A Trip Back To The Pavilion

Interview by Alan Hewitt and Jonathan Dann on 19th March 1995

 

I suppose the first question about Private Parts & Pieces II is why did you decide to release another generic album?

 

This album happened after the Arista deal went basically.  After the two so-called commercial albums; Wise After The Event and Sides hadn't done anything and after Sides hadn't been the great commercial top ten hit that they thought it would be, that contract went.  This was before the contract with RCA but I had an existing contract with Passport and so the only outlet was Passport.  There were no advances coming from them so the music that could be used had to be available, hence the use of guitar and piano pieces and material that was available like the Scottish Suite which was in fact music that was originally done for a proposed Shakespearean project using all the dialogue from the tragedies with rock music.  They wanted to try and get some very famous rock musicians involved and in the absence of any big names they got me to do some of it as a pilot for this thing, so all of these titles were originally written for this project.  It was terribly over ambitious but, as you know, you're not supposed to say Macbeth in the theatre it is always referred to as "The Scottish Play" hence the Scottish Suite.  That was available from '76, the summer of that year as I recall.  I Saw You Today was from quite early in the '70's actually.  Back to the Pavilion was an early piano piece from the same time as Autumnal.  Lucy: An Illusion as we know was an extra track on the CD but that dates from the late '60's.  Von Runkel's Yorker Music, Magic Garden, Chinaman and Nocturne, were all links from the Wise After The Event period when it was planned to be a much longer album. Some of the guitar pieces were those which had been released by Weinberger's in score form like Spring Meeting.  K2 was just a fiddle about on the Polymoog.  Actually Postlude: End of the Season was used as a jingle too, that was a library piece.  It was going to be a Christmas song from around the time I did Wise After The Event and Peter Cross liked it very much but Tony Smith didn't.  Heavens was a synth improvisation, Will O' the Wisp was a guitar improvisation done at home.  Tremulous was originally another Wise After The Event link which had Mel Collins on it.

 

My brother played the oboe on Von Runkel's Yorker Music.  Romany's Aria was the end of We're All As We Lie backwards as is known I think.  I always loved the sound of that.  It sounded like somebody juggling the sitar backwards.  As far as the Scottish Suite is concerned obviously Salmon's Last Sleepwalk was Lady Macbeth's sleepwalk scene where she's quite kind of deranged.  Some of the more strange stuff in Amorphous, Cadaverous and Nebulous went with the witches and there's an odd almost slide guitar bit that was supposed to be their broomsticks - I'm serious!  Salmon Leap was a kind of overture.  Parting Thistle was for a scene where somebody reads a letter.  I can't remember where Electric Reaper fits in.  Lindsay was inspired by somebody called Lindsay but it wasn't Lindsay Anderson!  Spring Meeting was taken partly from the fact that we used to have at Send a sort of pre summer get together which we used to call the Spring Meeting so there was a slight double entendre there.  Chinaman as you know, is a kind of ball you bowl in cricket.  Magic Garden was recorded while I was waiting for Rupert Hine to arrive.  Rupert would always give his utmost in the studio but was a little bit flexible on the hour of arrival (laughter) he would always give you tons of time but he'd start half an hour later each day so you ended up starting work at eight in the evening!  That track uses a lot of harmoniser on it which is the strange slightly warbly effect on it which slightly reflects Wise After The Event recording techniques where I was crazy for things like choruses and harmonisers and things like that as well as rich harmonics on acoustic instruments; mainly on guitar but sometimes on piano.

 

Obviously the title comes from the track but the whole packaging is influenced by your cricketing influences.  Did Peter come up with the sleeve design as a result of that or the music itself?

 

Yes, in those days the music was always done first and obviously with this one, a lot of it was already on the shelf and we had a lot of these titles.  It always helped to make things as graphic as possible for him  .Actually Back to the Pavilion was something that was used in our cricket team, that term was actually used quite a lot in the context of one guy always getting out so Peter was already very much thinking about that.  A lot of the main protagonists are here really (looking at sleeve).  I remember it was always rather sad because the dear old accountant at Hit & Run; Monty Wynn who sadly has passed on, was really chuffed because he was convinced that it was him at square leg and in fact it's my father at square leg (laughter) and I could never disabuse Monty of that.  He was always very nice to me but he was a hard man, even Phil Collins would come out crying almost after meetings with Monty!  There are many subtleties in this sleeve which would take hours and hours to explain.  Jeremy Gilbert is there of course, in the greenhouse at the top, and Peter's good friend and mentor Peter Dallas Smith is there too at the top.  Of course, there's Dale, Colin Sturge, Tony Smith, John Downing and a guy called 'Hurricane' Higham a good friend of mine.  They're all there and it's a brilliant design.

 

Who has the original painting?

 

A good friend of mine called David Atchley has got the original. The original picture is about fifteen inches in circumference I think.  I've never known who the pirate guy in the top branches is - any ideas?  He's wearing a Scotsman's bonnet, maybe he's a Scotsman?  This album was the one which was in the top of the import charts or second in the import charts.  I think I've still got the cutting that my friend Don Peachey sent me from the Philippines.  I'm second and Bob Dylan is first.  Sides didn't hit the big commercial stuff they wanted nevertheless there was a strongish following and the albums were fairly regular it was after the 1984 album that things got difficult.

 

I always liked the quote on the back cover: "This album is dedicated to those who still champion the old-fashioned ideals of beauty, lyricism, and grandeur in art against the tide of cynical intellectualism and dissonance"  Was that aimed at anyone in particular?

 

Yes, I think it was meant, absolutely.  I think there were a lot of trends and tides really with Punk in particular, which I have nothing against personally.  If I'd been ten years younger I would probably gone along with it myself.  I DID resent the way in which everybody was supposed to go into a kind of reverse gear and that was the only cool thing to be doing.  It was like a party line.  But I think it was the message whereas in the Sixties the message which may have been very naive but it was very, very positive whereas this was very negative.  The idea that 'bad playing is cool' was quite worrying in that they couldn't actually play their instruments and it was the fact that it was taken too seriously and turned into a big thing; a fashion and it was exploitation.  If you wanted to go out and play some honest, rough music then; no problem at all but that was really, really cynical with the turncoats that one day had been praising the bands and the next day when the new thing was in started rubbishing them, it was like Stalin in a way.  People had a tendency to go along with it and somebody had to stand up because otherwise there were no ideals and values and I found also in the classical world I found myself unable to deal with a lot of this dissonant music which seemed to be over-intellectualised and where people just seemed to be saying, to my way of thinking that something was really great and new and avant garde and it was really passť to write a melody and make nice sounds.  This argument that because it was a dissonant world with the bomb and stuff; the music had to reflect the age in which you live and because this is a terribly threatening age the music should sound awful.  I mean, you look back to the Sixteenth century there was the most wonderful music written and conditions were unbelievably awful. There was no bomb but there were constant wars and people lived in the most appalling conditions yet there was this most wonderful music being created at the same time.  So I was really having a go at that attitude from the avant garde classical people.

 

Did you write all the music for the album or were any pieces written in collaboration?

 

No, I wrote none of it, in fact I stole it all! (laughter).  The Salmon wrote most of the Scottish Suite, Lindsay did that piece, I think Chris Bonington wrote K2 and Mao Tse Tung wrote Chinaman.  I think I wrote most of it.  On Tremulous I didn't write all the flute part out for Mel Collins, he just blew away and mainly improvised.  I think apart from that and the Scottish Suite it was all pretty new stuff, Mike helped me a bit with Lucy: An Illusion but it was more in terms of the playing more than the writing.  He probably advised on the shaping of it but didn't do any of the writing as such.  So, it was all me actually.

 

All self-penned on the back of bus tickets?

 

That's right.

 

What's your favourite track on the album?

 

People always ask me if I have a favourite track and that's the last thing I have.  I don't want to listen to them unless I have to do compilations (Ant is alluding here to 'Anthology' which we were to brainstorm on later in the day).  I was quite disturbed to find in the readers poll this was number four in the all-time list.  I've always thought of it as an album that people either like or loathe; it's very strange.  Because it's a hotch-potch but some people think it's a nice mixture whereas I would have thought that it's an album where people like some things and not others.  It doesn't pretend to be anything that it's not, that was all that was practicable at the time and I thought it was valid to put some of these pieces down and put them down in a combination and try to make a flow from them which is difficult because the stuff is already written.  It was almost like a compilation in a way with running themes and the cover helped.  I know from what I've been told that people do like these sort of titles, the sort of whimsical stuff.. I've remembered the Christmas single which we mentioned before and of course, Bing Crosby had just died and I remember Tony Smith saying; 'There will only be ONE Christmas single...'  Peter Cross always remembered that line but Peter also remembers Brian Murray-Smith talking on the 'phone about Tarka and saying; 'We really like this package...it's really good..No, no there are no otters on this one...'  It stemmed from when we were trying to sell Tarka during the Punk era which was all very badly timed and nobody was interested.  Tarka did the rounds of the record companies and can you imagine Tarka coming out while Punk was going down?  And we were trying to sell Sides at the same time and I overheard Brian Murray-Smith who was Tony Smith's sidekick, a terribly nice guy, saying this over the 'phone to somebody and that became an absolute classic !!

 

How did Andy McCulloch end up playing on the Scottish Suite?

 

Good question.  The stuff being more sort of electric for the Macbeth project which was where they wanted some stuff that was quite band and ideally they wanted a Genesis or a Floyd to do it so I got Mike to come over and play bass on it.  I can't remember what the drumming situation was although I'm sure that I'd tried to get Phil Collins.  Earlier in 1976 I was involved with the first Peter Gabriel demos.  It was a strange combination of people who did those demos.  There was John Goodsall from Brand X, Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins and me!  I played piano on Here Comes The Flood.  John Goodsall was good and he had a quite scatty sort of style.  It was absolute dynmite playing with those two as a rhythm section as by that stage they were so good.  I tried to get Phil and he wasn't available.  I don't remember where Andy McCulloch came from although he played with Greenslade.  Although I didn't know them, I knew the chap who was their sort of roadie or manager; a guy called Jeremy Ensor who was known as Obbal who was in a group with David Thomas.  He played with a group called Principal Edwards Magic Theatre who actually played at the Albert Hall which is something I haven't done!  Greenslade used to drop in at Send on their way to Guildford gigs so, I suppose I must have already met Andy McCulloch then and maybe kept the contact although I really don't remember.  He was nice but it would have been nicer to have used Phil.  That session was done at Olympic, a sort of day there just to knock all the tracks down and some of it was transferred from my machine.

 

So the tracks had all been pre-recorded before you went into the studio?

 

Yes but things like Parting Thistle; the acoustic one, that was done at home I think it was just the electric ones recorded at that session.  It was backed by Fuse Music who Genesis were published by for a while and then went bust.  They were actually very nice guys who invested in quite a lot of things and this one obviously was quite an interesting one but a bit of a long shot.  I've still got the tapes of what they gave me as the starting point with the dialogue which had Glenda Jackson as Lady Macbeth and Michael Jayston as Macbeth.  I had to put the music to their dialogue.  When I used this I was probably on dodgy ground really but nothing had happened to it for five years and I hadn't been paid for it, so I decided to try and get something back for it.  Some of the Amorphous, Cadaverous and Nebulous stuff was very powerful because it was during the dark stuff in the play.  I tell you what we also used; I've just remembered this actually, because The Geese & The Ghost had been recorded but not released as this was the terrible summer of '76 where I was just mooning around wondering why nothing had happened to that.  I was doing lots of stuff to keep busy and we used some of the lyrical sections in Henry in some of the speeches.  Curiously enough some of that medieval slightly sparse, plaintive stuff worked incredibly well with some of the quite violent speeches rather than having crash, bang, wallop and so on.  Sometimes the opposite things work as a counterpoint.  Misty Battlements worked. the best in that situation.


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