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Friars Interviews

Andy Ellison
Radio Stars

friars appearances 10/12/77  18/02/78  02/09/78 

Andy Ellison, Friars Aylesbury 1978. Photo Don Stone

 

Radio Stars remained one of the under-rated gems of the new wave era and played Friars three times. Front man Andy Ellison had a chat with us about his musical history and as you will see, Andy remains busy with his solo career and also with Radio Stars and suggests you lock up your mothers.....read on.

Friars Aylesbury Website: Andy, thank you so much for talking to the Friars website. I was talking to Barrie Masters of Eddie and the Hot Rods last week and he specifically asked me to say hello to you!

That's great, Please send my regards to Barrie, I hope to meet up with him at some point. 

Your history goes back quite far before Radio Stars. You were in John's Children with Marc Bolan....

My history goes back too far, I can hardly remember the beginning of it!

I was in a mod band called The Silence which was before John's Children even. We got picked up by famous 60's manager, Simon Napier Bell....

The guy who discovered Wham!

Yes! and he also worked with Japan. Before then, he was manager of the Yardbirds. Two of our group 'The Silence', Chris and John, had gone off to the South of France with the dodgy manager of our local night club, The Bluesette, and John and Chris got arrested for bouncing cheques in St Tropez.

Simon was in The South of France at the time at a club called the Voom Voom just off the harbour, sitting with Brigette Bardot and some of the Yardbirds. It was a lucky thing as John Hewlett our bass guitarist had somehow managed to persuade the local gendarmerie to let him out of jail to get some bail money. Anyway he went into the Voom Voom club and spotted Brigette Bardot, and in his usual arrogant way he just strolled over to the table and started to chat her up, later somehow, he managed to get the bail money from Simon to get Chris out of jail.

John then suggested that Simon came back to Leatherhead in Surrey to see this mod band The Silence. I think Simon fancied John and drove him back to London in his white open top Bentley leaving Chris stranded with no passport or money.

Anyway about a week later he came down to see us at an outdoor gig near Dorking, at a summer swimming pool party just below Box Hill. He decided to sign us there and then, although he thought we were completely mad, but we had something.... possibly the tight trousers!

I think he watched in disbelief as Chris the drummer pushed his kit into the pool and I was singing and diving off of the top board into the pool, eventually fusing all the equipment.

After signing us, he changed our name to John's Children and dressed us all in white. We got rid of our guitarist Geoff McClelland and Simon brought in a young folk singer called Marc Bolan. Anyway It's quite a long story after this before we became Radio Stars! including riots in Germany on tour with the Who, being deported. and later performing in what was really the real Spinal Tap band, the glam rock group, 'Jet' . 

Radio Stars were more new wave than punk, but we got labelled into the punk bracket. What we were doing in John's Children was very wild, as no-one had seen people dive into the audience before, fight on stage using blood capsules and smash everything up, and that was in 1966/1967 which was ten years before Radio Stars.

When Radio Stars came about and I was doing the same thing, people were shocked but I had done it all ten years before.

So you got easily tagged in....

Yes, John's Children were the godfathers of punk apparently! In Radio Stars, all I was doing was enjoying myself and going completely nuts for an hour.

My first memories of Radio Stars was an ITV show from around 1977 doing Nervous Wreck I think.....

I'd like to see that again! We also got Top of the Pops out of that single and it took off from there. Our gigs, after TOTP suddenly changed, the queues were round the block and we had to start playing bigger venues.

Around that time, you played two support slots at Friars...one with Wilko and one with Eddie and the Hot Rods. With a 2009 head on, that Eddie gig was amazing as you and Squeeze were the support acts!

That was such a great tour, so much fun, all the bands together. As I said before say hello to Barry for me, and if you bump into Jools (Holland) tell him I'm still standing, he was always a bit concerned about my stage antics and often sitting at the bar after the gigs would say, "Andy, I worry about you"!

You did the big headlining tour in 1978 and you played and sold out Friars. I have just seen a photograph of you at that gig waving a huge light sabre!

Yes, that's something I took out on tour, but these days the technology would be better as I wouldn't need a 100ft long electric lead! I had that so I could go into the audience. It was a tube with another neon tube inside. Quite dangerous really! I think you have picture of it on your website (we will soon - Ed). Actually at one venue I think it was at Dunstable Civic, and half way through the act, I was waving it round in the audience, and one deranged punk, actually bit through the cable! There were sparks coming out of his mouth and the thing blew up so I had to get it repaired for the next gig.

Nutter! It does make you wonder why someone would want to do that, but each to their own I guess!

It was very worrying, the punks in those days.......

Some were a little shall we say...unhinged?

Well, some of them did get carried away. There was a guy on that 1978 tour who jumped off of the balcony head first in some venue in Moss Side, Manchester, which wasn't a good idea as he killed himself. They were strange.....It was bizarre.  You didn't know whether diving out into the audience you would come back alive or not!

At a gig in Hartlepool, when I dived into the audience, some guy stabbed me in the arm with a hypodermic syringe and I ended up in hospital and had to be checked out, this was the time when AIDS was highly publicised. Anyway, it turned out to be some kind of downer and I felt very sleepy and I ended spending a night in hospital. but I was worried for months after.

A couple of unusual and unpleasant experiences to say the least. Also at Friars at the headlining gig, you did a leap over the drum kit and I believe through the stage!

I had a thing called a trampette, (that's not a groupie!), a small trampoline I had set behind the drums. I would run, assuming there was a enough room, sometimes I would have to run from the side which was a bit scary and then I would somersault in mid air, clearing the drummer and the kit and land on the stage. There were fireworks at the front of stage which were supposed to go off in time with me landing on the stage but that didn't always happen.

There were a few times where the stage wasn't as big as I thought and I ended up flying into the audience and at the Lyceum I put a top NME photographer in hospital, Adrian Boot, after I landed on top of him, which is why I was then insured for 500,000!

Also I landed once on the fireworks which put me in hospital with burns to my back. So many other injuries they just go on and on, The NME once ran a skeleton picture of me with all the parts of my body that I had injured. In fact in Radio Stars in 1995 I fell from a lighting rig 25ft up, into the audience, breaking my spine. That's when I had to stop for a while, I can't believe I am still walking around! 

I still have the trampette! and the light sabre.

You're the Evel Knievel of the rock world!

With Radio Stars, you have been fairly constant over the last 30 years?

Yes, we've also done a lot of John's Children gigs in that time, with Boz Boorer on guitar, until the untimely death of Chris (Townson), after Chris's death that was the end of John's Children really, I now do solo gigs doing John's Children material, but  I don't want to use the name 'Johns Children' anymore as It's just not right without my best mate Chris.

That's very respectful, I admire that.

Radio Stars are gigging again and might be doing some more festivals in the near future but I am just recording solo stuff at the moment. 

So you have kind of two hats on with the solo and Radio Stars stuff?

Yes, I have a studio on the Thames near Windsor, so I go there and write and record stuff. Actually, at the moment I've got a 4 track CD out called 'Fourplay', and Radio Stars get together and re-hearse there, cos we can we make a lot of noise and only annoy the ducks. Soon there will be some more Radio Stars gigs, I can't wait.

You have been around for a little while now, are the audiences you play to now those who have followed you through thick and thin, are you picking up new fans on the way?

The girls we used to attract (laughs) are now the mothers, and bringing their kids to the gigs, and they are getting into it which is quite unusual. I get emails from a number of young people who really like it and say the gigs were amazing!

Instead of 'Radio Stars are coming, lock up your daughters', it's now, Radio Stars are coming, lock up your mothers!

That's good that people still take you on your own merits rather than see you/remember you as an act from way back whenever....or pigeonhole you as a 'new wave act from 1978' or whatever.

My daughters come to the gigs and they still think it's the wildest act they've ever seen!

The ultimate endorsement from your kids!

It is!

Going forward with the dual careers....do you see yourself leaning towards more Radio Stars stuff than solo, notwithstanding the geographical issues?

I want to do the two, but I really enjoy playing with Radio Stars. When we get back together, whether it be after months, years, we have a brilliant bond, and it is just so funny between us. I also enjoy writing solo stuff that is slightly off kilter. It's softer in a way, you can check it out on my MySpace site.

I'm also in the process of writing a book on all this madness, it should be funny.

Presumably you get asked to do Radio Stars stuff at your solo gigs?

I get asked everything, Johns Children, even Jet stuff (preceded Radio Stars), 

Andy, thank you for your time.

Official Radio Stars website     www.radiostars.co.uk

www.myspace.com/andyellison

www.johnschildren.co.uk

This interview and its content are 2009 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used in whole or in part without permission.

 
 
 

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