Few bands have had such an impact with one song as Eddie and the Hot Rods, whose Do Anything You Wanna Do remains a staple of seventies compilations. Far too many years after any of us who can remember its release would care to remember the band are still performing. We spoke to singer Barrie Masters about the current state of play.
“Things are going great. We’re busy over here and then we’re off to America in the autumn for the first time in a couple of years. The Americans really get into this music, obviously there’s a lot of expats who watch us but there’s young kids really into it as well. We even have to do some under-21s shows for them. It’s funny how it works but I’m not complaining.”
It’s a bit of a way from starting out in Southend.
“Just a bit.”
Essex produced a lot of musicians, notably Dr Feelgood who you’re playing with next Friday, and then there were people like Depeche Mode and Alison Moyet, but there hasn’t been much coming through from there for some time.
“No, and it’s a real shame. Every now and then a new band comes along but they don’t seem to last. It’s a bit quiet at the moment and that’s a pity because this is usually a good place for rock bands. It’s a bit like Birmingham – you had great gigs like JBs in Dudley, Barbarella’s and there was a good little scene which is why there’s always been great bands but now, are there any new bands coming up?”
There’s a few but it’s mainly underground and you never get to hear about them until they’ve made it, or else they fade away without a sound. It’s not like the days when you’d see live bands who were breaking, you’d hear about them in the music press and they’d be on TV shows even before they were having hits.
“That’s right. You had Top of the Pops, John Peel and all that, but now it’s online with smaller scenes that you have to dig out.”
And everything is so risk averse. But you do have an album out, Two Sides, which was released at the start of the year.
“Over the last few years we’ve put out a couple of albums but because they were on a smaller label they never got much exposure. So we’ve put the best of those two plus some of our older stuff re-recorded live recently. It’s also a warm-up for a new album that’s due for next year. It is hard to sell albums though, unless you can get a buzz going on your website or somewhere like that”
Talking of which, your contemporary John Otway become bigger than ever on the back of getting into social media early, which is at odds with his image of being a bit of an idiot.
“Otway. He’s a nice bloke and he proved it by saying he was going to have another hit, so he went out and did it. You might not be able to do that now a few years later, but he managed it and he did it all through the internet. Yeah, he’s a clever boy really.”
You were in on the start of what might have been the most innovative and far-reaching era in music.
“Without blowing our own trumpet, but we really started something. We came from a part of Essex where it’s hard to get yourself noticed so we had to be a bit more extreme. We played harder, faster, we did gigs everywhere, that got us recognised and then everyone got involved, added a bit and called it punk. It was just the excitement of the time, and it’s something that’s going to have to happen again soon. Too many frustrated musicians are wondering what to do and they’ll have to do what we did – go out and do it.”
It’s impossible to think Eddie & the Hot Rods without immediately thinking of Do Anything You Wanna Do, almost forty years old and still a mainstay of every punk/new wave/seventies compilation.
“It’s great. The young kids that come to watch us now, they seem to think it was written for them. It’s about that growing up period, we all felt that same. It’s a great song and I only wish I’d written it, but that was Graeme and it deserves what it gets.”
Do you find that you’re in the same situation as Slade with Merry Christmas Everybody – casual listeners think you only ever did one song?
“Slade, now you’re talking. They were brilliant a million times over. It’s a shame that the Christmas song is all they’re remembered for and I do sometimes think the same but we’ve got a following and a lot of people do turn up and they only know the one song. Then as we go through our set they think ‘I remember this one as well’ and so on.”
You famously vied with AC/DC throughout 1976 to break the Marquee club’s attendance records then later on you had Squeeze and Ultravox supporting you. Do you wish you’d done some things differently and the band might have evolved in another way?
“There’s a lot of things I wish we’d done differently but we were lucky. We were young and we timed it all just right. It was just one of those things where it all happened so fast, every day was so busy that you couldn’t comprehend it and it was a nice ride at a fantastic time.”
Most musicians are either worse off than you’d think or better off than you could ever imagine. Which are you?
“That’s easy – worse off. One day, you’ll never know, but for now I’ve to get off to work.”
Eddie & the Hot Rods and Dr Feelgood play the Robin 2 on Friday 16th May. www.therobin.co.uk or tel: 01902-401211