Monday, 4 March 2013
NME/Melody Maker Questionairres Filled Out In The 1960s By Five AAA Bands (News, Views and Music Issue 184)
Back in the early 60s fans clamoured for every little piece of knowledge they could get about the new stars of the day and several music magazines tried to cater for them by way of questionnaires they asked everyone to fill in. The best of these were the NME’s ‘Life-line’ column (closely followed by Melody Maker’s ‘pop think-in column’) which ran between 1964 and 1967 and was filled in by several AAA stars. You know the kind of thing – height, weight, colour of eyes, number of relatives, favourite food and drinks – most of which is of no interest listening to their records but is quite revealing for those late night thoughts that crop into your mind (was Lennon the tallest Beatle? Is Mick Jagger the oldest Stone? Rather than reproduce all five interviews (many of them are available anew in Uncut magazine’s ‘Ultimate Music Guide’ series) we’ve chosen to pull out the most interesting or funniest comments – some of which are very at odds with the way their lives will turn out! Chances are there’s more AAA questionnaires that I can currently locate so there may well be another top five sometime in the future. For now, though, enjoy a little trip through time with six AAA bands...
The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr; NME 15/2/1963 and MM 01-22/01/1966)
Normally I discuss which band member is tallest – but the NME get it wrong, putting John, Paul and George equal at 5” 11 (as every good Beatles fan knows Lennon is the tallest at 6” and the other two are actually 5” 10). There’s some light ‘fibbing’ going on in this interview too: both John and Paul fail to admit that they have ‘half sisters’ (Julia and Jacqueline were Lennon’s best known sisters, born to mother Julia when married to her second husband although Julia had two other sisters both given up for adoption; Paul’s half sister Ruth wasn’t actually a blood relative but was adopted by Paul’s father Jim as a baby when he married her mother Angela Williams). I’m tempted to think that the NME got Lennon and McCartney round the wrong way with their hobbies too: allegedly Lennon likes ‘meeting people’ and McCartney likes ‘sleeping’ (surely its the other way around?) Interestingly George puts down ‘driving’ even though he didn’t pass his test for another couple of years (was he doing so illegally?!) while Ringo already has a love of ‘Westerns’. As for the ever controversial ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ John loves ‘blondes and leather’ and hates ‘stupid people’, Paul loves ‘music and TV’ and ‘hates shaving’ (which explains the thick beard he grew 1969-70), George likes ‘driving’ (see above!) and hates ‘haircuts’ while Ringo loves fast cars and, with all the world’s evil and wrongdoings to choose from quotes ‘onions and Donald Duck’ as his pet hate. The ambitions are fascinating too: it was here that Paul first declared his interest to ‘have my picture in the Dandy’ (the wish came true in the Dandy comic’s last ever issue at the end of 2012) and ‘to popularise our sound’, Lennon wanted to ‘write a musical’ (bet it would have knocked spots off ‘Mama Mia’!) and ‘to be rich and famous’, the ever spiritual George wants to ‘design a guitar’ and ‘fulfil all our group’s hopes’ (which they did and how!) while Ringo wants simply ‘to be happy’ and ‘get to the top’.
As well as the band’s NME ‘lifelines’ interview the fab four also filled in a ‘pop think in’ questionnaire almost three years later. This interview, published in Melody Maker, is slightly different – rather than filling the forms out together, usually whilst giggling noisily, all four Beatles were asked to give their responses to similar topics separately, over the course of one a week. Simply by the size of the answers you can tell that Lennon is the moptop taking the interview most seriously, whilst Ringo barely manages a word per answer. ‘Vietnam’ (then still a cold war hotspot) makes for the most intriguing answers and Lennon and McCartney are surprisingly outspoken for such an early time (John: ‘I don’t like what’s happening there’ Paul: ‘bombs and shooting and killing and people doing things they shouldn’t’) while the band are surprisingly capitalist American in their view of communist Russia (George: ‘It’s terrible’ Ringo: ‘I don’t like communism, we’re restricted enough as it is). Elsewhere we learn that John always forgets to send Christmas cards (‘by the time I think about them it’s too late’), loves milk, doesn’t have a clue who the painter Goya is (!) and thinks short hair ‘is OK – as long as you’ve got a short head’. Paul is ‘thankful’ to have never had problems with spots, thinks psychiatry ‘is not the whole answer’, loves children ‘up to a certain age’ and thinks toothpaste is ‘fab, gear’ (who writes these questions?!) George is spot on in his dissection of public schooling (‘buying brains for thick kids’), thinks Elvis is ‘well done’ and Cliff Richard ‘under nourished’, that The Who ‘have some great ideas’ and that the then-new Private Eye magazine ‘isn’t as clever as it thinks it is but is quite nice’. Ringo admits ‘I’ve never bought one of Cliff’s records in my life’, thinks James Bond ‘is a great comedian’ (that’s a joke – I think) and that ‘the only thing I’ve got against millionaires is that they’ve got more money than me’. All four Beatles are heavily anti censorship (especially George) and are all fond of manager Brian Epstein (in John’s words ‘he has a go at us and we have a go at him sometimes but it’s all forgotten’).
The Kinks (Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory; NME 11/9/1964)
This interview took place the week ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ was at number one and features Ray trying to be serious, Dave trying to be cute, Mick being non-commital and Pete stealing with the show with some hilarious answers that suggest he wasn’t taking the questionnaire too seriously! At 5”11 and a half inches Ray is the tallest Kink by half an inch whilst 17 year old Dave (perhaps still growing) is the shortest at 5” 10. Both Ray and Dave give the old joke answer of ‘mum and dad’ when asked for the names of their parents (ho ho ho, it happened every week), while Pete quotes his eye colour as being ‘red when angry’ (so most weeks given in The Kinks’ fractious early period then!) Pete also claims to have ‘studied music under Rachmaninov III’ while Ray and Dave admit to entering showbusiness ‘in a pub’ (in fact the Hornsley Arms which featured on the BBC’s Ray Davies doc in 2010). Ray says that he has ‘no disappointments’ yet (that will soon change), whilst Mick is upset that he had to leave the Rolling Stones when Charlie Watts joins full time and Dave Davies is still smarting over the band’s second flop single ‘You Still Want Me’ earlier in the year. Ray has a hard job listing all his ‘compositions’ in the right box but note too that Dave is already writing (he just hasn’t got any songs on any Kinks albums yet), tantalisingly the reader with talk of ‘a song called ‘One Fine Day’ and others that are probably unrecordable’. Ray quotes his ‘biggest influence’ as a mixture of Lonnie Donegan and Big Bill Broonzy (actually a pretty good idea of where The Kinks are it in 1964) while Mick praises a tutor and Pete writes simply ‘me!’ Pete is presumably still joking when he says that the Kinks manager is his favourite actor (but which does he mean? Robert Wace or Grenville Collins, both of them former actors?!) As for the ever-controversial ‘favourite composers’ spot the band’s choices vary between JS Bach and Chuck Berry, whilst Dave is loyal enough to quote his brother as his favourite composer (this niceness won’t last!) Bigger signs of the band going in different directions comes from the ‘likes’ list: Pete says he likes ‘everything’, Mick says he likes ‘nothing’, Ray likes ‘truthful people, kinky birds and laughing inwardly’ whilst Dave likes ‘kinky birds, money and riding horses’ (that red riding jacket has gone to his head!) As for dislikes Mick comes up with the very Kinks list of ‘red tape, losing sleep and self-appointed critics’ (three very big targets of future Kinks songs), Ray hates ‘liars and snobs’, Dave hates ‘travelling by coach’ and Pete, predictably, hates ‘most everything’. Again. Dave surprised us all I think by revealing his music tastes include ‘ a love for church music’ whilst Pete admits his taste in music is ‘lousy!’ and that he has a racing pigeon named ‘Kinky Klarence’ (!) Finally, the most fascinating question of the whole lot is ‘ambitions’: Mick wants to meet jazz giants and to ‘learn the art of drumming in the US’ (where sadly the Kinks are excluded from until the 1970s) and for the Kinks ‘to be recognised in our own right’ (which, thankfully, they are after ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’ proves the band are so much more than R and B soundalikes). Ray wants to be ‘exceedingly successful’ and ‘highly esteemed among my friends’ (making the events of the 1968 song ‘All Of My Friends Were There’ all the more shocking) and ‘to be ahead all the time and make audiences like us’ (to which he by and large gets his wish). Pete isn’t that fussed (his personal and musical ambition is ‘to see what comes’) whilst Dave – possibly joking, possibly not – wants to ‘become rich enough to be lord of the manor and own lots of estates’. At the time of writing, he’s still waiting but he does have a semi-detached in Cornwall.
The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts; NME 27/11/1964)
The Stones aren’t in such a jokey mood as the Kinks and come over as rather surly and bored in their interview. All five members give very similar answers for most of their questions although unusually the closest to giving detailed answers is the normally mono-syllabic Charlie Watts. In case you were wondering Bill Wyman is the oldest Stone (even though he ‘lies’ and gives his birth-year as 1941 instead of 1939, not wanting to seem like an ‘elderly’ 25 year old at the time!) and the ‘tallest’ Stone is a tie between Mick and Keef (who are both a comparatively small 5” 10; the other three are all 5” 8). Mick mentions that he used to study at ‘the London School of Economics’(cue for much band teasing you suspect), while Brian Jones ‘forgets’ to mention that he was expelled from Cheltenham Grammar School at 14 for getting his girlfriend pregnant! Poor Bill Wyman is already painted as something of an outsider; whilst the other four quote forming the Stones as their ‘biggest break’ he cheekily says that ‘meeting The Beatles’ was his! Note too that he was the only Stone to receive proper music lessons in the shape of piano practice (Keith arrogantly says he was ‘self-taught’ – the other three don’t claim to have any knowledge at all).In some alternate universe where the Stones don’t exist Charlie nearly became a graphic designer, Bill an engineer (though he makes no mention of his time in the army here), Brian’s career was ‘various’, Mick was a student and Keith was ‘a layabout!’ Mick hints at the social climbing to come with his mention of ‘boats’ as one of his big hobbies, Brian’s simple ‘women’ is no surprise, Keith admits to enjoying ‘sleeping’ and Bill admits to a love of ‘science fiction’. All five Stones share a love of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Jimmy Reed, but some other answers in the ‘favourite music’ column are more surprising (especially Keith’s love of girl groups like The Shirelles and The Crystals and Charlie’s love of ‘Mick Jagger’!) Keith’s favourite ‘band’ meanwhile are ‘The Flinstones!’ (perhaps he misunderstood the question?!) Brian is quick to dispel the image of the Stones as ‘dirty’ (something that always bothered him more than the others), claiming his biggest like is ‘having a shower’, whilst Mick’s is unusual (‘driving at night by myself’), Keith’s is predictable (‘guitars and high-heeled boots’), Bill has quite a long and varied list (‘cashew nuts, astronomy, poetry and girls’ – there’s no mention of metal-detecting just yet!) and Charlie’s loves are simple, if narcisstic (‘Girls, clothes and myself!’) As for dislikes, Keith has already started a lifelong hatred of the police, Bill shows an unusual hatred for ‘marmalade’ (presumably the condiment not the band) and Mick is already sick of ‘motorway cafes’. Unusually, the band weren’t asked for their ‘ambitions’ this week – perhaps the Kinks had gone too badly over the word limit listing theirs?!
The Who (Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon; NME 23/7/1965)
Roger and Keith seem to have other things on their minds (probably girls in this era), but both Pete and John give very detailed answers to their questions, cementing their status as the more ‘thoughtful’ side of the stage. For some odd reason John gives his name as ‘Browne’ rather than ‘Entwistle’ – is this a mistake by the NME (The Who were still a new band back then, not household names) or was The Ox trying to go a bit upmarket and figured fans wouldn’t be able to spell it? In case you were wondering, Roger is the oldest Who member by a mere two months (Keith is the youngest by a couple of years, as we saw with our ‘age’ themed top ten a few issues ago) and Pete is the tallest at 6” while Roger (surprisingly given he’s at his peak years as a hellraiser) admits to being a lowly 5”7. Keith says his parents’ names are ‘mum and dad’ (ho ho ho, that joke never gets old!), John is the only only child in the band and Roger entered showbusiness at ‘six months!’ (I wish I knew what that was referring to!) Both Pete and John are keen to speak about their musical background (John studied piano, French horn and trumpet while at school; Pete ‘had some interesting talks with my father’, the band leader Cliff Townshend). The quartet give some very eclectic and hilarious answers to the question ‘biggest break?’ (the ever faithful Pete: ‘meeting manager Kit Lambert’ Roger: ‘Crashing group van on bridge’ Keith: ‘3000 pairs of drumsticks!’ John: ‘to my little toe whilst rushing to answer the phone’). Roger quotes the biggest influence on the band as ‘whisky’, Pete gets philosophical over the pressures of time and John says its a combination of ‘lack of money and wanting to match the Beatles’. Before finding fame with the band Keith was a ‘trainee manager’ (let’s hope it wasn’t in a hotel or a car showroom!), Pete was a ‘butcher’s boy’, John was a ‘tax officer’ and Roger was, by his own admission, a ‘con man’. Roger is already looking ahead to his post-Who days as a leading salmon trout farmer with his hobby of ‘fishing’ whilst Pete furthers the band’s pop art image with the mention that he likes ‘scalextric racing and making pop art montages!’ while his favourite singer is ‘Keith Moon’ (I bet that caused a chuckle when the band read this back, given how often they used to ban the drummer from singing!) Keith and John are quick to quote ‘Pete Townshend’ as their favourite composer in return, while Roger is adamant that the only group he likes are ‘The Who’. As for the ever controversial likes The Ox adores ‘peace and quiet’ while Pete likes ‘being with hip people’ while all four have some very varied and revealing dislikes (Keith: ‘shiny paper’, presumably referring to what the NME are using for the interview; Roger: ‘filling in forms’ – bit of a dig at the NME interview format that!; Pete hates ‘hangovers and subtlety’(!) and John – the only one not to regularly trash his equipment on stage – hates ‘my instrument when it goes wrong!’) There’s a new question for this interview too: ‘biggest thrill’ (Keith: ‘the big dipper at Belle Vue amusement park’ Roger: ‘seeing Keith Moon!’ whilst John ‘once fell from the top of Blackpool tower!’) The Who’s music tastes are interesting too: John hates ‘light jazz, classical and bad pop music’ whilst Pete likes ‘anything currently being liked’ (once a mod, always a mod...) whilst Roger’s tastes are ‘varied’ and Keith’s are ‘rubbish!’ As for ambitions, well, these take some beating; Keith wants ‘to stay young forever’ and to ‘smash over a hundred drum kits (at least one of which does happen!); Roger wants ‘to live well’ and ‘have a group of harpists’ (again one out of two isn’t bad), Pete rather sweetly wants ‘what happens to me not to get me down’ (erm, see his new autobiography for why that might not have worked out for him) and with the lyrics to ‘My Generation’ clearly still on his mind ‘to die young’ (thankfully for us at least his wish doesn’t come true) and John ‘wants to make a lot of money’ (sadly he ends up nearly bankrupt near the end of his life).
The Hollies (Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, Tony Hicks, Bernie Calvert and Bobby Eliott; NME 1967)
The Hollies are quite a way through their career by the time they were interviewed for the NME and their questions (and answers) are less teeny-boppy than the rest. There’s no sign yet that the group are unhappy with their current musical direction or that Graham Nash is about to jump ship, although there is signs of friction in the band with bassist Bernie Calvert still very much the ‘new boy’ of the band. Nash is the eldest (by two months) with Tony Hicks and Calvert tied for ‘tallest’ Hollie at 5” 11. Their previous jobs are fascinating, real evidence of the band’s working class Manchester-area roots: Allan Clarke reveals – to quote an LP title - that ‘his real name is Harold’ and that he used to be a ‘mill hand, silk-screen painter and a salesman’, Nash was ‘an assistant manager in a shop’, Hicks was an ‘apprentice electrician’ (indeed he was earning so much money it took a lot of persuasion to get him to join the band full time), Calvert was an ‘apprentice engineer’ (in a factory down the road from where I used to work in Runcorn) and Bobby Elliott a ‘mining engineer’. As for ‘likes’ Clarke enjoys ‘performing on stage and girls’, Nash likes ‘smart girls and blondes’ (it’s just as well he found both in second wife Susan in the late 1970s), Hicks likes ‘chess, girls and perfection’, Calvert likes ‘polite people and animals’ (I don’t know that many polite animals, but then I do live with Max and Bingo!) and Elliott likes ‘girls and friendly people’. As for dislikes night owl Clarkey hates ‘getting up and having to go to bed’, Nash is a mixture of the profound and shallow with his answer ‘white shoes on girls and humourless people’, the long haired Hicks dislikes ‘snobs and short hair’, Calvert dislikes ‘ignorant people’ and Elliott dislikes ‘lime green socks’(!) Interestingly, three-fifths of the band don’t answer the question ‘favourite band’ whilst both Clarke and Nash quote ‘The Rolling Stones’. As ever, we round off with an intriguing set of personal and musical ambitions: Clarke wants ‘to be a millionaire’ and ‘to hit number one again (which he will, though not until 1988 and the re-issue of ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’), Nash too wants to ‘hit number one again’ (which he will a bit sooner with CSN) and ‘to reward my parents for their encouragement in my career’ (Nash’s dad died when he was a teenager, after a prison sentence he should never have been given for protecting a friend, leaving him the chief family breadwinner), Hicks wants ‘to have my own clothing business’ (something which sadly never happened), Calvert wants ‘to be successful in my new job’ (which he was, remaining with The Hollies until 1980) and Elliott – one of only two original members still with The Hollies at the time of writing aged 69 – had an unfulfilled ambition to ‘retire at 45’!
That’s all for this week. Join us for some more, hopefully less form based musical insight in next weeks’ News, Views and Music!