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The word of the bird
Four albums, 400 songs and no one blinks. One Number Three single and Babybird soars skywards. Damien Love talks to the beak, Mr
n much the same way that David Wicks was Deals On Wheels. Stephen Jones is Babybird. You know the story — lonely losing loner Jones. holed up in his windowless Sheffield bedroom for years on end living on nothing but Caramac. and obsessively churning out over 400 songs which
he then recorded on the four-track made out of
old fingernails. dirt. Airfix parts and used sticking plasters that he kept behind the magazines under the bed. Having sold the resultant albums at car-boot sales and in pubs, he got a record deal. scored a hitette and emerged unshaved into the pop media glare.
Such. anyway. is the little picture we’d have you believe. As Jones says. ‘PeOple who come to the gigs see a different side of the media myth. as do people that meet me. The great thing about recording alone in the past was that no one was there to know what the fuck i was up to. So it’s all lies. and lies always trip up the liar.’
The reality is that Jones began writing songs as a hobby. to kill time while signing on between
10 The List l3 Dec l996-9 Jan I997
bouts of running a small theatre company. Recent Number Three with a bullet. ’You’re Gorgeous.‘ stems from this time. the song initially written some six or seven years ago. With the face cream smeared publicity shots. tank-top references and toe-tag CD cover photographs. it's tempting to dismiss Jones’s songwriting as ironic. but. he maintains. ‘Everything I’ve ever written is heartfelt.
0 Do you ever pick at any part of your body? A I’ve never had a body. but the elastic on my Y—fronts digs in a little. and I pick at that sometimes.
0 How were you regarded by the hard men at school?
A To be honest. I can never remember who the hard men were. If you think too long and hard about arseholes. their memories will either wind you up with revenge. or you’ll end up
The Wit & Wisdom of Stephen Jones
concerned with realism. Why write about puppies. or “I LOVE YOU. YOU LOVE ME.” It’s just that dark. grubby humour is used to dispel any idea that l’m trying to ram messages down people’s throats.’
That was ‘bouts of running a small theatre company’. by the way. not ‘bouts of being a performance artist’. another of the myths that have passed into common currency about what exactly lies buried in Jones background. ‘l’ve never been involved in Performance Art.’ he confirms. ‘Never lain in a bath full of beans for two weeks. or shoved a yam up my arse. Never been part of a movement. l’ve directed and acted in films and theatre. and done a little
‘I’ve never done the real thing - Hogmanay. Only some small town where the pubs close at one, and are full of English pigboys. I want fireworks five minutes after we stumble oft stage.’
stand-up. But i hate the rigidness of theatres — no coughing. etc — and have always tried to deconstruct the attitudes of stuck-up ponces doing dead playwrights in a goldfish bowl. Never ignore the audience.’ he maintains. ‘Bomb the fourth wall.’
With Babybird. Jones can safely assume that the fourth wall has been razed. Anyone who witnessed one of the band’s performances in the intimate venues of old will know that the audience are definitely involved in the show.
‘Heckling has become the scourge of Babybird live.’ Jones agrees. ‘Some fans know that in the past. i liked a little friendly banter. but now they come and pay seven pounds to shout something aggressive. It gets harder and harder to reply intelligently to someone shouting neanderthal bollocks. Sometimes it’s not even words. just grunts.’ He adds. ‘For some reason. women né'ver shout unintelligible things. and that’s why I love ’em.’
Following the band’s appearance on Top Of The Pops which. despite getting a wink from Nigel EastEnder and seeing the Spice Girls ‘wobbling around singing the chorus to “You’re Gorgeous.” the singer likens the experience to ‘going to a hospital.‘ The fact that Babybird’s meteor remains in the ascendant is confirmed by their forthcoming performance at Edinburgh’s grand Hogmanay bash. ‘l’ve never done the real thing — Hogmanay.’ Jones offers in explanation as to why he’s not staying home. ‘Only some small town where the pubs close at one. and are full of English pigboys. I want fireworks five minutes after we stumble off stage. And if I’m going to tumble over rat-arsed and end up in hospital. l’d rather do it after a Babybird set.‘ Babybird plays the Forth FM McEwan is Stage ()1: The Mound, Hogmanay, 11.15pm. See Edinburgh Hogmanay supplement.
fly-posting for them. or knee-capping their enemies for a ﬁver.
0 What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever been caught doing?
A 1 got arrested and locked up for a night for being drunk and disorderly, but not for violence. l’ve never been in a fight in my life. I think i just collapsed and couldn’t remember my address.