I’ve been talking to people for a while about all this – before the current tour plans and everything that’s going on – I can play in Liverpool for example, and the Lomax here is a great gig, but the people who want to come out and see me don’t even know where the Lomax is… the geography changes and you get out of the habit, you know? Up to a certain age you’re in the habit of going to certain places and you know the people who are there and everything, but you do get out of the habit. At one stage I was saying that we should go out and play in Tescos – the 24 hour Tesco’s – in the doorway to catch the people my age and to make it easy for people, because it just shouldn’t be a challenge to go out and see your favourite bands. I wrote this thing called ‘The Resistance Starts Here’ which is a manifesto about this, and there are people who want to do it – and every time I play I say that the four basic tenets of what I do are that I still believe in the power of songs, I still believe in the power of soul, I still believe in the power of love, and I still believe in rock and roll, and every night that gets the biggest applause – bigger than ‘Story of The Blues’ even…


So much stuff now is just about easy listening really, it’s not about soul and fire that inspired us all… I mean there was always bad music around, like now with Pop Idol and stuff, but when I was in the charts at number three with ‘Story Of The Blues’ above me were Phil Collins – I don’t know what you think of him but I’m not a fan – and Men At Work; it wasn’t like a U2 and an Echo & The Bunnymen you know! And below us were all these people in ra-ra skirts dancing badly!

The difference now is that the media is so focussed on that teen and pre-teen group… like all these eight year-olds writing in because the guy from S Club 7 left; eight year-olds writing in because they were heartbroken – at EIGHT years old! It’s an extension of that thing when Christmas comes and they just hammer the kids with Christmas advertising so the kids hassle their parents – it’s not the kids that are buying the S Club 7 records, it’s their mums and dads, so our lot, rather than buying great records by me, are forced to buy this shite and then there’s the tabloids who have realised that they can sell papers on the back of all that pop stuff you know so they talk about that, but not really about anything else that’s going on, and I think it’s time we had a little fight back against that…

I find the idea of the eighties as ‘the decade that taste forgot’ is ridiculous… they started out saying ‘the sixties – the decade that taste forgot’, then it was ‘the seventies – the decade that taste forgot’… I used to think that the hippies were all bad and wrong but I had this manager who had been a hippie – though I didn’t know that when I took him on! – and he said that everyone just knows the tabloid version of what it was all about but there was also a very exciting time that was very creative and very honest and very pure until it became mass produced and a cliché, and the same thing happened with punk, and the same thing happened with our scene. There will always be the tacky entertainment end… the Donny Osmond type of thing, and there’s a place for it all, but not at the expense of everything else… there are people like Kevin Roland out there who are still fantastic you know, and anyone who can make three or four really great records like he has doesn’t just lose that talent overnight, but there’s a constant battle to get Kevin into the media…


The thing with any era is that people remember the tackiest parts of it in initially, like they did in the sixties and then the seventies where they remember the tackiest parts without remembering the great and creative things that were going on, with the eighties so far, people have revived the lighter end of it – which is fine – and I’ve said to the others that our turn is coming you know – the return of that passionate and fiery music… I mean one of our contemporaries is U2 – one of the biggest bands in the world, and if you acknowledge that U2 are still creative and exciting then people should remember that the rest of us are still doing that too you know?

People say that the last album I made ‘Songs Of Strength & Heartbreak’ was the best record I’ve ever made and to be honest I think it is, but it’s just kind of a constant battle, but then I like battles! I’ve always liked it better when I’m in a corner you know!

But I loved the eighties – we’ve got a keyboard player who’s 21 and wasn’t really even aware of music when I was first in the charts, but it’s exciting to him and he loves the music now, and he was asking what it was like when we were on TOTP, and I told him it was fantastic – people thought that because we were alternative that I’d hate it, but I LOVED it. I loved every minute of it – all the TOTP stuff because I’d grown up with TOTP. Before I was ever in a band I used to argue with The Clash who were my mates because they refused to do TOTP but I used to say that if you have a message then you should get it to where it’s going to be most heard you know?

But we were an indie or alternative band and ‘Story Of The Blues’ was kind of an accidental hit, and we owe it all the Duran Duran really! The record had been out for two months and we were getting played by John Peel and Kid Jensen and Janice Long and people like that, but it wasn’t getting the daytime radio at all, but there was a big Christmas show being recorded up at Granada and Duran Duran got caught swapping their tapes or something weird and they got kicked off the show, and we were the nearest band! We got this Christmas show which was fantastic and I went from me leather jacket to a tuxedo with my hair like Eddie Cochran or something – an exaggerated eighties version with loads of big hair – and as a result the record went from number six hundred and twenty-two million to number twenty-four and then the week after to number six, and then to number three so it was kind of an accident that we even got there, but people thought that because we were alternative that I’d hate it…


I go wherever I have to go now, so if a twist of fate took me back there as the Neil Diamond of the twenty-first century then I’d be happy! I could cope with any of that you know? But now I love the fact that people say that they like something I’ve done and that’s also why I like playing gigs… there’s this idea that you have to be playing at Wembley if you’re any good – this idea that bigger is better, but I’ve played Wembley and I’ve also played – when the Kosovo crisis was on – in the shop window of Oxfam and that to me is just as valuable.

Of course I’d love that success, but I don’t sit here now – and I never did then – craving it. I’ve been called a difficult artist, but I have a belief in what I do that’s passionate, and what I do isn’t just a piece of product, it’s a piece of my soul and the music industry doesn’t want that now – they’ve got rid of it all. I saw the first interview with Hearsay when they’d just been put together and they’d just heard the single, and they were saying that they really believe in their music – I was flabbergasted! A lot of people say that they’re not really singers, that they’re more like karaoke singers or even actors, but if they are actors then they’re really bad actors…


These days? I went to see the White Stripes and in five minutes I had a great big grin on me face which comes from just loving a thing – from when you go past the cynical and critical defences you put up and they were stunning, just fantastic, a lot of humour in it but it was also very intense and very exciting! I love Outkaste, I’ve even thought of covering their new single because it reminds me of the eighties – it’s got a rhythm you never hear on rap records and it’s just really exciting… I went out yesterday and bought The Streets’ album and that’s really interesting… there’s lots! I mean I like Destiny’s Child, they might be manufactured but they make incredibly high-quality records.

So I do like some current music but thing is at the end of the sixties I started buying records and even then I remember hearing records and just knowing they were bad records and that was at about ten when your critical faculties aren’t that high! In the seventies I was always a harsh judge and I didn’t always like a lot of music. I loved the punk scene when it came though, but I didn’t like everything – same with glam rock… I liked David Bowie and Roxy Music, and I liked T Rex in retrospect but I didn’t at the time because they were too poppy when I was a David Bowie intellectual! In the eighties I liked The Associates, and Siouxsie & The Banshees – what they were continuing with – and I loved The Pixies, and acid house, and the beginnings of the Happy Mondays but I was also very critical and the same through all my life.

But an important thing is that when I listen to a record – and I wanted to add this to the Resistance manifesto – but when you go in and buy a record no-one checks its’ birth certificate… if I hear a record today on the radio I don’t think ‘this is eighties so I like it’, or ‘this is fifties so I like it’ – no-one goes and says ‘Beethoven? Well he was a bit nineteenth ‘century!’


I think the truth is that there isn’t a specific type of audience, and what has happened in the last year since we’ve been addressing this whole thing, is that the audience has changed and grown – the last gig we did with the Dead Men there was a guy there with his mother – and his mother was younger than me – but he was there with his mates and they thought it was fantastic!

I think a lot of the people who came initially were real hard-core fans and we really had to make an effort you know to get other people – and that’s another reason that the three of us are going on tour together because people really do get into habits… if I’m playing in town, or Mike, or Kirk they might have to get a babysitter or whatever and they might just not bother but with the three of us together on one night they’ll make the effort – it’s the same as the big Here & Now tour going on in the arenas; that’s just the other end of the spectrum but they’re mates you know… Glenn Gregory’s my mate, the China Crisis fellas are me mates and I’ve got no axe to grind against them, and I’m not saying it’s bad what they’re doing – in fact I think it’s great! But I do believe that the audience is growing from just the base of people who loved the music then… in fact I’d love S Club 7 fans to come and see us… we could brainwash them easier!


I’ve started two things – well actually I’ve started a bunch of things as usual! I’m working on the new Mighty Wah! stuff, and I think I’m going to do a label with a bunch of different people on, and then there’s a guy I’m working with who writes plays and he’s had them on Radio 4, and I’ve talked to him about doing something with him, but I like the idea of doing lots of different things – so I’m hopefully doing what I always do which is write good songs, memorable songs which are passionate but also doing other creative things… (at this point the phone line starts clicking and clattering) …can you hear that noise?


I’ve used that phrase about us in the past… I sometimes think we’ve been ghosts in the music industry machine. After 1991 – when I broke me back – when we had a couple of things in the shops I went through a period where none of my stuff was available, and people who used to like you don’t see your name around and you kind of drift so it was a big thing for me to get the ‘Best Of’ out about 2 years ago – from my first singles right at the beginning of the eighties to ‘Heart As Big As Liverpool’ which was ’98, but mainly the stuff from the eighties, but then people hear it again…

NME said that I was one of the best songwriters to come out of Britain and ‘Story Of The Blues’ is a classic song… if all I was remembered for was ‘Story Of The Blues’ I’d be the proudest man alive, because I hear the record now and it’s almost like listening to someone else’s record – it’s long enough ago and so many things have happened to me in between that I can have some distance from it and I’m proud of that song, but it also affected people’s lives – people come to me now and tell me how that record really inspired them when they were feeling low, and gave them some self-belief, and that’s as valuable to me as hearing people whistling the tune…


That’s difficult. The definition of success for me would be to have enough money to visit my daughter in Australia. If I could do that, and had enough money to visit her regularly then that would be success on one level.

Creatively – to continue doing the things I do and to get to do new things, and surprising myself; if in a year we talk again and I go ‘Jesus! I never saw that coming!’… and to have a good time really – that was the difference between me and some of the others – U2 for example used to support us and I’ve sang with them and everything, but U2 decided to make the band their whole life which is fine but I didn’t want to do that, I always wanted my life outside this to go on.

Some people might say that I had three big records which were ‘Sinful’, ‘Come Back’, and ‘Story Of The Blues’ and other acts might have had three hits but they’d have all three hits in six months and mine went from ’83 to ’86. I’d take a year and a half, or two years off to have a real life and then come back and people could never understand that… and I’ll do it again, it’s kind of in my nature.

So success to me is selling a billion records and being able to buy a flying saucer and it’s being able to get up in the morning and breathe you know? They’re the important things, but it’s been a great ride so far – I’ve had some great times and some terrible times…


I’d do it all differently! I’d dedicate my whole life to it and be on the telly all the time and meet Nelson Mandela…

Seriously? Of course I’d do some things differently, but I’d do some things exactly the same – there are things when I look back now and I think ‘you mug!’ but some of those are things that are nothing to do with my career – although I don’t really think of it as a career, I think of it more as a succession of accidents – but I can’t change anything anyway and so every day is a new starting point.


I am a very positive person but I’m also a human being so I have some real down periods too – really tough periods… but I’m naturally positive, I’m a believer. I believe in The Mighty Wah! I believe in The Resistance… I started out thinking that music could change things and just because it’s not happening at a drop of the hat doesn’t mean it’s not happening slowly. The world is a different place because of music – in the past fifty years he world has changed dramatically and technology is a large part of that, but music is part of changing the way people think, so yes I am positive about whatever happens next…

MARCH 2002

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