One thing is for certain, when Geoff Barton, now a veteran of the English music press, interviews someone, you will always get a good article. No matter who he writes about, no matter the decade, you can always rely on Mr. Barton to deliver the goods. It is no coincidence that this man is a music writing legend. So sit back, relax and enjoy!
Up and down absurdia
Geoff `Kid` Barton talks to Earring`s Barry Hay
Since the success of “Radar Love” and “Moontan”, Golden Earring fever has died down appreciably in this country. The follow-up to the hit single, “Instant Poetry”, was, by the band`s own admittance, a “big flop” – and we`ve hardly heard from the Dutchmen since. So what`s happening on the Earring scene now, hmm?
Well, singer Barry Hay tells me that the band have just returned from a pretty extensive tour of the States. Apparently they were over in America for three months, and played almost a date a day.
I had a chat to Barry in Track Records` basement studio. He`s got, like most of the Dutch I suppose, a great command of the English language – and he speaks with a slight American intonation. In fact, if you didn`t know otherwise, you could well think that he was an American, through and through.
Anyway, how was the tour, Barry? Pretty exhausting?
“No, it wasn`t that bad. We travelled under very nice conditions, and we were well taken care of. If it`s like that, then it`s not very tiring. All in all, it took me about two days to recover, and that`s not bad. But we went dowBelieven very well, and the success was stimulating. The last news I heard was that `Moontan` is going to be a gold album soon. Now that`s overwhelming.”
Barry is none too modest about the tour, and the huge area it covered: “There are bands in the States that do great in the South – but people have never heard of them in the North. But we did every market. We tried them all out. We went down to Florida, and we went all through the South. We did everything.”
Did you find that the American audiences were any different from European ones?
“I think for every band it`s different. But they are different. Let`s say that they`re a lot crazier – in every way. They`re just crazy kids. They just want to come out and have a good time. They`re very wild.
“The audiences we had in England would sit through a whole set, or maybe just get up towards the end. But in the States they just leap up. If it starts right – then they`re up, and they never sit down. But at the same time they`re people, so they`re not really that different.”
This was not the first time that Earring have visited America. The first time was some five years ago.
“We went there just to check it out. At that time we didn`t want to stay in Holland, and we were listening to a lot of music that was coming out of the States at that time. So, we went over, and lost quite a lot of money. We went back a year later, but that was too soon. We decided first to play around in Europe – because the costs are murderous in the States. If you haven`t got a product to back you up, then you`re done for.
“We decided to go back the right way, with an album and a single, and then we would stand a chance. And it took us about four years to get that together – which isn`t bad.”
What sort of venues did you play in the States?
“They were pretty big. We started off as a supporting act, but news spread pretty fast. Soon we stepped up to guest act – which has more prestige. Towards the end we did about ten headliners.”
Now that Earring are finally back in Europe, they are going to record an album for a month, only to return to the States in October. In November they will tour Britain. But have they sold out? Not only do they seem to be neglecting Britain – touring Holland seems just about the furthest thing from their minds.
“Of course people think that we`re selling out. It`s human nature. But there`s very little we can do about it. The States is a very important country, a very important market. We just have to get back to the States, now that the word is around about us. It`s really necessary for us to be there.”
But don`t you think you should consolidate the British market before touring elsewhere?
“Hmm. Yeah. I don`t have the feeling that we are established in Britain. No, I don`t think so. I mean `Instant Poetry` was a failure here. But America is different. American kids are very loyal. They`ll go out and buy your new album even if they haven`t heard it. They`ll buy the new one simply because they`ve got the previous one. In the States you`ve got an AM and FM market. Here, you`re just stuck with one market, and the kids forget so soon.”
Believe it or not, “Moontan” was recorded one and a half years ago, so I doubt if the album represents Earring as they are today. It seems as if the new, soon to be recorded, album is going to be something different. Certainly, Barry enthused about it.
“We`ve got some really nice ideas for it, and I`m really happy with them. It`s very much a progression from `Moontan`. The band has been through so much since that album was recorded. Yeah. It`ll be a huge progression in every way. Everyone in the band has developed as a human being, and the musicians in the band have really progressed. George Kooymans has become really paranoid about his guitar playing. He`s really quite good now. We`ve reached a satisfactory standard.”
I thought that audiences might have got a little tired of the much-vaunted drum-leaping stunt the band are famous for. But, apparently not. Barry said that they are going to develop it into “something more amazing” – I just can`t wait. Meanwhile, I wondered if Barry would accept the comment that the band are a cross between Deep Purple and Yes. As it turned out, he wouldn`t.
“Oh no, no. I don`t really like that. No, not at all. They`re into an entirely different trip than we are. I think both of those bands are very serious, while we are half serious, and half something else.”
But I think what brought rise to that comment was the fact that the hit single and the “Moontan” album were so different. After all, the single was a bit removed from the music you normally play, wasn`t it?
“Not really. I don`t think there is such a thing as the normal stuff as far as we`re concerned. We always treat each of our songs differently. We`ve always thought of a song as a song, and if it`s the same as the others, then okay. But it`ll more than likely be different. That`s the way it goes.”
Despite the world-wide success of “Radar Love” as a single, the band consider themselves to be an album-orientated band.
“It took us such a long time to get out of the singles thing. In Holland we were forced to bring out singles, and there you have to come out with a product all the time, because it`s such a small country. So, in the beginning we were a singles band, and we really got dissatisfied with it all. Eventually we got rid of that image in Holland, and we`d hate to have the whole thing happening again. Don`t get me wrong, I can see the importance of singles very much. But we are not going to keep churning out singles.”
But isn`t that what you did with “Instant Poetry”? It followed very swiftly on the heels of the other one.
“Yes, I suppose so. But it`s not going to happen again.”
To me, and to a lot of people, the lyrics on “Moontan” were a bit stilted. They tried to be Bolanesque if you like – but they didn`t succeed. They just fell flat. Listen to the words on “Vanilla Queen”, if you have the album. It`s hard to take them seriously. I raised this point with Barry.
“Stilted? Yes, it could be. But on the new album we are going to use French lines, and even have a Dutch song. Oh, I don`t care. As long as I like them, it`s all right.
“I`ll agree with anyone who says it`s not poetry – that`s fair enough. But I wasn`t trying to be far out. Maybe it`s a bit kinky, I don`t know.”
What about the critics who say Golden Earring haven`t got much original style?
“What do they expect? We`re not innovators. No way. Look, I`d like to know who is original. You just name me someone who is doing something original. What is originality? Everything repeats itself, anyway.”
But as it turns out, the new album from the band sounds quite original. Barry says that it`s going to be “food for people who like to get into things”. At the moment the album`s working title is “Up And Down Absurdia”, would you believe. From what I could gather, it is loosely a concept thing. It`s about how different people look at things in different ways – how one person can find, say, a piece of abstract art particularly beautiful, while another can see only ugliness in it. That`s quite a concept, hey? It will be interesting to see if the band can get it across musically.
“The album cover will be into very much the same idea,” says Barry. “The outside cover will just be plain, with some glue on it. Inside there will be several sheets to stick on it, so you can choose the cover which you want. It`s going to be amazing seeing all the record shops displaying different covers, when they`re the same album. You can choose the cover you want. That is `Up And Down Absurdia`.”
You may have noticed that Earring were due to appear at Wakeman`s recent outdoor extravaganza, but for some reason they pulled out. If the band had appeared, the concert would have been an even more spectacular affair. So why didn`t the band play at the Palace?
“Well we really didn`t feel up to it at all. We just weren`t ready for it. You see, we wanted to come over to England and do a really good job – but when we had finished the tour of the States we thought, well, that`s the end of a period. We wanted to stop it there, get ourselves together, and come back to England when we felt ready.
“When we tour in November we`ll be fresh. I only hope that when we record the album we come up with a single that we`ll be able to release to coincide with the tour.
“If we don`t come up with something, we`ll have to pull a stunt. Probably steal the Tower of London or something.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Marley, Billy Preston, Ronnie Lane, Argent, Ronnie Spector, Duane Eddy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Andy Fairweather Low, Viola Wills, Mick Jagger, Suzi Quatro, R. Dean Taylor, Johnny Bristol, Julie Driscoll, Status Quo, Georgia Fame, Vangelis, Greenslade.
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