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13 Questions

13 Questions with Pete Wylie

How do we describe Pete Wylie? Maverick? Glorious pop star? Liverpool’s best songwriter? All of these are true but only really scratch the surface of a Pete Wylie’s legend.

He is one of the class of 76, who found his path irrevocably altered by attending Eric’s just as the ripples of punk had reached the provinces. Some of the stories from this time include him turning up to Eric’s wearing a toilet seat around his neck, threatening Julian Cope on the dance floor and being given a guitar by The Clash’s Mick Jones with the advice “pay me back when you’re famous.”

Wylie was part of the ‘imaginary band’ scene of the time, where members of the Eric’s inner circle would meet up and talk about putting band together, but pretty much leaving things at the discussion stage, with some bands only existing in the minds of the people sat around a table in the Armadillo Tea Rooms.

13 Questions with Paul Simpson: “Be magnificent.”

Eventually some of these bands took things further and actually got some instruments and even wrote some songs. One such band was the much talked about, short lived and prophetically named Crucial Three, which also boasted Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch in their line up.

Eventually though, Wylie really hit his stride with Wah! Heat. Wah hit the ground running with their first single being the seminal Better Scream and the classic follow up single, Seven Minutes to Midnight.

Wah’s biggest hit. Story of the Blues, saw Wylie take his epic, widescreen pop to number three in the charts, also scoring chart hits with Come Back and his solo hit Sinful.

Wylie’s voice, songs and ambitions were heroic in scope and have provided us with some of the most perfect pop moments in history.

Sun 13 managed to subject Pete Wylie to one of our 13 questions features. Read on to hear more about the Dunning-Kruger effect, CB radio and being an intellectual in disguise.

1. Where are you and what are you doing? How is that working out?
“I’m at home in Disgraceland, rueing the day my lecky bikes were stolen, and recording a song/video for The Florrie’s ‘feed the kids’ appeal. It’ll be online by the time you read this so, you can decide how that’s working out..”

2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?
“There are aspects of the way things are that suit me. Time on my own can be productive, but too much opens the Pandora’s box of the brain. I’m earning nothing either, but that is something I’ve become accustomed too, so will ride it out.

Hell is other people, as Jean-Paul Sartre said. And seeing the conspiracy covidiots skunk odoured shite makes me very angry.

The cosmic right wrong‘uns have a problem with understanding simple stuff. Like: two things can both be true at the same time. Like lockdown is vital AND the people in power can be useless scum at the same time. Dunning-Kruger in full effect.”

3. Who is the nicest ‘celebrity’ you’ve met?

“Who are ‘celebrities’? My definition differs from most. And if someone is ‘nice’, I couldn’t care less if they’re celebrities or not. Same goes if they’re horrible.”

4. When did you last get into an argument?
“I get into arguments every day, both in and out of my head.”

5. When did you last shout at the TV?
“I shout at the telly every single day. The news, the adverts, the crap, the missed sitter…”

6. When did you last consider quitting social media?
“Right now, I’m assessing daily. Facebook will be the first to go, but it’s where I get to talk to people lately, and tell people what I’m doing, so it’s a dilemma.

Where do we go when the online interference gets too much? CB radio won’t replace it.”

7. Tell us a secret.
“I’m an artist. And I’m a well educated intellectual in disguise as something else…”

13 Questions with David ‘Yorkie’ Palmer: “I have a problem with the word celebrity”

8. How would you describe yourself?
“LoudQuiet. Like a Pixies song. {they got that off WAH! y’know. Gil Norton is the mixing link…]”

9. What words of warning would you give your younger self?
“Don’t listen if someone claiming to be you comes from the future to give you a warning. You already know everything…”

10. When were you last told off?
“I tell myself off all the time. But I’m learning not to be so hard on myself.”

11. What has been your favourite decade for music?
“Without a doubt the seventies; for being there, for living it, for learning, for Bowie, for punk, and for all the great music/ films/art, and for the visceral thrill of lived experience.

But I’m glad I’m here now.”

12. What band or record changed to course of your life?

“First Bowie. I’d been into him since Tony Blackburn had Changes as his record of the week on Radio One, but Starman/ Ziggy catapulted me into obsessive love. Saw him and the Spiders December ’72, and that was it for me.

Then The Clash, differently and directly, and especially Mick Jones who was about the first person who ever had faith in me and encouraged me, and I love him for that till the day etc. And Complete Control is one of the GREAT records.”

13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“Firstly thank you. Secondly, see what you can do to help your fellow humans. finally, my motto:

GIVE A SHIT OR BE A SHIT. PWx”

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The Clash play Liverpool Eric’s: “That day everything changed… nothing in Liverpool was ever the same again”

Clash were undoubtedly Liverpool’s favourite punk band. While the Sex Pistols’ debut gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall has been acknowledged as the starting point of that city’s punk scene, The Clash’s first gig at Eric’s performed a similar magic for Liverpool.

The gig was witnessed by Jayne CaseyJulian Cope and Ian McCulloch, who went on to form Big in JapanThe Teardrop Explodes and Echo & The Bunnymen respectively, amongst other bands.

Also in attendance was one Pete Wylie of Wah! fame who, legend has it, approached The Clash’s Mick Jones after the gig to tell him how he had been inspired him to form a band.

The story goes that Jones handed Wylie his guitar with the words “Pay me back when you’re famous.” Wylie later stated “That day everything changed… nothing in Liverpool was ever the same again

It wasn’t that Liverpool didn’t love Sex Pistols, but that, apparently, they just weren’t that good when they played Eric’s, for what would be the only gig the band ever played in the city.

Also, this was only the 3rd gig at Eric’s, so both band and venue were still unknown quantities, which meant that only around 50 people were present.

Of course, over the years the number of people who have since claimed they were there is probably over 100 times the number that actually attended, such is the impact punk has made on history.

By the time The Clash played on May 5 1977, things had changed. Punk was exploding all over the country, attracting the outcasts, the curious and those in search of something to match how they felt and to give voice to the noises in their heads.

Liverpool at the time was not in a particularly good place; financially in the trough of an economic slump following the decline of its docks and shipping industries and culturally still looking for a way out of the shadow cast by The Beatles’ unprecedented success.

Musically, Liverpool had yet to find a post-Beatles identity, although The Real Thing had kept the city’s flame burning in the charts.

When Roger Eagle and Ken Testi decided to open Eric’s, Roger, perhaps sensing that change was in the air, asked those members of his club he took under his wing not to listen to The Beatles, for fear that the past would infiltrate the new present.

Jayne Casey, One of those who were so instructed, remembered “A couple of years ago we’d been to a funeral and we were all sat round a table. There was me, Ian McCulloch and Pete Wylie. Ian looked at me and said, “Have you listened yet?” And I said, “No, have you?” And he said, “No” and we both looked at Wylie and said, “Have you?” And he said, “No” and we both in the same second said, “Yes you have! We know you have!” And he was like “I haven’t, I haven’t” but we were like “We can tell from your composition that you’ve listened to them for years!” So we’re convinced that he listened, he pretends he didn’t but he did.

But the music that was being made by the new generation paid no heed to the likes of The Beatles. The Clash themselves penned a song called 1977 that famously claimed “No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones in 1977”.

The Clash (Copyright: Chalkie Davies)
The Clash (Copyright: Chalkie Davies)

The Clash were everything a band should have been at that particular point and place in music. Young, good looking, well dressed, confused and even contradictory.

Their songs combined political thrust with killer riffs, signing about hate, war, being bored and riots. Live they were described as being like “three James Deans coming at you”, as the front line of Mick Jones, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon charged and attacked, backed up by the mighty Topper Headon.

That gig revitalized the city’s music scene. People met there and were jointly inspired to do something.

What nobody could have predicted at the time was how much they could go on to do. There are times in life when the stars just seem to line up and things work out right, a one in a billion meeting of minds and talents, and this seems to have been one of those occasions.

People formed bands before they knew what kind of musicians they would turn out to be, taken by The Clash’s messianic call. We can thank the gods of chance, or perhaps some other agent of destiny, that this crowd included the extraordinary voices of Ian MCCulloch, Pete Burns, Pete Wylie and Holly Johnson, along with the mercurial talents of guitarist Will Sergeant, drummer extraordinaire Budgie and art prankster/cultural terrorist Bill Drummond.

It may be the case that this astonishing pool of talent would have come together regardless of this particular gig, but the point remains that The Clash lit the touch paper and the firework duly went into the higher atmosphere and exploded.

The Clash were one of the first bands this writer saw at Eric’s, a few months on from their debut appearance,  on their Tommy Gun tour.

As confession is alleged to be good for the soul, I will hold my hand up and say that I was never a massive fan after their initial run of singles, nailing my colours to the Pistols’ mast instead.

That said, this was without question one of the most thrilling gigs I have ever seen, The Clash were undoubtedly at their best live, unmarred by the poor production of their first album and the American sheen of their second.

To this day I can remember the energy of the gig, along with the heat, the packed crowd and the feeling that, somehow, this was a gig that would stay with you long after we had left the venue.

I had never seen Eric’s so crowded, perhaps the fullest I ever saw it, with the possible exception of Iggy Pop. The size of the crowd was such that people had spilled out from stage front through to the bar area, making even a glimpse of the stage tricky.

The Specials were supporting them on this tour and, although I tell people I saw them it is probably more honest to say that I glimpsed them, through a doorway and over people’s heads. The crowd looked hot and we didn’t fancy getting caught up in the heat and mess of it, just for a support band.

If I had the chance I would tell my teenage self to get in there and catch one of our era’s most important bands while they were still unknown. I was amazed at how popular they seemed to be despite few people in my social circle having heard of them.

As The Specials left the stage and people headed to the bar, we saw our chance and pushed our way in. Thankfully we got to within a few people of the front of the stage and The Clash burst forth and blew our teenage minds!

Playing their first album and early singles, they already had a run of songs to make most new bands weep with envy.

With the Sex Pistols banned from almost everywhere and soon to split up, The Clash were head of the punk pack at this point, and made a nonsense of the myth that punk bands couldn’t play their instruments.

The people inspired by their first Liverpool, gig have achieved much in the years since and have doubtless inspired other people in their turn.

Perhaps this is the ultimate compliment for a gig, or even a band – that they create these ripples in a pond to such extent that they are still being felt all these years later.

Liverpool, and indeed the whole world, would be so much worse without them.

Banjo