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.
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?
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.
“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.”
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…”
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.
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