With a brand new box set ready for release we thought we’d catch up with Boys legend Matt Dangerfield and ask him about his time on Safari Records as we look back on the time the Boys went down to a four-piece and all things Safari. I also ask what’s next for one of the finest bands ever to come out of the United Kingdom.

 

How was it revisiting the Safari catalogue of releases?  Did it bring back fond memories?

Yes it did. Best of all was listening to the “Hell” tracks because this is the first time that it’s sounded good on CD. CDs didn’t exist when the album was released, and later when the first CD version came out it sounded like over-compressed shit. All subsequent CD releases of “Hell” were copied from that CD so I feel sorry for anyone who bought any CD copies of “Hell” prior to this release.

 

Were there any songs from the ‘To Hell’ record that you have since revisited during remastering changed how you feel about them? I’ll admit I’ve not played the records for a while and when the news came through about the box set I have since given them a good listening to and there are parts of songs that jumped out at me that I feel I previously missed or had forgotten.  Was this the same for you?

Very much so. For the reason I just mentioned, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to “Hell” on CD since the last century! So listening to it now for me is almost like hearing it for the first time and it all sounds fantastic from start to finish! We still usually include four of the songs in our live set: “Can’t Hurt a Memory”, “Terminal Love”, “See Ya Later” – and we use “Sabre Dance” as our intro music.

 

I loved reading your notes along with the specific song playing and was surprised to see you wrote lyrics on the way to the studio, and I chuckled at the thought of it happening due to studio time and schedules, etc did you not ever get worried you wouldn’t come up with anything?  Out of this process what would you say were your best lyrics?

Well, that was mainly in the early days when we weren’t given much studio time and I was working on two or three songs at a time. But generally speaking, I’ve always responded well to deadlines and would often leave things until they really need to be done and then work like Hell. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.

 

Your notes for ‘Waiting For The Lady’ and the Beatles reference I hadn’t really put it together previously but ‘Independent Girl’ has a real Lennon feel to it. Some of the harmonies throughout ‘To Hell’ have a certain Lennon and McCartney feel is that fair? They were obviously an influence but more so that album (Not that The Beatles would have sounded like you guys they weren’t that good) 😉

Flattery will get you nowhere, but thanks anyway! The backing vocals on “Waiting for The Lady” in particular, were Beatles inspired. But we were inspired by lots of bands and all the music that we grew up within the 60s which was a great era for musical creativity and innovation.

 

Who Owns The ‘Junk’ tapes now? How complete was the ‘Junk’ album? How does the process go with masters? If you didn’t own them the label did but they didn’t own the songs did they? If they weren’t finished,  Could you have gone away – changed a lyric here or a title there and released it anyway?  How involved were you with the day to day business of the band and management and label?

The ‘Junk’ tapes are just the rough monitor mixes on cassette from Rockfield Studios that I took away with me to work on ideas, lyrics etc. with the intention that we would come back and complete the album there. But after NEMS didn’t pay the studio and Rockfield wouldn’t release the two-inch tapes, we finally lost our patience with NEMS and went on strike for a few months until they eventually let us go. Our manager, Ken Mewis, generally dealt with the label, promotion and tour bookings, but we took care of the creative and recording side of things.

 

How do you look back on the time spent On Safari!?

We had a great relationship with Safari, which was basically John Craig and Tony Edwards. Two great guys who did all the right things for us in terms of albums, tours etc and generally looked after us and gave us the freedom to be creative. What more can you ask for as a band?

 

I always loved the cover of ‘Boys Only’  whose idea was that?

The designer was John Gordon (I fished out the original vinyl copy to get that detail) who was responsible for the concept. All I remember that it was our longest and most tiring photo session ever and took a whole day to get all the necessary pics.

 

Going out as a four-piece was it ever not going to happen?  Did you think around that time that the band was done? What about the recording process, how different was it?

It was different without Cas but we took it in our stride, I knew that the band wasn’t finished and it didn’t feel that much different playing live. Recording was as easy going as ever and John and myself were writing enough songs but we did have to work harder on the backing vocals and harmonies without Cas being there.

 

Would you say that John recording with Pete Stride made him a more confident writer and bandmember?  He brings quite a bit to the table for Boys only and sings on quite a few.  How did you decide who sang what?  are there versions recorded say of ‘Monotony’ with you delivering a vocal and Duncan or was that never done? because you say he (Duncan) sang it live.

Yes, John had become more confident and also had become a better singer. As regards who sang what, I usually only sang the songs that I’d written or written with Cas, and Duncan usually sang John’s and a few Steel/Dangerfield songs that we thought would suit his voice. I think “Monotony” was only ever likely to be sung by John on record.

 

You got to record in some iconic studios such as Rockfield, Pye and Olympic were you aware of your surroundings at the time?  Was there a favourite? or a particular song you look back on that you really nailed because of where you were.  Rockfield had the toilet at the end of the hallway with a mic in the hall did you ever apply such techniques?

Yes, I was definitely chuffed to be using the same studios where some of my favourite tracks had been made. Rockfield/Dave Edmonds/Sabre Dance; Pye/The Kinks etc; Olympic/lots of Stones stuff etc. Rockfield was probably my favourite for its vibe because you also lived there and could totally concentrate on the recording. “Brickfield Nights” was definitely ‘nailed’ there.

 

When the band gets back to playing live is there a chance some of the more obscure tracks might creep into the set?  You mention songs like ‘Little White Lifeline’ and its solo would sound great live.

We sometimes slip in a lesser known track. We do “Lifeline” at acoustic gigs sometimes but without the solo, because even straight after recording that solo, I was never able to play it again.

 

When you have writing credits say like on ‘Schoolgirls’ Cas yourself and John how do you decide who gets on the credits?

It’s usually decided on the spot – if anyone added anything of substance to the song they’d get credit.

 

Changing up songs like ‘Kamakaze’ in the style of VU for ‘Jap Junk’ whose idea was that and was this done on any other songs because it’s quite a departure the saxophone is great on the single mix

The minimalist drums were my idea of a tribute to the Velvets, who first opened my eyed to punk, and I think we’d always had it in mind to get a sax on the song.

 

How many more tapes might there be with the likes of ‘Cry Tomorrow’ on them? Fantastic stuff, maybe another acoustic album is on the cards with some of the rare tunes mixed with the more popular ones you did on the acoustic album. a live acoustic album recorded at Rebellion because a couple of acoustic sets were fantastic from the pubs almost acoustic stage and then the opera house were real highlights?

Well those tapes turned up out of the blue, so who knows what else might turn up. We may consider another acoustic album – it’s a lot easier to make than a full studio album, as is a live album.

 

The band always did great covers are there any you think would have really suited you guys?  Any you worked on that never got recorded?  The other side of it is other people covering The Boys.  Who have you particularly admired any jump out as doing a great job or really getting what the song was about?  Michael Monroe did jimmy Brown and it must always be great when Die Toten Hosen release a covers album and include a Boys Song.

I love Michael’s version of “Jimmy Brown”. I also like the Hosen’s versions of “First Time” and “Brickfield Nights”, and Nicky Sudden’s cover of “Independent Girl”.

 

The live album sounds fantastic,  I’ve always liked the BBC sessions, from some of my favourite bands possibly, because the BBC always had great engineers and their sound recording was top notch and the live ones always sounded so good what are your thoughts on the live album?

Yes, it’s true those Beeb producers and sound engineers were very good and worked very quickly, which really suited us as we generally record fast. I remember that the BBC sound people always seemed to have beards, maybe it was a job requirement.

You illude to it not being your usual audience.  The applause sounds great even after the ‘worm song’ their faces must have been a picture.

They were very polite.

I’ve mentioned it to Steve but it would be great to have these ‘Safari’ recordings as a vinyl set I wouldn’t need my glasses then for the booklet which is great to read your memories of each song.  Did you ever keep diaries or is it just a sharp knack for remembering.  What next for the Boys?  Is there anything left in the archive or what about new material.  ‘Punk Rock Menopause’ was such a great album is there going to be a follow-up?

We’d love to get them out on vinyl and a lot of our fans would love it so who knows?

 

 

“Anyone buying the Box Set directly from The Boys this month (September 2020) will be given a PDF document of Matt Dangerfield’s full Safari notes along with an unreleased 1979 demo of “New Guitar In Town”. For more information email The Boys at info@theboys.co.uk

Special thanks to Steve Metcalfe for always having The Boys corner and doing a sterling job keeping their flame alive and making running features on them such a pleasure.

Always an absolute pleasure to get an earful off The Boys and this much-anticipated box set has come at just the right time in what has been or rather what is a bonkers year.
In a nutshell (or should that be clamshell), what we have here is Safari Records five-disc set of Boys material beginning with the fantastic ‘To Hell With The Boys’ followed by ‘Boys Only’ then the ones that will have fanboys salivating. One CD of Rarities (Granted many of which have already seen the light of day, here and there, like when Captain Oi! released the ‘To Hell’ they included five bonus cuts which are all present in one form or another.
These discs have been lovingly remastered by Matt and James Bragg and are a cornucopia of loud guitars and cheeky chaps doing what they do best… play exceptional Rock and Roll.  The five discs are all accompanied by a really smart  booklet with excellent notes from Matt Dangerfield which gives you a feel for where the band was at the time and corresponding pictures that help paint what the band were up to at the time.
From Cas’ swirling keyboards that sit on top of the mix of ‘Rue Morgue’ these songs could have been mastered underwater and they’d still sound sharp as a tack.  The fact that a lot of these songs still sit prominently in the live set would show how highly the band still regards the ‘To Hell’ album. Tunes such as ‘Terminal Love’, ‘You Can’t Hurt A Memory’ & ‘See You Later’ shows how versatile and creative the band was.
Man, they don’t make Rock and Roll bands like this anymore The Boys had everything, more than the one songwriter, a pair of great guitar players who had their own styles and a whole extra dynamic with more than one vocalist helps with some fantastic backing vocals.  They were never afraid to put a rocker like ‘See You Later’ next to such a mellow laid back and sweet song as ‘You Can’t Hurt A Memory’ with one of Matt’s finest vocal deliveries hitting the spot perfectly, a fantastic arrangement and getting John Mayall to hoot along on this was inspired and all for the price of a bottle of Vodka! Brilliant.  I love ‘Kamikaze’ for those honkin’ Sax breaks and I didn’t realise it was Johns first foray into lead vocals.
To be fair having this all pulled together in one place long after most of this is hard to get hold of unless you have deep pockets is an achievement in itself and the booklet with all the fantastic memorabilia is a great addition and well worth checking out even for the casual its the perfect gateway into the band and their music.
The BBC live album is a corker but then if you’ve ever seen the band live you’ll know they don’t do bad shows and this foray into the BBC and the heart of the establishment, mixes up their output thus far with old and new songs and spot-on delivery.
As the blurb says 71 tracks in all, 22 rare and previously unreleased songs, the X Rated Yobs Crimbo album just in time to play around the table as your nan tucks into her Christmas dinner round your house. Of course, I highly recommend you buy this box set, its a keeper and for those who are looking to tie up loose ends, this is perfect maybe 2020 hasn’t been a total bust after all its not every year you get a Boys box set.  Buy it!
“Anyone buying the Box Set directly from The Boys this month (September 2020) will be given a PDF document of Matt Dangerfield’s full Safari notes along with an unreleased 1979 demo of “New Guitar In Town”. For more information email The Boys at info@theboys.co.uk
Buy it from Cherry Red Here
Author: Dom Daley

Boy Oh Boy.  It’s always nice to have a few words off one of the Boys and with a couple of special shows coming up what better time to catch up with Matt and see what’s happening.  Ticket details and links are below the interview for their Lewes and London shows along with the posters with all the details.

 

Hi Matt.  The boys have been announced as headliners at Resolution Festival in the 100 Club this coming January. Having been two years since you headlined there was it an easy choice to say yes to doing it again?  It is a great line up as well with Last Great Dreamers and Menace playing as well.

Hi Dom. We’re always happy to play at the 100 Club. It’s almost a New Year tradition for us to play there now. It will also be great to hook up again with special guests Last Great Dreamers who we shared a festival stage with in Norway last year.

It’s already announced as the bands only show in London for 2020 is that an easy decision to make with it being so early on in the year?

Not at all, we’re usually planning gigs a year or so ahead and there are only so many gigs we want to do per year in any particular city or country as we don’t want to overplay anywhere. But we are playing Brighton before the London gig as well as Rebellion in 2020 and there might also be one or two other gigs in the UK later next year.

London is an ever decreasing hotbed of Rock and Roll with venues and gentrification closing down places is it harder to find suitable places these days compared to when the Boys started?

Sadly, I think that’s the truth, which is why I have a soft spot for the 100 club as one of the few surviving venues in London that have been around since the beginning of British rock ’n’ roll. When we started out in 1976, there were probably 100+ small music venues and pubs in London where we could feasibly get gigs as a new band, I doubt there’s more than a handful now.

It seems like a whole new world out there for bands what with the internet being so instant and making the world a smaller place.  Bands can record at home from anywhere is it a good or bad thing?  there seems to be less chance of there being a community or movement like when you opened up your flat in Maida Vale. Have those kinds of days totally gone do you think? 
The music business has always been changing. Other than live performance, income from music evolved from sales of sheet music to vinyl records, cassettes to CDs. and downloads to streaming. And even live performance evolved with the advent of music videos and once again with the arrival of the internet as well as audience smartphone recordings now all available online. The main problem now is that music is so easily available that it’s in danger of being taken for granted and devalued
Did you keep all the tapes from those recordings? Were there any particular people who impressed you who went on to great things in music that you could sense from the time? 

I have some early Boys’ recordings that I’d mixed down to cassette but all the original multi-track tapes went missing at some point and I don’t know who took them. If someone had stolen them to sell on or release as a bootleg I think they would have resurfaced by now so either they were stolen to record over or maybe removed by one of the bands who didn’t want their embarrassing early efforts aired. Who knows?

Most of the people that hung out in Warrington Crescent went on to greater things, including non-musicians like Magenta Devine, but one person who did impress me was the new guitarist with Chelsea who had only just started playing. I showed him a few guitar licks and he picked them up so quickly I thought this boy’s going to be a great guitarist. His name was Billy Idol.

A little bird tells me that The Boys in 2019 have also been busy recording is there any details you could reveal about that?

All I can say is that we’ve started recording and it’s sounding good – but at the moment it’s just new tracks with as yet no specific end-use and we’ll work on them and possibly more tracks in the New Year.

Going back to playing the 100 Club.  Its such an iconic venue for many reasons its steeped in history and one of the only remaining places still standing.  How does it stack up playing the 100 Club in 2018 or 2020 compared to 40 years ago and which of the venues hold the best memories and why?  The Roxy,  Marquee club when it was on Wardour Street.  I guess the Hope And Anchor which is also still standing.  Wasn’t that the venue the band made their live debut?  What do you remember about that?

Funnily enough, we never played the 100 club back in the day. I think after the first punk festival there when an audience member was hit by a thrown beer glass, they were a bit wary of booking punk bands for a while. Me, and I think Cas and John were in the audience for that gig. I also remember our debut at the Hope and Anchor shortly after, as it was such a relief to get our first gig safely under our belt after all the rehearsing. Mick Jones, Gene October and a lot of other fledgeling punk rockers were at the gig.

The Roxy was special because it was so short-lived. It was open only a couple of months but it that short time it gave punk its own home and helped to turn the UK music biz on its head and give the fledgeling punk bans the upper hand over the record companies, who were suddenly all desperate to sign a punk band. Also, venues, radio stations, recording studios, newspapers and music magazines were all forced to open up their minds to the punk phenomenon.

Re the Marquee, I saw so many great bands play there that it was a privilege for me to use the same stage and tiny dressing room. I’m still angry about the Marquee being lost forever after the developers promised there would still be a live music venue as part of the new development. I went to the opening of that ‘live music venue’ which was actually the basement area of a Conran restaurant. It was packed with tables and chairs for diners and had a tiny cabaret-style stage that you could just about fit a grand piano on. What really annoyed me was the ashtrays (you could smoke in restaurants back then), which were embossed with the names of some of the great bands such as Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones etc that had played the Marquee, implying that this was where they had played.

When I go there (Hope & Anchor that is)  I don’t know why but I’m always slightly taken aback how small it is. Again its got a lot of attachment to some bands history like the Stranglers and The Damned playing there. The 100 club seems palatial in comparison.
Are there any plans to play further afield again in 2020? the USA shows went down well and I know bands and fans were thrilled with the experience of hearing you guys play live.  What about china is that due for a return visit or are you now banned?

We are in talks about doing another South American tour and also Japan plus a few other things in the pipeline. I’d personally love to visit China again and tour there properly as we intended last time but it would be risky as we don’t know if we are still banned and probably wouldn’t know till we arrived there.

As for the band will John be playing the Resolution show?  It would be great to see him up there with you guys.

As you probably know John hasn’t been well for a long time. He is showing signs of improving. It’s a slow process so we don’t know if he’ll be able to be at the show but we do hope so.

I live in Swansea and the local museum recently had an exhibition to celebrate 50 years as a city and 50 years of music in the city and low and behold there is a feature from the 70s of Circles night club down the marina with pictures of yourself from when the Boys played on a Monday night. With a great bill poster advertising the show.  Do you have any memories of that show which was bootlegged and the first Bootleg I ever heard of the band.  Sounded like an electric night in an infamous local venue. Were they good memories of getting in a van with the band and togging it around the UK in the late ’70s.

With these memories in mind would you ever consider penning an autobiography?  The Boys history is an exceptional one and would make for a riveting read.

I’d like to have seen that exhibition. Do you have any photos of that feature? It was indeed great fun touring in the 70s because in many cases we were the first punk band that anyone had seen so it felt like we were trailblazing. As to an autobiography, no plans at present but if I get bored maybe.

Lewes Con Club 10 January –Tickets
Resolution Festival (100 Club) 11 January – Tickets