|Always had that je ne sais quoi||Irritating little combo with no plans to reform||The most fun you can have with your shoes on|
|Click here to buy the SMIRKOLOGY album|
Radio 4 produced a documentary It's hard work, this rock and roll about the band's early days in Paris, following their transformation into the band we know and love.
This was never broadcast, but around 1988 or 1989, a documentary called "Band Of Hope" was broadcast, focussing on Distant Cousins". This used a lot of material from the unbroadcast one.
Below is an audio version and a transcript of some of the material from the unbroadcast documentary about The Smirks.
I was round at his house once. He was playing his guitar. I was batting hell out of a waste paper bin. He said, my god, you're good, aren't you. I can see there's natural talent there.
When I was about fifteen, I decided that I wanted to be a musician, and that was all I was interested in doing, and so I just stopped studying at school. I just couldn't be bothered, you know.
When I left school, we just went abroad.
We were going to Australia. We were on our way to Australia to work in the mines and earn money on motorbikes and things like that.
We just did a bit of busking and we just got to really enjoy it.
In some ways, I'm quite envious of him. I mean, when I was eighteen, I joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Sir Thomas Beecham, but I couldn't have said to my mother, I'm going to Paris to busk in the underground.
When we first got there, we'd stand still and then we sang and people walked past us whatever we played. That's when we started dancing, to try and make them stop and then, like, once we started dancing, it was great. You'd get a crowd. Crowds were great, but they never gave you any money. We used to think it was unethical to collect, but eventually we were sort of "asking them", you know, in about three languages.
one, two, three o'clock four o'clock rock...
We were young upstarts. We were much younger than all the others. They were all playing Bob Dylan and George Harrison songs. We didn't fit in with the whole pattern and so we just turned up on the Champs-Elysées playing cinema queues which they wanted to play which took earnings away from them, because we were playing places where they would have otherwise played.
Like, they were saying to us "You know the rules, lads" and all this kind of thing. And we said "Look, there's no rules, if you're playing on a queue, you just play on it, you know." You don't sort of put your name on a waiting list, like you're waiting for a council house or something. So we got picked on and it ended up with us having a fight. It was a great fight, because there was all tables and chairs, bottles and glasses sort of broken everywhere, and everybody went flying but nobody actually got hurt, which was the marvellous thing. The barman broke it all up with a big stick.
Suddenly, you know, to be playing on the street, for a van to stop and policemen to get out and herd you in and twisting your arm up behind your back and start shouting at you and you say back in not very fluent French. And they something and they say "OK? Understand?" and you say "eh, well, can you speak a bit slower?" And they get a truncheon out and sort of lean over to you and say "You'll understand with this, mate, you'll bleeding understand with this." And you do understand.
"Got any more?"
"It's gonna cost yer!"
One...two...three..four...well she was just seventeen again, you know what I mean again, and the way she looked was way beyond compare.
We got it very efficiently organised. We started off at half past seven in the morning. We'd just play a few songs, go around with a bag, you know, asking for money. Most people would give us something, and if they didn't, you know, it didn't matter. Occasionally we got people that didn't like it. Like one bloke just came right up to me and hit me in the chin, a good solid punch. We used to earn phenomenal amounts. But it was very hard work. It could make a wreck of you. You know, a couple of weeks of that and you're not fit to talk to anybody, you know, you're gibbering and shaking all the time. You know, you go to bed and you're just, lying awake shaking.
We left Paris with over £1000 each and a car and we decided, right, let's get a band. Let's be a band.
So we've got to just play lots of gigs. The first thing to do is, right, just play lots and lots everywhere. Play everywhere that we can, you know, get people. Get people to like us, get experience. And then we went down to a club in town, took our acoustic guitars, and the electric bass and we just went. It wasn't a club with a band. It was a clube with a jukebox and we just went in and unplugged the jukebox and started blasting away and luckily it was midweek and there was no bouncers, so they couldn't throw us out.
We more or less found ourselves within...some time in January...we'd only got together in December, starting to find management deals being offered to us. Talk about going down to London.
Andrew just wanted to manage us straight away. So that was good, because he was working to get us gigs other than pubs.
Andrew: I actually consider myself to be more a sort of a friend advising them and a friend who's slightly older than them, who knows a little bit more about the business. I actually am very fond of them as well.
We get £25 a week. And we get £3 a day expenses when we do gigs. I mean obviously, if we've got a number one album in the charts and have made loads of money, we'll probably get onto...£30 a week!
Andrew: "Most fees the band were getting initially were about £100. And the hire of a PA for a night is abou £45/£50. Then you have to hire a vehicle, which usually costs about £20. Then on top of that you've got petrol and then occasionally accommodation, food, and then usually you try to give the band a bit of expenses at the end of the night - couple of quid each - that's the £100 gone."
I think we all get a bit nervous before we go on. I do now, I didn't used to get nervous, because I never really ever thought it mattered. Whenever we played, I felt it doesn't matter - just go on and have fun but more and more now I'm feeling like, it does matter and it's important. I think it's a good sort of state to be in, because you're keyed up, and you're tense, and you're alert.
Good evening, Thank you for coming. I'm glad you could make it. I would ask you to meet four young men who come from Manchester - brought the weather with them! Will you please welcome The Smirks!
One...two...three...four...I've just been drinking with the drinkers...passed the time away...
Andrew: "We've actually had discussions. We've had two big meetings to discuss what they wore on stage, and luckily you've got four real individuals there, who couldn't give a damn about following fashion as such."
I started wearing suits for a while, because I got a suit for the first time in my life and I quite liked it. So I wore it for a while, but it wasn't really me. I'm tough and sort of misunderstood so now I've become a simpler character, you know, by a sort of jeans and black t-shirt, which is more sort of coherent.
Andrew: Mog is an absolute character. He comes on with these huge hob-nail shoes. He wears trousers that are too big for him and a belt that never does up properly. And his shirts have always got some stains on them or whatever. And he ensures that the band does not become, as far as I'm concerned, a teenybop band, because he's...he drinks and he never looks tidy. He ensure that he is the actual character in the band.
Mog: Anyway, what are you lot doing at our practice? Who said you could come? We hired this place, you know. No-one said you were coming. Anyway, just in case you didn't like the first single, this is the second. This'll be out in about ten years.
One...two...three...four...Betty Lou was pretty...she was the best looking girl around...
If we don't like an audience, if they are being a bit, sort of, petty, or they're being ultra-cool, I mean, we will attack them in a way, y'know? Just say, if you don't like it, just boo. Either like it or don't like it, don't mess about. There's nothing worse than an audience which is apathetic. Like, I really want to be hated or liked.
Andrew: At one stage, there was something which I found very regrettable. That was that the band, none of them went to university, they've got this feeling that students are layabouts who are just, sort of, living off the state and not doing much work. So at one concert they really started laying into students, saying "I bet none of you know what hard work is" and "I bet you just spend all day smoking dope and lying around and doing nothing" and "Why don't you get out and get a job?" and all this sort of thing. We had a long meeting after to discuss whether they ought to say those sorts of things or not in public.
Are we ready for a cup of coffee, lads?
Come on, girls, settle down...
This is a song called Wasted Passion.
It's for all the people who came too early.
They say "what are you going to do when you make it?" but I really feel that you make it every time you go on stage and people enjoy it because that's all it's ever going to be is just going on stage and playing.
I can see myself playing in forty years time, if I'm still alive in forty years time. I can see myself still playing then because there's hardly anything else in life that interests me... Drink and girls and things like that...being on stage. I mean, some nights it's horrible, but being on stage and playing. Everybody off stage and enjoying it and really getting into it. It's great, it's the best feeling in the world. There's nothing better. That's what it's all for. That's what it's about.
When you're actually on stage playing and there's people and you're getting across. We do always seem to get across. You just get surges of energy and all sorts of feelings, and emotions that all seem to surge up. It's really exciting. Sometimes you may just tingle. You just can't help it. You just get to a point in a song and you've got the atmosphere and you've got the sound and it's quite loud on stage and you just tingle. You can't help it.
Thank you! Good night! See you!
I thought you were going to bring the stage down...
That was knockout...
You begin to not know what day it is, but you don't really mind what day it is, either. It gets tiring sometimes, and there are days when you think "oh, no, here we are again playing the same songs to the same people" and you begin to wonder why you're doing it.
Being on the road, doing about twelve dates in two weeks, at first your hands are dreadfully sore. The first tour we ever did, I had blisters and all sorts all over my hands, but now, where there were blisters, there's big hard lumps of skin. There's permanent deformation in this finger here from where the sticks lashed back in my hand and produced a big lump. Leathering them every night and my hands were just decaying something terrible. But most places where blisters could come are just lumps of hard skin. It's damn hard work this rock 'n' roll. My mum thinks it's easy. She still says why don't you get a proper job. She's wondering about my pension, you know.
Click here to download the interview.
Click here for Radio 1 interview.
Click here for Band Of Hope interview.
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Page last updated by Ian on 16 June 2007