Interviews: Brian May: Clyde 1 '98
All The Way From Memphis
That was All The Way From Memphis, an old Mott The Hoople song, which is now to be found on the new Brian May album. The album is titled "Another World", and Brian is our guest in Clyde tonight. Brian, welcome to Clyde
Brian: Thank you Tom
Ah, nice to hear from you again. All the Way From Memphis, that sounds very, very live. Was it recorded live?
Brian: It's a secret (laughs) Erm, it was recorded in Another World. Erm, that's all I can say, it's very mysterious. You know, you never know how these things happen, do you really.
Right. It was, as I said, an old Mott The Hoople song. You've always been a bit of a fan of Mott The Hoople. Were you friends, are you friends with Ian Hunter, is that what it was?
Brian: Yes, I've kept in touch with Ian over the years but Mott The Hoople was really our first experience of life on the road, and a pretty blinding experience it was, I must say. It's always remained close to my heart, cos' we grew up on that tour, we had to, it was just insanity, and to survive you had to adapt, you had to become a rock'n'roll kind of animal in the good sense of the word, you know. And, yeah, it was phenomenal. And I used to watch them do All The Way From Memphis every night, and every night the place would erupt, it was like an earthquake. They really were a fantastic band live. Should have stayed together, I have to say.
A wonderful song that one. And the other one, what was the other one, Roll Away The Stone, and what was the third big one?
Brian: Well, Young Dudes was a big one, but Mr Bowie wrote that, but for me Memphis is the one, and I always wanted to do this song, and now I have an excuse cos it's on my album! (laughs)
Yeah, great. Is it a song you've been playing live with your Brian May band while you've been out?
Brian: No, I haven't tried it up to now, it's only on the record, no, so I can't wait to do it. The big sadness is that we won't have Cozy, you know don't you?
Brian: Unbelievable. I can't believe that he's not around. I keep expecting him to pound up the stairs and go "Oh, it's all right, it's only a joke" Cozy was just like that, he was always full of pranks and stuff, and the most alive person you can possibly imagine. It does not seem possible he's not around.
I had the pleasure of meeting and working with him in an interview situation on a few occasions over the years and, er, a gentleman.
Brian: Fantastic. the nicest guy on the planet really. Just has to be said.
It was actually a car crash.
Brian: Yeah. He was a very fast driver, you probably know, he was into speed, but a very good driver, and if he hadn't been a rock drummer, he probably would have been a professional racing driver , so nobody can figure out what happened, as far as I know. Somehow the car went out of control There's a rumour that it got stuck in one of the gears and it was a bad night, a slippery, rainy night as I understand. I wasn't here. I was in Africa, strangely enough. I took my kids away on safari cos I'd just finished the album, and I'd just talked to Cozy actually, and we both went "Woah, it's going to be great to get out there again, you know after all this time, finally we can get out there and tour" and erm, and then this happened.
Brian: Hmm. So yes, I mean, somehow we will get someone to sit behind the drum-kit I think, but it's not an easy task, cos you're not just replacing a drummer, you know, its..he was the backbone of our outfit, completely, and not replaceable in that sense.
That's The Business, and that's a song, which is out as single from Brian May. It's lifted from his album Another World, and..
Brian: Yes, I'm chancing it, aint' I really? I mean, you are rock radio really, aren't you, but there's very little rock radio in this country at the moment. So good on you, for playing it!
Well, it's a fine song. Fine song! And it's a song that, the first time I heard it when it came through as a single, I thought "Now that sounds awfully familiar." And I checked out the credits, and I thought "Oh, written by, yeah, by Brian, but I definitely have heard it" and then I finally found it in one of the little bits of bumf that the record company sent .And it was on a television programme, oh, must have been about a year ago
Brian: Actually, more than that I think, quite a while ago. Yes, I did some fragments. This song, I common with a lot of other tracks on my whole album, was initially inspired from the outside. I got all these little kind of commissions and triggers and inspirations from outside, and this was a TV thing, yes. They asked me to write song about this guy who basically gets up every morning and tries his best and always tried new angles, but he never quite makes it, he's like the eternal optimist but the eternal loser. So, erm, I wrote them some fragments which they used for the TV series, and then I started to realise that I was writing about myself, you know, as always is the case. You're always drawing on something inside yourself, and so I developed the song and worked on it and it eventually became this thing called the Business. It features Cozy very heavily, as you probably can tell.
Yes, of course. There's a particularly poignant line in it, and I picked it out, obviously with your career in Queen for so long, and the you're now√Č it's your name that's at the top of the banners now. And I picked out this line "It's a hard business to make it on your own". And I just wondered if there was any significance there?
Brian: (laughs) Yeah, well, there's a lot of significances about it really, but erm. Basically, all my stiff is more about life that it is about anything else. And life is common to us all, you know, we all find it a hard business, and I think there are moments in all of our lives when we realise that we are actually alone. You know, we all have this incredible drive to partner up and to be part of a team, you know, because of our own insecurities, but , you know, as they say, we come into the world on our own, and we leave it on our own eventually. And really you have to√Č I think part of the whole growing up process is that you have to realise that tit is your own life in the end, and you are on your own, and you take responsibility . And it ain't easy.
Next track we're going to play, Brian just to remind the listeners, we're talking to Brian May, and we're chatting about his new album, Another World. And the next track we're going to play for the listeners, Brian, is again an old song. And it's an old rocker. I can't remember whether .. I think it was the John Lennon Rock and Roll album, but it wasn't a John Lennon song, Slow Down?
Brian: It's actually erm, not his song, it's Larry Williams' song, but it was on you're very close it was on the Beatles Rock and Roll EP. And John Lennon sang it
Brian: And that's what inspired me. I just thought it was an amazing thing to sing, first of all, that's what got me to it and it's an amazing riff. A very sort of archetypal riff, that you think must go back into prehistoric times, but actually someone wrote it, you know? It's so
Brian: It's so obvious, so simple, but it's a great riff, it's a great song. Deceptively simple, I think, you know. A lot of these old rock songs are very direct, you know "Carry your books home from school" etc but erm they say the stuff that we're all concerned with; you know, the love stories and stuff, and erm.. I got all the boys in to play this, this is the one track on the album which really was live. Cozy Powell, Neil Murray, Spike Edney, who was the guy who was normally playing keyboards round the back of the stage for Queen, and Jamie Moses who has become a very good friend, and support guitarist. We all came in and we just played loads of songs, stuff that we knew. you know, we all know Slow Down, we all know Maybe Baby, we all know "It's Only Make believe". We did a load of stuff just to, er, just for fun really, and to have some stuff on tape ad I'm so glad that we did it now, because Cozy no longer being here, it has a new kind of significance for me. I've been getting the tapes out, just today as a matter of fact, and we've been mixing a couple, and at some point, I think, we will put out a little EP of our own, a little rock and roll, kind of retro rock EP, which I'm really excited about now.
That sounds terrific, that Slow Down track, it's so well recorded and just such a catchy old song, er, and I can imagine it being great live
Just talking about live work, though, just to move on just for a sec, er, and can I ask you about Glasgow memories? Er, obviously in your career, you've toured the world umpteen times, you've played Glasgow umpteen times, but a memory that I have, when I realised that I was talking to you today, is one that just popped into my head, and it was a show can't remember the year but it was a show you played at the Glasgow Apollo ..
Brian: Of course! (laughs)
I can remember being in the crowd and you used that tilting lighting rig where at the beginning of the show it tilted up from the front of the stage, you played your hour and forty minutes or whatever it was, and at the end of the show, after the encore, it just tilted back down, and I just have this wonderful memory of that particular show. Can you remember that one?
Brian: Yeah, it was a great toy. Erm, we were so into it, you know, we loved putting all the stuff, all the money that we earned from tours back into it and getting the most expensive toys and asking the technical guys to do the impossible . Cos in those days, it was probably I think probably the first time that anything did move on stage, really, you know, we used to watch these guys putting up, and it was so obvious. We used to see them putting up the lighting rig on these chain hoist things and it would be moving around during the sound check, and we said , well, can't we do that during the show, you know, while the stuff's lit, and they went "ooh, no, no, totally impossible" you know, fire regulations, etc, but eventually they figured out ways of doing it and yeah, it became a sort of mainstay of what we did, and it's common place these days. Everybody does that kind of stuff. There's a lot of things we discovered and just took a great pride in doing the biggest and the most innovative show that there was out there. We really had fun.
But were the Glasgow audiences particularly good for Queen?
Brian: Glasgow is, I'm going to have to say you're gonna think I'm buttering you up, but Glasgow audience is absolutely well known in our business for being one of the best in Britain. I think Glasgow and Newcastle win really, it's just the places where there is the most energy. London probably has the least, sadly, since we come from London. I guess London gets spoilt or something, I don't know what it is. But Glasgow Apollo, yeah, it's just an amazing place. I haven't been there for a while, but my
It's not there now.
Brian: It's not?
The Apollo's down
Brian: Aw, I'm very sad to hear that. Well, it was amazing, cos the first thing we always noticed was that you could not get rid of this incredible buzz onstage. It was a nightmare. There was some kind of electric cabling going round, and my guitar being very sensitive, it always went zzzzzzzzz and people would spend hours trying to sort it out. And then, once you were doing the show, the stage was so high, because apparently there'd been riots or something, anyway, you were level with the balcony. You were not level with the people on the floor, you had to really lean over the front of the stage to see anyone down below. And you could almost touch the people on the balcony, it was the weirdest thing. And then there was the top balcony, and when we first played there, we had people up there and they used to bounce up and down, and you could see the thing moving inches, it seemed like feet, up and down. And eventually they closed it down because they said it was going to fall down or whatever. But what an amazing place. I mean, the energy of that place, it's sad it's not there, I'm very sorry to hear that.
On My Way Up
That's On My Way Up, one of the catchier songs on the album. A nice bit of interaction there with a couple of girl singers you've got there Brian. Do we know the ladies?
Brian: I love my girls. They were the ladies that came round on the whole tour with me, that whole year. Cathy Porter and Shelley Preston. I don't think they'll be able to come out with me this time, I'm gonna have to find some new ladies, because for a start they don't like each other.
Brian: Seriously! And there are other things, you know. I mean, I'm very happy for them, because they both have great careers of their own now, Cathy's been in many stage musicals now and is quite a leading light in Andrew Lloyd Webber's sort of armoury of singers. She's done very well, and Shelley's been on tour with a lot of people Belinda Carlisle and she's been making solo records. So I'll have to find new ladies, which will be..you know, that's the way it is.
Well, the auditioning side can be pleasant!
Brian: Yeah, I'm sure we can find someone! (laughs!)
China Belle's the next track we're going to play, and it seems to be written about a young lady. Was she a friend of yours?
Brian: Well, she's a kind of conglomerate creation.
There's only you and me here Brian, there's nobody listening, you can tell me!
Brian: (laughs) Well, actually√Č. There's a little yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu. That's where I found this beautiful lady. Well, it's a number of things, you know. I suppose it's a kind of parody, this one, because.. I don't know who wrote Route 66, I was trying to think the other day.
Brian: Was it Chuck Berry? I don't think so, I don't know. Well, whatever it was, there was a certain genre of sort of writing rock songs about some girl on some glamorous road , in , you know, Chicago, or whatever, and it all sounds very good, wherever it is, you know. And it just never happens in Beijing! And I thought it was time that it did. And I was actually there for a while. I went there. Actually, I went to Mongolia to see an eclipse of the sun, it's a kind of silly thing I do, and we ended up in Beijing, touring around there. And I kind of got the giggles really, and started writing all these words down. and there were some very beautiful ladies there, you know, and I thought what a shame, nobody ever writes about these girls. time they did.
Let's have a listen to it. It's strange though, what you're saying is that there's places in the UK you would never write a song about, like Wolverhampton, or Sunderland or Edinburgh, or.. anyway, let's have a listen to it. This is Brian May and China Belle.
China Belle from the new Brian May album. The album is titled "Another World" and Brian's our guest in Clyde tonight. Just about time to wind up now, Brian, but let's talk about tour plans. Are we going to get you actually up here in Scotland playing?
Brian: Yes, we have it pencilled in at the moment, for some time in September I think, but we have a few hurdles to cross. The business of who sits behind the drums is a big one, and we have to get rehearsed up. We've kind of got a little bit behind schedule here. But I hope to be up there yeah, and if the voice and the body hold up, I'll be there!
Track called "The Guv'nor". In the record company blurb it talks about Jeff Beck, and there's certainly guitar there that sounds like Jeff Beck. Is it Jeff playing or is it you?
Brian: No, it's Jeff! Yes, I can't play like that, good grief! there's only one person who can play like Jeff Beck, and that's the Guv'nor! Yeah! Yeah, I was very, very chuffed, and I was very honoured that he played on my record. He's been a hero of mine since I started, and I'm happy to say that he's a friend now. I'm always a little bit in awe, though, I mean, like, he is the guitarist's guitarist and he's scary guy. And the song.. this song was actually written about a fighter in the beginning because there was a film due to come out, called "The Guv'nor". It may still come out, I don't know, but I think they ran out of money temporarily. But it's about a fist fighter, a bare knuckle fighter, and I wrote a song about that, which was quite a serious song in the beginning, but I began to see a little metaphor there, and a slightly amusing side, cos I thought, Well, to us guys, who think we can play guitar, Jeff Beck is the guv'nor. So I wrote it about him, and he played on it. He did a fantastic job.
We'll actually play that track on the show next week, because the track we're going to play out on on tonight's interview is actually the title track from the album. The final track on the album and when I listened to it, obviously it could be written for Cozy, but was obviously written before Cozy's tragic accident. So I bring in Freddie here, and I say, was Freddie in your thoughts when you wrote this song?
Brian: Erm, a lot of things. It's very hard to define, you know. As soon as you start working on an idea for a song, then all kinds of things come into your head, and you weave all the threads together. It's primarily a love song really, and the first seed of the idea came from a film again, strangely enough. This guy wrote a script for a film called "Sliding Doors" which has now come out , as a matter of fact. He was a n old friend of mine, and he said, "please write me a song. I've always dreamed of asking you to write me a song, Bri" he said. So I wrote this "Another World" track and was very pleased with it. Took it straight round to him, and he loved it, jumped up and down, said "This is it", you know, "this is the perfect thing for the film" . 'Bout 4 months later I'd never heard another word form him and he said" Oh, sorry Brian, you know, politics, you know, I got involved with a record company who is financing the film and we can't use your song." So I was upset for a couple of days, but then I thought, "Well, I have the song" and I started to weave into it the thoughts which go with my own life and my own feelings and I'm very√ČActually, it's a shock. Every time I hear this song, it's a shock, cos it's very different for me, and it really is another world in terms of technique and atmosphere in song writing and record making. It's a record which I didn't think I would make. I'm much more into excess, you know (laughs) This is a very grown up kind of a song, and it is another world for me.
A lovely song that, I'm going to enjoy playing it. So Brian, thanks for talking to us tonight.
Brian: Cheers, enjoyed it!
All the best with the new album, and we'll look forward to seeing you up in Glasgow some time later in the year. this is Brian May and Another World. Thanks Brian.