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Kennedy: 'I think there’s something contrived about 100 people tuming up in the sameclothes'
cultivated non-conformity is painfully out oftune. and even he is beginning to realise it.
Until recently. Kennedy has maintained that he‘s 100 per cent authentic. but. last month. he announced that his maverick days may soon be over, and promptly sacked John Stanley, ex-manager of The Bay City Rollers. and the man responsible for marketing the maestro. Like WackoJacko, Kennedy knows that a radical change is good business, but he’s not about to concede any points to the establishment he has been challenging. and when I met him, shortly before his break with the past. he was as fiercely unrepentant as ever.
‘The way I look has been called an “image”. when, basically, I’m not into image at all,’ he said. ‘I personally think there’s something contrived about 100 people in a symphony orchestra coincidentally
turning up in the same clothes. That’s a contrived image, and I’m trying to get away from that. I’m in music to take a few risks in order to find something new, and that’s in the music itselfmainly, but also in the peripheral things like clothing and how one presents it.’
But, in taking those risks, Kennedy has created a persona which provokes both admiration and mockery. To some, he is an unforgivable populist, a ‘Liberace of the 905’ according to John Drummond, the BBC’s Head of Music. To others, he is a folk hero sticking two fingers up at the establishment. During our interview, one adoring fan, who was clearly in the throes of a deeply religious experience, thrust her quivering face towards her embarrassed hero and recited a sycophantic poem, almost entirely composed of the word ‘Kennedy’. She may, of course, be an exception,
and a certified one at that. Most find 35-year-old Kennedy’s 15-year-old mentality simply irritating.
‘I think that what really gets on people’s wicks is that I’m questioning the kind of foundations upon which there is a lot of licensed bigotry in the arts,’ mused Kennedy, nervously rocking forward on his chair. I could feel the tension in this man, an aggressive energy which is brought to bear in his performances. It came as no surprise to find that he’s a boxing enthusiast — in a metaphorical as well as literal sense, judging from the bruising he’s received at the hands of his critics. ‘Half the people who would prefer it ifI was under the carpet now, are the ones who gave me brilliant reviews in the first place. And the criticism comes because they are discouraged by something apart from the music.’
One gets the feeling that there was a lot of anger in the young Kennedy. At the Yehudi Menuhin School, a bastion of gentility and pacifism, he crept behind the bushes to box with his mate. But there was no bullying. ‘Halfthe kids there were girls, and the other half would have preferred to be girls,’ he explained. So where did all this pent-up angst come from? ‘I think basically decisions were made for me as a child which affected my future, and which I had no power over, and I find that a very disturbing situation to be in.’
His agitation and anti- establishment stance suggest that he would be happier exchanging his violin for an electric guitar. Kennedy admitted that he feels an affinity with punk, talking wistfully of ‘removing barriers, making it possible to have no money at all and still be able to get into the music business’, but his new image does not include plans for an excursion into rock. He does, however, plan to write his own music, and a future date with jazz guitarist John McLaughlin is on the cards.
‘Basically, my philosophy on music is that you don’t have to be an expert or a classical musician to appreciate it. I found out in my own experience that I got as much enjoyment from music when I was a seven-year-old and knew nothing about it, as I do now. The real stuffabout art is the way it hits you in the heart, and that basically discredits a lot of people’s qualifications when they are writing about it.’
Nigel Kennedy still has a , tremendous capacity to irritate, and 3 seems almost unaware of it. He will ’ frown innocently ifyou object to being called ‘man’ at every turn, as though the thought that anyone might find this rather trying had never entered his head — which it probably hasn’t. Perhaps we’ve misread his cover all along. Because, ofcourse, it’s his cover which defies a ' closer reading. Now, however, he‘s being reissued, under a new label and with a different jacket; one not so loud and gimmicky perhaps, but a little more subtle, and, who knows, altogether more genuine.
5 Nigel Kennedy plays Glasgow Royal 3 C oncerr Hall on Tue 10.
PREVIEW MUSIC V LISTEN!
I We've got Sugar Bullet to thank for some remarkable sales figures lately — in places we didn‘t even know the magazine was sold! The Virgin- signed Edinburgh dance outfit decided it would be a groovy idea to decorate the sleeve oftheir last single with a huge blown-up bar-code. which. for reasons best known to themselves. they took from one ofour recent covers. Many shop assistants passed their laser gizmo over the front of the sleeve instead ofthe single‘s normal-sized official bar-code. thus registering sales for this organ instead ofthe record. A perfect excuse, ifyou ask us. to persuade Virgin to overlook a poor chart showing and give them another chance.
I Leading independent dance label Shut Up And Dance decided it was high time they released a compilation of their best tracks, and came up with the juicy title Fuck Off And Die. A thousand copies were pressed before the label‘s enthusiasm for this title waned and it was re-pressed with the rather less provocative Shut Up And Dance. We have three ofthe very collectable original pressings to give away. Just write the name one of the acts who records for this mighty label on a postcard or the back ofan envelope and send it to Listen! at the Edinburgh address, and you could win a record that’s guaranteed to shock yer granny - and there aren‘t too many of those around any more.
I The saga ofThe Shelter continues. After closing down for monthsand springing back to life as plainold 7 chfrew Court. the bar’venue and rehearsal studio has been taken on by Tower Studios/ Promotions and reopened as The Apollo. augmented now by two recording studios. The re-opening is celebrated on Fri 6 with a number of local bands (including saidﬂorence. Dawson. Worldwide. The River Detectives. llugh Reed And The Velvet Underpants, The Honeychurch and The Painted Word) playing cover versions oftheir favourite Number One singles. The Apollo Bar will be open from 1 lam until midnight Monday to Saturday. and live music will be a regular feature in the cosy bar area. Any similarity to a certain legendary (ilasgow venue is in the name only. but is certainly intentional.
The List 6— 19 December 199131