Click here for home page

Click here

Contact Us | Information | Privacy Policy | Audio Help

Main Menu
Submit a review
Sign up for newsletter
Album Reviews
Rock Stars
10 Questions with...
Rising Stars
Backstage Heroes
Celebrity interviews
Submit your website

Interview: ANDY BOWN

Rock Stars...  

Andy Bown, photo by Christie Goodwin

With a career boasting over 37 years with Status Quo, a 5 year stretch with The Herd, high profile stints with Judas Jump, Peter Frampton and Roger Waters, and countless sessions ranging from Dusty Springfield and Tim Hardin to Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney, keyboard player, bass player and guitarist Andy Bown has never really stopped working since the mid 60's.

But parallel to his illustrious bio lies a dormant solo career which boast 6 albums and a handful of singles, that includes 'Tarot' the theme to the TV Series 'Ace of Wands' and 'Supersonic' the theme tune to Mike Mansfield's mid 70's TV pop show.

Surprising then that having stuck with the rigours of touring and recording with Status Quo, Andy once again turns to his solo career for the aptly titled 'Unfinished Business', on Cherry Red Records, his first album in 30 years.

Pete Feenstra talks to Andy about his solo career, the new album and his relationship with the mothership Quo...

Andy Bown, photo by Christie Goodwin

First question, lets clear up a long debated question, did you play bass on Tim Hardin's album 'Nine'?

Yes it was me and I think I wrote at least three songs on it.

You spent 5 years in The Herd. What kind of material were you playing at the time and when Peter Frampton joined the band did it change the music direction?

Well The Herd morphed from a band called The Preachers and we played about 90% R&B at the time - mostly Chuck Berry - and that broke down into R&B and about 30% pop and the rest was new stuff, most of which was very Motown sounding.

It was very much Martha Reeves 'Dancing in the Street' and 'She Was Really Saying Something', though I can't remember who did that originally (The Velvelettes). But it was all a bit like what The Who were doing at the time, only not as loud, more like The Action really.

Andy Bown

So what happened after The Herd?

Well the band folded and Peter Frampton went on to join Humble Pie. Steve Marriott didn't really like me and I didn't really like him, so that's when I and Henry Spinetti (also in The Herd) joined one of the great failures of all time Judas Jump. It was regarded as a super group as it included me, Henry, Alan Jones of the Amen Corner and a sax player we called Mike Saxona, who couldn't really cut it and he left shortly afterwards.

Judas Jump opened the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. Do you remember much about that?

No I've no real recollection of our performance at the festival except that we did have a fantastic three months.

Our manager at the time Don Arden pulled some kind of deal with a Warner holiday camp in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, so we could 'get our thing together man'.

It was a huge place and the problem for me was I was the only one who could cook and the kitchen was the size of Barnes. I remember using huge frying pans that seemed to be up to 4 feet wide across. We didn't work much!

You went on to work with Peter Frampton and then came back to the UK and presumably did a lot of session work. Can you remember your first session?

There was lots of work at the time. My first session? Wow it's a long time ago. I guess it must have been with The Herd on 'Goodbye Baby Goodbye' which was on Parlophone, but was a resounding miss!

What about sessions outside of the band?

Well I'm not sure. It could have been for Dave Dee, as they shared a label with us, but I'm really not sure

You've had an intermittent solo career including singles like 'New York Satyricon Zany', 'Tarot' and 'Another Shipwreck', but having played with Quo since 73, was it a case of only returning to it when you could?

Well I haven't done anything for a while to say the least; though I did have a single 'Help Me' that I thought was quite good.

But yes, working with Status Quo is relentless as we start in February and work all the way until Christmas, year in, year out. So yeah that makes it tough to fit anything else in.

But once I decided to do this album, or rather once I was talked into it by Mike Paxman the producer, and especially my wife Veronica I was committed to it.

It was her who said, 'just get off your ass and do it', I realised I'd accumulated quite a bit of stuff, a mix of ideas and part songs. And by the time I'd realised I'd got the hang of it all, I vomited 7 songs (laughs) and their faith in me wasn't misplaced.

Andy Bown

This is your first solo album for 30 years. Given that you've got Quo's producer Mike Paxman working on it, did you have to consciously think about doing something different from Quo?

Not so much consciously as what we did just came out the way it did. But having decided to work with Mike I realised it had to be different to Quo and that in itself isn't that difficult.

Quo's music isn't so much a formatted thing as our own sound and racket. You know, it is simply the case that what we do is Status Quo! I mean we're not very Proggy but it's what people want to hear and it's what we do best. What is difficult for us is keeping the same sound  but with a slight difference, maybe with a new twist on it.

A bit like the early Kinks records then?

Yes except of course Ray Davies wrote some great lyrics. But my own taste in music is much more catholic and so recording something of my own is naturally going to be different.

Thinking about your song writing, you seem happiest writing in the first person and being autobiographical?

Well there aren't too many Quo songs written in the first person and like John Lennon once said, "I like to write about me, because I know about me."

I know more about me than anything else so it's a good subject matter. And it's an extension of the fact that this is the first album I've done where I haven't had to worry about what other people say or expect.

Andy Bown - Unfinished Business

What is the big difference between this record and the others then?

Well it's everything from not worrying about the commercial pressures or about the way I approach the lyrics for example.

I just liked the line, 'Maggie Smith, Beachy Head, Call My Bluff, Golden Shred', on 'Tick My Box'. The words just came to me and they worked.

There were really no parameters on this album for me. I just did it for myself. My big mistake in the past was trying to do too much. Everything ended up being too diverse. It was all about look how clever I am, from songs with one chord to a full orchestral arrangement.

This album is me calmed down and I've really enjoyed it. There are still some different things in there but I think all the tracks sound like they are by the same bloke.

Andy Bown, photo by Christie Goodwin

You open with 'Ruby and Roy', a story about Roy Wood and also there's a song about Live Aid called 'When The Lights Went On'; do you often reference people you've met in your songs?

Yes I suppose; so 'Ruby and Roy' is about a night in Aberdeen with Roy Wood, though it could also be about a strange couple. 'When The Lights Went On', is all about different people and includes Tim Hardin. He's mentioned in the 4th verse. It's a real life story about how he borrowed my guitar when he was coming down off smack and was on methadone.

I think he's just had this prescription stuff and anyway he got a gig and borrowed my acoustic. It wasn't a particularly great guitar, but about an hour later I saw him through the window of an off sales room in a pub with a big bottle of vodka. He didn't have any money back then, so I put two and two together and years later it ended up in a song.

You also mention several of your sessions and people you've met on the end of the song?

Yes it's about people I met not just the ones I worked with, I mean I never played with Mick Jagger and Liberace or PJ Proby who I also mention.

'Rubber Gloves' is backed by a glossy video, is that the lead track on the album?

The song seemed to work well and we decided to make a video that would make it the accessible possible on every level. It's also a bit commercial, beautifully played with everything good on it, as well as hopefully humorous lyrics with my tongue firmly in my cheek and a true open hearted love of the blues.

You made some videos before, or should I say TV clips such as for Supersonic?

Well that came about through Mike Mansfield who produced the series. He knew Billy Gaff who used to manage The Herd. And really it was a case if being in the right pace at the right time, as Mike would just turn round and say, 'why don't you have a go at it?

Chris Spedding also appeared in one of the Supersonic clips with you, how did that come about?

He was on the session. It was all serendipity really, though he played a great guitar part which helped the song a lot.

Looking back I wonder if I was really there, as I can't imagine how I sang that high at the time. It must have been the testosterone (laughs).

Andy Bown, photo by Christie Goodwin

'A Matter Of Time' is country tinged ballad and a real departure. Did you consciously approach your vocal phrasing in a different way on that song?

Now that's an astute question as I originally wrote that song for a woman to sing. We did a demo with a woman singer but nothing really happened, but I always liked the arrangement. And thought I might turn it around some time later. It's a song I've had in mind to throw at a famous American female country singer and then pitch the song to Nashville.

'Right As Ninepence' is one of the best songs on the album, with a clever use of the quiet and loud dynamic and big production. Where did you get the title from?

It's an old saying my grandmother used to come out with and I thought it fitted. The song itself was always in two parts and we worked on the loud section.

The amazing strangulated but heavenly chorus is actually Mick Rogers guitar sound before the singer loses the plot (laughs). He's a poisoned character, not a happy bunny and I the imagination of the listener/reader or whatever is probably going to top himself.

Mike did a lot of work on it too, especially on the bit when it goes mad. So when it came to the part he put his 'now it goes mad' hat on and nailed it.

Andy Bown, photo by Christie Goodwin

The album finishes with 'Good Innings' a heartfelt reflective song which seems to work on an emotive level as well as providing a poignant finish to the album?

Yes I thought it might be a good song to finish the album on. It's not really about death but more about the terminal loneliness of the one who is left behind after a partner has died and the possibility that it can happen to us all.

It's a song about the unplugged void and it emphasises the idea of living with a broken heart for the rest of your days.

It was inspired by a lot of things in my life, some people I know and really respect and an old couple I know in particular. It really makes me sad, and I broke up when I tried to record it.

There's a live feel to the album, did you all record together as a band? Is this markedly different from what you did with Quo?

Yes yes and yes. It was very live and it was all done quite quickly. Guitarist Mick Rogers was part of the reason as was Henry.

Mick is a typical musician who would play something, then I'd say, play it again, and he would go, play what? That's where pro tools came in (laughs).

Now when you put him in with Henry it's a joy because Henry is the kind of drummer who can play a song immediately.

In fact I don't ever recall telling Henry anything about how he should play, even though I wrote the song! By the end of the song he was playing it.

And all that contributes to making it sound live as you said. Henry is exceptional. Often drummers just don't get the song, so many drummers and so little time! (laughs).

Was this album recorded at the same time as Francis's CD, I mean did you compare notes at all?

No I think Francis had already done his. But there wasn't any discussion or mention of either album. It just doesn't happen. In fact we don't talk much as a band anyway. I did ask him for a copy of his album, but I don't know if he asked for mine.

Was the album a bigger undertaking than you anticipated?

Very much so, as at first I had this idea of maybe doing an EP or offering a few downloads on the website etc, but pretty soon as it became a full blown album I suddenly realised how much work was involved.

Back to Quo finally, what was the first writing credit you got from Quo and how did your involvement in their songs develop?

That would be for a song I wrote with Francis for 'If You Can't Stand The Heat' album, which wasn't very good, but I also wrote 'Again and Again' with Jackie Lynton and Richard which went top ten, which was nice.

It wasn't so much a case of developing as a songwriting team as taking things an album at a time. I think there was less pressure in the early days when someone would say 'I've got an idea'. Everyone is much more guarded now, people tend to write bits by themselves, whereas we used to sit round a table in a hotel, smoke some dope and come up with some ideas.

Finally, given that you have had a free hand on 'Unfinished Business' and have approached it as a labour of love, who is the album aimed at?

Well as I've said primarily it's for me and being mainly for my own ego I want as many people out there as possible to hear it' (laughs)


'Unfinished Business' is released on 5 September via Cherry Red Records

Interview © September 2011 Pete Feenstra

Photos: Christie Goodwin

Album review


Print this page in printer friendly format

Print this page in printer-friendly format

Tell a friend about this page

Tell a friend about this page

Featured Artists
Artist Archive
Featured Labels
Label Archive
Do you want to appear here?

get ready to rock is a division of hotdigitsnewmedia group