1 What was the first record you bought and where from? And can you remember the price?
‘See Emily Play’ by the Pink Floyd from Boots in Northampton in 1967. I think it was in the region of six or seven shillings. (I won ten shillings on Red Alligator in the Grand National that year.)
2 What was the record that changed your life and how did it do so?
So many, but the bootleg of the Velvet Underground playing acoustic at the Bataclan in Paris did a lot to open my eyes about songwriting and presentation. It confirmed what I had suspected; that when the songs are strong enough, you don’t need to batter people with distorted guitars and shouting to get them across. See also Johnny Thunders – ‘So Alone’.
Eno taught me through his first two albums that you didn’t need to be a super musician to arrange sounds into something entertaining or even beautiful.
3 What’s your driving playlist and who, if you had the chance would be riding shotgun?
I’d be riding shotgun. I don’t drive. I have many cool driver friends to whom I regularly and confidently entrust my life on road trips. It would be invidious to pick a single one.
Dan Cross from The Perfect Disaster once made me a compilation tape called ‘Summer Of Metals Holiday Companion’. It had Steinski and Trouble Funk and Blondie and Big Stick and The Bangles doing Alex Chilton and shit. It’s very good for the open road. Otherwise, daytime: ZZ Top; nighttime: KLF.
4 What’s your favourite Elvis song?
‘In the Ghetto’
5 Who’s your favourite Beatle and why?
Beatle George: for being the nicest one and for playing guitar really, really well. I like his songs too.
6 If you were commissioned to write the theme song for any TV programme what would you choose and how would you tackle it?
I’ve been ready for the reboot of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) for some time now.
7 Which song have you always wanted to cover but never quite managed yet?
I love playing the guitar part to ‘What’s Going On’ by Marvin Gaye, but seriously… sing it? It’s never going to happen.
8 What, after a social evening, is the one album that you insist your fellow socialites should hear before they leave?
The one that finally drives them out of the house. I actually own a copy of Van Der Graaf Generator’s ‘Pawn Hearts’ for this exact purpose.
9 Which film do you wish you’d had a cameo in?
The Phantom Of Liberty by Luis Bunuel. I could have been a monk.
10 In the biopic of your illustrious career who plays you in the movie?
11 If you were on a night out with Ozzy Osbourne where would you suggest you went?
I’d suggest that we went round to my house to drink beer, smoke some dope, listen to John Lee Hooker and talk about what an amazing swing Bill Ward had. I think Ozzy would probably be down with that.
12 If you were asked to cover a Simon And Garfunkel song in the style of Frank Zappa who would you rope into the band to get it nailed?
Dear God. Somebody else: Ed Sheeran, perhaps? Doesn’t he make the pop records these days?
I think I’d find it a lot easier to do a Frank Zappa number in the style of Simon and Thingie. ‘Trouble Every Day’ delivered as an interminable soppy ballad is imaginable. Not forgivable, you understand, but within the limits of human imagination. Like war, for example, or epidemics.
13 Pete Townshend had pictures of Lily, what did you have on your teenage bedroom wall?
Tottenham Hotspur FC and Mrs Emma Peel.
14 Did you ever join a fanclub? If so, tell us about it?
I was in the old Spurs Fan Club when it was just a house near the ground where you could buy a beer and a slice of the club secretary’s mum’s bread pudding. That was good. I’ve still got the tie.
15 What’s your most treasured piece of memorabilia?
The records, hopefully. Some of them, at least.
16 What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
Patti Smith at the Roundhouse in July 1976 was pretty extraordinary. Definitely inspirational. Who knew that a band could understand each other like that? An astonishing night.
A short while later I saw the Pistols at the Lyceum. They had the graveyard shift, going on last at a midnight show after The Pretty Things, so there weren’t a lot of people left to see them. I was feeling a bit self-conscious about my long hair as I stood down the front. Looking to my left, I was comforted to see a couple of other hairy types digging the music. Double take. It was Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye. That felt good. Oh, and the Pistols could really play, by the way. Really play.
Other “special” gigs that I’ve seen at random: Ronnie Scott at a posh Oxford College Ball deploying be-bop as a weapon; Tony Conrad; Public Enemy; Screaming Blue Messiahs; The Only Ones; Kevin Ayers; Solomon Burke; Asian Dub Foundation; Spacemen 3; The Perfect Disaster; Primal Scream; Max Romeo; James Brown; Micky Greaney; John Cale.
17 Which gig did you wish you’d seen?
Oof! I have no way of knowing. I wish I’d seen Bob Dylan in about 1966. I wish I’d seen the Stax tour of Europe in 1967. I wish I’d been at that astonishing Wailers’ gig at the Lyceum in 1975 that became such a historic live album. I wish I’d seen Suicide on their Mission supporting The Clash in the hostile British heartlands in 1978, if only so I could buy them a pint. The story about them getting nicked in the Preston motel breaks my heart even as I cackle heartlessly. Oh, and while we’re at it… I wish I’d seen the bloody Clash. And Can. I wish I’d seen Can.
18 John Lydon – hero or villain?
Oh, he’s a tricky one. I don’t resent the butter adverts. Nobody had a cow when Iggy did motor insurance ads, for heaven’s sake. He’s done some really clever shit but he’s said some really stupid things. And he likes Van der Graaf Generator. Damn, he’d better not come round here. We’d never get rid of the old bastard.