Interview with Jim Cregan (Graham Emondson Dec 2003)
how did it actually come about, you getting back on the road
with Steve again last year?
was sitting in my studio, staring at a PC screen one day and
I got an e mail from Steve saying that he was going out on
the road and he needed an acoustic guitar player. He asked
if there was any way I could break away and come and join
and I just picked up the phone and said "yeah" right away,
basically because Steve and I are great friends. I was also
at the point where I was happy to get out of the house and
go on the road. I hadn't been on the road for 7 years or so
it was a chance to revisit playing live, which I love, and
a change to hang out with Steve for a while- and I loved it.
you kept up with Steve's work over the past few years?
had heard some of it. Steve sent me stuff form time to time.
We haven't kept up week by week but he's one of those friends
who if I don't see for 6 months it makes no difference to
things. The friendship is so long and established that we
just pick up where we left off.
you are clearly close to Steve now but how did you get involved
in Cockney Rebel in the first place?
through George Ford. We knew each other because he used to
be in a band called Ferris Wheel with Linda Lewis and at one
point I stepped in to fill in for the guitar player when they
had a residency in Switzerland and the guy couldn't make it.
George and I also did a couple of sessions. He was a good
session player was George. One day Steve was cutting a track
and George recommended me to him and we got along very well.
The next thing I got a call asking if I would do the Reading
Festival. I had two days to learn the stuff and do it live-it
was hair raising. The only bloke from the old Cockney Rebel
was Stuart. I remember that I had written notes on a piece
of paper from a foolscap pad and I had then on the drum riser
so I could do a quick check when I needed to. A crib sheet
if you like. Of course 2 numbers into the set a huge bloody
gust of wind blew it off the stage. Disaster! I had been in
a band called Family immediately before, and the guys from
the band were at the front of the stage jeering, making gestures
and I was thinking "fuck it". It was all in good fun but Cockney
Rebel was a very different band to Family. They (Family) were
a real "man's band" and here was Cockney Rebel - they wore
make- up and the clothes, slightly fey guys. When I said I
was joining the band they didn't understand. It was Steve's
performance that convinced me it was going to work though.
I hadn't seen anybody perform so powerfully before. He had
the crowd eating out of his hand. I thought whatever it is,
this guys has got it".
you did some writing with Steve a little while back?
did "Friend For Life" together which was a real change for
me because suddenly instead of Steve being the producer I
was. I thought, "this could be strange" because he had always
been the man in charge. Was he going to let go of the reins-
how hard was that going to be. But it was fine- he obviously
put his two cents in. We have a couple of other songs which
haven't been fully recorded yet.
How was the singing voice after all these years?
That wasn't a problem as vocal talent never goes away. Even with
the great and fully detailed vocal tuition that the many
singing lessons online
for learning how to improve vocal power that are around today,
you still need that basic raw talent to make it work.
was it like playing with Steve again after all these years?
I had never done an acoustic duo in my career so it was great
to hear so clearly what is going on. Steve's voice has got
so strong. To revisit those lyrics was something I enjoyed
most- to hear what a fabulous writer he is. We did songs that
I never played in Cockney Rebel- stuff from Cockney Rebel
Mk1 and things I had only heard on record. I had never played
Lorretta's Tale and I enjoyed playing it so much. We didn't
do much rehearsing- we had three days in fact. I had leant
the songs but neither of us prefer to rehearse- we worked
out a few endings and a few little bits here and there so
I was improvising all the time. That was what made it so exciting.
Steve is such a high quality writer. The very last concert
of the autumn tour my pal Rod Stewart was in town and he came
to the gig and came backstage at the interval. He was just
raving about how talented Steve is and how much he was enjoying
it. Steve's a slightly overlooked treasure- he deserves to
be more recognised than he is. He is beloved by the business
but I feel he is a far more important figure than he gets
credit for. The fact that Cockney Rebel never cracked the
US was a big factor- it would have given him more status in
the UK- in way a bit like Ray Davies and the Kinks.
different was it playing to a few hundred in places like,
say, Pocklington after playing to quarter of a million in
Rio with Rod?
isn't an enormous difference honestly. From the point of view
of the audience it might seem so but from the point of view
of what is happening on the stage there's no real difference.
I used to be snobbish, about where I played and but I started
to realise that the whole point is to perform. It doesn't
matter if you are playing to 250,000 or 25 people, the joy
is in the playing. The opportunity to play with Steve in such
an intimate setting and with such a responsibility on both
our shoulders was such a voyage of discovery for me. I found
out more about myself as a musician playing with Steve on
that trip than I have ever found out about myself as a player.
It was most interesting for me and I loved the fact I had
to search in places I hadn't looked for a while. I had to
explore myself, this internal dialogue I was having. I discovered
the less I played in terms of notes, the more satisfying it
was for me and the audience. The most succinctly I played
the more successful it was. I had learned that lesson before
but I had to learn it again.
were the songs that you most enjoyed revisiting?
them was Sebastian-it was very odd to do it without anybody
else. Steve was playing harmonica and I was holding down the
guitar part. When we first started playing it- you have to
remember I hadn't played on stage for anything like 2.5 hour
for years-my stamina wasn't there. My hands would start to
hurt from playing so much for so long. The first week or so
we were doing it I couldn't bloody handle those endless arpeggios
and about 10 days in I suddenly started to be a bit creative
in how I played it and then I started to love it- it was like
a trance that I would go into playing it
what about the new material?
Lies, I loved playing that. It's so delicate. The Last Feast
is a brilliant piece of writing -at some point I hope Steve
will make a studio recording of that.
you happy with the live album that came out?
there were some technical cock ups recording it. We attempted
to record several nights but failed to do it properly. But
I was very happy with how it turned out. It's very live, very
real and very straight ahead.
you do it again?
I would like to play more live. I'm fond of writing but I've
been doing much more writing than playing. When I became a
father I started to wind down. By the time my daughter was
about three I was on the road for ten months with Rod and
I missed so much- so I phased out going on the road. But now
I'm happier to get back out there. It's never ideal but that
last tour sped by-it was over at a flash. I really enjoyed
it. We haven't made a plan to do anything but it was easy,
light, fun, staying in fine county house hotels, sharing a
glass of wine at the end of the day. We have similar interests
Steve and myself. It's about who you are with when you are
on the road.
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