New Musical Express - March 24 1979

Edmands say man who don't play long
guitar solos miss out on big money ...

by Bob Edmands (photo by Rob Hall)

ROCK GUITARIST Chris Spedding has a reputation as a picker. Sitting on a sofa at RAK records, he first of all picks his nose with the tenacity of an archaelogist at a major dig. Then he transfers his attention to some glistening red spots on his face.
Mr Spedding does not seem to be in good shape. The spots stand out brightly against a deathly night-club pallor.
He's just got off a transatlantic flight and is inevitably somewhat tired. He hardly looks the picture of a rock superstar.
One reason for this is that he isn't one, despite 10 years of slogging round the business.
"I should have fucked off ages ago," he ruminates. "I should have earned millions and retired by now."
Why haven't you?
"Basically, because I'm still excited by the music. I'm still hungry for success. I've had some success, but not enough to retire to a country mansion."
In fact, Spedding's so far from being a rock millionaire that he's had to disband his backing group and take work as a supporting player with the '50s revivalist Robert Gordon.
"The Chris Spedding band got too expensive. Unfortunately my last album didn't produce any hit records so there wasn't enough money to support a road operation.
"If I don't sell enough of my new album, it might not be possible to go on making records."
By the late '60s Chris Spedding was already an accredited guitar hero with the sort of reputation that has since ensured platinum status for many of his contemporaries.
He's had a couple of hit singles in the UK in recent years, been part of Bryan Ferry's touring band, played on Wombles'sessions, belonged to a much fancied group called Sharks, and for a time was associated with the Sex Pistols, though he insists ne never played with them.
"I was the only established music business figure who took the Pistols seriously when they started. I phased myself out when everyone else went to the opposite extreme and said they were brilliant. They weren't that bad, but they weren't that good either.
"It'll probably go on my tombstone that I was the man who played the Sex Pistols, but it's not true. I just help them out when they were attacked."
Once again Spedding was in the wings, but not centre-stage. The mystery is why he never did a Jimmy Page 10 years ago, and formed his own head-bangers group for the American market, doing fancy guitar solos in sports stadiums.
"Well, I would have been selling myself short doing that. Besides, what fancy guitar solos are we talking about?"
The sort of fancy guitar solos of which you are presumably capable.
"This is what people presume about me. I don't think I could do that sort of thing."
surely you have the skill?
"I haven't. I can't do any of that. There is absolutely no precedent for anyone thinking that I could have done what Jimmy Page did."
You're not in that class as a guitarist?
"I hope I'm in a slightly higher class than Jimmy Page.
"He seems to have taken it to a pretty low level. It's not all that claver what he does. In fact, it's a bit crass."
But people have made millions through being a bit crass.
"Yes, you've got to believe in what you're doing otherwise you destroy the spirit of why you're doing it. I think you'd find that Jimmy Page believes in what he's doing, otherwise he wouldn't have made a success of it.
"There'd be no challenge for me in doing what he's doing. Regurgitating tried and tested things. I want to be ahead of game.
"for example, I've not used wah-wah since 'Shaft' came out, whereas all other studio guitarists went out and bought them. I like being the first one to use it."
Didn't Jimi Hendrix use wah-wah before you?
"He just played lines with it. Sounded like someone cleaning his teath. Would have made a good ad for toothpaste."
As you can see, it's not for any lack of confidence that Spedding's failed to make his millions.
The point of the interview is to promote his new album, 'Guitar Graffiti'. One side of the album is mainly given over to live recordings and Spedding has this to say:
"I find the second side of the album very boring. I thought that if people wanted long, boring guitar solos, then I'd give it them.
"I went through my live recordings with the Chris Spedding Band, took out the solos, and edited them together. As a result three of the songs on the album aren't songs at all, but just the solos from the songs.
"This gives the impression that my music is very guitar-oriented, when in fact it isn't. But if that's what people want then that's what they've got."
That sounds like a very cynical process, Mr Spedding.
"It is".
Are you cynical person, then?
"If you think so, yes."
It's not what I think. Are you a cynical person?
Spedding says: "I don't actually think so. It's all done from a fun-loving attitude. You know. Let's try this for a line of soldiers."
Spedding won't actually be promoting his new album with live gigs. He says if it's a good album - and he thinks it is - sales will take care of themselves.
The next time he'll play live in Britain is when the Gordon band come over in the summer.
He was invited to join Gordon after Gordon decided he wanted to record one of Spedding's songs, 'Wah Wah Woman' (mistake of 'Wild Wild Women'). The song never got recorded, in the event, but Spedding stayed, replacing the venerable '50s guitarist Link Wray.
"After my own band folded I decided I needed a geographical change. I couldn't change my music. It's just what I do. In London, I was taken for granted. Too available.
"Now that I've moved to New York, the British rock press are a hundred per cent more interested me. Frightened they might lose me probably".
Sounds a bit improbable to me, Chris. But you're free to believe it if it helps.

Spedding In The Papers