music hall tale, delivered in purple prose, peppered with  profanities. Our first taste of electronica is remarkably light touch, but there’s little else in ‘(Ooh Baby, you’re So) Queercore!’ that could be so termed. A joint vocal with firebrand bar singer Lana Pellay, this motor mouthed, box-checking dismissal of a supposed former lover proves too trying for this listener.

A perfunctory backing leaves enough space for another one way conversation in ‘Blow Jobs For Cocaine’, with our narrator showing a curiously censorious side to the deliverer of favours he’s also been prepared to give to others. The chanting and fearful vocals to ‘I’m Your Lover’ recalls Sweeney Todd  more than the late Mr Bowie it seems to be aiming at, but the gorgeous Eastern beat and Grand Guignol imagery is well worth  listening to. The best thing about ‘Rupert Drinks Vodka’ may be its backing, as its brief, catty tale of an old lush unwinds with little humour and even less interest.

The hard, reviving dance beats of ‘We Were Singing Along To Liza’ shows realistic single potential. Sticking to a well-loved musical formula in a fondly remembered tale, this one gets my vote for standout track.

With a cloying music box backing, ‘Photos of Daniel’ unrolls the regretful tale of a former life with a certain humour, and any resemblance to characters living or dead, is presumably only an unfortunate coincidence. It’s rare that Andy lets that fine voice fly here, and a shame we have to wait until ‘I Am The Boy Who Smiled At You’ for an involved, emotional performance of a song with the depth and rawness its subject deserves. With our ration of passion behind us, it’s back to delicate piano notes overlaid with standard sleaze, in ’Bond Street Catalogues’. Lyrically, it’s a winner, with a tale of a money-grubbing bawd doing what’s necessary to amass the ackers, but being more Carry On that Jacques Brel, it’s just a footnote here.

The steady rocking guitar, bass and synth Euro-epic ‘My Precious One’ represents more singles material, making this listener wish for a collection full of this honest-to goodness pop.

‘To Have And To Hold’s all too brief, gentle croon does its work, then blends into a reprise of ‘Statement Of Intent’, to deliver the coup de grace. Andy’s strengths are well known, but maybe they’re all too rarely on show here. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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April 18, 2016 By : Category : Features Front page Glam Music Pop Reviews Tags:, ,
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The Runaways – Scenester Reviews

The Runaways (Cherry Red Records CDMRED 237)

Girl groups are nothing new, and this was also true back in the mid-70’s, when a gang of teenagers kicked their way through the walls of the male-dominated music industry and staked their claim to rock immortality. Managed by the notorious Kim Fowley, equal parts Svengali, hustler and guide, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, Joan Jett and Sandy West strapped on their guitars and took the boys on at their own game. Numerous line-up changes followed in their brief career, but it’s the first US LP our friends at Cherry Red have reissued here, and it’s this CD reissue I’ll confine my comments to.

The girls hit the ground running with ‘Cherry Bomb’, a lurking, threatening rocker that refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer, turning from a slow tease in the first three verse lines, to the haggard screech of a crone in the last. Ecstatic moans punctuate the song, ending on a glorious, Sweet-style metallic echo.

The hard, aggressive blues opening to ‘You Drive Me Wild’ leads into a straight ahead rock ‘n’ roller penned by Joan Jett, full of one-on-one sexual promise, an alternating riff and spiced up with plenty of yelping vocals and more and more ecstatic moans.

The glam racket of ‘Is It Day or Night?’ is another winner, from the pen of Kim Fowley, portraying the low-life ennui in the aftermath of a night – or a lifetime – spent pursuing life’s more hazardous pleasures. With lyrics like ‘Novocaine Lips’ and some great, crashing false endings, what other decade could this song have come from?

Proving that the basic rock riff always holds good, ‘Thunder’ takes us on a classic journey through love, drawing on age-old imagery of natures’ indomitable powers, held together with an insistent bass riff and Cherie’s voice handling the melody well.

Mention 70’s sleaze and the blue mask of Lou Reed makes its spectral appearance on the studio wall. The Runaways’ fine take on Lou’s eternal ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ has some surprisingly funky elements thrown in for good measure, nice bass runs, cowbells and some dry-throated screams to take it far enough away from the original to make it a true cover version, and not the usual obligatory tribute.

Cherie’s voice is loaded with suggestion in ‘Lovers’, a demanding, teasing song from Jett and Fowley, with a kiss-off that demands a reply.

Lou seems to have been implanted into the band’s DNA, if ‘American Nights’ is anything to go by. A distant relative of ‘Sweet Jane’, with fuzzy guitars proving a nice touch, in a characteristic song of youthful, dangerous adventure.

The basic two-note riff and Joplin-style shriek which opens ‘Blackmail’ gets your attention without any effort. A hard and nasty fuzz guitar solo in a song as literal as it is effective, Cherie’s voice ranges from a rough growl to a hacking cough as she spells out the terrible fate her former lover will face.

The Rolling Stones’ style opening riff of ‘Secrets’ sets the scene well, a tale of deceit and double lives with a whiff of the forbidden about the relationship. The feedback lead out is subtly handled, and a first on the LP.

A great, chugging bass line and a nasty/sexy voice opens The Runaways’ ‘Dead End Justice’. Basically a 1950’s style female juvenile delinquent film script, set to high-octane 1970’s rock music, with lyrics as hard as cheap nails; it’s the perfect (getaway) vehicle. Even the imaginary film title hides in the lyrics, ’Dead End Kids In The Danger Zone’ as our teen protagonists go from teasing the boys in their skin tight jeans and provoking fights, all in one brew and pharma-fuelled night. The inevitable come-uppance lands the pair in jail, at the tender mercies of police, wardens and other prisoners. Our girls plot their escape their voices a low whisper, but… Well, I’ll let you guess the rest if you’re too mean, or too snobbish, or just too plain dull to buy the LP. It’s a magnificent way to end, full of the 70’s ambitious stage-stylings, youthful swagger and later, the desperate nostalgia for an era they were too young to remember, and the girls bring it off brilliantly for the age it was minted in.

GRAB YOUR COPY HERE

Scenester

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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September 29, 2015 By : Category : Front page Garage Glam Music Picks Punk Reviews Rock Tags:, , , , ,
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Blue Mink – LP Review

The Singles Collection – Blue Mink (Glam CD 124)

Take yourself back to the early 1970’s, to an age when the big noise was the humble pop song, whether shrieking out of a tiny transistor radio or blaring out of a bruiser of a record player. The better-selling LP was the older, less fashionable brother’s format, but the 7’’ single still had near-totemic power over the nation’s nation’s pop kids, who were staring at the posters on their walls, and happily enjoying this subculture, to the amusement – or more likely, the complete incomprehension – of their parents.

As Britain’s rock acts became ever more LP-orientated, the Top 30 (see glossary for these archaic terms) soon filled with a great variety of light rock, MOR and honest-to-goodness, well-crafted pop. The latter was perfectly exemplified in the talented team of Blue Mink. Basically a conglomerate of long-experienced session players, singers and pop craftsmen, their respectable string of hits from ’69-’74 are all collected on this neat CD, with the welcome addition of some of their less successful output.

‘Melting Pot’s simple and honest plea for racial understanding may sound a little patronising these days, but this Roger Cook-Roger Greenaway ditty was minted at a time when racially bigoted attitudes were common currency. The vocal duo of Roger Cook and Madeline Bell delivered the lines with a gentle touch, and the song peaked at No 3.

‘Good Morning Freedom’s bright, wide-awake start couldn’t fail, with its rolling piano and Gospel tinged harmonies, and managed a No 10 for this rangy group. A stab at the eco-protest song with ‘Our World’ followed, opening with doomy chords, but soon slipping into the shared vocals of Madeline Bell and Roger Cook and a rousing, hopeful chorus. Although not as successful as the previous two singles, it still sold enough to matter.

‘Time for Winning’s failure to chart proved an early set back, in spite of its use in film ‘The Raging Moon’, but the band were soon back on top with the schmaltzy Salvation Army march, ‘The Banner Man’. Their most successful single and a global hit, and Madeline Bell’s voice is as honeyed as ever, I bet you still remember the words.

‘Sunday’s bluegrass feel was a departure from their usual fare, but despite its lazy, summery beat and drawling vocals, it met with no success, and it looked like Blue Mink had peaked early. ‘Count Me In’s creeping intro, a little reminiscent of Three Dog Night’s ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’, suits this further slice of protest pop, with some finely orchestrated backing and heartfelt vocals.

‘Wacky Wacky Wacky’s jolly tune and nonsensical lyrics mask a song of longing that still didn’t work its magic for a chart placing. Fans of stoner humour will no doubt appreciate some of the song’s cultural references, ‘Stay with Me’s smoochy ballad, with a simple backing and fine, blended vocals saw the band back in the Top 20, in amongst the first stirrings of glam rock.

The Gaelic lick and ‘join in’ vocals of ‘By the Devil I Was Tempted’ show the band’s strengths well and this simple, almost stereotypical Gospel song propelled them to a fairly respectable Top 30 position. Their final hit, a Top 10-er at that, would be the pub singalong, ‘Randy’, with its tinkling piano, choppy guitar and celebratory vocal, about a whimsical, carefree character, all so common in those far-off days of virtual full employment and endless possibilities for the young.

‘Quackers’ silly instrumental may try the patience a little, but ‘Get Up’s jaunty piano and funky beat proves more palatable, with its essential countdown and expert vocalising. ‘Another Without You Day’ tugs at the heartstrings, with its pastoral guitars and gentle vocals, hinting that the well wasn’t quite dry yet. Ironically, the single didn’t get released until after the band had called it a day.

‘You’re The One’ marked a belated return for the band in 1976, although this chugger, faintly reminiscent of The Captain and Tenille’s ‘Love will Keep Us Together’, also failed to pay dividends. ‘Five Minute Wonder’s stab at disco is enjoyable enough, but their take on this hugely popular genre didn’t garner any chart action. ‘Where Were You Today’ seemed a return to the jauntier rhythms they were so fond of, but a rival version of the song by its co-writer, David Dundas, was released at the same time. Neither version met with success, and Blue Mink laid down their instruments for the last time.

Scenester 30/6/15

Scensters’ Useful Glossary:

Transistor radio: Ingenious, inexpensive device from Japan, giving th’ kids access to a world of pop perfection via the medium of the airwaves. As ubiquitous as the mobile phone today, no possibility of cyber-bullying and no ridiculous contract amount to pay each month.

Record player: Heavy, wooden box with cast iron arm and spinning platter on which to play your singles and LPs. Design basically unchanged since Victorian times, except for electrical propulsion.

7’’ single: A disk of vinyl plastic inscribed with a spiral groove, with enough room for one shot of pure musical heaven, and a rather dodgy support song on the other side.

LP: Long playing disk of vinyl plastic, the big bro’ of the above, with enough room for about twenty minutes’ worth each side of potential singles (if you were lucky) or sheer self-indulgent clod-hoppery (if you weren’t).

7’’ singles and LPs were also both known, confusingly, as ‘records’, as if something generated by the National Archive.

Top 30: Allegedly the 30 singles which garnered the highest sales that particular week. Cynics suggested it was more to do with offers of bungs and sexual favours and the pop world’s equivalent of the Old Boy’s Network, which placed a single in the higher reaches of the Top 30.

‘Hit’: A record which succeeded in reaching the ‘charts’. Stretching the definition, a ‘Hit’ could be Top 20, Top 30, or Top 40, depending on whether you were a pop fan or a record label skivvy.

‘MOR’: Middle of the Road, a stereotypical song or act. Often wildly successful viz the late great James Last.

 

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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July 3, 2015 By : Category : Classic Front page Glam Music Reviews Soul Tags:, , , , , ,
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Cherry Red Album Reviews – Jan 2014 by Colin Bryce

H.P. Lovecraft

lovecraft

H.P. Lovecraft: Dreams in the Witch House
Complete Philips Recordings (Rev-Ola)

Legendary harmony laden folk-psych masters get their Philips label works collected by Rev-Ola.

Originally from Chicago (with a Dunwich Records session men connection) the band relocated to San Francisco in 1967 just in time for the explosion of like-minded folk trippers. Blessed with superior vocal harmonies and a penchant for crafting and performing tunes with darkly impassioned lyrical elements it is no wonder that their fan base has grown over the years. Two albums in the group was pretty much finished. Chart hits eluded them in spite of quality bills and playing some of the nations top clubs.

The visual elements of their best songs combined with a focused and expertly crafted musical component will certainly have fans of the psych/harmony-folk genre hitting the repeat button on their players. (23 tracks.) BUY HERE!

Treacle Toffee World

treacle

Treacle Toffee World: Further Pop Psych Sounds
from the Apple Era 1967-1969 (RPM)

A number of unreleased obscurities by the likes of the Iveys, 23rd Turnoff, Grapefruit and Gallagher and Lyle sit alongside better-known classics like Fire’s ”Father’s Name is Dad” and the title track “Treacle Toffee World.”

Balloons, coppers, butterflies, wind, far-away lands and the like are the typical subject matter of the purveyors of classic pop-psych and there is plenty of that here. All delivered of course in a delightfully harmonious, whimsical and occasionally feedback fuelled manner sure to sit nicely alongside your afternoon cuppa. (18 tracks.) BUY HERE!

Bowler Hats & Leather Boots

bowler

Bowler Hats & Leather Boots: Personalities Go Pop Art (él)

Oh my goodness. Did you say you were looking for something to help you clear the party? Or did you say you were the type that was looking for the weirdest sort of odd-duck tune to send to your least favourite ex? Well there are plenty of them either however you choose to irritate your enemies. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t all atrocious but many are just plain, uh, too nuts for fun.

The pain begins with George Melly enunciating the shit out of a bunch of “sounds” then follows through to the excruciating teen plop of Hayley Mills doing a couple of juvenile chalk board scrapers. The collection continues on the stairway to hell with Elke Sommer, Oliver Reed, Dirk Bogarde, David Niven and countless others. I for one have never found Robert Mitchum’s take on “calypso” appealing in any way shape or form. I’d put it right up there with Dick Van Dyke’s cockney if you know what I mean. Thankfully with only one tune.

There is an oddity or two that is sure to appeal to some, like Quentin Crisp’s “Stop the Music for a Moment” or Salvidor Dali’s “Dali Paints a Picture” if only just to hear them speak. Otherwise, AGH! Bizarre, irritating, strange and occasionally oddly compelling but definitely not for your average listener. I will now go and try to expunge the sounds from my memory bank. (36 tracks.) BUY HERE!

John’s Children

JCcover

John’s Children: A Strange Affair, the Sixties Recordings (Grapefruit)

Any fan of 60s, mod, freakbeat, glam, pre-punk, punk and just plain old classic UK rock’n’roll should consider having this collection in their library. Fair enough a fair chunk of this has been collected elsewhere before but you should still get your hands on this music if you haven’t already. John’s Children are infamous/famous for outrageous on and off stage behaviour, having Marc Bolan in the band in the early days and for having spawned the careers of future Radio Stars/Jet members Andy Ellison and Chris Townson (also in the Jook).

With former Yardbirds manager Simon Napier-Bell as manager of the band the band was able to secure a record deal and wreak havoc far and wide. Even causing a riot in Germany while touring with the Who. It should be noted here too that drummer Chris Townson actually subbed for Keith Moon at one point. To quote the legendary Gorillas front man Jesse Hector when he mentioned this fact to me over a half cider in a Camden pub, “The Who, Colin. You can’t do better than that.” He’s right of course and Chris Towson was a superb drummer. Sadly he passed away a few years back. The band had reformed and played a number of times over the past decade and a half and while Andy and Chris were the sole original members the line-up had also included their former Jet/Radio Stars band mate Martin Gordon on bass as well as Morrissey guitarist and John’s Children mega fan Boz Boorer.

This double disc set is full to the brim with rarities, bonus tracks, the original Orgasm album as well as Andy Ellison solo tracks, And you know what? You can’t do better than that. Essential stuff and a fantastic package conceived and compiled by John Reed. (CD1: 26 tracks. CD2: 26 tracks.) BUY HERE!

Colin -Mohair Sweets- Bryce

One of Canada’s late 70’s “punk” rock crowd and from 1997 to 2007 the fellow behind Mohair Sweets print and webzine. Currently passes the time by playing the odd gig or two, shaking his head, wringing his hands and pondering whether or not the tape vaults of the legendary Pirates are really exhausted.

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January 21, 2014 By : Category : Features Folk Front page Glam Music Pop Post-punk Punk Reviews Tags:, , , , , ,
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Interview with Phil King

Phil King has just returned from a series of foreign dates playing bass with the Jesus and Mary Chain – with a US tour to follow this September, 2012 . He has also just seen some of his interviews with legendary glam era/proto-punk figures published in a collection of obscure glam (and some not so obscure) and pop picture sleeves called Wired Up! Find that here!

I figured this was a very good time to catch up with a busy Phil on music, life, Jesse Hector and his various contributions to the music biz…

I think I met you first Phil through our mutual Jesse Hector connection so let’s start there. Tell me a little bit of how you came to be a Jesse Hector aficionado?

Well around 1997 I picked up this amazing rough diamond of a single by a group called Helter Skelter titled ‘I Need You’ on this weird little record label called Sticky – which has probably my favourite designed label, of a man up a ladder with a bucket of wallpaper paste and a long brush pasting up a poster with ‘Sticky’ printed on it – and was intrigued by the fact that the vocals on it sounded very much like Jesse Hector, but confused at the same time, as the label said it was made in 1977 – and it certainly sounded like it as it was very punky – but thought how could this be as Jesse would have been in The Gorillas at this point in his career? I had picked up the single from this guy who I found when I’d put a lineage ad in the back of Record Collector looking for Junkshop Glam singles. He had worked as a sales person at Bell records and had amassed an amazing collection of mostly demo singles from the early to mid ’70s which he listed for sale for a few pounds each. He very kindly not only supplied me with a handwritten list but also recorded both sides of each single up to the first chorus of the song on a cassette. I got some incredible singles from him. I of course remembered The Gorillas from the music press of the day as they had a very distinctive look what with Jesse’s mutton chops, garish checked trousers and the group’s singular space age mod appearance. Quite unlike anyone else at the time. And being during the time of punk this is saying something. But who were Helter Skelter? Searching online I found your site Mohair Sweets, which had an excellent extensive blog on Jesse and told of this amazing back story of groups that he had been in before – and after – The Gorillas. It was fascinating. Amongst the many groups listed that Jesse had been in there was one called Helter Skelter in the early 1970s – and a photo of them standing around looking tough on a Kilburn bombsite – but it didn’t list any single. I remember contacting you and telling you about it and you being pretty much nonplussed. Not long after I struck gold and found some more copies – and a few other Sticky label gems – crate digging at a Sunday record fair in Russell Square in a box of £1 singles mostly on the President label (Sticky was a subsidiary of President) tucked away under a record dealer’s trestle table and sent you a copy. I also gave a copy to Phillipe Migrenne, Jesse’s manager, who I was introduced to through you and he then introduced me to Jesse. By this point I had collected the amazing proto-punk bruisers Crushed Butler’s 10″ album that had recently been unearthed, a group that one reviewer described as ‘ugly music for ugly people’. Also I got an EP of Jesse’s rock n’ roll recordings from the early 1960s, The Hammersmith Gorillas ‘Gorilla Got Me’ compilation on Ace and of course The Gorillas album, ‘Message To The World’, which was stunning. It’s the history of rock n’ roll in one record – and the cover is amazing too. The Gorillas on a meteorite coming down to save earth with rock n’ roll! At this time I had just started putting out Junkshop Glam compilations and related albums for a label called RPM so suggested to Jesse that we put together a compilation of recordings from throughout his illustrious career which we named Gorilla Garage. Not long afterwards I also got involved in the making of a documentary by Caroline Catz on Jesse Hector called A Message To The World, which got shown at various film festivals including the Raindance Festival in London in 2008.

The other main thing that I know you for is the “junk shop glam” collection things you’ve been involved with. How do you personally define glam and the “junk shopversion of glam?

John Lennon once famously described Glam as being rock n’ roll with a bit of lipstick on. I personally see it as a natural progression from bubblegum that came just before it. The same insanely catchy tunes, as few chords as humanly possible, fuzztoned guitars – but with added tub thumping drums and dressed up a bit. No – a lot.

Junk Shop Glam is just the glam that missed the charts – or the boat. There was an article in Disc around about 1974 (which was getting pretty late for glam) that had a list of new acts who were tipped for the top. Cockney Rebel and Sparks were in it, as were Hector. The first two went on to greater success of course, but unfortunately Hector didn’t. Even though they had the look – painted on freckles on their faces, stripy t-shirts, dungarees, (a look based on Dennis The Menace) – and an amazing first single in Wired Up (which was the first song on my Junkshop Glam compilation Boobs and the title of the book coming out this month of European picture sleeve singles from the early to mid ’70s – the first 500 copies come with a vinyl copy of the single) the single sadly never troubled the charts.

Some readers may of course know you as the bassist of Lush. You’ve been very busy though lately as the bottom end of the reunited Jesus and Mary Chain. How about a run down on some of the other groups you have provided bass for before we get into details and specifics on the Mary Chain and such…

Well I’ve played with a lot of people. The Servants, Felt, Biff Bang Pow!, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughters, Apple Boutique, See See Rider, Welfare Heroine, Lush, Adrian Borland (on a track on his ‘Cinemantic’ album), The Jesus And Mary Chain, Earl Brutus, Brett Smiley, John Howard, Sister Vanilla, Jackie De Shannon, Les Hommes Responsables (60s French covers band), John’s Children and The John Moore Rock And Roll Trio.

Maybe I should put Jesse Hector in there as well as I did rehearse with him.

Plus you are still working on getting Jesse Hector to a gig! Could you retire then you figure?

I could certainly retire when I get Jesse to gig. It might be a long wait though!

Let’s get back to the Jesus and Mary Chain briefly here. World tour was it? My guess is there were a lot of people who had waited a long time to see the band…?

The touring has been pretty sporadic this year. First of all Texas, then we went to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and then back to the US – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego – and then Buffalo and a couple of dates in Canada a few weeks ago. We’re due to go back to the US for a three week tour in September and then have a few shows in Tel Aviv in October. Think that might be it for the year. Hopefully lots more shows next year. Who knows, maybe we might even play Europe.

The shows have been going very well. Lots of young people down the front. There seems to be even more interest this time round than when the group first reformed in 2007. Maybe we are becoming like those old blues guys that people want to catch playing while we are still together. Catch us while you can.

Indulge me if you will. I have a bit of a thing about where people go to find space and feel comfortable in their neighbourhoods and that includes eating. Without giving too much away – unless of course you want to – have you got a fave or two?

When I’m not on tour and working in London I tend to not stray far from where I live in Highgate. In the evenings and like to go a local Indian restaurant on the Archway Road. When I am in Porto with my family we go to a great fish restaurant down near the harbour. Grilled sardine are a Portuguese speciality. Portuguese wine is great too. Especially the red from the local Douro region.

Could you tell me a little about your daytime gig? As much as I’m sure that rock’n’roll is endlessly rewarding in a spiritual sense, the money it would seem ain’t what it used to be. I mean, if it ever really was anyway…

I started picture researching quite by chance around 1988. Julie Barber, a friend of mine was freelancing at the NME on their picture desk and needed someone to cover for her and got me in. Then she left and I took over full time. I was there till the end of 1991 when I left to join Lush. I’d bought the paper – and most of the others too – every week since the early 1970s so had a good knowledge of what images were in the archive. I still use the NME photo archives these days on Uncut. It has been amalgamated with the Melody Maker photo archive so there is even a bigger selection. I also get images from picture agencies and photographers. In the old days you would have had to ring up picture agencies to see if they had certain images and then order a bike to go and pick them up. Nowadays you can just look online at their websites and download the images. I also do the picture and editorial research on the Uncut specials we have done on various artist such as David Bowie, The Who, The Clash & Led Zeppelin. There are also more and more app versions of the specials so I need to get additional images for picture galleries for them as well. We have the bound volumes of NME, Melody Maker and Disc that I can read and I also can look at digital versions of NME and Melody Maker that I have on my hard drive. I also did some picture researching for artist Jeremy Deller a few years ago for an exhibition he was doing in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo. He wanted images from dates for David Bowie’s Ziggy period tours and also photos of industrial unrest and IRA bombings around the same time that he could juxtapose with the Bowie pics. I’ve actually just recently finished working on a big Bowie book that is due out in the autumn.

I’m curious too how the business of putting a compilation CD together goes. Would you give me a brief run through of one of the comps you put together? Glitterbest in particular if you don’t mind because a number of the ’76 era punk rock crowd were featured there.

Well I was involved with helping to compile the first Junkshop Glam compilation Velvet Tinmine that came out on RPM and also helped with – and named – the Glitter From The Litter Bin comp that Sanctuary put out. When it came to do another one for RPM Mark Stratford – who runs the label – and I came up with the idea of doing one that would have songs that sounded like they were the precursor to Punk. I came up with the title ‘Glitterbest’ as the name of Malcolm McLaren’s company – which he bought off the shelf as it was a company that had gone bankrupt – for when he managed The Sex Pistols captured perfectly the mix of proto-punk, glam – and a hint of pub rock – that was going to be on the comp. I then gave Mark a list of songs that I ideally wanted to be on the compilation and then he told me which ones would be the easiest to license and also made suggestions of his own. Jesse Hector of course featured heavily with three songs on the album by The Hammersmith Gorillas, Helter Skelter & Crushed Butler. This led to RPM putting out Jesse’s ‘Gorilla Garage’ comp and also the Crushed Butler album on CD. I also put the b-side to Milk N’Cookies first single ‘Little, Lost & Innocent’ on there as well and that led to RPM releasing their album which was originally recorded in 1975 and not released till 1977 on Island. There has been a lot interest in them since and the album has been put out on vinyl – and also on cassette by a very cool label in California called Burger Records. They also have reformed to play the Wired Up book launch in New York this month. Wish I could be there to see them play.

And for those guitar aficionados out there let’s talk a little about the Phil King gear line-up. I often see you pictured with a Fender Precision bass. My bet is there are some vintage tools lurking in the shed as well, no?

The Fender Precision, which I played with Lush, has become my spare guitar with The Jesus and Mary Chain as it doesn’t have enough of an edge for their sound. They have a Fender Jazz bass which I play through an Ampeg. I play that pretty much clean apart from on a few of the songs where I use a bass fuzz pedal. I did borrow a Wooly Mammoth which sounded amazing, but had to give it back, so had a clone made which sounds pretty good. Lately I’ve been using a bass fuzz pedal supplied by our guitar tech John Kassner; I have had lots of vintage guitars over the years such as a 1960s Epiphone Rivoli and a Gretsch Anniversary but I could never afford to build up a collection and sold them to get other guitars. At the moment I have an old candy apple red Fender Jazzmaster six string guitar and a few 30w amps – a Burns Sonic and a Vox AC30. I also kept the Galien Kruger amp top that I used with Lush and one Hartke cab. The Fender Precision sounds pretty smooth but punchy through that. At home I am quite happy to play a battered old Spanish guitar that I picked up in a charity shop in the Kings Road for £15 a few years ago. It’s made by an Italian company famous for violins called Rodolfo Paralupi and has a beautifully low action on it. Inside the sound hole is written in pencil the person’s name who made it – which I can’t read – and then ‘Roma 1948.’ Maybe it’s because I’m so used to playing the bass but I like the chunkiness of the neck of Spanish guitars. Good for picking too. I’ve just looked online and seen that a 1949 model went for $900 a few years ago. Think I got a bargain.

Let’s get back again to the Wired Up! book that has just been released. You contributed four feature articles including one on Jesse Hector, one on the criminally overlooked Jook, Brett Smiley and New York’s Milk N’Cookies.  I’m sure you love ‘em all but who do you think – given a bit more of a push, or some better luck – could have had a better go of it?

That’s an impossible question to answer really as they were all in with a chance. With Jesse I think the problem was switching from Chiswick to Raw and the album ‘Message To The World’ not coming out till 1978, as for The Jook their live sound was never properly captured on their five singles on RCA, their tartan trimmed look was nicked by The Bay City Rollers and it wasn’t till they recorded the ‘Watch Your Step’ EP – and that didn’t even come out till years after they split up (as two members were poached for Sparks – that they had the sound they wanted. With Brett Smiley and Milk N’ Cookies their respective record companies just gave up the ghost and shelved their albums after putting out just one single.

I must say I find some of the sleeves included in the Wired Up! book to be completely bizarre. I had to give my head a shake. What do you think was going on in some of the art departments who were supposed to be helping to promote these bands?

Acid flashbacks maybe? It would be certainly interesting to track down the graphic designers who worked on the sleeves and ask them “What were you thinking?” They are amazing though.

Last but not least Phil, have you any plans to play in platform boots anytime soon?

I think that very unlikely Colin. If I did I don’t think my bass fuzz pedal would last very long being stomped on by a very heavy platform boot.

Colin -Mohair Sweets- Bryce

One of Canada’s late 70’s “punk” rock crowd and from 1997 to 2007 the fellow behind Mohair Sweets print and webzine. Currently passes the time by playing the odd gig or two, shaking his head, wringing his hands and pondering whether or not the tape vaults of the legendary Pirates are really exhausted.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Features Front page Genres Glam Indie Interviews Music Post-punk Tags:, , ,
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Interview with Andy Ellison

In conversation with Andy Ellison By Michelle Coomber

I met the enigmatic Andy Ellison for afternoon drinks in Soho. Betraying his previous hedonistic lifestyle, he’s fit, tanned with blonde spiky hair and a cheeky smile. He still looks capable of jumping up and hanging from the lights without any effort or warning, but he’s softly spoken and well-mannered and there wasn’t a hint of a feather pillow. We chatted about his teenage years, memories as lead singer and songwriter with the Silence, John’s Children, Jet and Radio Stars, wild adventures and Hells Angels. We discussed Simon Napier-Bell, The Who, fights, banned records, white clothes and his solo career. And we talked about Marc Bolan and the fondness that still remains.

Let’s begin by chatting about your formative years.

I was born in Hammersmith but we moved to Finchley. I was a hyper-active kid, and driving both my parents up the wall, so they thought I should be in an environment where I could learn some control. Eventually, I was taken out of a secondary modern school at fourteen. I was sent to a boarding school in Devon, it housed forty other uncontrollable boys. It was quite a shock to the system but I had a fantastic time, although I was still pretty rebellious. After two years, I managed to get the school closed down by getting all the boys to run away one morning break-time (except for two kids in the sick bay) and we camped out in a forest on Exmoor for a few days where we lived off chickens which we stole from a nearby farming school and put in sacks. We made makeshift tents out of bracken, killed the hens, plucked them and cooked them on makeshift spits. By the second day, we were like something from Lord of the Rings. This was a great adventure until we were found by a police helicopter. The story even appeared on the front page of the Telegraph, luckily my parents read the Daily Express. I was immediately expelled but the school soon closed down as the kids were too much to handle. I was moved to Box Hill Outward Bound School in Surrey which was an expensive public school, so the move was financed by my grandmother and a local government bursary, I was sixteen and still out of control.

How did you and Chris Townson become friends?

I’d seen Chris around Box Hill School but didn’t meet him until a few months later. I was pretty good at art, so the headmaster decided I should paint the backdrop for a school play and Chris was sent to do the same task after deliberately treading on his National Health specs to get out of lessons. We hit it off and got more boisterous as we chucked paint at each other and all over the screen. The headmaster returned and said it was the best backdrop the school ever had! Chris and I struck up a good friendship after that. We used to sit in the rooms at the top of the school and Chris would play ukulele while I sang and played harmonica. In fact, me and Chris started out playing folk music and decided we were beatniks. We spent the summer hols on a road trip around the South of England, Jack Kerouac style! We convinced people on the way to give up secure jobs and join us on our travels, but me and Chris would sneak off and eat properly in cafes while they scavenged for food. We left them behind as we grew really tired of it, so I don’t know what ever happened to them after we got the train back home!

How did you both get involved with a band after leaving school?

We left school in 1963 and Chris went on to art school and I worked as a photographer’s assistant at Rome Studios in Soho. Chris would sometimes turn up with a girl and they’d smoke joints while trying to entice me off work but I was actually quite restrained. I supplied him with art work from the studio to help him through his degree. Chris decided to get extra art tuition and visited Mr Dawsett who was a college tutor living in nearby Fetcham. When Chris arrived at his house, he heard live music coming from another room. Mr Dawsett explained that it was his son, Chris, playing keyboards, his daughter on drums and their friend, Geoff McClelland, on guitar. Chris was invited to meet them and he asked if they needed another guitarist. Chris D said they needed a drummer as his sister was too young, so Chris said “Yes, I can do that” and proceeded to smash his way around the kit like some mad man. There was a long silence as they looked on non-plussed, then Chris D asked him if he wanted to join the band, so that was the end of his extra tuition and they regularly rehearsed blues music in the Dawsett’s living room. A few months later, their band, the Clockwork Onions, had secured a local gig and Chris invited me along. I was still playing harmonica and made a gunslinger belt from my dad’s old army belt, it sat diagonally across my chest and held lots of different harmonicas, I was very influenced by Cyril Davies at the time. I went to the gig and Louis Grooner (another Box Hill ex-pupil) was lead singer but he leapt off stage halfway through the gig when he saw someone chatting up his girlfriend. He jumped off stage and chased the guy out of the club, the rest of the band played on but it didn’t seem like he was coming back, I jumped on stage and started playing my harmonica, then I made up the words to the next song and the next, somehow we got through the rest of the gig. The band asked me to replace Louis, so that’s how it started.

What became of the Clockwork Onions?

We changed the name to the Few, not sure why as the Clockwork Onions was a great name, and played venues around Kingston, Richmond and Guildford. Then we changed our name to the Silence because we played very loud and liked the juxtaposition. I was also a fan of the 1963 film of the same name by Ingmar Bergman. We covered R&B classics but had started to perform some of my own songs including ‘Green Light’ and we recorded four songs in a garage in Dorking! We were going to see other bands such as the Small Faces, the Kinks and Geno Washington. But it was The Who’s gig in Guildford that really blew us away. We were emulating the musical style of the Rolling Stones with songs by Muddy Waters etc but The Who gave the blues more of an English twist with heavy guitar and we knew that’s how we wanted to play. Martin Sheller went to the same art school as Chris, he was a devoted mod and joined the band on keyboards and supplied a lot of drugs! We were playing more mod covers at this point and had a good following and a weekly residency at the Bluesette Club in Leatherhead (known as the Chuck Wagon). Martin eventually drifted away from the band, he later formed The Regents who had a hit with ‘7-Teen’ in 1979. I bumped into him in the mid-80s when I went to Ibiza with my young family, he was still into drugs and hadn’t changed much but it was good to see him. Sadly, he passed away in 1999. After Martin left our band, some of the guys swapped instruments and John Hewlett came along and pretended he could play bass and had lots of influential contacts. Of course, he was lying on both counts but he looked the part, so he came on board. He played a huge, low sound which really worked for us.

Don Arden was interested in the Silence, why didn’t you sign with him?

Don asked us to support the Small Faces and Kiki Dee at a few gigs in the South of England and Wales. We were also Kiki’s backing band, so we had to quickly learn her songs and somehow John managed to get through it with his limited guitar-playing! We had a good time and they were all really nice to us but they did their own thing. Don invited us to his office in Carnaby Street and wanted to sign us but it was only because he planned to break us up afterwards. He was worried that we would be in competition with the Small Faces, so he wanted to control us. We were a pretty mod band with a good following. We were a bit scared of him and we decided not to sign up.

There seems to be quite a story leading up to meeting Simon Napier-Bell

It’s a long story! We were invited to play at the summer pool party at the beautiful Burford Bridge Hotel in the North Downs. However, Chris T and John went missing the weekend before the gig, we discovered they had been invited to the South of France by Gordon Bennett, who was the manager of the Bluessette club and had been in prison for using rubber cheque books. They promptly packed their bags and drove to Heathrow but the car ran out of petrol, so they hailed a taxi and Gordon paid the fare by cheque as well as their single flights to Nice. They got another taxi to Cannes where they booked into a plush hotel and drank champagne while Gordon bounced more cheques. I was getting ready for work on the Monday morning when my mum brought in a telegram which said ‘We are in St Tropez. Bring the equipment. John’. I phoned Geoff and he had received the same telegram. We decided not to cancel the gig as it was such an important one for us. Gordon disappeared and John met a dodgy Bardot look-a-like and he and Chris continued to party.

How did they cope without Gordon and his cheques?

They didn’t. The hotel manager knocked on their door with two gendarmes and asked for Gordon Bennett (That really was his name!). Chris, John and the French girl were taken off to the police cells but the girl was released. Chris and John were up in court the next day and said they had no idea the cheque book was stolen or that Gordon was a known fraudster. John was allowed to go and raise the bail money while Chris went back to the cells. John returned to the hotel and saw the French girl who persuaded him to go to St. Tropez. He thought he could charm a millionaire with his sob story and pay the bail money, so he got on the back of her scooter and off they went. When they arrived, they walked along the lit-up harbour which was bustling with rich playboys and dolly birds, John loved its glamour and nightlife. They passed the Voom, Voom club where he recognised the loud sounds of the Steampacket. They went in and Long John Baldry and Julie Driscoll were on stage singing to the rich and famous. As they passed a table, someone asked what a good-looking boy was doing with a horse! John was invited to join the table for drinks and the French girl went off to dance. John recognised a few faces but was stopped in his tracks when he saw the real Bardot sitting at their table; he even managed to have a dance with her and his dubious French lady friend stormed out of the club. The man who invited him over was Simon Napier-Bell, a young and influential entrepreneur from Ealing who was managing the Yardbirds. John explained the whole police saga to Simon and told him about the Burford Bridge show. Not only did Simon agree to pay the bail, he also said he would come to the gig. Simon drove John back to where he was staying in St. Tropez while John drunkenly threw up over the plush white leather seats in the open-top Bentley. Simon took him to the shops the next day and kitted him out in an expensive suit and they drove to Cannes and paid the bail money. Chris couldn’t be released immediately and John was anxious to get back to the high life, so he left Simon’s address at the station and they headed back to St. Tropez expecting to see Chris later. The problem was that Chris had no money or even a valid passport!

How did the adventure end?

Poor Chris had to hitch along the French coastal road and managed to steal fruit along the way. He met a hitchhiker and they were offered a free passage on a boat heading for St Tropez. However, not too long into the journey, they realised the men were running guns to Africa. They managed to jump overboard and a passing motor boat took them back to the coast. Chris had no passport as John had all their belongings, so he decided to hitch to the British Consulate in Nice. It was now the night before the gig. Meanwhile, John and Simon had returned to London via a stopover in Paris. He crashed at Simon’s flat in Victoria before joining us in Surrey the next day. He called Geoff to let him know what had happened and learned that Chris hadn’t arrived back. John presumed that he had returned to London, he wasn’t aware that he had his passport. He said not to cancel the gig as Simon was coming along. I arrived at the Dawsett’s house and saw John in his new clothes, he looked tanned and handsome and I couldn’t believe it was him; he looked like a film star. Soon after Chris arrived, a bedraggled, barefoot, dirty character limped up the path, swearing profusely. Chris had found his way back.

It’s a surprise that you actually managed to make the gig!

Only just! Chris was still in a foul mood and refused to have anything to do with John. I explained John’s story to him and said that Simon was coming along to watch us, so we had to turn up. I mean, he was the Yardbirds’ manager! But Chris was having none of it and kicked our van, yelled in pain and limped off home. Geoff drove after him and calmed him down and said to come back and take a bath and change into fresh clothes. Later, we headed off to the venue with an exhausted Chris snoring in the back of the van. We set up around the pool, I had three inter-connecting mic leads to give me the freedom to run around, which I had been doing for a while now, and I quite fancied the idea of singing from the top diving board. By 5.00pm, guests were arriving and the DJ was getting everyone in the mood. We played our first set at 6.00pm and there was no sign of Simon, Geoff was doubtful that he would show. We played our second set at 8.00pm and then we spotted a well-groomed, expensively dressed man smoking a large cigar by the far end of the pool. John confirmed it was Simon as we broke into a raucous version of ‘Rosalyn’ by the Pretty Things. I climbed across tables, and while we were playing ‘Gloria’ by Them, I went up to the top diving board and as I belted out ‘G-L-O-R-I-A’, I dived into the pool and the mic lead sparked and fused the PA system. Chris was still furious and kicked his drum kit into the pool. There was stunned silence, then rapturous applause and cheering from the startled guests! I couldn’t see Simon and thought he had left in disgust but he came up behind me and placed his hand on my shoulder and said it was “Interesting”. I got changed and we piled into his Bentley and he drove us to a country pub. Geoff followed in our battered van. Simon plied us with drinks and entertained us with hilarious stories. After many brandies and much laughter, he announced that he wanted to sign us.

How did the whole concept of John’s Children come about?

I gave up my job at the photographic studio much to the horror of my parents. John gave up his job and Geoff told his parents that he was chucking in his accountancy job which he loathed. Chris T had just passed his art exams with flying colours, helped by Rome studios. Chris D was pressured by his parents to continue with his art studies and had already left the band. He eventually went on to become Professor of Art at Oxford University, so it was a pretty wise decision. The four of us went to Simon’s flat and signed the contract. The next day we found ourselves in the Yardbirds’ rehearsal room using their Selmar equipment. Simon asked us to write new songs, so we took a few classics and rewrote the lyrics. ‘My Generation’ by The Who became ‘But She’s Mine’. We were often double-booked as Simon had booked over our pre-contract dates, but we still wanted to play both shows. So, as Geoff was prone to fainting, we decided that he should ‘faint’ after a couple of songs, then we could collect our fee and go to our other gig. However, things didn’t go to plan at the Ricky Tick club in Guildford, Geoff pretended to faint but fell forward and his face was covered in blood. The manager said we should get him to hospital, but after collecting payment, we got him in the van and played our next gig in Epsom, bloodied face and all. Simon invited me and Chris for a meal at the Lotus Restaurant near Marble Arch. He was worried that John was the weakest musician and felt left out. Simon suggested we changed our name to John’s Children to make him feel more included. John had charisma and great looks, he was good for us. We were cool and agreed, so we became John’s Children and Simon also suggested the white clothes. He wanted us to look angelic as we came on stage and then create absolute mayhem!

‘Smashed Blocked’ is a cult classic, what’s the story behind the recording?

It was inspired by ‘The Love You Save’ by Joe Tex. ‘Smashed’ was a mod term for drunk and ‘Blocked’ was a mod term for being high on speed. Simon wanted the song to have a bigger sound, so he went to LA and recorded session musicians and asked me to record the vocals over the top. This didn’t sit well with the band, particularly Geoff, but John was quite chuffed that people would think it was him playing the fabulous bass riff. Chris wasn’t bothered as long as it got airplay. There were a few different versions but Simon preferred the one with spoken words. When I played it to my girlfriend Jane, she broke down in tears, I knew this song was special but had no idea it would still be played decades later. Simon needed a B-Side and he recorded some British session musicians and asked me to record vocals. I had to make up lyrics on the spot. I went into a booth with three very special backing singers, Rod Stewart, Dusty Springfield and Madeline Bell. I made up the words and the result was ‘Strange Affair’. White Whale Records released the single ‘Smashed Blocked’ on the West Coast where it became number one but EMI said they would only release it in the UK if the title was changed, so it became ‘The Love I Thought I Found’. It didn’t do as well over here but it got rave reviews in the music press.

The video has recently resurfaced on YouTube, where was it filmed?

Simon booked a club called The Establishment which was in a basement in Greek Street, Soho. It was a very controversial place owned by Peter Cook and satirical comedy started from there. We had it for the afternoon and had a great time filming. Simon’s background is film editing, so he had a strong creative vision and technical knowledge. One version of the film on YouTube has been spliced together from unedited clips of the shoot, so I don’t know who made that but it’s great to see it out there again. Simon insists it was the beginning of psychedelic music, he returned from LA where the Flower Power scene was in full flow and he claims to have invented the word ‘Psychedelic’ on the flight back. I didn’t even know we were psychedelic until much later! I seemed to have covered many genres in my career, blues, mod, psychedelic, glam rock, punk. I’m running out of things to do now!

White Whale Records wanted to release a John’s Children LP in the US. Tell us about the unique recording of Orgasm.

It was recorded at Advision studios in Bond Street, an amazing studio and the most high-tech place we had ever been in. Simon asked us to play our full set straight through; he seemed pleased with the result and took us for drinks at the Duke of York. As we headed off home, Simon pulled me aside and asked if I would return to the studio as he wanted to try something out. The two of us went back and he asked me to scream ad-libs at the band and play up to the crowd as if I was on stage. Simon came into the sound booth and shouted the intro “Will you all be quiet, this is John’s Children!” He wanted the LP to sound like a live concert, so he added other effects to make it authentic. Screaming was provided by the Beatles’ fans at Shea stadium and the film ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. He did an incredible job; you could even hear girls screaming “John! John!” which was obviously meant for Lennon and not Hewlett! We were all invited back to the studios to hear the final cut. Chris and Geoff weren’t too happy but me and John loved it, he couldn’t believe that it sounded as if we were playing live to masses of fans.  Simon announced it was to be called Orgasm.

What happened to the release?

Despite huge advance orders and a promo campaign, it got banned because of the title and erotic sleeve design. The US moral guardian group The Daughters of the Revolution protested and our US tour was cancelled, which disappointed us and EMI refused to release it in the UK. White Whale re-issued it a few years later and Cherry Red managed to put it out in the UK. John’s Children had long disbanded but we were pleased it was finally out. In hindsight, it would have been better to have originally released it under a different name and as a live studio recording, I would have preferred it raw without all the effects but it was a classic example of Simon pushing the boundaries and I really admire him for that, it was an amazing piece of work. He loved that we fought on stage and I took off my top and dived into the crowd.  In fact, one night when John and I were having a pillow fight in a hotel, the pillow split open as Simon walked in.  So, it was his idea to throw feathers everywhere and take the stage act to the limit.

How did you all end up owning a nightclub?

Simon had seen us perform many times at the Bluesette Club in Leatherhead. In fact, he once joined us on keyboards but was so drunk, he fell off stage. He bought the club with some of the money we had made from our US hit ‘Smashed Blocked’ and he renamed it John’s Children Club. It was a fantastic venue for live music; we had bands such as the Action and Tomorrow. We also had an enormous jukebox which gave out such a fabulous rich sound. Chris even lived there for a bit! It was great to have somewhere to rehearse and we had a weekly residency. Simon appointed two guys to act as our club and personal managers. They were Chris Colville and Ian Moody who were hardcore mods from Shepherds Bush. The south London gangsters, the Richardsons, turned up one day and tried to get protection money but Chris Colville had equally dubious connections and managed to put a stop to it, we never knew how and didn’t dare ask! He was the inspiration behind Pete Townshend’s character ‘Jimmy’ in ‘Quadrophenia’. Sadly, Chris has passed away but he was such a big character and became our roadie and even played in the band on a few occasions.

Most bands wanted to use Marshall amps, what was so special about your Jordan amps?

It was at the club that we first used the Jordan amps. I remember a huge lorry arrived with twenty enormous speakers. They had been made by NASA and Simon had them shipped over from Houston, Texas. The sound came out in front of us, so it was even louder 30 feet away from the stage. If this was a Spinal Tap interview, I’d have to say “Yeah, our band’s amps go up to fourteen and the Marshall amps only go to eleven!”  Seriously, they were extremely powerful! Each amp had a satellite speaker that would fit above it and link to the next amp and so forth. It created a huge wall of sound and we had our own sections. We couldn’t fit them all on stage, so we had to store some in the back of the club but there were gigs where we used all twenty and it blasted the audience away! The sound was incredible and so powerful that you could feel walls vibrating.

What was the deal with John’s Children and Hells Angels?

Simon managed to get in touch with the local Hells Angels chapter and paid them very well to escort us to and from gigs while we were driven about in Al Capone’s white convertible Oldsmobile which Simon had shipped over from Chicago. They were great with us and more Hells Angels joined us as time went on, some rode their bikes in front of the car and others at the back. A few guarded the front of the stage while the rest waited outside on their bikes. It sometimes caused tensions with rockers who thought they had sold out to mods, so they would turn up for a fight. Simon loved all the commotion and publicity, of course. But they did a good job and we felt really protected by them and sometimes we needed it.

Strangely, John’s Children supported Jimmy Cliff in Paris, how did this work out?

After the disappointment of the LP, Simon booked us to support Jimmy Cliff for a month at the Bus Palladium club in Paris. He drove there in his Bentley while we set off in our battered old van. We arrived at a bohemian apartment just off the Place de la Concorde and we were greeted by a very camp man with a patch over one eye and gold-topped walking cane, he was very creepy and slowly looked us up and down. He was a promoter and was supposed to look after us while we were there for the month, even Simon was worried when he met him. The one-eyed Frenchman booked us into a seedy hotel which turned out to be a brothel but it was close to the club. Meanwhile, Simon booked into a 5-star hotel. We went to the venue and met the manager who was just as sinister with her gravelly voice and a lit Gitane dangling from her lips. She was pretty shocked when she saw all our equipment, we only brought ten amps but they took up all the stage. Jimmy Cliff was not impressed by us or how loud we played. The club actually shook as we launched into our first song and the manager ran over and told us to turn it down and the audience covered their ears. We only got to play two songs before we were told to stop completely. We weren’t off to a good start. Simon had to leave the next day and left a note to say that Monsieur Delagarde (the scary promoter) would be on hand – literally! But the shady French man never showed his face again. We managed a few more songs the following night but the manager still kept running out and screaming to turn it down. Of course, we turned it back up as soon as she disappeared. Needless to say, we played a very short set every night; I can’t say we went down very well.

Did you watch Jimmy Cliff’s show?

After we finished our set of about three or four songs, we would rush out and stand at the front of the stage to watch him come out in complete darkness to the sound of his backing band. He was dressed in black apart from his brilliant white plimsolls which were picked up by the ultraviolet lights. We would be in hysterics which wasn’t the reaction Jimmy wanted. Once the lights went up and he went into his first number, we left. It was the same every night and just as funny. Chris named it ‘The Dancing Plimsolls Moment’. It’s safe to say, Jimmy Cliff and John’s Children weren’t fans of each other.

Did things improve for you in Paris?

They got worse, we eventually ran out of money and each lived on one ham baguette per day while Simon thought we were being looked after by the elusive promoter. Geoff was getting ill and thinner each day and missed his girlfriend. We collected our baguettes from the club but ended up eating most of Geoff’s as we walked back and the poor guy thanked us for his small morsel each day. We were trying to get hold of Simon without any luck. Chris hooked up with a waitress and stayed at her place, so he was okay. John and I walked around Montmartre while scrounging leftovers from market stalls. We wrote to Simon and explained the situation and that we needed help but we didn’t know where he was. We were really fed up and didn’t even bother to turn up our amps to annoy the manager. Geoff only got out of bed for the gigs, he was fading away. We weren’t sure how much longer we could cope.

Did Simon eventually come to your rescue?

Yes, thank goodness. Simon turned up and treated us to a slap up meal. We ate like tramps that hadn’t eaten for months and our once pristine white outfits were shabby and stained. Simon said he had booked us to support The Pretty Things at the Locomotive club in Paris for the following night. Geoff cheered up and retrieved all our equipment from the Bus Palladium club and drove it to the new venue which was a big improvement on the last. Once we set up, Geoff said he was going back for a nap and would be back for 7.00pm. There was still no sign of him by 7.30pm. But just as we were about to go on, he arrived all bloody and dishevelled. He explained that he had crashed the van in a back street and panicked, so he ran all the way to the club. The poor guy was crying and apologizing but Simon told us to get on stage and then he disappeared. The gig went surprisingly well, despite the state of Geoff, and the crowd loved us. Simon returned after paying off the police and suggested we went back to England before there were any repercussions. We had to leave our amps behind and ‘Humpy’ the van was left parked in a Parisian shop window. We drove back in Simon’s Bentley but not before stopping off at a chemist en route as Chris revealed he had a dose of the clap.

This brings us to your first meeting with Marc Bolan

Once we arrived back in England, Simon took me, Chris and John out for dinner at the Lotus House. He announced that he wanted us to try out a new guitarist; we thought he meant bring in an additional musician. He explained that he no longer felt Geoff was suited to the band and it was worth trying out this other guy that he managed. We discovered a long time after; Kit Lambert wanted to sign us but didn’t want Geoff, our lanky guitarist, in the band. We felt really uncomfortable as Geoff was our mate and he was from the original line-up. The next day, Simon drove me to Wimbledon and we pulled up outside a small prefab with a neat front garden and he said ‘This is where Marc lives”. Simon explained that Marc Bolan was a folk singer and had never been in a band but he thought his songwriting would be good for John’s Children. He left me to meet him and said he would pick me up later. Marc was really friendly and made me mushrooms on toast; afterwards he sat cross-legged and played some unusual songs on acoustic guitar. One song was unfinished and he suggested I helped him. It was ‘Midsummer Night’s Scene’ which is now a rare and sought after record.  He had Dylan records scattered across the floor of his parent’s living room. I liked him and we got along really well. Simon came to collect me and I agreed for Marc to meet at our club the following afternoon.

Did you have any doubts about Marc fitting in with such a wild band?

Yes, I was worried whether his quiet, folky personality would fit in with our outrageous behaviour and loud music. Geoff was unaware about Marc’s audition as he worked during the week. We borrowed a Red Gibson SG from our mate, Trevor White, who played in a band called the A-Jaes. Simon brought Marc to the club and we introduced him to John and Chris and showed him the guitar by the wall of amps. Marc looked overwhelmed as he stared at our equipment which included the silver double Slingerland drum kit! He sheepishly picked up the guitar and Chris explained the volume knob. Once he had the strap over his head, he turned the knob, struck a chord and promptly fell over. He held his hands over his ears and screeched in pain. “That’s normal”, I said. Chris started drumming like a lunatic and we showed Marc a few chords to a song and he started to play and bop across the stage. It wasn’t great at first but we noticed a change in our sound and we really started to come together. By the end of the session, Marc was really in to the electric guitar and we left him to make all kinds of wonderful sounds. Simon came back and said that he had to get him home. Marc returned the next day and learned more of our songs and we played some of his work including ‘Sara, Crazy Child’. He eventually bought the guitar from Trevor as he loved it so much. When I first knew Marc, he spoke with a strong cockney accent whereas we were reasonably well-spoken Surrey lads, but he was like a sponge, soaking up from those around him, so he took the accent to another level and ended up sounded really posh!

What happened when Geoff was told that he was out of the band?

On the third day, Marc’s girlfriend drove him to the club and they arrived with some old-fashioned dressing screens covered in silver foil. He placed them around his section of amps and said it would help control his feedback. We weren’t convinced but they looked good, especially when he knelt down playing guitar in front of them. We knew that we had to let Geoff go as Marc was a brilliant addition to the band and we sounded so much better. On the following Saturday, Geoff strolled in as usual with his guitar and was pleased to see us. We felt terrible and Chris started fiddling with the drums. Geoff noticed the screens and was amazed and asked where they came from. John decided to take on the role of spokesman and he explained that Simon also managed a guy called Marc Bolan and the screens belonged to him. He said that Simon felt Marc was more suited to the band and how much we all appreciated what Geoff has done for us. After an awkward silence, Geoff asked if he was out of the band for good and John confirmed. Geoff picked up his guitar case and thanked us, he had tears in his eyes as he wished us well and then he walked out. It was so sad and we struggled with the decision but we knew it was the right thing to do, but it didn’t make us feel any better. Geoff went on to form a band called Misty Romance with Chris Dawsett.

How was Marc’s first performance with John’s Children?

Marc was still trying to learn the songs, it was taking him some time and we had a show in Watford at the end of that week. On the night, he was so nervous that he drank two bottles of red wine before he went on stage and forgot most of the chords. He left after the third song and broke down in tears, we tried to console him in the dressing room but he was really upset. Luckily, it was a very small audience. In fact, most left after the first song and they all left after Marc messed up the chords, then the manager told us to get off the stage. Marc was still crying as we dropped him off at Wimbledon. It wasn’t how he had expected his first rock and roll gig to pan out. But it didn’t take long for him to settle in and make fantastic, deafening sounds. It didn’t matter if he struck the wrong chord by then.

Did Marc join in with your stage antics?

Yes, he was up for it. Funnily enough, none of us got drunk before we went on stage, despite our reputation of being hell raisers; we took the drink and drugs afterwards! All the stage fighting and smashing equipment was done while we were stone cold sober. Simon loved it when we got really outrageous and Marc joined in and was just as bad, he even used chains to wreck guitars. Simon constantly had to replace our equipment and white clothes! We were like four brothers who went mental for an hour on stage. This was long before punk rockers came on the scene.

Tell us about the Brian Matthew sessions

Simon booked us on the ‘Saturday Club’ for Radio One; we had to perform four live songs. We finished with a raucous version of ‘Daddy Rolling Stone’ and began to smash up our equipment in the studio. I was writhing around the floor making strange sounds into the mic. Afterwards, Brian asked Simon if we were on drugs. Simon replied “That’s just what they do”. There are some bootleg recordings of those sessions. We sold out many gigs on the strength of that show as people got a renewed interest in John’s Children.

John’s Children signed to Track Records, how did this come about?

Unsurprisingly, Columbia dropped us when Simon revealed our next record would be ‘Not the Sort Of Girl You’d Like To Take To Bed’. We played a gig at Tiles in Oxford Street and Kit Lambert was good friends with Simon and expressed interest in us, especially now Geoff was no longer in the band. He was a great raconteur with a clipped upper-class accent; he amused us with fascinating stories of his life. He was managing The Who and formed Track Records with Chris Stamp, the brother of actor Terence Stamp. Kit and Chris met us after the gig and Kit suggested we call ourselves the Electric Bunnies as he thought that’s how we performed.  He agreed to sign us and we were thrilled as Jimi Hendrix and The Who were two of our heroes and now we were on the same record label. Marc was a big fan of Townshend and Hendrix; he would always make sure he sat close to their table at the Speakeasy club. Chris Townson was a massive fan of The Who, so you can imagine how we all felt when Kit suggested we support them on a stadium tour of Germany. We couldn’t believe our luck!

This was the infamous tour! What was the first gig like?

We went to the south coast in Simon’s car and drove it on to what looked like a WW1 aircraft which flew about 40 feet above the English Channel. We could see the waves through the gaps in the old parachute doors. We were relieved to land on the French coast in one piece. We drove across the German border to Nuremberg, it was a long drive and Marc was hilarious as we play acted and he pretended to be a huge rock star with Chris as his Jewish manager. Simon added from the driver’s seat “Don’t forget, your best move as a rock star would be to die tragically”. “Yeah, man. That’s good” Marc replied. “Maybe some kind of car accident….in a white Rolls Royce” Simon suggested. Marc stared out at the autobahn and said “No man, it has got to be a Mini”.  We arrived at our hotel which was the building that held the Nuremberg trials. Our roadie, who was Oliver Reed’s cousin, arrived in a lorry with our Jordan amps and equipment. We went to the venue for a sound check after the roadie set up our wall of amps in front of The Who’s wall of Marshalls. Chris started to play his drums as Marc and John plugged in and played very loud guitar. Suddenly, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey ran out from backstage and Pete looked at our amps and shouted “What are these?” Keith came out and looked at Chris’ drum kit, kicked it and went backstage. Pete returned with his guitar and angrily asked where to plug it in. After thrashing out a few sounds, he pushed an amp over but his guitar still played out. He growled “Fucking hell, what are these made of?” The frostiness between us didn’t improve in their dressing room.  They didn’t shake our hands and sniggered at us. It was worrying and we decided to tone down our act that night. However, just on our last number, I leapt into the audience and began to smash up one of the wooden seats. As soon as I got back on stage, the audience took it as a lead to smash up their seats and they went mental, it took quite a while to calm down but The Who came on stage to the most energetic welcome they had ever received. However, Kit wasn’t impressed; despite the fact the night had been a big success, he was lumbered with a huge bill from the venue for damages.

Did you calm down in Düsseldorf?

Not at all, it was held in a huge sports arena and we thought it would be funny if me and John used fake blood capsules while we were fighting. After a few songs, I crawled back on stage and grabbed John’s legs and brought him and his bass guitar straight down to the floor. The fight got worse and although staged, it often brought out an inner resentment in John, so I would retaliate! It was like he really wanted to beat me up at times. Chris and Marc threw out incredibly loud sounds from the drums and guitar while me and John writhed about with fake blood all over our white clothes. I managed to fall into the pit and heard something snap in my neck but I got back on stage to finish the set. I collapsed in the dressing room and was in agony. The next morning, I couldn’t move my head and Simon drove me to Cologne while the others went to the next venue. Apparently, Cologne has the best physios; I don’t know how Simon knew that! We pulled up at a German version of Harley Street and the specialist managed to pop everything back in place and the pain disappeared. Simon threw money at him and we hastily drove to Mannheim where we stayed at the same hotel as The Who. Simon brought a fresh batch of white clothes to our rooms and caught me and John in the middle of a pillow fight with feathers flying everywhere. He loved it and told me to take pillows to the gig and rip them open as I ran through the crowds. As we were getting ready to leave the hotel, we heard a loud explosion and everyone had to vacate the building. It turned out that Keith had let off a cherry bomb in Roger’s toilet, there were police everywhere. Kit had to pay off the hotel manager, so that was yet more expense! Things hadn’t improved with The Who and Kit argued with Simon that we were upstaging them with our antics and would have to go if this behaviour continued.

Pete Townshend said John’s Children were “Too loud and too violent”. Did they make no effort to get along with you?

The only members of The Who with a true sense of humour were John and Keith who we socialised with more than Roger and Pete. Roger didn’t like us at all; he probably still holds a grudge about the Germany tour! We used to enjoy teasing Kit and complain that Pete was stealing our riffs, he never twigged that we were pulling his leg. Chris and I were in the hotel bar with The Who but there was a was a stony silence, then Keith broke the atmosphere by goose-stepping around the table and doing a Nazi salute which he had seen us do on stage. Chris joined in and I got up as well, Pete was in hysterics and it seemed to break the ice for a bit, although the hotel guests weren’t impressed. The staff threw us all out of the bar and we were still laughing as we went to our rooms. At that night’s show, I ripped open the pillows and there were feathers everywhere, it was like a snow storm. Marc was smashing the footlights while me and John had our usual fight and Chris was pounding the drums like a maniac. The Who came on to the best reception yet, but Kit was still unhappy and said if we didn’t calm down, we were off.

What did you decide to do?

The next morning we drove to Ludwigshafen but there was a strange atmosphere in the car. Our clothes were filthy by now; we had lost so many outfits or left them in dry cleaners that Simon had given up buying more. He broke the silence and reminded us that Kit had said to calm down or get kicked off the tour. Marc said that we should do what we had to do as it was too exciting to stop. We all agreed and Simon said “Ok, tonight will be special”. When we arrived at the hotel, I stole as many pillows as I could. As we drove to the Massahalle stadium, we knew it was going to kick off that night, the adrenalin was building. The German media was full of this odd band upstaging The Who and people were curious to see what the fuss was about. The concert was a sell-out.  We could hear the crowd cheering as the lights dimmed, and then people raced to the front as Chris leapt on to his drums and thrashed the life out of the skins. The rest of us ran on stage, John pounded the bass so low that it almost shook the walls of the auditorium, Marc smashed into the opening of ‘Jagged Time-Lapse’, we knew we wouldn’t be on stage for long and had little time to cause chaos. On the second number, I kicked in the lights and somersaulted over the bouncers and ran through the crowds throwing feathers from the ripped pillows, the vibrating sounds from the Jordan amps and the screaming mayhem sent the Germans crazy! I actually got worried whether I would make it back to the stage as they became hysterical and I got kicked and punched. Somehow the bouncers got me back on stage and I started singing which sent the crowd ballistic and seats were thrown around, it was getting really violent. John and I started stage fighting, which probably wasn’t the best thing to do. Marc was whacking his guitar with chains, sending out loud and eerie sounds that bounced across the venue while Chris was going demented on the drums as fists and feathers flew everywhere.

How did you manage to get off the stage?

The riot police arrived in record time, they must have been waiting! They came in from the back and ran through the crowds as the violence spilled out on to the stage; Simon dragged me off and screamed at the others to follow. Our amps were being smashed and torn down, Chris was last to escape but managed to join us as we ran down the stairs and out through the stage door into Simon’s car. The riot police were using water canons on the crowd, it was total chaos. We saw chairs flying out of the windows as we drove past. We sat in silence as we headed to Munich and took in what had just happened. It was safe to say that we wouldn’t be supporting The Who on the following night.

What was the outcome of all this?

The next morning, Simon gathered us in the hotel lobby to confirm that Kit had thrown us off the tour and the police were after us. They had impounded what was left of our amps and equipment and we had no choice but to get out of Germany as quickly as possible. We gathered up what little possessions we had left and Simon drove us across the border to Luxembourg, where we were safe, and we checked into the Grande Hotel. We went to see Ravi Shankar at the theatre that night and must have looked a sight in our dirty, ripped clothes! Marc was transfixed as he watched Ravi’s performance; he was lost in another world. The next morning we left for Calais but missed the ferry and had a long wait until the next one, so we split up and went off to take a look around, which was always a disaster for us. Marc stayed with Simon in a nearby bar. Chris went off on his own, he was still unhappy about losing his beloved drum kit, while me and John headed off to a local bar. As we were walking back to the port that evening, we heard some commotion and saw Chris being thrown out of a sleazy bar and chased by angry French men. We hadn’t a clue what he had done but dragged him along with us while he was still shouting abuse at them. Luckily, we managed to give the angry mob the slip by hiding behind bins and made it back to the port in one piece. Simon and Marc were already in the Bentley and on the other side of the fence queuing for the ferry, they shouted that we were too late and they couldn’t wait any longer. It was the last ferry of the night and we had no money. I thought, “Sod this” and jumped over the high fence and John followed but Chris struggled, so we had to go back for him. Marc jumped out to help and we got in the car with Simon groaning at us. Once on the ferry, we headed for the bar and Chris headed for his bunk bed. We got very drunk and Marc was standing on a table reciting pornographic poetry. The passengers were fed up with him, so I managed to get him out before they got angry and we ended up in more trouble.

It must have been an amazing experience to play at the 14 hour Technicolour Dream Event

It was a benefit for an underground publication, I think it might have been OZ magazine or the International Times. I remember Simon driving us into the back of Alexandra Place and as we walked into this massive hall, we saw bands such as Pink Floyd, The Creation and The Pretty Things playing in every corner and lots of psychedelic light shows and films were screened with trippy installations everywhere. Pete Townshend was wandering around filming on his cine camera. We were off our heads on LSD, the organisers wouldn’t let us have a stage and we were told to play at floor level.  We just messed around and made a noise, Marc walked about with his guitar on his head or he would leave it on top of the amp to give off loud feedback, we smashed things up as usual and I chucked feathers everywhere, it was an outrageous evening. There was an interview on the news the following night with Roger Daltrey, and his hair was covered in feathers. He must have hated us by this point, there was no escape.

What was the mood in the band after all the recent events?

It was beginning to shift and Marc had disappeared. Simon went back to Germany a few months later to try and retrieve our equipment but it was too late, we had lost all our amps and drum kit forever. Marc returned to play one last gig at our club and then left the band, there wasn’t any drama, he simply made a decision to leave. Ravi Shankar’s gig in Luxembourg probably laid the seeds for Tyrannosaurus Rex.

How did you end up playing to a Bee Gees audience in Hamburg?

After Marc left, we were hanging at our club and feeling a bit flat as many places were too scared to book us and we had to borrow equipment. Simon turned up and said he had got us a gig but we said we couldn’t play as we now had no guitarist. So, he suggested that Chris played guitar, which is something he had always wanted to do. Simon also suggested putting our club manager, Chris Colville, on drums, even though he had never played drums before. The gig was at the famous Star club in Hamburg and we were replacing the Bee Gees who had to pull out due to illness. Oh my God! We were  now  about to play with our club manager on drums and Chris on guitar, who only knew a few songs, to play to a Bee Gees crowd who wouldn’t have even heard of us! Needless to say, they hated us, and after three or four songs, I leapt into the audience bare-chested and they leapt on me and ripped my trousers off in anger. I hadn’t worn pants that night, so I had to get back on stage naked and shuffle off to the dressing room. Chris Colville smashed up the drum kit and Simon quickly got us out rather than face another German riot! On another occasion in Hamburg, Simon arranged for us to be driven around in a convertible while we were naked and covered in flowers; there were posters everywhere of us in a garden of flowers wearing beads and paisley kaftans. Simon filmed us running around naked on Burnham Beach for ‘Come Play With Me In The Garden’. I dread to think where the film ended up, probably on a porn site!

Jimi Hendrix was amongst many musicians who loved ‘Desdemona’ by John’s Children, does it bother you that the song is more associated with Marc Bolan?

Not really, mind you, Wow! Jimi Hendrix recording that would have been amazing. It was Marc’s idea of ‘Jailhouse Rock’, we recorded it at Spot Studios in South Molton Street in 1967. Cream were next door and Chris would occasionally pop his head round and swear at Ginger Baker, not sure why. Once again, we got another ban because of the lyrics ‘Lift up your skirt and fly’ and the BBC refused to play it. It’s one of those songs that people remember, even though we had released many good songs before this one, including ‘Smashed Blocked’ and ‘Remember Thomas A Beckett’, but it’s mainly the Marc Bolan fans who only recall this song.  His backing vocals are very distinctive on the record. Obviously, our name was enhanced because of our connection with Marc, but we are also named as precursors of glam rock and punk. It’s a shame that we only get a fleeting mention in most of Marc’s biographies, as there are so many tales to tell of his time with us, the books all missed out on a lovely story there. Paul Weller ended up covering it at a gig. In fact, his current bass player, Andy Lewis, played with us on the last gig that Chris Thomson played before he passed away in 2008.

In a stroke of irony, Chris Townson replaced Keith Moon during The Who’s tour, he must have been ecstatic!

Yes, and we were thrilled for him. Despite the Germany fiasco, Kit asked Chris to fill in for Keith while he recovered in hospital after a stage prank went wrong. Chris was a huge fan and jumped at the chance. Despite the fact they were never friendly to us; they were still our musical heroes. Pete gave Chris a pile of records and said “Learn these, we play at the Isle of Mann tomorrow”. Chris was so excited and he pretty much knew how to play the songs anyway. ‘Desdemona’ was number two in the charts and The Who fans loved that Chris was standing in for Keith. Despite being a great replacement, Pete and Roger didn’t really speak to him but John was very friendly and they usually went clubbing together and would end up at a casino because John enjoyed a gamble. Roger and Pete still kept their distance and didn’t really acknowledge Chris. He adjusted well to coming back to John’s Children after playing to huge venues and living the rock star life. He was just happy to have played with them and done a good job.

What is the story of you all destroying an elderly couple’s living room?

FAB 208 (that was a teenybop magazine at the time) ran a piece where they got us to decorate an elderly couple’s terraced house in Islington while they went out for a treat. Of course, it got completely out of hand and we ended up throwing paint everywhere, all over the furniture and curtains, it was in a terrible state. This poor old couple came back and burst into tears. Simon had to pay a lot of money for it to be put right again and get furniture replaced. I’m not sure why on earth a teen magazine would ask a band like John’s Children to paint a pensioners’ home! It’s like asking the Sex Pistols to take tea with the Queen!

What led to John’s Children splitting up?

We had some gigs in the West Country, Chris Colville was still on drums and Chris and John on guitar. The pair of them had a really bad fight on stage and Chris Townson stormed off the stage during the set. The two Chris’ went back to London while John and I continued on the road and had a wild holiday on the south coast. We decided to sell the equipment along the way and live off the proceeds.  Once we had run out of funds and had nothing left to sell, we headed back to London to face Simon.

How did Simon react and what did you do after the split?

Simon was surprisingly okay and probably knew it was coming. He suggested that John Hewlett should now manage me under his supervision and we moved into his old flat near Kings Road, Chelsea. That was the end of John’s Children and the start of my solo career. I was signed to CBS and made quite a few records including Beatles covers as well as my own songs. I appeared on various TV shows and commercials and did stunt work for ‘The Avengers’. We hung out at Lionel Bart’s house where many colourful characters partied, including Keith Moon, Twiggy, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Lionel was such a flamboyant and lovely man, very eccentric and entertaining. He was reworking his compositions for the film version of his stage musical ‘Oliver!’ And he played his piano as we sang along with drinks in one hand and drugs in the other. I went to the London film premiere in 1968 and was fascinated to hear all those songs he had played on the piano being performed on the big screen. A young David Bowie was a regular guest at his house and he played me a rough version of ‘Space Oddity’ on his acoustic guitar and asked for my opinion, I just said “Yeah, it’s alright”, having no idea what I would hear on the radio some months later. I met up with David again at an audition for a role in ‘Virgin Soldiers’, the casting agent asked if I would cut my hair for the part but I refused and David said yes, so he got a part.  Simon suggested I studied mime with Marcel Marceau and train in acrobatics, so that’s what I did! John went on to manage other artists and did really well.

What was your involvement with the film ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush’?

After a few solo projects, I recorded my song ‘It’s Been A Long Time’ with a full orchestra for the Spencer Davies Group and Traffic film. Simon asked me to assist in the edit suite in Old Compton street as he was the film’s musical director. Paul McCartney and John Lennon were next door sitting in on the film edit of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. John was always hanging out of the window and shouting obscenities at passers while Paul was more focussed on the film. Paul and I both had girlfriends called Jane and whenever the phone rang in the corridor, one of us would answer and end up speaking to the other’s Jane which got confusing. I enjoyed doing something different and Simon recognised that I picked up things quickly, so it was a lot of fun to work on and I was chuffed they wanted me to sing one of my own songs.

What happened to the other band members and how did Jet come about?

I kept in touch with the guys and saw Chris Townson regularly; he became a graphic designer and later got involved in social work. I always kept in touch with Marc and stayed good friends, he was really special and I still miss him. I’d loved to have seen what he would be doing now; he was very ahead of his time. I took a break from music and took up painting again, which I still enjoy. I used to sell my art work from house to house which proved quite lucrative. I met a French guy who was a fellow artist; we decided to go travelling for a year and ended up in all kinds of adventures which will be in my autobiography! On my return, Chris was playing in a band called Jook and John was managing both Jook and Sparks at the time. Sparks fired their bass player, Martin Gordon, after they recorded their LP Kimono My House. Martin wanted to write some songs but they preferred to retain control in the band. Martin contacted Chris after Jook split and suggested they form a band, they invited me to join them. We got David O’List from Roxy Music and The Nice on guitar. Our manager was linked to CBS and brought in Peter Oxendale on keyboards and Jet was born in 1974.

Jet was considered glam rock, would you agree?

We played the songs that Martin had intended for Sparks, so it was a similar style to them and very glam rock. It wasn’t really the kind of music I wanted to do but CBS was keen on it, so I became a glam rocker and decided to look the part. We supported Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson on a UK tour which was a blast. Ian McLeod joined us after David and Peter left. We used to lock up all our equipment in the CBS storage vaults but one day they told us it had all been stolen but we didn’t believe them and suspected they had taken it back and used Jet as a tax loss. They signed up a lot of bands at the same time and clearly decided to choose which ones they wanted to keep, they could claim for the ones they let go. While we were in Somerset rehearsing a rock opera for our next LP, one of their accountants came by and was shocked by the opera and told us we were dropped from the label. They really messed us about and it was all because of money.

When did Jet become the punk band Radio Stars?

   

In 1977, I went to Rock On Records in Camden where a guy called Ted Carroll ran his own label, Chiswick Records, which launched many punk acts. I played a Jet demo of ‘Dirty Pictures’ and he agreed to sign us for a year to see how things went. Ted sent a promo of ‘Dirty Pictures’ to the Melody Maker and they loved it and asked what we were called. He looked at my list of suggestions for a new name and quickly picked Radio Stars. We realised that was our chosen name by reading the Melody Maker review. I’ve always been interested in astronomy and I took the name from quasars in space which are a source of radio waves, also known as Radio Stars.

Radio Stars made their TV debut on ‘Marc’. Looking back, that must have been a great but poignant experience.

One day, I bumped in to Marc down Kings Road where I was late and running to a Radio Stars rehearsal. This purple Mini with blacked out windows swung round and swerved next to me, the window wound down and there was Marc, “Hey, man”, he said, “What are you running from?” I explained where I was going and he said he had heard about Radio Stars and that he was soon going to have his own TV show and maybe we could appear on it. I told the others in the rehearsal and they all looked at me disbelievingly. But sure enough, two months later, our management got a call asking us to appear on the ‘Marc’ show. Marc looked surprisingly young and fit, as I had heard he had lost the plot a bit in his tax haven in Monte Carlo, taking lots of drugs and binging on Champagne. I think we did ‘No Russians in Russia’ on the show, and we had made tentative arrangements to meet up soon after his last show, but it was not to be. I was so happy for his success and it was great to catch up with him again, but sadly he died soon after. We used Marc’s song for John’s Children, ‘Horrible Breath,’ as the B- side to ‘Nervous Wreck’ which really pleased him. We appeared on the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ but Bob Harris didn’t speak to any of us, he really wasn’t interested in our style of music, he had many punk bands on the show but he never liked any of them. We recorded three John Peel sessions which were more enjoyable, and toured with Eddie and the Hot Rods and Squeeze. We also headlined our own tour but split up after our second LP.

What is Andy Ellison up to these days?

I’ve continued to play with old band members over the years; we’ve played at a few punk events in London as well as gigs in Europe and US. It’s been really busy but great fun to perform with old mates again and play songs from all our bands. Many songs and albums have been re-released over time, so our music has never gone away. John’s Children recorded the Black & White LP which was released by Acid Jazz in 2011 and includes new material as well as my version of ‘Sara, Crazy Child’ which I consider to be one of Marc’s finest songs. Boz Boorer joined our band; he’s a John’s Children fan and has worked extensively with Morrissey. I bumped in to him in my corner shop, where he said “You were in my favourite band, how about reforming and I’ll play guitar?”  I played at the Steve Marriott Memorial event at the Astoria in 2001 and I unveiled a plaque to the Small Faces in Carnaby Street in 2007 where Don Arden had his office.  Radio Stars supported Eddie and the Hot Rods at the 100 Club in 2010. I’ve appeared with T.Rextasy at many T. Rex conventions and benefit shows. They do a great job in keeping Marc’s memory alive, Daniel and his wife Karen are lovely people who work really hard and have a huge following of their own, apart from Marc’s fans.  I’m playing at the Marc Bolan 35th Anniversary Concert at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on 15th September 2012. There will be more John’s Children gigs coming up, so keep checking our website and Facebook page. I’m told that I’m a cult, but I think they spelt it wrong! I’m busy writing my autobiography; it’s amazing how much comes back as I write.  It will be a very funny and fascinating read about my life which has been very eventful with hopefully loads more to come.  My most outstanding memory of my musical career will always be that final show on The Who tour in Germany which was really scary but so amazing at the same time, I’ll never forget that. Hopefully, I’ll hook up with Simon when he’s next in London and we’ll mull over old times!

Which of your songs are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of them all but I am very fond of ‘Remember Thomas A Beckett’ which was the B-side to ‘Desdemona’. I wrote it with John and based the lyrics on a 1964 remake of a film called ‘Night Must Fall’ starring Albert Finney; it’s a dark story about murder and obsession. Simon was going through his hippie stage and he wanted to slightly change the lyrics and renamed it ‘Come And Play With Me In The Garden’. I wrote ‘Midsummer Night’s Scene’ with Marc, it mentions petals and flowers, so these songs were often claimed to be the beginnings of Flower Power in the UK. I believe Marc didn’t want it released as he wasn’t happy with the production. There were only about fifty promos printed for record companies. Chris Townson used his copies as Frisbees in the fields near where he lived! The last copy sold for £4.5K, I still have my one!

You’ve suffered many injuries and accidents, which has been the worse?

We had some awful near-misses in our old van. We were driving home from a gig when another car sped towards us and the van went up the embankment and spun over a few times, I was thrown out of the back window. Miraculously, we survived with cuts and bruises but it was one of many accidents we had in that van! Apart from the dislocated neck in Germany, I was always getting cuts and sprains from the stage fights and jumping off equipment, I’d often get punched while I was crowd surfing. I got more injuries in Radio stars. Once, someone stuck a hypodermic needle in my arm when I jumped in the audience, I could hardly stand and had to be taken to Hartlepool hospital, it must have been some kind of tranquiliser but it was scary for a while with the AIDS thing.  I also fell 25 feet from a lighting rig, I was hanging upside down singing when one of the powerful lights swung down my arm, I just had to let go and fell in to the audience. I was unconscious for some time and broke my back and had serious burns to my arms that put me out of action for six months. I also had severed arteries and broken kneecaps at other times. NME once printed a picture of me as a skeleton and named all my injuries. I must have used up nine lives by now.

What instruments do you play?

I have several guitars including a pink paisley Telecaster and a Union Jack acoustic guitar. I play piano when I’m composing and still enjoy the harmonica. I have an electric violin which I can’t really play but I can make some amazing sounds with it.  My favourite instrument is my acoustic guitar.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

I like many current bands; I’m currently listening to a band called Hard-Fi. I love Goldfrapp and Richard Hawley but I’m open to all kinds of music and I’m enjoying classical music these days. I’m not a fan of country but their occasional rock-based songs can be quite good. I tend to avoid Rap but one of my daughters is a fan and I sometimes hear the odd song which I think is really clever. I’d never want to manage a band, I’d be terrible and encourage people to be too outrageous and they’d probably end up killing someone because of me! But I’d advise new bands not to take it too seriously, many don’t seem to be in it for the fun and madness, they’re like accountants and business people these days. I guess times change but they need to have fun, money shouldn’t be the drive behind making music. I still think back to the days of us travelling to gigs in our old van, they were the best times we had, really.

Is there anything else you would like to try?

Aside from writing my book, I’d like to act; I might have left it too late, who knows? I still enjoy painting, especially large black and white portraits; I’ve painted Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon amongst others. I love popping across to my place in the South of France and writing music, drinking wine and chilling. My favourite thing is rowing, I have a rowing boat at my studio on the Thames near Windsor and often go out at dusk, and it is magical.

Any regrets?

Only that Marc died so young.

 Thank you to Andy Ellison, a gentleman and a scholar….and eternal rock and roller.

Links:

John’s Children website: www.johnschildren.co.uk

John’s Children Facebook: www.facebook.com/johnschildren

Marc Bolan’s 35th Anniversary Concert: www.prsformusicfund.com/marcbolan

John’s Children e-book: www.amazon.com

Black & White CD: www.amazon.co.uk

The Groove Lounge – Andy Ellison unplugged & radio interview: www.thegroover.net

Michelle ‘MimiVonTussle’

A child of the 50s, remembers the 60s, partied in the 70s and was hung-over in the 80s. Used to sit in David Bowie’s garden, Biba’s shop window and leaned on the jukebox in SEX, stood up occasionally. Raised in Fulham by very cool parents and a stone’s throw from The Nashville, The Greyhound, Hammersmith Odeon and Kings Road. Still mourns the Speakeasy and Wardour Street’s Marquee plus other deceased London music venues and greasy spoons. Worked for Mary Quant in the 70s and enjoyed the social scene that went with it. Was surrounded by punk squats in the mid-70s and hung out at Beggar’s Banquet basement studio watching bands drink and rehearse while avoiding electrocution. Went to Lindsay Kemp’s mime classes with punk goddess Jordan, we were both rubbish. Grew up with Paul Cook and got hit over the head by Sid’s guitar at the Speakeasy. Saw many iconic gigs back in the day including New York Dolls at Biba’s Rainbow Room and Ziggy Stardust’s farewell show at Hammersmith. Lived in NY & LA in ’79, mainly went to gigs and posed in a leather jacket. Worked in live events production for The Hippodrome in the 80s and produced and directed fringe theatre while working in film and TV in the 90s. Still dabbles in publicity work and writes scripts which gather dust. Works at Ealing Studios and recently formed a film production company. Always listening to music and reads constantly, re-learning guitar and loves all things creative. Still writes with pen and paper. Started to talk to people at bus stops.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Features Front page Genres Glam Interviews Modernist Music Rock Tags:, , , , , , ,
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