“Paul Carrack - The Man, The Myth and The Asshole” - An interview conducted exclusively for The Waiting Room during January 1989 by Peter Morton.
TWR: What were your first musical influences?
PC: My first musical influences were radio; I think Sandy McPherson , Workers’ Playtime, anything musical, musicals? Yes musicals! South Pacific, Ben Hur, that’s not a musical but cinema also. My dad’s record collection, apart from other things. English dance bands; Roy Fox, people like that. I would play them on a wind up gramophone at twice the speed I think and I could never find out why they sounded so weird. I have an older brother as well; John still have an older brother I hope! Who brought home records, trad bands then The Shadows and then when I was getting into The Beatles he was bringing home R & B stuff; John Lee Hooker, people like this. But The Beatles very strongly, followed by Motown, Stax, R & B dance music of the Sixties. Nothing too wholesome, I’m afraid, no classical influences or anything like that, no tuition or anything like that.
TWR: Was Ace the first professional band you performed in?
PC: No. I was playing with bands even when I was at school and I managed to join the local soul band; CG Morris & The Reactions and I suppose they were professional. We used to call it full time, we didn’t think we were very professional. Full time is what we were, in other words we didn’t work during the day. After that I met up with some other chaps and we decided to go to London and to take pot luck and lived in squalor and then got ourselves a job backing up a couple of girl singers, went off to Europe you know, playing around the US Army bases and discotheques, and all the horror stories of six sets a night and all that sort of thing. Over there I was introduced to various substances and started to listen to records in a whole different way. This group gradually became what can only be described as an acid rock group, progressive group called Warm Dust. We made three pretty diabolical albums of our own particular or peculiar kind of music.
So this went on for a while and then they kind of fizzled out and it was at that point that I got my first job which was cleaning cars in Hendley’s in Camden Town for 42p an hour! This is immediately before I joined Ace. So, I had been in music right up until 1973 from leaving school when it… I’m 37 now and I left school when I was sixteen so up until that point I had successfully avoided any kind of proper employment!
TWR: Ace had one single called How Long? Released on 9th November 1974 reaching number twenty in the UK charts. I understand after the great success of this single the band soon moved to live in California. The group seemed to disappear from the music scene soon after. What became of them? Was an LP ever released?
PC: Yes, it certainly was. In fact we released three albums. The first one did pretty well in fact. How Long? Was number one in America and just about everywhere in the world except England. And the first album did quite well but we didn’t have much idea on what it was really all about. We were just a pub band basically from London on the pub rock circuit down home sort of thing. We didn’t really have much idea. Our first tour of America was opening up for Yes who had all this dry ice and all the bit going for it you know, and we were just four sloppy - five old hippies trying to play a bit of R & B sort of country rock. I suppose it was a bit of a shock but it was great to be in America - that was VERY interesting!
TWR: What musical activities did you undertake after Ace but before you joined Squeeze?
PC: All sorts really, we did live in California for a while and we came back to London when Ace eventually fizzled out and I started to get jobs playing on… I just wanted to improve basically as a musician and get better. We hadn’t had a great time with the demise of Ace and being one hit wonders for a while wasn’t all that great but I was determined to become a better musician and started to get recording dates as a keyboard player. I played with Frankie Miller for a while and various people around London=, ne’er do wells basically and then I got a job with Roxy Music. I played on a couple of their albums and went on the road. I played on Manifesto and Flesh & Blood and that’s about it really. Then I got a call to see if I wanted to join Squeeze, I went down and found them a very interesting bunch of chaps and decided to join them. I took a huge drop in salary! I got involved with them through Jake Revirez who was managing them at the time and I had known him for a long time and he suggested that I checked them out because he thought they were really great.
TWR: How did you get involved with Squeeze? Did you collaborate in the writing of the singles and in the writing of the album material? Also I was reading recently that you had left the band before the release of the East Side Story album and had been replaced by Don Snow from a group called Sinceros, is this true?
PC: I never wrote any songs at all for Squeeze. In fact I was only with them for a short while, about a year in fact. I joined them immediately before East Side Story so they had already had quite a few big hit singles. I sang one song; Tempted which became their biggest single success in America as they hadn’t really broken through over there so that helped them, out, but I was with them all the time they were promoting East Side Story. I toured with them and then I left immediately before their next album which I think was called Sweets For A Stranger and that’s where Don Snow joined them right before then. But I was certainly with them during East Side Story which was a pretty good album I think. I like it.
TWR: I have heard a rumour that you left Squeeze under unfortunate circumstances in that you were supposed to be appearing with the band at one of their concerts but were never told about it. The band however, realised the mistake was theirs but it was too late and you had already parted company with them. After leaving Squeeze you joined Carlene Carter’s band and then toured with Nick Lowe. Did you tour or work with any other artists after this and prior to joining Mike & The Mechanics?
PC: No, no, no, the truth to all of that, although its not a bad answer. I might use it on the next interview! It was difficult years when you have just left a band but I still get on with them all pretty well. It was just a case of really that although I always gave them everything I had - I always try my hardest whatever I do, whoever I play with, but the fact of the matter was that they needed somebody who was committed 100% to them all the time and there were other things I wanted to do. One of which was I wanted to work with Nick Lowe which I did and recorded several albums with him which included one of my own called Suburban Voodoo which was pretty well received critically in America.
I didn’t sell trillions or anything but it was one of the top twenty records of the year in Rolling Stone magazine and all that sort of stuff which is not all that much bloody use to you when all is said and done but it was damn good fun! We had I think about four years together slogging up and down the old freeways of the US and that was what I was doing. In fact I was still working with Nick when Mike called me up and asked me if I wanted to come down and sing a couple of songs on his record which I did, and I didn’t think any more about it really. It was a while before it actually came out - it was the best part of a year I think during which Nick had decided to move on and do other stuff and so had I and it just turned out that is when Mike’s stuff came out and that became quite successful so that worked out pretty good.
TWR: How did you get involved with Mike Rutherford?
PC: I had met him a long time before actually, at the time he was recording his solo albums and he kind of interviewed me I guess as a prospective singer on that but in the end I don’t know, I must have said something wrong because Noel McCalla got the job on that one (Smallcreep’s Day). Anyway, the second time around it was really through B A Robertson who was writing songs with Mike and I had just been helping B A out on some of his demos singing them and I think he was working with Mike and he asked me if I would be interested in singing a couple of songs and I said ’sure’ and I just went down to The Farm (recording studio) and that’s how it came about.
TWR: Are you a fan of Genesis’ music and were you familiar with any of Mike’s solo albums before joining the Mechanics?
PC: I’m not really a great fan of Genesis. I didn’t really know an awful lot about them. I’m not much of a fan of anybody to be honest! I don’t listen to an awful lot of music these days, you know. I used to listen to lots of stuff but now I find with one thing or another, I’m playing a lot of the time and when I’m not, I tent to get involved with other things. I’ve got a family and I’m a football fan so that among many other things… and there are lots of things apart from music I’ve just discovered fairly recently so…
TWR: Have you worked with any of the musicians in Mike & The Mechanics before?
PC: Not as far as I know. No, I haven’t come to think of it, no.
TWR: With the recent single release, Nobody’s Perfect, were you disappointed that it didn’t reach very high in the charts and that Living Years, the title track from the album might have been better as the first single rather than the first?
PC: I think to be perfectly honest with you I’m not sure how the other chaps will think when they read this but I didn’t think Nobody’s Perfect was a great first single although I think that it is a good song and a great performance from Paul Young. I think that the idea was that they wanted a fairly upbeat first single before they came in with The Living Years. We always thought that Living Years was going to be strong but anyway, I’m not really part of the strategy. I’m not renowned in the business for my marketing skills so, basically they didn’t bloody ask me, but anyway…
TWR: I noticed that the main writers with Mike & The Mechanics are Mike and B A Robertson. Have you considered using one of your own compositions for the album?
PC: Have I considered it? Well, yeah but the writing thing seems to be really Mike’s baby. There was rumour before we did this album that we were all going to be more involved with the writing of it but that wasn’t the way it has turned out, but that’s fair enough. The way I look at it is this really; it’s Mike’s project away from Genesis. Genesis are a fairly democratic band and I think when he does his solo records he’s perfectly entitled to do whatever he wants to do and call the shots. And I am just quite happy to contribute as much or as little as he wants me to. And when I do my album that’s the way I feel about it as well, you know, it will be my thing. But I don’t know maybe if we do another album I don’t think it would be a bad idea for him to involve other people in the group such as Adrian and myself. Paul Young and I think we could do worse.
TWR: Mike & The Mechanics are to embark on a European tour and one of North America later winter/spring. Will you be performing any of your own songs on tour? For example; Tempted which seemed to be a favourite on the previous Mechanics tour?
PC: No. I don’t think we’re going to do things like Tempted on this tour because hopefully we will have more material, as on the last tour we only had one album’s worth of material and we were kind of scratching around a little bit so that’s why I ended up doing Tempted and whatever but on this one we should be OK because we have two albums’ worth of material and I think we will play more or less the whole lot and that should be enough and I think that will be better because it should be more like the Mechanics without any of the other stuff!
TWR: Will the band be playing any other concerts in England apart from Manchester and Hammersmith?
PC: I thin we are playing also in Folkestone and I am told that because things are going very well, the record is going very well, and everything we may do some extra dates but at this point we are just down to do London and Manchester and Folkestone although there may be some others added later.
TWR: Will the same musicians that appeared on the new LP be touring with Mike & The Mechanics this spring? And will B A Robertson be in the touring party?
PC: B A Robertson won’t be in the touring party. I think it will probably kill him to go on the road - ha! But everyone else is involved, plus Tim Renwick, he’s a guitar player. I’ve known him for years personally. He played on my solo record and he’s spent all last year out with Pink Floyd so he’s very good. He’s a very good chap.
TWR: I noticed one single you released in 1987 was a cover version of The Searchers’ hit single of 1964, When You Walk In The Room. Was this a particular favourite of yours when you were young?
PC: Yes, I suppose it was one of my favourites. I was pretty keen on all the Mersey Beat stuff as a kid. That’s what I wanted to do. That is what really decided me on being in a pop group - that and not wanting to work for a living! Or so I thought. But the idea for doing that particular song was, I think, Chris Neil’s.
TWR: On your first album I noticed that you used Chris Neil, a member of the Mechanics as producer. I thought Chris did an excellent job on production. Were you happy yourself with the production and will you be using him again on your next solo album?
PC: I was pretty happy with the production I guess. We did get three hits off the thing but I don’t think he will be doing the next one. I think I will try for something different and I think he did a great job. He’s very painless to work with and you have a lot of fun and it’s all over before you know it. But I was a bit lazy in a lot of ways; I did let him steamroller ahead and do his thing which I think on the next album I should get more of myself into it and try and get things, you know, how I really wanted. I was very keen for it to be a strong album and Chris, as you know, had done a great job with the Mechanics and he has done a great job on lots of other records, so I let him have a lot of say on it. I think on the next one I will try to make it a bit more indulgent myself.
TWR: Did the success of your solo career, particularly in America take you by surprise and do you feel that being part of Mike & The Mechanics helped in any way?
PC: It didn’t take me completely by surprise you know. I’ve done a lot of work over there since I first went over in 1975 with Ace, and I’ve done a lot of slogging up and down the old freeway and pressing the flesh around at the radio stations and all that sort of thing and you know a lot of people knew me and what I’d done. How Long and Tempted and I’m pretty sure that yes , the Mechanics thing did help because that brought my profile up a little bit. As I said, I’d been slogging away there but all of a sudden we were back there in the top ten singing a song so it obviously didn’t do any harm at all.
TWR: Listening to your first album, I thought certain tunes such as Collrane and Give Me A Chance to name but two, would be great singles. Were they ever released as such in the UK?
PC: No, they were certainly never released in the UK. When You Walk In The Room was the first single that got played a couple of times. Don’t Shed A Tear which was in the top ten in America for three weeks got two plays I think on Radio One but apart from that, no. I didn’t bother to release anything else I’m afraid although I would agree with you. I think Give Me A Chance would have been a good single but I don’t have much say well… I don’t want any say basically in what comes out as a single. I don’t listen to the radio much so, I don’t have any idea really about the programming and such but what I do find out about radio programming particularly in America, and I suppose it is going the same way here, the more I find out about it, the less I like it so I kind of leave that up to the record company. They’ve got to work with these people, they meet these people so I try to deliver the goods with an album and let them get on with it.
TWR: When is your new solo album likely to be released and will it be on Chrysalis like the first one was?
PC: I think the next one will be on Chrysalis providing they haven’t gone bust. I think they are having a bit of a hard time at the moment but we will see.
TWR: On the new solo album will you be using any of the musicians from Mike & The Mechanics?
PC: I’m not sure if I will be using any of the Mechanics on it, it depends on what they are up to and what I am up to. At the moment I have written a lot of songs and I am kind of ready to go but the scheduling the recording of it is a bit of a problem because we are about to go out on the road with the Mechanics and my time’s taken up with that much to the aggravation of Chrysalis. I mean they aren’t too pleased about that but they’re just going to have to wait I suppose.
TWR: I think one question that will be in many people’s minds is on the release of your new album, will you be doing a solo tour of Europe/UK and America?
PC: I will probably do a tour somewhere or other, probably America I would think. I mean basically nobody knows who the hell I am in England! But I did two tours last year in the States and they both went pretty good apart from the fact I had to come home in the middle of the second one because my wife was very ill but she’s alright now. It’s very difficult, I mean I couldn’t really fill a bath as they say, in England!
TWR: I noticed recently that this year you are to tour again - with Roger Waters, as a member of his band. When you previously toured with him in 1986 I believe you sang one of your own compositions (a different one each night) to open the show. Will you be doing something similar this time round? Apart from the new solo album, Mike & The Mechanics and Roger Waters tours. Do you have any plans after this?
PC: I don’t know where you noticed that I was touring with Roger Waters, I certainly don’t have any plans to do that. I’ve not been involved with his new album really. I think he’s dumped the tracks that I was on and he has gone for a new thing which I think he should do actually. I think he ought to go for it. It was a bit of a continuation of the last album and I think he needs to do something completely different. As far as I know I have no plans to go on the road with him again but you never know. Hopefully I will have enough on my plate with the Mechanics and my own thing but obviously I hope there will be other bits and pieces of things to do because I enjoy being involved with other people’s work. I’m sure I will be doing something with Nick Lowe and whoever. Things will crop up during the year on I’m sure and usually I am all too pleased to do them.
TWR: Finally, what are your aims and ambitions for the future?
PC: I’ve no real ambitions I don’t think. Well, I’ve not got any ambitions full stop really. I’ve been on Top of The Pops and Wogan now. Got my gold record, got my little studio at home in which I am very happy to tinker around, so I suppose my ambition is really… or my aim is to carry on surviving and working as an artist and a musician. I still enjoy it very much. I love doing what I am doing, it never ceases to amaze me that I have got away with it for so long. So, I am quite happy to do that. In fact, if I can carry on doing what I am doing what I am doing I’d be more than happy to do that. In fact, if I can carry on doing what I am doing I’d be more than happy but I am really terribly ambitious. But you know you do have to have a certain amount of success to keep it all rolling so I hope that my next album does OK but mostly I hope it is an album I really like because I think that it’s time I did one I really liked although, then again I never have done yet so… Anyway I hope you don’t find this too tedious a task. I certainly couldn’t sit there and listen to it myself but I am glad that somebody can so, all the best with it and if all else fails don’t feel that you have to quote everything I’ve got to say. I’d be more than happy to make me sound more interesting than I really am! Anyway, I’ll see you, all the best!
Well, that just about wraps it up. I would like to thank Paul very much for taking the time to do the interview for TWR and we wish him every success on the Mechanics tour and for his new solo album which could be released, fingers crossed, towards the end of the year.