The soundtrack album cover image on the cover of Australia’s Juke no. 302 is the only Robin content in the issue, but it’s still a remarkable piece of Times Square history. In Melbourne at least, PolyGram Records promoted the heck out of the film’s premiere for an entire weekend, and the magazine gave away posters and copies of the soundtrack. If there’s anybody reading this who remembers any of this happening, I’d be very interested in hearing about it.
BIG PUSH ON ‘TIMES SQUARE’
By Brian Jones
To promote the opening of the Times Square movie in Melbourne this week, PolyGram Records have come up with a unique idea.
To take Time Square to the city square. Over the weekend they hired out the huge video screen at the Melbourne city square where excerpts of the movie were flashed with lots of plugs for the double soundtrack LP and other PolyGram product. If you caught the screening, you’d have noticed that JUKE Magazine got its whack of plugging as well.
To celebrate the release of the movie, not to mention Roxy Music coming into Melbourne (certainly a big plus in their promotion as Roxy are featured on the soundtrack as well!) JUKE is this week giving away 12 copies of the soundtrack LP. Write to “Times Square” competition, care of this magazine, and tell us three of the artists on the LP, with your name and address on the back of the envelope.
And for Melbourne readers, the first 20 to waltz up to the Juke offices during business hours and ask for it gets a special colour poster.
The movie, which premiers on Feb 5, is about two runaways who end up at Times Square in New York, and is produced by Robert Stigwood.
In the “Times Square” movie, Tim Curry plays an all night disc jockey who gives his listeners a running account of the two runaway girls’ progress.
Pages 6, 7, and 13 contained articles on three of the bands with songs on the soundtrack, one of whom (Roxy Music) was playing in Melbourne that week — although the interview with Phil Manzanera had been conducted a week previous, while the band was still in England. The articles are all branded with a big Times Square logo (unique to this magazine), but make absolutely no references to the movie. I’m reproducing the text below because they’re a bit of a window into the world the movie was being released into, but they have nothing to do with Times Square, and even less to do with Robin Johnson.
And note that one of the articles in the magazine was written by “Betty Page,” and another by “Brian Jones.” I don’t know what to make of that.
XTC in NEW YORK
Betty Page finds them slaving for the Yankee dollar
Once big in trousers, now big in the States? Five minutes into New York and the taxi driver (always good for copy, dese guys) wants to know in his best Brooklynese “are dey like da Beatles?”
Funny he should say that! Here’s the city mourning not only a death but the fact that any Beatles reunion of any sort is over, and you have XTC who have similar characters — Terry Chambers like Ringo (whacky/moody), Colin Moulding is a Paul (pretty bassist), Andy Patridge is a John with pebble specs and aggressive humour and Dave Gregory is George, the strong silent type with a schoolboy’s face.
Four individuals, churning out pop song after commercial pop song, yet experiencing the ultimate frustration of being denied enormous popular acclaim, after so much hard grafting.
Due to some particular warped business logic, XTC have been touring constantly for 20 weeks (although Andy reckons they haven’t stopped since 1977!) the last half of which has been spent in the USA. This tour’s had its peaks and troughs but, with the backing of the big guns at RSO, Black Sea has launched into the Top 100 and a prestigious support for the Cars at Madison Square Gardens.
I arrived to find the boys a bit ruffled (they’d just seen the sleeve of their next single ‘‘Sgt. Rock” botched by the art department into a variation of Corporal Clot) and homesick for home in Swindon. They’d just been to New Orleans and recounted the constant sun, desert and cacti of Arizona, “we’d only seen them drawn in the Beano (a British comic book — ed) and I made up some cactus jokes especially. What’s the difference between a Scotsman and a cactus? At least you can get a drink out of a cactus!”
The show on Long Island was lacklustre. Their superb soundman Steve Warren had quit after an argument with their manager, and it showed. So too did tour exhaustion. There was so much cussing that even the groupies held back! Groupies haven’t been a XTC forte but, for a band that virtually celebrates its ase-xuality, they now attract a particular brand of predatory females.
Andy: “It’s getting worse. Some of them are real elephant dogs! Others just want to show you their portfolios. I’d rather take to my bed with my plastic tanks”.
XTC are clearly very tired. Despite that, they had to fly back to Britain in a few days to start another tour, and they angrily knocked back offers to do a visit to Scandinavia.
“It’s just piled up since ’77” Andy explained. “I refuse to do anything for at least a couple of months. I want to work on some singles, concentrate on that before the next album.”
The next day was concentrated on doing interviews — and the American press still seem preoccupied with Barry Andrews, who left two years ago, and refer to Dave Gregory as “the newcomer”.
Dave takes it all in good humour. He talks about his dreams and nightmare. His nightmare is to come out on stage on day, plug in and “sound like Ted Nugent”. The dream is to own as many perfectly formed guitars as possible — maybe form his own guitar harem with all of them wearing veils! He tells of the time when they did a tour with Police, and manager Copeland ticked off XTC for not giving everything onstage. The talk made them think; now they gyrate onstage.
Andy was lambasted for “not wearing a decent shirt”. Couldn’t he afford one?
“To be frank, no!”
Not even Sting’s cast-offs?
“No! (recoils in horror) I’m living in that man’s shadow. Been in a bloody coach with him for eight weeks. He nicked all my ideas in the first place. All three of the Police used to come down the Fulham Greyhound (pub) and watch us. He said his favourite song was ‘All Along The Watchtower’ so you can see where they’re coming from!”
The Police spectre looms large. When Police travel the world and play exotic places like Bombay and Cairo, they’re huge. When XTC play the same places then they’re just working hard. Could XTC have such a superhero? Men in backrooms have toyed with the idea of making a sex symbol out of Colin Mulding, trundling him forward more often and pinching some limelight from Andy.
But isn’t Colin too passive, isn’t it too late for a change of image into some sort of double-fronted Cheap Trick style combo?
According to Andy, it’s already started to happen. “I think he’s got a lot more teen appeal than I’ll ever have. I always thought I looked like a tortoise who’d just had his shell ripped off! He comes forward already; he sings the singles, it’s him on Top Of The Pops, not me. I think people associate Colin with singing the singles. A lot of people think he’s our lead singer, those that know our singles. There’s a split identity.”
XTC are having a series of hit singles including “General And Majors”, “Living Through Another Cuba” and “Towers Of London” continually increasing their hit records. In England they have a passionate following but really no image except for Patridge’s cynical persona. In America, they can be easily manipulated; in fact, because all five have such strong personalities, a TV series of films could catapault them into the big time. As yet, America hasn’t decided if they’re clever, banal or intriguing; so they just love them!
First night at Madison Square Gardens. Patridge is nervous and limits his onstage patter. But they go down well. “The next band on is the Cars — don’t be too hard on them”. After a record company guy comes over and ticks them off, in case the Cars feel insulted. Wha-a-t! Come on, oh well, tough shit.
So the struggle goes on. They’re confident that they’ll break through, it takes a bit of time. But at the moment they’re all very tired and very homesick.
Andy: “I just want to re-evaluate our whole position. It may turn out that we may never tour again, hahaha, what a scoop! We’ve been whoring our arses up and down the world too much, it’s obviously, not the way to do it.
“We want to try and be a little bit more exclusive. We were rather lukewarmly received at home last time. We’ll be even more knackered this time. We do need to recharge our batteries, new ideas, new approaches, this really is the end-of-a-long-piece-of-knotted-string tour, the frayed end …”
I’VE GOT ROXY IN MY HEAD
Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera Speaks to Vince Lovegrove
“If it weren’t for the Beatles I wouldn’t be playing music”, Phil Manzanera told me by phone one week before Roxy Music arrived in Australia.
“They were a great influence on all of us. You know, when you’re a certain age you really get excited by certain groups. But it’s a bummer about Lennon. A great tragedy. We’ve started doing a tribute to him. Sometimes we do “Jealous Guy”.
Manzanera had just rushed back to his hotel after a sellout concert in Manchester, England. The reason for the rush from the concert hall wasn’t to take my pre-arranged phone call, but to order some food before the hotel kitchen closed.
“It’s the typical rock scenario. Most hotel kitchens close early and then you can only order sandwiches. We have to get back from the gig in a hurry so that we can have a decent meal.
“New York’s different, of course. It’s a twenty four hour city. It’s a bit dangerous, but exciting and stimulating-for a short time”.
Phil Manzanera is an articulate, quietly spoken man … on a Manchester to Sydney telephone call, at least. Although I’m not a diehard Roxyite, I quite like the band, and found myself locked into Manzanera. In fact, as Bert Newton once said to Mohommad Ali, “I like the boy!”
I found his casual thoughts on rock’n’roll and life in general very honest and realistic. Not at all like rock’n’rollers whose conversations begins and ends with the ‘virtues’ of rock music.
In fact, from his early 1970 experimental days in Quiet Sun to his 1976 ‘one off’ album band 801, Manzanera has always seemed to me to be the one who has taken Roxy Music into the provocative areas of rock music. Obviously, Brian Eno added his eccentricity, but he has never really stayed within the confines of Roxy Music like Manzanera.
And it was Manzanera’s honesty that first told us about dissatisfaction within the group after their fourth album, Country Life.
And while it was Ferry who announced in 1976, that Roxy Music were about to enjoy a trial separation, it was Phil Manzanera who immediately rushed headlong into producing 801, ensuring that the genius of Brian Eno would finally be recognised outside the confines of Roxy Music.
“Actually, that was an incredible period. It made me realise just how much the business side of rock’n’roll can ruin the very essence of the music itself.
“It was the business side of it that stopped Roxy moving for three years.
“You get caught on this incredible momentum, that just doesn’t stop. You have to deliver an album, then go on tour to promote it, and by the time you’ve finished you’ve go to deliver another album. Consequently, you don’t get time to write any material.
“You get locked into a cocoon, getting transported around in an unreal world and just don’t get time to develop as a human being.
“We just had to stop the merry-go-round, get off and become human beings again”.
It was during that re-kindling period that Johnny Rotten spearheaded the movement that saved rock’n’roll from a pathetic, self indulgent, financially bloated, slow agonising death. And one of its staunchest supporters was Phil Manzanera.
“I think Johnny Rotten is a very interesting character. He has a great sense of humour. I admire him greatly.
“The entire punk movement was fantastic. It gave rock music a much needed kick in the arse. It provided heaps of enthusiasm, inspired amateurs and showed that anyone could start a group”.
In total contrast, it was the pure jazz/classical influences of English contemporary band Sky that smashed the snob inspired anti rock music feeling that once existed amongst highly trained, technical musicians.
“Rock isn’t about technical prowess, it’s about feel, “Manzanera enthused.
“Sky are great musos, and they smashed that anti rock snobbery”.
Did he know two members of Sky, Kevin Peak and John Williams were Australian?
“No, I didn’t”.
Roxy Music, during their ‘rest periods’ are quite a sporting bunch of fellas, and super whizz kid guitarist Phil Manzanera is no exception. He plays a lot of golf, tennis, and water skis when he can. That is, when he’s not spending time with his two dogs, two cats, several horses, or simply lounging around home with his pregnant wife listening to music.
And what sort of music would Phil Manzanera listen to?
“Well, I love UB40’s. They have great feel, fantastic lyrics, and memorable melodies. Then there’s Steely Dan — I love their new album. Bowie I like, Dire Straits, a band called Black Uhuru, and of course Talking Heads.
“But I think their latest album is more of an Eno album that a Heads set. They seem to have lost some of themselves, and given way to more of Brian”.
Well, I don’t know who’s going to pay for this bloody phone call. Maybe I should finish off.
After all, the group will be in Australia by the time I get off my backside and get it into Juke. And you can bet your last pair of safety pins that Roxy’s record company won’t pay for it. And I just KNOW the promoter won’t pay for it. I better finish. I’ll probably end up footing the bill again.
One last question, Phil. Is there anything special in Roxy Music’s staging this time around?
“As a matter of fact, there is. We have a very interesting stage set… not like anything else around at the moment. It’s electric in a mechanial sort of way. I won’t give it away, let me say that I still like looking at it after six months”.
with Jillian Hughes
NO RUTS ABOUT IT
Very few bands are willing to carry on when their focal point leaves. When that person dies suddenly in an accident — or a heroin overdose as in the case of Malcolm Owen the lead singer of the Ruts — then it takes awhile to get over the shock.
But the Ruts, one of the original punk bands, came up trumps. Renaming themselves Ruts DC (DC stands for Da Capo which is Latin for “a new beginning”) they went back to their original audiences, tore them apart, and are now off to America to try their luck there. Meantime there’s also a new LP of old material called Grin and Bear It.
“Last summer was probably the worst time for us” says bassist Vince Segs, who has stepped in as their main vocalist. ‘‘We’ve always known that Malcolm was doing heroin. He also had problems with his throat, which just went on him. It was very frustrating for us, because we couldn’t work a lot of the time, and it was very frustrating for Malcolm, which is probably why he went back on the hard stuff again.
“The pressure was on us — everyone was aware that the kids out there wanted to hear us, but we were being held up. We started to drift apart.”
Right after Owen died, the Ruts came up with one of their best singles yet, ‘‘West One (Shine On Me)”. But partly because it was such a change from their rock-reggae, and partly because they made no appearances to promote it, the disc died. Then the Damned stepped in and took the three — the other two are drummer Dave Ruffy and guitarist Paul Fox — on tour with them, just to give them a helping hand. The Ruts re-discovered their audience, and found enough confidence to write new songs.
Grin and Bear It is seen by some as a shoddy cashing in on Malcolm’s death by their record company Virgin, well known for Sid Vicious/-Pistols re-issues.
“It is an album we put together for Malcolm’s memory, that’s all. We wanted it out, not the record company. We didn’t have enough studio material with Malcolm to make up an LP so we put in some live things. Some people say it’s a con because Ruts fans would have all the tracks.
“That’s not so. Fans wouldn’t have the live version of ‘Babylon’s Burning’ or the John Peel (radio) session recording of ‘Demolition Dancing’ — the LP’s not intended to tear about the charts, it’s just there for anyone who wants it. The album we aim for the charts is the one we start work on soon. If anything, we wanted to bring ‘Love in Vein’ back — it was hidden on the b-side of ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’ the first time.”
Ruts DC are touring and recording with a sessions sax/keyboards player called Garry Barnacle who was on their first LP The Crack as well as Grin and Bear It.
44 x 28 cm.;
Brian Jones, Big push on ‘Times Square’; p. 5
Betty Page, XTC in New York; p. 6
Vince Lovegrove, I’ve got Roxy in my head; p. 7
Jillian Hughes, No Ruts about it; p. 13 (works);
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