HARVEY AND THE WALLBANGERS
After many happy hours on the Fringe circuit, the band who made cocktails an aural experience are finally splitting up. Stephanie Billen talked to Harvey
So they‘ve finally gone and done it. Out not with a whimper but a bang, Harvey and the Wallbangers, the band that formed at the drop of a cheque during the 1981 Edinburgh Festival, are trekking the country for a final. memorable tour. Yes fans. they really are splitting up.
‘lt’s very depressing.’ admits Harvey, recklessly breaking into a bottle ofchampagne not halfan hour before the gang is let loose on a slightly hysterical audience at London‘s Ronnie Scotts. Another suitcase. another hall maybe, but each venue is precious now that. as Reg would say, the End is Nigh.
The reason for the break up could be summed up in a single dread word — money. ‘I‘m sorry to keep going on about it, but that‘s what it really comes down to,‘ says Harvey, founder and musical director responsible for the group‘s eclectic and technically impressive repertoire of vocal harmony, jazz, rock ‘n‘ roll and swing.
In fact the Wallbangers consider it quite an achievement to have been able to pay themselves a regular, if minimal, wage, and to have made some sort of profit by touring. But attractive as ‘staying up late and misbehaving‘ has been as a lifestyle , Harvey‘s conscious of the paradox that ‘though it‘s the sort of thing you can devote your life to. you can‘t do it forever.‘ Profit is after all a rather nebulous concept when you‘re seeking to pay off longstanding debts, a mammoth tax bill, and ever increasing tour costs. And the audiences, enthusiastic and rewarding in themselves, were ﬁnally not enough to tempt the band
into another few years of the already hardworn cabaret circuit.
Crucially, despite some radio and TV appearances, the Wallbangers‘ mixture of pastiche and musical virtuosity never appealed sufficiently to record companies used to promoting an image. ‘I still don‘t know if we have one or not, but I know it‘s important for marketing,‘ says Harvey. As a result, the group brought out its own records but found it a dispiriting business. ‘We needed to spend more time on developing a sound but, again, it was
a question of money. People spend a day just sorting out the snare drums; we did a whole album in three weeks. It‘s sad because when I left college I thought now‘s the time to try out all these ideas, but in the end you have to keep yourselfalive.‘
Just how the various members of the band will achieve this in the future is a matter of some speculation. On stage, the official line appears to be that Richard will become a lighthousekeeper, Chris a dentist, Reg ‘a caretaker responsible for doing things like finding out where the fire escape is and taking telephone calls‘, Jeremy, a shepherd, the great Huggetini, a hairdresser in a salon called ‘Dino‘s‘, and Harvey one more on the dole queue.
Harvey is quick to acknowledge his own fate as being quite likely exactly that, but in happier mood will admit that he has been excited by the discovery that he can write. and is set to form a group oftwo or three people — possibly a Wallbanger or so among them - to perform original work. ‘We divide into the sensibles and the stupids, and I suppose I‘m stupid,‘ says Harvey, reflecting on a renewed career choice that will leave him poles apart from, say, Johnny, who. it seems, is in real life taking up a longfelt vocation as a maths teacher in Stoke Newington. Not that even Johnny is likely to be able to forget the Cambridge band that never quite made his fortune. ‘Je ne regrette rien,’ declares Reg at every opportunity. Harvey puts it a little more moderately: ‘I wouldn‘t have missed the experience for the world — it‘s been a great education.‘
Harvey and the Wallbangers will be at Queen '3 Hall, Edinburgh on Thursday 23 and Friday 24 April at 8pm and the Tron Theatre, Glasgow on Saturday 25 April at 10.30pm.
( The ﬁnal venue on 3 may has been changed from the Duke of York 's Theatre, London to Sadler's Wells.
MITSUKO UCHIOA The talented Japanese pianist talks to Carol Main about her forthcoming appearance in Scotland.
As the Scottish Chamber Orchestra‘s 86/87 season approaches its close, Japanese pianist Mitsuki Uchida returns for the last in her series of Mozart concertos directed from the keyboard, until next year. It is a fruitful relationship, particularly as it has formed the backbone for the SCO’s new ‘composer conducts‘ theme. Miss Uchida herselfis as intoxicating as an effervescent cocktail. Sparkling personality, cool technique and a natural ‘feel‘ for the music blend together to form a hit with SCO audiences and box office success.
Currently working on recordings of the complete cycle of Mozart concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra for Philips. due to be issued in 1991, the 200th anniversary of Mozart‘s death, she is surprisingly reticent about her own part in all this - ‘I am not proving any point. lam just playing them because someone has invited me to. I am utterly, utterly passive about these things.‘ What does excite her though is the SCO‘s prgramme mix of Mozart with modern music, finding great fascination in the central section, ‘which is not my part. It is one of the most wonderful ideas to sandwich in the middle of the Mozart concertos the composer who conducts his own work, and that has been utterly. utterly interesting, so I have been looking forward every time to come to Scotland very much for that.‘ laughineg adding, almost as an afterthought, ‘apart from the Mozart, of course!‘
So the idea is that the composer conducts his own music (already
Peter Maxwell Davies. Harrison Birtwhistle and Edward Harper have been featured and Oliver Knussen makes a second appearnace on Sat ZS/Sat 26) and Mitsuko Uchida both plays and conducts the Mozart. Quite a feat. As she says. ‘Directing and playing looks nice. it looks easy. but it is simply an enormous amount ofwork. But I know how tough it is and I am getting better - one learns to save energy!‘
In the same way as an actor runs the risk of being identified with a particular sort of role after finding success in it. Mitsuko Uchida could be in danger ofhaving a Mozart label branded across her fingers. Already admitting that in 1991 she is likely to be playing Mozart from morning to evening. she is well aware ofany threat. explaining ‘as much as I love and admire Mozart and think of him as the greatest genius in musical history. I want to play other compose rs too.‘ Schonberg. Bartok. Chopin. Beethoven. Schumann are reeled off with special project attached to each one and, like a bigamous marriage partner. she loves them all — ‘When I play
Schubert. I think he is my greatest love, then when I play Bartok, I think it‘s him.‘ And for audiences, it's quite likely Miss Uchida herself could be amongst their own greatest loves. To use her own turn of phrase, she is utterly. utterly charming.
Mitsuko Uchida plays Mozart Piano Concertos Nos I 8 and l 9 with the SCO at the Queen '3 Hall, Edinburgh on Sat 25 and the City Hall, Glasgow on Sun 26 (see Listings).
MIGHTY LEMON DROPS, WIN, ZODIAC MINDWARPANO
TO BE WON.
SEE PAGE 52.
FOR DETAILS OF EVENTS COMING SOON SEE PAGE 51.
The List l7—3()April1