Black Interview 27 May 2000
You were born in London in the late
I was born in Chiswick on 21 February 1958.
Your real name is obviously Polish. Is
that where your family originate from?
Yes they originated from Poland. My parents came over
to England after the war as refugees and they settled in
What were your major musical influences
as a teenager?
As a teenager Ive got to confess that Uriah Heep
were my favourite band. I also liked Led Zeppelin, Deep
Purple and Genesis. Duncan was also into Genesis at that
time. I liked lots of other bands like Focus, Marc Bolan,
Frank Zappa and Jethro Tull. They were the kind of albums
I was buying at that time.
What inspired you to become a drummer?
I dont really know. I suppose I was self taught
because I was drumming in Poland at the age of 12 or 13
with much older guys. When I was at Tonbridge Public
School I was actually taught by the guy who was the
drummer for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I had
about a year with him and after that I developed my own
style. I think my drumming is very distinctive and I
dont think any other drummer will sound as good as
me with the Boys because they do too many fills in the
wrong places whilst most of the time I kept it
Can you play any other musical
I can strum a guitar but I cant pick it or
anything. I could join in on a folk session or something.
You were at school with Duncan Reid and
you formed a band with him called the "Tribute To
Oh I dont know what to tell you about that.
Ive actually got some photos of us playing. I
dont know how we came up with the name, I think it
was psychedelic or something. Jim Penfold was at school
with us at the same time and he had a band and Im
not sure if we were in direct opposition or not but we
just wanted to get a band together.
What sort of music did you play?
I wouldnt know how to describe it. I suppose it
was sort of rock n roll and it was quite clever stuff.
The guitarist was a guy called Vigor; I cant
remember his first name. He did most of the writing and
it was maybe a bit too clever at the time but we wanted
to be in a band so who cares.
You mentioned that you were also at
school with Jim Penfold and along with Neil Aplin and
Duncan you were in Jims band the "Matinee
Idols" for a short while?
Yeah thats right and as a singer/songwriter Jim
Penfold should have made it big without a doubt, I
thought he was brilliant. All his songs were just so
different and he had his own style. He also used to get
even better women at his gigs than we used to get. It was
all public school girls who were stinking rich; it was
like watching the boat race. He used to have them coming
on stage and doing stuff. I really liked Jim Penfold, I
thought he was a brilliant songwriter and Im really
disappointed that he never made it. Jim actually
auditioned for the Boys in 1976 but he seemed too tall
for the band. Well he is about eight-foot tall! I spoke
to him a couple of days ago and we had a real good chat
about the old days.
I believe you got a job working in a T
shirt factory where you met John?
I quit school and I was working at Chiswick
Polytechnic and the tutors there were lousy. I dont
know how I found the job but it was just down the road
from Chiswick Polytechnic. My mum went on holiday to
Poland and while she was away I got the job at the T
shirt factory and thats where I met John. Duncan
started playing with John first at Matts studio in
Maida Vale, which was the centre of music at that time.
One day Duncan asked me if I wanted to join a band and I
said Yeah, and thats how I started with the Boys.
How did you acquire the name Jack Black?
For some reason the others thought that Jacek Lempicki
wasnt gonna look cool in print and they wanted to
find a new name for me. It was Ken Mewis I think or maybe
Matt who came up with the name. There was a discussion at
Matts, where everything happened in those days and
they said how about Jack Black and everyone just went
yeah and I thought fine. Lots of people now know me
as "Blackie" or "The Black One" or
"Black Jack" so it stuck with me and personally
I do like it.
When you first joined the Boys Duncan and
yourself were teenagers whereas Cas, John and Matt were
in their mid twenties.
Old men! And you can quote me!
How did that affect you?
Not in the slightest, it never came into it really. I
mean I was in awe of the others, thats why I love
this band so much. I felt so lucky to be in the Boys
because I was thinking I love all this music Im
playing. I liked every song that they were writing
barring a couple which I didn't like. I just loved the
music and loved being in the Boys.
What were your thoughts on the punk scene
at that time?
Well we actually started as a beat band and not as a
punk band, our songs were fairly middle-paced. The way I
remember it punk hit the scene in a two week period and
if you werent in a punk band forget it you
werent gonna get any press and you werent
gonna get anywhere if you were a new band. Punk just took
over everything so the way we counteracted that was to
speed up all our songs. All the songs on the first album
were much slower than that originally and we had to speed
them up just to be a punk band although I never thought
of us as a punk band. We didnt go on stage and say
"hello were the Boys and our message is
destroy" which some bands did. I dont think
that we were radical or anything like that, we were just
in it for a laugh. We had to keep up with the times so we
speeded up all our songs. We couldnt play
middle-paced songs when the music scene dictated that
songs were played at 100 miles an hour. We could
certainly drink at 100 miles an hour!
Which other punk bands did you like
around that period?
I liked the Rezillos and I thought the Ramones were a
sensational band. The first time I heard "Denis
Denis" by Blondie, which wasnt punk at all, I
thought theres a number one. I used to watch the
Heavy Metal Kids whose front man Gary Holton used to come
on stage in turned down gum boots, black tights, a long
black coat and shirt and a big black top hat. He used to
appear from behind a huge black umbrella and say
"Allo,ow are ya". I also liked Johnny
Thunders Heartbreakers. Although they predated punk
I also used to like the Flaming Groovies and Dr Feelgood;
I tell you theres no guitarist like Wilko Johnson,
he had his own distinctive style. I liked Talking Heads
as well but I wasnt that interested in the other
bands because I was just so interested in the band I was
I believe Paul Weller was a fan of the
Boys and you did a couple of tours with the Jam?
Yeah I think we did two tours with the Jam and we had
an altercation with them at our very first gig which I
think was the Nags Head. We were supporting the Jam and I
dared to touch a drum kit or something and Paul Weller
went mad and smashed a bottle or something and we
wondered what the hell was going on. After that we went
on to do several gigs with them and we became good
friends. They actually apologised to us after the
Hamersmith Odeon fiasco which was a right old fix. We
ended up walking off because the sound was so awful, we
couldnt hear anything so we did two numbers or
something and walked off. I think that was with the
Saints as well. It was the Jams first big gig and
the whole thing was a fix; they came later and apologised
and assured us that it had been nothing to do with them.
Tell me about your first few dates with
I remember playing The Brecknock and we played at the
Hope and Anchor in Stoke Newington. We played at the
Kensington Olympia, but thats when we were a beat
band rather than a punk band.
What were you like live?
Probably a bit raw but I still think we were pretty
good. A guy called Barry Dickens, who I think was with
MAM, saw us rehearse three songs and told Ken Mewis that
we were the best band hed seen since he first saw
Queen three years earlier.
Why did you sign to NEMS and what was the
God knows why we signed to NEMS, probably because we
were all idiots! I think we were just desperate to sign a
record deal. We always seemed to be so unlucky in
everything we did for instance we charted at number 50
with our first album and then Elvis died. RCA were
printing our records and they were printing Elvis
records, now who takes precedence. That was that and we
were out of the charts the following week. I think I
signed for NEMS because I was told to; I was just the
drummer and it was nothing to do with me!
How quickly did the bands
relationship with NEMS deteriorate?
They stopped paying us for a start and we were the
first band to go on strike werent we. It
deteriorated because we felt that we were doing all the
work and they were doing sod all. We felt that they were
not giving us enough back up and support.
Looking back now how do you feel you were
treated by NEMS?
With hindsight I think they treated us like shit.
Personally I think there was more there than meets the
eye, they just wanted a punk band on their books and they
didnt really care what happened to us. They
werent behind us at all and they didnt care
about us as a band because I think they could have done a
lot more with us.
You then went into the studio to record
"I Dont Care" and "Soda
Pressing". What were those sessions like?
They were great, it was near Victoria where we
recorded those songs. I cant remember the name of
the studio or who did it. I was just on top of the world
to be recording a single. I dont know how Matt
felt, he seemed to take it all in his stride but I
thought it was fantastic. Compare the pace of "I
Dont Care" on the single to the pace on the
album, two different songs in a way and I dont
think I drummed particularly well on the single. I
definitely prefer the album version of "I Dont
Care" to the single.
What can you remember about
Polydors interest in the Boys?
Every record company was trying to sign a punk band
and we seemed to be last in the queue. We heard that
Polydor wanted to sign a band and for some reason shortly
after we had signed to NEMS for a thousand pounds the Jam
signed to Polydor for a quarter of a million!! That
grates on me because it could have been us and as I said
earlier we just appeared to be an unlucky band. Polydor
wanted to sign us and because wed already signed
for NEMS they ended up signing the Jam and wed
missed out on the big one.
To promote "I Dont Care"
you did a national tour supporting John Cale. How did the
The John Cale tour was great; it was great fun
although I didnt know who he was at the time. I
remember on the very first date, which I think was at
Croydon, he came on and did "Heartbreak Hotel".
He was dressed as a surgeon and ended up chopping a
chickens head off. His drummer couldnt take
it so he quit the tour that day.
You played a weeks worth of shows in
Paris in 1977?
Yeah we played at a club called The Gibus which was
also known as the Top Hat Club and that was sensational.
We met this great band called Bijou, Ive got their
album and theyve got ours. They were one of the
best three-piece bands that Ive seen. I really
enjoyed those gigs.
How did you feel when NEMS decided that
Pete Gage would produce your first album?
Id never heard of him and to be honest it
didnt matter to me at the time who was producing
the album; hed got his job to do and Id got
mine. I think he was the guy who was married to Elkie
Brooks wasnt he.
What did you think of the original Pete
Gage mix of your first album?
It was shit.
Were you happy with the final production
of the album after Matt and Cas had remixed it?
No it was still awful, I wasnt even allowed in
while they were re-mixing it. I dont think the
vocals are mixed high enough, the energy and everything
are there but the vocals arent high enough. The
songs are very good but a better production could have
made the album sound so much better; it sounds too
muffled to me although in time you get used to it. The
covers crap too but I didnt have any say in
that either. The second album cover is brilliant but the
first one was crap.
Who decided on the cover?
What are your favourite tracks from the
"First Time" is brilliant, "Sick On
You" is great and I really like "Box
Number", it has some of my best drumming on it. I
really do like "Box Number", in fact Ill
have to put it on in a minute. I thought "I
Dont Care" was better than the single,
"Cop Cars"/"Keep Running" is clever
and I loved "Living In The City". I liked most
of it, the songs were great I just wish the production
had been better.
Apart from the occasional exception Matt
and Cas were writing most of the early Boys material. Did
you ever consider writing more songs?
Matt and Cas were prolific songwriters and John tended
to write on his own. I think that Duncan desperately
wanted to write songs and to be honest I didnt
really get a look in. Towards the end I wrote three or
four songs which I thought were okay so I certainly had
it in me. Mind you I wouldnt want to take it away
from the others because I loved their music anyway, they
were great songwriters.
Were you writing many songs at that time?
No not really to be honest and not at all for the
first two albums.
First Time is very commercial. Did you
feel it had the potential to be a big hit?
Definitely. I think if wed been another band it
would have been a hit. I still cannot understand why it
wasnt a hit because it was the perfect rocky, pop
song. You couldnt really call it punk though,
its not a punk song. Its so bloody commercial
I just cant understand why it wasnt a hit. It
came in at number 84 and then Elvis died and it dropped
out of the charts because no one could buy it. Its
all Elivis fault!!
Youve touched on Elvis a couple of
times. What impact did his death have on the Boys chances
Well it completely fucked us up at such a critical
time. Who knows what would have happened if he
hadnt have died at that time. It had such a
devastating impact on us because RCA just said sod
everybody else and just concentrated on printing
Elvis records and we couldnt do anything
about it; it was so frustrating.
The Boys had a reputation for being heavy
drinkers and knowing how to enjoy themselves?
Yeah we certainly knew how to enjoy ourselves and
people liked working with us because we were such a good
time band. We used to make sure we played a good gig and
then we enjoyed ourselves afterwards. Although I do
remember two gigs where I didnt play particularly
well. One was at The Brecknock where we played a
lunchtime gig and I had an enormous hangover. That was
hard work with a hangover in front of about eight people!
I remember Duncans Dad was at that gig and he said
"I think youve got something there".
Another time was at a small cinema in France where I got
pissed and completely messed up and everyone was annoyed
with me and after that I never did it again. Duncan was
always a true professional, he would never drink before a
gig; he used to put so much effort into his performance.
Duncan and I were the lynchpins of the band being bass
and drums and having to keep it all together; we were
very disciplined. Matt and John would sometimes drink
before a gig and they probably let us down on a few
occasions but Im sure it happens in every band so
its no big deal.
What do you remember about the night Led
Zeppelin came to see the Boys at the Roxy?
I remember that we were playing and this big, fat
bearded guy came to the left of me and hed
obviously had a few beers. We were in the middle of a
song and he said " can I come and play" or
something and I replied "fuck off". Later on
Im at the bar and someone asked if I knew who it
was and obviously I didnt so they said "it was
John Bonham actually!" And I thought "oh
no" because he was one of my heroes, I used to love
Led Zeppelin; I had all their albums when I was at
school. I hope he forgave me.
You co-wrote "Teachers Pet"
with John and Duncan. How did that come about?
I think that Duncan and I tried to get that together;
I was just really chuffed to get the Boys to play
something Id written, it was a bit of a novelty for
You wrote the lyrics didnt you?
Yeah I think I did. A lot of the Boys lyrics were
brilliant in their way because they were all about girls
and sex and having fun, although Matt tended to get a bit
heavier and a little more political which was probably
more in line with the times.
You then recorded "Alternative
Chartbusters" at Rockfield?
Yeah that was a brilliant time, I loved it. They were
happy times and I know so many stories from Rockfield.
Tell me a few.
Well Rockfield was at the bottom of the hill and the
house we stayed in was at the top of the hill. There was
loads of food in the fridge in the house where we stayed
and two cooks used to look after us. The first evening
there was about eight of us and they put out one bottle
of white wine and one bottle of red wine and we thought
what the hell is going on here. After that they started
to put out like six bottles of white and six bottles of
red every night. Anyway John and I had finished our
recording one day so we went back to the house and moved
all the furniture, including the television, out of the
living room and into the garden. So when the rest of the
guys came up the hill John and I were sat watching the
television on the lawn.
Another time they came back late at night and we had an
air rifle and started shooting at the van as it was
coming up the hill. We knocked a few headlights out and
they were all saying that we must be crazy but nobody got
hurt. I really loved Rockfield. Monmouth was a one street
town and every other shop was a pub. One night we decided
to go for a pub crawl. There were something like
seventeen pubs in Monmouth and we were going to have half
a pint in each pub, but I dont think we finished
the pub crawl. It really was a great time, I loved it
The Boys produced "Alternative
Chartbusters" themselves. How did NEMS feel about
I dont know and I dont care but you can
hear for yourself that the production on
"Alternative Chartbusters" is great. I think
that its an incredible change from the first album
and it shows our versatility. We did what we wanted to do
and I think it shows in the album. I love that album and
I think the production is great.
What involvement did you have in the
production of the album?
I think that it was primarily Matt, and possibly Cas.
I didnt have much involvement at all and I
wouldnt want to take it away from Matt and Cas
because they did such a great job.
The album originally came out with a
montage of photos on the inner sleeve. Whose idea was
Matts. He put all that together and I think
thats without a doubt our best album cover.
Ive got some of the originals of the front cover
and some alternative versions. I dont think the
front cover was ever planned, it just sort of happened
and ended up like that. I think the idea of the songs and
the pictures on the back of the sleeve was all
Matts work as well.
You recorded some radio advertisements
for "Alternative Chartbusters" which were to be
released on "Odds and Sods"?
Yeah thats right, I did the Mavis voice. They
were great fun to make. I had more input into that; I
think it was basically all of us having a laugh and
taking the piss out of Generation X, the Clash and
You made videos for "Brickfield
Nights" and "Sway"?
Yeah thats right, I think that Cas wore a
bandage in "Sway" and "Brickfield
Nights" was shown on the Paul Nicholas Show. I
remember we recorded both songs in an hour, we were
always very quick in those days. I remember once when we
went into a recording studio for about eight hours or
something and this guy asked how many tracks we wanted to
put down. He thought we might say two or three and I
think we actually recorded eighteen demos. We didnt
mess about in those days, we were really good at that
sort of thing; we were so tight and worked really hard.
One of my favourite Boys songs is "Bad Day",
just listen to how tight we are on that and also on
"Box Number" too. In fact I must listen to
"Box Number" right now!
Were any tracks off "Alternative
Chartbusters" considered as a follow up to
Well Paul Adrians always said that "TCP"
should have been a single. Personally I wish wed
had the guts to have released "Heroine" as a
single. If Phil Collins had released "Heroine"
it would have been number 1 all over the world without a
shadow of a doubt. "Sway" was a good song too
and could have been a single but in those days you
couldnt do something like that as a single because
it wasnt in line with what your general music was
supposed to be like. One thing Ive always thought
about the Boys is that we were very versatile; we could
do "Garden Gang" and then something as
different as "Kamikaze", we did country songs
and then the Yobs, which of course was great fun to make.
What can you remember about "Cast Of
Thousands" being commissioned for TV?
We were commissioned to do a song about football
hooliganism but it never happened and we asked Deaf
School, who were at Rockfield at that time, to join in at
the end of the song. I thought it was a great song,
its my favourite cymbal sound, the first cymbal I
hit and I think the drumming sounds good on that too.
What other tracks did you like from
USI" is another good song which is another of
Johns songs. "Do The Contract" is another
track I really like and very clever writing from Matt
too. Theres no doubt that Matt was a great
singer/songwriter, some of his lyrics were so bloody
clever. I also thought "Backstage Pass" was a
great song but I feel that the arrangement was wrong, I
always felt that the finish to it was wrong. By the time
of the third and fourth albums I was having much more of
a say in the arrangements of the songs but on
"Alternative Chartbusters" I didnt. I
think theres a lot of good pop songs on the album.
How did you feel when "Alternative
Chartbusters" and "Brickfield Nights" both
Gutted. Again thats one of those things I just
cant understand, I thought they were so good. I
mean "Brickfield Nights" was a great pop song,
Matts lyrics were great and it really deserved to
be a hit. I dont know how it failed, I was gutted
then and Im gutted now. I remember listening to a
radio show where "Brickfield Nights" was
supposed to be played as one of six chart contenders. The
first song came on and it wasnt us and then the
second came on and it never happened again. All six chart
contenders were played and theyd missed out
"Brickfield Nights", I tell you the PR at NEMS
Is "Brickfield Nights"
Matts finest moment as a singer?
Yeah I would agree although he does some great singing
on "No Money", "Heroine",
"Independent Girl" and several others; I really
like Matts voice. A lot of people didnt like
his voice but personally I think hes a great singer
although hes a bit Lennon-esque at times.
You played some live dates with Rudi?
Yeah we played some dates with Rudi in France and
Ive got some photos of him playing with us. That
must have been for the third album because I think he was
there primarily for "Kamikaze" and a couple of
You recorded your second John Peel
session in May 1978. You recorded "TCP" with
the BBC references?
Yeah that shows our impishness, we were always looking
at ways of taking the piss and being on the BBC it seemed
appropriate. John Peel used to like us, for about a week
or something he used to start his show with "The
Worm Song". We used to play that live at the time
and as soon as we did the "bump bump" bit the
place used to go berserk. It was great fun.
Chartbusters" what did you do to get released from
We basically went on strike, wed had enough.
Some of the PR at NEMS was crap, if wed only signed
for a big record company who knows what might have
happened. We had struggled along with NEMS and made the
best of it but by that time wed had enough.
What did you do for the next 18 months?
Very little. I joined the Rowdies with John and we had
Alan Anger on vocals who was one of our biggest fans, he
was mister fanzine. Alan Anger is now a traffic warden
and hes the guy who busted Chris Evans twice and
made the centre page of the Sun. He busted him once and
Chris Evans thought "Im only five minutes
late" and then he busted him again. Alan Anger used
to run this fanzine and wrote lots of articles about us.
He was a wonderful guy who used to come on tour with us;
he was brilliant. Anyway Mark Harrison played the piano
and Phil Spalding played bass and we released
"Shes No Angel" first as the Rowdies and
then as the Cockney N Westerns. It was excellent fun
making that record. I thought "Shes No
Angel" had the potential to be a hit but the world
is not always a fair place.
Incidentally Mark (Muck-Man) Harrison, drums and Phil
Spalding, bass toured with us with the Bernie Torme Band
who were another brilliant three-piece. Mark and Phil,
who are still great friends of ours to this day were a
superb unit, really tight. They had signed for JET
Records and they were staying in really good hotels so we
spent most of the time at their hotels playing pool and
gambling. Mark and I still go watching the racing every
time I go to see him in London. If you ever get to visit
his place youll know why hes called
Muck-Man!! Mark and Phil both went on to play in the
Dirty Strangers and Phil also played with the Original
Mirrors, Toyah, Mike Oldfield and many others.
You then signed to Safari with whom you
had a better relationship?
Safari were brilliant and John Craig was fantastic. He
was really good to us, he genuinely liked us as people
and not just as a band. We tended to socialise with John
a lot and he would invite us back to his place. He had a
really nice wife and he also had a lovely cocker spaniel
dog called Humphrey who did the backing vocals (howling!)
on "Doggy" from the Yobs first album. In one
review we did a photo shoot with Humphrey who we sat in a
wicker chair wearing dark glasses and surrounded by the
band. The headline was something like "Safari
Executive Welcomes His New Band The Boys"; it was a
cool photo at the time. I really did like John Craig, he
was a great guy, he liked us and we liked him. There was
another bloke at Safari I remember called Tony who was
always checking out his oil prices. Safari were very good
How did you come to go to Norway to
record "To Hell With The Boys"?
That was obviously to do with Cas who arranged it. He
knew somebody and it was a great experience. As I recall
we got this Levi sponsorship as well and we all had great
trousers but boy is Norway expensive. Cas had this pink
Cadillac at the time and we used to cruise round
Trondheim in it looking cool! You probably know that Cas
went on to be huge in Scandinavia with Gary Holton, they
had their own private tables in restaurants and things
like that. They had hits with "Ruby" and other
country songs which were rocked up a little; Garys
voice was special.
The producer didnt like
Duncans vocals and wanted Matt to sing all the
tracks on "To Hell With The Boys". What did you
I remember I disagreed with it, I thought it was
unfair. I think it was because the producer thought
Duncan sounded too young for the album but I disagreed
with him and of course Duncan ended up singing
"Terminal Love" and "Rue Morgue".
What did you think about the final
released mix of that album?
I liked it. I remember we all listened to the original
mix of the album in Matts living room and we were
all disappointed with it. I think the original mix had a
more acoustic version of "Independent Girl".
Im personally happy with the final mix which was
released, I think it was a good mix.
What are your favourite tracks?
I love most of it to be honest. I think "Terminal
Love" is Johns best song ever and I also
thought "Kamikaze" was brilliant. I know
its a very basic song but I still love it and of
course it was a Chevrolet car revving up at the start and
not a motorbike. "Lonely Cowboy" was a great
song and John Mayall played on that for £500 and a
bottle of vodka! I also love "Bad Day",
were really tight on that one and Im gonna
play that next. "Independent Girl" is another
great song and "Waiting For The Lady" was an
old Penfold song. In fact I love the whole album, I
cant really knock a track.
Do you think it was better than
No I couldnt say that, its very different
from "Alternative Chartbusters". For me they
are both great albums in their own ways and it would be
an insult to say one was better than the other.
Can you remember recording a radio
session for Mike Read/Anne Nightingale which included
"Kamikaze", "Terminal Love" and
"See You Later"?
I cant remember that session but its
possible we did it.
You appeared on the Whistle Test in
You get a badge when you appear and Ive lost
mine! The only way you can get a badge is by appearing on
the show and I wish Id still got mine.
What did you think of your performance?
Having just watched it for the first time in twenty
years it looks and sounds very good. Looking back on the
show it was the things that dreams are made of because
the Whistle Test was so credible that if you were on it
you deserved to have a hit. Unfortunately things
dont always work out that way.
What other TV appearances did you make?
The "Brickfield Nights" video was shown on
the Paul Nicholas Show and that always made me laugh
because he made out that we were actually there but of
course we werent. We did a Top Of The Pops type
programme in France performing "Brickfield
Nights". Talking Heads were on the show and Serge
Gainsboro was also there singing his latest single
"Sea, Sex And Sun"; he was on a couch with all
these women sprawled all over him. I remember I played
the drums with rolled up newspapers for a laugh. We also
did a German show with Desmond Dekker. We performed
"Youd Better Move On" and behind us there
were these four gorgeous women with white t shirts with
B, O, Y and S on their backs and I tried to pick up Y and
there was consternation in the hotel. During rehearsal I
was drunk and I dropped my stick or something and we had
to do it all again. I remember John Craig was really
pissed off with me because he thought I was going to blow
the whole thing but it all worked out fine in the end.
On the way to the show we had a private eight seater
plane. We had an excellent pilot who was a really kind of
straight guy and he gave us all a go at flying the plane.
Anyway we all had a go at flying the plane and then
Duncan had a go. Hell remember it because in the
middle of his go the pilot cool as you like says "I
think Id better take care of the controls before we
go into a vertical dive!" When we arrived at the
airport we cut out four of Duncans faces from some
posters and stuck them over our heads and Ive got a
great photograph of five Duncans sitting in this
When we arrived at the television studios they had a bar
and we were supposed to say "five bottles of lager
to Safari". Of course we were going up "eight
bottles of lager and twelve schnapps to CBS" and
Safari never paid a penny on the drinks bill but it cost
CBS a small fortune! It was a laugh and you know Im
the only one from the band whos not now a business
man or something and its weird in a way.
What were your thoughts when you were
invited to join the Ramones tour?
Oh brilliant, the tour was awesome and they really
wanted us to support them. In terms of performance they
were brilliant. I cant believe that anyone could
keep up with them. They were fantastic, one of my
favourite bands of all time and a real feelgood band as
well. I loved them and I thought they were awesome. I
could never have drummed like they did non stop for forty
five minutes or so, they were just unbelievable. I
thoroughly enjoyed the tour and we stayed in some great
hotels. John and I always used to room together, we were
known as the Big Two. Every party after every gig always
ended up in our room, the reason being that if anyone
wanted to leave early they could always go back to their
nice quiet room.
Did any of the Ramones socialise with
No they didnt party at all, they were incredibly
professional. Marky got fined for missing rehearsals and
things like that but no they didnt really socialise
with us. I remember once we all went to a restaurant in
Chelsea but that was about it.
What do you remember about "Jimmy
Looking back I find it surprising that it wasnt
released as a single, it certainly had the potential to
be a hit.
What impact did Casinos departure
have on the Boys?
Casino and I always got on great and I was very sorry
to see him leave, we had some great times together. I
cant actually remember why he left although I think
there was a woman involved somewhere. There was certainly
no animosity within the band, everyone liked Cas.
Did you consider finishing?
No we didnt we just got on with it and I think
thats why we called the next album "Boys
Only". Personally I missed Casino an awful lot and
he then went on to do great things with Gary Holton. In
fact Gary Holton also used to come on tour with us just
for the crack and then go on to dominate all proceedings
but we enjoyed his company. Cas and I always got on great
and we used to go to loads of Arsenal games together. I
really missed him.
I must tell you a quick tale about Cas. Hed told us
that he was going to have a gold tooth put in at the
front, you know a kind of cool showbiz thing. Of course
we had naturally assumed that it would be a whole tooth.
Well we picked him up outside the Sussex Arms in
Paddington, where he lived at the time, and he got on the
mini bus. We all said "come on then lets see
this famous gold tooth" so he opened his mouth to
give us a grin and we could barely see it, it was a teeny
weany little strip at the side of one of his front teeth.
Well we all had hysterics and said "whats
that". Cas was not amused and told us to fuck off in
his own Norwegian way which sounded like "Fock
Ov" so we were in hysterics again. Needless to say
Cas didnt talk to us much for the rest of the day.
What about his impact on the band from a
writing point of view?
Well John always wrote on his own and Matt just got on
with writing songs without Cas. Youd really need to
ask Matt that question.
You were then involved with the "New
Yeah thats right. I actually thought it could
have been better than it was because it had some great
songs on it. As an album I think we did it too quickly
and it could have been so much better.
After that The Boys recorded the Yobs
album and you sang a couple of the songs?
Oh yeah I sing on the best songs! I sang "The
Ballad Of The Warrington" and
"C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S" and I think I also did the
Jewish voice on "We Wish You A Merry
Christmas". We actually did that album in a couple
of days. We went into the studio and just rattled off an
album. It was good fun to make it, we all had turns on
the tubular bells and everybody had a go at everything.
Theres the odd mistake on it but how can you be the
Yobs with a nice, tidy record. My nephew used to love the
album, he thought it was the best album in the world.
Its disgusting and its rude but its fun
and it puts smiles on peoples faces. Even my 70+
year old neighbour Cath Mark likes it and she loves the
Boys too. Youre never too old to appreciate great
Did you ever fancy singing on a Boys
I dont think I was good enough and I was
probably too shy to ask if I could. It didnt bother
me at all because I was happy with the other guys singing
and even when I wrote the occasional song I was happy not
to sing it myself.
Around the same time as you recorded the
Yobs album you recorded "Boys Only" and
"Weekend" was released as a taster from the
It should have been a hit, it was a great summer pop
song. All the time we were together I kept thinking what
do we have to do to have a hit. We were desperate for a
hit but it just never seemed to happen. I still
cant understand why "Weekend" wasnt
You made a video for "Weekend".
What did you think of it?
Considering its in the early days of video I
suppose its not too bad although its a bit
naïve but we had some fun making it. The story behind it
was that the guy who made it, Stephen Waldorf, was then
shot by the police a couple of weeks later.
Were you surprised when it was shown on
Noel Edmonds Multi Coloured Swapshop?
Im not sure whether I was surprised that it was
shown on the BBC but I was certainly very pleased that it
was shown and Im sure the rest of the band were
"Boys Only" didnt receive
the same critical acclaim as the other three albums and
is generally regarded as your weakest album.
Really. I would disagree with that statement, I think
its got some great songs on it. As far as Im
concerned its certainly not a weaker album than the
other three we released. Our albums are all very
different and each are equally good in their own way. I
thought it was a great cover and a lot of work went into
that. I think its very clever; black and gold
John Player Special.
What tracks do you like?
I think "Weekend" was a great single. I also
really like "Wrong Arm Of The Law",
"Nothing Ventured" and "Gabrielle" is
one of my favourite Boys songs. I wrote
"Satisfaction Guaranteed" and I do like it,
its probably the best song Ive written. I
accept that "Scrubber" is not very good, it
started off as a country song with different lyrics.
"Monotony"; Johns final wish to write a
two chord song and he finally made it! Its a good
album and I do not consider it to be the weakest of the
On Boys Only you wrote three tracks, two
being co-written with John. How did you feel about
getting three of your songs on a Boys album?
I felt great about it. "Poor Little Rich
Girl" is not a great song but its okay. As I
said I like "Satisfaction Guaranteed",
its got a good melody, its simple, I like the
drums on it and I think its a good pop song.
"Miss You" is a tribute to John Wayne;
its John and I collaborating and borrowing a little
from a Jim Reeves song.
Was John Wayne a hero of yours?
John Wayne, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and of course
Charlie George of Arsenal. Cas turned me onto Tony
Bennett. We went to see him at the Theatre Royal in Drury
Lane. Cas turned up with a friend of his called Mark I
think. He had really long hair and a beard and looked as
if he could eat anybody for breakfast. We turned up
looking distinctly different to the other Tony Bennett
fans but nobody seemed to mind because we were all fans.
I remember Cas kept shouting out "Antonio sing San
Francisco" which of course he eventually did. It was
a brilliant night out and the Syd Lawrence Orchestra was
After Duncan Reid left the Boys in March
1981 he was replaced by Chris Brashford and Howard Wall.
Chris Brashford actually did some gigs with us where
we both played the drums and I thought it sounded great
with the double drumming. He was very versatile because
he then played bass guitar with us for a while.
How did the Boys finally call it a day?
I think that I instigated the final split and
Ive always felt guilty about it. We were in Madrid
in Spain and had just finished a European tour. If I
remember rightly there was a deal on the table for me as
Id just invented this board game called
"Tightlines". The Boys didnt seem to be
going anywhere at that time and for me it was a little
soul destroying to be getting nowhere. We were playing
gigs, making records, working really hard and having some
fun but we were just not getting anywhere. We never had
the hit that we wanted and we really needed and there
just didnt seem to be any point in carrying on.
How did you feel when the Boys finished?
I was absolutely gutted when we finished. I never went
on to play for another band thats how gutted I was.
Why didnt you consider joining
I didnt want to. I remember John telling me that
several bands wanted me to play with them but I just
wasnt interested. I just didnt want to play
for another band, for me it would have been like a
betrayal. I wanted to play in my band, it was as simple
as that and my band was the Boys.
You give up drumming then?
Yeah I sold my drumkit, my beautiful pearl drumkit and
fly cases. It was like the good times were over so what
was the point in keeping my drumkit. I wasnt going
to play for another band.
You mentioned "Tightlines"
earlier. I believe you invented a couple of other board
Yeah I invented "Tightlines" and a couple of
other games. Very much by chance I bumped into someone in
a hairdressers who introduced me to a guy from
Cambridgeshire who made adverts and he was printing a
game called "Kensington" in his printing
factory. He fancied a venture into the games world
because he had some money to invest. He saw my game and
he liked it and I think it came out in 1982. I made a bit
of money out of it and I saw it very much as a personal
success but I had little artistic control. Ive also
invented a steaming two-player game called
"Equus". Im currently looking for an
entrepreneurial type marketing person for that one. It
really does beat "Backgammon" as a gambling
game, just ask anyone whos played it. Id like
to get some photos of the game on the internet because it
looks really good too.
You apparently injured your back in the
Yeah I did and I picked up some compensation, but
its all gone unfortunately.
You bought a business in Poland with some
of the money?
Yeah I did, in a factory in Poland.
Campino was interested in the Boys and he
apparently used your scrapbook as research for the
"Odds and Sods" album?
And hes still got it! I hope hes still got
it because hes not returned it to me. If hes
as big a fan as he claims I cant believe that
hes lost it so hopefully he has still got it.
Its contains all our early cuttings including an
article on our first gig and stuff like that.
Youre hoping to get it back one day
Bloody right I am.
What were your thoughts about "Odds
I thought great, thanks very much. Theres a
couple of tracks I dont like for example
"Flies" because I dont think we did it
very well and I wasnt crazy about
"Mummy". I like "Pick Me Up" and I
really like "Walk My Dog", it should have been
a summer single and "SAP" is a song John wrote
about me. It was about me and my girlfriend at the time
and the fact that I would not be unfaithful to her. She
was tall, blonde and gorgeous and I just wasnt
interested in any other women and so John wrote the song
"SAP" about me. I prefer the single version of
"I Love Me" with the piss take on the Rolling
Whats the story behind "Garden
There was this nine year old girl who wrote a series
of books for Ladybird and it was all about Tommy Tomato
and Oliver Onion and all that. We were commissioned to do
the theme song for the television series and of course it
never happened. There were various different versions of
"Garden Gang" and we all got to write one.
I believe around that time you rehearsed
with the Boys?
I dont know it was Duncan who said
that you had.
I cant really remember it. Its possibly
true but obviously nothing came of it although I
can tell you that if someone said to me do you want to do
another Boys album Id be there like a shot.
Youd be happy to do another album
with the Boys then?
Id love to. Even though Mark Harrison did this,
somebody else did that Im the Boys drummer
its as simple as that. Im not being funny
about it but I was the Boys drummer, I still am the Boys
drummer and if there was going to be another Boys album
surely Ive got to do the drumming and not somebody
Im sure every Boys fan would agree with that
Why didnt you appear on the second
Id just spent 102 days in a Polish prison and
Id just come back to my girlfriend and two children
in England. Literally the next day I was asked to do it
and I would have loved to have been involved but I
obviously had to spend time with my family. Thats
the only reason I turned it down; I couldnt let my
family down. I would love to have done it but I
In 1996 Matt, Duncan, Casino and John
came together with Campino to record
"Powercut." Why werent you involved?
I dont know why I wasnt involved. I wish
Id been there.
What did you think of Campino singing
instead of Matt and Duncan?
No problem, Campinos a Boys fan good for him.
Last year "The Boys Punk Rock
Rarities" was released.
I havent got the album and Id love a copy!
How come so many great songs remained
unreleased when you were together?
I really dont know.
What are your thoughts on the Boys
tribute album "Satisfaction Guaranteed"?
I think its great. Its amazing that other
bands are doing our songs and its great to hear all
the different versions. Some of them are funny and some
of them are absolutely brilliant. I love the version of
"Independent Girl" on the album.
What did you think about the album title?
I loved it. My words thank you very much. I was very
very happy about that.
There is another Boys/Hollywood Brats
tribute album currently being compiled in Italy. How do
you feel about that?
Brilliant. Its very flattering that there are so
many other bands out there around the world who like the
Boys music. I cannot emphasis how much it means to me
that someone out there really gives a damn.
There appears to be a growing interest in
the music of the Boys, particularly from young bands who
werent there first time around. How do you feel
I think its absolutely superb and Im
delighted that these people want to listen to our music.
It really means a lot to me that young people who maybe
didnt hear our music the first time around can
listen to it now and like it so much. Its very
flattering for me and must be even more so for Matt, Cas
and John who wrote most of our songs.
Following Michelle Gun Elephants
success there was a lot of Boys activity in 1999
culminating in the two dates in Japan. Why didnt
you go to Japan?
Id love to have gone but the rest of the band
decided that I wasnt up to it. It could be a sore
point but it wont be. I never really got asked. I
think I should have been asked and I could have
formulated an opinion. I think I could have probably done
it but they felt I couldnt do it and they made that
decision and thats history now.
Did they make that decision based on the
fact that you havent done any drumming in the last
True but thats not to say I couldnt do it.
I dont believe whoever did it could have done it as
well as I would have done it.
How did you feel about Vom replacing you
I dont know the guy and I havent heard him
drum but I cant believe he did it as well as I
could have done it. As far as Im concerned
its not the Boys playing Boys songs unless Im
drumming. Hed have been doing fills where I
didnt do fills and he would have been doing
different drumming to me so how can it have sounded like
Would you ever consider playing live with
the Boys again?
Definitely. I would love to play live with the Boys
again. I suppose a whole gig at the old pace would
probably be unlikely but Id love to make a guest
appearance or something. I could easily drum on a couple
of the songs or maybe even play tambourine or percussion
perhaps. I think that there are several Boys songs which
would be really suited to the tambourine, particularly on
the chorus. Id love to go to Spain with the Boys in
whatever capacity theyd have me.
Im sure all Boys fans would love to see you
there in some capacity.
Have you seen the Boys website?
No. I wish I had access to the internet but I
Youve kept a lot of memorabilia on
Yeah Ive kept loads of stuff. Ive got
newspaper cuttings, hotel receipts, beer mats from
hotels, tour itineries, Boys and Yobs stickers and
badges, posters, the original Polaroids from the
"Boys Only" album and loads of other previously
unseen photos. In other words Ive got it all!
Youre clearly very knowledgeable on
Boys matters. Would you ever consider writing a book
about your experiences?
Thats exactly what I want to do and why
dont we do it together Steve! All I need is a
publisher wholl give me an advance and Ill
put together the best encyclopaedia/history on the Boys
ever. Id love to go and interview all the people
weve met all over the world and pull together all
the stories about the band along with my substantial
collection of unpublished photos. You can be sure
theyll all tell you that the best band in the world
was the Boys!
What are your three favourite Boys songs?
Oh I cant pick out three its far too
difficult. "Terminal Love" would have to be in
there and "Bad Day" is straight in there.
"Gabrielle", "Brickfield Nights",
"First Time", "Box Number",
"Living In The City", its just too
difficult to pick three, I love them all. Sorry I
cant help it but I really do love all the Boys
Ken Mewis thought of you as the second
Rolling Stones. You have been called "The Beatles of
Punk". What do you think?
I think we were the Boys. We were great and I loved
the band more than any other band member loved the band.
We were all nice guys, we all got on, there was never any
animosity and we had lots of excellent people working for
us who have had success in other areas and good luck to
them. We liked to drink, we liked to gamble and we liked
to make great music. Wed always be challenging our
contemporaries at pool, darts, snooker, cards or anything
really. In the event we lost wed ask if we could
pay them Friday! It was without doubt the best time of my
life and I wish I could go back to the start and live it
all over again right now!
In your opinion why didnt the Boys
make it big?
Because the management fucked up, full stop.
With hindsight would you have done
No I dont think so, I loved every minute of my
time in the Boys. To me it was all too good to be true. I
know theres loads of bands who tour the world but I
know, the other band members know and the fans know that
we were a good band and we had a really really good time.
For me one of the most important things was that people
liked working for us which is a huge compliment. I
suppose with hindsight one thing I would change is
signing to NEMS; had we signed for a major label who
knows what might have happened.
What type of music do you listen to now?
Laid back music. My favourite song at the moment is
"From A Distance" by Nancy Griffiths. I also
like ZZ Top and rock n roll. Im also a huge country
fan, especially Jim Reeves because hes great to
drink whisky to when youve just had an argument
with your girlfriend. I dont like anything
thats in the charts today and these boy bands who
prance about doing covers go in one ear and come out of
What are you doing at the moment?
Ive been casting some moulds and Im trying
to relaunch a couple of my games and Ive got a few
other ideas. Hopefully I will be able to get a relaunch
for "Tightlines" in the near future.
Have you any musical plans for the
Well I play every Monday night with these other guys
down my local. Theres a piano/accordion player, a
violinist, theres triangles and all sorts of things
and we have a great time. I play the tambourine just to
make sure everythings tight! Id like to do my
favourite Boys songs their way; Im sure it could
make a really interesting album and for once Id be