17 January 2007

Ten things you wish you never knew about Robyn Hitchcock


A full version of this was published in last week’s Time Out - before he played at the Islington Academy last week. I’m not sure it led to a stampede for tickets but it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

1 He’s known REM for years…

‘I met Peter Buck in 1984. It was outside the Highgate branch of the Cat Protection League. He was looking to protect a cat. So was I…

2 His current band features half of REM…

‘It’s very incestuous. You’ve got Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, who are all in The Minus 5. You add Bill Rieflin from Ministry, and you’ve got most of REM. and you’ve got The Venus 3, my backing band… (Note: REM also covered one of Robyn’s best songs “Arms of Love” and totally ballsed it up. It is a “b-side” to Man on the Moon if that expression isn’t totally meaningless these days)

3 He acted in a remake of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’

‘Jonathan Demme made a live film of me called “Storefront Hitchcock”, where I performed in the front of a New York shop. Then, a few years later, he needed someone to play an evil British villain in “The Manchurian Candidate”. So he asked me’ (He played Laurent Tokar who you see at the start of the film)

4 His song titles include ‘I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones’…

‘I like to write songs with titles that have never and will never be used by anyone else. “Where Are The Prawns”, “I Wanna Be An Anglepoise Lamp”, “It’s Not Just The Size Of A Walnut”, “Madonna Of The Wasps”…’ (and Furry Green Atom Bowl and so on… I Like Bananas is a cover and appears on the Soft Boys very silly Live at Portland Arms. The original dates back to the 30s I think)

5 He describes his early stuff as ‘psychedelic pub rock’…

‘We played psychedelic music but, you know, in pubs. I was never into psychotropic drugs, it was more about the music. I could spend hours talking about this but essentially, I see psychedelia as something that changes when you look at it closely. ’

6 He’s more popular in America…

‘I’m not sure why. I think in Britain in the late ’70s and early ’80s there was a definite vision of what was wanted from a punk band. We were seen as too proggy, and thus ideologically unsound, and too unashamed of being middle class’

7 He only sings in an English accent so we can hear him…

‘Partly it was copying Syd Barrett. But I think that certain rock voices develop to cut through shitty PA systems. You need a certain beak in your voice to cut through the upper to mid range.I think that’s why I sound so nasal when I sing. Actually, if I hear my voice in a shop I find it really annoying. “Open your larynx, dammit!” I think. “Sing like Spandau Ballet!”.’

8 His guilty pleasure is ‘silly soul songs’ from the 1970s…

‘Stuff like “The Hustle” by Van McCoy, or “Rock Your Baby” by George McRae. I hated them at the time, but I now appreciate them as elegant pieces of quality music. They’re structured perfectly, like a Jane Austen novel.’ (He also does a wonderful version of Funkytown which can be found on the Japanese compilation Obliteration Pie)

9 He makes a mean prawn curry…

‘There’s lot of garlic, cumin, turmeric, ginger and fried onions. It’s made with a great deal of love.’

10 He often plays charity gigs at the Three Kings in Clerkenwell…

‘They’re for Medicins Sans Frontier and they’re organised by my wife Michele Noach, who’s an artist. We don’t publicise them because they sell out by word of mouth. I did one where we played the whole of “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” and another where we performed “The White Album” in its entirety. We’re going to be doing “Sgt Pepper” next…’ (I will be there with camera when he plays it!)

4 comments:

Elizabeth-W said...

Okay, so I'm deciding to finally learn something about Mr. Hitchcock, and I'm googling him, and finding out a bit about him, and aside from REM and the other superfamous people, I'm feeling pretty uninformed. You may want to take me off your blogroll now that you are more aware of how uncool I am. But, then, on this site called RH is God, okay? at the bottom of the page is a link to Sleater-Kinney! So, since I know who they are/have a CD in our house, I am feeling slightly less unhip. ;)

jams o donnell said...

LOL Elizabeth.. Robyn is an acquired taste, I will concede, but those of us who have done so love his work. Not everyine who finds Robyn likes him though....

Renegade Eye said...

Your headline says it all.


Regards

jams o donnell said...

There you go Ren... I try to bring honesty to the titles!