BBC Radio Ulster, 92.4-95.4 FM

Monday 2nd February 2004

Interview with George Jones

Track: Flowers in the Rain

GJ: 1967, as we’re in the midst of the Sixties Spectacular today. And the voice of Carl Wayne fronting the Move, and I’m delighted to say, live to talk to us now. Carl Wayne, how you doing, Carl?

CW: George, I’m great, how’re you doing?

GJ: How do you feel when you hear that?

CW: (laughs) I always find it a bit of a thrill, because it was such a major record to have, the first record on Radio One.

GJ: That’s right.

CW: September 1967. It’s kind of tinged with a little bit of irony because at the time, to publicise the record, our management dreamed up this dastardly and litigious story about the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Wilson.

GJ: Steady with those big words on a Monday!

CW: Litigious, there you go! So, from the day we recorded it until this moment as I speak to you and forever more, we never earned a penny from it.

GJ: Really?

CW: No

GJ: Carl, that must tell the story of many groups from the Sixties.

CW: Oh, I think so, I think there are lots of sad tales, you know. But it’s a great record and it’s great to be associated with the first record ever on Radio One. And it still sounds fresh these days.

GJ: Doesn’t it just, and it’s very appropriate for the weather as well!

CW: Is it raining there?

GJ: It’s lashing. Flowers in the Rain, it’s quite appropriate.

CW: Brilliant!

GJ: Would I be right in saying that you were the group in the midst of Merseybeat and Manchester who set the trend for Birmingham?

CW: Yes, sort of. To be honest with you, the Mersey Era was a bit before us because the Beatles cracked it in around ’62 with “Love Me Do”. At that time I was working in Germany with my band before the Move. It was when we came back to this country that all the record companies thought they’d try and sign all the Birmingham bands, because they thought, like Merseybeat, there was going to be a Birmingham thing. So, they signed a few bands. The band I was in couldn’t get signed and it was actually some four years later – late ’66 – that the Move were signed and of course succeeded from then. But, in truth, the Mersey boys were going before us.

GJ: You were in Germany about the same time as I was then, about ’62, ’63.

CW: Were you playing?

GJ: Oh yeah, I played with a band called the Monarchs which had  a saxophone player called Van Morrison.

CW: Oh really, yes I’ve heard about him! So you were playing about ten hours a night like us, were you?

GJ: Well, we started at 8, played ‘til 4, seven days a week and a matinee on Sunday.  I don’t think we ever saw daylight.

CW: No, we didn’t, and we got 20 quid a week for it.

GJ: You see the thing was, Carl, I can’t remember how much I got. Money didn’t matter in those days. They put some money for eating under your arm, and that was it.

CW: We used to collect bits of wood and pieces of paper in this one place in Nurenburg so we could light the boiler and have a bath.

(laughter from both)

But they were great days.

GJ: They were, I wouldn’t have changed them for the world, you certainly became men overnight, I’ll tell you that.

CW: You did. My boy’s nineteen now and he plays drums in a band and I’ve said to him “It’s really sad these days, son, because when I was your age you could go and work anywhere 24 hours a day if you wanted to”. Whereas the kids these days can’t.

GJ: That’s right. And you had to go and learn a new language, learn a new style of life, at the fresh age of about 17 or 18. It was all new.

CW: So were you in the North, in Hamburg?

GJ: No, we were in Heidelberg. Then we went to Frankfurt, Cologne.

CW: We did Frankfurt, we did the Arcadia club there, then we were in Stuttgart, all over the place. But, days I wouldn’t have missed, I agree with you.

GJ: Absolutely. It’s part of our heritage. So, you were the forerunners for Birmingham. Then of course came Jeff Lynne and ELO and the rest is history, of course. But primarily you were the biggest in the Sixties from Birmingham, weren’t you?

CW: Well, I think it kind of started off with Spencer Davis. And then the Moody Blues. I was working with a guy named Mike Pinder. Mike Pinder was a keyboard player and he and I were summoned by a brewery in Birmingham called Mitchells and Butler.

GJ: Sounds ominous!

CW: “We want to finance a group and we want you to be called the Mitchells and Butler Five” and we said “No, thank you, we’ll become the M and B Five” And that’s how the Moody Blues started.

GJ: Really. Because I was talking to John Lodge about four weeks ago, he’s a good friend.

CW: Nice guy, John.

GJ: And they’re about to tour Europe after three successful American tours. There’s hope for us yet, Carl!

CW: Well, to be honest with you, they have a major strategy and they do it right. Because they do “shed tours” as they’re called in the States, 7-8,000 people, they also do a major casino chain across America. And they do the big venues over here, you know, like the NEC and big places. They’ve just about got it right. It’s quite an irony though, that the biggest hit they’re most famous for is “Nights in White Satin”.

GJ: That’s right.

CW: And John wrote the b-side, and owns the b-side. But Justin, who wrote the a-side, doesn’t own the a-side. It was owned by Lonnie Donegan!

(laughter from both)

GJ: Ok, now, we’ll go back to the beginning and start again!

CW: Right! We could be here for a week!

GJ: We could, and we go back a long way myself and yourself to the Jolly’s Nightclub, I remember that. How did you feel when you brought out, in the Seventies, “You’re A Star”?

CW: Well, it was an interesting time. The reason I left the Move was because Roy Wood, at the time, had visions of ELO. And then of course he stayed with that for a very short time and Jeff Lynne took it on to the consummate heights that it achieved. I mean,it was absolute genius.

GJ: But Roy did well with Wizzard too, you have to say.

CW: Well, yes, Roy kind of made his mark with Wizzard. So really Jeff had ELO and I had the Move and Roy had Wizzard. But when I left the Move, I had no money, I had to go and knock on doors and I had to do work. Everybody told me I’d be great doing commercials, so I got into session singing, advertising. In fact, I used to fly over to Belfast quite a lot to do stuff over there. Then in 1974, I think, I was approached by Tony McCaulay, who said they were doing a new talent show called “New Faces” and would I sing the theme song. So I sang “You’re A Star”.  And that was on for about ten, twelve years I guess.

GJ: That’s right, and free plugs every time the programme was on, that can’t be bad.

CW: And of course I then did everything else, you know, cabaret, pantomime, theatre, all sorts of things, which is where you and I met in a little nightclub in Stoke on Trent called Jolly’s.

GJ: That’s right, and what a night that was.

CW: But you know what’s interesting, George, is that all these years later, when I look back at it now, where I’m lucky – I mean, I work with the Hollies, as you know. And of course, I worked with Roy. People like Roy and people like the Hollies, god bless them, they’ve had their hits, but they’ve played those hits all of their careers.

GJ: That’s right.

CW: And where I feel lucky, although it’s been a harder road for me, is that, because I never wrote the songs, I’ve had to go and do other things. And what it’s done is given me enormous experience.

GJ: Broadened your horizons.

CW: It absolutely has. So now when I’m on stage with the Hollies I can bring all that work we did in Germany, in cabaret, around those nightclubs, to my advantage.

GJ: And you can turn round and say to people “When you’ve starved for your trade, when you’ve played everything from Chinese restaurants to big sheds and everything else, then you can say you’ve been in the business.”

CW: Well, I’ve been lucky. I have to say I’ve never retained the hype that some people have but I started singing when I was 15, although I was influenced many years before by Elvis Presley. And really, if someone had said to me that in my 61st year I’d be leading one of the finest groups ever, I’d have said, well thank you, I’ll go for that.

GJ: By the way, you’re older than me!

CW: Am I!

GJ: Just by one year.

CW: Well, there you go. I’m very proud.

GJ: You wouldn’t have changed it for the world and neither would I.

CW: I wouldn’t, not a thing.

GJ: And what a great bonus, as you say, because you’re coming to Belfast with, without question, one of the biggest bands from the Sixties. A lot of people don’t realise the amount of hits they had at the same time as the Beatles.

CW: Scary, I mean at one time in 1963 The Beatles, The Stones and The Hollies were the three biggest groups.

GJ: That’s correct.

CW: And they were massive. The Hollies, probably once Graham Nash left, probably then didn’t go on to achieve the same stature as the Beatles and the Stones. I think when Graham Nash left and went off to Crosby, Stills and Nash that was a different era.

GJ: It was indeed, but it’s funny how one chink in the armour loosens the whole thing up, isn’t it?

CW: It can do; especially Nash, because he was so creative. We play Move stuff on stage with the Hollies now, you know. We do about four songs …”Fire Brigade”, “I Can Hear The Grass Grow”, “Blackberry Way”…and they play them so well. Because in many ways, although the images were different, they weren’t dissimilar bands. We sang three and four piece harmony, so did the Hollies.

GJ: Same sounding guitar sound as well.

CW: Yeah – good guitarist, Tony, fine guitarist.

GJ: And a nice lad he is too, I’ve met him a couple of times.

CW: Yeah, he’s a sweetie.

GJ: Can I ask what Allan Clarke is doing?

CW: Allan Clarke unfortunately had to retire, which is where I came in. What they wanted to do, rather than bring somebody unknown in, they wanted to bring somebody in that was kind of well known and could bring other things to the table. So, it was quite cute really what they did. They brought me in which has been great because of course we do all the Move stuff. And also in the band we’ve got Ray Styles who used to be with Mud. So we do a Mud song, “Tiger Feet”.

GJ: Terrific. Well, you can’t beat bringing in names and well-known faces.

CW: Well, I guess it’s experience. There comes a time when people like Tony and Bobby, this is their 41st year, if you bring in a young lad of 22, 23, it makes it more of a covers band.

GJ: Yes, you’re getting a double-edged thing with you and the guy out of Mud on stage.

CW: That’s right.

GJ: Swelling the programme. I’m looking forward to seeing you. 21st February.

CW: I hope we’re going to get together there.

GJ: Of course we are, I’ll come and I’ll heckle.

CW: Good! Come and meet the guys and we’ll hang out.

GJ: It’ll be lovely to see you after all these years, Carl. Good luck and thanks for talking to us today.

CW: George, I appreciate your time. Give my love to everybody in Belfast, it’s a wonderful place.

GJ: They’re all waiting to see you. Yourself and the Hollies.

CW: God bless.

GJ: Cheers, Carl!

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