The Spedding Tapes - Richard Butler

A very funny thing happened to me on my way to Richard Butler's house....
I had gone into Tpwer Records with the firmintent of finding something a little more contemporary to play for the Psychedelic Fur's lead singer and songwriter, something a bit more up-yo-date than the usual Spedding Tapes fare. The next thing I remember was hurrying along to Richard's house about ten minutes later clutching a brand new CD copy of Sgt. Pepper. Which was just fine to replace my scratchy old vinyl version but less than useless for the mission at hand. Now, if any readers have had an experience similar to this, I would advise them to keep it to themselves.
But I need not have worried. Because as it turned out, no sooner had I made myself comfy in Richard's apartment, lit a smoke, taken a sip of java and switched on my trusty Walkman, than....

RB Have you heard the new Public Image album, Happy?
CS Er, no....
RB I love their guitar player, John McGeoch. Just listen to the guitar on this....
CS Oooh! Lydon's singing an actual melody!
RB Ha ha!... Just about! With John Lydon there's about one or two songs on every album that I really like, but the rest....
CS For a band that never really made it big, Lydon's certainly plugging away at this Public Image bit, isn't he? Or what he chooses to call Public Image at the time. How's PiL doing these days, anyway?
RB Oh, I don't know. And I don't think they really care!
CS Ah! That's what they would like us to think.
RB Well, I respect him for what he does, but actually liking it is a whole different ball game.
CS Well, this track sounds quite healthy anyway.
RB Yeah! Great guitar playing.
CS Mmm. I like that kind of guitar playing. All spiky and jangly.
RB So what is the truth behind the rumor that you palyed on the early Sex Pistols records?
CS Never played a note, mate! Steve Jones was quite capable of taking care of biz. I wouldn't have been interested in them otherwise, would I? It's pretty weird being widely known for something you didn't actually do! The confusion probably came about because I was one of the only people in the music business in those days who thought they were any good. And I thought they deserved a break, so I took them into the studio and produced their very forst demos. I'm pretty sure they were never bootlegged - I've still got my original reel-to-reel copy. Later on I introduced them to producer Chris Thomas. And I guess since everybody knew I worked wuite a bit with Thomas, when the records came out and they sounded pretty good, everybody said, "Oh, it can't be them, it must be Spedding!" Pretty dumb shit, eh? And the other irony is that a lot of people think I deny playing on the records either out of some misguided professional ethic or because Ib was paid to keep quiet about it! I find the whole thing quite fascinating, don't you?
RB So you must have seen them live quite a few times, then
CS Oh, yeah.
RB I saw them once real early on at the 100 Club and I think john Lydon's probably, in my opinion, one of the best performers I've ever seen. Really chariamatic - still is, too. Well...what have you got?

So, down to the "business" at hand, wherein Richard will be asked to identify the performer on each of the musical selection played - no clues given.

John Otway and Wild Willie Barrett, "Really Free"
CS Know this one?
RB (laughs) Probably.... Oh, no! (still laughing) "Really Free" by John Otway and Wild Willie Barrett - what ever happened to John Otway? He had this real crappy homemade guitar, didn't he?
CS Oh yeah? They really endeared themselves to me, you know, when I saw them do this song live on British TV.... Talk about wild! Otway mugging for the camera, and then he kicks over his amp and you see this hassed studio technician in the shot - you know, with the clipboard and headphones falling off - feverishly trying to plug John's guitsr cord back in ... hilarious! I often wonder if some poor sod at the BBC didn't get a pink slip over that only to have BBC realize later what a classic piece of rock'n'roll television they'd got. Compelling viewing. Somebody must have it on video somewhere.
RB Didn't he do a competition or something where if you won he would come and sing the song for you in your living room?
CS That certainly sounds like him - a total original.
RB I wonder what became of him ....
CS I did see him in New York at the old Mudd Club a few years back. Just him and guitarist Ollie Halsall - another good lad.

Tyrannosaurus Rex, "Great Horse"
RB It's Marc Bolan - T.Rex. I went through a period, when I was about thirteen, of quite liking him. Guitarists seem to love him. Our guitarist, John, loves him. But when I got older I started thinking he was a bit of a dickhead! Like, lyrically he's a bit fey, isn't he? A bit coy and twee.
CS Okay, fair enough. I think I have the very thing for you....

Iggy Pop, "Dum Dum Boys"
RB This is Iggy Pop. Off The Idiot album. David Bowie played guitar on this, didn't he?
CS He did? I never heard that. Whoever it is, the guitar sound is great. I know Bowie produced it, that's all.
RB I read somewhere he played guitar on this and Iggy Pop was saying he was a great "angry young man" guitarist!
CS Hmm. I like the fact that they kept a lot of goofs and wrong chords in. As if the guys weren't too sure of the arrangements - which probably weren't. It makes the music sound real ...kind of dangerous, doesn't it? Very few people have the courage to leave it like that ... all rough and ready. 'Specially since in the studio you're always surrounded by handy gadgets designed to smooth all those wrinkles out.
RB I think it's getting back to that. I'm getting to feel like ... like our last two albums were quite slickly produced, and listening to them now I hate that about them. And I'm going back to liking it when people make those interesting mistakes. It's like when you go in with a demo - you can never recreate it in the studio exactly as you wanted it. Well, what else you got?
CS Er, let me see.
RB Listen! Why don't I play you anothrer track off that PiL album?
CS Eh? Oh, er ... why not?

Chris Spedding - the journalist