I recently wrote an article for Classic Pop Magazine (issue 9) about Gary Crowley & his shows on Capital Radio. As a suppliment to that, here are a few recollections from my time on Gary's Red Hot Club evening show, recording & presenting interviews in the early eighties. Simon Power
Capital Radio Interviews 1983 - 1984
I was always a huge fan of broadcasting. As kids, my school friend and I used to make up radio programmes on a portable cassette recorder. It sounded like a schoolboy version of a morning zoo and usually ended in fits of laughter or something deeply scatalogical.
At 19 I moved to London and got a Revox A77. I made up DJ demos, mixed them onto cassette and sent in to Capital Radio. They featured sketches, interviews, music & games.
After months of sending in these tapes, it occurred to me that maybe they weren’t listening to them. So I bought a cassette player & handed it into the station’s reception. I included a couple of teabags and suggested they had a cuppa tea and listened to my demo!
My cheekiness paid off and within days I got a call from Capital’s Head of Music Tony Hale. They were starting a new show called the Red Hot Club and they wanted me to be part of the team. My job would be to arrange all the OB’s from nightclubs, gigs and shows. Cut together jingle packages and mixes for the show, and to record and edit all the interviews that would be aired each night.
Pretty soon I was chatting to lots of very famous music stars about their new releases and up coming projects. For a young, impressionable music fan, it was nothing short of a dream come true. What follows are flashbacks and memories from some of those interviews for Gary Crowley’s Red Hot Club on London’s top ILR station, Capital Radio.
ABC’s Martin Fry on How To Be A Zillionaire
Martin was a lovely chap, very softly spoken and although I had expected the gold lame suit, he was fairly conservatively dressed when he came to Capital in October 1984.
We discussed the interview, then like a flash, as soon as the mic lit up, he was no longer the lad from Stockport. He became the charming sophisticate. The Martin Fry that the fans expected to hear. Just like his big hero Bryan Ferry, I guess.
On the subject of his latest single, How to be a Millionaire, he said that in the 80’s, you have to be wealthy just to keep up with the cost of living. “This single is a kind of reaction against that culture of money & finance that has dominated Britain throughout this decade so far.” He said, “It’s a reaction against all that. This is ABC’s contribution to the great tradition of songs about money.” The single peaked at number 49 in the UK, but did much better in the States where it reached number 20 on the Billboard Top 100. It even reached number 4 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.
It had been rumoured that Martin wasn’t well, although you’d never have known it. He was very professional and relaxed during the interview. Sadly, soon after the release of How to Be A Zillionaire, he retired from music suffering from Hodgkin’s disease. In 2012, Martin received an honorary doctorate from the University Of Sheffield.
Heaven 17. How Men Are.
Heaven 17 were great fun to interview. Each time I asked a question, they treated it like a games show and pretended to have buzzers when they answered. In the end Glen (Gregory) started asking the questions to Martyn (Ware), leaving me with nothing to do but watch!
GG: “your bonus point, who engineered the new album?”
GG: “Martyn Ware”
MW: “I think it was Greg Walsh”
They spoke quite passionately about the track This Is Mine which turned out to be the second single from How Men Are after Sunset Now. Martyn spoke of how the sentiment of the song was really all about working class pride. How they can take away everything from you, but they can never take your pride. Then Greg chipped in with a quote from Lemmy of Motorhead. “They can take away the money, but they can never take away the live gigs.” His Lemmy impression was not great, though. He made him sound a bit like Woody Allen!
The album was released in September 1984 and reached number 12 in the UK album charts and was awarded a silver disc for over 60,000 sales.
Paul Morley on Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Co-founder & ZTT publicist Paul Morley on signing Frankie Goes To Hollywood to the label. Around Christmas 1983, ZTT Records were flying high on the runaway success of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s first single Relax. Co-founder of the label was ex-NME journo Paul Morley who also became the label’s mouthpiece, promoting the band in radical new ways that added to their already ubiquitous image.
I met Paul at SARM West studios in Notting Hill & chatted to him about the ZTT imprint.
He explained that it stood for Zang Tuum Tumb which on the one hand is a delightful piece of nonsense and on the other represents the seriousness of the business of pop music with those rather intimidating initials that capitalist companies always seem to have.
As for Frankie Goes To Hollywood, he admitted to not really wanting to sign the band as he never really thought much of Holly Johnson when he was in Big In Japan. But Trevor Horn said he could make Relax a hit and when Morley heard the final mix, he had to agree.
Around this time, FGTH were being promoted using white T-shirts with the motif ‘Frankie Says RELAX’ on them. I asked Paul about this and he said that he got really dismayed when he saw a big scan of George Michael, or Boy George or Simon Le Bon grinning away on someone’s chest. So he wanted to avoid that for FGTH. He’d read somewhere that Katharine Hamnet who developed the original idea of basic black type on a white tee shirt saying she wanted her idea to be ripped off and he found that idea fascinating, so he went ahead and did it. He was the first to rip off Hamnet’s tee shirts, then the idea became huge.
‘Frankie Says’ tee shirts as they became known, spawned a whole load of imitations in the mid 80’s. even David Schwimmer can be seen wearing one in the nineties on an episode of ‘Friends’, even though it wrongly quotes “Frankie Say Relax”.
Nick Heyward on self-financing a record.
Summer 1984, Gary was away & guest presenter was Feargal Sharkey who had recently embarked on a solo career following the successful collaboration with Vince Clarke as The Assembly & their hit single, Never, Never. half way through that evening’s show, Feargal introduced my recorded interview piece with ex-Haircut 100’s lead singer, Nick Heyward.
Like Feargal, Nick had also embarked on a solo career by this time and the more he talked about his latest project, the more it became clear that all was not well between Nick and his record company. he said that he wanted to radically change his style after his first top 10 solo album, North of a Miracle and that the record company pretty much wanted more of the same kind of thing.
Heyward didn’t just want to make, as he called it at the time, ‘conveyer belt music’. So he had financed the single himself. But when he played it to record company bosses, they absolutely loved it and commissioned an entire album.
The single was called Warning Sign and on release was only a minor hit reaching number 25 in the UK charts. Nick swore a few times during the interview and I remember having to ask Gary’s producer Rob Jones if we could include the word ‘bloody’ in the interview. He said it was OK, but nothing stronger!
Everything But The Girl and Tony Blackburn.
Tracey Thorn & Ben Watts were regulars on Gary’s show & when they came in to record a session, I collared them for a chat about their latest Blanco Y Negro single, Each & Every One. Tracey said she saw Each & Every One as being a very strong kind of woman’s song about standing up to certain attitudes & moral codes.
She explained that women are often scared to stand up & call themselves feminists, because they’re frightened about how they will be perceived. Especially in the music industry which is a very male dominated environment.
To back this up, Ben & Tracey told me that the previous week they had been invited onto the Tony Blackburn Show because Tony loved their single and had been playing it to death on the show. But then they saw him on TV reviewing a new film and all he could say is that he liked the lead actresses bum, they told their publicist that they didn’t want to go on his show because he was a sexist pig.
Blackburn of course never played another EBTG record on his show ever!
The Stranglers talk about ears.
Hugh Cornwall from The Stranglers popped in to chat about their 1984 album release Aural Sculpture.
I was a huge Stranglers fan from way back, so I wanted to make sure that I did a good interview.
The first thing to talk about was the unusual cover of the album which featured a sculpture of a huge ear (hence, Aural Sculpture). Hugh explained that everybody has got a pair of ears and they’re quite alien looking.
You isolate an ear from the rest of the human anatomy and it suddenly starts to look very strange, it’s a lovely shape a very sensual shape and it’s also very erotic.
“When we put the sculpture up outside venues, you find kids climbing into the hole which is very Freudian, so we scare them off with a giant QTip that we take on tour with us!”
At the end of the interview, Hugh made some comments about how long The Stranglers had been around in the music biz and that the last time they went on TOTP (Top Of The Flops as he called it), kids were asking them if Golden Brown was their first single. “I guess when Get A Grip and Peaches came out, they were only about 4 years old!”
The cassette version of the Aural Sculpture album had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum game called Aural Quest at the end of the tape. It could be loaded onto your Spectrum just like a normal ZX game. How cool is that!
Swansway. The Tube and Soul Train.
Swansway were a three piece Birmingham band whose appearance on The Tube led to the hit single, Soul Train I was looking forward to interviewing Swansway because I was a big fan of their performance of Soul Train on The Tube.
It was a unique sounding track with its staccato cello stabs and lilting, mournful horns. I loved it. All the recording studios at Capital were booked out the day they came in, so we ended up doing the interview in the kitchen.
I remember that because Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman came in to make a cup of tea beside me, right in the middle of the interview. That made me very nervous! Swansway told me that the people at The Tube had heard demos and sent a crew to Birmingham to film the band. They did a live version of Soul Train which went out on that Friday’s programme. After it aired, everyone was calling The Tube to find out where they could get the record.
But actually, it hadn’t yet been recorded. So Swansway were rushed into the studio and a few weeks later the official version was released. Many people including myself, felt that the record version lacked the power and passion as the live Tube performance. Rob Shaw from the band explained to me that records are made to be listened to over and over and need to have a more resilient sound than live performances and demos. But even to this day, the far superior version of Soul Train was the one that went out on The Tube on that Friday night in 1984.
UB40. Geffery Morgan Loves White Girls.
UB40’s new album Geffery Morgan came hot on the heels of the hugely successful covers release, Labour Of Love. I interviewed UB40 in their London offices where they chatted about the new album & their fledgling record label, DEP International. Brian Travers told me that the actual title of the album is Geffery Morgan Loves White Girls which is a piece of graffiti on a wall in Birmingham that the band had found really funny.
“There’s a form of inverted racism within the white media about white boys playing reggae.” Said Brian.
In fact he likened it to the 1930’s with white boys playing Jazz. “But over in Jamaica where the music comes from they have no problem with the band at all.” Burning Spear & Winston Rodney have toured with the band, “Sly & Robbie buy our records, Black Uhuru & Yellowman come and visit us when we’re in town, and we get total respect from all those people.” It’s just the white media moguls that have a problem, no one else.
Jimmy Brown noted that the album was a complete departure from Labour Of Love, because this album featured 10 tracks of new original material.
More like a follow on from their 1982 album UB44. Commenting on their new label DEP International, they said that it took about 5 years to build the machinery of an independent record company that has hits around the world. And that in a few short weeks they were going to release the first three acts on the new label, Mikey Dread, Winston Reedy & a local band called Echo Bass. “Finger’s crossed for that,” said Brian.
When I told them that Gary was away that week & that Bananarama were hosting the show, Brian said he had a joke for the girls. “What do you call a man who has a hawk on one shoulder and a kestrel on the other and does his housework at night? Hawk Kestrel Man Hoovers In The Dark.” Bananarama were less than amused. Infact I’m not sure if they even understood the pun!