Bigmouth Strikes Twice: More Great 1980s Music Quotes

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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

 

‘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

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‘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

Magick Moments: Siouxsie and the Banshees In The Early ’80s

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Steve Severin, Siouxsie, Budgie

One of the nice things about immersing oneself in ’80s music is rediscovering stuff you’d once dismissed or were too young to really investigate.

I must have been vaguely aware of Siouxsie’s music at some point in the decade, but she didn’t really appear on my radar until I started to get interested in the Sex Pistols around the early ’90s (she was famously in the studio during the Pistols/Bill Grundy ‘swearfest’ and even had the misfortune of being ‘propositioned’ by the semi-sloshed presenter…).

Siouxsie in New York, 1980

Siouxsie in New York, 1980

In these days of twee, over-sharing singer-songwriters and soul-deadening ‘rock’ bands, what is immediately appealing about Siouxsie and the Banshees is their absolute earnestness, the total lack of irony. They mean it, maaaan.

These days, pop bands flirt with magickal images, shamanistic sounds and boundary-pushing lyrics, but the Banshees really were dark and truly an alternative (or reaction?) to shiny, aspirational Thatcherism. The song titles said it all: ‘Halloween’, ‘Nightshift’, ‘Voodoo Dolly’, ‘Arabian Knights’.

They also flew in the face of punk, totally rejecting the ‘DIY’ ethos. As bassist Steve Severin told Simon Reynolds in the excellent ‘Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews And Overviews’:

‘I never understood where that do-it-yourself ethic came from. It was so patently obvious that not everybody could do it. You had to have a modicum of talent and an original idea. But for one moment, the floodgates opened and everyone had their five minutes, put their single out, and then disappeared back to what they were destined to do in the first place.’

The Banshees began the decade with three classic albums of their kind: Kaleidoscope, Juju and A Kiss In The Dreamhouse (best album title ever?). It was no accident that they all featured one of the great British guitarists in John McGeoch, master of inventive chord voicings and creative layering.

The era spawned a raft of great singles: ‘Spellbound’, ‘Happy House’, ‘Christine’, ‘Slowdive’, ‘Fireworks’, ‘Israel’, ‘Dear Prudence’. Even as the post-punk era turned into fully-fledged Goth, they always retained a pop sensibility.

By 1982, though, it has to be said that they had also turned into a truly Bacchanalian outfit, with copious drug use, booze breakdowns and all kinds of weird rituals.

McGeoch was sacked after collapsing onstage in Madrid, apparently as a result of an alcohol-induced nervous breakdown. (He re-emerged with The Armoury Show before becoming a member of PiL between ’86 and ’92. He died in 2004.)

The Cure’s Robert Smith filled in on guitar when McGeoch left, as he had at various times between 1979 and 1983 (Polydor Records apparently tried and failed to ‘merge’ The Cure and The Banshees towards the end of this period).

He later said of his tenure in the Banshees: ‘It allowed me to go mad for a period of time. I had no responsibilities. I just had to turn up and play the guitar. Severin and I became good friends. Our friendship was based entirely on altered states. I’ve never felt as bad in all my life as when I was in the Banshees. I reached a point of total collapse in 1983.’

Siouxsie herself has revealed that she was on an LSD jag around ’82 and ’83, particularly inspiring the songs on Dreamhouse. Recently, she told MOJO magazine: ‘I seem to remember “Cocoon” being written whilst I was tripping. I was in a rented flat and if I didn’t have a notebook I used to write on the wallpaper.’

The band’s early ’80s period was also musically very influential. There were those effective, trademark tempo changes – usually a slowish intro that suddenly gathers momentum in the verse. As far as I know, no rock bassist had used a flanger pedal before Severin.

Budgie came up with some arresting tribal rhythms and all their guitarists pretty much wrote the post-punk rulebook. As Robert Smith once said, tongue firmly in cheek: ‘I just used to turn all the effects pedals on – your basic Banshees sound.’ And Siouxsie is always such a powerful vocal presence. You can hear her sound in everyone from the Cocteau Twins and Lush to PJ Harvey and Florence And The Machine.

So here we are. The Royal Albert Hall, 30th September 1983. Siouxsie in her Goth Princess pomp, Robert Smith (who, despite everything, is obviously an excellent guitarist), Steve Severin and Budgie. Wish I’d been there. Were you there (as Shaw Taylor used to say)?