New Musical Express, July 14, 1973

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Beware of the rock machine

Barbara Charone

Brinsley Schwarz for one, say they're steering well clear of it.

Brinsley Schwarz are playing nice clean rock 'n' roll these days — but they're wary of getting caught up in that rock 'n' roll machine. And remembering their past, we all know why they're wary...

Anyway, that's why you don't see the band all over music papers — or huge ads for their albums and concerts. The emphasis is on the music. Records are always released without fuss and there's no case of waiting two years for a special sleeve design.

They're doing well too. Admittedly they're still playing a lot of pubs and clubs but the recent tour with Wings brought them out to the masses.

The Wings tour also made things extremely hectic for the Brinsleys.

"We had a lot of our own dates booked up during the tour and we tried to do them as well," Ian Gomm told me when I saw them after a gig at the Torrington, Finchley. "We'd go on at 7.30 before Wings, and then go to our own gig.

"One time we flew from Cardiff to Gravesend. We didn't make any money but we wanted to try to honour our commitments.

"The tour was a good experience for us, we learned a lot from it. We all got on really well together, and really enjoyed ourselves.

"I'd never seen Paul McCartney play, so that was treat. It was quite amazing; everywhere we'd go, everyone who saw him would smile. There just seemed to be a good feeling throughout the tour.

"The last date was Hammersmith Odeon and there was a party afterwards. We played our own set at the Kensington Pub later and went to the party. When we arrived, there was no one on stage, so we thought, right, let's set up the gear.

"It was really insane, by the end we had Elton John on piano, Denny Laine on bass, Henry McCullough on guitar, Keith Moon on drums.

"Bob Andrews — our keyboard player — was on guitar."

Guitarist Gomm, who also writes and sings, joined the band three years ago.

"I've been in semi-pro groups since I was 15. At the age of 23 I just chucked in my fulltime job as a draughtsman — what I really wanted to do was play in a group."

Thinking back over his career, Gomm observes that a lot of bands don't seem want to change — "you see them one year, then again a year later, and they're playing exactly the same material."

This, he reckons is depressing, but comments: "The present trend seems to be to play the same thing, but build it up. I suppose people are reassured by seeing something constant."

Last autumn the Brinsleys did a tour with Frankie Miller, backing him on a Ten Years After quest through Britain. It was a new experience for the band — and the Brinsleys seem to thrive on change.

"We were in a bit of a musical rut at the time. You get to a point where you're not moving at the right pace.

"Frankie tried to get a band together at the time but we were a ready made solution — and he was a solution for us to try something new.

"He's in New Orleans now recording his second album. We just got a postcard from him that's a picture of a bar. All it says is, 'Out of my head'. He laughs.

The pub scene over here really strengthened the band's stage show and pushed them on to different musical horizons. A regular gig means a band must have new material — you can't play the same thing weekly to the same audience.

"When we started playing the Tally Ho (346 1082 in London's Kentish Town), the audience was quite cosmopolitan, quite diverse. The idea was that you had to play for three hours.

"The first week you'd play your usual set, but if you came back the next week, playing the same thing, they'd suss it out. That's why a change was necessary.

"In the beginning we started with a rush of our own songs — but later that mellowed out a bit. After you get over the initial urge of writing your own songs, you begin comparing them to others. Obviously you tend to think that yours are better — but after a while you get bored and you are aware that there other songs.

"At that point we began learning other songs as well as our own for the stage act."

There are people who have said that Brinsley Schwarz are insane because they have turned down a lot of good offers of tours and shows for good money, just because they insist on doing things on their own terms.

Says Gomm, "It's a hazard if a band or artist is committed to making it big. Lots of people think we're mad turning down good opportunities like Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops. But for us, those shows aren't any good. "They expect us to go on Whistle Test and play to a backing track that we've already recorded — so we'd have to strum guitars that aren't on. That's no way to present yourself.

"But we've done live television shows in Ireland and Manchester — and that's how it should be, just going into a studio and doing it. Even the Beatles used to play live on Saturday Club. The other way is such an illusion, it's gets a bit much."

Anyway, although their albums aren't in the Top Ten, Brinsley reckons they're doing OK.

"We've always done OK. It's always been a steady thing. We don't promote ourselves to the extent of putting people on. We do things a bit more normally, not as artificially as some bands.

"If we play somewhere, we just try to go back again. We play to people who like us and know what we do."

So Brinsley continue playing pubs. There are some more Wings dates in July, a proposed tour of Australia, a new album that's being recorded. Who knows, they may even make it to America before the year's out.

But will things ever change for them?

"All I can say," says Ian Gomm, "is ever since we started it's never seemed to get any worse."

Tags: Brinsley SchwarzNick LoweIan GommBob AndrewsWingsPaul McCartneyElton JohnDenny LaineHenry McCulloughKeith MoonOld Grey Whistle TestTop Of The PopsThe Beatles

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New Musical Express, July 14, 1973

Barbara Charone talks to Ian Gomm and profiles Brinsley Schwarz.


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1973-07-14 New Musical Express cover.jpg


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