Bigmouth Strikes Twice: More Great 1980s Music Quotes

Art_Blakey_1973

Art Blakey

Here’s another selection of choice quotes taken from various 1980s magazines, TV shows, biographies and anthologies that have drifted through my transom in the last few months.

Check out the first instalment here if you missed it.

‘Morrissey’s a precious, miserable bastard. He sings the same song every time he opens his mouth. At least I’ve got two songs: Love Cats and Faith.’

Robert Smith of The Cure, 1989

 

‘It’s a better product than some others I could mention.’

David Bowie defends the Glass Spider Tour, 1987

 

‘Back then I thought I’d lost it and I did a bunch of things I was really unhappy with – all in public and on record. But it turned out not to be true. My ability hadn’t deserted me. And it won’t go away. Ever.’

Lou Reed, 1988

 

‘The gig I have as the drummer in King Crimson is one of the few gigs in rock’n’roll where it’s even remotely possible to play anything in 17/16 and stay in a decent hotel.’

Bill Bruford, 1983

 

‘When I toured with The Rolling Stones, the audience would come up to me after the show and say, “Man, you’re really good, you ought to record.” How do you think that makes me feel after 25 years in the business?’

Bobby Womack, 1984

 

‘I find politics ruins everything. Music, films, it gets into everything and f*cks it all up. People need more sense of humour. If I ran for President, I’d give everybody Ecstasy.’

Grace Jones, 1985

 

‘I’m not the most gifted person in the world. When God handed out throats, I got locked out of the room.’

Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, 1988

 

‘I’m lazy and I don’t practice guitar and piano because I’ve gotten involved with so many other things in my life and I just had to make a sacrifice. Stephen Sondheim encourages me to start playing the piano again. Maybe I will.’

Madonna, 1989

 

‘Nile (Rodgers) couldn’t afford to spend much time with me. I was slotted in between two Madonna singles! She kept coming in, saying “How’s it going with Nile? When’s he gonna be free?” I said, “He ain’t gonna be free until I’m finished! Piss off!”’

Jeff Beck, 1989

 

‘I’ve never really understood Madonna’s popularity. But I’ve talked to my brothers and they all want to sleep with her, so she must have something.’

Nick Kamen, 1987

 

‘They ask you about being a Woman In Rock. The more you think about, the more you have to prove that you’re a Woman In Rock. But if you’re honest, it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. That’s the way we work.’

Wendy Melvoin, 1989

 

‘In Japan, someone told me I was playing punk saxophone. I said, “Call me what you want, just pay me”.’

George Adams, 1985

 

‘In the past, we’d bump into other musicians and it would be, “Oh, yes, haven’t I heard of you lot? Aren’t you the bass player that does that stuff with your thumb?” But once you’ve knocked them off the number 1 spot in Germany, they’re ringing you up in your hotel and saying, “Hey, howyadoin’? We must get together…”‘

Mark King of Level 42, 1987

 

‘We played London, we played Ronnie Scott’s, and I noticed that there were a lot punk-rock kids in the audience. After we finished playing, we had to go to the disco and sign autographs, because “Ping Pong”, the thing we made about 30 years ago, is a big hit over there.’

Art Blakey, 1985

 

‘I believe music – just about everything – sounds better these days. Even a car crash sounds better!’

Miles Davis, 1986

 

‘It’s a dangerous time for songwriters in that a monkey can make a thing sound good now.’

Randy Newman, 1988

Yoko+Ono+Season+Of+Glass+522787

 

‘To have those glasses on the cover was important because it was a statement and you have to understand that it was like John wanted you guys to see those glasses.’

Yoko Ono, 1989

 

‘I’ll f*cking… I’ll go and take on anyone, any white singer who wants to give me a go.’

Matt Goss of Bros, 1989

 

‘I’ve never said this before but my drums is so professional, man, know what I mean?’

Luke Goss of Bros, 1989

 

‘I hate parts of my own albums because I know I’m hearing something that doesn’t translate to piano. In fact, I’m being dishonest by playing piano at all.’

Keith Jarrett, 1987

 

‘When I began to see how Elvis lived, I got such a strong take off of it. It was all so revolting!’

Albert Goldman, 1989

 

‘The best way to make great art is to have it trivialised by other people as much as possible. That way, you fight and fight and fight.’

Julian Cope, 1989

 

‘Whatever you’re tops in, people is trying to bring you down, and that’s my philosophy.’

Samantha Fox, 1987

 

‘Call me fat and I’ll rip your spine out.’

Ian Gillan, 1983

 

‘Sure I care about my fans. Because fans is money, hahaha. Muh-neee! And who does not care about money? Me, I like muh-neee, haha.’

Chuck Berry, 1988

 

‘I have this long chain with a ball of middle-classness at the end of it which keeps holding me back and that I keep sort of trying to fight through. I keep trying to find the Duchamp in me.’

David Bowie, 1980

 

‘People who say, Oh, I don’t know anything about music – they’re the people who really do know about music because it’s only really what it does to you.’

Steve Winwood, 1988

 

‘I notice that critics and others don’t credit black people with the ability to write ingenious, creative lyrics.’

Nile Rodgers, 1981

 

‘I’m below the poverty line – I’m on £16 a week. We needed some clothes and our manager said, “I don’t know what you do with your money. I mean, 16 quid!”’

Gary Daly of China Crisis, 1984

 

‘You take four or five of those rattlesnakes, dry ’em out and put them inside your hollow-box guitar. Lightnin’ Hopkins taught me that trick.’

Albert Collins on his guitar tone, 1988

 

‘People are bored with Lionel Richie going “I love everybody, peace on earth, we are the world…” F*ck that! People love bastards.’

Terence Trent D’Arby, 1987

 

‘Epstein dressed The Beatles up as much as he could but you couldn’t take away the fact that they were working-class guys. And they were smart-arses. You took one look at Lennon and you knew he thought the whole thing was a joke.’

Billy Joel, 1987

 

‘I remember when the guy from Echo & The Bunnymen said I should be given National Service. F*** him...’

Boy George, 1987

 

‘The industry is just rife with with jealousy and hatred. Everybody in it is a failed bassist.’

Morrissey, 1985

 

I couldn’t stand it – all that exploitation and posturing, the gasping at the mention of your name, the pursuit by photographers and phenomenon-seekers. You get that shot of adrenalin and it’s fight or flight. I chose flight many a time.’

Joni Mitchell, 1988

RIP Chris Squire (Take Three)

chris sIt’s the beautifully-written piece you’d hope to read from a newly-awarded professor of music, but I thought it well worth quoting Bill Bruford’s tribute to Chris Squire in full (with apologies for tardiness), which I believe first appeared on the Yes website.

‘Really saddened to hear of the death of my old Yes band-mate, Chris Squire. I shall remember him fondly; one of the twin rocks upon which Yes was founded and, I believe, the only member to have been present and correct, Rickenbacker at the ready, on every tour. He and I had a working relationship built around our differences. Despite, or perhaps because of, the old chestnut about creative tension, it seemed, strangely, to work.

He had an approach that contrasted sharply with the somewhat monotonic, immobile bass parts of today. His lines were important; counter-melodic structural components that you were as likely to go away humming as the top line melody; little stand-alone works of art in themselves. Whenever I think of him, which is not infrequently, I think of the over-driven fuzz of the sinewy staccato hits in ‘Close to the Edge’ (6’04” and on) or a couple of minutes later where he sounds like a tuba (8’.00”). While he may have taken a while to arrive at the finished article, it was always worth waiting for.  And then he would sing a different part on top.

An individualist in an age when it was possible to establish individuality, Chris fearlessly staked out a whole protectorate of bass playing in which he was lord and master. I suspect he knew not only that he gave millions of people pleasure with his music, but also that he was fortunate to be able to do so. I offer sincere condolences to his family.

Adios, partner. Bill.’

 

Story Of A Song: Bill Bruford’s ‘Palewell Park’ (1981)

The 1980s were a pretty good time to be a songwriting drummer; Sheila E, Phil Collins and Don Henley all flourished, and probably a few more too.

Not that master Yes/King Crimson sticksman Bill Bruford had any particular desire to match their commercial standing as the decade got underway. He was quite happy gaining harmonic knowledge (with the assistance of keyboardist Dave Stewart), making sizeable contributions to the percussion community and composing incredible pieces of music like ‘Palewell Park’.

In a way, it was the culmination of his work with the Bruford group which had released three studio albums between 1978 and 1980, two featuring the brilliant Allan Holdsworth on guitar.

Palewell Park, East Sheen, London

Palewell Park, East Sheen, London

This track has a special resonance for me as Palewell Park was a childhood hangout, site of many great cricket, tennis and football games as well as a fair few teenage hijinks. Bruford apparently lived nearby during the piece’s recording at Surrey Sound in Leatherhead (also the studio The Police used for their first two albums) and wanted to write an ode to the area.

Someone on YouTube very aptly described ‘Palewell Park’ as ‘a contemporary piece for piano and bass’. It doesn’t fit comfortably into any genre, but it’s a pretty remarkable composition coming from the pen of a ‘drummer’, and one who doesn’t even feature on his own composition (Stewart played the piano).

Jeff Berlin, Jon Clark, Dave Stewart, Bill Bruford in 1980

Jeff Berlin, Jon Clark, Dave Stewart, Bill Bruford in 1980

The 26-year-old Jeff Berlin lays down one of the great pieces of post-Jaco bass playing. With just a touch of chorus pedal, he sticks to the pretty treacherous melody in the first half and then stretches out to play a fantastic solo over the changes, a total lesson in melody construction, with no gimmicks.

Next up for Bill was a reunion with Robert Fripp and one of the great albums of the ’80s, King Crimson’s Discipline.

ECM Goes Rock: David Torn’s Cloud About Mercury

Cloud_About_MercuryECM Records, released October 1987

8/10

The late ‘80s was a great period for avant-garde guitar playing with the likes of Vernon Reid, Reeves Gabrels, Adrian Belew, Arto Lindsay, Fred Frith, Dave Fiuczynski, Stevie Salas, Sonny Sharrock, Skip McDonald, Robert Quine, Steve Vai and Bill Frisell laying down some seriously mind-bending tones and textures.

Cloud About Mercury, David Torn’s second ECM solo album, definitely put him into the same league. Though just as influential as many of the aforementioned guitarists, he has never really gained as much of a public profile despite occasional solo albums and stellar sideman work with the likes of David Bowie and David Sylvian.

My dad used to get sent a lot of music for his work and I vaguely remember him passing Cloud About Mercury onto me, knowing I was a big fan of early-’80s King Crimson.

My muso mates and I quickly grew to like the album’s perverse musical concepts and silly song titles. With a superstar avant-rock rhythm section of Bill Bruford and Tony Levin on board, it came on a bit like the follow-up to Crimson’s Three Of A Perfect Pair, but also offered a strikingly original take on jazz/rock.

I recall a contemporary review of Cloud About Mercury in Q magazine which said something like: ‘Torn luxuriates in the silence for a bit…and then goes KRAOOOOOOW!’ But in its louder moments, CAM is definitely one to annoy the neighbours. Torn’s Trans-Trem guitar enables him to create some very novel effects and original lines, with micro-tones and Middle Eastern flavours, and you can really get lost in his ambient loops.

CAM is also a very uncharacteristic ECM album, being much more in-your-face and rockist in its mixing and playing than most of the label’s output. In fact, it’s not really fair to judge it as a ‘jazz’ album at all.

But sometimes Torn seems much happier playing solo or in duet with Isham; his superb rhythm section is underused, and the tunes rely too heavily on one-chord improvisations. Consequently Bruford and Levin sound somewhat muted and can’t quite bring the sort of forward-motion dynamics so crucial to jazz/rock.

Torn toured extensively to promote CAM (but presumably not London or I surely would have been there…) with ex-Japan bass player Mick Karn replacing the unavailable Tony Levin. An excellent decision, both musically and commercially.

The band sounded fantastic and the tunes really came to life. Torn and Isham then accompanied David Sylvian on the ‘In Praise Of Shamen’ world tour which I caught at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1988.

Two quick questions to end, prompted by a discussion with my brother about Torn the other day: why isn’t there any music like this around these days? Or is there?

Allan Holdsworth: Secrets

Allan_Holdsworth_-_1989_-_SecretsIntima Records, released May 1989

Bought: Our Price Richmond, 1989

8/10

Some time around the late ’80s, I became a bit disillusioned with the major UK music mags (but continued to love Q).

Their infinite search for ‘coolness’ coincided with my increasing interest in playing bass and guitar, so I started checking out American mags such as Musician, Guitar World and Guitar Player, as well as Guitarist here in the UK.

Their focus seemed to be on the mechanics of/intentions behind making music rather than puking in hotels or haircuts.

I think I first heard guitarist Allan Holdsworth’s name via a Guitar Player cover interview to promote his Secrets album. I hadn’t yet heard a note of his music but his intelligent, exceptionally modest (some would say mordant) approach to playing drew me in, as did his endorsement of sax players (Brecker, Coltrane, Parker) rather than the usual guitar influences.

Also he mentioned that he had been working with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, another name that I had heard with relation to Frank Zappa but had never really properly investigated.

By chance, I came upon Secrets a few months later in a bargain bucket. From the first bar of the opener ‘City Nights’ (a typically nimble salvo around the kit by Vinnie) I was blown away.

Holdsworth’s solo is burning, with loads of notes spraying out everywhere, but it’s also totally devoid of clichés. He repeats the trick all over Secrets, with Vinnie and bassist Jimmy Johnson prodding and cajoling him every step of the way.

It’s also refreshing to hear Allan blowing over lots of major chords in ‘Joshua’, the sort of tune which might be a bit soppy in the hands of Metheny or Abercrombie but is transformed into a stunningly fluent series of solos alongside Colaiuta’s brilliantly unhinged accompaniment.

‘Spokes’ is a nicely arranged vehicle for Allan’s nutty synthaxe playing (and some more Vinnie/Jimmy genius) and, on ‘Endomorph’, Holdsworth even comes up with a very moving song inspired by the death of his father with some excellent vocals from Craig Copeland.

Secrets is the one where technology really caught up with his ingenious concepts. All lead guitarists are on an endless search for tone and Allan seems to have found his ideal here.

It’s smooth yet fiery and he genuinely achieves the ‘sheets-of-sound’ style of improvising that he so admires in his favourite sax players by utilising incredibly wide intervals (for a guitarist) and legato phrasing.

His playing is as instantly recognisable as Wes, Van Halen or Scofield’s. It’s not easy music, though. But, as he lamented in the interview mentioned above, it’s not that difficult and he always wished it was more popular.

Vinnie Colaiuta

Vinnie Colaiuta

Secrets was the first in a trio of superb solo albums (and some sterling sideman work with Chad Wackerman) which continued with Wardenclyffe Tower in ’92 and Hard Hat Area in ’94, all of which are pretty essential listening if you like his vibe.

Within a year of Secrets coming out, I’d seen Allan live at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London and also checked out his month-long guest spot with Level 42 at Hammersmith Odeon throughout December 1990 (and some brilliant solos on their Guaranteed album). I was becoming a major fan and have been ever since.