()ver a very dodgy phone line from Utrecht. Holland. I’m talking to a pop star from (‘oventry about (ilasgow.
‘(Elasgow as a city has always been very supportive of King. I think over the last 18 months we‘ve played about six or seven concerts there. We‘ve had one ofour hottest follow- ings there. And indeed it was one of our hottest . . .er. following areas. particularly in record sales. during the early days of King. before we had our hits. We have a lot of friends there. And secondly. on a personal level. I've always wanted to spend a New Year in Scotland. I‘m told it’s fantastic. so I'm looking forward to that.‘
The pop star is Paul King. singer fronting the similarly-named group. speaking of the ‘unique opportunity" extended to them by the BB(‘ to play in the Barrowlands Ballroom on llogmanay. a concert which will be transmitted live on BBC 2 and simultaneously in stereo on Radio 1.
It was about this time last year that I had my first glimpse. in sight and sound. of King. They seemed a fairly average pop band. nothing too special. but fairly odd-looking. Most of their early publicity centredon their brightly-painted Doc Marten boots. but fairly quickly people began to notice their singer. Paul King. one of the few who brought long hair back into fashion this year. with his equine features and mane to match. lankiness. and ubiquitous knees and elbows. Paul King takes performing very seriously. as hefits an ex-drama student. striking strange poses on stage. genuﬂecting. sitting on the edge of the drum podium waggling his legs like Tommy Steele. posing. for some inexplicable reason. with a large rod between his legs. Who could have thought that this man who. despite it all. hlends into anonimity when off stage. could inspire such adoration? Well. the fans for sure. who know what they like. and the debut single ‘I.ove And Pride‘ was maddeningly catchy.
Presently Paul King is going through that inevitahle publicity treadmill which has emasculated even his most promising and daring contemporaries (Boy George. Holly Johnson) and spewed them out the other end fit for family consumption. but very little else. And he‘s going through it very happily. ‘I think it‘s worth it. I enjoy it. it‘s a great job.‘
He‘s well aware that he's being sold quite mercilessly. but has always insisted that he‘s retained his integrity through it all. Can that really he the case in such a cynical. heartless industry‘.’
’l think I still am doing that. There are hoops to jump through. and some people choose not to go through them and some people do. and how you actually handle that as you go through is totally up to the individual. And I‘m very much convinced we are maintaining what we started out to do."
Is fame a good thing to have. then?
‘Not fame for fame‘s sake; I can honestly say that's not something I was ever after . . . If I was going to make music I wanted to reach as
many people as I could. It’s an opportunity to make a statement. It‘s a reflection of your attitudes. you know'.’ It‘s your chance to make a mark on your history. to become a man of your times.‘
But there is an irony here. Paul King is nothing if not a man of his times. but to he a man ofthese times is to he nothing. Talent is redundant nowadays. taking a back seat to clever marketing. and not since the Beatles has music been so profitable. The more ephemeral a star the better. is the rule. Duran Duran and the like have become a new aristoc- racy. patronised by royalty. their every move dogged by the tabloids. They can. with some justification. see the world as their playground. and some choose to play in it with reckless irresponsibility. I ask Paul if he thinks King are good at being pop stars. ‘1 think we‘ve a healthier attitude in promoting it and using it
King rings in from Holland: Mab presses the charges
Well. yes. compared to others of their profession who flash their money around on cars that they promptly crash. boats that promptly sink and orgies of tequila in the trendiest London nightclubs. King seem remarkably well-behaved. They are in a position of responsibil- ity. then. since they have such an access into impressionable teena- gers‘ minds?
‘Sure. I am very much aware of that. You have a responsibility to yourself as well. It‘s simply an attitude. setting an example by the way you act. the way you perform. what you do with fame. And obvi- ously you have responsibility to the people who like you.‘
Would this influence extend to making comments on politics. in the same ways as you have made your opinions known about drugs? (King have performed many anti-drug
benefits for schoolkids in their native Coventry.)
‘No. in fact . . . . I think politics. are a very personal area. which affect different people in different ways. unlike drugs. they‘re very. very negative. I tend to deal more with people politics. emotions. and social statements in that sense — not overtly left or right.‘
And I thought they were about dressing up and having a good time! Paul's conversation is full of words like ‘attitude‘. ‘direction‘. ‘positive' and ‘important'. but ask him to clarify any of it and he doesn't seem to have much ofa concrete idea. The only time in our conversation when we get near something that might embody — or at least have a hint to —-— the King philosophy is when Paul talks of his idol Marc Bolan. and the influence the Metal (iuru had on him. 'not in the sense of “I want to be that pop artist" but I want to be me. and dress up and be given attention . . . .he Paul King the individual.‘
‘ZMB' on the new LP is sung to Bolan: High heels stomping under lurex ﬂ(ll'(’.S‘/B[(l(‘k mascara. corkscrew hair. Swap the high heels for lurid green Doc Martens and the corkscrew hair for a luxurious black mane. and what do you have“? King!
To be a young fan of King‘s. though must be exciting. As more than one writer has noted. they do hold out a hope for individuality in the pop marketplace. whatever the quality of their music. for they're selling more than just music. Paul is at least trying to put forward more than a Yuppie ideal of skiing holi- days and cocktails. And as I said earlier. he's enthusiastic about playing to an audience.
‘lt's a one-off occasion. It‘s some- thing that shall never ever happen again in that same way. The oppor- tunity to communicate with an audience on a very personal level and they to communicate to you . . . and indeed it’s a historic occasion. it's something special. it can be very electric. very moving and will stay in people's memories and yours fora very long time. if it‘s right.‘
Paul is an eccentric. overly-sin- cere. faintly ridiculous performer when seen live. But the little girls. bless ‘em. understand. as they always will. ()ne of the more tradi- tionally merciless aspects of the pop industry is its wilful exploitation of young teenage girls‘ growing sexual awareness. but it‘s almost impossible to take offence at Paul King. Which brings us to his last contention.
‘Our audience is very reﬂective of our attitude. music and ideas. It's a total hybrid. a total spectrum. a cross-section from sex to age. Young girls. who everybody seems to promote and talk about when they‘re on about King. either cyni- cally or positively. always get noticed 'cause they‘re down the front making the most noise. But behind them are the guys who like it. and those attitudes to dress and style that they would like to emulate and copy. and behind them can be older people who are also diggin' the music for its . . . its depth and quality.‘