Rock's Backpages Writers' Blogs » Beverley Glick Rock reviews, rock articles & rock interviews from the Ultimate Rock'n'Roll Library Sun, 19 May 2013 03:11:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The day I discussed the meaning of life with Simon Le Bon Fri, 13 Apr 2012 18:13:18 +0000 Beverley Glick My relationship with Simon Le Bon began back in December 1980, when I was a rookie writer for Sounds and visited the Rum Runner club in Birmingham to conduct the first major music press interview with Duran Duran.

In those days Simon was not the sleek Rio machine of pop fable, rather a slightly chubby youth who embraced the New Romantic look in an enthusiastic if theatrical way, wearing velvet with a selection of miniature jingle bells attached.

He had a sore throat that day, and didn’t contribute much to the interview. He did, however, come up with the headline for the piece (“We want to be the band to dance to when the bomb drops” – it was during the Cold War) and invited me back to his place for a cup of cocoa.

“I should cocoa,” I said. Well, I didn’t say that but I did decline his offer, instead accepting the generous gift of one of the many bells adorning his wrist. I kept it for a while but then threw it away, goddamn it. How much would that be worth to a Duranie now?

Our paths crossed several more times during the years of his worldwide pop stardom, most poignantly shortly after he took part in the 600-mile Fastnet race in 1985.

He was part of a crew of 24 on Drum of England, a 77ft ocean racing yacht. All was going swimmingly until, three miles off Falmouth, the keel sheared off. Simon was asleep below deck and awoke to find the boat had capsized. He and four other crew members were trapped beneath the hull, waist deep in oily water.

They were rescued by a Royal Navy diver, who was blissfully unaware he was saving the life of Princess Diana’s favourite pop star. I met up with Simon about a month later and he was indeed a changed man.

“When the helicopter dropped us off,” he told me, “the first thing I did was tread in a cow pat. It sounds so funny, but (a) I was relieved to be back on dry land and (b) it was warm and squidged up through my toes and I was so fucking freezing it felt good. I’ll never quite be able to explain the joy of that cow pat.”

He was trapped for 40 minutes and really did think he was going to die.

“I asked myself, ‘Is this it? Is this what death is going to be like?’ I thought, ‘God, I’m too young, I’m 26 and my girlfriend will kill me’. I laughed at that then I thought, ‘No, I’m not going to die, it’s not my time, mate’.”

When Simon and I met, we often swapped notes about interesting books we had read and spiritual paths we had explored. (Yes, really.) On that day we discussed the merits of tarot, Rosicrucianism, palmistry and the Moonies. As you do with someone who nearly died.

“Have you read the Koran?” he asked, in all seriousness. “I’m going to read that next. It’s probably very heavy-going and I think I’m going to find a lot of it quite difficult…”

He trailed off, then came back again. “You get so far and you think, ‘What is the bloody meaning of life? It’s such an incredible cliche. What is it, Betty?”

I couldn’t help him there, other than to witter on about life being “a journey”. But Simon had nearly drowned, and realised that yes, he loved pop music but he’d learned not only about the will to survive but also the physical strength required to survive in challenging circumstances.

He saw that he must have a life beyond pop music, even though he was still a young man at the height of his fame.

“How old are you?” he asked me, suddenly.

“Older than you,” I answered.

“I bet you’re not. I’m 26,” he said, for the second time.

“I’m 28,” I admitted.

“Are you? You don’t look it,” he teased.

“Good. You don’t look 26,” I added.

“Thanks,” he replied. “We must meet again. I’ll need this in six months’ time.”

So here we are, 27 years later, and I’m reading that Simon has pledged his support to the Air Ambulance Service. “I am speaking as someone who is only here today because of the life-saving efforts of a Royal Navy helicopter rescue team,” he said today.

Pat on the back to you, Simon. You’re a good egg. I’d come back to yours for a cup of cocoa any time. As long as I can bring my slippers (and my husband).



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The day I met a sensitive artiste called Ricky Gervais… Mon, 19 Mar 2012 10:53:23 +0000 Beverley Glick In May 1983, when I was assistant editor of Record Mirror, my good friend (the late) Gill Smith asked if I would interview a new band she was trying to generate some press for. Odd name, Seona Dancing. Not easy to pronounce – never a great career move.

I quite liked their debut single, More To Lose. It wasn’t particularly distinctive and hampered, as I recall, by a glaring Bowie influence, but I agreed to speak to the band as a favour to her. That’s the way things worked with record company press officers in those days: you mention my tiddlers, and I might catch your magazine a bigger fish some time.

When I met the duo I found them both engaging. Bill Macrae was tall, shy and quietly spoken and his partner was small, dark and beyond chatty. His name? Ricky Gervais.

The pair had met the year before while studying philosophy at University College, London. Bill heard Ricky could sing, and asked him to put words to his music.

After a cabaret-style residency at a cafe in Brussels, they made a demo and got a deal with Decca. This was pre-Pet Shop Boys but there were several notable duos around – Soft Cell, Yazoo and Blancmange being three of them.

When I interviewed them, Ricky was certainly entertaining but I saw little evidence of the comedy genius to come, when he would again pair up with a tall bloke. But then, maybe…

“We’re a duo, we’re young, we write songs, we’ve got a disco beat, piano, synth, and you could draw comparisons with anyone,” Ricky told me. “You could say we’re like Blancmange, because I’m short and he’s tall, but it’s not really relevant… We’re definitely more passionate than the average duo.”

Passionate and sensitive, it seems. Said Ricky: “I just think generally it’s more sensitive… But that’s pretentious! The technical side comes easily, so we concentrate more on songwriting. That sounds pretentious too!”

When I asked the inevitable, if lazy, pop writer’s fallback question, “What are your influences?” he said: “Well, I really like our music, actually. I quite enjoy listening to it. I’ve never bought a record in my life, so I haven’t got any others.”

Aha – the first sign of irony twinned with arrogance…

“I went through a phase when I was 14, 15, when things had to mean something and be deep, and my favourites were always Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel, deeper music that wasn’t very commercial.”

(Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel in “not very commercial” shock…)

Ricky returned to the theme of sensitivity. “Even hard disco bands write songs about dancing, meeting a foxy woman. That’s fine, there’s no doubt it’s going to be a disco record, but as soon as they come up with anything sensitive, they can’t conceive of it also being a disco record. They slow it down, start it with a piano and violins.

“I see no reason why you can’t dance to a love song, or something you’re putting as much passion into as if you were sitting at a bar at 3am in New York and crying.”

I concluded the interview (in which there were quotes from Bill, but not many) by suggesting they were a pair of romantics – although not New Romantics, clearly.

“What else is there?” asked Ricky. “We were going to write songs about spinach but we thought love was probably a safer bet…”

And there, right at the end, I caught a glimpse of the Gervais to come…

Many years later, when The Office was becoming the water cooler topic of choice, Gill said to me: “You know who that is, don’t you – the guy that plays David Brent?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

“That’s Ricky from Seona Dancing!” she said, howling with laughter.

“No way!” I said. “But he used to be so cute!”


Ricky and Bill. A class act

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The day I performed for Davy Jones Mon, 12 Mar 2012 12:07:55 +0000 Beverley Glick Continue reading ]]> In honour of the late Monkee, I feel compelled to share with you this vignette from my sadly-still-unpublished memoir, Hit Girl: My Bizarre Double Life In The Pop World Of The Eighties – the story of how I became the music journalist Betty Page.

It tells the brief but tragic tale of the day Tennis Shoes, the quirky suburban pub rock band in which I sang backing vocals, played a showcase for American producer Tommy Boyce in our final attempt to get a record deal in the late Seventies. It’s a sad story of unfulfilled pop ambition. And I quote:

And so, by the time Sid Vicious had been arrested for the murder of Nancy Spungen, it seemed Tennis Shoes were running out of laces. But then one more chance loomed on the horizon. A talent scout at Arista records had heard our single, (Do The) Medium Wave, on Radio 1 and liked it enough to come and see us play.

He wanted us to stage a show in a rehearsal studio so he could bring along a producer he thought might be good to work with us on demos. Just when all seemed lost, our knight in shining A&R armour had arrived – and his name was Tarquin. He could so easily have been a character in one of our songs.

But what happened next was so comical, so ridiculous that sometimes I think I must have dreamt it. Tennis Shoes ended up playing a showcase for Tarquin and the legendary American songwriter and producer Tommy Boyce, who had been responsible for the Monkees’ hits.

Now this was fanciful enough in itself, but for me it was one of life’s brilliant little jokes. My first and only experience of mass hysteria had been at a Monkees concert at Wembley Empire Pool in 1967, when I had to be carried out by a steward before the concert had even begun because Jimmy Savile, the compere, had whipped me and thousands of other screaming girls into a frenzy.

I loved all the Monkees and their TV show, but my special favourite was Davy Jones. At the age of nine, he was The Chosen One. So, picture if you will the scene. There was me, singing in a rehearsal room with my old Beckenham drinking pals, entertaining a venerable American record producer and his friend with tunes about large bottoms and love affairs on the 227 bus.

The problem was, his friend was Davy Jones. That Davy Jones. I don’t think he got any of the jokes, but I was too mortified to make eye contact.

After we’d finished our impromptu performance, the bouffant-haired Tommy spoke. “Guys, that was great – I just love your English sense of humour. But I gotta tell you, you’re headed in the wrong direction. I have the perfect song for you – Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)!”

This had been a big hit for Fred and His Playboy Band in 1968. My mind screamed: “No! That is a novelty record! A one-hit wonder! We’re better than that!”  But I felt too intimidated to say a thing.

I think Tommy failed to spot the subtle Bonzo/Pythonesque-style suburban irony of our songs. Unfortunately, it was all too common at the time for major labels to sign new artists and demand they did a cover version for their first single. They wouldn’t take the risk with original material.

Suffice to say, after all Tommy’s initial enthusiasm, expert advice and flashing of expensive cosmetic dentistry, we never saw him or his friend Davy again. Not long after, Tarquin disappeared over the horizon too. It was over before it had begun, much like my “relationship” with The Chosen One.

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Spandau Ballet return: Betty Page reminisces… Sun, 29 Mar 2009 16:07:01 +0000 Beverley Glick Continue reading ]]> And so, Spandau Ballet are back. I’m guessing not many contributors to this site will be celebrating (except me) but then there was never much love lost between the music press and arguably the coolest band of the early Eighties.
Let me explain why.
When I was a rookie music journalist starting out on Sounds in 1980 the bands I wanted to write about seemed to be the ones many of my colleagues despised. They were into Rock. I was into Pop and Fashion.
One of the first major interviews I did for Sounds under my nom de plume Betty Page was with a bunch of young Londoners who had been causing a stir around town in the first year of a new decade, shortly after Margaret Thatcher had seized power.
Spandau Ballet were at the centre of a style-conscious clique known as The Cult With No Name that had grown out of “Bowie” nights at clubs such as Billy’s and the Blitz.
The Cult members were imaginative and talented young people, many of whom made their own clothes or were graphic designers, hairstylists, photographers or entrepreneurs.
If punks wanted to destroy, the Blitz Kids wanted to create, to put some colour into a grey, broken Britain.
I loved their flamboyance – the frocks, the furs, the frills, the flirting and the frisson of unusual sexuality.
The Kids were stars in their own theatre and I wanted a bit part in the production. Unfortunately, however, I wasn’t up for audition – for two good reasons. First, like the members of any close-knit community, they didn’t welcome outsiders.
Second, I wrote for a rock music paper. They hated rock music and all who thrived on it. They wished to spit on its grave. Whatever their personal style, they were united in their love of dance music and the clubs that played it.
Most of them – and particularly the boys in Spandau Ballet – ignored the music papers. They didn’t play “gigs” as such – they held “events”, playing in unusual venues such as the HMS Belfast, a decommissioned warship permanently docked on the Thames, to invited audiences only. They rapidly became the focal point around which the scene revolved. Their fans, most of whom were also friends, were as important as the band and their music.
In their short career, Spandau Ballet had already been the subjects of a television documentary and were about to release their first single on a major record label. They weren’t the least bit interested in being interviewed by the music papers, which they quite rightly associated with unstylish, unkempt rock herberts in flared denim. More shockingly, they didn’t need the press.
However, my editor, the venerable Alan Lewis, was determined to get them into Sounds. I was desperate for my first major assignment as a Staff Writer and he knew that I wasn’t a natural defender of the rock ’n’ roll tradition and might be the secret weapon he needed to penetrate the Cult.
Most dyed-in-the-jeans music hacks hated the idea of being bypassed by a bunch of sharp-suited upstarts, so Spandau had been dismissed by them as elitists, fops, dandies, upper-class twits and even fascists, because of the Nazi connotations of their name. It didn’t help that the Ballet boys deemed fashion to be of equal importance to music. The fact that they were actually working-class Labour supporters from north London didn’t seem to count.
And so it was with a combination of naïve enthusiasm and blind panic that I dialled the number I’d been given for Spandau Ballet’s manager, Steve Dagger. I had no reason to believe he’d even give me the time of day – the last thing he needed was another stitch-up job by an ignorant music hack. But Steve was a smart operator and quickly realised that I was something of a blank canvas upon which he and Gary Kemp, their chief theorist and songwriter, could paint their ideas. But he wasn’t going to give me the interview easily.
I managed to persuade Steve that I had no hidden agenda and that my interest was genuine. He told me I would have to do some research before I met the band. I had to watch the documentary that Janet Street-Porter had made about the band and their fans for the 20th Century Box series.
I dutifully went to Steve’s office to watch the programme, making notes all the way through. I knew he was making me jump through hoops but I had nothing to lose.
I’d done everything the manager had asked me to do, so he grudgingly gave me permission to speak to Gary – as long as he was there too. Steve was the sixth member of the band, the master strategist.
Gary Kemp was an intense, idealistic young man who had carefully considered Spandau Ballet’s image and agenda. As I sat down to interview him, he fished out his well-thumbed copy of George Melly’s book Revolt Into Style and read out a passage about the true meaning of mod being a small group of young working-class boys forming a little mutual admiration society “totally devoted to clothes”.
I carefully copied down the words without quite taking them in. I had to check again – was he telling me that when the band first met in the late Seventies, it was only about dressing up? “Yes, basically it revolved around admiration of clothes,” Steve interjected before Gary could open his mouth, “and featured extreme posing.”
Extreme posing: words to strike fear into the heart of any rock music purist.
Since punk, Steve told me, it had been a case of the most stylish people wanting nothing to do with rock music or the media. “These people wanted to go to soul clubs, to dance, to dress up,” he said. “And on top of that there are sets of innovators who really pushed the fashion thing a bit further, making their own clothes, maybe buying some chain-store stuff, but using it differently. Why the music papers haven’t picked up on it I don’t know.”
Gary did. “The thought of people like us spending money on looking good – they just can’t stand it,” he fumed. “I don’t think they like the idea of fashion as a progressive force. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
I wanted to tell him “progressive” was an adjective that only applied to “rock” in my world, but I wasn’t too keen to reinforce the “us” and “them” theme that was emerging as we spoke.
“It’s not your Marquees, not your polytechnic gigs, nothing is created there,” continued Steve, emphasising his point. “It happens in the clubs. Without injections from innovators, rock music becomes very boring.”
I wasn’t able to develop a counter-argument. I’d spent most of my time as a music business rookie complaining about dour student music and looking for something more ambitious and optimistic. And here it was, sitting in front of me.
“The scene attracts people who want to develop, who want to achieve something in any direction, whether it’s for art or money,” said Gary.
“It all started with our first gig,” continued Steve. “We invited about 10 young fashion designers, 10 hairdressers, and a couple of people who run clubs. We thought they’d like us and they did. It’s much easier when you’re surrounded by people like that – not only hairdressers and clothes designers, but also graphic designers, photographers, even people who write for us.”
It was this image of the self-contained creative elite that so horrified the music papers – along with the constant reference to hairdressers, of course.
Steve was very keen for me to understand that Spandau Ballet were not a bunch of art students. Gary and his brother Martin had grown up in Islington with little money but a lot of attitude, mixing with the sort of blokes who’d blow their entire wage packet on a flash pair of trousers or shoes.
“We’re not saying they should wear anything in particular,” interrupted Steve, “because the group changes its clothes from week to week – we’re not advocating uniforms, like the Jam. The whole point is that if you see someone else wearing the same clothes, get rid of them.”
I wasn’t at all convinced that this infinitely changing wardrobe option would be a big vote-winner during the continuing recession, with so many young people unemployed.
“If you haven’t got anything, if you haven’t got a chance, then you should make the most of your appearance,” said Gary. “If that’s all you’ve got, beat everyone at it. Do you dress for functional reasons only? You dress to attract and look good, don’t you? As far as a poseur is concerned, he is his own work of art. The human sculpture.”
Suddenly I felt hyper-conscious of the charity-shop suit I was wearing. Boy George certainly qualified to be installed in a gallery; I did not. I wasn’t expecting to figure on the Cult’s best-dressed list any time soon.
Despite the fact that I felt intimidated by the exclusivity of Gary and Steve’s “dance for perfection”, they were speaking my language. There was a theme here that resonated with what I’d been trying to articulate in print for months – ditch the dull, express yourself, don’t follow the crowd and move with your own feelings. Distinguish yourself from the masses, be an individual. The “colourful little scenes going down in all the big grey places” – that’s what I wanted to be part of.
My hard-earned interview with Steve and Gary appeared on the cover and centrespread of Sounds in September 1980 under the headline “The New Romantics – a manifesto for the Eighties”. A genre was born, although Spandau Ballet were already fighting shy of the label.
The biggest test would be whether the public would take to their music as well as their image. Their first single, To Cut A Long Story Short, was released in November 1980. It was dominated by Tony Hadley’s theatrical vocal and a Teutonic electro-beat that was perfect for the angular dance performed by the poseurs of the time. I loved it and so did the British record-buyer – it spent nine weeks on the chart and went to No 5. I felt I’d made a creditable start on my quest to make a name for myself in rock journalism – by interviewing a band that abhorred rock journalism. How ironic…

This blog is an abridged version of early chapters in the as yet unpublished book Hit Girl: My Bizarre Double Life In The Pop World Of The Eighties, copyright Beverley Glick.

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