in conversation with
25th March 2007
Paul Myers, bass player with The Professionals, has remained one of the most elusive figures to inhabit the world of punk rock and "Cook and Jones" since effectively retiring from the music scene following the demise of The Professionals in 1982.
It therefore came as a tremendous thrill to be put in touch with Paul, who up until now, has never spoken about his time with The Professionals or of his memories of his other celebrated band, The Subway Sect.
What made the interview better than I could have hoped for, was that we hit it off straight away. Paul was great fun to talk to, very honest, and blessed with a terrific sense of humour.
After a chat about golf, swimming (Paul's a fanatical swimmer) and comparing dental notes, the conversation moved onto punk rock.....
Phil: Before we go onto The Professionals, I thought it would be a good idea to wind the clock back a little bit further and ask you what, or who, inspired you to pick up a guitar?
Paul: I have no musical background whatsoever. What happened, I was going to a Grammar school with a couple of friends, and I was a soul boy Phil, I was into lots of Northern Soul and 70s American Soul. I had no interest in going to watch bands whatsoever. But two of the guys I went to school with used to go and watch bands and they'd always come back and say..., I remember them saying you've got to see this band, Dr Feelgood it was, but I never went. They'd say "we've seen this great band". Every week there was a better band than the one before. They said Dr Feelgood were fantastic, then Eddie and the Hot Rods. Then one day they came back and said "You have GOT to go and see the Sex Pistols." I said "Who the hell are they?" This was about their third gig. Usually I just refused, but for some reason I said "I'll go along". So I went along to see the Sex Pistols. I always remember it was at the Nashville Rooms in West Kensington. I came out of there and thought, "That's it. I wanna be in a band."
It had that effect on you?
Yeah, because I didn't like bands. It wasn't just the music - the music sounded fantastic - but it was the attitude. It was something I'd never even experienced before. It was one of those defining moments. 'Cos you can go and see hundreds of bands and they don't leave that effect. I always remember - as well as the attitude - Glen Matlock's beginning bass line to No Lip and Steve Jones coming in on guitar, it just sounded fantastic. We actually had a tape of that (gig). In those days a tape recorder was about twelve foot long and weighed about three tons, so I don't know how we got it in there. The tape's been lost now. It was a fantastic tape; it was about the third gig the Pistols played. After that, with these two guys I went with, we formed a group, The Subway Sect. That's how we got into The Subway Sect. In those days it was mad, Phil. We just decided to form this group and within a month we were meeting Malcolm McLaren.
How did all that happen?
It's just weird. What happened was, the other two, Vic (Godard) and Rob (Simmons) from The Subway Sect used to see a lot of bands anyway. Just by going to see the Sex Pistols they'd see loads of people there, Malcolm, Vivienne (Westwood) and you could just walk up and talk to them. They weren't elusive. We'd started rehearsing, but we'd never played. Rob and Vic had played a little bit, but I'd never even played a bass guitar. For three weeks we were going up to Malcolm McLaren saying, "look we've got this group together." He gave us a deadline. He said "if you've enough songs why don't you play the 100 Club gig?" That gave us a target to aim for. In three months time we're playing this 100 Club gig, and that's what it was like in those days.
That was of course the Punk Festival.
Yeah, it was the Punk Festival, and what happened, Malcolm was really good, he said "obviously I can't give you any time, 'cos I'm with the Pistols, but I want to put you over to Bernie Rhodes." Bloody Bernie Rhodes! The less I say about Bernie the better. But, the good thing about Bernie was, we were able to have rehearsal rooms now. We used The Clash's rehearsal rooms, so we managed to get loads of rehearsal time.
|The Subway Sect make their debut at 100 Club. L-R Vic Godard, Paul Packham, Paul Myers
It must have been extraordinary to be all of a sudden in amongst all this that's going on?
The thing is, it wasn't, because these people weren't kind of superstars, these were just ordinary people. So I never thought "wow", it wasn't really like that. Just a whole group of people, it was a bit like the clubs I went to that played American Soul, it wasn't like everyone in London went; there was a small group of people that went to specific clubs on specific nights. It was a bit like that going to see the Sex Pistols, where you'd recognize lots of people.
Who was most helpful to you back then? You've mentioned Malcolm...
Well Bernie was helpful. He let us have the rehearsals place. Definitely Malcolm for putting us onto Bernie, and initially without having a rehearsal place we would have been stuck. Without condemning him totally, we needed that rehearsal time. So they were both helpful. It was mainly those two.
You picked up the bass guitar. Did you decide amongst yourselves what instruments you'd play, or were you inspired by seeing Glen Matlock at the Nashville?
It was nothing like that. I picked up the bass guitar, Phil, because it had four strings and I thought it would be the easiest thing to play. Plus the other two, Vic and Rob, had a few chords. We had a guy who'd done a bit of drumming, a friend of mine (Paul Packham). I picked the bass up, and just sat in my room and basically got my fingers going, and that was it.
From that point on, did you think "this is it for me; this is what I want to do?"
Yes, I did think that. I think it was part naivety. Yes, I thought it was fantastic as time went on. But it's a mad thing sometimes, after the 100 Club gig, we end up playing Yves Saint Laurent's birthday party in Paris. Not that they wanted to see us, but Bernie got the gig. Weird stuff in the first six months, but then reality set in unfortunately and the fairytale slowly ended.
What makes you say that?
It wasn't so much with the group, but Bernie did exert an insidious influence, I have to say. Lots of gigs we never got paid, and lots of this stuff I've only found out recently what happened then. We were really gullible. Bernie had been around the music business, he was a very shrewd guy; I can't knock Bernie for that. He was a very shrewd bloke, however we were very gullible. I've heard that we were offered a record contract and I only found this out a couple of years ago. There was a lot of stuff that went on through Bernie, whether he told us or not was down to him really. Ultimately it was the way Bernie got Vic to go off on his own, "you don't need those, Vic." Bernie did play a really, really big part in us splitting up, without a doubt.
How did you feel when it happened, when it was all over? Did it just peter out, or did Vic say "I'm off."
I have to say Vic dealt with it in a real unassertive way. He told me, but he didn't want to tell us. He kind of evaded it. He told me, but I don't think he actually told Rob to his face, probably because of guilt. Even to this day, Rob has held onto that. I did feel we were treated really badly, however with me it was "OK, I'll do something else." I didn't dwell on it, 'cos I could see the writing on the wall, what was happening.
It was a few years between that and The Professionals, so what sort of things were you involved in between times?
That's the thing with me; I'm either playing in a group or.... I didn't go off and join other bands. I went off and became a lifeguard. I thought, The Subway Sect have ended, and I was prepared for it because we were getting bugger all money, Phil. We had no money at all. So when it ended I thought right, like I do, I'm a bit of a survivor, I gotta do something else, so I found this lifeguard job, and I thought that would be really quite good in the summer. And I became a lifeguard. Believe it or not, that was a real asset in joining Steve and Paul when we formed The Professionals.
Actually it was hilariously funny. I'm good at sports. To this day, I'm not a musician. I met Steve and Paul in some studio, and Steve said "We're getting a group together, do you fancy playing bass?" I said "Yeah great". So I went along to Denmark Street where they were rehearsing, and Steve and Paul were saying "Do you know this song?" I'd say "Yeah I love that, love that Dolls song, love the Velvet Underground." They'd start playing it and every song I'd have to say "But I can't play it!" It was a disaster, and I could see Paul who was more serious... you could see him thinking, this bloke hasn't got a clue. However, Steve really loved my sun tan! He kept going on about this sun tan. After about an hour of not playing anything whatsoever, Steve said "You've got the job!" Paul said "hang on, hang on, we've got some other people to see", y'know, the sensible thing. But Steve was adamant, he said to Paul "No, no." and goes to me "Where did you get that sun tan?" He was more interested in the sun tan!
That's all thanks to your lifeguard job.
Yeah. It was great. At first I was doing my lifeguard job and I was playing with The Professionals. Even when we went on a tour of America I had a load of time off work which they gave me, because it was spring and it was an open swimming pool, Phil, so they'd give me time off in the winter and the spring, they were fantastic. So it worked out like that.
What else do you remember from when you did join The Professionals? Previously they had Andy Allen in the group, who played bass with them on record. Do you know what happened to him?
I met Andy once. It was probably a bit like the Subway Sect, Phil. I know they were planning to get rid, they didn't like the way Andy looked. Long hair, he looked like a hippy. All I know is that there was this transition between one minute he's in there, as you know on the Just Another Dream video he's in it, and then lo and behold, Andy's gone. They told him. I don't think he was too happy about it, but they told him. And then I was installed.
Pretty soon after that you did a John Peel session, didn't you?
I don't even remember. Really? You can probably fill in a lot more, Phil. I can't even remember that. Then when I joined we got Ray McVeigh in.
So were you in the band first?
Ray joined slightly after me. I remember being at the audition when Ray was there. I didn't join the group because it was 'Cook and Jones' - I'm not a musician, things like that didn't actually rock my boat - I joined really because I thought maybe there'd be some travelling involved in this. That's what I was into. I thought maybe we'd go on some tour of some exotic land, and after the Subway Sect and being blatantly ripped off, and Bernie justifying it, I was pissed off with all that, ending up with nothing all the time, and so I thought maybe I'd earn a bit of money as well. It sounded quite good.
The Professionals in Vancouver. L-R Ray McViegh, Paul Myers,
Steve Jones, Paul Cook
So you didn't have to respond to an advert to get in the band...
Oh no, I wouldn't do any of that. It's too much like hard work for me. I just met them in a studio. I was up there to see The Clash, I wasn't playing at the time. I went up there to see Paul Simonon, and Steve and Paul were in another studio. We bumped into one another and they knew me from going to Pistols' gigs. They said "we hear the Subway Sect split up., I said "Yeah, ages ago" and Steve just said "We're looking for a bass player, do you fancy it?" But they also knew me from that film they made, All Washed Up.
Oh yes, The Fabulous Stains...
Yeah, that dreadful film. Well Caroline Coon rang me up when I was in the Subway Sect and said they wanted me to come along to maybe be a member of the group in this film. At the time Paul Simonon was going to be the singer and I was going to be the bass player, and Steve the guitarist. Then they got Ray Winstone in.
That would have been strange, wouldn't it? Almost like a version of The Professionals.
Yes, right, very much so. I remember Don Letts being at the interview with Lou Adler (film director), but I didn't know Lou from Adam. I ended up in this hotel suite. I think Steve and Paul were there, and Don Letts. Caroline Coon was there, discussing this possibility. But it all changed and I didn't play bass. I thought, "that's ok, what the hell." It was a bit like that. So, as I said, I met Steve and Paul in the studio and said I'd come down Denmark Street, and it just started from there.
Was it an exciting time? I know you joined partly for the travel?
Was it exciting? It's funny you should say that, Phil. All I remember of the 70s was drab grey skies, Camden Town being a bit of a hovel, and it was confirmed when I saw that film, Punk In London on DVD a few years ago with the Subway Sect on it. It showed you the road outside "Rehearsal Rehearsals" in Camden where we rehearsed, and the whole road was full of litter. It was during that time, and that's exactly how I looked at the 70s actually. Very drab, very grey, a real struggle. What I remember about being in the Subway Sect, the worst thing of all, every Friday having to charge up to Camden Town and having to hunt Bernie Rhodes down for our £15 each a week. That's how much he was paying us. Relatively it's more now, but even then it was virtually nothing. I just remember all those miserable times, like that. I don't remember much excitement. Doing the gigs was good. Also with The Subway Sect, because Bernie managed The Clash, he liked to do things easy, and we were all fed up with being The Clash's support band. All that kind of thing. Looking back now, I don't remember a great deal of excitement, and partly that's why I thought, "Ah, The Professionals, it can't be any....." Although, I loved what the Subway Sect were doing; I loved The Subway Sect. I still think Vic (Godard) is one of the great songwriters, however it was bloody hard work, y'know, it was hard work. So I thought, if nothing else we might actually be paid on time. I had my job anyway; I loved being a lifeguard, so I had nothing to lose. So I thought "yeah, it's ok."
Did it work out like that in The Professionals; did it fulfil what you'd hoped?
Did it fulfil? Not really, no I don't think it did. I liked being in The Professionals, but I loved being in The Subway Sect. It was a different kind of music. (Paul paused to consider again the question). However, at first it did, it really did, but - I can only speak for me - what happened in the end was I had a major drug problem at that time, and I think a lot of.... (pause), it suffered, everything suffered. We were going on American tours and I'd wake up full of fear. Looking back on it now I'd think you're meant to be excited about going to America. But, I was petrified, thinking I am going to be really, really ill. Which I was during the first three weeks of the tour. Horror stories like that. However, being in American was amazing. I'd never been in America. What I think messed things up with The Professionals was the car crash (November 1981). It couldn't have happened at a worse time.
What I thought at the time - because to me The Professionals were fantastic - but as a fan I was always frustrated that firstly, nothing seemed to happen in England, and secondly there were always these big gaps between things, like waiting for Join The Professionals to come out.
I don't really remember. Obviously it was a lot to do with Steve and Paul. All I remember was a whole series of dreadful managers. Which is the pattern it seems, it's not the exception. It's the rule usually. We had some dreadful managers, absolutely awful. I think that was really detrimental to the group, I really do, culminating in the car crash when the album was just about to be released.
It was virtually the same week, wasn't it?
Yeah, the same week. I was in plaster for six months after that.
Car crash 5th November 1981, Minneapolis, USA
What do you recall about the accident? Is it something that you can recall?
It is actually. I recall the accident really clearly, Phil. I remember I was in the back seat and I thought our American driver.... for the last week prior to that there were a few near misses, and I remember it was about 2am in the morning and suddenly I saw these head-on lights coming towards us, and I shouted at the driver "you're on the wrong side of the road!" and then the impact. He wasn't on the wrong side of the road, the car crashed into us and the guy killed himself. But I was conscious all the way through it. My leg was really badly fractured. I remember a Police motorcyclist turning up saying "Don't worry about that guy, he just needs a hearse." What really angered me was there seemed to be a massive delay in cutting the car in half, Phil. All the while we had to stay in there. By the time we got out it was like a Hollywood film set. All the news cameras were there, it was as though they'd waited for them. To be in chronic pain - because I had bad fractures to my leg and part of my spine - and to have a microphone thrust in your face...
Is that what they did?!
Yeah, they did. There were bright lights, and this guy put a microphone in my face, and I just told him in no uncertain terms just to get it out of my face. At first, I just thought I was winded. I'd been thrown onto the seat at the back and I didn't realise the extent of my injuries. The pain didn't hit me till I looked at my leg and my foot was pointing at right angles. That's when the pain hit me. I don't know the time span but it must have been at least 20, 25 minutes, even half an hour, before they got us out. I was in agony. So to have all these film cameras there wasn't the best thing.
You must have feared for your band mates as well? Ray and Paul were in the car with you.
Ray was in the back with me. There were two girls in the back who were really annoying me because they had nothing wrong but they were screaming which made things even worse. Ray was in the corner at the back, he'd broken his hand, and I knew he was OK. I was concerned about Paul, he was at the front. Now Paul wandered off, I really thought Paul was dead.
Because Paul was unconscious with the driver, and then Paul came to and was in shock, and then he wandered off from the car. So I was calling to Paul because I was a concerned about him, but I couldn't move because of my leg which was smashed to bits. I could see Ray was OK. I was quite conscious. Although I was really badly winded, that went and then the pain came on in my leg, but I was really conscious about what was going on. I asked Ray if he was alright and I was shouting to Paul to make sure he was OK, and then he got out of the car. But then I was taken to a different hospital to the rest of them, Phil. So I didn't know what had happened. The scariest part was that we were in the car and they covered us with a big tarpaulin blanket and all you could hear was a massive chainsaw going through the roof where they were going to divide the car. So when they pulled the car apart, when they took us out - the reporters, cameramen and lights, it was just unbelievable. I'd never experienced anything like it.
Funnily enough, how I'd heard about the crash was listening to Kid Jenson's Radio One show. It was the following night and he actually played four songs from the album.
Did he? Something else that sticks in my mind is when they took me to the hospital I couldn't sit up, so I thought, oh God I've broken something in my back. This fear that I'd be paralysed came over me. Apparently I'd fractured a bone at the bottom of my back, so I said to the doctor, "I can't move." They took me straight down to surgery, but before they did that, I asked them if I could ring my Mum! I said "Look, I gotta ring my Mum" and I rang. It was about 8 or 9 in the morning in London. I didn't want to worry her and I said "Listen Mum, I'm OK, we're all alive but we've had a car crash, so if you hear anything I don't want you to panic." And with that they took me down to the operating theatre.
They operated on you there and then?
Yeah, there and then, they had to. I had fractures of the tibia and fibula and a broken bone in my back, but fortunately that was a stable fracture, that's what they called it, which healed on its own. So I was in hospital for six weeks. The other three flew back home.
How quickly were the others out?
The others were out quite quickly. Ray had a broken arm, although Ray would exaggerate if you talked to him (laughing). I just want to make it perfectly clear that I was the most badly injured!
That's right; we've got that on record!
Thank you! That's what I like to hear! I was the most badly injured; Ray wimpishly exaggerated his broken arm (laughing). I think Ray and Paul flew back after about a week.
Steve was elsewhere so he wasn't involved in the crash.
Yeah, Steve wasn't there (at the accident). But I was in hospital a long time. It happened November 5th and I don't think I flew back until December.
So were you just isolated and stuck there on your own?
The thing is, it was the most fantastic time, Phil! I absolutely loved hospital. I didn't want to leave.
Were you getting pampered?
Well, we'd played some dates and I had all these lovely American girls ringing me up. I spent all my time speaking on the 'phone. I can't even remember who they were. They were weeping; they said "I thought you were dead." In the end I gave up asking who they were. It was surreal. If you're going to be in a hospital, be in a hospital like that! Then a nurse, who was a radiologist, took a shine to me, and when I started getting better she'd sign me out because that meant she would take total responsibility, and take me back to her house, then bring me back in the morning. I mean it was blissful. It was absolutely fantastic. However, when I got back to London, I'll always remember this, Phil, I got back to my Mum's and she said "Do you want a cup of tea?" I broke down crying because I was back in the real world. It was nothing to do with my Mum but, y'know, I was back in the real world. And I think, looking back on it, Phil, I think part of the reason I loved being in a band is it's an escape from the real world. I think that's the reason I used drugs; to escape from the real world. 'Cos the real world can be.... And I'm sure that's a common thing with people, but I'm just talking about myself. I get back to London and that's when I think all the shock hit me. "Oh God, back in the real world." Fortunately the doctors in America did an absolutely fantastic job, brilliant.
Six weeks in hospital wasn't bad considering how bad the crash was.
Yeah, it was pretty good. The worst thing was, another four months I was in plaster. I had a dropped foot. All the nerves had withered away and the doctors over here said I might not be able to walk properly again. So I was adamant that would not happen. I did exercises every day. I got a Yellow Pages and did step-ups and got my foot working. But when we went back for the second American tour I still had a walking stick. The worst thing was having to get into a car again over there.
Paul with The Professionals, Hollywood, April 1982
So you really did find that frightening?
Oh, it was really frightening.
Did you feel like that back in England?
I did. A couple of friends took me out in a car and I couldn't deal with it. Because that winter, Phil, was a really bad winter, there was lots of snow over here, it was horrific. I always remember going out with Paul (Cook). He had this Volkswagen Beetle and we went up to see Helen, y'know Helen (Wellington-Lloyd) that knows the Sex Pistols, and she lived down this really steep slope. It had been snowing and Paul started his car and we just slid down to a T junction and he couldn't stop the car. We were looking at each other going "oh my God, here we go again." He did manage to stop it. My fear went on for a long time, for about a year. The worst thing about having to go back to America was the fact that we were going to have to get back into cars again. It was really frightening.
How was the morale in the band going back for the second tour after what had happened?
I think that was kind of the beginning of the end, it was starting to fall apart a bit then. Lots of things happened. We felt, I know I did, that Curdy, the manager at the time.... I don't think he even rang up to find out how we were.
After the crash, do you mean?
Yeah, that kind of thing. He was the manager and I was quite disgusted about that. However, I have to take responsibility in that when I came back to London, to escape, I went straight back into smack. I'm telling you this because this is what happened to me. I'd be in plaster, I couldn't walk, but at midnight, every night, a mini-cab would come and pick me up and I'd go and score. Every night. That's how mad it was as a way of escaping. And it wasn't just because of the crash, I had the problem before. So by the time I went back for the second tour I was a mess.
It must have been difficult going back to America with a drug problem...
I had to go on stage. I was really, really, ill for about three weeks.
How did you manage performing live?
To this day I don't know. It was a case of having to.
Steve wasn't so well himself...
No, of course. It was Steve and I, we had the problem. Not Paul and Ray. And Steve and I did some terrible things. I remember during that UK tour, a warm up to the American ones, we were in Leeds.... did you hear that story, Phil?
I know you played at a festival in Leeds...
Well this was another one. We did an English tour, we were touring around, we get to Leeds... you know what it's like, two addicts together. One addict is bad enough, but two addicts together... disaster. We get to Leeds, it's a rainy Sunday evening, Steve and I go for a walk, the worst thing two addicts could do. Suddenly Steve says "What are we doing here?" I said: "Don't ask me, what are we doing here?" It's that kind of story; you know the ending to it. "Here's us playing in this poxy club." Suddenly he says "Shall we go home?" I said "What do you mean, go home? All the gear is set up, the other two will go crazy." Anyway, we talked each other into running away. So, we didn't tell them. We dashed down to Leeds station to get on a train and we went home. It was quite exciting because we were hiding on the floor of the train because we had this idea that they would come and find us!
So we went home, we were going home to score really. We didn't score, so Steve goes home and I go home. I was still living with my Mum and Dad, and the next morning I wake up, I'm thinking "Oh my God! What have I done?" My Mum said "you've got a 'phone call", and I thought "Oh my God." I'm sure it was from Richard Branson, he said: "I'm not even going to say anything, but I just want you two on the train to play in Liverpool tonight, or else I'm cancelling the contract. It's all over." At the time, Steve didn't even have a 'phone. So I had to dash up to West Hampstead, Phil. Lo and behold I see him walking down the road. I said "Listen, we are in deep... deep... we gotta get that train." So he says "OK, but we gotta go and score first." I said "Absolutely." We had no money whatsoever, but he had these old Nazi swastika flags, and he said "I'm gonna sell these. I'll meet you at Euston at 4 o'clock." The train was leaving at half past four. I said "Listen, you gotta be there, otherwise it's all over." Steve said "OK."
Anyway, it was quarter past four, Phil. I'm at Euston and I thought "That's it. It's over." So I get on the 'phone to Virgin in a payphone, really scared thinking they are going to go crazy. I'm just about to ring them and there's a tap on my shoulder, and it's Jonesy. It was such a relief, because he had the gear as well. So we had a great time on the way up to Liverpool, but God almighty they (Paul and Ray) didn't talk to us, nor did the crew. Paul and Ray wouldn't even speak to us for about a week. Understandably. So a lot of this stuff I bear responsibility for myself, for that behaviour.
Going back to that second American tour, I think what happened, why it went downhill, Phil, was that gap (after the car crash). The album came out, then we had the car crash, then we had about four months to recover and nothing was happening. Paul came around to my place, but it kind of... we weren't a group then. We were all recovering. Steve was off; he'd gone nuts with his problems, so by the time we got together again it was almost as if we'd started all over again.
Steve Jones and Paul Myers: The Professionals in Vancouver
At the end of the second American tour, you, Paul, and Ray all came back to the UK, but Steve stayed behind.
What happened there, we had a security guard... his problem was he could get out of hand. We were going to be together for three months, However, he could also be really funny, so I said "OK". A naive thing to say, but he was (funny). Unfortunately, it manifested itself on that tour to such an extent that he became out of control and we thought he needs to go back. So we rang up John, our manager, and said we've got to put him on the plane, it's just getting out of hand. He'd turned into a Frankenstein's monster, Phil. He refused to go. Our manager did bugger all and accepted no responsibility. We were stuck with him and there was this real resentment towards us on his part that we wanted to get rid of him. It built up to such an extent that he threatened to beat Steve up on the plane back to London from New York. Things got to a head and Jonesy said to me, "I can't fly back on the plane with him, he's gonna kill me. I'll come back in a few days." Of course, he never came back. So, that's what happened, Phil.
That was all that kind of stuff on the second tour. It was almost as if we'd lost the chance, the album had been released on the previous tour, we'd had the car crash, so the momentum wasn't there.
I think you're right. A lot of people I knew that were into the Pistols and bought the early Professional stuff, by the time the album came out there didn't seem to be any mention of you in the music papers, people thought you weren't around anymore. I used to tell people, "You must listen to this album". People liked it when they heard it, but the interest had waned.
Sure. It had waned, Phil. There was that brief chance. In effect we were going back for the second tour promoting nothing. That was fair enough, but that album had died a death earlier. It was a bit too late. Whether they could have held off and then released it, I dunno. But the momentum had died. We were still playing to big crowds, it was packed places we were playing to, but we had nothing to promote.
You seemed more popular in America. I got the impression you were looking to break America more than the UK.
Maybe. I think that was partly it. With hindsight, I think it was a bridge too far, America comes later. Let's be accepted back in England, because as you know, even the Sex Pistols were treated with that animosity in America. They didn't even crack America in those days. So maybe the thing would have been to do England and Europe, and concentrate on that, and then America. However, we went about it in a different way. Also, a lot of it had to do with the drug problem, there's no getting away from that. Steve would have come back (from New York) otherwise. He walks out, he's got nowhere to go, he's got no money and he gets back into that environment again.
Of course he never really returned, did he? He's still there now.
He never returned! He's still there now! Good for him, he's clean and sober like me.
When you came back from that tour, did you think it was over, or did you expect the band to continue?
I felt it was over. I had a feeling, because with Steve and I having the same problem, we confided in each other. I just had a feeling he wouldn't come back. I had a feeling that he almost couldn't come back; when you're in that deeper hole, it's hard to get out. He was in a real deep hole over there. All I was doing was coming back to dig my hole over here. Both Steve and I were in deep holes. With Steve, the people he was mixing with, you get into that stage, when you're into drugs, it's like man-yana; "I'll come back tomorrow," but tomorrow never happens. Especially if you've got a habit, you want to stay at the source of the habit; even a flight back to London is totally impractical. Also, by the end of that tour there was a certain amount of ill feeling. It didn't manifest itself, but under the surface, Phil, it was starting to fall apart. I was very doubtful that Steve would come back. Also, I do think Paul had had enough of all the behaviour. After the second tour I do feel Paul had had enough. You can only tolerate that behaviour for a certain time. So when I came back from America, I did feel that was it. We went our separate ways.
Looking back on the album I Didn't See It Coming, is it something you were proud of at the time?
Yeah I was, but again, was I at the time? That's a very good question. Because I take responsibility and I'm sure Steve does, but with that album we were always pre-occupied with scoring.
The album came second...
Yeah, the album came second. I think it could have been better, also we had Nigel Gray, that ex-Police producer, who I think was totally the wrong producer. There was a lot of rushing into things back then, instead of sitting back and thinking, "Who should we get?" Nigel Gray seemed to be as bad..., he'd come to the studio in horse riding boots expecting to leave at 5pm to go and do a bit of horse riding. All that kind of thing, plus Steve and I whizzing off all the time. When I listen to it, some tracks I really, really like.
Which ones are your favourites?
Well, I like Friday Night Square. And it was my idea, which died a death, to open the set in America with Friday Night Square, but that ended in disaster! We did it for about three gigs and it kind of set the pattern (laughing) and things went downhill.
People were expecting things a bit more rocky to start the set with?
You had a hand in writing that one, didn't you?
We all had a bit of a hand in that one.
Musically, did you go on to do anything else after The Professionals?
No, I didn't do anything. I had so many other problems, Phil, I had to sort that out. But I just knew it was over, and also for some reason, all our equipment went. All these Ampeg speakers disappeared, all that kind of stuff. You could just tell that... there was a lot of anger there on my part about the equipment and stuff, and I just thought, "That's it, it's over."
It was all a long while ago now. What are you doing now, job wise?
I'm an Addictions Counsellor. I love it.
Really? It's certainly a good way of putting your own experience to very good use.
It is. I just kind of fell into it. I didn't think "that's what I want I to do." It was the last thing on my mind, Phil. I fell into it like I fall into everything, but that's ok. I love it. I did play in a little band about a year ago with Rob (Simmons) from The Subway Sect, called The Fallen Leaves. It was a hobby, and I absolutely loved it. But it was starting to encroach on work. I wanted it to be a hobby, playing around London, but all of a sudden we end up playing in Nottingham on a Wednesday night. Fair enough, but I've done that and I didn't want to take it that far.
It doesn't suit your lifestyle as it is now; you've got other things to do.
I've got other things, I've got a son, and my life is really good. I feel very fortunate, Phil.
And you recently had a get together with Ray and Paul.
Yeah. That's the thing, we all live on each other's doorsteps and we are all friends. Maybe it's bone idleness on all our parts, the usual thing, "I'll ring you" and we never ring each other.
We're all guilty of that with friends. It's the same with everybody, you say "I'll ring you" and you never do.
It is. I'm as much to blame; I don't get on the 'phone. We're all good friends, there's no animosity, we just never get together. Ian was the catalyst. He said let's get together and all meet up. The last time we did that was a year ago. We say we'll have to carry on doing this and we never do. The next time we meet will probably be when Ian comes over. Steve Jones has talked before about doing some gigs, but he's doing that radio show so he's got to stick around Los Angeles. I'd love to if it ever happens, but I can't see it will ever happen. I just can't see that we'd get it together to do it. It's a shame really because I'd like to do a few gigs and get us all back together, but who knows.
It's good that you are all getting along.
Oh yeah, there's no problem there. A lot of groups have fallen out years ago and they hate each other. We don't. There was no major falling out, even years ago. Ian phoned me the other night and said it was good to see Ray, Paul and me having a laugh, but we've always done that. There was a bit of animosity about certain behaviour, but we are all good friends. I think that's really good.
It's nice to hear. It's also been great to talk to you.
Yeah, it's been great. It's been nice talking to you, Phil. My pleasure.
You've been fantastic, you've been very honest...
It's about honesty for me, Phil. I am honest these days and why shouldn't I be? I've got nothing to hide. What happened, happened, and that's my story. That is my truth. I wouldn't be here had I not gone through that, and I'm only speaking for myself.
If you hadn't gone through what you went through, you wouldn't be doing the job you are now.
Absolutely. With me doing well, other people benefit. My son, clients I work with, it's great. It's been a pleasure, Phil.
Likewise. Thank you very much indeed, Paul, I really appreciate it.
Top portrait adapted from a picture submitted to www.sex-pistols.net / www.cookandjones.co.uk by Bev Davies
Vancouver group photograph taken by Bev Davies
Car crash photo submitted by Jeff Ball. Hollywood live picture taken by Phil Holmes
Phil would like to extend special thanks to Ian Stewart
All material ©Phil Singleton www.sex-pistols.net / www.cookandjones.co.uk 2007
All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission.
This feature is copyright to www.sex-pistols.net and the author and may not be reproduced without written permission.