Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Jetboy: A Year Into Their Glittering Career, I Caught Up With San Francisco's Favorite Glamsters!

"In the alley" with Jetboy.
L-R: Ron Tostenson, Fernie Rod, Todd Crew,
Mickey Finn & Billy Rowe
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Originally published in Rave-Up
issue #11, 1986

By Devorah Ostrov

When Rave-Up first interviewed Jetboy they were rehearsing in Billy's garage, looking more like ragamuffins than pop stars. Now, a year later, the image and music have been perfected and Jetboy are on the verge of taking off...

Q: So, what have you guys been up to lately?

Fernie: Well, we just got off a major (California) Jetboy/Kix tour! It lasted about two-and-a-half weeks. It was a lot of fun!

Q: Is that the first time you've been "on the road"?

Fernie: Yeah. You've got to start somewhere. I never had so much fun in my life. Living on the road, traveling... It wasn't a lot, but we got a taste of it. Now we're starving for it.

"We're The Future"
Two pics of Mickey & Billy from the alleyway proof sheet.
Photos: Devorah Ostrov
Q: What cities did you play?

Fernie: The first night we played with Johnny Thunders in Long Beach. From there, we went to Glendora and Anaheim, or some ridiculous place. Then we played in Turlock - to a whopping crowd of three!

Jetboy in JAPANtown!
Cover photo from Rave-Up #11 where
we tried to fool readers into thinking the
group had actually gone to Japan.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Billy: Seriously.

Fernie: And Kix stole the show! They had a crowd of five.

Billy: 'Cause we were up front!

Q: How did your relationship with Kix get started?

Fernie: Kix decided to come out here (from the East Coast) and do some opening slot shows. Bridgett (Wright) mentioned she was our manager; the band heard a tape of ours and liked it. It's gone really well, we've kept in touch. Kix said when they come out again, they'd like us to open their shows.

Q: The first time we interviewed you, you weren't sure how the band would go over in the Bay Area. Since then, it seems to be going great!

Fernie: It's going really well, but I think we may have overplayed the Bay Area a little bit. We're doing much better in Los Angeles than here in San Francisco. Our music and look is different down there, we're new. But we don't want to overplay down there either. One thing we did accomplish was to get the major labels interested. A lot of them went to the Los Angeles shows. The people from Capitol Records came to see us at the Thunders' show and loved it. Electra Records and MCA Records have seen us.

Mickey Finn                      Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Q: Have any of them said anything negative?

Fernie: No, except for Island Records. One of the A&R guys said he didn't like me! Now we're just waiting to see what happens. We're at a crucial point with the band. We're trying to get signed now before... The way things are with the music business and trends... We want to get on top of it and get a head start because I think more and more bands will be doing this kind of stuff.

Q: Have you already noticed bands trying to copy your style?

Billy: Sure, bands try to. They're not copying us, but they're into the same kind of thing.

Fernie: It's pretty crucial right now. We have to give our all right now, and do our best. We're going to be working really intensively on our show. We're going to get more organized. The record companies want to see a band that's developed in all areas. They want to see a band that has their sets, stage show and movements together - a complete package.

Q: Over the last year the band has become much more professional in a lot of ways. You must be aware of the changes from the first shows.

Billy Rowe & Fernie Rod in Japantown.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Fernie: We were much more raw.

Billy: We like our new songs a lot more! They're more, I don't know... I think we've created our own style.

Fernie: It's been a natural development. When we started, I'd say we were more "punk." Our songs were a little faster, like "Car Sex." Now, we're thinking along the lines of... The music is just coming out more. It's hard to put into words.

Q: Vince Ely (ex-Psychedelic Furs) produced your demo tape, right?

Fernie: Yeah, great guy!

Q: How did you get together with him?

Fernie: I don't know the complete story. He was invited to one of our shows (the Country Club in Los Angeles) because at the time we were looking for a producer. He liked the show; he liked everything. We were scared going into the studio with him. With his background we thought he might try to make us sound different, but...

Billy: We sounded better!

Early promo pic.
Back row L-R: Billy Rowe, Mickey Finn, Ron Tostenson
Front row: Todd Crew, Fernie Rod
Photo: Teri McDonald
Q: So, you're really happy with the way it turned out?

Fernie: Well, yes and no. The sound quality could have been better, but that wasn't anyone's fault. We just didn't have enough time to work on it.

Todd Crew in Japantown.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Billy: We learned a lot in the studio. We were in there seven or eight hours a day, sleeping on the couch in the kitchen. Vince would wake me up at 6:00 in the morning to do guitar parts. It was great. I loved it!

Q: What songs are on the demo tape?

Fernie: "The More You Cut Me, the More I Bleed," "Fire in my Heart," "Bad Disease," and "Little Teaser."

Q: That's a good mixture. There's a couple of old songs and some new stuff, too. Your early songs were mostly about girls and sex. Now, it seems you're writing about deeper thoughts.

Billy: It's been a natural progression.

Fernie: We still have a long way to go. We're still a bunch of young punks. We still watch cartoons, eat pizza, and stay up all night!

Q: So do we!

Billy: We drink coffee. Coffee is cool!

Billy Rowe           Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Fernie: It's Chips Ahoy or nothing!

Q: When the band first formed and you thought about your look, did you picture this image?

Fernie: Yeah, we had an idea of what we wanted. It's developed into this. I think we were more feminine looking when we started out, fishnets... We figured this look and style was eventually going to happen. When we started out, the metal thing was still pretty big but we knew something else would take over. People's interest was going to shift a little bit and look for something different. We thought it might be us and other bands like us. To a certain degree, that's how it's happened.

Q: And you guys are all big rock 'n' roll fans as well as musicians...

Billy: That's true! Everyone in the band is a total fan! AC/DC, Aerosmith, Hanoi Rocks, the Dolls...

Fernie: You know what's funny? I haven't really heard anybody say that we're like any of those bands. There's never been anything like "You guys are copying Hanoi Rocks," or anything.

Q: No, but your style and songs aren't really like anyone else's.

Mickey Finn in Japantown.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Fernie: And we're very conscious of that when we write songs. We believe in catchy, fun choruses. We're very song oriented. People look at us and all they think is, "They probably spend more time blow-drying and spraying their hair." That's not true, but if they want to think that, it's fine with me.

Q: The people who think that probably have no idea how hard you've worked and how seriously you take your music.

Billy: We're not like those bands you see whose parents buy them all their equipment and clothes. When we started out, we had nothing. We just had our guitars. We scraped the money together to buy equipment.

Fernie: It's definitely not been a breeze. The pay off though, without a doubt, is when we play live. That's where we get the most satisfaction. That's what we live for. Playing and working on music. We have to work at it though. Nothing comes unless you work hard at it, nothing at all.

Billy: You've just to keep pushing.

* * *
Fernie Rod in Japantown.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov

October 2017 update: Jetboy have signed with Italian label Frontiers Music srl. They're currently in the studio working on a new album with a lineup that now includes former Faster Pussycat Eric Stacy. They're also scheduled to appear with L.A. Guns and the Backyard Babies at next year's HRH Sleaze festival in Sheffield, England!

Find out more on Jetboy's website: www.jetboyrocks.com
Like them on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/jetboyrocks
Watch them on YouTube:  www.youtube.com/user/jetboy

Please click on these links to read my other interviews with Jetboy:
devorahostrov.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/jetboy-sami-yaffa-joins-group
devorahostrov.blogspot.com/2018/07/jetboy-press-conference-is-held

Friday, 6 October 2017

Screaming Lord Sutch: A Legend Of Rock 'N' Roll And British Politics

Screaming Lord Sutch poses for Rave-Up.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Originally published as a two-part interview in Rave-Up issues #12 and #13 (1987/1988). A condensed version was later published in American Music Press.

Interview by Devorah Ostrov and Sara Brinker
Story by Devorah Ostrov

The manifesto for the Monster Raving Loony Party lists some serious and some not-so-serious issues its candidate, Screaming Lord Sutch, would pursue on the off-chance he was voted into Parliament:

1) Launch a national franchise of Jellied Eels and Tripe: We've had enough of the American Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's. What we need is a national franchise of good old English food.
2) Harness the energy of joggers: Instead of having them run around in circles, I would put them on a conveyor-belt so that they could conduct free electricity for OAPs (Old Age Pensioners).

The Official Monster Raving Loony
Party Manifesto.
3) National Health System: We must cut back on wastages. Nursing staff and doctors should be given a decent wage just as they would if they were privately employed by say, BUPA or PPP.
4) Licensing laws: We believe that the pre-war licensing laws are outdated and the decision as to when a pub should open or close should be left to the discretion of the landlord.
5) Vote at 16: If a 16-year-old is able to get married, have children, and fight wars for our country, then surely they are responsible enough to vote for the government of their choice.
6) Common Market: Withdrawing from the EEC (European Economic Community) may not be the answer to the country's problems. However, if we are to remain in the common market, Britain needs a much better "deal" than what we have at the moment.

But before Screaming Lord Sutch the Raving Loony, there was Screaming Lord Sutch the eccentric pop star. While we were in London, Sara and I met up with the amiable Mr. Sutch at his surprisingly sedate suburban home to talk about his legendary life...

Part 1: Rock 'n' Roll

Born simply David Edward Sutch on November 10, 1940, he began developing his alternate persona at the age of 16. "I first got interested in the early black and white horror films, like Frankenstein and Dracula," he says. "But I also liked rock 'n' roll music, so I thought why not combine the two?"

An early publicity photo of
Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages. 
His Lordship's mother was not entirely pleased with her son's career plans. "She freaked out! She thought I was completely mad! And when I started to grow my hair long, I was treated like an outcast. I was the local freak."

According to Sutch, when he first started performing in the 1950s, the London music scene was focused on only one performer.

"All the local pubs used to have talent nights," he says, "and in those days everyone was copying Elvis Presley. There must have been 10,000 Presley lookalikes walking the street! I figured since nobody could top Presley, I would just do my own stuff."

From the beginning, Sutch dubbed himself with the pseudo-royal title of "Lord" because he always wore a top hat and tails. (He did eventually change his name officially to Lord Sutch, although some reports will have you believe he was of hereditary royalty). At various times, he tells us, he was also known as the 3rd Earl of Harrow, and Lord of Horror and Macabre.

On the Last of the Teenage Idols' 
Facebook page, vocalist Buttz says: "This
show was a highlight of my career." 
"Then because I screamed a lot at shows, I was nicknamed 'the Screamer' and that title stuck," he explains.

With a set compromised of self-penned horror-pop tunes, covers of '50s standards and other novelties, Sutch and his back-up band, the Savages, debuted at the Parkhouse Hotel in 1958.

"It was a big old pub on the North Circular Road," he recalls of the venue. "We went onstage with earth-shattering screams coming from the back of the crowd, with the death march playing. Then I came out and started grabbing the first two rows of people. It gave them heart attacks! They weren't used to things like that."

The band's next job was at the trendy 2i's Coffee Bar. "At that time Cliff Richard, Johnny Steele and Gary Glitter (then known as Paul Raven) were all playing there," he remembers. "But they were all either copying Elvis, Eddie Cochran or Gene Vincent. The club's manager said, 'You don't copy Elvis, Eddie or Gene, do you?' I said, 'No. I come out of a coffin and sing my own songs.' He said, 'Oh, that sounds a bit different.'"

The coffin shtick was a direct pinch from Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who had been doing the same bit in America for several years. And while some of his coffins came from legitimate undertakers, Sutch notes: "I've gone to cemeteries and been handed them!"

Lord Sutch poses in the back garden of his
surprisingly sedate suburban home.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov 
Sutch's onstage costumes have made good use of capes, Halloween masks, and horror movie makeup. While his props have included skulls, axes, daggers, blood, and fire. Even live animals have been incorporated into the act, with a Himalayan bear and a twenty-foot long alligator making appearances.

Meanwhile, his flair for self-publicity kept Lord Sutch constantly in the British press throughout the Sixties.

He made his first Parliamentary run with the National Teenage Party in 1963 (winning just over 200 votes); he started his own pirate radio station (Radio Sutch) off the coast of Southend; and he was chased at gun point by a girlfriend's irate father.

Sometimes he even got publicity without trying...

"I lost a coffin once," he laughs. "I was driving down the M4 to a gig and there were a lot of people honking and waving at me. I thought nothing of it at the time, but when I pulled in for service I noticed the coffin was gone. I'd had it strapped to a rack on top of the car - and the rack, everything was gone! I was watching TV later that night and there was the Inspector of Transport talking to the Commissioner of Police saying, 'It's amazing what we find on these motorways - hats, umbrellas... Today we even found a coffin!'"

The Cramps, The Meteors, and Screaming Lord Sutch -
poster for a Hammersmith Palais show on June 22, 1980. 
But getting a recording contract proved a bit tougher than getting headlines. "My music was so uncommercial that they wouldn't give me a record deal," states Sutch. "They figured, what's the point? It probably won't get played on the radio."

Sutch's first 45, "Till the Following Night" b/w a cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly," was issued by HMV POP (catalog #953) in 1961.

Lord Sutch and his Heavy Friend Jeff Beck.
Cotillion Records publicity photo used
on the back cover of the LP.
Produced by Joe Meek (as were all of Sutch's early 45s), the A-side (a corny ditty along the lines of Bobby Boris Pickett's "Monster Mash") was originally called "My Big Black Coffin."

But according to Sutch, the label didn't think the BBC would like that title.

"The record company had someone rewrite it and they retitled it," says Sutch. "The BBC still banned it straight away. In those days, if it didn't say Cliff Richard or Elvis on the label the BBC banned it."

Although the BBC wouldn't play the song, Radio Luxembourg picked up on it and it became a bit of a hit.

"It got played a lot on Radio Luxembourg," says Sutch. "The record did well, and we built up a cult following by playing the Colleges and Universities, night clubs and leisure halls."

Sutch's follow-up single, "Jack the Ripper" (1963 Decca Records), became his signature tune. Written by the team of Stacy/Haggin/Simmons, the song was first recorded by Clarence Stacy in 1961 for the Carol label, but the ghoulish ditty was tailor-made for Sutch's over-the-top onstage histrionics and he turned it into a bona fide showstopper.

Look out Torquay! 
Screaming Lord Sutch is in town!
"Ah-ha-ha, aaah!
The Ripper, Jack the Ripper
The Ripper, Jack the Ripper
There's a man who walks the streets of London late at night
The Ripper, Jack the Ripper
With a little black bag that's oh-so tight
The Ripper, Jack the Ripper
He's got a big black cloak hangin' down his back
The Ripper, Jack the Ripper
Well, that's a one big cat I just a hate to fight
The Ripper, Jack the Ripper
When he walks down the streets
To every girl he meets, he says is your name Mary BLOOD?
The Ripper, Jack the Ripper
The Ripper, Jack the Ripper..."

"We had a whole routine worked out for that song," he points out. "We'd recreate a London scene with smoke and green lights - imagine a dark street in Whitechapel. We'd have girls dressed in Victorian clothes and chase them around the stage and 'stab' them! Then we'd rush about the audience and 'stab' someone who was in their seat. They loved it!"

Following the relative success of "Jack the Ripper," Decca issued Sutch's version of Leiber and Stoller's "I'm a Hog for You" (which had been a Top 40 hit for the Coasters a few years earlier), and in 1964 Oriole Records released two further 45s - "She's Fallen in Love With the Monster Man" and "Dracula's Daughter."

Oriole Records advert for
"She's Fallen in Love With the
Monster Man" 45.
The Oriole singles "did very well," states Sutch. And in 1965 CBS issued his cover of the R&B standard "The Train Kept A' Rollin'."  The lineup of the Savages that played on this record featured no less than four saxophone players as well as future Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.

If Lord Sutch's memory serves him correctly, he actually made his first foray to America early in his career. "I think it was about 1962," he says. "I went over to look around and see what the scene was like. I went back in 1964 and played in New York and did a lot of the seaside, beach places."

Over the next couple of years Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages played in Germany, France and Italy. In February 1966, the band took part in a whirlwind UK package tour which also featured the Who and the Graham Bond Organization. And later that year, they played alongside the Yardbirds, the Small Faces, and Simon & Garfunkel at the Tour de César music festival.

With the money he was earning, Sutch bought a Rolls Royce and had it customised with a Union Jack paint job. The same Rolls Royce on which a very dandified and very blond Lord Sutch props his stylish boot on the famous album cover for Lord Sutch And Heavy Friends.

Lord Sutch and another heavy friend -
the Who's Keith Moon.
"There was a big 'I'm backing Britain' campaign at the time," he explains. "Everyone was waving British flags, so I thought I'd do one better and stick it over the whole car! When it was done, I put it on the Queen Mary to tour America in. We did a few gigs around New York, Milwaukee and Chicago. And from there we made our way out to California."

Arriving in Los Angeles in 1968, Lord Sutch settled in for a while and signed with Cotillion Records (a division of Atlantic Records). "I played the Whisky and made all the scenes," he states.

Recording sessions for the Heavy Friends LP - which featured contributions from Sutch's pals Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins - took place at Hollywood's Mystic Studios over the space of twelve days from April 24 - May 5, 1969. It's likely that Page and Bonham showed up in early May, when Led Zeppelin's US tour rolled into Irvine and Pasadena.

"I had laid down some tracks with Jeff Beck and Noel Redding," Sutch recalls, "when Jimmy Page called and said, 'I'll do some stuff for you.' In the end, he co-produced it and played on all the tracks!" (It seems that Page has a very different take on Heavy Friends and has since distanced himself from the project.)

Lord Sutch And Heavy Friends LP (Cotillion/Atlantic 1970)
Sutch continues, "John Bonham got involved when I went to pick up Jimmy to take him to the studio. Bonham was there and he said, 'I'd like to have a go as well. Do you mind if I play on it?' John Paul Jones wanted to do something as well, but their manager said it was turning into the second Led Zeppelin album and it had to stop somewhere."

While the liner notes to Heavy Friends boasted that "Screaming Lord Sutch is about to wake up Southern California," at the time of its 1970 release the album flopped. A review in Rolling Stone called Sutch's shouted and growled vocals "absolutely terrible."

My autographed Screaming Lord Sutch 45.
The Rolls and props were put in an LA garage and Sutch returned to England. But he wasn't quite done with rock 'n' roll just yet.

In April 1970, Screaming Lord Sutch invited Ritchie Blackmore and other former Savages (including his original drummer Carlo Little) as well as a few more "heavy friends" (Keith Moon, Noel Redding, and keyboardist Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum) to jam on some standard rockers and horror-pop tunes at the Country Club in Hampstead, London.

The show was recorded (apparently to the surprise of everyone except Sutch), and in 1972 Atlantic released the (somewhat tweaked) live album Hands Of Jack The Ripper. The LP failed to set the world alight, and as far as recorded output, Sutch was finished for the next decade.

Part 2: Politics

It was during this time that he picked up the pieces of the National Teenage Party - rechristened as the Monster Raving Loony Party - and challenged the old and staid Parliament on issues ranging from the youth vote to the preservation of Liverpool's Cavern Club.

Vote for Screaming Lord Sutch!
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Q: Was there a particular reason, or a need that you saw, which first got you interested in running for Parliament?

Sutch: I first formed the National Teenage Party because I was interested in politics, and you couldn't vote over here until you were 21. There were people walking around married with kids and they couldn't vote. It was ridiculous! I also campaigned for commercial radio. All we had over here was the BBC and they only played chamber music, orchestras, or big bands. At one time, I ran a "pirate" radio station called "Radio Sutch" from an old fishing boat!

Q: What made you start again with politics in the '70s?

Sutch: I found that 30% of the population didn't bother to vote. We needed a party just for them - a protest party! That's why I formed the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Q: How close have you come to winning a Parliamentary election?

Sutch: I came close with the National Teenage Party. I had thousands of people doing marches. We got lots of publicity and in the end, we were accepted.

Promo photo for the Monster Raving Loony Party.
Q: So, the British public do take your campaigns seriously?

Sutch: Oh, yeah! Because I've been doing it for so many years now. I've stood against former Prime Minister Harold Wilson twice in Liverpool. I told them, "You've got the world-famous band, the Beatles, and this city looks like a bloody mess. People are starving. There are a lot of derelict areas." There's nothing there. Where is all that tax money going? It should be pumped back into the town! And then some guy on the Liverpool council decided they should knock down the Cavern (the club where the Beatles played) and on the space, they could park two cars! That's a real brainwave!

His Lordship looking like a proper
rock star. Photo from the back cover
of Hands Of Jack The Ripper.
Q: Instead of tearing it down, they should have turned the Cavern into a Beatles museum.

Sutch: Of course they should have! And they could have charged a £1 entrance fee - they would have made £1000 a day! You couldn't charge that much to park two cars. Now they've got a whole industry, like they have in Memphis for Elvis - a whole museum dedicated to the Beatles, the Searchers and the Swinging Blue Jeans... all of the bands that came out of that era. Now they're talking about rebuilding the Cavern. But it won't be the same. What are they going to build it out of? Plastic? Modern brick? It's not the same. It's sheer madness! That's why you've got to keep going.

Q: Do you know how many people belong to the Monster Raving Loony party?

Sutch: A few thousand!

Q: What's up next on your political agenda?

Sutch: We have bi-elections where a seat comes up because a lot of the MPs are too old. Most are in their late sixties or seventies. Some of them, when they win, fall over and croak from the excitement! What we're saying now is that there should be an age limit of say 55. What do these 70-year-old MPs have in common with someone on the dole? With a skinhead or a rocker? They're just a bunch of hooligans to them. There should be a department just to study youth, to find out why they riot, why they smash up telephone boxes, why there is all this vandalism.

Screaming Lord Sutch with four saxophones
and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.
And what about Lord Sutch's musical career? He still brings his original "horror rock" show to clubs and the occasional outdoor festival in England, but can we ever expect to see him Stateside again?

"I'd like to do a few more gigs in America," he nods, "and maybe pick up my stuff. The storage bills are outrageous!"

* * *

Promotion for "I'm a Hog For You."
Some rock historians believe that Screaming Lord Sutch's true legacy will be as an early employer to some of rock's biggest stars. During our interview, we asked if it was true that AC/DC was his back-up band at one time?

Sutch: Oh, yeah! When they first came to England, they were just playing small pubs, getting £20 a night. Someone told me to go down and see this band - "They're great!" It was an absolute natural because I always had a wild guitarist in the band. You know, Page... Blackmore... My band has always been popular as a "band's band." Other groups would always come and see us whenever we played because I'd always use top musicians. The Rolling Stones used to come to my gigs in the early days. They actually nicked the drummer from my first band - Carlo Little. He did one show with them at the Flamingo Club and Jagger offered him to stay permanently. But the Flamingo Club was more of a jazzy club and the Stones just died a slow death there. The club manager asked Carlo what he was doing with this group of scruffy bastards? Carlo got embarrassed and said he didn't want to do it anymore. He gave them Charlie Watts' phone number!

* * *

Update: Sadly, Screaming Lord Sutch was found hanged at his home on June 16, 1999. According to reports, he had suffered from a long battle with depression.