When I was a young, impressionable sort of chap, inexperienced in the ways of the world and just dipping my toes into the world of playing music, I thought that all a band had to do to make it big was to make good music.
Time has robbed me of this delusion however, because, all too often good bands are allowed to fall by the wayside and the fame, fortune and legend that is rightfully theirs is denied them. There are many reasons for this, such as fashion or money, but a lot of it comes down to pure dumb luck.Some bands get the breaks and some bands don’t.
One band who didn’t get the breaks was Liverpool’s Come in Tokio. The fact that fame was not to be this does not diminish the fact that the music they made was some of the best to be committed to tape. In fact, to those in the know, it adds to their legend. Come in Tokio have become a legendary lost band. A band who should have made it but who instead have a special place in the hearts of those who know them.
My own first exposure to the wonderful music they made was on John Peel’s Radio 1 show. Come in Tokio recorded three sessions of four songs each, featuring such classics in waiting as Say You’ll Never Go Away Again and Nature Call. Their sound was huge in scale and ambition, driving, epic and emotional rock anthems whose natural home should have been on stage in front of increasingly bigger audiences.
After such exposure, it should have been a done deal that Come in Tokio were snapped up by the record companies that had started to circle the band, but for whatever reason, this never happened and the expected breakthrough fell away.
But the worth of a song, and of a band for that matter, is not measured in terms of records sold but is instead measured by the worth of the art they create. And in that case, Come in Tokio are one of the most successful bands I have ever heard.
Sun-13 spoke to singer/guitarist Phil Wylie and asked him 13 questions. Read on to find out more about life in lockdown, raiding the archives and seeing Ziggy Stardust with Ian McCulloch.
1. Where are you and what are you doing and how is that working out?
“New Brighton, in isolation with nearest and dearest (3 of us), feeling loved. It’s a strange time for all as we see humanity at its best and at its worst.”
2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?
“Trying to remain philosophical, though frustrated at times, always hopeful things will get better sooner rather than later.
Before lockdown in March I was gigging 1,2,3 times a week, my week usually consisted of prepping the forthcoming gigs”
3. What have you been up to recently?
“I’ve been rummaging through boxes containing photos, cassettes and DATs from my Come in Tokio days, laughing, cringing, loving, listening to a wide variety of music (mainly 60’s and 70’s). Discovering things I missed first time around and rediscovering old favourites.
I don’t tend to go out as I spend my working life in pubs and clubs. The lockdown has stopped that routine and to fill in my time and to alleviate boredom I’ve been on a journey to find old Tokio stuff, pictures, songs etc. purely on a sentimental journey.
I found stuff I never knew I had, so I put them on computer to dick around with speeds, tones and frequencies, which has been laborious but interesting for me and occasionally learning some additional songs by others to include in future gigs.
I’ve been shielding during this time for myself and for my wife who is recovering from successful cancer surgery. So in truth, apart from not being able to gig, things ain’t that much different in our household other than less money coming in.”
4. When did you last get into an argument?
“Had a real ding dong with a hotel in Southport over a parking fine about 5 years ago.
Generally, if people think differently to me, that’s their truth, I do draw the line at racism and Tory supporters but all my family and friends are like minded so it doesn’t occur.”
5. When did you last shout at the TV?
“Today, Matt Hancock. Emphasis on the cock.”
6. When did you last consider quitting social media?
“I haven’t, because I’m not selling or promoting anything I just dip in and out to stay in touch with friends.”
7. Did you have any hobbies as a kid?
“I was football and cricket nut. Also, our mum worked at Birdseye and was in something called the record club so for a small fee my brothers and I would choose and collect 3 singles from the charts each week.”
8. What was the first gig you went to?
“David Bowie, the Ziggy tour, Liverpool Empire 1973. I was a fan after seeing Starman on TOTP, my brother asked for a ticket from our parents, it was given on the condition he would take me and included in our group of four who went was Steve Spence, the drummer in The Crucial Three and Ian McCullough.”
9. When were you last told off?
“What day is it today….I was told off last week for being too considerate a lover.”
10. What’s your first memory?
“Two strong musical memories on hearing We can work it out by the Beatles and Reach out I’ll be there by The Four Tops, even as a kid they both blew me away and left me with emotions I didn’t understand.”
11. What’s your guilty listening pleasure?
“I understand the question but I have none. If people think differently, fuck ’em.
As a kid Herman’s Hermits, but before Bowie, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney and in the late 80’s Harry Connick Jnr.”
12. Vinyl, CD, MP3 or Streaming?
“CD and streaming YouTube.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“Thanks Banjo. Buy low, sell high.”