Then and now, one fact of life on the rock 'n' roll food chain is hard to deny: it's the singers who reap most of the notoriety, whatever the boys behind them might think. However, maybe it's best paying closer attention to the man in the back room -- as guitarist Peter Stride can attest. Best known for his stint with the Lurkers, Stride wrote the bulk of their signature songs, though he didn't happen to be the lead singer.
However, Stride sightings in the music world have been few and far between since 1984, after a re-formed Lurkers lineup called it a day (though bassist Arturo Bassick eventually picked up the mantle). Until I approached Pete for a chat this summer, the nearest glimpse into his thoughts amounted to some liner notes that he'd done for Capitain Oi!'s BBC PUNK SESSIONS CD, which only deepened my interest...surely the Lurkers' main songwriter had something more to say?
As it turns out, Pete does, and then some. Through the magic of Google, I discovered that Pete's fronting a new band, God's Lonely Men (GLM), anchored by the original redoubtable Lurkers' rhythm section of Peter "Manic Esso" Haynes, and bassist Nigel Moore. In classic "one at a time" fashion, the boys are slowly revealing their direction on their website, godslonelymen.com.
If "Now Is The Winter" and "Bad Caroline" are the template, we can expect a cracking album - I won't say anymore for now, just head over to the GLM site, and judge for yourself (although Pete's soaring, anthemic leads do the talking quite well). At any rate, following my (forthcoming) interview with Esso, I shot off some emails to Mr. Stride between mid-June and July, and here's what he shot back...with replies befitting a guitar hero who's seen it all (and then some) since the dawn of punk. (Photos used by permission of GLM: godslonelymen.com.)
CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): Who do you count among your earliest influences, and what got you into music?
PETER STRIDE (PS): Early influences: I think my early guitar heroes were the kind who played for the benefit of the song rather than their egos, so I was a big Keith Richards fan, also he had a great look which I started to adopt for myself. I also liked Mick Ronson, and as a live performer it was hard to beat Rory Gallagher, who I would go and see whenever he was playing London.
However, to be honest, the one who made me absolutely have to be in a band was Johnny Thunders from the New York Dolls, because I was kind of close to being able to play that sort of stuff myself. The Dolls' first album was a huge influence on me and was crucial to the UK punk scene arriving. When I saw the [Sex] Pistols' early gigs it was amazing how much like the Dolls they sounded. The other big influential album was the Ramones' first album, it just sounded perfect to me and I knew I had to seriously get a band together.
CR: You were the first band signed to the Beggars Banquet label, right? Tell me how that situation came about.
PS: We used to practice in a rehearsal room under Beggars Banquet record shop in Fulham and the manager of that shop, Mike Stone, convinced the owners that they should start up a little indie label and put out a record by us. That record was "Shadow," and it got played a lot on the John Peel radio show and sold pretty well. Nick and Martin from Beggars Banquet then became our managers and things developed from there. They were totally new to the music biz and really we were lucky that we did so well. I didn't have any big problems with them at the time but looking back, I can see that we could have been more successful with more experienced management.
CR: What were some of the most memorable gigs?
PS: Memorable gigs. The Lurkers' first-ever gig was at Uxbridge Technical College in 1976. It was probably an end of term dance and we were supporting Screaming Lord Sutch, well, we did our whole set in 10 minutes and when we finished there was a kind of shocked silence, I thought we were great but punk was new to most people then.
As the band started to make a bit of progress we had a residency at a music pub in Hammersmith called the Red Cow, we would be with the Jam one week and then 999 the next, these were great fun and the whole pogoing stage invasion thing developed there. Out of London there was quite a lot of resistance to punk and I remember a show at Leicester University when then we spent the whole set dodging plastic beer glasses, spit and anything else they could get their hands on. I really enjoyed that kind of show 'cos it felt like we were fighting for some sort of cause. Later on we had great gigs at the Marquee Club, in London, and we did a big show at the Lyceum Ballroom [also] in London, which should have been a high point but was spoilt by crowd trouble.
CR: As we know, the Lurkers didn't seem to get much critical respect "back in the day." How did this affect the band, and did you feel overshadowed by "The Big Three" (The Clash, Damned and Sex Pistols)?
PS: Critical respect? We didn't get a lot of press but there was usually at least one writer at each music paper who liked us a lot so we did get some good stuff written about us, also the reviews of our records were usually pretty good. Yes, we were overshadowed by the "Big Three," as you call them, but so were a lot of other bands and I don't feel bad about it.
CR: When did you first start writing songs, and who do you rank among your major influences there?
PS: I started writing songs when I was really young, probably round about 10 years old. The Beatles and that whole pop thing was huge in britain but also my sister, who was nine years older than me, was bringing home albums by artists like Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen, and I was very drawn to the strong imagery and storytelling in their music. Who could resist a "brand new leopardskin pillbox hat"?
So then I started thinking up names for imaginary groups and gradually moved on to actually writing down the words for the songs they would sing. As I got older me and my friends would start up a new group every now and then, and though we couldn't actually play instruments we would bang tambourines and hit biscuit tins with knitting needles and shout out the songs I wrote, and we would charge our schoolfriends a penny or two to come and see us "play".
Anyway, I continued over the the years writing down lyrics and song titles in a big notebook and when I started messing around with guitars at about 14 it came quite easy to get decent tunes to fit the words. So eventually when the Lurkers started up I had no problem knocking up some good songs.
CR: Tell me the stories behind some of your better-known songs ("Shadow," "Ain't Got A Clue," "Just Thirteen," "God's Lonely Men"), and how those come about.
PS: What I try to do in a song is to use a genuine strong emotion and wrap it up in an interesting narrative, "Shadow" is a good example of that. You have the strong jealousy emotion and then the story about Jenny and the gun.
"Ain't Got A Clue" was about teenage confusion and paranoia. "Just Thirteen" was a straight narrative song about the pain of a girl's move from child to teenager. "God's Lonely Men" was the [title of] the Lurkers' second album. It was Esso who told me the name in the first place, I think he met some character when we were on tour who called himself "God's lonely man."
Actually at that time "God's Lonely Men" was how we felt, I think bands on tour a lot can become very detached from the "real world" and get a bit bitter if they aren't getting the attention they think they deserve, and so the actual song ("God's Lonely Men") pretty much wrote itself.
CR: "God's Lonely Men" is one of several songs that showcases an even rawer edge to the band -- if that's possible -- on the BBC PUNK SESSIONS CD (Captain Oi!). I particularly like the guitar on that song, as well as "Room 309" and "Out In The Dark." How did you get that sound?
PS: You mention a couple of other songs from that album, "Room 309" was another pretty bitter song about bands and shallow "showbiz" stuff. "Out in the Dark" I really still like, I wrote it after we had played a few dates in Ireland during "the troubles" when there were lots of bomb threats and soldiers on the streets everywhere at night, I found it very disturbing.
The guitar sound you are talking about is probably the 12-string Rickenbaker which I borrowed from the producer of the [Lurkers' second] album (Philip Jarrel, who co-wrote "Torn Between Two Lovers"). It was a nightmare to keep in tune 'cos I was left-handed and the guitar wasn't and we had to change all the strings around, also we had an early stroboscopic tuner which would give me small electric shocks and made me not want to tune up too often.
CR: How do you look back on the recording of your two early albums, FULHAM FALLOUT and GOD'S LONELY MEN? Which one holds up better for you?
PS: Recording albums: the first album, FULHAM FALLOUT, was recorded outside London and we all went and stayed in a pub near the studio for a couple of weeks which actually worked very well, because we were away from the usual distractons. We had a very patient and good producer in Mick Glossop and considering we couldn't play that well, I think it is a really entertaining album with some great songs. The second album was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which was a very interesting place to visit but was a mistake for the band as we didn't get that raw sound that we needed. Also there weren't enough good songs on it.
CR: How did John Plain's later-period entry into the band affect the sound and musical direction?
PS: We got John Plain from the Boys to join us to try and expand our sound, he was able to play all that Stones-type rock and roll guitar which I wasn't yet able to play very well. I had a good time with John and we had a good drink as well, but it was a mistake as far as the Lurkers was concerned.
The album I did with him, called NEW GUITARS IN TOWN, was really meant to just be a side project but it coincided with a fall in our live audiences for the Lurkers and Beggars Banquet, our label and management, decided to pull the plug on us. What we should have done is then take maybe a year out and regroup but we decided to call it a day.
CR: What led up to the Lurkers' early '80s reformation, then?
PS: We reformed with a new singer (Marc Fincham) in 1982 because there seemed to still be a lot of interest in the band and we made some good records with him, unfortunately we weren't able to make it as big as before and eventually decided to quit again.
CR: It's my understanding that you don't particularly enjoy playing live during the Lurkers' heyday. What are you hoping to achieve with the new band (God's Lonely Men), since even a one-off gig or two would surely help generate some interest?
PS: Actually, I really enjoyed playing live, it was the touring part I came to not like. I just found it so bad for my health (mental and physical) that eventually I had to stop. Also I think that creatively, it is really bad news for me and the creative part (i.e., the songwriting and recording) is what I am really interested in.
What we are trying to achieve with GLM is in the first place to have a whole lot of great songs and to hopefully make a great album. We decided not to call ourselves the Lurkers because we wanted people to know that this was all new music and maybe much better than anything we had done in the past, also we wanted to get a whole lot of new fans who weren't even aware of the Lurkers and just liked what they were hearing from GLM.
As far as the live thing goes, I don't think that GLM will ever be like a regular "on the tour bus"-type band, but if there is enough demand then we will try to think of a way to play some live shows, maybe at interesting "different"-type venues or events. I think that's the lot now Ralph, thanks.
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