Hits - July '80 (UK)
INTERVIEWING ROCK stars, dear reader, isn't always a matter of a cosy, relaxed chat in some top-flight record company office or luxury hotel. There are times when matters can be a little, ah, difficult. Take, for instance, that muggy Tuesday afternoon in London Town after I've made my way through the intermittent drizzle to the offices of the Boomtown Rats' manager, the unpronouncably-christened Fachtna O'Ceallaigh.
Once there I'm dumped in a completely empty attic with three restless and grumbling young men; Steve Jones and Paul Cook, former guitarist and drummer with a well-known punk rock combo, and one Andy Allen who is somewhat less familiar as the bass player in the Lightning Raiders, a belated psychedelic/hard rock venture.
Apart from their current indecision over whether or not to employ a second guitarist, this happy trio would like it to be known that they are now The Professionals, a new - one month old, in fact - band who have a new single out on Virgin called "Just Another Dream".
They're very excited about this slice of definitive Cook/Jones gear and the album of more of the same which they're just finishing. They're so excited, as it happens, that the rest of the afternoon has to be spent virtually bullying them into talking about anything else.
Paul Cook, who can barely stand to stay in the room, insists that it's " all been said before". While Stove Jones attempts to keep some kind of conversation afloat, urging "Go on then, go on then" when his partner is doing his best to sink it.
Steve agrees initially that the business side of it all is important, especially with the whole of the Pistols' finances being taken into the hands of the Official Receiver.
"We're still under the old Pistols' contract with Virgin." Steve moans "and they just keep bringing out all these singles and there's nothing we can do about it. They'll just keep doing it until we get a now deal sorted out."
What was the last thing they'd been happy to see released?
"Never Mind The Bollocks". sneers Paul.
"Yeah", Steve agrees.
ON THEIR own admission, though, they've been pretty sloppy about looking after their own affairs. There was a lengthy gap from the split with Malcolm McLaren to their taking up with O' Ceallaigh. They used to drop into Virgin Records for the odd cash handout but beyond that, according to Steve:
"We didn't need a manager. We weren't doing nuffin'; we just couldn't be bothered."
"We was lost," sniggers Paul. "He didn't know what to do without Malcolm," echoes Steve.
Steve becomes a little more lively though when our discussion moves onto the "Swindle", in spite of Andy Allen putting his oar in with the claim that it's "two years out of date, anyway."
"What Malcolm and all that sez is a load of bollocks. He didn't plan everything; half the things came from the band and now he's trying to make out that he did plan it all."
To be fair on the other parties involved, however, the idea that the whole Pistols history was pre-planned by McLaren is one of the film's more obviously fictional bits, dramatised into the ludicrous Ten Lessons that he delivers periodically to the audience.
Steve and Paul. though, would have preferred the original Pistols movie to have been made, the one that was to have been directed by the king of American cheap exploitation-flicks, Russ Meyer. The bad taste sex-and-melodrama epic that Meyer was to make never got beyond week one of shooting -literally.
Meyer's fee swallowed up much of the original budget for the movie, with only one scene to show for it: the killing of a deer which was filmed and acted out in cold-blooded reality somewhere In Wales.
"Meyer only lasted a week.," recalls Steve. "Then he'd had enough 'cos there was no way he would have got it finished. Sid and John wouldn't have done what he wanted them to do." (Meyer apparently wanted explicit sex scenes).
Andy provides the standard hardcore Pistols' followers opinion.
"The best bits of the film was when they were on stage. And those bits weren't even made for it, they were for Top Of The Pops or whatever. All those bits of them walking around in funny hats . . stupid!"
THE SECTIONS where Steve does indeed wear a trilby as he impersonates a detective on the trail of McLaren and the missing Pistols loot were certainly an appropriate piece of casting.
Steve bitterly recalls the time they spent in Rio de Janeiro immediately after the band finally bust up in San Francisco. Warner Brothers, their Americanrecord company, offered them a ticket to England when their visas ran out; on the way home "we could have went anywhere."
"We had plenty of money when we was out there; the band had plenty of money," claims the guitarist, "before Malcolm put it call into the film. He put £150,000 of our money into the film, that's why we're skint."
Their six-week stay in Rio intended to be holiday, turned into - ironically - more filming, this time in the company of ex-Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs. Cook and Jones thought he was "great."
They came back to England to finish the staged parts of the "Swindle", more out of wanting to get the thing over with than anything else, and as they "weren't doing nuffin".
In truth, however, they weren't completely idle. Both were offered production work with young bands - Jones was even flown to San Francisco to record an outfit called The Avengers. Between them they did Joan Jett, The Wall, The Physicals, and Andy's band The Lightning Raiders.
BY NOW Fachtna has returned from a quick shopping expedition clutching a carrier bag full of cans of lager. Whatever magical ingredients these containers possess, they definitely loosen up the atmosphere somewhat. Why, Steve is even saying that he "likes" producing.
"It ain't hard. I'd rather do it than all these other types 'cos they don't do nuffin' different than what I do. Most producers are con-men. if you ask me, 'cos they just get hold of all these up and coming bands. The bands don't realise, they could do it themselves if they wanted to & these producers are getting much more money than what they're getting."
After a brief shouting match when Andy reminds Steve that this is exactly what Jones did to the Lightning Raiders, Paul gets a chance to join in
"We learnt a lot in the studio with the Pistols; we knew what we wanted anyway."
"Rotten didn't 'ave a clue," mutters Steve.
"He did." Paul counters, "But It was just a different idea."
"His idea is what he's doing now; we don't want to sound like that."
"And Sid didn't know what was going on. Sid couldn't play."
"Sid just wanted to sound like the Ramones"
How do they feel about Vicious, looking back? Could any of the people around him have stopped him coming to such an undignified end?
"No," says Steve emphatically, "At least he has done what he wanted to do, know what I mean? He just didn't give a toss. He was original 'cos everybody in groups, they do things for show, but he done what he done all the time".
Steve's hangdog features collapse even further into misery:
"This is getting depressing now, talking about him."
He disappears to find a cigarette, leaving Paul to shuffle about and stare about the room in exasperation.
Doesn't he like being interviewed?
"Not about all this."
"He didn't like talking about it then," adds the ever-helpful Andy. "Let alone now. Its like asking Paul McCartney when The Beatles are going to get back together."
Paul suddenly turns round, laying it on the line;
"The thing is, we've got a new band and a bloody new single coming out."
Steve returns in the middle of a fit of belching:
"Are we on the front cover?"
Paul begins to get angry:
"Just the two of us? I don't want to be on the front cover if it's going to be headline like 'Pistols Talk About The Swindle'."
THE SUGGESTION that we discuss their more recent musical history, like the disastrous collaboration with Jimmy Pursey last year and The Greedies excursion just before Christmas, is greeted by an explosion of laughter. The suggestion that the public might actually be interested in such matters is dismissed contemptuously
"I don't give a toss what people are interested in," shrugs Jones,
I argue that there must be a point where they do care, such as whether people are interested enough to buy The Professionals single?
"Yeah," admits Steve grudgingly. He then proceeds to account for their quick in and out with Pursey.
"We went into the studio with him 'cos he wanted us to join him. But he's a tosser, so we didn't bother doing anything with him.
"We couldn't believe it when we actually met him. He was all mouth and he cried - stuff like that. He's too emotional. All he wanted to do was be a Sex Pistol."
So why didn't they just go straight ahead and get a band of their own together then?
"Cos we're lazy."
"We thought we'd get a load of money for doing something that wasn't too bad."
"We could have made a load of money, but he just put us off it."
Did they do The Greedies single for similar reasons?
"Out of boredom, really." The only activity which does appear to have remotely interested Cook and Jones since the demise of that well known band is the three months they spent in Canada earlier this year. There they took part in filming what Steve describes as a "there's no business like show business" movie called "All Washed Up."
Set in Pennsylvania, but filmed in Vancouver "because it rains a lot there," the film follows the fortunes of three rival groups, The Looters, an all-girl outfit and a hippie group The Metal Corpses (which includes two of The Tubes).
The Looters consists of Steve and Paul in their usual roles, Clash person Paul Simonon on bass, and "Scum" star Ray Winstone as the lead singer. Steve and Paul. who were asked to appear in it by director Lou Adler's assistant, Caroline Coon, have also written four songs for the soundtrack album.
After last year's half-cocked schemes, Jones admits it was "a great change" for them. He even likes the film itself:
"It' a good comedy, it'll do really well."
AND SO to the Professionals. Where do Cook and Jones musical efforts stand now. against the background of all the changes in rock since that fateful San Francisco concert?
They're in agreement that they hate "all this shit that's going around now, this ska crap. It's just nostalgia, it won't last long." The only bands they admit to liking are The Basement 5 and Killing Joke
'That's the sort of gear we play," says Steve of the second of those bands, "but better."
What do they think of Public Image Limited?
Paul thinks "some of it's good" while Steve respects Lydon's stance:
"At least he's doing what he wants to do, he ain't bothered about what the audience thinks."
Had they always wanted to be more part of the rock 'n' roll mainstream than that?
"Yeah," says Steve, "you get more enjoyment out of playing hard tunes than just messing about like John does."
Just before we wind up. it's a quick descent to an office below to cop an earful of some unmixed tapes of The Professionals album. "Hard tunes" a-plenty!
For a band who've not performed live, the tracks crackle with a ridiculous amount of energy and excitement, Steve's grinding guitar in particular bringing a smile of welcome familiarity. Like he says.
"We've got our own sound, don't ya think?"
All material ©1998/2002 'Philjens'/www.cookandjones.co.uk