ARTICLE ABOUT Ian Hunter FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, January 25, 1975

Ian Hunter is one of those people that have been a very important figure in the history of rock, without ever being a “Superstar”. He has written a bunch of great songs and have a lot of fans among rock musicians. I think Joe Elliott of Def Leppard even wants to BE Ian Hunter.

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Ian Hunter is not as rich as we said he was

Midnite socio-economic revelations in N.Y.

By Richard & Lisa Robinson

As it happened, I was at the Kool & The Gang/Sly concert at Radio City Music Hall when Ian Hunter called.
So what happened? (I know you`re on the edge of your seat). The fellow-journalist and man who lives with me, Richard Robinson, (whose favourite rock artist is Noel Coward) saw the telephone light blinking as he was taking a nap, and -thorough pro that he is – he conducted the following conversation with Mr. Hunter by means of a tape hook-up.
This is how it went:
Is the record that you and Mick Ronson are currently making an extension of what you`ve both been doing with Mott?
Hunter: “It`s very difficult to talk about it…it`s just what`s coming out. It`s my writing and Mick`s arranging.
Are you happy with it?
I`m knocked out.

What about performing? We`ve heard that you will be doing solo dates…
Well, we`ll do it – we`ll be working in England in March and we`ll be working…maybe May, I think in the States. We`ve got a group, all unknowns. It didn`t take too long to get them together, we knew them vaguely. One was a former Rat (Ronson`s old Hull Group), another one was a jazz-influenced drummer, a really nice piano player…you know, like that.
Me and Mick wanted to use complete unknowns because they`re really keen, and they get a good chance, you know? They`re all working on the album. You know – when you put this together you have to take a lot of things into consideration: what the guy`s situation is, what his chick situation is, all those things – if he`s easygoing, if there`s no big problems with him… These are all very keen, very loyal.
Is there a big difference between the sound of this album and the things you`ve done before with Mott?
No, this album won`t be a ridiculous change from what I`ve done in the past. I wrote most of the stuff for Mott anyway, and this is my album. So it`ll be about seventy per cent the same. I mean, you can`t change overnight. To do that I`d have to lay off for about a year – which I didn`t want to do. It`s not going to be like an immediate new direction, that would be frantic, to do it for the sake of doing it. So you`ll find a bit of Mott, and a bit of Mick and a bit of me, know what I mean…

Are you enjoying working with Mick?
Well I knew what I could give him, and I knew what he could give me, and that`s exactly how it`s working. I can`t say more than that, because it`s a delicate sort of relationship – but we`re doing well, and it`s getting stronger all the time.
I mean, I really don`t want to say too much…because I don`t know how long it`ll go on. But I`ll tell you, we don`t get to sleep at night after the sessions, we`ve been so excited about what`s going on. I don`t know if it`s a great album or not, but we`re just sort of excited…(laughs).
What`s your reaction to the media reaction about the Mott split?
As a matter of fact the NME said something about a sum of money – which was rubbish. I could have sued over that actually. When I left Mott I hadn`t a clue as to what was going to happen, and I didn`t particularly care. You know, it`s just that when a thing`s over, it`s over. As a matter of fact there was a lot of pressure brought on me the other way around. I knew that I was going to be all right because as long as I can write songs I`ll be all right. But I didn`t leave Mott the Hoople for money. Columbia Records didn`t even know I`d left. And it happened weeks before the press knew about it anyway. It really upset me that they would print I left Mott for money…I`d never think of that.

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Do you think that Mott was one of the last great rock and roll bands of a certain era and that you`re headed towards something else?
Well, I`m too close to that to want to get into it. I really have no comment on the Mott situation because I`ve not been out of it that long. I know I had no alternative – I had to go, it was written all over me mind and all over me brain and all over me body, and I could no more have continued to play for them than…fly. It was finished, a real physical, mental…whole thing.
It was really upsetting to read that I`d left them for large sums of money…that was like a crock. I mean, I have been offered substantial amounts of money since then, but I`m not going to discuss figures, It wasn`t anything like the figure that was quoted – and it wasn`t at that time. I mean the record company didn`t know anything about it, it`s just rubbish.
And there was something also, that I argued with Buff over the live album, and that was pure conjecture. We don`t want anybody to feel upset – because it just happened that way. It was perfectly genuine, these things just happen.

Your music has occasionally been a bit pessimistic – about what rock and roll is, or has been, or will be. Do you still often feel that you`d just like to go to the mountain sometimes…you know, just get away from it? You know, just come back on your own terms…
No, not at all. I think I just got a bit confused there…I think I got into a stale situation. Now I`m breathing fresh air.
Are you doing anything else? Any relaxing…a little billiards? Darts?
I never relax. Mick and I just rented a little cheap studio before we went into the studio…you know, to try out a bass player and such. And I ain`t the easiest guy in the world to get on with and neither is Mick, despite what we might seem on the surface. So all this time has been spent breaking down walls as…well, things like that. I think it will all happen pretty quick – the album and the tour and all. What Mick`s doing is holding his album back, so we can go out together and push our albums at the same time, and try to keep it as equal as possible. What`s happening now is really interesting in relation to what will happen six or seven months away.
For Mick`s next album, I`m determined that he`ll have good songs – he`s a bit erratic with his songs, they tend to go here, there, and everywhere. And I can play a role for him, in much the same way he`s arranger and co-producer for me. He does so much for me.
But it`s all music, it`s got nothing to do with moves or how wonderful we look in lipstick, and all that. I can write songs and he can play them, and he`s good at arranging, and we both know a bit about production, and it`s coming along that way. But we need time.

It will be interesting to see what it sounds like a year from now…
Well, if we`re still together, yea, it will be. You know, – it`s frightening sometimes. There are songs we can`t put together yet…but with Mott, there were four lousy albums before it started happening. Not lousy, but four formative, learning albums. And here me and Mick are supposed to do it in three months flat.
Do you think that this is the best situation you could be in? If you had a choice would you still pick this?
Well I could have done without the hassle, but I`ve gone through it all now, and we`re at the other side. It wasn`t particularly easy for me and Mick to get together, but it gets more solid all the time and since we`ve stuck it out for this long, it also gets easier all the time.
Are we going to have Volume Two of your diary?
Don`t think so…
Maybe for private circulation…
Well, I don`t know about that…

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Dylan, Eric Burdon, Barclay James Harvest, Suzi Quatro, Billy Preston, Roy Wood, Nils Lofgren, Tommy Steele, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Beaver, John Coltrane, The Soft Machine.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Suzi Quatro FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, January 25, 1975

This article is quite nice. I like the way the journalist gives us insight into who this female bass guitarist and band leader is through his descriptions of her throughout the interview. And believe me, Mrs. Suzi Quatro may be cute as a button, but she is not to be messed with!
Enjoy this treasure from 40 years back.

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For your information, she happens to be a lady.

Delicate, feminine Charles Shaar Murray plays dialectical hop-scotch with hairy, muscular SUZI QUATRO. A Spare Rib special.

“Alistair…can you go through your solo again and count exactly how many bars you need for it?”
“Can`t we just leave it loose, Suzi?”
“No, because we`re gonna haveta get it exact for when we record it. When we play it live you can blow a bit, but for now I wanna know exactly how many bars you`re gonna take. `N remember that it goes C-G-C-G-C-riff and then your solo, now let`s try it again.”
Suzi Q runs a tough rehearsal, and the guy who`s copping most of the heavy-lidded stares is Alistair Mackenzie, her piano player.
For a kick-off he arrived two hours late and when he finally staggered in, looking mucho dishevelled and mumbling about demonic traffic wardens, he kept stumbling over his parts, forgetting where his solos were supposed to be, where the riff was, and even which key the song was in.
Over on the other side of the room, Suzi Q is perched on a compact rehearsal-sized Acoustic amp, half-hidden behind a microphone and a massive bass.

She`s pumping away on her axe, eyes closed and head nodding, with a cigarette clamped in her mouth and rapidly burning down a la Ronnie Wood. The observer, safely stashed in a chair next to her amp, is mentally taking bets as to exactly when the half-inch of ash on the cig is going to splatter all over her jeans. He has just decided that it`ll take precisely another 16 bars when guitarist Len Tuckey busts his G-string right in the middle of a solo that sounds so Jeff Beck that you`d `a sworn it was Mick Ronson.
Suzi unclamps the cigarette and deposits the ash neatly on the carpet. “Sheeeit, man!” she complains. “Right in the middle of a buzz!”
Tuckey is the guy on the cover of the first album who`s swiging brown ale with one hand while the other is tucked into the front of his jeans. He`s a taciturn hulk of man – a big, heavy, grouchy-looking mutha who`s actually pretty amiable, but who`d look unnervingly at home down a dark alley with a broken bottle in his paw and a sideways leer plastered across his mug.
He`s Suzi`s songwriting partner and – ahem – constant companion.
He`s also a pretty nifty guitar player and a singularly arresting visual counterpoint to Ms Q. I mean, she`s so tiny that she makes the average-size bass guitar look like a bull fiddle – and when Tuckey`s holding a Les Paul it looks like a toothpick.

You could go on fantasising and romanticising the whole trip in terms of beauty-and-the-beast and low-budget biker movies as per the cover of the first album, but one thing you can`t deny is that it works visually.
The only thing dumber than Len Tuckey done up in one of Brent Ferrule`s tuxes would be Len Tuckey dressed like one of The New York Dolls – `cuz it only takes one quick viddy to suss that he`s the kind of guy who likes to play “Apache” and “Walk Don`t Run” during breaks in rehearsal. Plus the Elvis impressions, of course, accompanied by lame gags about how he learned the songs off his dad`s records.
Ultrachuckle, Len.
Talking of The New York Dolls (which nobody`s done for at least six months), didja know that Suzi`s big sister Patti (now Fannying for all she`s worth) was recently approached by the Dolls to join them? The connection was via Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan, who was for a while the only male member of one of the all-femme bands that Our Suze led in Deeeeeee-troit.

“I drove down to New York, went through all the musicians classifieds, found Jerry, and drove him back to Detroit. Two weeks later I hadda take him back. He was a good drummer, but he didn`t quite have the right feel for our band.
“Even in those days he was wearin` girls` shoes, `n the tightest pair of satins I`d ever seen, `n` make-up. He was way ahead of his time, because that was even before Bowie.”
While this section of the conversation is going on, Suzi, Len and yours adoringly are squashed into Suzi`s matchbox-size Merc wildly skidding in the general direction of beautiful downtown Watford, where the band are rehearsing some new Quatro-Tuckey toons prior to going into the studio.
Despite the dashing skin-tight-skin leathers she wears on stage, Suzi`s daytime clobber is such that she`d have a hard time beating out Tony Tyler in a fashion parade. On this occasion, she`s fetchingly kitted out in a striped roll-neck shirt, jeans, and a red anorak.

Tuckey is screeching along at 90, despite Suzi`s rather pointed remarks about 80 being completely sufficient unto the day. A corner and junction catch him on the hop, and the halt is a trifle jarring.
“Just practicin` for me racin`,” he mutters somewhat shamefacedly.
“Great,” retorts Quatro stonily, “but not while I`m in the car, okay?”
There is a brief and simmering silence.
“When you`re a Gemini,” she says later, “you run strictly on nerves, which is what I run on. I`m an adrenalin freak, which can be a great help sometimes, but at other times, when things go wrong, then your adrenalin turns to depression. Not just a regular depression, but a real heavy depression.
“When you`re a Gemini, you`re either high or low, with nothin` in between. Either all go or all nothin`. When you`re depressed you`re ready to kill people. I get very strange and very heavy. I find a million things wrong with everybody.”

Bet the band hate you when you rehearse them depressed.
“Oh Christ, yes. When the pressures get me down i unfortunately start to take it out on everybody else. I get very, very nasty. When we`ve been on the road for a couple of months and get drunk every night, then I start yelling at everybody in sight.
“But at least we can laugh about it the next time we see each other, because we`re all very close. I`ll say, `wasn`t I a bitch?` and they`ll all say, `Yessss!` I can really scream, then ten minutes later I`ll have forgotten what I`m screamin` about.
“When I scream, I scream, but when it`s over I`ll say, `Alright now, it`s all over, okay? Shall we go on to the next song?` – and everybody goes, `Oh my Gaaaaad, how can you switch on and off like that?` and I`ll say, `It`s quite easy, I`ve got an on/off switch right here…`”

True to her word, Suzi`s all happy again in less than 30 seconds.
“I was drivin` down here yesterday and this cop calls me over. He says “ere, myte`” (she`s developed quite a creditable London accent since she`s been over here) “`ere, myte, you sure you`re old enough to droive?`
“I said, `For your information, I happen to be a lady and I`m 24 years old!” He said, `I fort you wuz abaht seven`een`.”
Unit 4 + 2`s “Concrete and Clay” comes up on the radio.
“I used to have that on a `20 English Smashes` supermarket album when I was a kid. I`ve got about 250 albums at home that I stole from supermarkets.
“I useta go in there after school and grab about ten albums and stick `em in my school folder. I`d stay around for another hour or so, because they get suspicious if you leave too suddenly, but they can`t grab you until you get out on the street. They never ever suspected me… because I looked so innocent.”

The rehearsals are taking place in the back of a Watford music shop run by an ebullient French dude named Claude Venet. It`s quite a nice little place, with a far more ambitious selection of Gibsons, Fenders and the like than you`d ever expect the good burghers of Watford to have any real use for.
The slice of hardboard beneath Dave Neal`s drums is littered with a whole herd of fag-ends, enough coffee is consumed to give the assembled company the runs for the next six weeks, and Quatro`s cigarette is burning down next to her on the amp as she starts rocking out again.
Today they`re working on three new songs, “You Can`t Trust Love”, “Bad Bad Girl” and “New Day Woman”, and to one only accustomed to the record-and-TV edition of Suzi Q, they come as something of an ear-opener.
For a start, the band sound infinitely better than they do on record. The brash, tinny, superficial sound that they get in the studio is replaced by a driving, funky rock-and-roll feel and the arrangements are far less cluttered and messy.

The stiff, stilted Glitter Band style that drummer Dave Neal affects so irritatingly on record isn`t nearly as effective as the loose-limbed, straight-ahead groove that he`s getting into here, and which I suspect is far closer to his natural inclinations.
Mackenzie`s getting a nicely grungy clavinet sound, Tuckey trades off stripped-down Keefish rhythm and blitzkrieg lead, and Suzi`s singing almost completely eschews the hoydenish air-raid siren sound that shivers the tweeters out of pub jukeboxes all over the country.
And of course, Ms Q`s laying down some fair bass. In the tradition of her hero, Motown studio musician James Jamison who taught her the tricks of the trade back in Detroit, she holds up the bottom efficiently and effectively, keeping things interesting without trying to upstage the front line.
So why don`t it sound like that on record? Search me.

Or better still, search Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who`ve aimed Suzi into a solid market with unerring commercial sense, but have totally and consistently misrepresented the band`s live sound on record – and, while we`re working up some righteous indignation, have more or less caricatured her attitude and persona with hey-look-what-a-tough-little-hellcat-I-am songs which do nothing but trivialise her stance.
Still, by her own admission, she`d rather have a tweezer job done on her toenails than say anything against them.
“That`s absolutely right, because they`ve done very well by us. They`ve worked very hard, but we`re only two albums and six singles old. I`ve always said that if we could get this band`s live sound down then it`d be great. I`d like to do a live album, but then the quality wouldn`t be any good, and you can hardly ever get real good quality on a live album, apart from things like `Get Yer Ya-Yas Out`, which has to be one of the best live albums I`ve ever heard.
“But it`s difficult, because when you`re up there you`re bouncin` around and singin` flat and your voice is croakin`…of course, that`s what makes rock-and-roll. We must all progress together, though…”

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The lowest point on the perimeter of Suzi Quatro`s bass is almost exactly level with her knees when she stands up. The head is level with her ears. Her right arm is almost fully extended to let her fingers do the walkin`.
Her wrists are almost startingly thick and muscular, as are those fingers. For smooth, dainty hands and well-kept nails, eight years of bass-playing is not a recommended therapy.
“The Sunday Mirror called me up for an article they were doing on how the stars kept their hands lookin` nice. They asked me what I did, and I said, `I play bass with `em.` And they never even mentioned my name in the article!
“Hey, didja know that I could never be an air stewardess because I`m too short? You haveta be at least five-foot-two so`s you can reach the racks. Besides, at the first sign of turbulence I`d be hiding under the chairs…
“I saw myself on TV a lot in Australia and I still can`t say my S`s right. I had terrible diction when I was a kid. I useta say, `my name ith Thuthie Quatwo.` I did speech training and I still can`t say my S`s.”

You can`t be an air stewardess because you`re too small, you can`t be Sir John Gielgud because of the S`s, you can`t model nail-varnish because of the rock equivalent of dishpan hands, so if you can`t be in the rock-and-roll business there sure ain`t no place else to go…
“Please God, let me be a rock star…if they don`t let me be a rock star I`ll probably end up killing someone.”
The world probably lost a great mugger when Suzi Q got rich and famous, but she`s playing it very businesslike, sitting there on her amp bathing in the bass vibrations buzzing their way up her spinal column and thumping on that massive Gibson Ripper.
“Len, don`t play that riff with him…let the drums and piano do it by themselves and then come in with me on the answering bit. Can you play this bit with me going up in thirds? I don`t think that B-flat sounds quite right. Maybe if you do it in minors…alright? Let`s go through that again.”
As she turns her head, you see this peculiar blue-black ring on her nose and cheek curving around her eye. It looks like someone whacked her in the eye, but it`s just a birthmark. For some reason it doesn`t show up in photos.
Still, it`s things like that that give a face personality, and it certainly puts a different perspective on those cute snubnosed features.

Suzi Q is unmistakably a leader.
She always knows exactly what she`s doing, exactly what everybody else is and should be doing and exactly what sound she wants.
Neal, Mackenzie and Tuckey recognise her authority and have unbounded respect for her leadership and musicianship, and they don`t give her any back talk. Sure, they make suggestions, and their suggestions are received with that strong spirit of mutual respect, but Suzi is head honcho and one hell of a hard taskmaster. What you call professional.
But of course that`s unfeminine – isn`t it?
To be sensitive and observant in long dresses and tinkle away at an acoustic guitar or piano is okay, and being a tortured funky ol` earth mother is okay too – but Jesus Christ, what the hell is Quatro trying to prove, stomping around in leathers humping away at that goddam monstrous bass? I mean, she`s so butch, y`know?
Wrong and double wrong.

If you think Suzi Quatro is obnoxious, you`d have a halfway decent chance of making a reasonable case for it, because she`s an upfront little broad and she shoots her mouth off a lot. But that`s more because she`s a Yank and has an archetypal rock-and-roll personality and is therefore not overly-inclined to go in for coy self-deprecation.
No aw-shucks about this kid, Jack! Quatro has a loud mouth on her, but no louder than most male rockanrollers.
And that`s where cometh the proverbial crunch, because it isn`t so much that she`s trying to come on like a guy as she`s simply behaving in an archetypal rockanroll way and women just don`t do that.
If you think that she`s unfeminine, though, that`s a whole different ball-game. It also means that you`re going to haveta stop tossing words like “feminine” and “masculine” around until you`re prepared to state exactly what character traits you`re talking about, and whether you`re talking about, and whether you`re going to abide by the same cripplingly narrow definitions of “masculinity” and “femininity” that have screwed both men and women up for God knows how long.

I`m not going to trot out that “everybody is bisexual” nonsense that every oafish fool who ever wore sequins on “Top Of The Pops” uses to give intellectual substance to his posturings, but if you`re going to claim that energy, determination, aggression, leadership and the desire to get down and whip it out on stage with a gynormous Gibson bass are exclusively limited to the male, then bro`, you really are a male chauvinist, and sister, you`re selling your own possibilities right down the river.
Quatro has defined her own role, which is something that any human being has a right to do if they`ve got the brains and the willpower to pull it off – and I really don`t care that she doesn`t write her own singles.

A couple of weeks ago, my old buddy Nicky the K, as part of his three-volume epic on Joni Mitchell and Uvver Wimmen, gave Quatro the fast brush-off in approximately a hundred words.
For the benefit of those of you who were callous and insensitive enough to have lost our January 11 issue, voici Kent in action replay:
“There`s Suzi Quatro, the girl everybody wants to dig – an image superficially bloated with potential, but really just Penthouse punk fodder – all lipsmacking hard-on leather, free-wheeling hell-cat raunch projected via a bunch of Chinnychap readymades. Aw, come on now. And she looks too much like Rick Derringer to let the fantasies get truly torrid.”
Right. All Quatro`s ever had in Penthouse is a short interview accompanied by a standard publicity photo, and the whole thing occupied considerably less space than Ian Hunter`s interview in Club International.
Those leather suits wouldn`t even raise an eyebrow if she wasn`t a woman, and as for the Chinn and Chapman stuff, I`d agree that, whatever they`ve done for her commercially, they ain`t doing her no good at all in artistic terms – though I get an argument from Suzi when I mention the subject to her.

And Rick Derringer? Come on yourself, man. Carly Simon`s a dead ringer for Mick Jagger, but no-one`s ever suggested that she wasn`t a fine-looking fox, even though she`s hitched to one of the world`s ace drips.
No, the principal reason that people object to Quatro on ideological (as opposed to musical) grounds is that she represents a kind of aggressive sexuality – a style of feminine macho (and if you think that`s a contradiction in terms then it`s your turn to be Mr. Jones) that most men – and most women – are totally unprepared to cope with.
“When I grew up, I was told night and day, `You`re strange. When are you gonna start wearin` dresses and quit bein` a tomboy and climbin` trees?`
“I had fun climbin` trees. So why should I stop? Because at a certain age you`re supposed to wear dresses? Bullshit!
“That`s what I`m tryin` to fight against. I`m not butch an` I`m not ultra-feminine. I`m just me. And I think that`s good enough for anybody in this world.

“Femininity is usually thought of as being a weakness. People say, `oh, she`s a girl – she`s weak`. It all runs together. All women have this side to them if you give `em half a chance.
“Men have also been conditioned into thinkin` that they`re somethin` that they`re not, and that`s somethin` that the rock- and-roll business today has such a good chance of curin`. Neither men nor women haveta follow that certain set of rules.
“In my life, everything is done 50-50 with whoever I`m with. If a guy enjoys cookin` he should do the bloody cookin`. If a girl enjoys it, there`s no reason why she shouldn`t just because she doesn`t want to be a typical housewife. It all gets so silly when you get down to that level.
“I just thank God that I`ve been fortunate in that respect. I`ve always done what I`ve wanted to do, and I`ve expected other people to do the same. I accept people as they are.
“What I fight against in our society is all that turnin` down of the noses at anything different – turnin` down the noses at Suzi Quatro because she happens to wear black leather and play rockanroll music, turnin` down the noses at the NME because they say nasty things.

“I`m not an idealist, either. I`m just sayin` `live and let live`. If you can make somethin` just a little better, then do your little bit.”
You`re just an old hippie, aintcha, Suze?
“No, I`m not a hippie, because a hippie believes that you shouldn`t have any money and that you should live off the fruit of the earth. I happen to like my comforts…”
There`s another dozen or so fag-ends on the floor. Mackenzie`s got the riff down and Quatro`s starting to bounce a little on the amp.
C-G-C-G-C-G-riff. Then the solo. Exactly fourteen bars.
Stencilled on the guitar-case slung behind the amp is the legend: “Suzi Quatro. Handle with care. Fragile.”
Don`t you believe it.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Dylan, Eric Burdon, Barclay James Harvest, Ian Hunter, Billy Preston, Roy Wood, Nils Lofgren, Tommy Steele, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Beaver, John Coltrane, The Soft Machine.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Queen FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, January 18, 1975

It is always a pleasure to print an old interview with Brian May and Queen. In 1974 they released two albums, one in March and the other in November of that year. I like them both, even though they are sort of different from each other. They are both up for discussion in this interview.
Have fun!

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Helpful Boy Scout transforms into Werewolf

Well, perhaps that`s putting it a little strongly…let`s just say he transforms into a demon who pushes old ladies under oil tankers. But WHO IS this extraordinary mutant? Brian May of Queen, that`s who – a quite pleasant person who only sprouts fangs and facial hair when talking to the likes of Tony Stewart about musical integrity.

Although on the face of it Brian May seems the most amenable person you`re likely to meet – going to excessive and well -reasoned lengths when describing the musical concepts of Queen – one suspects that underneath there lurks an arrogant man who`s prone to become indignant should one dare to disparage the band`s achievements.
This aspect of his personality is revealed quite early in our interview when we`re discussing the generally sceptical attitude most critics displayed towards Mercury and Co before the release of “Sheer Heart Attack”. For my part, I`m trying to discover whether this caused the group to strive towards an album of such artistic accomplishment it would be universally accepted. Or, if not, whether they were at all bothered by such heated animosity.
“It concerned us,” May admits, “but I don`t think it had that kind of result.
“We`re basically very big-headed people, in the sense that we`re convinced of what we`re doing. IF somebody tells us it`s rubbish, then our attitude is that the person`s misguided rather than that we are rubbish.” He laughs self-consciously… “Rightly, or wrongly.”

“In the days when everybody seemed against us we did ask ourselves, `Well, are they right? Maybe we don`t know what we`re talking about`. But…we decided we were doing something worthwhile, and from that moment we didn`t really think about it.
“There was no feeling of trying to prove anything either. We just went ahead with what we thought we ought to be doing, believing that people would catch up eventually.”
And at frequent intervals during our rap this overt confidence is expressed.
Indeed, it seems strange that May should at one moment be as pleasant as a Boy Scout helping an old lady across the road, and then suddenly transform himself into a demon (to continue the analogy) and push her under an oil tanker should she have the audacity to question how he attained his First Class badge.
One can only assume we`re on sensitive territory when examining Queen.

May is certainly aware of the various aspects of his character.
“I think I strike a lot of people as being shy and introverted,” he explains. Then adds ominously: “But a lot of people are the biggest big-heads in the world underneath that exterior.
“At some level in everybody there`s an enormous belief that they`re the Most Important People In The World. Don`t you agree? It`s there somewhere. Whether it`s at the top or at the bottom depends on their environment, their experiences and their general philosophy of life.
“I`m sure there`s a part of me that thinks that. There`s also a part of me that thinks I`m one of the most useless people in the world.
“Somebody`s asked me recently, `Do you consider yourself a good guitarist?` And that`s impossible to answer, because on one level you think that, no matter what your shortcomings, you have more to offer than anyone else. And on another level you`re looking round at everybody else and thinking, `Oh my God, I don`t stand a chance.`
“So on different levels it`s all there.

“With us in our present situation, one of the things I consider most important is to try and keep these perspectives and realise where all these feelings are – and to be able to step outside it and make some sense of it.
“I sort of give myself a good look at every now and then and wonder how I`m taking it. And I look at people`s faces to see if they`re reacting differently to me, to see if I`m changing.
“But I feel in control of myself.”

We`re in the bare, ground floor room of Queen`s publicist`s office in Victoria, London, with May sitting on one side of a large, ugly dining table and your writer on the other – and only a plant and a tape-machine betwixt the two.
The purpose of our encounter, curtailed by the arrival of another journalist who is next on this unfortunate conveyor belt interview system, is to discuss the substance which lies below the band`s previously well-reported image of peacock glamour.
As guitarist and sometimes musical lieutenant of Queen, May is the obvious choice to discuss such matters. And while doing so he speaks slowly, often cautiously, with long pauses in mid-sentence to allow himself to collate his thoughts.
It almost goes without saying that May puts the band`s achievements down to musical ability rather than their promotion, financial backing or image. He denies that Queen ever surveyed the market searching for a niche they could slide into and which would guarantee them the rock musician`s dream of fame and prominence.

“I`m not a person,” he says, “who`s very much aware of what`s going on, I admit. I don`t sit down and go through the papers and look at the charts and see what`s going up and what`s going down. What gets to me filters through by the normal channels – if I just happen to hear the radio or meet somebody.
“Roger (Taylor) is pretty much in touch with what goes on. He`s aware of trends and things like that. But there was no question of us looking for a hole and trying to fill it in the early days. Absolutely not.
“If I could play you tapes of us playing long before Queen was even formed, you`d see that most of the germs of what we do now were in existence then. Even going back a long way – to Smile, the group Roger and I were in – a lot of the stuff was there.
“It was hard rock, but there were lots of harmonies and attempts at production in the songs.”
Even so, the group has been accused of being one of the last to ride in on the glam-rock bandwagon, as though it was a preconceived idea.

“Yes, we were,” he agrees, “but it`s not true.
“It`s very unfortunate really, because – and I don`t know whether you believe me or not – the name and the musical concept was there for a long time before it got to the public, which was because of a series of accidents really.”
These accidents involved the band taking their time making their debut album because of previous unsavoury dealings with the Music Biz, and a delay in release due to contractual difficulties, causing two years to pass between their initial conception and their eventual airing.
“In that time,” he adds, “Bowie and Roxy Music had come to prominence and so had a few other people who`re associated with glitter as such. And because of our name people thought we were the tail end of that. Which is a bit sad really.
“But we thought,” he continues, allowing his arrogance to slowly creep to the surface, “people would listen to the music and perhaps realise the obvious comment that we were the end of the glam-rock thing wasn`t true.

“We feel we over-estimated people`s intelligence in a way…” Again he laughs self-consciously,”…without meaning to be nasty about it. We just feel if people had really listened and looked they wouldn`t have got that impression.”
Really now? Well, I looked and listened and honestly believed that with their aura and the spectacularly colourful stage show, they were deliberately attempting to be as glamorously splendid as a Zsa Zsa Gabor gown.
Even very recently Freddie Mercury has been revealing his androgynous traits when interviewed, which seems to be the obvious choice of subject much favoured by the glam-rock extroverts.
These observations, however, only prompt a flat denial and put May on the defensive.
“Maybe you don`t agree,” he begins suspiciously, “but we feel that everything in the show, the lights, the costumes, any of our movements etc., are a reinforcement to the music.
“It`s dramatic music we play, so we feel that everything we can use to give it that much more effect and get the meaning across to the audience is justified.”

Whether calculated or not (and I still believe “Queen II” is over-loaded, pretentious and a calculated stab at that market, even though May counter-argues fairly convincingly later on) Queen`s roots, as aired on their debut album, were rather more mundane.
The track “Son And Daughter”, for example, seems to me to be totally derivative of Heavy Metal, with a vocal harmony effect similar to one often used by Uriah Heep exercised in the introduction, and a structure which, to put it mildly, owes more than a little to the music of Led Zeppelin.
“It does belong to the Zeppelin-Purple era,” May admits, “Because that`s where it came from. We were doing it at the time when Zeppelin were a new force.
“It comes from the time when we were frustrated because we were doing all sorts of things which we thought people ought to hear, but we had no means of getting people to hear them. So by the time that came out it was something like four years old and everybody thought, `Ah! They`re jumping on Zeppelin`s bandwagon`. Which was unfortunate.

“We could have chucked it out to avoid that criticism, but I still think we did better to put it in. Although it has got the flavour of that time it`s still got the beginnings of our trademark.
“You`ll notice there`s a multi-tracked guitar thing at the end…well, that`s one of the things we were experimenting with at that time. And it grew on the second album, where there`s a lot of that kind of thing.
But was Queen a completely new musical concept, or did they, at that stage, owe a lot to Smile`s music?
“Yeah, I suppose we did,” he replies hesitantly.
“We were still quite near what Smile was doing but it was a lot more disciplined, `cause Smile was very, errr, free-form.
“This is Freddie`s influence. He likes it to be disciplined, with a lot of things going on…to affect the audience. I think he was the one who was first aware of playing to an audience rather than playing to yourself. Smile was, as was the fashion in those days, fairly self-indulgent.

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“We`d go on stage and we would play to the audience, but primarily we were feeling out what we could do, and if we felt like jamming for half an hour we`d do it.”
He pauses, his attention attracted by photographer Joe Stevens who has just arrived and is about to shoot some photographs.
“Errr, are you going to take pictures or something?” he asks. Receiving an affirmative answer, he shifts uneasily in his chair.
“Yes…all right…” he says nervously. “I just wasn`t prepared for it, that`s all.” But with a short laugh he`s back into the interview.
“So it was a development of Smile`s music, but becoming different. `Liar` was one of the numbers we sat down and worked on – which we`d never done with Smile. We just didn`t have the self-discipline to do it.
“Mmmmmm. I`ve lost the thread now I`m afraid,” he adds, obviously put off his stride. “I`ve forgotten what the question was.”
Well, the thread of the questioning was intended to lead up to the point that Smile bombed commercially – and because May admits there`s a conceptual link between that group and Queen, why should Queen`s future have been anymore auspicious?

It`s a quite important point, this, considering that each member of the group had studied quite extensively and then chosen to become a musician rather than follow an academic career. Superficially this would seem to indicate they all had enormous faith in their music.
May, however, reveals he was hesitant to forsake astronomy before he was certain of the outcome of Queen.
Apparently, though, this was not because of lack of confidence in what they were doing, but because of how it was received.
“Having believed in Smile`s music,” he explains, “and seen it get nowhere for various reasons, I was quite at home with the idea Queen could be the best group in the world and still never get anywhere.
“There are a lot of groups who were very good and had every possibility of becoming one of the world`s best bands, but who somehow got lost on the way because of bad publicity or bad management or any number of things. I think there`s a lot of luck in it.

“We`ve worked very hard at it and we`ve approached it very intelligently, I think, but there`s still a certain amount of luck. If certain things hadn`t happened at a certain time we would have made it.
“It`s a question of having confidence in the music, but not having confidence in the ways of the world, if you like.”
Without confidence in the ways of the world, and with a reticence to give up astronomy, how did he react when “Queen II” was released and received a critical hammering? After all, as Mercury has remarked, 75 per cent of the reviews were downers.
“I was very surprised, I really was,” he answers quickly.
“We`d spent a long time in the studios and for the first time we felt most of the things we wanted to go on it actually went on – because we had the budget, due to having good people behind us.
“And we had more experience; we had the experience of a tour. We were better players. We felt the songs were better. We felt the album as a whole made sense.

“We felt it was a significant achievement for us to make an album which, rather than just being a representative thing like the first one, was An Album and A Good Album. We were all very pleased with it, and thought nobody could ignore it, even if they ignored the first one.
“And as it happened,” he sighs sadly. “They didn`t ignore it. They all slated it.” He laughs.
“We expected every one to turn round and say, `Oh well, sorry, we were wrong about the first album. Maybe we should have paid some attention to it, because this is something worthwhile`.
“But in fact, human nature being what it is, it`s very difficult for anyone to do that. People would much rather say, `We ignored the first one and here`s the second one and we must say we were damn right to ignore the first one, because this one`s terrible`.
“Journalists are human, and I think there was that element. They didn`t like to admit they were wrong. And in order to sustain what they`d said before they had to go a bit further with the second one.

“We also think that the image had a lot to do with it. There was a lot of cynicism over people thinking we were fitting into the old glam-rock mould, which had already been played out. And because we had pretty faces and we dressed in nice clothes it was fashionable to think that if it looked good it couldn`t be good.
“I think it`s just an unfortunate set of accidents.
“I know you don`t like the album very much and you`ve explained to me your reasons. That`s fair enough. But to us it was totally misunderstood. I think it went completely over most people`s heads. If that sounds big-headed it`s because we think it`s a good album.”
May continues to justify the lavish use of multi-guitar tracks and harmonies, and successfully explains the progression between it and the first, which saw, he says, their ideas in an embryonic state. And he eventually concludes his analysis of the set on a pertinent point.

“Some people have accused us of trying to pretend the second album was more than it was by packaging or something. Somebody suggested that was part of the reason why it didn`t go down well.
“Maybe,” he adds, his eyes narrowing accusingly, “it was you.”
Well no, not exactly. The point I made was similar, but involved the music. I`d arrived at the conclusion that the band tried to disguise the hard-rock feel, a la Who, and make the set self-laudatory and pretentious.
“Why should we disguise it?” May asked incredulously. “It`s one of the best features of the group…that it has some power and guts. There`s no reason why we should want to disguise it. It`s just a more subtle approach.
“Some of our fans came up at the time and said, `Haven`t you lost some of the heaviness?` But as time went on the same people came back and said, `Look, I`ve been listening to it and I can see what it`s all about now. I can really see it`s a progression and it`s still got the power there`.
“And `Queen II` is the most consistent-selling album we`ve made – so far. We can`t say that about `Sheer Heart Attack`. But `Queen II` keeps coming back and back. Every time we do a tour anywhere, of any country, `Queen II` starts to sell again, because people realise what it`s about.

“I think the mistake we made – if we did make a mistake – was, again, to overestimate people`s powers of deduction about the album. This is not being rude at all, and I`ll give you an example why…”
The example concerns May himself hearing, while on holiday recently, a double album by a group called Los Canarios which was as ambitious and as lavish as “Queen II” – and which he reacted to in a similar way as I did to Queen`s set. It wasn`t until he read the booklet that accompanied the Canarios work that he fully appreciated it.
“I thought, `What would have happened if I`d bought Queen II?”, he continues, “I`d have heard all this stuff and had very much the same reaction, and then I`d have seen the cover – which has nothing on it to indicate anything special has been done.
“If we`d put a booklet in with it I think people would have realised what it was all about.”
Surely an album should stand on its own merit, rather than need an explanatory booklet?
“It does, eventually,” he responds, “but it just takes so long. The average person listens to it in the record shop, or hears a couple of tracks on the radio and never gets the chance to get into it.

“They might think, as I did with this album by Los Canarios, that it`s got something, but it can`t be anything because they haven`t heard about it. If there`s not a big fuss made about something you tend to think it can`t be worth anything. It takes a big effort of mind to get solidly behind something on your own.”
But the result of that argument, if it were true, would be that I, for example, would have been totally against “Sheer Heart Attack” when I reviewed it, purely because of what I thought about its predecessor, and secondly because there was no fuss being made at the time. But I wasn`t.
May disagrees.
“It`s not a contradiction, because after `Queen II` we were much more aware of how people received things. So in `Sheer Heart Attack` we were aware of trying to be a little more accessible. We wanted more people to get into what we were doing.
“On `SHA` there`s all the stuff that was on `Queen II`, but instead of it being vertically layered it`s spread out horizontally. Very many of the musical ideas, or the musical treatments if you like, are the same on the two albums.

But on `SHA` they come at you one at a time, and it`s an easy album to assimilate. You can listen to it and you can get a lot out of it the first time, simply because there`s one thing at a time happening. If you go back to `II` in the course of one number you can hear it all going on at once – in some cases.
“A lot of people have interpreted `II` better for having heard `SHA`. It`s all very accessible, and that was partly a conscious thing when we were doing the album, and partly unconscious.”
Ah! If it was done partly consciously isn`t that another way of admitting “Queen II” was over ambitious?
“No,” argues May, “because the two albums are completely different.
“`SHA` is an immediate album, but `Queen II` is an album you`ll listen to for years and years and years.
“We have enormous faith in `Queen II`. Maybe more than for `SHA`, I don`t know. I see them as different, but both are interesting. I think though there`s more on `II`.”

If you`ll excuse the cliche, was “Queen II” before it`s time?
“I think it was in a way,” he answers. “But I don`t regret putting it out at that time. Maybe we`d have sold more copies if we`d released `SHA` first, but that`s not really a criterion to judge your music on.”
Finally, what about Queen`s future?
Well, May believes, “It`s hard to see further than the end of your nose.” But – and please pardon the unkindness – Brian has rather a long nose, so he`s able to forsee an American tour lasting just over two months, visits to Japan and Australia and then a return to England when they might record a fourth album. It hasn`t been decided yet.

An ad from one of my favourite labels from way back - Vertigo! Loved the sci-fi theme and the rock bands on the label.

An ad from one of my favourite labels from way back – Vertigo! Loved the sci-fi theme and the rock bands on the label.

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Average White Band, Stuart Henry, Kiki Dee, Dr. Feelgood, Kokomo, Chilli Willi, Doobie Brothers, King Crimson, Dave Cartwright, The Platters.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Argent FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, January 11, 1975

Kind of a strange one, this. In a lot of ways. But since I`ve never done a article on Argent – you`re welcome!
Have some sort of a good read.

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The mighty challenge of `75…

…will be met by ARGENT with dynamic, thrusting new forays beyond the existing frontiers of creative expression. Like quadrophonic sound, a light show, and another concept album. PETE ERSKINE, not unnaturally, was bedazzled…

One hates to crow, but for your real cast iron I-Knew-`Im-When-`E-Was-Just-A-Pilferer-Of-Soap-From-Public-Conveniences pre-bigstar camaraderie, can you beat the fact that I once worked in the same St Alban`s drapers as John Grimaldi`s mother?
Come again?
You mean you`ve never heard of the creme de la creme of the Home Counties? The axe-man with the calloused middle finger?
The new guitarist in Argent, dear reader. Young Rod`s noo na-buh and co-native.
Rod Argent. Last year`s Rick Wakeman, remember?
Perhaps not. It was never really like that anyway. Or so Argent claims, despite the fact that he is talking against a CBS office backdrop featuring a poster of himself soused with that old Wakemanic aura, head tossed back in identical straining – and-soaring-against the – entire-dark-ages-of-music/is – there – anybody-up-there pose.

“Oh no. All those allegations of `technoflash` were a complete misinterpretation,” quoth Argent mildly from within a knobbled goatskin jacket. “I think that may`ve come about because there was an instrumental track on the last album.”
Surely there must`ve been more basis to it than that?
“I don`t know where it came from. It couldn`t happen now because the guitarist we`ve got is too strong. So is the rest of the band…”
…Which includes newly-recruited Bradford vocalist John Verity, whose astonishing debut album for Probe revealed an intriguing penchant for jailbait. Indeed, on a cut entitled “Schoolgirl” he vowed with fine intensity that if his innermost desires remained unfulfilled he would be “deranged by Saturday”. (He may, however, have slaked this thirst on the recently completed Argent UK tour – Rod, with a sheepish smile, acknowledges the presence of laddies at the stage door despite a band image more akin to the squatting-Wescots-with-paisley-inserts brigade).
“I mean, as Writers we`ve never thought: `Right, now we`ve got to go in a certain direction`,” sez Rod, lukewarming to the topic. “We`re not that calculating.”

The tour – “a bit inconsistent” – witnessed the beginning of the gradual evolution of Argent into something the man himself hopes will one day approximate a unit of positively `Floydian stature. With the augmentation of personell and the departure of the supposedly disparate co-writer Russ Ballard (who, it is said, favoured a more directly melodic approach sans pyrotechnics) comes a full quad system.
“We were going to expand our present stereo system – we had to get a bigger mixer anyway – so we thought `why not try quad?`”
It must have been an exciting moment.
“Because, you see, no one`s really done it properly before. I know the `Floyd have used it in part and The Who have used quad-like effects sometimes…but a lot of people use double-stereo and call it quad.
“The system we`ve got is still a little erratic though. It blew up in the middle of the Preston gig. We had a very embarrassing 12 minutes.”

To date, Argent have yet to cement (a good word in their case) the kind of sell-out following that could`ve arisen from Their Big Hit Single “Hold Your Head Up”. One wonders, then, if to try and offset a self-confessed “dry” image, they`ve taken any note of current fashions in stage presentation?
“We worry about it,” sez Argent. “I think as the year goes on we`ll be more and more heavily `into` presentation. But purely from our own point of view. The David Bowie thing is obviously not for us.
“I think the sort of presentation that I`m talking about would be more like the sort of thing the `Floyd do – getting sound and lights off to a really fine degree and using effects which really grow out of the music.
“On this tour we used a sun effect with some flashpowder inside it so – at a specific point in the act – the sun lights up from the back, the bulbs round the edge glow to give ray-like effects and the whole thing silhouettes the drum rostrum from behind.”
Visionary stuff indeed.

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“There`s an immense amount of scope for people to do great things in stage presentation. I`ve got some ideas which I`m not really prepared to talk about in case someone who`s got a bit more money than us at the moment capitalises on them.”
Mmm. But, is the level that, say, the `Floyd are on particularly healthy, creatively? That kind of Grand Presentation can become a substitute for spontaneity and basic originality. (You don`t say. – Ed.)
“Well, it depends on the nature of the music and the nature of the presentation. Effects should only be used to emphasise a point, not to replace it.”
And there`s also this danger of glutting an audience. Of dulling its perceptions. (Its WHAT??? – Ed.)
“Yes, well you`ve got a good point there. But again, I think it depends on what you`re trying to do. I`m not trying to put the `Floyd down – they make great records – but their music does have a kind of soporific effect sometimes.
“With us, Audience Involvement Is Vital. I mean, in St. Alban`s on the last night of the tour we let balloons down from the ceiling during “Hold Your Head Up”.”

Even so, at the other end of the spectrum, it seems that bands like the Feelgoods incur a much truer, more honest form of audience involvement.
(Zzzzz. – Ed.)
“Yes. To an extent,” Argent agrees. “I`ve seen them in a small club and the atmosphere was great. But there was something unreal about it and I went away having really enjoyed myself, but having not enjoyed myself because there seemed to be a slight sense of standing back and poking fun at what they were doing. I don`t know if they feel this themselves, but that`s what came over to me.”
But isn`t that part of it – sending yourself up a little?
“Yes. But I don`t like it. Because I think that when there`s a lack of genuine creativity about that`s the sort of thing that tends to happen – people start parodying things that went before.
“I was there in `62-`63 when the Stones did it and it was real for them and their heart and soul was in it. It was REAL enthusiasm for the music. No doubt it is now with Dr. Feelgood, but it`s the slight camping-up of the process which I don`t like.”
You think the past should be treated with reverence then?
“I think it definitely demands respect. I don`t think you should set it up on a pedestal, though. Perhaps the only way to do it now would be to poke fun a little bit…”

Rod Argent is still, first and foremost, A Progressive Musician in the old Music Is The Message style.
He`s one of those people who`s prone to describing pieces of music as “rewarding”, “satisfying”, etc.
It`s an attitude – a slightly conservative one – that, to date, seems to have pervaded the band. The majority view of Argent (the band) seems to run along the lines of “staid, but very solid and workmanlike”.
“It`s true,” concurs Mr. A., “but it`s something that has to be dispelled in the next couple of months. I think it came about from the fact that we reached a plateau around the time that we did `Hold Your Head Up` and we never really went anywhere from that point.
“There were two very definite directions in the band, writing-wise, and I think that because we weren`t working together people didn`t know how to think of us – and in the process, too, the music itself was compromised. When Russell wrote a song, it didn`t turn out the way he wanted it and the same went for me.

“Well – anything. For instance, with the song `Clown` I started writing it having just seen the film Blue Angel. There`s an old guy in it, a professor, who gets hooked on a stripper played by Marlene Dietrich, and from being a very notable professor he becomes a slave to her. In the end he`s lost his job and is reduced to going on stage and painting himself up so that people can laugh at him.
“That`s the idea the song was written from. From that sort of, er – pathos.”
Yeah…
Do you ever get recognised on the street?
“Yes. The strange thing is I`m recognised more at the moment than I`ve ever been. I was only saying to my wife the other day…”

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ace, Wally, Pink Floyd, Jan and Dean, Joni Mitchell, King Crimson, The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Pink Floyd FROM NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, January 11, 1975

This is an article following up on an earlier article where NME critisised David Gilmour`s unwashed hair of all things! The original article was also printed on this site earlier, so you may like to read that one first to get the whole story.
Enjoy.

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A short while ago Pink Floyd, darlings of the intelligentsia, the stereo-minded and lots of others besides, were victims of two NME hitmen – Benedicto Nicolini (a.k.a. Nicky the K) and Sneeky Pete Erskine, who stabbed Floyd viciously in the hair, the musical integrity and in the dry ice. An inquest took place this week

Dirty Hair Denied

There`s no dandruff on this band, claims guitarist Dave Gilmour (no split ends either) before delivering key evidence as to the merits and defects of Pink Floyd, defending their music, and denying all rumours that they were killed in the attack.
Interview: Pete Erskine.

“Hi Dave, have you washed your hair?”
“No.” Gilmour flashes a thin-lipped grin as he takes his seat, “and if he can find any split ends in here (lifting clump of  hair) then…”
“Then what, DAVE?”

But he’s already scanning the menu and doesn’t hear. His free hand, however, is worrying over a plastic tea spoon. Unconsciously, he gradually crushes it, letting the pieces slip through his fingers and fall onto the tabletop. Gilmour is nothing if not self-controlled. Placid, even. But not quite.
His anger is of the sullen, smouldering variety and yet, the weird thing is that even during such moments he’ll often make way for a broad smile which can be utterly disarming because it might, just might, be a harbinger of doom, the herald for a personal close-up of one of the robust Gilmour flails. Although I can’t imagine it ever happening.
He is angry, though. He told me so on the `phone a couple of minutes after he’d read the piece.
“I’ve just read the piece,” he said, “and I’m very angry about it.”

The ‘piece’ in question – an action replay for those who missed it – appeared in the 23/11/74 NME issue, written by myself and Mr. Kent in direct response to our witnessing the Floyd on the first two nights of their four-day residency at Wembley. I’m afraid we were a little rude about them.
Mr. Kent wrote an extended review cum critique, and I, through the back door, managed to secure an audience with Gilmour in which I confronted him with the accusations to be aired in the piece. The overall intention, see, had been, in the words of the introductory blurb, “to get Floyd back into perspective”, a sentiment which Gilmour himself says he thoroughly condones. It was the approach that riled him.
Ultimately the phone call resulted in myself inviting Gilmour for lunch – partly as a placatory gesture, partly to prove that the forementioned Kent and myself could, and would, stand by what’d been written and mainly because a re-match might prove to be interesting.

The axis of the criticism in the piece lay upon the fact (self-confessed by Gilmour) that on two consecutive nights the Pink Floyd made music of such low quality that it cast rather anvil-like aspersions on (a) their motivations (b) their overall musicianship (c) the feeling engendered by them in their audiences (both short and long term) and admirers – one of whom, Sunday Times critic Derek Jewell, pulled out some florid prose in an appraisal of the debut Thursday night gig (described subsequently by Gilmour as `probably the worst we’ve done on the whole tour`).
Jewell wrote: “Richly they merit their place among the symphonic overlords of today’s popular hierarchy…they reeled off, apparently effortlessly, a performance with musical textures so ravishing and visual accompaniment so surprising that, for once, the thunderous standing ovation was completely justified.”
Such bland acceptance irritates the band, says Gilmour, equally, if not more so than its denigrators.

“I don’t think anyone on our level feels deserving of that kind of superhuman adulation number,” he claims, hacking at a piece of steak.
“But then a lot of them probably dig it. Sure, I’m cynical of our position. I don’t think we deserve it. But I’m no more cynical of our position than I am of anyone else’s on our level. I mean…to try and maintain your own perspective on what you are is totally different.”
The lyrics of “Gotta Be Crazy” – as Nick Kent pointed out – reveal a very great deal of cynicism, particularly the line “gotta keep people buying this shit” which is tantamount to a sneer at the audience.
” Mmm. Yeah. It is possibly a sneer…but not at the audience as a whole, but at the type of adulation bands like us get. I mean I think there is something wrong with that…people needing hero figures like that, thinking that rock musicians have all the answers.”
But don’t you think that while not really being responsible for that element, the fact that it hasn’t been challenged means that bands like the Floyd, through neglect, are helping compound it?

“Yes. Probably. But I think we’re less guilty than most. I mean, we’ve made conscious attempts at fighting it.”
Such as?
“In things we’ve said in interviews and things like that. We’ve always said that we don’t believe in that whole number, but it’s very hard to get away from the image people put on you.”
How large a proportion of record buyers and concert-goers buy music papers though? A question I did in fact neglect to add. Still seems a bit lame though, eh? One would’ve thought that a couple of really finely honed satires would at least help… but then, really, how concerned are bands about these kinds of things? Motives schmotives. It helps sell records. And you don’t gnaw the digits that feed you.
Anyway, we’re messing around here. To the specifics. Gilmour is raking through the apposite issue as he eats. He’s inclined towards the John Peel reaction (thinly disguised in his mildly self-congratulatory Diary of the Domestic unfolded each week in Sounds) that the piece was ‘hysterical’, overly-personal and laced with supposed inaccuracies.
The first 11 of Kent’s opening paragraphs make Gilmour particularly mad. He claims that description of his personal appearance and that of a member of the audience (and his attitudes) is totally superfluous.

The offending words ran thus: “On November 14, 1974, approximately 7,000 people washed their hair and travelled down to the Empire Pool, Wembley, to witness the Pink Floyd live. Almost everyone, that is, except Dave Gilmour – his hair looked filthy there on stage, seemingly anchored down by a surfeit of scalp grease and tapering off below the shoulders with a spectacular festooning of split ends….”
This led on to a description of a Floyd look-alike in the audience, who is held up as a Floyd fan archetype who smokes dope, prattles on about the cosmos and gets off on the stereo production quirks inherent in all Floyd albums.
“I don’t see any of it being in any way relevant,” says Gilmour in that sullen/placid tone of voice that could be either. Or both. “So there’s a guy like that in the audience. So what? There were probably others like him, but you find people like that at any concert – but then Kent probably set out to find one and he did.”
I assure him that our approach was in no way premeditated. There was no question of a pre-planned axe-job on anyone’s part.

‘Well, I just don’t believe it of Nick Kent. I really don’t. He’s still involved with Syd Barrett and the whole 1967 thing. I don’t even know if he ever saw the Floyd with Syd.’
“He goes on about Syd too much and yet, as far as I can see, there’s no relevance in talking about Syd in reviewing one of our concerts.”
But one of the new songs is about him.
“Yes, but that’s all. In the beginning the songs were all his and they were brilliant. No one disputes that. But I don’t think the actual sound of the whole band stems from Syd. I think it stems just as much from Rick (Wright). I mean, Syd’s thing was short songs.”
As for hair-washing. Well, the subject got short shrift. I think, though, that dressing especially for a gig is something that Gilmour subconsciously associates with ‘showbusiness’ – about which more later. Meanwhile in subsequent conversation with Carlena Williams, one of the Blackberries, the two black back-up chicks they hired for the tour, Carlena expressed delight at the opening paras.

IMG_0769

“Sheeut!” she observed daintily, “When ah saw that bit about Dave’s hair ah jus’ cracked up. Ah had t’read it y’know?”
Back to Syd.
“The band just before Syd departed had got into a totally impossible situation. No one wanted to book them. After the success of the summer of ’67 the band sank like a stone; the gigs they were doing at the time were all empty because they were so bad. The only way out was to get rid of Syd, so they asked me to join and got rid of Syd…”
This, by the way, is also Gilmour’s comeback to my assertion that:
“It’s almost as if the Floyd, having loafed about half-seriously as the Architectural Abdabs [sic], garnered their personae from Barrett and, when he dropped out, for want of anything better to do, clung on to the momentum he provided.”
Says Gilmour: “By the time Syd left the ball had definitely stopped rolling. We had to start it all over again. `Saucerful of Secrets,` the first album without him, was the start back on the road to some kind of return. It was the album we began building from. The whole conception of `Saucerful of Secrets` has nothing to do with what Syd believed in or liked. We continued playing some of his songs because none of us was getting good enough material fast enough to be able to do without them.

“Which also, therefore, meant that I had to fit in with his style to an extent because his songs were so rigidly structured around it.
“Oh. And by the way, the band, when I joined, never ever said, `Play like Syd Barrett.` That was the very last thing they wanted!”
This had been part of a quote I’d happened across while writing up the original interview. It came courtesy of former Floyd manager Pete Jenner. It had appeared as part of M. Kent’s epic Syd Barrett piece last March and, to my knowledge, hadn’t been contested then. I presumed it to be accurate.
Another part of the same quote had claimed that Syd’s guitar technique of using slide and echo boxes was of his own invention. My quote had been: “The familiar slide and echo-boxes were purely of Syd’s invention” which, in retrospect was, perhaps, a bit strong. Gilmour, anyway, hotly denies this.

“Why didn’t you ask me about things like that during the interview?” he asks righteously indignant.”The facts of the matter are that I was using an echo-box years before Syd was. I also used slide. I also taught Syd quite a lot about guitar. I mean, people saying that I pinched his style when our backgrounds are so similar…yet we spent a lot of time together as teenagers listening to the same music. Our influences are probably pretty much the same – and I was a couple of streets ahead of him at the time and was teaching him to play Stones riffs every lunchtime for a year at technical college. That kind of thing’s bound to get my back up – especially if you don’t check it.”
“I don’t want to go into print saying that I taught Syd Barrett everything he knows, ‘cos it’s patently untrue, but there are one or two things in Syd’s style that I know came from me.”
In the original, I had prefaced these suggestions by intimating that as a guitarist Gilmour appears to lack any immediately identifiable personality. The word I used was ‘malleable’. He says he actually feels that such a word applied to his style(s) is a compliment. Most guitarists, he claims, are pretty narrow-minded, restricting their possible range of operations. In that case, he could be accused of spreading himself too thinly – i.e., capable of most things, but not particularly outstanding at any one thing. Or is that the way he’s intended it?

“No. But I work within my limitations. But then, whether I’m a good or bad guitarist isn’t really relevant. I mean, I try my damnedest to do my best, although certainly for the first half of the tour I was, well – rusty. I hadn’t played for a long time and my fingers were really stiff. But also I would say that I got very good by the time we were halfway through.”
And the accusation that from where you all stand it’s impossible for you to relate any more to the thoughts of the average punter?
“If you’re referring to that bit which says something about our `desperately bourgeois existances`?”…(The original quote – Kent`s – runs, “I can`t think of another rock group who live a more desperately bourgeois existence in the privacy of their own homes”.)
Well, I mean, how do you or he know how we live our lives? Apart from you – marginally – about me? Do you? Does Nick?He hasn’t been to any of our houses. He’s got absolutely no idea of how I spend my life apart from what you might have told him – and you don’t know how the others live. Do you think my life is so desperately bourgeois?
My house is not particularly grand. Have you seen Roger’s house? He lives in a five-grand terraced house in Islington. So I really can’t see how Kent can sit there and say things like that. He’s no idea of what he’s talking about.”

He does admit to a kind of laziness in the band, though. He’s also realistic about their individual instrumental prowess.
“In terms of musical virtuosity we’re really not anywhere I think; individual musicianship is well below par.”
And no, they’re not ‘bereft of ideas’ – just resting. And worrying about a follow-up to “Dark Side” which has, he claims,”trapped us creatively”. In passing, he says the lyrics are obvious intentionally.
“We tried to make them as simple and direct as possible and yet, as we were writing them, we knew they’d be misunderstood. We still get people coming up to us who think that `Money – it’s a gas` is a direct and literal statement that `we like money`.”
The point – a good one I thought – about the appeal of Floyd (and similar bands) being in some way associated with the rapid sophistication in stereo equipment is tossed out entirely.
“Six years ago,” says Gilmour impatiently, “we still sold albums and yet hardly anyone in this country had a stereo. It was all Dansettes then…”
And yet, from casual random sampling of friends with Floyd albums, invariably the first thing said is, ‘Oh, such and such track sounds great on my stereo.’ Surely this is a case of packaging to some extent taking priority over contents?
“No. That’s ridiculous. I suppose the same criticism would then apply to Stevie Wonder records?”

Well, as it happens… To Kent’s rather brilliant summing-up. The para. which starts, “OK boys, now this is really going to hurt”. If I may remind you: “What the two Floyd shows amounted to in the final analysis was not merely a kind of utterly morose laziness which is ultimately even more obnoxious than callow superstar “flash”, but a pallid excuse for creative music which comes dangerously close to the Orwellian mean for a facile, soulless music that would doubtless rule the air-waves and moreover be touted as fine art in the latter’s vision of 1984.”
“I mean,” he continued, “one can easily envisage a Floyd concert in the future consisting of the band simply wandering on stage, setting all their tapes into action, putting their instruments on remote control and then walking off behind the amps in order to talk about football or play billiards.”
“Personally,” Gilmour states stoically, “I don’t believe any of that rubbish about 1984.”
I really do.
“But I mean what difference is there between our sort of music and anyone else’s, apart from the fact that maybe most of the other bands just play music for the body? And they’re hardly progressive at all. Not that I think we’re wildly progressive either.”

But at it’s worst, a stage show like the Floyd’s only dulls an audience’s sensibilities even to the extent of sending them to sleep. Nothing is left for them to project their imagination into – it’s the difference between the holding power of a radio play and a TV play. And in any case, how does it feel to be part of a show where the audience doesn’t even give you a ripple for a good solo, yet applauds a bucket of dry ice every time?
“Yeah. That’s all part of the dramatic effect, isn’t it?”
And that’s a lame comeback.
“We went through a period where we blew out our entire light show for two years and there was no real difference. I personally know for a fact that it wouldn’t make any difference if we did it again. We’ve never been hyped. There’s been no great publicity campaign. It’s built up purely on the strength of gigs.
I don’t think we’re remotely close to that thing about tapes, do you?”

On the strength of the Wembley things, yes. You looked bored and dispirited.
“Not bored. Definitely dispirited. It gets very depressing when you’re fighting against odds like dud equipment. Energy soon flags. We weren’t pleased to do an encore because we didn’t deserve it.
“Why didn’t they say so, then? You know, don the olde showbiz Batcape?
“I’m not interested in disguising my feelings on stage with showbiz devices. I’ve seen hundreds of bands do that. Does anybody respect them? From what he writes, Nick Kent seems to believe in it all – the old thing of The Show Must Go On, Never Let The Public See Your Feelings and things like that.”
Wouldn’t the discipline of forcing just a little of that attitude on yourselves help in situations like that?
“No. When I’m standing there I’m conscious of trying to give the most I can,” sez Gilmour emphatically. “And I don’t need to have clean hair for that.”

I hate snakes, but this was quite an creative ad.  Never heard of the band.

I hate snakes, but this was quite an creative ad. Never heard of the band.

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ace, Wally, Argent, Jan and Dean, Joni Mitchell, King Crimson, The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail, if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be around or upwards of 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.