Record Mirror interview May 1986
Waiting for Godard.
Two years ago ex punk face Vic Godard recorded ambitious Jazz album one which is only now being released.
Stuart Ballie makes an appointment.
The 10th anniversary of punk has been a tiresome business, allowing our music scribes to ramble on self-indulgently about the events and the characters of those far off days. One of the names which invariably gets mentioned is that of Vic Godard, who's band the Subway Sect was well to the fore with their scratchy, intelligent brand of new pop music. They were too subtle a band, and too disorganised, to ever make it in the big league, but to this day they command a reverential cult status.
Vic now works as a bookie in the suburbs of South London. He hasn't read any music papers for five years, and he's very amused when I show him some of the recent press cuttings. He particularly likes the photo of him looking anarchic in a rather dapper looking pair of kiddies sunglasses.
"I've got an even better one than that with my dad wearing those glasses. I think the music was a load of crap, but we had a real laugh. It was a great atmosphere, being there, but if you listen to that stuff no one can play their instruments."
I don't want to sound disrespectful, but I think people are getting carried away when they hail records like 'Ambition' as classics….I put this to Vic.
"Ambition, I hate that song. I will not let anyone play it in my presence. The wiring in my house is so old that you can't have the record player on if the lights aren't on. So if anyone tries to play the old records, I just turn the bedroom light off."
Vic soon tired of the garage band mentality, and took to exploring the music of the 40s and 50s, the era of well-made song and the tuxedoed crooners who delivered with such velvety panache. His most ambitious experiment with this style was the album T.R.O.U.B.L.E.. Recorded two years ago with a collection of distinguished jazz musicians, the album cost £30,000 to make, yet was shelved when the major company decided it wouldn't sell. The tapes were recently salvaged by Rough Trade and, at last, T.R.O.U.B.L.E. is receiving overdue acclaim. Its appearance caught Vic by surprise.
"I had forgotten all about that record until somebody phoned me up for an interview. Some of the songs are quite good, a proper singer could do 'Chain-Smoking' really well couldn't he? Someone like Tony Bennett. There's an old song of mine called Empty Shell that I'd like to have got Matt Munro to sing. But he's dead now."
"I went to see Tony Bennett at the Lakeside country club. It was a brilliant you can sit there with a big dinner, and Tony start's singing. No one can do a ballad better than him. If only he could do that with one of mine."
There are some excellent Jazz musicians on the album, aren't there? I asked Vic.
"We have an accordionist on there who does this radio show on a Sunday afternoon called 'Sing Something Simple'. They do a medley of about 30 popular songs, and there's this accordionist going mad. That was him."
"I did the album in the studio in Barnes. And it's just around the corner from me house. I used to go to the studio on me bike. No rock groups you this is all the London Symphony Orchestra and Filmscores. But I couldn't use musicians like that all the time, they are too expensive. The stuff I'm doing now is more simple. "
So you've been spending the past two years getting something together?
"No, it's just the last week I haven't been doing anything. I've just been down at the betting shop. I always written songs and listened to Frank Sinatra records, but I've completely lost touch with rock music. I only started watching Top Of The Pops the last two weeks, to catch up with what's happening. And I got a real shock when I saw Frank Sinatra on that, he is still pretty good, is old Frank.?
What about your song 'I'm Gonna Write a Musical'?
"It is not meant to be on that LP, I only did it as a joke. Because I did write a musical a few years ago, and that was the opening number. It was loosely based on the book by a French bloke called Theophile Gautier. Some group of students were mucking about with it at Edinburgh University. It had such a weird plot ,all the blokes were dressed up as girls, and the girls were dressed up as blokes, and then they had a war. It got really confusing. I didn't think I want to try it again, but it's nice to be able to say you've written a musical."
Would you say you're lacking in drive and ambition?
"Yeah, probably. Some people think they're good at things, and they're pushy and get themselves heard. I play music because I enjoy doing it; I'm not too interested in what other people think of it. If I make a record and I got a copy of it and take it home with me, that's all I want. I'm such a weak character. If someone told me to go away and shoot myself, I'd probably do it. But my wife's not too weak, fortunately. I mean, my life is a complete mess, you couldn't get more screwed up than me, it would be impossible. Practically everything that could go wrong to someone has happened to me. But I'm not depressed at all.?"
But don't you ever feel you want to leave your mark in this world?
"That's the one thing. If only someone would do one or two of my songs - someone a stature - then that would be enough. Yes that would make it all worth while."