PETE BYRNE INTERVIEWED BY JONAS WÅRSTAD
I was born in London, Rob Fisher in Cheltenham. Rob's early bands were The Xtians and Whitewing. My first band was a duo, me and a guy called Jeff Starrs, we played all the pubs and clubs in Bath during '76-77. He went on to form 'Interview' which released a couple of albums on Virgin. Manny Elias was the drummer. I formed 'Studio' around the same time with Clive Wright on guitar, Richard Fenton on drums and Stash on bass. We played extensivly in England and did a tour of Sweden in '79. We cut a couple of songs for Island Records but disbanded when Clive and Richard left to live in LA. Clive and Richard went on to form 'Broken English' and Clive played in 'Cock Robin.'
I was walking across Pultney Bridge (in Bath) when I saw Rob being accosted by a girl with a large temper. My group 'Studio' had recently broken up, and by the look of it so had Rob's (the girl was the singer in his band 'Whitewing'). I intervened on his behalf (she could have taken both of us) and we retired to a local hostelry to debate the pros and cons of being in a band. Two hours later we had a brilliant plan! We would write songs, get a publishing deal, use that to get a record deal and then have a hit record. Four years later we were an overnight success.
"Neon" featured Neil Taylor, Manny Elias, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal. The first song we wrote was 'Love Has Come Between Us', the first recorded song was 'Making Waves' b/w 'Me I See in You', released on our own label, 3D Music, in October '80. We recorded at Crescent Studios in Bath. Rob played everything on the 'Making Waves' single, it was before we had sequencers and everything was played in real time. I did all the vocals. It was great to finally be on vinyl. [no more tracks were cut at this time]
We used live drums and bass, and the guitar was played by Neil Taylor. 'Remote Control' was just Rob and I, I did all the vocals on both tracks. It was interesting to work with real instruments again. [no more tracks were cut at this time] We then acquired Curt Smith [later in Tears for Fears] on bass, and Manny Elias on drums. We gigged around for a while in the West Country. The original line up was me on vox, Rob on keys, Neil Taylor on guitar, Curt Smith on bass and Manny Elias on drums. Then Neil left and was replaced by Roland Orzabal [later in Tears for Fears]. We went into Crescent and recorded 'Victims of Fact' (which Rob and I are thinking of re-doing) and 'Price You Pay.' Neither of these were ever released. Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal played bass and guitar, Rob played the keyboards and I was the singer. All of Neon's material was written by Rob and I, so it sounded like Naked Eyes with guitar and drums.
Tears for Fears and Naked Eyes came from the breakup of Neon in December '81. Once again, Rob and I found that running a band was not as interesting as writing and recording. We decided to go back to square one, I asked a friend of mine to manage us and he paid for us to record a number of songs in a studio in Bristol (owned by Andy Davis from the Korgis). These first sessions included 'Fortune and Fame' and 'When the Lights Go out'. We later decided to do a cover of 'Always Something There To Remind Me'. It was these demos that led to our signing a deal with EMI in May '82. We recorded 8 or 9 songs during this period, Always Something, Pit Stop, and a few songs that never made it to the LP.
We went to New York in the spring of '82 to meet with both EMI and Polygram, and EMI made us the better offer.
We were looking for a name that suggested "two", and "Naked Eyes" just popped into my head. I thought it was a great name, but the Record Label thought otherwise. I remember one meeting with about ten people, and they were asking everyone what they thought. Some of the ideas were truly awful. (Rob and I had thought up this mythical Country singer with the rhinestones, etc., and christened him "Boulevard Credibility") and I suggested, as a joke, we call ourselves "Boulevard Credibility." One of the Marketing people leapt to his feet in agreement and I knew, then and there, that if I listened to these people I'd end up wearing a Spandex Kilt and Robin Hood shoes.
EMI introduced Tony to us shortly after we signed with them, and Rob and I both liked his work with New Musik, so we decided to give it a shot. We arranged for him to come down and visit us in Bath one weekend, we had a beer or two and the rest is history. I think he understood our music immediately, and as he had been working with synths we felt he would be an ideal producer.
Tony Mansfield was a man who loved sandwiches, and sandwich lady's. It was during the recording of the song "Once is Enough" that the question was first posed "what would you do if the bomb was about to go off" "I would do the sandwich lady" he replied half in jest and half pissed.
But seriously, it was like working with a lunatic, which I enjoyed very much.
We decided to do a cover while working at Andy's studio, and I had always loved this song, so we called a friend who had the record, he read the lyric over the phone and we put it together from memory. The record was recorded at Abbey Rd, and we were invited to a party downstairs, with Paul McCartney and many other stars, I think the party was for Billy Fury. When we returned upstairs to the studio around one am, I decided to have a go at the vocal, It was the first time I have ever recorded a vocal in one take, and probably the last! Pit Stop was recorded along with four other songs, in our first sessions at Abbey rd. The other songs were: 'Always Something', 'Fortune and Fame', 'When the Lights Go out' and 'Low Life'. There was a song called 'Waiting in the Wings' that was a great demo but it didn't work for some reason. We only used one drummer on the first album, Phil Towner on 'Emotion in Motion'. All other tracks were programmed Linn drums.
"Voices in my Head" was a personal favourite, we felt that after "Always," which was a very commercial single, we would release something a little more "left field."
We had already had experience in video with "Always Something There To Remind Me" but nothing had prepared us for the "Voices" production. "Always" was shot in one 18hr day on 16mm film by a young Director/Producer team. For "Voices" EMI had enlisted the help of an existential Polish director who's one aim in life was to make ours a living hell. Looking back the grueling schedule of "Always" seems like a vacation in comparison.
We had moved into an hotel called the "Imperial" which had been a very nice place during the Edwardian era. One could say that it had faded charm, but there was nothing charming about the plumbing, it hadn't been touched in Seventy years!
It was a freezing cold January morning, (crack of dawn was the usual time for video's) and we were driven to a deserted warehouse in the East End of London, where we spent most of the day hanging around, the boredom being broken only occasionally by running on a treadmill, or being driven at high speed on the back of a lorry up and down a draughty tunnel.
The worst was yet to come however; the director had a brilliant idea, we would throw paint all over each other! It was getting close to midnight and we were freezing to death in a deserted warehouse in the most inhospitable part of London and now, we were to be covered in paint.
By the time we got back to the hotel, misery would have been looking on the bright side of things. Of course getting the paint off was virtually impossible, the aforementioned plumbing only adding to the despair, so the only thing left was a post trauma cocktail in the hotel bar.
Rob and I and the A&R guy Hugh Stanley-Clark, were bemoaning our dreadful day when a strange man approached us. He threatened us in no uncertain terms, at one point putting his face inches from Rob's (who was studiously avoiding his gaze) and declaring that he was the King of Bavaria and needed a cigarette. He snatched the cigarette from Rob's mouth and carried on ranting for some time before the police came and led him away.
It was a fitting end to an awful day, (and people think filming is glamorous).
"Sweet Poison" [the B-side]: I've always felt that singles should include tracks that are not available elsewhere. This one has a rather obvious analogy, which is to say, that love affects the brain in the same way as some drugs. So, fall in love and don't take drugs!
We recorded our first album at "Abbey Road". We thought, that as we were signed to EMI, we may as well use the most famous studio in the world. [Some album tracks had already been recorded during their first recording sessions there, see the Sep 1982 section].
We were not disappointed, during our first sessions we used the "Lucy in the Sky" harpsichord, the same U47's (microphones) and the same "bar" that the "Beatles" had used. We loved working there and it was our home for the entire album.
We started off around twelve each day and worked into the night, occasionally working so late that the next day we would arrive around two or three.
Some of Tony's [Mansfield] production techniques were interesting, the engines on "Pit Stop" were from Tony revving his BMW at two in the morning. The water sounds in "Could Be" were recorded in the studio with a hose and a bucket!
Tony Mansfield on Emotion in Motion: "I saw that as a single from the start of recording. The Naked Eyes situation is completely out of my hands in terms of choise of singles. Naked Eyes are a very popular band in America, but over here they haven't had any success as of yet. It's unfortunate, but funnily enough I think a lot of it is down to the choise of singles." [from Miklos Galla's interview 1984]
Voices in My Head: Just because you're talking to yourself, doesn't mean there's anyone listening.
I Could Show You How: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone".
A Very Hard Act To Follow: Wow! The Fairlight in all its glory.
Always Something There To Remind Me: One of the greatest pop songs of all time. Sandie Shaw had a huge hit with this in the sixties. It has just been released on a compilation, "The Love Songs of Burt Bacharach." At last, I share a CD with "Perry Como" and "Tom Jones." My mother is very proud!
Fortune and Fame: This wasn't as effective as the "Demo", but is still one of my favourites.
Could Be: Is that Bacon I hear frying?
Burning Bridges: The swathe cut by some people through others lives.
Emotion in Motion: Here we go again, there's nothing you can do about it, Love rules!
Low Life: Of course, I know nothing about hookers and gangsters, but I am in the music business :-)
The Time Is Now: What more can I say, I am going to redo this one.
When the Lights Go Out: Apparently, little people come tumbling out of the wardrobe.
Promises, Promises: To be young, in love, with a broken heart. That's living!
TO BE CONTINUED...
Copyright (c) 1997-11-07 Pete Byrne and Jonas Wårstad.
Last update 1999-07-09.
No portion of this interview may be published in any form, please link to this page instead.
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