WITH ALAN CLAYTON OF THE DIRTY STRANGERS: “I WRITE BETTER WITH MY BACK AGAINST THE WALL”

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Original article (in Spanish) published in Revista Madhouse on August 13, 2017

And on the eight day God created The Dirty Strangers. Or something. Because the story of one of the most particular London cult bands of the last three-odd decades actually had to do with earthlier facts. No eighth day of creation, then. God has never taken up the work again, he just had to settle for seven days to do what he could do. Instead came Alan Clayton, singer, guitarist and, most of it all, main man behind the songs of the Shepherd´s Bush band, one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the British capital city.

1..

The Dirty Strangers in the ’80s: Ray King, Dirty Alan Clayton, Mark Harrison, Scotty Mulvey, Paul Fox

Like in a theater programme, to get to know about the days and the times of the Dirtys suggests a brief description of the cast. The first name on the list is irrevocably (again) Clayton, the band´s heart and soul, or as clearly described in the group´s website: “The band were on a mission: carrying a torch for rootsy rock’n’roll as invented by Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry but laced with a little bit of Otis Redding soul and a side order of punk attitude” Oh yes. The original cast that spawned the early days of the Dirty Strangers’ biography continues with Jim Callaghan, most remembered as the Rolling Stones’ touring security chief  for at least 30 years, currently retired, who Clayton used to work for when he still hadn´t picked up the music path. Next is former boxer Joe Seabrook, Alan´s close friend, who also did Security for Callaghan before becoming Keith Richards’ (yes, that Keith Richards) personal bodyguard, till he passed away in 2000. There´s also Stash Klossowski De Rola (better known as Prince Stash), an aristocratic dandy all the way from the London ‘60s bohemian scene, one of Brian Jones’ closest mates, whom he was busted with on a historic drug raid in 1967. Last but not least is the very Keith Richards himself (yes, that Keith once again) as prime eventual catalyst, who thanks to all the aforementioned characters ended up being not only the band´s unofficial godfather, but also a very close friend of, of course, Alan Clayton’s. One thing lead to another and, 30 years and four albums later (“The Dirty Strangers”, “West 12 To Wittering (Another West Side Story)”, “Crime And A Woman”, and “Diamonds”, a compilation), the nowadays four-member group (Clayton on vocals and guitar, Scott Mulvey on piano, Cliff Wright on bass and drummer Danny Fury) prepare to record a new album early next year. As they’ve been doing since their early days, in the meantime they´ll keep doing the odd club circuit in England, with 3 gigs in Spain by late September (in Barcelona, Zaragoza and Reus) recently added.

2..

A promo poster of the Dirtys’ self-titled first album, with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood as guests

NO SLEEP TILL HAMMERSMITH
REVISTA MADHOUSE visited Clayton´s place last November to interview him and go over the band´s history. In order to get to Dirty Alan´s headquarters (which backyard includes an intimate and tiny personal recording studio) one needs to reach the Hammersmith and Fulham Borough, in West London, not far from the legendary Wormwood Scrubs prison, which involved a truly funny question after asking a local lady about the right directions in order to get there by mentioning the traditional jail (“Oh, your friend lives there?”) Along with Alan was bandmate Danny Fury (once drummer of the Lords of the New Church, among other great bands he was in), whom we´ll soon feature an exclusive interview with too. So here´s a smooth (and sometimes also wild) ride about the lives and times of the Dirty Strangers in the very own words of its creator, a rock’n’roll task that took him longer than, rather more than, seven days.

3..

Clayton, Wright and Mulvey, on a recent show

The Dirtys were born in the mid-80’s but what before that, I mean, personally, as a musician?Alan: The band formed in ’78. I mean, I started playing guitar I suppose in ’76, something about that I used to write songs and poetry. Because most of the people think that when I met Keith, that’s where the band started. And the reason why I met Keith is because we were very successful. The Lords of the New Church were a big band, and the Dirtys had their own scene playing the Marquee. Your career moves very fast when you´re young.  And about three years before I met Keith, I met him in ’81, we had already headlined the Marquee.

So what´s the story behind you getting to meet Keith? How did that really happen?
Alan: I was the Jack of all trades, and one of my jobs was, like, Security. Joe Seabrook was one of my best mates, I knew Joe before he met Keith. My first day with Keith was in Big Joe´s pub.

4..

The Verulam Arms, Joe Seabrook´s former pub in Warford

Joe had a pub?
Alan: Yeah, in Watford, called The Verulam Arms.

Watford? That’s Elton John’s hometown, isn’t it? That’s close to where I’m staying now, in Hemel Hempstead.
Alan: Right, very close. In fact Joe had a place in Hemel Hempstead as well.

So Joe was doing Security at the time.
Alan: Yeah, he had a pub, and he was doing Security, and we became good friends. He was the Stranglers’ bodyguard, Big Country’s bodyguard…

Then how did you meet Jim Callaghan?
Alan: Jim and Paddy was the one I worked for, it was a firm called Call A Hand.  So I worked for Paddy and Jim, and Joe came to work for Paddy and Jim as well. Because of Joe’s immense stature and presence, he became a bodyguard as well.

5..

Keith Richards and Alan in the early ’80s: friendship and guitars

He was a boxer, wasn’t he?Alan: Yeah, he was.

So you were doing Security on your own.
Alan: Yeah, working for Jimmy, for Jimmy Callaghan.

And then I guess you met Keith through Joe…
Alan: Yeah. And because I had this musical connection with Joe, when Joe started working for Keith, he wanted Keith to hear our music, ’cause he knew Keith would like it. Carlton Towers in Knightsbridge. He took me out to meet Keith. And it was funny because he brought me into his bedroom. I arrived at the hotel 11 in the evening, so I was working during the day.  And I said “when are we going to see him?”, and Joe said, “he doesn’t get up until 2 in the morning”. Fuck it! I’d been at work all day!

How did you feel about that at the time? Were you somehow excited? I guess you’ve always liked Keith as a guitar player…
Alan: Of course I was excited! I had other people I preferred but I liked the stuff he likes, Otis Redding, Motown…The Stones were always a band I liked, but I liked The Who more, as they were always more of a London band for me. So that’s how I met him. I remember I went into his bedroom in the Carlton Towers, and Joe said “this is Alan, he plays in a band that sounds like the Stones used to sound” And Keith said “look forward to that, it’s been a while” And two days later he’d say to me “I’m off to Paris now”, and I said “oh I’d never been to Paris”, so he sent his chauffeur around asked me to take a guitar and swordstick and said “come and stay with me in Paris”. And I’d only known him for 2 days, you know.

Just like that.
Alan: His chauffeur turned up in Keith’s Bentley. Picked me up and drove to Paris. His dad Bert was still living in Dartford, where Keith came from, so on our way to Dover, he picks up Bert. So that’s me and Bert in the Bentley, we went to Paris.

6..

Keith and Alan in recent times: friendship and sofas

The three of you.
Alan: Well, Keith was flying there. Just me, Bert and the chauffeur.

That must have been a great ride!
Alan: Oh it was good!

Great story, and great way to start as well!
Alan: But I’d already been in the studio with Ronnie (Wood). We’d done “Baby” and “Here She Comes”, and “Easy To Please”.

And that’s on your first album.
Alan: Yeah, right. And then “Thrill Of A Thrill” So I’d already been recording with Ronnie, and Keith helped set up shows in Paris. We still never had a record deal, and it was only a couple of years later when Mick (Jagger) was doing his solo album, and all sort of fell into place.

And all because of Joe, right?
Alan: Yeah yeah. Joe was a major part of my career, because the first live shows we’ve ever done was in his pub. But before that I was working for Jimmy Callaghan doing Security. I worked at the Stones’ concerts Earl’s Court in ’76. I had lots of strange jobs from Jimmy. I used to clear out brothels. That’s a house with prostitutes.

Where was that?
Alan: In Soho. And then I used to work for Jimmy, and clear out those brothels.

Yes, Jim used to be very nice with me in the USA in ’94 while I followed the tour, very helpful.
Alan: He’s a lovely man. It was through Joe that I met Keith, but Jimmy was my first friend.

7..

The Ruts. Paul Fox is holding a beer can.

STRANGERS IN AMERICA
Alan, I want to ask you about Paul Fox, who was formerly with the Ruts, but he was an early member of the Dirty Strangers, in the first line-up, wasn´t he?
Alan: Not in the first line-up of the band, but in the first one who went to America. And he also played on the first album, but it was Alistair Simmons, who also played in the Lords of the New Church. He wrote “Baby”, “Running Slow”…There are still songs I’m doing that I wrote with him. And when Alistair left the Dirty Strangers, he joined the Lords of the New Church. Lovely and fantastic bloke, but couldn’t keep it together all the time, you know. As for Paul Fox, it was funny, because when Malcolm Owen, the singer…You know about The Ruts, don’t you?

A little bit…
Alan: The Ruts were gonna tour with The Who, but Malcolm was a junkie, and he fuckin’ had to cancel a tour with The Who. It was a real unfortunate ending for him. When I used to work doing Security, I’d seen The Ruts and I thought “I could be a singer in this band” They came from West London as well, so there was a bit of a connection there. And 3 or 4 years later I’m in the back of this cinema in Kensal Rise in London, trying to get a gig in this old cinema, it’s not there anymore. And Paul Fox was there and he said “you really remind me of my old singer” And I said “you know what, when your singer died, I was gonna fuckin’ apply for the job” And then he said “I wish you had”, ‘cause after Malcolm died, The Ruts went in a complete different direction. And I got to know him. He had got on stage with us for a couple of gigs. He was a new friend I had found I really liked. And two weeks before we were gonna tour America Alistair fucked up. We had just got a manager and this tour would cost him a lot of money. And Alistair was always on that edge of being brilliant or fuckin’ terrible. The last gig for the Hells Angels, you know.  He was so out of it he couldn’t play his guitar. And my manager said “I’m not paying the money to take him to America” All the temptations he would be offered over there…

Huty21393 021

Oh yeah: More Dirtys, early days

So he wasn’t part of it.
Alan: No. it was a big decision. He was my best friend. We sacked him two weeks before they toured America. It was one of our goals. So I rang Paul Fox up and asked him to do the tour. And then he joined the band.

How was that American tour?
Alan: We only toured the East Coast. It wasn’t actually a tour, it lasted for seven days or something.

All small venues?
Alan: Well, we played the Cat Club in New York, which is a big one. And places around New York, you know. Boston, etc.

So that was the first time the Dirtys played there.
Alan: Yeah. We didn’t have a record deal then either.

And that was before you met Ronnie.
Alan: No, I’d met Ronnie! A couple of years before.

Ok you had already recorded the songs, but you didn’t have a record deal yet.
Alan: Yeah. We recorded with Ronnie, and then we recorded with Keith. Mick had bought his solo album out. That’s how Keith had the time.

9..

And then one day the Dirtys met Ronnie Wood…

The album was produced by Prince Stash, but how did he get into the scene?
Alan: You know, Stash got busted with Brian Jones. When Keith came to the studio to record with us, Stash was with him. If you see that photograph…There´s a photo with all of us in the studio with Keith and Stash. And afterwards Stash said “who is bringing the record out?” So he formed Thrill Records after “Thrill of a Thrill”, the first song on the album. So he formed the label and dedicated a year of his life. I mean, it got released worldwide, and it done well. It all seemed so easy at the time, but now you say “fuck I would love to have that now”, you know. And he put money into it, he was great. I have some great stories about him. Do you remember Pinnacle, the distribution company for independent record companies. When you went down there you had 20 minutes to state your case, 45 minutes later Stash is still telling them what a fantastic album it was…

So everything just clicked.
Alan: It did, but when we were in America it all started to go wrong. What happened was that in Britain we sold a lot of albums, and when Stash took it to America they used Keith’s name as an advertisement. Keith played with us before he did his first solo album. And when he started his first solo album, which was a big deal at the time, it was in his contract that he wasn’t on any other albums, and Jane Rose (Keith´s manager) always said “when Keith records with friends, it’s best to let the people find out about Keith playing on it otherwise it could go wrong”. So in America Stash added a sticker on the cover of the album saying “The Dirty Strangers featuring Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood” And Keith was just about to release his solo album exclusive, and so our album got banned in America. And I understand why it wasn’t smart how they advertised it in America. So everyone just fucking used his name as if it was an advertising tool.

10..Was it Stash the one who came up with the idea of putting on the sticker on the album?
Alan: Oh yeah, that must have been Stash, yeah. Keith played on that as a friend.

Changing the subject now…A few years ago you worked with John Sinclair, who used to manage the MC5, and also an activist.
Alan: Not just the manager, he was the inspiration, he was a lot more to it.

That´s right, in fact he was one of the founders of the White Panther Party. But hen again, you worked with him in his “Beatnik Youth album in 2012. I saw that video on YouTube that…
Alan:
Oh but that’s different to “Beatnik Youth” Well, you know, John Sinclair and the MC5. I didn’t come across him, really. My knowledge of MC5 came from Brian James. And I got a phone call from George Butler, the drummer before Danny in the band, and he went “I got a friend of mine, Tim, from Brighton, who would like to do recording with John Sinclair. Can we do some recording in the studio” And I said “yeah, of course” So John Sinclair came over. I found out about him, I was intrigued about him…And he came over and, like when I met Keith, it was almost the same, I instantly bonded with John. I thought “another kindred spirit!”

11..

John Sinclair, a legend in b&w

Yeah, he came a long way.
Alan: Yeah, he’s been around. And at the time of “West 12 to Wittering”, Youth produced some of it. You know “She’s a Real Boticelli”, the single…

Oh I love that song! That’s one of my favourites.
Alan: If you asked me how I wrote that…Youth produced the single, A Youth mix. You know Youth, he produced The Verve. He was the bass player in Killing Joke. He’s fine when producing. He’d done The Verve, he’s got a band with Paul McCartney. He’s a really great bloke. Told him that I had met John Sinclair, and he produced “Lock and Key”, and he said “why don’t we do an album?” So we wrote an album.
Danny: That’s cool.
Alan: Yeah. It’s waiting to come out as well. Fuck it, it’s a fantastic album! The sort of music I’ve never really been involved into, ‘cause Youth comes from different areas. We’ve known each other for a long time. And John Sinclair, that was it. ‘Cause John was going around Europe playing, he lives in Amsterdam now, and he’d be picking up these generic bar bands that would be in a bar, and they would just played blues, and he’d do his bit of poetry over it. What me and Youth wanted to do was taking it to song level, so he had an album with actual songs, not just generic blues with beat of poetry. So we used his beat poetry as the verses, and we got choruses. So he turned them into songs.

Would you say you were part of the London punk scene, or was it general rock’n’roll?
Alan:
No, I came after with the Dirty Strangers. When Punk was going, I loved Punk, it was fuckin’ great, ‘cause it took me from being a bloke that only got to play in his bedroom to someone that believed that could form a band. And I really did. And I could always write songs. I could always write poetry and stuff like that, so I loved the punk scene. At the time in 1976, I was 22, and all the punks were pretending to be 16, 17…All the punks like Mick Jones, Tony James, they were my age. 22 or 23. So even when I wasn’t in a band, I knew Mick Jones before he was in The Clash, because I used to work in Shepherd’s Bush’s Hammersmith College of Art’s building, and he was an art student there. His first gig supporting The Kursaal Flyers at the Roundhouse. So I felt connected to the Punk scene because I knew Mick. It was a heavily West London-influenced scene, so I was right in the middle of it anyway. And they were all my age. And about that time I was doing Security at all the concerts, so I’d see all the bands. And I’d say it definitely inspired me to form a rock’n’roll band. All the punk bands I liked were really rock’n’roll bands with a new energy.

You always seemed to me to be deep into ‘50s and ‘60s stuff.
Alan:
Oh I just love rock’n’roll, you know.  What I love more than anything? Seeing women dance when we’re playing…

12..WITTERING HEIGHTS
I’d like to talk a bit about the “West 12 to Wittering” album. Once again, we know that Keith played piano there, and he actually plays in a several songs. So does Ronnie Wood. Plus it’s not only my favourite Dirtys’ album, but one of the few albums that I’m always playing at home ever since I got it. That’s how much I love it.
Alan:
Thank you, thank you very much.

And just a few days ago I was walking down the streets here in London playing it on my iPod, and it’s an album that gives you that perfect London atmosphere…
Alan:
Of course, it’s about London, definitely.

I mean, you don’t play Madonna when you’re walking down in London.
Alan: Hahaha! Yeah, the Dirty Strangers is a good choice. And the story about it is, I’d just done the ‘A Bigger Bang’ tour with the Stones, and the Dirty Strangers hadn’t been going for about 8 years.  I’ve done the ‘A Bigger Bang’ tour for about 2 and a half years, and while I was away I wrote a lot of songs, and when I came back I decided I wanted to get the band back together, but at the time it was only me, John Proctor, and George Butler, just a 3-piece, and we were called Monkey Seed.

You changed the name of the band?
Alan: No. What happened was, the Dirty Strangers were sort of dissolved, we never split up. We’d hadn’t played for too long, not earning any money and, you know people get demotivated. So when I decided to get the band back together, I wanted it to be a fresh start. So I wanted a new name. I wasn’t gonna do any Dirty Strangers songs, only new songs. But I wrote all the Dirty Strangers’ songs anyway. So I went to Ian Grant, which just got Track Records, and I said to him, “I’ve got this album of songs. Do you fancy signing me to Track Records?” He said ye. He likes the stuff I’m doing.  And he said “why are you changing the name?” I said “well, because I want a fresh start” And he said “Alan you’re 50-odd” (laughs) “You’re not twenty anymore!” And he was right! He said “listen, you’ve got all this reputation as the Dirty Strangers, basically you are  the Dirty Strangers. Why would you change the name? It never gone wrong for the Dirty Strangers” So he said, “I advise you to call the band the Dirty Strangers”. And I went “all right” Sometimes you’re happy for people to tell you this stuff, ‘cause you don’t realize it sometimes. You think, “yeah I have a new band, I’m gonna call it this, I’m not gonna do The Dirty Strangers” So we got that together, I told Keith, and he said “do you want me to play guitar on it?”, and I went “no, I’m playing guitar on this one” And I said “can you play piano on it?” And he went “yeah, fuckin’ of course!”, you know. And that’s why it’s called “West 12 to Wittering”, because he lives in Wittering, and I took my recording gear from here (W12), and we set up camp.

13..

Alan Clayton, ex-bass player John Proctor and drummer Danny Fury

Where did you record it?
Alan: In Redlands. His stuff, the piano, was recorded in Redlands.

So you stayed with him at the time there?
Alan: Oh, I stayed with him lots of different times.

It’s beautiful in there, isn’t it?
Alan: Yeah, lovely. So much so, if I moved from London, that’s a part of the world I’m gonna move to.

Small world, two days ago I saw Ian Hunter in Shepherd’s Bush and, as I left, I met this couple who live there.
Alan: Ian Hunter? Did he play Shepherd’s Bush?

Oh yeah. Just 3 days ago. He never played in South America, and he’s not likely to play soon, so I couldn’t miss it. With Graham Parker as support act.
Alan: Oh I love Graham Parker!
Danny: Do they advertise it these days?
Alan: It’s like if it’s sold out, there’s no advertising.

I’m sorry, now I’m starting to feel guilty!
Alan: I didn’t know that he was playing some time.
Danny: If you go to the websites, usually they’re there.
Alan: Usually there would be an ad in the Evening Standard, or in Time-Out.
Danny: In the past it used to be Melody maker, you found all the gigs in there.
Alan: Time-Out for me. Growing up in a band, was the place where they put all the gigs in, and now it’s selected gigs.

DIRTY, STRANGE AND CONCEPTUAL
What about “Crime and a Woman”, the new album? I know it’s a concept album.
Alan:  It’s a story that goes from start to the end, if you want it to be a story. If you want it to be a collection of rock’n’roll songs, it’s a collection of rock’n’roll songs. But there is a story within it probably for my own benefit, more than anybody else’s. It’s a story that goes for it.14..

Yes, you told me it’s an album you wanted to do in a more personal way, after I asked you why Keith isn’t in the album, and you said you wanted it to be “your” album.
Alan: Yeah yeah. Because the thing is, it is great having Keith as one of your best mates, but the downside is once you play your own stuff, whenever anyone comes to see you some are disappointed I’m always getting this continuous question, “Would Keith be playing with you?” or “Would he be turning up?” I understand why more people say that, but it’s not his band. It’s my band that he happens to play in now and then, it is  the Dirty Strangers. And this one, I wanted it to be representative of us live, what we’ve recorded.

Well, I still love the album a lot.
Alan: I love it as well, because it sounds great. “Keith, can you come and play on this?” And he’s great, but he’s not playing live with us.

You’re always writing on your own, you’re the only one that writes the songs for the Dirtys, isn´t it?
Alan: And now I’ve been playing with Danny for a little while. Danny writes songs, and sure he’ll contribute down the line.

But basically all the songs on the new album are yours.
Alan: Yeah, but there’s a couple like “Running Slow” and “Are You Satisfied”, which was co-written with Alistair… He’s been dead for 10 years. He was a good mate of mine. And “One Good Reason” was co-written by Tam Nightingale. And Scotty co-wrote “Short and Sweet” But really, it was my album.

What inspires you to writes songs? Is it everyday life?
Alan: Definitely, everyday life. If I have a lull in my life, like a lot of people I write better with my back against the wall. When I’m comfortable, when everything’s alright, I find it very hard to write songs, ‘cause my life is at peace. Don’t you find that Danny, if there is turmoil in your life, then  you write better songs?
Danny: Yeah!

Then there wouldn’t be any blues players.
Alan: Yeah, exactly.  It’s the hard time that make you dig in and dig deep.

And I believe it’s the same with writers.
Alan: Yeah. Well how many tortured writers and comedians we know? People that are manic depressive, they put this beautiful work out.
Danny: They focus on their inner turmoil.

Somehow you’re exorcising your problems, you know what I mean. It’s therapy.
Alan: That’s definitely right. If I have something strong my mind, I’ll definitely write a song about it.

15..

The Dirty Strangers today. From L-R: Danny Fury, Alan Clayton, Cliff Wright and Scott Mulvey

Out of the lyrics, you don’t find bands like the Dirty Strangers around these days. I mean, all that bluesy lowdown rock’n’roll with a punky edge….And now Danny’s welcome, so that means some fresh new blood.
Alan: Yeah, right!

MAYBE IT´S BECAUSE I´M A LONDONER
What’s your take on the current London music scene?
Alan: You know, can I be honest to you? I don’t give a fuck about the music scene, I only care about the Dirty Strangers. When you’re in a rock and roll band, you can’t care about anybody else. Really, because you fuckin’ love rock’n’roll. Don’t you think that’s right, Danny?
Danny: Yeah, you´re sort of caught up in your own thing, you know. But if I can maybe answer that thing, I’ve got a little different impression anyway, as I’m still a little bit interested in what’s going on. You put new stuff in the context of old so, in a way, if you want to release it to the world, you work. That’s what my interest comes from. It’s actually, like Alan said, it’s a limited customer, you know. But I think there’s a lack of personalities, a lack of true expression, everybody seems to copy something that’s already been done before.

Well, that’s because they’re only after the money.
Alan: Yeah yeah.
Danny: Either it’s music you just make for money, but there’s not much that really reaches and touches, you know what I mean, a genuine expression of a personality.
Alan: Also, I’m still discovering music from the ‘50s, you know how I mean, there is such a body of music out there.
Danny: So much music out there…
Alan: I’d like to know if there’s still music going on, with youngsters. It’s not for me to comment what 15 year olds like, ‘cause I’m not 15 years old, right? But at my own age I know what I do, I play rock’n’roll.  I see many bands compromise, but we never compromise, we just play what we play. During my career I have been really trendy, then forgotten, then trendy again. You just do what you do.

Yes, it’s just like you said, it’s always about going back to the past, there’s so much in there.
Alan:  I listen to the radio a lot, so I don’t shut myself from the outside world. But there’s still people writing great songs. With rock and roll I am very protective, you’ve got bands who toy with rock and roll.
16..As it was just a word…
Alan: Yeah, and I live my life for it. I know I’ve done it for a long time.

So, if I may ask, what do you do for a living out of the Dirty Strangers?
Alan: I’m Danny’s butler! (laughs heavily)

You know, I was just curious…
Alan: He’s from Switzerland. He has loads of money.

You know, people from Switzerland, they’re the rich ones…
Alan:
Of course they are! (laughs) They’re employing us all.
Danny: I have to change his name to James or something… (laughs)

18.. BOB & MARLEY & ALAN & JOHNNY
Alan, there’s a funny story involving you and Bob Marley I’d really like you to tell me about.
Alan:  Of course I’ll do! When I was working for Jimmy Callaghan, in the late ‘70s, and we were working at Crystal Palace’s Bowl, which was an outdoor concert in South London. And at the time the backstage area didn’t have dressing rooms, it was big tents. And it was my job to look after Bob Marley’s tent. Big Joe was there. And what happened, back then, security wasn’t like it is now. The backstage area had low fences all the way round, not a lot of security, so every Jamaican seemed to think it was their right to meet Bob Marley.  So they were jumping over the fence, trying to get in his tent, and I was the only one stopping them.

He was the big thing.
Alan: Of course he was, the big thing for Jamaicans. It was the spiritual man for them, and everything. And the people that were trying getting into his tent didn’t like the fact I might be in the way to stop them, as that was my job, and what happened was there was always commotion going on. And someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “come in”, pulled me into Bob Marley’s tent. Bob Marley’s sitting on an amp playing guitar, and he rolled this big spliff. And all the time Bob Marley was just playing guitar they got me stoned to calm me down. I was 20 or 25 minutes in there. And then they sent me outside, ‘cause I had calmed down.

Come on, 20 minutes with Bob Marley, that’s a great story!
Alan: Yeah!

Were you into Jamaican music at the time?
Alan: You know, when I was young, my first music was ska. Johnny, my dad, was a teddy boy, so he loved rock and roll. He’s a singer, you know, I’ve done an album with him.

Yeah, I’ve read about that.
Alan:
And Keith’s playing on it, and Bobby Keys. That’s my dad’s album, Johnny Clayton.

Was it released? Or is a personal recording?
Alan:
No it’s not, but it’s gonna be released. Brian James, Keith Richards, Bobby Keys, Jim Jones (of the Jim Jones Revue) and Tyla, all playing with my dad.

19..All studio sessions?
Alan:
Yeah.  But this record, “Crime and a Woman”, we finished recording it at a place called The Convent who ran out of money but had already pressed the CD. Cargo distributed them, which we sell from the Facebook site, from the shop site. That’s the next release, my Dad’s album. The John Sinclair one was already out on another label, and the Dirty Strangers are about to record another album. But before that we’re gonna re-release the first one with all new stuff, outtakes… I think that my dad’s album is gonna be released at the same time of that. There’s only great people on that.


Yeah, great line-up! Can’t wait for that. So are there any new songs, or is it all cover versions?
Alan:
  No, all Dean Martin songs, and Frank Sinatra. So the band is Mallet on drums, Dave Tregunna, he’s bass player on it, Scott Mulvey of the Dirtys is playing piano, and I’m playing acoustic on it, and then we’ve got guest guitarists and a guest saxophone player as well.

Are the Dirtys going to play in other countries, or you’re more London-based?
Alan:
Oh listen, we wanna play everywhere! We have played in Europe. We’re at a new stage with Danny now. We really needed someone to be a bit more at ground level managing us, and Paul my son is doing all that.

He’s very enthusiastic.
Alan: Yes he is, he is his father’s son. So yeah, we want to play everywhere.

As a musician, is there anybody in special you would have liked to play or record with?
Danny:
He really wanted to play with me.
Alan: My dreams are true now, my dreams have come true! I tell you, if it wasn’t Danny (laughs) it would be someone like Otis Redding, he’s my favourite singer of all time. Yes, my favourite singer, end of story.

Oh you’re a soul man.
Alan: Yeah, but my daddy was a teddy boy, so I’d come out this weird mixture.

It’s all the same, it’s all great music, whether it’s soul, rock’n’roll, rhythm and blues. And then all those black guys!
Alan: They can’t speak like me, but I can speak like them! Hahaha!
Danny: They feel it from the heart, I mean, they’ve got that feel. And Alan’s got such a great voice on top of that.
Alan: Thank you! We should stop on a high now… (laughs)

20..y

The article´s author along  Clayton and Fury: The Dirty Three

Just like you said, it’s mostly about going back to the past, that’s when the greatest music was done. Just yesterday I was playing my all-time favourite live album, ‘Jerry Lee Lewis at the Star Club’ in 1964, which is like the wildest album ever. Now that’s real heavy metal. Someone even referred to it saying “it’s not an album, it’s a crime scene”
Alan:  Yeah! I’ll tell you a funny story that Ronnie told me, when he was on tour with Jerry Lee, he’d done a tour with him.  They were both walking through the hotel lobby, and this woman came up and she threw her arms around Jerry Lee, and she went “Jerry Lee, you smell lovely, what you got on?” And he said “I’ve got a hard-on, honey. I didn’t know you could smell it from there!”
Danny:
That’s awesome!
Alan: That’s a great one, isn’t it?

I love those stories! Any other stories you want to tell me?
Alan:
Do you want to know how “She’s a Real Boticelli” got written?

21..I’d love to. So when somebody’s a real Boticelli?
Alan: Well, I’ll tell you what it was, right? I was down at Redlands, and me and Keith were in the kitchen, cooking. I was peeling potatoes and Keith is preparing the meat. In England when you grow up there’s a set of books called “Just William” And the character is a boy about 13, lives in the country, he’s got parents and he’s got a sister, and he’s always having adventures. And everybody who’s English would know about these books. I’m sure every country’s got its own books, but it’s a boy, and he’s in a gang called The Outlaws who have a rival gang. There are all these strange characters who pass through his village. Musicians, tramps, fairground people…And they’re written by a woman. And all my life I was growing up thinking it was a bloke, and it’s a woman, Richmal Compton. So this woman has written all these fantastic boy’s adventures from the perspective of a boy. So we found out that me and Keith liked them, we found out a mutual love when we were growing up. And when the Stones’ office found out our love for the books they sent the books in CD form, so we used to listen to them while we were cooking. And one of them starts “she’s a real Boticelli!”, and actually someone says she’s got a real bottle of cherry, and we misunderstood that, right? I looked to Keith and he said “that’s a fuckin’ Chuck Berry title, isn’t it?” So it’s all from when we were cooking, from his CD, from his book. So we just nicked the first line out, and wrote the whole song “She’s a Real Boticelli”

Great story, and also coming from Redlands, just like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the gardener story. Oh you know that…
Alan:
Right!

All right, you know we could be talking for hours, but I think it´s time to leave, you’ve got to do a show, so let´s go there! Thanks so much!
Danny: Let´s go!
Alan: Oh thanks so much to you! And don´t forget your bag!

www.dirtystrangers.com
https://www.facebook.com/thedirtystrangers

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH HONEST JOHN PLAIN BEFORE HIS SHOW IN BUENOS AIRES: “MY BEST TIMES WERE WITH THE BOYS”

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Original article in Spanish published in Revista Madhouse on May 12 2017

Who’s the quirky guy in Texan shirt, a matching bandana and shades sitting at a table in the cafeteria of that hotel in downtown Buenos Aires at 3 pm?, the personnel of the place ask themselves, as they’re about to finish their days’ work. “Is he famous?”, one of them demand to know. “Let’s say he’s quite popular”, I try to explain, “but from a very particular elite”, all this while the man at the table, who’s now sporting a wide smile and a good disposition, is dividing his time between waiting for the next one to interview him, and wondering where is it that he left his room keys, who humbly confesses to have lost a few minutes before (“sorry, I’ll be right back”)

Lunch isn’t served anymore, while there are no drinks available either. Only water and coffee. Which is no problem at all to Honest John Plain, since the booze played hard on him a few years ago, leading him to leave it behind forever and ever after an accident that put his life at risk. Which may not be an easy task for a true Londoner always up for a drink at the pub, but yet Plain looks thankful and happier than ever. After all these years on the road he’s still is the restless rocker who plays all over the world and often keeps recording. And who’s now back in he country (his third visit in about 15 years) to do three shows, and also to remind us that he’ll always be the one he never stopped being.

Do you want to order a drink or something? Or a cup of coffee, maybe?
No, thank you. I haven’t had a beer or spirits for over 2 years now, because of my accident.

An accipunk-683x1024dent? What kind of accident was it?
I was in Norway playing with Casino (Casino Steel, ex-Hollywood Brats and also member of The Boys with Plain) We were in a mansion. I was on the fifth floor and there were marble stairs all the way down. I just got to go to the toilet, because I was drunk, and I fell down the whole of the stairs and smashed my head to pieces.

You fell down marble stairs?
Yeah. I got past the first two, and then fell again. And they found me in the morning. I was unconscious.

But you where there all alone? Nobody there to help you out?
Well, everybody was asleep, because it was during the night. I was with Casino but, when I went to bed, I needed to go to the toilet, and fell.

How come Casino didn’t notice it?
He found me in the morning, eight hours later, and there was blood all over the floor. And they put me in the hospital, and I only had 3% of brain left. And I nearly went, you know.

Did you injure only your head?
Yeah, I smashed it to pieces! (laughs)

Well, good to have you here, good to have you anywhere!
And I went on tour again after coming out of hospital. And then in Germany I went to hospital again for about 2 weeks, got out of that, started a tour again, finished off the tour and then I had another accident. You know, I kept on getting fits, so now they give me medication for it. And so far… (shows he’s still here)

Well, you survived. It could have been much worse.
Yeah I survived! But it was self-inflictive, I felt really bad when I was in hospital, with all these people that were really ill. And they did nothing. I felt bad ‘cause it was self-inflictive, because of being a drunk.

And who took care of you while you were there?
People in the hospital. My ex wife and my son came to see me when I was in London.

Another hospital in London?
I’ve been to hospital in Germany, in Norway…

It was a “hospital tour”, I mean, basically you’ve been touring hospitals…
(laughs) Yes,they had to give me medication while I was touring. So that’s why I stopped the beer and the spirits. I’m a pretty good guy now.

boys_1975

The original line-up of The Boys, from L. to R.: Andrew Matheson, Matt Dangerfield, Casino Steel and Wayne Manor, and Honest John Plain
below. Drummer Geir Waade not in the picture.

Are you living in London now?
Yes, in Belsize Park, Hampstead.

This is not your first time in Buenos Aires, you played here before…

Yeah, I played here with The Boys, but we’re coming back again in November.

That’s great to know! And after what you’ve gone through concerning the accident, it’s all like a miracle.
I love it!

You did four albums with The Boys between 1977 and 1980. And then, 34 years after that, in 2014, you put out a fourth album, “Punk Rock Menopause”. Why is it that the band waited 34 years to do a new album? And, by the way, your last solo album is called “Acoustic Menopause” So is there a menopause in rock’n’roll? I always believed it was made to keep you young…
Well, I didn’t come up with that title. My friend Jean Cataldo thought of it. I have no idea if there’s a menopause in rock’n’roll, I’m sorry. But I think it’s a great name.

Ok, and then why you waited 34 years for the fourth album by The Boys?
Probably Matt Dangerfield, the other guitarist in The Boys, who didn’t want to do it. He wrote most of the songs with Cas, you know. He probably was busy doing other stuff and didn’t want to do it, and I was with the Crybabys. It’s just happened because people asked us to do it, and it was great to do it again. I’m sure we’re gonna do a last one before it’s time to get in the coffin (laughs)

Why not two or three more?boys-punk-rock
Yeah, one more and we stay in.

You did a solo acoustic tour to promote your last album, and you did it all by yourself, as a one man band. Why you chose to do it like that?
Nobody wanted to be with me! (laughs) It was because the guy who was putting the shows on decided it was a good idea to do it that way, and it was fantastic because every show was full. You know, mostly Boys fans. But I did it to be on my own as well.

You always had a good base of fans.
Yeah, all over the place. Europe, the US, Argentina, Italy, China, Japan…

hjplain-menopThe Boys were labeled “the Beatles of Punk”. I know you’ve got a thing for the Beatles, don’t you?
Yeah, of course!

So since you toured solo, which Beatle would you have been? John, Paul…?
Any one of them. I think I’d rather be Ringo ‘cause he’s a funny guy, and I can play drums, you know. But I wouldn’t mind being John. I wouldn’t mind being Paul either, especially for his money, you know.

Are the Beatles your favourite band?
Yeah, I think the Beatles are my favourite band.

Everything you always did was about the ‘60s. So you’re here basically to take us back to that era!
Exactly! I was at the right age to appreciate that music.

So how old are you now, 62?
I’m 65. Yeah I’m and old guy, I’m on a pension now, punk rock pension! (laughs)

That’s a great name for a future album!
That’s what I’m gonna do! It’s my punk rock pension!

You were born in Leeds…
Yeah, and I still support Leeds as well, but they’re not doing very well.

Which reminds me of The Who’s classic “Live at Leeds” album.
Yeah, I was there!

At the very show of the album?
Yeah, I was in art school at the time. That’s how I met Matt Dangerfield of The Boys, I met him at the gig. I’ve known him for a long time.

You did lots of things as a musician. But my favourite one, and this is a personal thing, is what you did with The Crybabys, the EP and the three albums. So are you ever planning to get back together again?
It’s very strange you asked that because not long ago me and Darrell (N.: Bath, also member of The Crybabys) did a show together for the first time. That was in Brighton, ‘cause he lives there now. We just did an acoustic show, and so many people showed up.

Just the two of you, both on acoustic?
Darrell was on electric and I was on acoustic. Now we’re talking about doing another one, ‘cause it went down so well. When we are together, we really are good together. So it’s definitely gonna happen.

crybabys

The Crybabys, long ago and far away

What songs did you do at the show?
We played mostly of what you already know, and also some covers we like, you know. But the day before the show I was with Darrell at his place in Brighton, and we started writing again.

I’d really love another Crybabys album!
We’re gonna do one, that’s for sure. It’s time we did another one.

Plus Darrell doesn’t seem to have a steady band at the moment.
His best time is with the “Babys”, that’s for sure. I think he knows that as well. As far as I know, he’s one of the best guitarists all over the world, you know. And we fit together good.

It always appealed to me that you represented the Beatles bit in the band, while Darrell was always more Stones or Faces-styled. Would you agree with that? And if so, how did it happen?
I would agree with that, completely. I don’t know how that happened, I can’t even remember how I’d met him. I was probably very drunk at the time. But when we started playing together, we realized we had to do it. He’s a good lad.

He’s a very good friend.
Yes, absolutely. Not just the guy who plays guitar, you know, he’s family.

And looks like everybody loves him.
Yes he’s funny. We’re all funny! That’s how we carry on, you know.

I believe you recorded with The Dirty Strangers for their first self-titled album in 1988, but then you weren’t in the album.
Yes, I was in the album but I wasn’t credited, because The Boys started again. And they didn’t like that. So I got the sack, and then somebody replaced me. The album doesn’t say I’m playing on it, but I am. That’s when I met Ronnie Wood (N.: Wood was also in the album)

What’s the story behind that?
I think, that’s why Alan (N.: Clayton, guitar/vocals in The Dirty Strangers) worked for the Stones. I’ve got fond memories of Alan. Good singer, a great band, and he was fun. It’s just the end of it, which was a bit rough. I don’t even know if the band exists.

Oh yes they do! And they have a new album out last year called “Crime and a Woman”
That’s sounds like him! (laughs)

OK so what about meeting Ronnie Wood?
We were in the studio, I forgot what studio it was, a big studio in London, and I couldn’t believe it when Ronnie and his minder showed up, I wasn’t expecting that. And then Alan said to Ronnie “would you like to play in this song?” And Ronnie says “oh let me have a listen”…

Did you meet Keith Richards as well? He was also in the album.
Yes, but that’s when I went to pick up my guitar after I was given the sack, and he was there.

In 1995 you guested in Ian Hunter’s album “Dirty Laundry”, along with Darrell, Casino Steel, Glen Matlock, etc. Any memories of the recording of the album? Wasn’t it done at Abbey Road studios?
Oh, I like Ian! I watched football with him, and he was in his underpants, and without his shades on!

Ian Hunter without the shades? No way!
Yes, you shouldn’t look at that (laughs) No shades, and no trousers! God bless him, don’t get me wrong. That shows how much we got on, ‘cause he would never take his shades off for anybody. That was in Norway. No one believed me, but that was true!

What about the recording of “Dirty Laundry”?
It was fantastic going to Abbey Road, for a start. And you know Von, who plays drums in Die Toten Hosen, he was on the album as well. I had a bicycle with a basket, and me and Von would go show at Abbey Road on it! (laughs) Everybody else was arriving in limousines.

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True Honest-y (pic by Marcelo Sonaglioni)

Not even two bikes, but the two of you in one bike, plus it’s a girl’s bike! Now that’s real rock’n’roll!
Yeah! (laughs) I think so.

What about your nickname? Other than you, the only other “Honest” I knew was, once again, Ronnie Wood, who they’d refer to as “Honest Ron Wood” in the ‘70s.
Because the Boys were gonna go on tour, and for some strange reason, I went to NEMS Records to pick up the cash for the tour, you know, to pay for everything, but I put the money on a horse!

Oh you were gambling. You bet on a horse!
Yeah yeah, a lot of money, for the whole tour. And the horse came second! I lost everything, so the manager at the time sent me back to get some more cash, and that’s why they call me “Honest”, ‘cause I’m not! (laughs)

What do you remember from the London punk scene in the ‘70s? Were there any rivalries between bands?
No, no rivalries, as far as I’m concerned. They might have had some but I didn’t. I remember the first day of Punk. The Boys were the first punk band to sign. And Mick Jones of The Clash used to rehearse at Matt Dangerfield’s place in Maida Vale, and I just remember the first day I opened the door there and Mick Jones had very long hair at the time, and then suddenly it went to a crooked cut, with strange clothes on. And I went “fuck it, what’s happening, mate?” And he goes “it’s Punk, innit?”

So that was the way you were introduced to Punk.
That’s how I was introduced to, ‘cause I’d never considered The Boys punk anyway. You know, we got that reputation but that’s how I found out what Punk was about.

Then why they’d consider you a punk band anyway? I mean, you were just a band who was very much into the ‘60s pop and rock music, and that’s it.
Yeah, I have no idea. But that’s how wee got to support the Ramones, because we were supposed to be punk. I’m not saying we were supposed to be punk, we played what we played.

And it was the same in New York at the time. It didn’t have a name. They called it “New York Rock” or whatever, and all of a sudden they started calling it “Punk Rock” and everybody was a punk.
Yeah, and that’s why I didn’t get involved with it.

In fact, I think that Punk never existed, you know what I mean.
Of course. You know, Johnny Rotten owns five fuckin’ hotels in New York. What’s punk about that?

You used to play drums in Generation X at the very beginning of the band.
Yes, they were rehearsing where I lived with Matt Dangerfield, and they didn’t have a drummer at the time. And Billy Idol was playing drums, but when I started to play, he started to sing. And I said “you know, Billy, you should be the fuckin’ vocalist”, ‘cause they were looking for a vocalist. I said “you sing great, so why don’t you sing?” And he went “let me think of that” And next thing I knew, he was up there.

You helped everybody!
It’s all down to me mate! (laughs) Why punk is so famous, it’s down to me!

london-ss

London SS, with Mick Jones (third from L.) with long hair and dark glasses

You’ve been in many bands throughout your career, staring with The Boys and the Crybabys, but also London SS, The Lurkers, the Mannish Boys, or Pete Stride. Which one gave you the best times, and which one gave you the worst ones, if any?
None of them gave me a worst time, that’s a fact, but the best time was with The Boys. Because when we are on the road, we have a laugh. I love Casino, I love Matt, I love Jack, and I love Duncan. We were a family, you know.

Why they disbanded in 1982?
I have no idea, I really can’t tell you. It wasn’t anything to do with me, you know. Today, I still don’t know why it disbanded. I know that Matt and Duncan fell out, but I still don’t know why.

5 years ago you recorded another of the “And Friends” albums with guests like Darrell, Die Toten Hosen, Glen Matlock, Martin Chambers and Sami Yaffa and Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks. How did you assemble the project and what happened to it, as I believe only the ‘Never Listen To Rumours’ video saw the light.
The album is finished now but for some reason the guy who was paid all this money to put it out  is not putting it out.  That would be my latest solo album.

It’s a bit confusing sometimes because there’s the ‘Honest John Plain and Friends’ album, the ‘Honest John Plain y Amigos’ one, then another one called ‘Honest John Plain and The Amigos’, and then the one you just mentioned, which wasn’t released yet.
Yes, and I don’t understand why the new one hasn’t been put out, as it’s fantastic, you know.

Rumoursbts.jpgoriginal

On the “Never Listen to Rumours” video

So how did you assemble the project?
I didn’t!

Oh you never do anything!
No, I never do anything. The guy that has put the money for it got in touch with everybody, and they all wanted to do it. If you see the ‘Never Listen To Rumours’ video, everybody there is on the album.

So once again, after you did the ‘Honest John Plain y Amigos’ album in Argentina in 2003, you released another one by Honest John Plain and The Amigos named “One More and We’re Staying” So you have a lot of “amigos” all over the world.
Yeah, I owe money to so many people, you know (laughs)

And you still have them around, because they’re going after the money…
Oh yeah, of course!

You were here in Buenos Aires 2003 to produce Katarro Vandalico’s album “Llegando al Límite”, and then came back again The Boys. Could you ever imagine in the ‘70s or ‘80s going to South America to play or to produce an album?
Of course not! It’s always been a shock how much I travelled, but it’s always because of The Boys.

hjplain-feat-2 (1)So what are your future plans now? Are you going back to London?
I’ve got to go back to London, but them I’m going to Norway again, as it’s the first Boys gig in a long time, a big festival in Oslo this month.

1-IMG_6832-1024x768

Honest John meets his interviewer (pic by Marcelo Sonaglioni)

Very much looking forward to The Boys’ comeback and, needless to say, it’s been great talking to you John.
Oh my pleasure too! And thanks for the questions, you’re definitely qualified!

 

CON HONEST JOHN PLAIN ANTES DE SU SHOW EN BUENOS AIRES: “MIS MEJORES MOMENTOS FUERON CON THE BOYS”

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¿Quién es ese señor de aspecto estrafalario, camisa tejana, bandana al tono y lentes negros que está sentado a una de las mesas de la cafetería de ese hotel céntrico de Buenos Aires a las 3 de la tarde?, se preguntan los miembros del personal del lugar, mientras terminan de hacer la limpieza del turno que acaba de finalizar. “¿Es famoso?”, insisten. “Digamos que es bastante conocido”, intento explicarles, “pero dentro de una elite muy particular”, termino apuntándoles, mientras el personaje en cuestión, de ancha sonrisa y benemérita disposición, divide su tiempo entre esperar al próximo periodista que lo va a entrevistar y preguntarse dónde dejó las llaves de la habitación en su versión tarjeta magnética, que humildemente confiesa haber perdido hace instantes (“disculpame, ya regreso”.

A esa hora de la tarde ya no sirven almuerzo, ni tampoco hay tragos disponibles. Sólo agua y café. Lo cual a Honest John Plain no le resulta inconveniente alguno desde que hace apenas unos años el alcohol le jugó una mala pasada, obligándolo a dejarlo para siempre tras originarle un accidente que lo tuvo más del lado de allá, que del de aquí. La situación no debe ser nada fácil para un auténtico londinense que pasó buena parte de su vida ahogándose en los pubs, pero Plain destila el ácido sentido del humor tan propio de su país de origen: está agradecido, a pesar de todo, y se lo ve más feliz que nunca. Después de todos estos años en la ruta sigue siendo aquel músico incansable que toca por todas partes del mundo y continúa grabando nuevos discos de forma inoxidable. Y que, claro, ahora está de vuelta en el país -su tercera visita en algo más de 15 años- para realizar tres shows y recordarnos que siempre, pero siempre, será el que nunca dejó de ser.

punk-683x1024¿Te gustaría beber algo? ¿O preferís un café?
No, gracias. No tomo ni cerveza ni ningún tipo de aperitivo desde hace más de dos años Eso es por el accidente que tuve.

¿Accidente? ¿Qué tipo de accidente?
Estaba en Noruega tocando con Casino (N.: Casino Steel, el ex Hollywood Brats y legendario camarada de Plain en The Boys). Estábamos en una mansión. Yo estaba en un quinto piso, y las escaleras eran de mármol. Tuve que ir al baño, porque estaba borracho, y caí por las escaleras y me rompí la cabeza en pedazos.

¡¿Te caíste rodando varios pisos por la escalera?!
Sí. Caí dos pisos y después seguí cayendo. Y me encontraron a la mañana. Estaba inconsciente.

¿Pero cómo? ¿Estabas solo? ¿No había nadie que pudiera ayudarte?
Bueno, todo el mundo estaba durmiendo, porque ocurrió de noche… Yo estaba con Casino, pero a la hora de ir a la cama, yo estaba con una chica y necesité ir al baño, y me caí.

¿Cómo puede ser que Casino no se diera cuenta?
Me encontró a la mañana, ocho horas después, y había sangre por todas partes. Y me llevaron al hospital, me quedaba el 3% de cerebro. Y casi que me voy, viste…

Te hiciste pedazos la cabeza.
Sí, ¡me la destrocé! (Risas)

En fin, ¡qué bueno que estés aquí después de todo eso! Quiero decir, ¡qué bueno que estés, donde fuera!
Una vez que salí del hospital, volví a salir de gira. Y después en Alemania me llevaron otra vez al hospital, por dos semanas. Salí, comencé otro tour, lo terminé, y después tuve otro accidente. Me siguen tratando, sabés, y me dan medicación por todo lo que ocurrió. Y por ahora… (hace el gesto de que aún está vivo)

Bueno, sobreviviste. Podría haber resultado mucho peor.
Sí, ¡sobreviví! Pero fue autoinfligido. Me sentí realmente mal mientras estuve en el hospital, con toda esa gente que estaba tan enferma. Y no hacían nada. Me sentí mal porque fue autoinfligido, por haber estado borracho.

¿Y quién te cuidó durante la internación?
La gente del hospital. Mi ex esposa y mi hijo venían a visitarme, cuando estaba en Londres.

¿Otro hospital en Londres?
Sí. Estuve en uno en Noruega, otro en Alemania…

Entonces básicamente hiciste una gira por los hospitales.
(Risas) Sí, y me tuvieron que medicar mientras hacía mi propio tour. Es por eso que paré con la cerveza y las bebidas alcohólicas. Ahora soy un chico bueno.

boys_1975

The Boys allá por 1975, con su formación original: de izq. a der., Andrew Matheson, Matt Dangerfield, Casino Steel y Wayne Manor. Honest John Plain es el que está sentado. Falta el batero Geir Waade.

MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE HE’S A LONDONER
¿Seguís viviendo en Londres?
Sí, en Belsize Park, en el área de Hampstead.

Esta no es tu primera vez en Buenos Aires, ya tocaste aquí.
Así es, ya vine con The Boys. Y vamos a volver en noviembre.

¡Gran noticia!
Después de lo del accidente, debés considerarlo un milagro…
¡Me encanta!

Entre 1977 y 1980 hiciste cuatro álbumes con The Boys y luego editaron otro disco, “Punk Rock Menopause” (“La Menopausia del Punk Rock”), apenas 34 años más tarde… ¿Cómo es que una banda espera tanto para lanzar un nuevo disco? Y, ya que estamos, tu ultimo álbum solista se titula “Acoustic Menopause” (“Menopausia Acústica”) ¿Creés que el rock’n’roll puede sufrir de menopausia? Siempre pensé que fue inventado para mantenerse joven.
Bueno, el título no se me ocurrió a mí. Mi amigo Jean Cataldo fue quien lo pensó. Perdón, no tengo idea si existe la menopausia en el rock’n’roll. Pero creo que es un gran nombre.
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OK, ¿pero entonces cómo es que tuvieron que esperar 34 años para hacer un nuevo álbum?
Probablemente fue por Matt Dangerfield, el otro guitarrista de The Boys, que no quería hacerlo. Él escribió la mayor parte de las canciones con Cas. Tal vez sea que estaba dedicándose a otras cosas y no quería hacerlo. Y yo, mientras tanto, estaba con los Crybabys. Se dio porque la gente nos pidió hacerlo y fue genial poder hacerlo de vuelta. Estoy seguro de que vamos a hacer un último disco antes que llegue el momento de meternos en el ataúd (Risas)

¿Por qué uno, y no dos o tres más?
Sí, uno más y ya está.
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Hiciste una gira solista en formato acústico para promocionar “Acoustic Menopause”, pero la realizaste completamente solo, como si fuera una banda de un único miembro. ¿Por qué elegiste hacerlo así?
¡Nadie quería estar conmigo! (Risas) Fue porque el tipo que estaba organizando los shows decidió que hacerlo de esa manera iba a resultar una buena idea, y fue fantástico, porque en cada uno de los shows estuvo lleno de gente. Ya sabés, mayormente fans de The Boys. Pero también lo hice de esa forma para poder hacerlo por mi cuenta.

Siempre tuviste una base de fans.
Sí, por todas partes. Europa, Estados Unidos, Argentina, Italia, China, Japón…

JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, RINGO Y OTRA VEZ JOHN
Los Boys fueron etiquetados en su momento como “los Beatles del Punk”. Sé que siempre tuviste algo fuerte con los Beatles, ¿no?
¡Sí, por supuesto!

Y entonces, en ese tour en solitario, ¿cuál de los cuatro hubieras sido? John, Paul…
Cualquiera de ellos. Creo que preferiría ser Ringo, porque es un tipo divertido, y también porque puedo tocar la batería, sabés. Pero no me molestaría ser John. Ni tampoco Paul, especialmente por el dinero que tiene.

¿Los considerarías tu banda favorita?
Sí, pienso que los Beatles son mi grupo preferido.

Casi todo lo que siempre hiciste a lo largo de tu carrera tiene que ver con los 60s. Así que estás aquí para llevarnos de vuelta a esos años.
¡Exactamente! Tenía la edad precisa para apreciar toda esa música.

¿Ahora cuántos años tenés?
Tengo 65. Sí, soy un tipo grande. Y ahora estoy pensionado, ¡una pensión del punk rock! (Risas)

Ese sería un gran título para un futuro álbum…
¡Es lo que voy a hacer! ¡Mi pensión de punk rock!

Naciste en Leeds, ciudad que dio uno de los más clásicos álbumes de rock en vivo, como fue “Live At Leeds” de los Who.
Sí, y además todavía sigo al equipo de fútbol de Leeds, aunque no les está yendo bien. Y respecto al disco, sí, ¡estuve ahí!

¿En el show del día que se grabó el disco?
Sí. En aquel momento estaba en la escuela de arte. Y así fue como conocí a Matt Dangerfield de The Boys. Lo conocí en el show. Hace mucho tiempo que nos conocemos.

DE LOS BOYS A LOS BABYS
Hiciste muchísimas cosas como músico, pero mi parte favorita  -y esto es algo totalmente personal- son tus discos con los Crybabys. El EP, y después los tres álbumes, “Rock On Sessions”, “Daily Misery” y “What Kind Of Rock’n’Roll”. ¿Piensan volver a juntarse alguna vez?
Es muy curioso que me preguntes eso porque no hace tanto Darrell (N.: Bath, guitarrista de los Crybabys) y yo hicimos un show juntos por primera vez. Eso fue en Brighton, porque él ahora vive ahí. Hicimos un show acústico, y vino mucha gente.

Solamente ustedes dos, ambos en guitarra acústica…
No, Darrell en eléctrica, y yo en acústica. Ahora estamos pensando en hacer otro show, porque salió perfecto. Cuando nos juntamos, realmente somos muy buenos. Así que va a suceder, definitivamente.

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The Crybabys, allá lejos y hace tiempo

¿Hicieron sólo canciones del grupo?
Tocamos mayormente lo que te imaginarás, y también algunos covers que nos gustan. Pero el día antes del show estuve con Darrell en su casa de Brighton, y nos pusimos a componer nuevamente.

Realmente me encantaría que salga otro disco de los Crybabys…
Vamos a hacer uno, sin duda. ¡Es hora de que hagamos otro!

Y además ahora Darrell no está en ningún grupo fijo.
Su mejor momento es con los “Babys”, indudablemente. Y creo que él también lo sabe. Hasta donde yo sé, es uno de los mejores guitarristas del mundo. Y encajamos muy bien el uno con el otro.

Siempre tuve la impresión que vos aportabas la parte “Beatle” al sonido de la banda, y que Darrell hacía lo mismo con los Stones, o con los Faces. ¿Estás de acuerdo? Y de ser así, ¿cómo es qué eso sucedió?
Estaría de acuerdo, completamente. No sé cómo sucedió, no puedo siquiera recordar cómo lo conocí… Probablemente estaba muy borracho aquel día. Pero una vez que nos pusimos a tocar juntos, nos dimos cuenta de que teníamos que seguir haciéndolo. Es un buen tipo.

Y un muy buen amigo.
Sí, absolutamente. No es simplemente “el tipo que toca la guitarra”. Es más bien como si fuera de la familia.

Y por lo que sé, todo el mundo lo ama.
Sí, es muy divertido. ¡Todos nosotros lo somos! Y así es como seguimos adelante, sabés.

JOHN ERA UN ROLLING STONE
Tengo entendido que grabaste con los Dirty Strangers en su álbum debut de 1987, pero al final no apareciste en el disco.
Sí, estuve en el álbum, pero no aparecí en los créditos, porque The Boys se habían juntado de vuelta. Y eso no les gustó a los Dirty Strangers. Así que me echaron, y alguien me reemplazó. En los créditos del álbum no aparece que yo haya tocado, pero lo hice. Así fue como conocí a Ronnie Wood (N.: actualmente guitarrista de los Rolling Stones, que está como invitado en el disco)

THE_DIRTY_STRANGERS_THEDIRTYSTRANGERS-89066¿Como se dio esa oportunidad?
Creo que eso fue porque Alan Clayton(N.: voz y guitarrista de los Dirty Strangers) trabajaba para los Stones. Tengo gratos recuerdos de Alan. Buen cantante, y una gran banda. Aparte fue muy divertido. Sólo que el final fue un poco áspero. Ni siquiera sé si la banda existe hoy en día.

¡Sí que existen! De hecho tienen un nuevo disco que se editó el año pasado, “Crime And A Woman”
¡Eso suena como algo de Alan! (Risas)

OK, ¿y entonces que pasó con Ronnie Wood?
Estábamos en el estudio haciendo el álbum. No recuerdo qué estudio era, pero era uno muy grande, en Londres. Y no pude creer cuando Ronnie y su guardaespaldas aparecieron. ¡No me lo esperaba! Y entonces Alan le dijo a Ronnie, “¿te gustaría tocar en esta canción?

¿Y lo conociste a Keith Richards? Porque también participó del disco.
Sí, pero eso fue cuando fui a buscar mi guitarra después que me echaron, y Keith estaba ahí.

En 1995 apareciste como invitado del disco “Dirty Laundry” de Ian Hunter junto a Darrell, Casino Steel, Glen Matlock, y otros. ¿Algún recuerdo de esas sesiones? ¿Fue grabado en Abbey Road, verdad?
Oh, me encanta Ian. Me ponía a ver fútbol en la tele con él, y Ian estaba en calzoncillos, ¡y sin los lentes negros!

¿Ian Hunter sin los lentes negros? ¡Imposible!
Sí, no deberías ver eso… (Risas) ¡Sin lentes, y sin pantalones! Dios lo bendiga, no te confundas. Eso demuestra lo bien que nos llevábamos, porque nunca se saca los lentes ante nadie. Eso fue en Noruega. Nadie me cree, ¡pero es verdad!

Aún no me contestaste sobre las sesiones de grabación de “Dirty Laundry”…
Por empezar, fue fantástico ir a Abbey Road. Y sabés qué, Vom, el baterista de Die Toten Hosen (N.: recientementeentrevistado por MADHOUSE) también estuvo en el disco. Por aquel entonces yo tenía una de esas bicicletas con canasta, ¡y entonces íbamos juntos a Abbey Road en la bici! (risas) Todos los demás llegaban en limusinas.

O sea que ni siquiera iban en dos bicicletas, ¡sino que los dos iban en la misma! Y encima era una bicicleta para chicas. ¡A eso lo llamo rock’n’roll!
¡Sí! (Risas) Creo que es así.

UN PUNK DE LO MÁS HONESTO
¿Cuál es la historia de tu apodo? Fuera de vos, el otro “Honest” que conozco, al menos en el mundo de la música es, de vuelta, Ronnie Wood, a quien solían decirle “Honest Ron Wood” en los 70.
Eso fue porque The Boys estaba por salir de gira, y por alguna extraña razón fui a NEMS Records (N.: el sello para el cual grababa la banda por entonces) a buscar el dinero para el tour, para poder pagar todo lo que había que pagar, ¡pero lo aposté a un caballo!

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Honest-idad pura: si no puso todas las cartas sobre la mesa, John puso al menos las manos (Foto: M. Sonaglioni)

¡Todo a un caballo!
Sí, sí, un montón de dinero, era para toda la gira. ¡Y el caballo salió segundo! Perdí todo, y el que era nuestro manager de aquel entonces me envió de vuelta a buscar más dinero… Y es por eso que me llaman “Honest”, ¡porque no lo soy! (Risas)

¿Qué recordás de la escena londinense del punk de los 70? ¿Realmente existía algún tipo de rivalidad entre las bandas?
No, ninguna rivalidad, hasta donde yo sé. Tal vez la tenían entre ellos, pero no en mi caso. Me acuerdo del primer día del punk. The Boys fue la primera banda punk en firmar contrato. Mick Jones, de The Clash, solía ensayar en la casa de Matt Dangerfield, en el barrio de Maida Vale, y recuerdo la primera vez que abrí la puerta y Mick, que por entonces tenía el pelo muy largo, de repente apareció con el cabello todo recortado y con ropa extraña. Y yo le dije “Carajo, ¿qué está pasando, amigo?” Y él me contestó “¡El punk! ¿O no?’”

Y así fue como te presentaron al punk.
Así fue la presentación, porque de hecho nunca había considerado a The Boys una banda punk. Sabés, nos hicieron esa reputación. Pero así fue como me enteré de qué se trataba eso del “Punk”.

¿Entonces cómo es que los consideraban punks? Quiero decir, al fin y al cabo eran una banda que hacía música rock y pop de los 60…
Sí. No tengo la menor idea. Pero de esa manera fuimos soportes de los Ramones, porque se suponía que éramos un grupo punk. No estoy diciendo que se supusiera que fuéramos punks. Tocábamos lo que tocábamos.

En New York sucedía exactamente lo mismo. No tenía un nombre. Lo llamaban “rock de New York”, o como fuera, y de repente le empezaron a decir “punk rock”, ¡y todo el mundo era punk!
Sí, y fue por ese motivo que no me involucré en todo eso.

De hecho, pienso que el punk realmente nunca existió. No sé si logro explicarme…
¡Por supuesto! Quiero decir, Johnny Rotten tiene cinco hoteles en New York. ¿Qué tiene eso de “punk”?

Incluso tocaste batería duante los primeros tiempos de Generation X.
Así es, ensayaban en el lugar en el que vivía con Matt Dangerfield, y en aquel entonces no tenían baterista fijo. Billy Idol la tocaba, a veces. Pero cuando me puse a tocarla yo, él comenzó a cantar. Y yo le dije “sabés, Billy, deberías ser el fuckin’cantante”. Porque estaban buscando un cantante para el grupo. Le dije, “Cantás muy bien, ¿por qué no te pones a cantar?” Y me contestó “Dejá que lo piense”… Y de repente, estaba ahí cantando.

¡Ayudaste a todo el mundo!
¡Yo fui el responsable, mate! El porqué de que el punk sea tan famoso, ¡es todo responsabilidad mía! (Risas)

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London SS: créase o no, Mick Jones es ese de pelo largo y anteojos negros

JOHN, EL AMIGO DE LOS AMIGOS
Pasaste por muchas bandas a lo largo de tu carrera, principalmente por The Boys y los Crybabys, pero también estuviste en London SS junto a Mick Jones de The Clash y Brian James de The Damned, The Lurkers, The Mannish Boys, o junto a Pete Stride. Y después están todos esos proyectos solistas… ¿Cuál de todas esas bandas te trae los mejores recuerdos, y cuál los peores, de existir alguno?
Ninguna me hizo pasar un mal momento, es un hecho, pero los mejores momentos fueron con The Boys. Porque cuando salimos a la ruta, nos divertimos como nadie. Adoro a Casino, adoro a Matt, adoro a Jack, y adoro a Duncan. Éramos como una familia.

¿Por qué motivo se separaron en 1982?
No tengo la menor idea, realmente no puedo decírtelo. No fue algo que tuviera que ver conmigo, sabés. Aún hoy en día no sé el porqué de la separación. Sé que Matt y Duncan se pelearon, pero todavía lo desconozco.

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Sam Yaffa, Honest John, Michael Monroe: un verdadero tridente ofensivo rockero

Cinco años atrás grabaste otro de tus tantos discos junto a músicos amigos en el que, entre tantos, estuvieron Darrell, Die Toten Hosen, Glen Matlock, Martin Chambers de los Pretenders, y Sami Yaffa y Michael Monroe de Hanoi Rocks. ¿Cómo fue que armaste el proyecto y por qué es que todavía no vio la luz? Lo único que se conoce es el video de la canción “Never Listen To Rumours”…
Sí, el álbum está terminado, pero por alguna razón el tipo que puso todo ese dinero para hacerlo, no lo editó. Ese vendría a ser mi más reciente trabajo solista.

A veces puede resultar un poco confuso, porque está el álbum “Honest John Plain And Friends”, el de “Honest John Plain Y Amigos”, que hiciste en Argentina, otro de “Honest John Plain And The Amigos”, y después el que acabás de mencionar, que sigue inédito.
Sí, y no entiendo cómo es que el nuevo no fue lanzado, porque es fantástico, sabés.

OK, ¿y cómo ensamblaste el proyecto?
¡No fui yo!

¡Vos nunca hacés nada!
No, nunca hago nada (Risas). El tipo que puso la plata para el disco contactó a todos los músicos, y todos quisieron hacerlo. Si ves el video de “Never Listen To Rumours”, todos los que aparecen ahí están en el álbum.

Después que grabasteHonest John Plain Y Amigos” en Argentina en 2003, editaste otro como Honest John Plain And The Amigos titulado “One More And We’re Staying”. ¿Tenés muchos amigos dispersos por el mundo?
Sí, le debo dinero a tanta gente, sabés… (Risas)

Eso explica por qué todavía siguen siéndolo; supongo aún esperan que les pagues algún día.
Oh sí, ¡por supuesto! (Más risas)

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MI BUENOS AIRES QUERIDO
Estuviste aquí en Buenos Aires en 2003 para producir el álbum “Llegando Al Límite”, de Katarro Vandáliko. ¿Te hubieras imaginado alguna vez en los 70 o en los 80 que vendrías a Sudamérica a tocar, o a trabajar con otra banda?
¡Claro que no! Me resulta llamativo todo lo que he viajado, pero es siempre más que nada por The Boys.

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El autor de esta nota junto a Honest John Plain: todo es buena onda, amistad, vitrales y anteojos negros (Foto: M. Sonaglioni

¿Y ahora cuáles son tus próximos pasos tras los shows en Argentina? ¿Regresar a Londres?
Tengo que volver a Londres, sí, pero después regreso a Noruega ya que vamos a hacer un show con The Boys en Oslo el 20 de mayo y luego el 30 de junio vamos a tocar en un gran festival en la ciudad de Austvatn, el primero después de un largo tiempo.

Esperaremos entonces con ansias tu regreso al país con el grupo y, una vez más, me resultó maravilloso haberte conocido y poder charlar.
¡Oh, fue un placer para mí también! Y gracias por las preguntas, me gustó que hayas estado calificado para hacerlas.