Sounds - September 20 1975


by John Ingham

DEEP IN the bowels of Television centre, Chris Spedding whiles away the hours in a dressing room, waiting for those few mintes on 'TOTP' when 10 million people will see and hear him promoting 'Motorbikin'', his first hit record, ever closer to that magic Number One. In the hall outside, members of Pilot clatter a Frisbee off the doors and walls; inside, opposite an array of leather jackets and a 'Wild Ones' motorcycle cap Spedding merely sits and waits. And waits. And Waits.

"No wonder solo artists are mostly looney," he muttered as the fifth hour of purgatory slides by. He has four more hours to go, interrupted only by a run-through. About the most interesting event in the day has been the gaff of admitting her face that he didn't remember one of the backup singers who had accompanied him during his first 'Pops' stint two weeks previously. He's constantly saying things like that without thinking; people keep telling him he's arrogant for doing so. but then his bike boy wardrobe isn't exactly supporting claims to the contrary.

"But it's not a conscious thing done for the public," he retorts. "I don't go home and change into a kaftan or something ... It must refer to something in my personality - clothes always do, don't they? I grew up in the Fifties, I'm very influenced by that period. I still think it looks good."
You must have had fun during psychedelia ...
well, none of it was really me. I didn't listen to blues, I never became a guitar hero like almost all the other guitarists. The thought of it really bored me. eric Clapton was taking care of it in his area, Jimi hendrix in his area, so why not take care of it in my area, which I did - rhythm section playing as opposed to hairy lead guitar playing, which takes the public about three years to discover what you're doing. It's taken them 10 years to find out how good Keith Richard is."
Back then he was "the sound effects man" with Nucleus, utilising a battery of pedals and switches across stages the length and breadth of the Northern hemisphere. Now he uses one pick-up and the tone and volume knobs, relying largely on the latter.
"The trouble with most people using boxes and pedals is they can't get a proper sound. And pedals introduce another thought process: do I press the pedal?, what's the sound like?, will I improve the sound if I press the pedal? ... You're looking down at your feet all the time."
Before and after this tussle with live gigging Spedding spent his time as one of the country's top session men, until now he's played with everybody and it's a choice of moving on or stagnating.
"That's why I left doing sessions to join the Sharks. Even when things weren't going well I didn't leave, because people would say, 'Oh, he didn't last long, did he? He hasn't got much stamina - he's not a rock and roller.' I wanted to prove that I was a lead guitarist in a group and dug being onstage in front of people. And I think I got the point over, because people now think of me as a guitaristwho can do a good live concert."
His abilities on the boards, while apperciated in Sharks, took on wide public notice earlier this year via John Cale and Roy Harper's Trigger. He was initially called in for the respective albums, the ensembles growing out of the session crews. At the same time he nipped in with Mickie Most and in three hours knocked out 'Motorbikin''.
"Well, it's time to step out. I'm much surer of what I'm doing. I've made about all the mistakes it's possible to make. I've consolidated it. This is a conscious attempt to start a career under my own name; to have some hit singles that will establish a Chris Spedding Sound, so that when I form a group people will know what to expect."
His first attempt at a solo career came via two albums on Harvest four years ago; then a single on Island earlier this year. Meanwhile he was providing the guitars - which in many cases sold the record to a vast public - for many of Mickie Most's hits. Most is a man whose considerable abilities as a smash himeister has earned him consistent scorn from the jealous and the snobbish. Spedding characterises him as a pipeline: "If I play him a song and he likes it, then half of Britain likes it." He also trusts Most's producing abilities. It was natural that should end up on Rak.
'Motorbikin'' was released three months ago, the only single Rak pluggers had to worry about for two weeks. It received initial attention, then seemed to fade away. But it continued selling steadily, untill having made the Top 50 it was picked up by 'Top Of The Pops'. The rest, music lovers, is history.
"I thought it was very instant. I recorded it at the same time as -" he decides not to name a certain hit that he played on, describing it as "a very, very, very big Summer hit that went straight up the charts and it's about dropping out now." - "We were both released the same week and I expect mine to follow up and follow it down again. Very instant. But it's grower, exactly the sort of thing a big world wide hit is. It's the sort of thing that will probably be re-released lots of times ... Become a classic."
Now that's what I'd call arrogance, or at least assurance. Whether the man's correct remains to be seen; only now that the weight of being a hit behind it is it being released in 'the territories'? American release hasn't been set but Chris is confident it will sell a million copies there. America means a lot to him.

High Level
"It's very important; I'm just waiting for the right moment. The band has to be successful in America, otherwise there's no point in having a band. We learnt with the Sharks that a band can't exsit in England, purely on economic grounds. I want a band on a pretty high level and the guys I want to get are worth a lot of bread and I don't want to have to shop about doing clubs and small gigs just about pay the road crew and hotels. I did that with Sharks."
You can expect a band to follow the next single and a "party" album due for February.
The hours have been ski-ing by, there's still several more to go. Suddenly, what is perhaps the most obviously question of all occurs. Chris, do you own a motorbike?
"No, not yet. I want to get one as soon as I've got time, but I don't have a licence yet. Also, doing sessions, it's a bit hard to carry guitars on a bike."
What about bike movies. Seen 'The Wild Ones'?
"Yeah, saw it a while ago I thought it was boring."

Spedding In The Papers