was the guitarist,backing vocalist and Harmonica player with Underhand Jones # 2 and was co writer and founder member of The Dolphins.
Where were you born and brought up?
I was born in Cambuslang, Glasgow (though pretty much in Burnside) and lived there till I was about 18, when I moved into the West End (Byres Road) with a male and a female friend. That was kinda daring in those days, even with reference to The Dolphins, who (many years later) thought that people living in flats were “different”.
Back to guitars. I remember going to McCormack's music shop, trying a Fender Telecaster, and thinking: “That's the guitar of my dreams.” Unfortunately, they cost more than 10 quid. Then there was an acoustic phase, with a lovely Yamaha acoustic, which was as playable as an electric, and although I started learning ragtime fingerpicking, the guitar still let me play rocky stuff.
At that point (74/5?) I joined my first ever professional group (professional meaning money-making), after answering an advert. These guys had been a pop/rock group (Nevada) but, now married, wanted to form an acoustic trio doing clubs. They say old rockers never die, and at the auditions I remember wimpy acoustic guitarists being sent off and I got the gig cos I played with lots of presence (probably thanks to the Yamaha!) That trio quickly became electric, with drums, and I swapped my acoustic for a weird Hayman body / Strat neck guitar. It was nice, but that's when my string-breaking days began, never to cease. I then got a Strat, which I didn't take to and swapped for a Gibson SG Special, which was my guitar when I joined Underhand Jones.
The start UJ was thus: they met me, said maybe I was a bit older than them but what the hell, and gave me a cassette to take home and learn for the audition. When I came back a couple of days later, they asked which of the seven songs I had learnt. I replied: “All of them”, which shook them a little. So I got the gig. (At the audition I used a Fender Tele, which The Cuban Heels had lent the band to help out.) Ah, Telecasters! Curiously, the Fender Telecaster I've had since after the Dolphins split up (I got rid of the lovely Les Paul cos I wanted a livelier sound) was born in the same year as I started learning guitar, 1965.)
Some time later, we played our gig, I think it went OK, I remember little about the concert. Afterwards, the group went home, and I stayed behind with Susan and my friends (most of whom missed our performance because they had been in the pub down the road.)
I also remember we shared our dressing room caravan with Fairport Convention. Now THAT was like a dream, cos they were a major influence in my musical development. Being a bit shy, I didn't speak to them.
• Underhand Jones brought out a single in 1978, How did that do?
• You started The Dolphins along with Cammy Forbes in 1981, how did it feel to play in one of the best bands in Scotland at that time?
So when UJ2 split up, it was only Cammy and I who thought of starting anew, and at my insistence, afresh. New name, new style, drop ALL the old songs, style and attitude. We talked about who to get as a lead singer, but I told Cammy he was able to take that on. The original idea was to have both of us as front men, including interviews et al.
The basic idea was to write great songs and get famous, and ride into towns in “The Dolphin-bus”. Seemed like a dream, but we did eventually get the bus, though we were too afraid to decorate it for fear of theft. We had an idea of becoming the new Monkees, but in line with the music of the day, which was post-punk new wave of British pop or something. We started writing together, and agreed that all songs we did would be seen as jointly composed, even if they were completely written by one of us.
Some of our joint compositions were “Home Life”, “She's So Right”, “Cold War” “My Country” and “Tin Soldier”. Some of my individual efforts which would be included in the joint notion were “Valerie”, “San Sebastian”, “Shock Horror”, “Hang Your Head”, “Davy Jones”. Most early songs were combined efforts, however, and that's where things started coming adrift.
• The Dolphins played Live on The BBC's Untied Shoelaces Show in 1983, how did that go?
Just before the show, I told the make-up lady I was a bit worried about the odd grey hair showing up, but she said it wouldn't be visible on TV. Nevertheless, she sprayed my hair with brown stuff, to ease my mind. After that day, I started dying my hair!
As for the show, it was in the morning, so it didn't really exist!
• You were involved in the song writing in the band, what songs did you write or co-write?
Songs like “She's So Right” and “Home Life” just came into existence as Cammy and I played together. Other songs like “Cold War” started from a Cammy idea at the piano. We worked on the concept (a German at the Russian Front) then I came up with the lyrics, suggesting things while Cammy would say “No” and I'd be forced to come up with something better. Once written, we'd work out the overall structure. True teamwork.
If you listen to the early songs, you will hear some great lyrics. In order to compete, presenting a song fait accompli meant it had to be convincing right from the start, so no presenting half-baked ideas.
Of my own songs, my favourites are probably “Paradise Lost”, “Light Up The Sky Pt1”, “San Sebastian”, “Shock Horror”” and the sadly underplayed “Call It A Day” (I don't even have a rehearsal copy of that one.)
“Café Du Marché”, “Security”, “Valerie”, “Hang Your Head” … I don't have a list, maybe more, I'd need to see a list!
• Why did the band never move down to London to crack the big time?
• Was the Dolphins “sound” better Live or in the Studio? And why?
• Did you rate any other bands from the Glasgow pub/rock scene from back then?
• Underhand Jones get a mention in the book “45 Revolutions” and The Dolphins get mentioned in the book “Big Noise” (the sound of Scotland) do you think it's about time that era got some recognition?
• The “legendary” Dial Inn, what do you remember about that venue?
We had some great gigs there, but I will never forgive Marillion for leaving red makeup on the dressing room table, which ruined my strides!
The Dial In was great for seeing groups, magnificent in fact. But it was also the death of many, for not being “trendy”.
• You have played at Kelvingrove, Loch Lomond, The Kings Theatre (Glasgow) and more, what has been your most memorable Gig?
The Fair Friday midnight gig has to be the best. But some of the best ever playing was seen in out of the way places like Davy Jones' Locker doon the watter, or in John O' Groats and the like.
• Apart from the better weather, why did you move to Spain? And what are you doing these days?
When I came here, I did some gigs with local musicians, but they are so lazy and undependable that I gave up. There was one point where I was singing and writing new stuff, and it was looking promising, but the locals are just impossible to deal with, in the sense of rehearsing or learning parts, and it's not as if they can improvise well. So maybe one day I'll do some new stuff on the computer.
• What bands/artists do you rate today? And what was the last album/CD/download you bought?
• When were you last back in Scotland? And will you ever come back here to live again?
Interview Edited By Glasband 80.
Brian Coyle Interview March 2009.