ANDY BLADE (EATER)
Above: Photo grabbed from andy's MySpace page. I'm sure he'll have no objections
"I couldn't believe that this bollocks thing that I'd got together with my mate at school could be in the charts at number thirteen".
Andy formed Eater, one of Britain's first and youngest punk bands, in mid-1976. I interviewed him over the phone on 15th June 2004. He was great. Here it is.
THE GIBBON: How was the band formed?
Well we formed at school because I was at school with a guy called Brian [Chevette], and we fantasized about getting a band together, and, y'know, made it as real as we could on paper, told all our school friends about it, and it came to the point where they wanted to see the band so we had to do something about it. And so we did. And we actually wrote a few songs together in the back of classes and stuff and - lo and behold - we had a set and a band suddenly. I say a band, it was just me and Brian, but we put an advert in for a bass player and we got Dee Generate through Rat Scabies when he came down to see us at rehearsal one time. So that's basically how it happened.
So was this done before you were aware of punk?
We were kind of aware of punk. I'd seen an article in Sounds music magazine about the Sex Pistols and we thought we liked the sound of it because it said you didn't need to play very well. Or at all. And we thought we fitted the bill quite well! And so we decided that maybe we were a punk band.
We invited down one of the journalists from Sounds - John Ingham - and he came along to a rehearsal with Rat Scabies and he said, “Yeah, you're a punk band alright”. And Rat Scabies said, “You need a new drummer”, cos it was my younger brother playing drums, and his protégée was Dee Generate.
So he introduced us to Dee and so we took on a new drummer and we were suddenly a proper punk band even though we didn't really know we were a punk band beforehand, we were told. We weren't aware that this distinction existed, but there you go. We couldn't play very well and we had enthusiasm, we thought, fuck the music business, we wanna do this and we're gonna do it.
So what school were you going to at the time?
Finchley Manor Hill School. In Finchley. It was just like a shit fucking bog-standard comprehensive school. It was a typical Seventies set-up where teachers didn't give a fuck about anything. If you didn't cause problems there was no big deal, but once you started causing problems… The council were interested in why certain kids weren't going to school. You were okay if no one got interested, that was alright, but if somebody got interested it was a pain in the arse. But it was a typical Seventies comprehensive school where pedophilia was still kind of allowed - because it was the Seventies - and people got fucked over all the time by all sorts of different shit. It was a terrible school. Terrible school. But it was what we had and we kind of dealt with it.
Did the school reflect the neighbourhood?
Finchley is fairly middle class but the school didn't represent what the middle classness of the area was like. It was a sink school for all kinds of kids. There was a grammar school, and there was the comp, y'know, all the kids that didn't make the grammar school got stuck into. But when a new law came into being where grammar schools in that area weren't allowed, and they had to merge with the comprehensive state education system. Suddenly you got clever kids with shit-thick kids and it all went wrong for a lot of people.
Probably I would have made the grammar school, probably Brian would have made the grammar school. But just at the time we got into our secondary education we got sucked into just this kind of universal teaching of people, “We don't care what your intelligence is, we'll try and teach you anyway” .
I stopped going to school when I was fifteen, but nevertheless I still got sucked into the whole thing before then.
So was Brian in the same school as you?
Was Ian Woodcock?
No, we met him through an advert in Melody Maker that we put out for a bass player in our band. He was a couple of years older than us as well. He was 17. We were 15 when we first met, so that counted for quite a lot. I mean he was out of school, had a part-time job, knew how to play an instrument, stuff like that.
What was the first gig like?
The first gig was with the Buzzcocks in Manchester. My dad lived in Manchester because I used to go visit him quite a lot. And my elder brother Hass [?] lived with my dad. He'd just joined the police cadets but he was still kinda well into music and stuff and he was our first manager. And he said that, y'know, if you want to arrange a gig in Manchester some time I can do it. And we knew the Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols and Slaughter & The Dogs and bands like that had played in Manchester so we thought, “Yeah, that sounds cool, yeah, a gig in Manchester ‘d be good”.
So we arranged that through my brother, who helped organise it and pay for the hall we had hired, which was £25 for this place called the Holdsworth Hall in Dean Street, Piccadilly, Manchester. We thought nothing of it. We didn't kind of put two and two together that a band that no one knows, that are from North London, that can't play anyway, coming to Manchester for their first gig, with no following whatsoever and no friends coming up – nothing whatsoever – we just thought you do a gig. Y'know, bands do gigs. We're a band, we wanna do a gig.
And so we arranged it and we tried to get people to do the posters for us, and through the poster people we got introduced to the Buzzcocks and they said, Look, we'll do the posters and we'll play with you as well, and we'll make sure that's there's a decent crowd there. And they filled us in on some of the details about doing gigs. Like, you need an audience. You need to try and make ends meet: when you pay for something it's quite good to make the money back afterwards. That's when we said okay. And they were gonna headline. They were great and we were shit, and we had no following and they had a very good following. We got sandwiches and bits of shit thrown at us while we were on stage, but at the time it was great, it didn't matter at all, we just thought, “We did a gig, that's good".
Probably about, I dunno, 40% of our set was what The Album turned out to be, in a very different form: speeded up and played properly, and with a bit more energy. But the rest of the stuff was just songs that me and Brian had written at the back of classes, y'know, literally written whilst we were at school. Crap lyrics for crap chords, and it was dreary kind of stuff, it was very slow, not really punk rock as in 100 mils-an-hour kind of stuff. We imagined we were The Velvet Underground and we imagined what heroin was like and we imagined we were playing, on heroin, in New York. And really it probably sounded like a mush to people that were there.
We didn't have a bass player at that time. My brother played drums and he'd just learned how to play drums, but he wasn't very good. Me and Brian had just learned how to play guitar from guitars we had stolen from the local shop, and we didn't know how to play very well. Well, not very well, we didn't know how to play at all, we were just kind of bluffing it. And through a contact we had made in London - Ruth Lowe, who was married to Nick Lowe – she suggested this bass player that she knew who lived in Manchester, who could play bass for us. Well, he turned up in the dressing room half an hour before the gig, quickly learned all the songs, got on stage with us, and tried to remember the chords we had told him. There were only three chords, but they were in different orders, y'know? And he tried to remember what order those three chords were in and after two songs he got so embarrassed that he kept getting it wrong that he walked off stage, and he left us there. So it was just me, my brother and Brian playing without a bass player.
I thought it was complete shit, I was in tears, literally in tears afterwards thinking, “What a fucking idiot”, y'know, in agony, thinking “What a stupid thing to do”. But Howard Devoto came into the dressing room afterwards and said, “That was fucking great, that was really, really good, I really loved it".
And then subsequently, a couple of weeks later I was at a Pistols gig at Notre Dame Hall and I had a couple of people come up to me and slap me on the back and say, “Fucking hell, you're in Eater, aren't you?” And they knew I was in Eater because I had “Eater” painted on the back of my jacket. And he said, “My friend tells me you're fucking shit-hot! He was at the gig and it was fucking great, you were shit-hot!” And I thought “shit hot” meant you're shit, so I didn't take the complement as particularly good, but as it turned out he meant that Eater were quite good.
We rehearsed probably for about a month/two months before the gig, something like that. We had no idea, absolutely no idea about anything outside of our little school kid world. Both me and Brian thought we could do gigs, people would turn up and they'd cheer and light lighters and wave them around, that kind of thing. We got quite shocked to find they actually chucked stuff at you, and jeered, especially when you started addressing the crowd as “You bunch of Northern wankers”, which we would constantly do, thinking this is something like a football match going on here, us from London, them from Manchester. It could have been a lot worse; it could have been a hell of a lot worse.
My dad was there. My dad gave a lift to me and Brian – we were staying at his house that night obviously – we weren't in some posh hotel or anything. We picked up Pete Shelly from the Buzzcocks to give him a lift with his gear, and several bits of P.A. and whatever, to the place we were playing, and he was our only ally. And for me to have the only ally in the building being my dad – he was the last person in the fucking world that would have wanted to encourage me in my stupid passion – was a bit surreal. And my dad felt so sorry for me after the gig he actually came backstage and said, “Well, look, I'm really proud of you, even though all those people threw those things at you and you had to leave the stage otherwise you'd get beaten up, I'm really proud of you". And that touched me. And Howard Devoto's words, they meant actually quite a lot, I remember that quite clearly ‘cos he could see I was a bit upset.
So this was before the Buzzcocks had recorded anything?
It was the night before they had to go down to London to do the 100 Club Festival, so they probably had recorded something by then. I know definitely it was the night before they had their big London debut and they were quite excited about that, and they were chatting about that. And we were kind of a bit pissed off that we weren't involved in that. But we couldn't anyway because the promoter told us that we were too young to play at a place that sold alcohol. Which was true, but he did it because there was so much pressure on at the time from the media. It wouldn't have helped for a bunch of 15 year olds playing the place and getting pissed on beer. We couldn't even get into it.
As soon as we were kind of known, and it was almost immediately we were known, [we were known even] before that Buzzcocks gig in Manchester, it was impossible for us to get into places like the Nashville and the 100 Club and other places. It was a drag. We had a tour cancelled in Japan because we were underage, y'know. It was booked and everything and it had to all be cancelled because the places we were playing you had to be 21, and we weren't even over 16. The States as well, that's another one, we had to say goodbye to all that as well. Again, that was all fixed up and all ready to go; a lot of money wasted or lost because of little laws about our age.
So when were you offered the States tour? Was that to coincide with The Damned's visit?
It was a little bit later than that, but we had to throw it out. The best things we could do was around Europe. There didn't seem to be that much of a problem. I don't know why. I suppose it's because you don't need visas, but Europe was relatively easy to go and tour and play wherever you liked. But the States and Japan, definitely they were two big fuck-ups for us ‘cos we were really looking forward to it and we couldn't do it.
What about Belgium?
That was great, that was our first trip abroad. That was just really good fun. We had amazing audiences. I doubt if they really knew us. We didn't have any records out then, it was just advertised as “Punk Rock from the UK”. In fact, I remember one embarrassing placard outside one of the venues we played – Eddie & The Hot Rods had been out there and had done the business and been very successful, gone down very well – and underneath our billing it said, “Eater (just like Eddie & The Hot Rods)”, and I suppose people turned up expecting something just like Eddie & The Hot Rods. And they really enjoyed it, y'know, and it was great for us. It was quite a wild three days and three nights we were there.
So what kind of stuff did you get off your mates an teachers at school?
We got shit all the time. No one believed that we were serious at first. When they started reading about it in the local press, and in Time Out and Sounds, whatever - little bits started coming out in the Evening Standard - they started taking us seriously. But we still got shit after that ‘cos they thought we were just, y'know, we're not allowed to break out of the mould of crap. And it wasn't good.
We had a lot of trouble especially with a lot of lads – in those days you had a kind of sub-culture of something called soul boys, who didn't like anybody. It wasn't the Teds that we were scared of, we didn't really have many Teds in Finchley at that time, but Soul boys were the problem. They didn't like people to look different or to start shouting their mouths off about stuff. We almost got beaten up so many times, me and Brian were constantly running away from people in Finchley who suddenly pulled up in a car and said, “Fucking chase those punks!” y'know, and we'd get around the corner and be prepared, pick up bottles in readiness, as if we'd ever use them, y'know? And fortunately we'd never get found. We'd always run away. We were skinny little fuckers, y'know, me and Brian, and we managed to run away and hide quite easily, so we never had to go through the sheer hell of having your head kicked in. But it came up quite a lot of times. And that didn't stop until punk finished.
So would I be correct in stating you were one of the very first punk bands record a single?
First five or six. There was The Damned, Pistols, Buzzcocks, The Clash, Eater, and, a bit later, The Adverts. We were definitely in the first handful of bands.
I remember reading that the first single was actually recorded in November '76.
Yeah, definitely. Again, going back to John Ingham and him coming down with Rat Scabies to one of our first rehearsals, it goes back to that. I mean if that hadn't happened then we would have probably not been one of the first bands, but because John Ingham picked up on very early on we were kind of shoved in with this movement that was going on. And we were all quite happy to do that. It was the first wave of the first wave of bands, if that gives you any credence or points.
So what do you consider to be the first wave of bands?
Those bands I just mentioned, really. Everything after that, even ones that I considered to be the good bands, like the Adverts and like…I'm straining to think of anybody else now…name a good band that you think came after that.
What about The Boys?
They were definitely after. So many bands kind of jumped onto the bandwagon and, even though I like the Boys as well, I thought they were quite good, but they were definitely after. The Vibrators were around but in a different guise, can't really include them as a first wave punk band even by association; it's not fair to do that. Even the Only Ones, who I loved, if glam had continued the Only Ones would have continued being a glam band. And same with the Vibrators, same with quite a few. The Stranglers for instance, they were definitely around, without a doubt they were definitely around, but had it not been punk that had given ‘em a flag and said, “Hey, run with this”, they would run with free-form jazz or whatever.
So what did you think of the Stranglers?
I thought they were great. I went to see them with the rest of the band – Brian anyway - at the Roundhouse, 1976, and I loved them, I thought they were great, supporting the Ramones. And they were just fantastic. It didn't bother me that Hugh Cornwell was already 73 by then, it made no difference whatsoever. They just seemed like a great band with great songs and a great attitude. And it tied in with punk, y'know, even though they weren't a punk band as such it tied in with punk, and that's what happened with a lot of those bands. I liked the Vibrators as well, a lot of their early stuff was fucking brilliant. But they tied in with punk, they weren't a punk band, whereas the Buzzcocks were punk, y'know, the Sex Pistols were a punk band, The Damned were a punk band, The Clash were a punk band. But all these other offshoots, they tied in with it but they weren't punk rock, really. And it didn't matter at all.
What really pissed me off more was the later bands that got involved in the scene, like The Cortinas and The Lurkers and the UK Subs, y'know – they were people that dressed up as punk to join and get in the cool with everyone else, and that pissed me off more than those sort of bands. The Stranglers I thought were great.
Did you get the impression that there was something been taken away from punk, by the new groups?
Yeah, something like that, I'd go along with that, definitely.
What did you make of the Roxy, then?
It was a shithole, but it was our shithole. And we didn't mind it. I liked it, I enjoyed many great nights at the Roxy but within the space of twelve months it turned into a shithole I didn't like, y'know. Suddenly there were horrible bands. I mean you can't, y'know, fill a place seven nights a week with good bands, and you start looking around as a promoter, I imagined, all around the country. And all around the country there are shit bands sending in their shit demos and you get those shit bands on. Then you get five of them on one night just to make sure people turn up. And within six months it was nothing like what it started out to be, which was a showcase for the happening bands that were going on, the first wave, the original ideology of punk rock. Within six months it turned into a free-for-all of stupid cunts from stupid places throughout the UK, who turned up with their cut-up shirts and safety pins through their ears and rubbish songs and rubbish deals with rubbish record companies. By then every record company in the UK was looking for anything that had a safety pin.
You can imagine that all the bands that had been rehearsing for ages suddenly put their hands up and said, “Yeah, okay, we've got safety pins now, we've got our hair short and spiky, got the songs quite fast”, and they'd come and all play the Roxy.
And the punters that showed up turned into a reflection of these shit bands. They were shit punters. They were shit bands. So it was shit bands with shit punters all turning up in one place at one time. All the good people, all the cool people, decided not to go there anymore and it became really horrible. I can't express how horrible the Roxy became within a year. And I would never go back there. I've never been back there.
We used to bunk our tube fare by running up millions of stairs to get to the top, ‘cos it's right in the dungeons there. I don't think once I've ever paid once to get to Covent Garden. All I can remember about Covent Garden is, y'know, to run up those stairs and to bunk the tube fair. For the sake of going to a club it's gotta be worth it, and it became not worth it in the end.
The Roxy, when it started off, wasn't it a gay club?
It was a gay bar. So I was told, y'know, I never went there when it was. But I met quite a few people that actually used to go there beforehand, and they carried on going there anyway because they thought that this punk thing, y'know, is kinda quite hip and cool. The gay scene, I suppose, kinda merged a little bit I suppose. There was a thing going at Louise's as well, the club around the corner in Soho, which was definitely a very, very gay place.
In the beginning it was cool to hang around in gay places ‘cos it meant that you're not going to get trouble, y'know, you're not going to get problems with the clientele. If you look a bit weird and you go and order a few drinks, no one gives a fuck, y'know, and all sort of things can go on in a gay bar as well. At Louise's definitely, there's always lots of weird things going on. But with The Roxy, it wasn't like that. It had suddenly crossed over into the rock market, into the pop market, and the gay thing wasn't prevalent - definitely, definitely not - unless you got to know who was after what, and there was quite a few people you did get to know who was after “what” after a while.
Can we go back a bit to the recording of the first single?
It was the first time we'd ventured into a recording studio, basically, and Dave Goodman was producing, and the engineer at this 8-track place that we turned up at didn't know what to expect, he thought it was just another session. [tape switches off here without me realising, so next bit of interview is lost]
Can talk about The Album. Whose idea was the cover?
That was mine. Me and Brian had a thing about anteaters and we decided that the cover of our album was going to be an ant for some reason. But the ant that our art guy did, the only ant he could find to take a picture of had a broken leg, so the ant on the cover of our album had a broken leg. And several years later The Prodigy used an ant that was very similar to the Eater ant, on the artwork of their album and stuff, and I contacted the solicitor, the lawyer of the The Prodigy band said, y'know, this is kind of infringing on our copyright, and they agreed that it probably was, but how could you prove it? And we proved it through the ant having a broken leg. Ha ha ha.
What about the making of the record?
That was two weeks at a studio in North London called Sound Developments.
How did ‘Love and Peace' evolve?
I'd put some acoustic guitar on one of the tracks and I was sitting in the vocal booth with the acoustic guitar, and when I was waiting - the rest of the band were all set up and Ian had his bass set up and Brian was there, just while we were waiting or Dave to do something - I started playing these chords and I started singing these words and just making them up, impromptu, and it was fucking brilliant, it was great, while Dave was trying to do whatever he was doing. And after he'd done it he said, “Play that song again, whatever that song was, just play it again and we'll record it”. And we tried to record this impromptu song, we'd never played it before in our lives, y'know, and it was not intended to be included on the album whatsoever. But we tried to do what we did, and even though it was …okay…it was nothing like the original thing we did. Which was really funny. And worked . I feel that the one we ended up with was, y'know, if you tried to do something that was spontaneous it doesn't quite work out the same way. And it didn't work properly, I don't think. The original one was really funny. It's like when you try to tell a joke the way you first tell the joke - spontaneously – it seems really funny, but if you try to recreate funny circumstances it's not quite the same, and that was the case with ‘Love And Peace'. You got some gist of us fucking around the studio but it wasn't quite the same.
What about the covers?
They were just songs by bands that we liked and I wanted to do versions of those songs. I don't know if we did them justice or not. We tried. ‘Waiting For The Man' is so obvious, I mean, you wouldn't wanna do that now. If I was managing a band and they said they wanted to do ‘Waiting For The Man' I'd say, “Definitely, definitely fucking not, don't do that, ‘cos everyone's done that. But at the time it wasn't quite the same, and it's a song with the chords we knew and loved, so we had to do it. We could play those chords just fine.
Lou Reed came down to see us at Dingwalls once and we played ‘Sweet Jane' and ‘Waiting For The Man', and he thought it was okay, so if he thought it was okay, that's all that matters really. The reason that I ever played those songs was because I loved Lou Reed and his songs, and to have him turning up at one of our gigs and saying “I liked your version of my songs” was enough for me. To me, that's the end of the story. If anyone didn't like our versions I didn't give a fuck because Lou Reed said he liked them and he gave me a cigarette.
He probably thought that because we were such young kids he doesn't want to hurt our feelings but our manager at the time was his ex-manager and stuff, so he didn't just like turn up at our show out of the blue, it was pre-arranged.
I also read that Lock It Up was inspired by Gershwin?
Yeah , it was, it's a lyric from a Gershwin song which has got the same lyrics, basically. My mum gave me a book of lyrics ‘cos she knew that I was starting to write stuff. I think it was a birthday present or a Christmas present. She gave me a book of Gershwin lyrics, and looked through it and there was this one set of lyrics called ‘Plenty Of Nothing', and I thought I quite like that. I quite would've liked to written that. So I changed a bit of it and that's it. So I kind of stole it almost wholesale from Gershwin, and no one ever mentioned it until right now. No one's ever sued me for copyright. It goes “I've got plenty of nothing and you've got nothing on me”. If you look at the original version of ‘Plenty Of Nothing' and you check out the lyrics of ‘Lock It Up' you see immediately where things have been stolen from.
Why actually did Social Demise leave?
He didn't leave, he got kicked out because Dee Generate was a better drummer, basically.
So why did the band split?
Brian left the band, and after Dee had been kicked out, I just felt that it wasn't really the same band anymore. Didn't like it. And Ian was becoming a bit more kind of boisterous in his input and I didn't like that, didn't wanna get on with it. It became not Eater anymore; it became just a kind of job and so eventually I quit in 1979, and said “I don't want any more of this”. It fizzled out, it basically fizzled out, there was no really big blow-up, it just fizzled out.
So did the last single not sell?
It did okay as far as I can remember but it was too late. It just wasn't happening.
So after that you embarked on your solo career.
Yeah, I formed a band with Billy Duffy, who eventually became The Cult's guitarist. And for a while that went quite well: we sold a few thousand copies of our first single, which was called ‘Break The News', and we thought we were going to carry on for quite a while but it all went a bit pear-shaped and then he got offered a job with Southern Death Cult, and I was left with this problem of where to go from here and I was only eighteen. I just went into a kind of songwriting mode for a couple of years, did bits and bobs.
I don't know how to explain the 80s, really, I hated the 80s. Lots of shit stuff happened and I tried to keep on top of it but it didn't really work out. I kept recording stuff all the time and the results of all that recording came out on my first solo album, From Planet Pop To The Mental Shop, which came out in the early ‘92 or something. And that was the result of all my work up till then, and since then I've just done other stuff.
I've got a new album coming out in September. It's nothing like punk rock. It's got that edge to it, it's got that kind of anarchic “I don't five a fuck” kind of vibe to it, but it's not quite the same, it's not like Blink 182, it's not like The Damned, it's not like anything really, I think it's the best I've ever done. But it's not for any punk rock enthusiasts, I don't know really what they'll make of it. And to be honest with you I don't give a shit. But it's not like mainstream.
Nothing I've ever done has been manufactured and this is a very good example of what people don't expect. I'll carry on writing songs, and as long as there are people willing to release them and get them published and out there then I'll do it. The album is called Treasure Here. I can't really talk about the label ‘cos it's between two labels, but at the moment it's either one of the two. I'm just waiting for the best deal. We're trying to plan on September.
There's a couple of other things I was going to ask you, although I know I've taken up a lot of your time. You were in a band in the 80s, I believe, with Dave Goodman.
Musical Meames. I wasn't in a band with Dave ever, okay, I helped him out, sometimes, with vocals,. I was never in a band with Dave, okay, let's make that very clear. I don't wanna go into litigation mode so I won't speak too much. Anything I've ever done with Dave Goodman I kind of feel a bit regretful about, let's say, so it's not fair to say I was in a band with Dave. I'll leave it there, I think.
Fair enough. You mentioned a live Eater LP.
It's coming out in, probably, a month or two. It's live at Barbarella's, a punk festival at Barbarella's in 1977. We headed the bill on a Saturday night and that's what the album's all about. But it's good, it's really good. First time I've ever listened to Eater live stuff and I thought, “Fucking hell, that sounds really good". The playing, the sound, the vibes, the energy, everything, it's fucking great. It's not the classic line-up with Dee Generate but it's with Phil Rowland shortly after, very shortly after, it's about a month after Dee left the band. And it sounds good, really good. I'm actually quite embarrassed listening to Eater stuff myself, I think, “I don't like this, oh God”, but when I listened to this cassette I thought, “Fucking hell, that's great, this sounds really good". And I'm quite proud of it, it's the first Eater live stuff that encapsulates everything the band was about, and even people that didn't like Eater have listened to it and said, “Actually, that's not bad at all; for a bunch of sixteen year old kids it works".
Is it the full set?
It's the full set, on Cherry Red.
Was this festival the one that Spizz played at?
He had to leave the stage and he invented this new song called “I've Been Switched Off”, ‘cos he had been switched off. They'd turned everything off and told him to get off the fucking stage, but he carried on, and got the audience going with him.
It was an oddball festival, there were people you'd never beard of before, like Spizz, I mean, no one had ever heard of Spizz before. And a few horrible bands. There was a band called the Rejects playing there that night, there was this band called Bethnal. They were a terrible band but they had a massive deal, y'know, it's like when the record companies were swooping around for bands to sign up we could have – I think it was EMI they were with, definitely a major label – Eater could have signed to whatever label that was and had a proper input of money and proper direction, but unfortunately we were fucked up with The Label, and so Bethnal got signed instead. They were just like a college band that could play big riffs – I don't even like to think about them, they weren't punk rock but they tried to get on the scene, and they got on the bill. And it was loads of bands like Bethnal on the bill, over a weekend. I think the most high-profile band was Generation X at the top of the bill, on a Sunday, but it was a pretty nasty affair.
And that's what punk got into, that's what punk fucking turned into after all the promise had turned into horrible, scuzzy two-day events at some crappy venue in the Midlands.
What was Barbarella's like, can you describe it a bit more than just “crappy”?
It was a big club, loads of blokes looking to chat up birds and birds looking to chat up blokes and people dressed in punk rock gear, safety pins through their ears, which they'd take out the following morning when they went back to their work at the estate agents. It was just a bit scuzzy, a bit scummy. It was like a big version of The Vortex. The Vortex was just the commercial version of The Roxy Club, and by the time it existed it existed to serve the tabloid version of what punk rock was, and so it was crap. Horrible place, really horrible, disastrous.
What did you think of the Live At The Roxy album?
I thought it was brilliant, the first album I'd ever been involved with had got to number thirteen or something in the UK charts, I thought that was fucking fantastic. I couldn't believe that this bollocks thing that I'd got together with my mate at school could be in the charts at number thirteen, even though it was amongst loads of other people on the album, I thought that was incredible. If I had a copy now to listen to, I don't think I would listen to it all the way through, that's all I can say, and definitely our stuff was so badly recorded and we were so, kind of, naïve at the time…
Musically it wouldn't work for me, but just symbolically it definitely works. From forming a band and within a year having an album in the top twenty of the album charts, it's incredible. Incredible. I couldn't believe it.
I can't imagine who bought that album, they must have been just interested people that were reading the music press at the time, and thought well, it's got loads of these bands they keep talking about, on one album, I've gotta buy it and see what it sounds like. Presumably they've never bought another Eater album, or another Wire album, or whatever. Punk never had such a high profile as that across-the-board compilation album. Which is what it was, it was a punk compilation album that actually made the top twenty – that's incredible! That's amazing, really, I'm proud of that.
People that had been buying Pink Floyd albums and Status Quo albums bought this album just to check it out. Even if they chucked it straight in the bin, they bought it, y'know, the joke's on them. I don't know what the figures were but it did amazingly well, and we were part of it. It was great reading reviews of it and having Eater either thumbed down or thumbed up, it didn't matter, except that they're mentioning your band and you're just a kid, you've never done this sort of stuff before. It was incredibly funny and worthwhile.
One last thing. Your Bob Dylan encounter…
Basically I went to Paris to interview Sparks for NME - 1982 I think it was - and RCA, Sparks' record company, paid for my expenses to go to Paris. A friend of mine who was going to do all the photographs, this drummer friend of mine, so we went over and my friend took loads of pictures, and I also took loads of pictures. Sparks were my heroes, I loved Sparks, I thought they were the greatest.
So on the ‘plane back to London the press officer for Sparks, from RCA, this girl called Sheila, saw this guy who we all thought was Bob Dylan. I said it as a joke, I said, “Look at him, he looks just like Bob Dylan”.
Then she said, “It really is Bob Dylan!”
And she went back to the back of the ‘plane where he was sitting and said, “I'm a huge fan and I want to take some pictures of you".
And he said, “No, my bouncers will tell you when you can take pictures".
And the bouncers told her that she could take pictures when the ‘plane lands at Heathrow, “And only then can you take pictures".
So Steve and this woman, Sheila, tried to take pictures of him as he walked through the tunnel. And I saw that they got blanked by him and the hand got put over the camera.
So I took a picture of him myself as he came around the corner, of him on his own, walking towards me. And the next thing I knew his bouncers were all over me trying to take my camera off me, trying to take the film out of my camera. And on my film were all the pictures I'd taken of Sparks, who were my heroes, not Bob Dylan. I fucking hate Bob Dylan, I can't stand Bob Dylan. I've got no interest whatsoever in Bob Dylan. And then they took my film out of the camera and he told me to my face that he would take the picture of him out of it and send me all of the others back, along with tickets to his show at Earls Court, or wherever he's playing.
I said, “I don't want the tickets to Earls Court but I want my fucking pictures back”. And I trusted him, and I believed him ‘cos I had these fucking bouncers around me. Fucking heavy. He said, “Listen man, I'm a new-born Christian, I'm not gonna fuck up on this. When I say I'll do something, I'll do something". And at the time his trip was that he'd just been turned on to Christianity, like. And I believed him, I believed him.
And he result is he never sent me my pictures back, never sent me the free tickets to Earls Court either And that was that.
Next time I see him I'm going to citizens arrest him There's a statute of limitation which means after six years you can't get someone for the same time, but I tell ya if I ever come close to Bob Dylan I'm gonna fucking get him and I'm gonna fucking make him pay for my Sparks pictures in some shape or form. He robbed me of my pictures of Sparks. I'll get him one day, I don't know when, but I'll get him one day, I definitely will. There's gonna be some payback, somehow, through the story of telling the world about Bob Dylan being a fucking thieving scumbag, one way I'll get my fucking pictures back.
But my main protest at the moment is that if anybody like Bob Dylan I tell them not to buy his new album just because he owes me. It's not really a threat, but here's a threat: he's playing at the Irish Festival this year and I'm gonna turn up there, and right before he goes on stage I'm gonna bustle my way into the backstage area and say, “OI! YOU! WHERE'S MY FUCKING SPARKS PICTURES?”
But I doubt if he'll remember me.
That's brilliant. That's the most entertaining interview I've done for the book. By far.
Keep the bad bits out and make it snappy and good.
I'll send you a transcript.
That'd be great, Jane.