SOUND YOUR FUNKY HORN: CHRIS SPEDDING (Part 2)
Interviewed on March 3, 1996
Chris Spedding, from Chris Spedding (Rak, 1976)
“Motor Bikin”‘ is my bona fide hit. If I’m a one-hit wonder, it’s because of “Motor Bikin’.” It was produced by Mickey Most, who I’d worked with on a Donovan record [Cosmic Wheels] Unfortunately, when we did “Motor Bikin’,” it was hit and then they decided to do the album. But if I would’ve had the album out at the same time as a hit record, it would’ve probably done a lot better.
That was a good period for me–very creative–and I was writing a lot of songs. It was the year before the punk thing happened, and I was the old leather jacket and short hair. I was on Top Of The Pops and everybody else had flared pants and platform boots, it was quite funny to see. I think what it was was that whenever I’d go to session, everybody would be looking at the Top 10 and they’d say, “I want it to be like this song, ” which was Number 5 at the time. But in fact my first inspiration was stuff like Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Elvis and stuff like that, and I said, ‘Well, there’s room for stuff like that, so I wrote “Motor Bikin’.” Eddie Cochran used to write about cars, Chuck Berry used to write about cars. I know there was “Born To Be Wild,” but there was never a song that was called “Motor Bikin”‘ that was about motorbikes, and that’s a very rock â€˜n’ roll image. So I wrote it more or less by default. I said, “What isn’t on the charts,” and it was that rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll-type feeling. So I wrote that for the opposite reasons. Mickey got me out of my Island deal. We didn’t even have a contract signed when the thing was a hit, which is pretty rare in the music business We didn’t even have the contract signed until the royalty check came–and we said we better because of the formality, so we did.
Playing on it was [drummer] Barry Morgan–we did it at Morgan Studios–and the guy we got in Sharks in the end, [bassist] Dave Cochran, who was also in Roy Harper’s group.
Ironically, when “Motor Bikin”‘ was in the charts, I was. touring England with John Cale. His guitar player was the guy with the hit single, which was odd. We didn’t play it. His audience didn’t even want to know about “Motor Bikin’,” it was a teenybopper record. There was nobody shouting for “Motor Bikin”‘ or “Give Chris a chance”; nobody was interested. Itâ€™s pretty odd when you think about it.
Chris Spedding, from Guitar Graffiti (Rak, 1979)
The Guitar Graffiti album was consciously made to be performed live–it wasn’t a “studio album” per se, it was an album made in the studio with rhythm guitar and lead guitar without lots of keyboards. There were backing vocals and stuff, but it was made as a rock album, not as a studio pop album.
Basically Side A was studio tracks, with me doing all of the stuff myself–including the bass, keyboards and drum machine, which was pretty rudimentary in those days. I got a real drummer in afterwards, Tony Newman. I needed some more groove and feeling, so the drummer played to the track, knowing that the track was in good time, because we’d already used a drumbox. Sometimes we used both the drummer and the drumbox in the mix.
“Music Breakout” was on Side B. There’s that one studio track, and the rest of the side is filled up with a montage of live stuff from the tour that I’d done to promote the previous album, Hurt. “Music Breakout” was the old Sharks song that never got recorded, it was on the [unreleased] third album. It was written by Steve Parsons [Sharks singer Snips], and I thought it was quite prophetic–inasmuch in 1973 he was talking about â€œwaves” and “riding waves” when everybody was talking about the â€œnew wave” years later. With Sharks I used to do it as a kind of ballad, this time I made it more rocky, more uptempo.
8)The Crying Game
Chris Spedding, from I’m Not Like Everybody Else (Rak 1980)
I was in England producing an album for Steve Parsons, the Sharks vocalist, called La Rocca; he was still going under the name of Snips then. After I finished that, Mickey Most said, â€œWhy don’t we do an album?â€ I had some songs, and that became the Not Like Everybody Else album.
I like “Crying Game” because it’s got a good mood. It was Mickey’s idea to do it–another example of Mickey’s talent in getting somebody to stretch themselves and do something that they wouldnâ€™t normally do. I’d never have dreamed of doing it, because the song itself has a big wide range. And when we did do it, I remembered that the original Dave Berry version had this great sort of guitar sound. I think Jim Sullivan used not a wah-wah but a steel guitar volume pedal–where the sideways motion is a tone control, sort of a primitive wah-wah–and he was making these crying noises on it. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s great, but I can’t copy that.” The only way I know how to make the guitar cry is to turn the tape around and do it backwards. So I wrote the chords from the last bar to the first bar, backwards, turned the tape over, and I played, reading the chart, backwards guitar. And t had this crying effect, which I was always pleased about. It was a technical thing, but there again it had this sort of mood that I like. It was a cover done years before the movie version.
Incidentally, Dave Berry was a fellow Sheffield man. Pre-Beatles, around 1959-60, he had the best band around and was just playing up rhythm and blues. He used to do Chuck Berry numbers very, very well–and then he became a recording artist and became known as a balladeer. I think maybe when I was a kid I came up and asked him for his autograph, because he was my big idol at the time. He was the best rocker around–it was pre-Beatles, 1959-60. I never knew Joe Cocker back then, but I did know Chris Stainton. He was in a rival school band and played bass. He was always incredibly good.
9)Love’s Made A Fool Of You
Chris Spedding, from The Enemy Within (New Rose, 1985)
That’s another thing that’s got a great mood. I totally rearranged the Buddy Holly song and gave it kind of a Bo Diddley beat, and I liked the way it turned out. It’s got Anton Fig on drums, and its the first thing we did on the album. The guitar solo is live on the backing track, and everything else was overdubbed around the guitar solo. It has a mood to it that I like.
When I did this whole list and looked it over, I realized that I’d chosen songs that had a good, satisfying mood to them. I don’t know why, but that song just sort of struck me. When I put
it on, it paints a kind of picture. It’s very subjective. I like the way it sounds, and it’s a successful, mix, recording, performance.
The only thing that was overdubbed was the vocal. We edited it down a bit–it was about six or seven minutes of jamming–so I just edited it down rather than struggle to put spontaneous-sounding guitar on. Overall I was pretty pleased with the result. It was the first track of the whole project for the album, and I played all lead guitar through it, which I normally wouldn’t do. I’d normally lay a rhythm part down and do a rhythm part first and then do the lead later, by which time Iâ€™d have plenty of time to figure what I was going to do, but then it wouldn’t sound spontaneous. So on that I just went ahead and played the solo.
Chris Spedding, from Cafe Days (New Rose 1990)
One guy in Toronto put up half the money for Cafe Days, New Rose Records put up the other half, and Steve Berlin produced it. The mixes are not to my liking; I’d like to have remixed it. What’s special about it? On “Portobello” it all gelled. It was a mood piece. It’s quite minimal lyrically–there are only three lines of lyrics in it that are repeated–and it’s the one track off that record that I like, that came off. It’s a kind of mood that I haven’t explored in years.
I remember “Portobello” being around in demo form. I used to do demos on a Revox using sound-on-sound before I got my 8- track; I used to mess around with a drum machine doing demos like that. I probably wrote the song in the early ’80s, and it took a good 10-12 years to get to a record.
All the album’s drum parts were done by Steve Berlin, the producer, and they were all pretty comprehensive–they were like what a drummer would play on a pretty state-of-the-art drum machine. But on “Portobello,” it seemed to work with just the drum machine.