|TROY TATE is having trouble. He can't stay aboard his chair as his body quakes and contorts with an uncontrollable crazed mirth. The decibel rating of his rapid, wild guffaws sends shivers up, my spine and would have Noise Abatement society folk stampeding toward the nearest Exit pamphlet.
I'd simply mentioned the allegations that the new look Teardrops (Alfie Agius, dancing with the big fat bass lines, Jeff Hammer adding wide, new keyboard
horizons and, of course, Troy himself on Fender Strat an occasional twelve-string)
are nothing more than a backing group for Julian Cope, employed by the flaxen haired, flying-jacketed one and original drummer Gary Dwyer in plain old session musician style. Still half choking with laughter Troy manages to utter through his grin-strained lips:
"Presumably reporters just can't think of anything else to say, that's their problem not mine. When we play onstage itís really special and that's what I care about. The audiences realise this, they're the people that really count.
"They come up to us and say they like the band, they don't just go gaga over Julian. If on the old songs we played exactly as they were then maybe I would understand the remarks. I'm surprised press people who are supposed to be perceptive haven't noticed the subtle variations in arrangements."
'Tis not a universally known or accepted fact that Troy has had a large hand in shaping the sound of the Teardrops today. He was actually appointed to the position of permanent plucker just prior to last Christmas, assuming the still warm guitar strap thrown down by Alan Gill, following an out-of-the-blue belling from managerial man Bill Drummund informing the then groupless twanger of the Sit Vac.
"Bill asked if I was interested so I went up to Liverpool and jammed with Julian, Gary and Dave Balfe who was still in the group then. The next day Dave phoned and said I was in but that he was leaving.
"I wondered what was going on but I went back up and worked on new songs with Julian and Gary. Julian and I got on so well neither of us could believe we'd never met before. Julian came up with the main idea for songs but I changed his arrangements. sometimes drastically.
"Nowadays a lot of the stuff is got together by the whole band although none of it will be heard until we record it."
These freshly-hatched syncopations will not, however, bear a full group credit.
"The songs have to be solely credited to Julian simply because he and Gary rely on the money the group turn over plus they pay out for touring, making videos etc. It's fair enough because they did do the three years work to get where they are today."
Two imaginary scouse voices: "We didnít get where we are today by hiring session men."
Troy: "It's true we're paid by Julian and Gary to play with them but Julian's just not the kind of person to ever work with a session musician. If I thought it was a session band I'd leave tomorrow."
This tea-time tete-a-Tate is conducted in the intestine-like labyrinth that constitutes the backstage area of Dunstable's Queensway Hall. The date is the final engagement of the Teardropsí Out Of The Culture Bunker two-month inter-continental wayfaring bout that blasted from a Houston, Texas, launch pad amid oil wells, T-bone steaks and rodeos, circumnavigated the States and Canada, then angled itself for a perfect UK re-entry and splash-down in the over-sized cow-pat of rural Bedfordshire.
My unrelenting demands for an inventory of hair-raising, bloodcurdling or simply just vulgar anecdotes finally forces Troy into a dazed, trance-like state of remembrance.
"We got up to so many crazy things it's mainly a blur. If you're on the road long enough the only way you can enjoy it is by doing all those rock and roll things you swore you never would.
"Things like Gary running round hotels with nothing on banging on doors and the manager telling him to shutup. Stopping at a bar in the middle of the desert and watching as a real cowboy walked in.
"The weirdest thing of all was when, apparently, one of the Grateful Dead, of all people, gave Cope some highly-potent LSD. For a couple of days him and Gary were completely out of their brains, sticking marshmallows on the roof of the van. It's never boring in this band! You may have heard about the fight in New York but that's what this bandís like. We fight but it's never over-serious.
"The Jam came to see us in Toronto and we kept bumping into Bram Tchaikovsky everywhere. He was always on the same planes and in this dressing room in Toronto we heard this voice and we all went 'Oh no! It's Bram Tchaikovsky'. I never forget this tour ever. It was the greatest laugh out. Iíll remember it as long as I live!"
Pre-employ in the Teardrop camp and post the decline of Shake, Troy has drifted from the glamorous environs of the music biz into labours of a less salubrious nature. By day assembling on a factory production line and by night and weekends in a restaurant kitchen hidden behind a sky bound stack of dirty dishes discarded by the hunger-mad, food crazy diners in their quest for appetite satiation.
In the few spare hours that this busy life of toil and tedium offered Troy was committing to tape demos of self-penned material. This action resulted in a publishing agreement with Warner Bros and the in-the-racks-now-pop-kids single 'Thomas' with the rear graced by 'London's Swinging' on Why Fi c/o RCA (sleeve designed by the beautifully titled Pablo Cuckoo).
'Thomas' sets off in a broody fashion, in some ways akin to a slow burning John Cale ballad. Troy's voice being well up in the mix makes it necessary to raise sound levels to allow the delicacies of the masked staccato strumming and the discreet build-up to the marching beat that underlays the chorus to emerge and fully maximise listening pleasure.
"It was recorded on an eight-track machine in the bedroom of Phil Chapman. There was no room for a drum kit in there so they were added separately just before I left for America.
"Now there's some hilarious reviews saying it's over produced. It was edited the day before we did 'Treason' for Top Of The Pops and the artwork done literally just an hour before the programme."
Lyrically 'Thomas' could, given the lightest of casual hearings, be dismissed as just another well-meaning but dreary anti-war tirade. But let the artiste enlighten:
"It's basically about the way events take over people. I meet people I used to play in groups with and now they're sales reps or whatever, not that there's anything wrong with being a sales rep but 'Thomas' is a twist on the way fate can push people into situations they didn't want.
"On my mind too was that that is the way an army mobilisation can happen. If they're not careful everyone could be in the army if the government and/or world events dictate it.
"The song covers this in a slightly off-centre way. I didn't want to just sing 'Oh, I hate war'. The line 'the train's on time' comes from the title of a story by Heinrich Boll, written during the war about the way people get sucked into it in quite arbitrary fashion. 'It's like watching war films when you're a kid and before you know it you're out there fighting in Northern Ireland or Poland and it's nothing to do with you.
"In some ways it's like the music business too. Like having the hit single and selling out all the gigs, we never expected that to happen. It's taken two months for that to start to sink in.
"One gig I was watching the Delmontes (UK tour support), I was tired and a bit out of it and I seriously wondered who the main band were. You suddenly think God! All these people are coming to see us!"
The not-to-be missed flip, 'London's Swinging' bursts out with an Iggy/Bowie style raunch, heavy duty sustained guitar leading the cut and thrust form start to finish. These grooves are made doubly dangerous by the oft-used refrain which fairly bulldozes its way to the cranium.
"That one's partly autobiographical. When the economy is bad everything is down to a minimum and people think I've got a job. Get some money and get ripped on Friday night and don't give a shit. People arenít grabbing things and changing them any more.
"There's the comparison with the Swinging London of the sixties. Nowadays London isn't really part of England anymore and the swinging is from a yard arm.
"It's partly a tongue-in-cheek rock and roll song as well the ĎJohnny' in it has been in every rock and roll song ever written. It's like a package and I do like the idea of rock being disposable, you can take it seriously and throw it away.
"It's not like religion or the government, rock and roll keeps changing and rock and roll is bananas and thatís why I love it."
Prolonged globe-trotting, rather than sapping energies, has fuelled and strengthened Troy's zest for existence. Pausing only for a brief week-long rest, he's recording further personal compositions in readiness for a future follow-up RCA forty-five.
Strings still buzzing, he remains studio bound for the making of the second Teardrop LP, the material on which will be publicly unveiled on a September scheduled Euro-tour. Any possible unfilled studio seconds will find Troy crawling round to face the mixing desk, hopefully producing (past credits include TV21) Birmingham's Pinkies.
Does he never relax?
"It's important to do things, not just talk about them. I don't want to sit around on my arse. The Teardrop Explodes is a very positive thing, a real buzz gets across to the audience and it encourages them to do things for themselves. It's a slightly different angle on the punk thing. Be creative and go out and take life. Don't let anybody give you any shit.
"I went to see James Brown at the Lone Star Club in New York. A legend just ten feet away from me on a tiny stage, doing the splits and jumping up and down and after a heart attack. It was a great inspiration seeing someone like that, you know youíve just got to keep going.
"If there is anybody reading this (!) and they really believe in something and really want to do it, then they will do it."
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