Monday, 29 November 2010

Q & A with Chas Hodges

(Above: "I don't mind havin' a chat but you can't stop giving it that" Chas at the 100 Club Nov 25th)

I really enjoyed your show at the 100 Club. How many times have you played there and did you ever go and see bands there yourself?
Chas: “Must have played there 30 or 40 times. Have turned up for Skiffle nights or Rock'n'Roll nights to see & play with old friends.”

One of your special guests at the 100 Club show that I saw was the pianist Roy Young. I'm interested in his former band Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers because Dexy's Midnight Runners used to do a great cover of their song One Way Love and I've read Elvis Costello say in interviews that he really wanted his band to sound like them. Which of their albums would you recommend / what do you think was special about them?
“The band always consisted of great musicians & Cliff Bennett was always particular about sound. Even before I joined them I thought they had the best sound around. E.M.I. do a good C.D. package but I wish more live stuff had been recorded. That's where Cliff & the Rebs really shone. Live on stage.”

There was a film out several years ago called Backbeat (about the Beatles in Hamburg) and more recently there was a bio pic of Joe Meek. You were in Germany with the Beatles and you worked with Joe Meek - do you feel either film was accurate?
“My time in Germany with the Beatles was a little later. 1966. I think the film dealt with their early 61/62 years. The Joe Meek film had some flaws as far as accuracy was concerned but in general it portrayed the era very well.”

You've done quite a few covers of songs made famous by Jerry Lee Lewis. Do you think all the early big hits he had are his best stuff or do you rate much of his later work? The late John Peel (like me) had a soft spot for some of his slightly over the top self pitying country songs like "Come As You Were" (From the album Pretty Much Country.)
“Yes, my all-time favourites are his 50's stuff but he certainly made some Country records that put the rest in the shade. One of my favourite later recordings is 'You're the One Rose.' He told me his dad used to sing it. Unlike Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino who as soon as the fifties were over, so were their best recordings, Jerry Lee was offering some even better piano playing for instance. In the 63 tour when I & the Outlaws backed him his piano playing was the best it's ever been. I was lucky enough to be there. I always say that Jerry Lee taught me the piano. He did, but he didn't know. It was just watching him every night on that tour & trying out the bits I saw & heard at the end of the night that I gradually began to become a pianist.”

How enjoyable was Jerry Lee Lewis to be around? Did you feel relaxed in his company?
“Most definitely. When musicians click like me & Jerry Lee, there is just a certain look on stage you give each other mid-song, in times of a fleeting meeting of a special synchronised musical moment. He has quoted me as his all time favourite bass player. His guitar player Kenny Lovelace told me so.
Jerry Lees fleeting mid-song look has told me so.”

How well did you know Gene Vincent? Do you rate Ian Dury's lyrics in the song Sweet Gene Vincent?
Chas: “I thought it was a great song. I knew Gene pretty well. We were on the road together for about six months at the end of 1963 into 1964. We all slummed it together in the band wagon. I remember all the band & Gene kipping together in one room while on the road. We had a great laugh. Crates of beer.  There's some stories in 'All About Us' by Chas Hodges. John Blake publishing. In the first half of the book before me & Dave got together.”

Dury always heaped praise on Charlie Gillett and described him as being his mentor. In one interview he said that originally when he sang "Wake Up & Make Love To Me" he tried singing it in a Barry White style accent and that it was Charlie Gillett who insisted he sang it in a London accent. Did Gillett help or offer you advice and did you have a similar period where you were unsure as to whether you should sing in an American style or not?
“As far as me deciding to sing in my own accent rather than the mid-Atlantic style, that came to a head while touring America with Heads, Hands & Feet. I felt a fraud singing to Americans in their accent. So when I came back I called Dave & told him of my new idea. We had known each other for some years. I said I'm ready to give up bass & take up piano as my instrument & start writing songs about things I knew about & sing 'em in my own accent. Did he want to form a duo? Dave was slightly unsure initially but then fancied the idea. And so we did. Charlie Gillett was so into honest music & his encouragement was so crucial in our early beginning.”

Morrissey says he is proud of the fact that he was written songs with odd words that got in the charts. For example he had a top ten hit with a song called Suedehead. Stereotypes by The Specials features the line "He drinks his age in pints and drives home pissed every night". Are there any words you're proud of shoehorning into hit singles?
“Not in particular singles but I do remember doing a live version of the 'Sideboard Song' in the early days (pre-recorded) & juggling a couple of lines around to end up being 'his arseholes hanging in rags' & 'kick him in the bollocks if he comes round here.' They edited out the 'arseholes' phrase but we got away with the 'kick him in the bollocks' portion. They played it around tea-time of a Saturday afternoon. Can't remember anyone complaining.”

Garry Bushell champions lots of comedians and musicians I like (including Chas & Dave). However, he does seem to enjoy playing the the part of a non p.c. pantomime bad guy and just can't help winding people up. In this interview with the Independent ( he's described as "frighteningly right wing". Are there many things Garry says that make you groan a bit or is he all good in your eyes?

“Garry was the first journalist to slag us off when he was working for Sounds. Then was the first journalist to admit he had got it wrong & declared himself a fan. I love Garry dearly but do not like his 'England Forever' views. I do not go around saying I'm proud to be British. I go around saying I'm proud to be part of the Human Race.”

My favourite comedian was the late Peter Cook and like you he was a Spurs fan. Did your paths ever cross?
“Unfortunately no as I was a fan.”

You and Paul McCartney are both fans of the Hofner bass guitar. What are the advantages of having a hofner / what makes it special?
“It was the best value for money bass guitar available when we both took up the instrument. I bought mine in 1959 perhaps about a year before he bought his. Mine fell into disrepair in 1963 when I bought an Epiphone & then later a Fender Precision. They used my original bass in the Telstar film. They got it restored for me. I used it on my solo album which came out last year. The bass still sounds great. In fact better than the Precision. Paul is like me. His ears tell him what's good. Not who made it.”

Jack Clement (the legendary producer at Sun Records who discovered Jerry Lee Lewis) holds you and Dave in high regard. Does getting praise from someone like him mean more to you than getting a Brit award or a gold record?

What are your future plans? Will you and Dave ever record again / will this tour really be your last?
“This tour will be our last then we will both go ahead to do what we really love doing for the rest of our lives. Dave is a master builder & restorer of gypsy caravans. There is nobody better in the country. If not the world. He loves driving his horses & loves playing his banjo at home.
I love writing, recording & being on the road.”

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