Wallbanger he may be. but group
member Richard Allen doesn‘t drink
cocktails. In fact until Harvey turned
up. I hadn‘t guessed that the unflamboyant man in black staring into his coffee and another band‘s album cover. was anything to do with the legendary Fringe benefit. Harvey and the. . .
But then Richard is the love
' interest; on stage his misery becomes f resonant. his very ordinariness.
fascinating. Directing his
' unhappiness and the rest of the
bands‘s musical exuberance. is
Harvey Frederick Glover Brough. a
man who has bravely kept his own name. together with his
unmistakable nose. throughout his
~ pop career.
Harvey. sporting hand-knitted
f woolly and grey overcoat. is the
. epitome ofwhat the band is about.
' unpretentiousness. Thus Richard is ; genuinely a misery (‘mooody git‘ to
quote him accurately). Reg the pianist is genuinely a rock ‘n‘ roll wideboy and Harvey is genuinely. well. Harvey. And ifthat is only half way true. that‘s because the band
numbers six. each ofwhom flaunts
strong personalities and extraordinary musical versatility. all highlighted democratically in the shows.
Reﬂecting the sickening extent of their talent. and perhaps hinting at over indulgence. the new show currently hitting the Glasgow and Edinburgh audience. is called Park the Tiger or ‘the technicolor yawn — “to throw up“ in Australian.‘ according to Harvey. Controlled musically by Harvey. the show is directed by David Gilmore. whose
West End Credits include Daisy ‘ Pulls it Off. The Hired Man and Fatal
attraction. More important than his
, cv. was his instant rapport with the ‘ group. ‘Hc is as pucrile as us.‘ says Richard. ‘Probably more so.‘ adds Harvey. Gilmore surprised the
group by coming to their shows three
5 times with assortmentsofinﬂuential . people. all this after being asked
along once. ‘He was kind of
f impressive. And keen‘. says Harvey. : He was also what the group calls a
; ‘real-world theatre director‘ as
. opposed to a talented friend. The
. decision to ‘go serious‘ for the group
meant that the six individualists always turned up for rehearsals. And they stood where they were told. The Wallbangers had decided early on that some outside direction was
. useful. but Gilmore‘s commitment. 3 working long hours and really ; believing in the band. made him a
particular hit. By contrast. the group‘s
relationship with Geoffrey Perkins. T currently script editor of Spitting 2 Image. was less than happy. ‘He cost
us a lot ofmoney. We decided to try
using a script writer but in fact he just rewrote some stuff we were already doing and didn‘t really do anything we couldn‘t do ourselves.‘ Richard Allen rephrases with something of the cynicism that breeds natural moodiness. ‘He was laughing all the way to the bank; we weren‘t laughing and we weren‘t going to the bank either.‘ Harvey explains that the idea might have worked (although
4 The List 7 - 20 Feb
Harvey and the Wallbangers give Scotland a chance to see their new show, Park the Tiger at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal on 15 Feb and the Royal Lyceum
Theatre in Edinburgh on 16 Feb. Stephanie Billen
met them in London and admired their clothes.
previous outside scripts for radio shows have been similarly disastrous apparently). Perkins judged by the group as ‘a very good writer‘. lacked
group. Instead. he mailed in material which was often rejected by the Wallbangers. especially as it was never soon enough to be reworked.
The group‘s unique blend of cover versions. rock ‘n‘ roll and original material. requires also a script that arises naturally. and is funny naturally. ‘Because none of us are actors. we‘re all funnier doing things we come up with ourselves. even if they are not as funny on paper as what someone else might send in.‘ says Richard. Harvey illustrates the point with Perkins: ‘He wrote a gag for me which began “There is one question which everybody asks us.“ PAUSE. “And the other question is where do we get our fabulous gear from.“ That‘s not funny; it‘s vaguely suggestive. which isn‘t my kind of humour. and as I‘m not much of an actor. I couldn‘t imagine putting myself in a position where I could say that naturally. In fact I‘m not sure anyone could do it . . .‘
‘Except a puppet.‘ Richard spits. Park the Tiger‘s script remains largely Wallbanger; Perkins. brought in on a ‘project basis’. as the boys put it. has gone on to higher things.
More important than the band‘s brand of humour — ‘sophisticated pissing about‘ according to Richard Allen — is its music. The group was formed at the Edinburgh Festival in
the time to work. and get to know the I
1981. but has ‘changed radically‘ says
Harvey. especially in the last two years. ‘We used to be much softer musically; now we‘ve added brass and drums and proper pa. and it has become a much bigger sound. as well as being bigger to tour around.‘ The
I group is also performing more of its
own work. which can originate from the skills of any one of the six and. in the case of Harvey often with the help of his brother Rex. ‘About a
third is our own work; I would like it to be half.‘ says Harvey of the repertoire. The swapping of instruments during performances is usually a case of logistics to accommodate the different vocalists in each case.
1986 is judged to be a watershed for
their group musically. Could the for years rumoured split-up be on the cards? ‘We are not splitting up at this very moment. But we are quite ambitious and ifwe don‘t achieve what we want to achieve then we will. There is no point touring for another five years ifwe don‘t reach the next stage . . .‘ Which is? ‘A single. Or a West End hit or possibly a tv series.‘ says Harvey. A Radio Two Series has been commissioned this year. The group sees no reason why it should not make it into the charts. the top ten even. and is hoping to release two singles this year. both ofwhich they think are ‘commercial‘. Out ofthe Shadows by Reg Prescott and The Beat goes
0n/ Drown in my own tears. by Harvey and Rex. are both sung by Jeremy Taylor. Both are more upbeat than some of the Wallbanger songs on the the second and most recent album. WallbangersA-go-go. For a band relentlessly labelled ‘wacky‘. there are some sad lyrics. Falling in the Rain with its lines: ‘Why must my steps lead to nowhere/I‘m‘hopelessly alone‘. Harvey reveals to be ‘dressed up as an ordinary love song‘. but about a death in his family. ‘It‘s the first real song I ever wrote.‘ But he acknowledges that songs. even when they are supposed to be happy. can develop a life of their own. ‘I need you Love was supposed to be a happy song. but it came out sounding rather desperate.‘ he says.
The Wallbangers are sophisticated enough to realise that ‘wackiness‘ or forced hilarity are not enough to win the hearts of an audience. and performance is never far from their minds. Park the Tiger actually sends
; up old style entertainment with lyrics
like ‘Tons and Tons of sunshine. miles and miles of happiness. barrels and barrels of roses. . .‘ ‘People like to see you looking happy. but they can also fix on misery as being interesting.‘ says Harvey. This is a subject close to the heart of natural anti-hero. Richard Allen. ‘Fear is the key to my misery. When I first went on stage people thought I looked very unhappy. the reason was. I was. My attempting to play a musical instrument.‘ (he joined as a publicist) ‘seemed to be considered a source ofgreat humour.‘
It is probably fair to say that the
E group has not been laughed at so
unkindly since a certain ‘gig‘ in France. "I‘ouring is great.‘ says Richard with unexpected joie de vivre. ‘drugs. sex. late-nights. black coffee. Junior Disprin . . .‘The group has been to Germany. Sweden. Holland. Denmark and France —— where they attempted to speak French. ‘For five minutes they thought it was funny; then they seemed to get incredibly insulted.‘ Harvey admits.
Touring in this country retains the perennial problems of transporting
ever more ambitious sets. Of Park
the Tiger. they will reveal little except that the piano alone gets a
standing ovation. A West End venue
might allow more sets — a revolving piano being one ambition. The Emperor‘s new clothes are a more open secret. Harvey will be wearing Lurex — ‘subdued lurex‘ — a seersucker bull-fighter‘s jacket with braiding to give overtones of authority — ‘obviously satirical‘ — and big boots. Harvey‘s apologies reveal his embarrassment at the clumsy attempts to get away from the ‘nice young men image‘. Probing into Harvey‘s past reveals an unrebellious childhood at grammar school in Coventry. and an undistinguished career at Cambridge. without the excuse of Footlights. which he saw as ‘elitist and unfunny‘.
Richard. despite knocking over my glass while wearing his black leather jacket. and saying ‘Eat your heart out Clash‘. lacked conviction when it came to teenage rebelliousness; an old lady used to let him offearly when he dug her garden for Community Service.
Today the power of the group comes from friendship. not anger. Harvey and Richard went to school together; Harvey. Rex and lighting designer. Jo Cooke. share a house together in Hackney. ‘We like each other a lot even if it is soppy to say so.‘ Harvey admits. Such is the togetherness ofthe group. that they have never welcomed audience participation — not at least since an act which involved the six of them standing on top of someone as a human pyramid. ‘What ifwe had broken a back'." shudders Harvey.
Harvey Brough has shaken a successful cocktail. The Wallbanger repertoire mixes the excitement of Jazz turning into rock ‘n‘ roll. with Motown at its best. But it is the Wallbangers‘ personalities that create the band‘s unique performance punch.