When the time came for Bon Jovi to select the tracks for the follow-up to their trillion-selling Slippery When Wet, the band found themselves and their record company at irreconcilable odds. To break the deadlock, Bon Jovi announced that the ones to decide what songs should go on should be the people who were going to buy the finished product in the first place, and called a posse of their most ardent fans into the studio to mark them out often.
Gregory Kane would love to do that with a Hue and Cry album. Or so he claims. But the practicalities of such a move immediately present themselves. ‘Making sure.‘ he adds hurriedly, ‘that they didn‘t have any tape recorders with them.‘
‘Hah, that‘s your problem,‘ laughs brother Patrick. ‘They could bootleg it for all I care, bring in DAT tapes if they wanted.’
The Bon Jovi line ofthought (or that particular strand ofit, at least) was behind a gig the brothers performed at the chfrew Ferry in September. and like their first performance, six years and 600 yards downstream, they played it as a duo. The twofold intention of the gig was to spotlight their songwriting partnership (‘that bare reliance on one another‘) and reinforce the bond with their audience — tickets were given to the first 200 in the box office queue for their SECC dates.
The lucky ones were promised a special night. With the Kane brothers’ only guests being saxophonist Tommy Smith and Hue and Cry‘s regular guitarist Nigel Clark (the foursome performing a very spooky electric version of ‘Round Midnight‘), the audience were privy to runs through acoustic piano-and-vocal versions of Hue and Cry songs and covers like Michael Marra‘s ‘Mother Glasgow‘. It felt like an event — all the more so to Pat Kane, who that same day had had the status of fatherhood conferred upon him. and took the stage with the expression of a man who. having experienced one of the most important days of his life had to push it further still.
‘It was like telepathy,‘ Pat says. as Hue and Cry and I stand round a piano in the chandelier-decked ballroom of the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. and top photographer Gavin Evans strives to capture the image of a stylish. classic songwriting duo — with the help of an antique European microphone and strategically-placed cigarette. ‘It was like singing for people who weren‘t
there. And I always think I do that anyway. sing for my loved ones. There were many points when I was nearly in tears. In fact there was one song, “It Was a Very Good Year“. when it was only Tommy‘s saxophone solo that saved me from a blub. But it was an almost indescribable mixture of happiness and tension, which I probably wouldn‘t go through again, only it reminds you that you have commitments other than private commitments sometimes. ‘It was a very important night for us in lots ofways, personally and
Alastair Mabbott stood around the old joanna with Hue and Cry to hear all about their back-to-basics new live album.
musically, a very. . .seminal night. All the good, bad, ugly and beautiful Hue and Cry was there that night, the pretentiousness and simplicity and all the stuffthat you try to do and sometimes comes off and sometimes doesn‘t.‘
Although the audience was at the basest level being used to provide atmosphere for the taping ofa live album (Bitter Suite. to be released before Christmas). Patrick and Gregory talk very persuasively about the gig as a salute to Glasgow. their family. friends and fans. To Pat particularly the need for a feeling of community has grown stronger.
‘I think for me as a live performer it has become so much more important in the last year or so than I would ever have thought possible. When I went into the music business I was straight out the music press. I was so cynical and I thought I was so media-literate and could manipulate everything, and actually spent my time trying to build up relationships with critics, which was pointless, because critics are there to criticise, they‘re not necessarily always there to compliment you on your music. or always to understand your music. They‘re there to pick holes in it. I did that for a year and it drove me mental. And then suddenly after a couple ofbrilliant live gigs. and the response we got from people who‘d paid to come in the door, I thought, these are the people I should be playing to. They want to be given the
honest, unadulterated Hue and Cry. whether that‘s sentimental as in politics, poll tax. stupid jokes. whatever, it‘s just me and Gregory. So I‘d say that all the music from about the last two tours has been relying much more on trusting the audience to get me through.‘
That trust may be manifested in their current tour, for which they‘d like a small platform to be erected away from the main stage for a short set — ‘a gig in the round‘, as they call It.
The tapes of ‘the most natural, warm and friendly‘ gig they‘ve ever done are about to be released by Circa as a live album, shrink-wrapped to a copy of their last
5 album, Remote, a crass marketing . ploy which would seem to be at odds
with Hue and Cry‘s sound ideals. but an essential one, since Circa held fast against releasing it on its own. Pat. who has never missed an opportunity to defend his socialist stance, emphasises that they‘ve had ‘a long, hard struggle‘ to reach a situation regarding the album that they are even half-happy with. Originally, the condition was that Remote was to be remarketed with Bitter Suite as a bonus. The brothers have managed to reverse the situation so that Bitter Suite now comes with a copy of Remote as the freebie. The distinction may seem pretty fine, but it‘s enough to settle Pat‘s conscience.
‘Pop music is all about balancing art and commerce. If they don‘t
think they can make money out of it, they won‘t make your art available - or they will, but do it in a half-hearted way.‘
I don‘t imagine that the prospect of a Hue and Cry Christmas single was one that was reacted to half-heartedly, and the new song ‘Peaceful Face‘ will be contending with the perennial re-releases on the singles chart come December. Following that will be the next album, already written, but not due until August. While it will be a ‘band album. the sparseness of their minimalist gigs will have its effect.
‘Every B-side has been a mini-Bitter Suite.‘ continues closet Aerosmith fan Pat, and it‘s true. They‘ve always tried to assert what they think of as the heart of Hue and Cry. the flipside ofthe pop hits, just as the ‘ve always sought artistic credigility, with their pop arrangements, using the cream of New York musicians on Remote. The question since then has been, Did they really need all those top players to do what they did in the end'.’
‘lfwe didn‘t hear what the best could do then we wouldn‘t have any standards by which to proceed, so that we could judge against them in future. And as (‘iregory will tell you, even when you‘ve heard the best, it’s amazing sometimes how limited they were, and how non-intimidating their talents actually were. You could actually manipulate them.‘
Nevertheless. that path excites them less than it did. The forthcoming album will be recorded in Britain. probably at Peter Gabriel‘s Real World studios. with minimal production. It‘s a source of some pride to them that ‘we‘re actively planningour third album when most ofour contemporaries, and I‘m counting Wet Wet Wet and Danny Wilson, are out promoting their second‘.
And they‘ve done it without resorting to separate limousines, despite the hyped-up antagonism that provided the angle for about 90 per cent oftheir early press. They have also retained an appearance of approachability. despite the lyricist and part-time Scotsman writer‘s famed penchant for big words and even bigger concepts.
‘The response you get from people in the street is based upon the pitch you put out in the media. I like to think I put myselfabout as some kind ofpo-faced diddy who doesn‘t take himselfthat seriously but then does take himselfseriously — someone who was like the schoolyard goof— and I find that people in the street treat me exactly that way, and say “Hey, Pat, tell us aboot the deep meanings in yer next single“, and I
do tell them about it and they laugh.‘
It‘s hard not to laugh, really, when Pat explains that ‘Oh Godhead Hid‘,
the hymn he sang on the Ferry, was
written by St Thomas Aquinas; and gives in totally and shamelessly to the urge to chip in a quick ‘He invented semiotics. did you know that? Anyway. . .‘
Hue and Cry play the S E CC,
~ Glasgow on Sunday 26 and Monday
The List 24 November — 7 December 1989 3