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Oral histories



'Russian Rubette'
by Barry Cain
from Record Mirror
5th February 1977

Spin that old chamber boy. There's one in there somewhere. Wipe the sweat away from your brow. I hear they've changed. Okay it's stopped revolving. Press that trigger. BLANK. C'mon, it's your turn. Quit trembling. Go ahead. BANG.

Fire away John.

'That was the summer of our discontent. But it's gonna be a fine Christmas 1977. In the beginning we were marketed. A nice start, yes, but that's when all our problems began.

'I'm convinced that what we did before was wrong. But I guess there wasn't much wrong with earning a grand apiece every week. When we were at Number One I thought we could have hit records all the time. I got drunk on the success. But even then I knew the albums were tripe.'


Baby I know. John Richardson, drummer and singer, swallows steak and spinach. Sips a glass of wine. Reloads.

'Music is a saviour of life. What is needed today is not a reiteration in music but an innovation. The Eagles are not innovative ... but if we could be half as good as they are, we'd be laughing.

'Johnny Rotten will end up living in Belgravia and driving a Merc. I've heard him sing - but I'd rather hear him talk.

'And our lives certainly need saving at the moment. Britain is headed for self-destruction in the same way as the Roman Empire fell apart. There's an unhealthy pre-occupation with sex and there are simply too many living off the state.

'We have the knowledge and that little red warning light will stop and turn towards the next age, which will be another Victorian era.

'Enoch Powell blames it on the blacks but, without wishing to sound like Cliff Richard, I think the main problem is a lack of faith in God. Everyone here wants to be a separatist. This country could be a paradise on earth and the musicians the saints.'

Commercial break. John is 29, married with two children. The Rubettes record 'Baby I Know' is poised to enter the charts. They've changed. Walking down country lanes. No more of that ol' juke box jive. And they sound good. More wine. More dry, white statements.

'I remember lying awake at night as a kid listening to my mum and dad arguing in the next room about nothing more than survival really. I remember my dad giving us Sunday lunch every week. I remember him giving me as much as he could despite the gnawing shortage of money.

'And now everything is supposed to be okay cos I've got a big house and car. The proletariat make up nine tenths of this country yet it's still echoed so many times where you come from and what you were.

'Look to the past if you are afraid of the present. Look at the life your parents gave you. It helps.'

God. God? God.

'The Rubettes were just an average group of session guys that got lucky. God was on our side. He thought I was a nice guy and let me have a few bob for a while. Now he is making it hard for me.

'He wants me to taste every side of life. He wants me to see rock bottom. I would never ask him to help me out if something went wrong. That's taking liberties with the geezer.

'I drink a lot and when I go to bed and say my prayers and I'm drunk, it's so hard to ask things for your mates and your family. When I have a knockback, I can't tell him about it. He can only take care of certain things otherwise we would not have the physical laws that govern the universe.

'I believe he is fashioning me for something else. So many times in my early career I thought: if only I'd done that or that, I'd be a superstar now. But I'm better off despite all that.

'Death doesn't worry me. When you've had like 58 cartilage operations in one week - if death is twice as painful as that, I don't mind.'

Sex? Yes please.

'I'm not a male chauvinist pig - mainly because I'm not very good in bed. I don't believe in putting it about. Your life has got to keep the family together and that's something very precious.

'I could have millions of birds when I'm on the road. But it disgusts me that you could do that, then go home and say to the wife: "I've missed you."

'I hate those people who think they're so clever getting a bit on the side. I'm not setting myself up as a saint but I'd never do that to my wife now. If that sounds like a Cliff Richard spectacular, then more power to Cliff's elbow.

'The papers aren't the right place to stick a nude. In years to come, you'll see a woman on page three showing everything. It's a fantastic part of the body - but in a daily newspaper? Your kids will be asking, "What are they doing?" and what can you tell them? It's so wrong.'


Some advice for up and coming pop stars from the man with the golden acumen.

'If there are writers in the band, set up your own company. It's so easy these days to borrow money from the banks cos they realize that there's dough in rock. You don't have to grovel if you've got a recording contract.

'Your manager should not be entitled to more than 20 per cent. Always make sure that you write at least the b-side and stipulate there should be a chance for the a-side at some time. And always ask for at least eight per cent if you get a hit.

'The Rubettes have never needed to worry about that. We've got the greatest manager there is, Roy Farrant. Everyone he's ever been with has made money - no matter how successful they were. He's given a ten per cent cut for that!'

Run out of ammo.

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