MUSIC WRITER IN JAPAN
7th November 2015
Q: A cracking band you’ve got here.
AFL: I know that and we are a band. I’m not the singer if you know what I mean; we’re all in it together. Everything is split equally.
Q: Which is more intimidating: playing to an intimate 300 people under your own name or to 300,000 for The Wall in Berlin?
AFL: At Berlin, all of those gigs are about who I’m working for: there’s pressure here; no pressure there. The only pressure there is that you don’t do anything wrong for whoever you are working with. That’s pressure but this is what it’s all about for me. Working with Roger or Eric, then it’s all about them which is fine.
Q: So are you a little bit out of your comfort zone in this?
AFL: No I’m in my comfort zone – much better. I think we came a couple of years ago when I was sixty-five. It was the first time I had been to Japan under my own name. I first came in ’91 I think with George which was an absolutely fabulous gig.
Q: You’re got Roy Wood playing with you in Birmingham in December.
AFL: Oh yeah we did that last year at the Philharmonic Hall and we got invited back again this year. We’re on in the first half so it’s only about thirty minutes and then we nip round the corner for a curry. (smiles)
Q: Good curries in Birmingham…
AFL: I tell you…good food. Bloody good food.
Q: As Rick Wakeman used to say, ‘Leave the car and drive yourself home.’
AFL: Well Rick was there too: he was on that gig. I like Rick and know him from my A&M years.
Q: Ah…that’s the Gastank connection as well then.
AFL: Oh yeah absolutely – fabulous!
Q: Zone-O-Tone came out in 2013: have you got another one in the pipeline?
AFL: Nope! It took a long time to write Zone-O-Tone and the band want another album now but it’s just not there. As well as this, I’m working with other people and when I work on this, I work on playing. I can’t work on playing and write, it has to be one or the other. Now we are touring and I’m playing so I practice.
Q: You are a grafter aren’t you?
AFL: I love it. We just spent the last month working on Eric Clapton’s new album with Glyn Johns producing. That will be out next year with myself, Dave (Bronze) on bass, Paul Carrack, Chris Stainton, Henry Spinetti and then he brought over two Americans for the last week. A guy called Walt Richmond and Dirk Powell, the keyboard player from J.J. Cale and a banjo, accordion, fiddle master player so that last week was very different from the first three when we played whatever. It was really good. Twenty new songs, a couple of traditional old songs, I’ll Be Seeing You, Little Man, Crazy Arms…we recorded them but it’s what they’ll reduce it down to.
Q: It’s a lot.
AFL: For him it’s a lot – yes.
Q: Amen Corner formed in ’66, a few months later you signed to Deram and a few months after that you were on tour with Hendrix. That’s a rather remarkable rise isn’t it?
AFL: It is. It’s pretty spectacular. We started at the Albert Hall on the Hendrix tour and every other show from that was two shows a night so I got to see him twice a night. A phenomena, absolutely phenomenal.
Q: It’s passed into Rock folklore for its line-up of Hendrix, yourselves, The Move, …
AFL: The Floyd, Eire Apparent, The Nice and The Outer Limits. One song they used to play: Reach Out And I’ll Be There. That’s it and then they’d be gone.
Q: …and Lemmy as the roadie.
AFL: Yes he was!
Q: I spoke to Jeff Christie (The Outer Limits) about that tour and he told me a story about throwing his Flying V…
AFL: ..into the amp. Yeah Newcastle City Hall – we’ll never forget it. In truth, it wasn’t always good because that guitar didn’t sometimes always stay in tune as it ought to but when it was on, it was phenomenal. It was unbelievable and the places we played, Sheffield City Hall or Birmingham Town Hall weren’t made for music to be played in. You got the event and you also got The Floyd without the sheet. That was a strange experience, Syd was with them but the Floyd without the sheet were not…you had to have the full package and they only had the sheet at Albert Hall and Sophia Gardens in Cardiff because of the fire hazard.
Q: How long was your set on that?
AFL: Fifteen minutes…something like that and the first night at the Albert Hall, we went on before Hendrix; we got moved very quickly (laughs) and I’m glad too. I can’t remember if we ended the first half or started the second but it was fifteen minutes, twenty at the most which as I said was more than Outer Limits who had just the one song. Of course it was The Nice with Keith Emerson so there was a hell of a lot going on. It was very exciting.
Q: That’s obviously where you first met Roy Wood as well then.
AFL: Yeah well Roy Wood, The Move and Amen Corner were at the same agency, Galaxy Entertainments so we knew them well. I saw Trevor (Burton) not so long ago who is out with his own band. I haven’t seen Bev (Bevan) but Roy, like I said, we saw him last year with the big band. Brontosaurus, I love Brontosaurus.
Q: I have a soft spot for Wizzard because it’s the first gig I saw – 1973.
AFL: Ah! Well Nick (Pentelow) played with Roy and every now and then you see the videos of it. I think he had ginger hair and a pony tail (smiles). A long time ago.
Q: To us who were not there, it seems to be an amazing time where you could see Eric Clapton or Hendrix play every night or bump into a Beatle somewhere. Was it really like that?
AFL: Absolutely true. I went down the Bag O’Nails once, went to the toilet and bumped into John Lennon. We said hello and I said ‘I’m Andy’ and he said ‘I know who you are’ because Bend Me Shape Me was big at that time. Hendrix played with Amen Corner twice down at the Speakeasy and I sang on a re-cut of Stone Free in New York in ’69 with Roger Chapman. I saw The Stax Tour (1967)…yeah everyone was about. The Stones, the lot. It was unbelievably exciting because it was new. Now it’s not new at all.
Everyone’s first choice
Q: Since then you’ve one of the most respected musicians in the business.
AFL: Well I’m working, that’s for sure. (smiles) I like nearly all the people I work with and we’ve become friends so it’s really good. When we came here with George, that will never be beaten.
Q: What’s your favourite George story?
AFL: First of all, George was very social. There are lots of stories about George but getting on the plane and he always travelled with two ukuleles. He gets one out and he hands the other one around. Eric hated the ukulele but George loved it. He was just a really lovely man. It’s very sad but you know, we’ll all only be a memory and he’s still strong too me. All I have to do is think of him and it’s all there.
Q: In that early eighties period where things were…I don’t want to say rough for you…
AFL: Oh no things were rough! I had to sell my Stratocaster, my Les Paul…everything just to get cash. I went back to Wales, lived with my Mother, she lent me her car – a Hillman Imp – and then eventually the thing got broken by Roger Waters – getting the call from him in ‘84/85 and I worked from ’85 to 2007. Dark Side Of The Moon was my last tour. A good gig.
Q: Did you think about getting a proper job?
AFL: I couldn’t! (laughs) I couldn’t get arrested; I couldn’t get any kind of a deal. My time was finished when the Sex Pistols came along. That was the end of people like me completely.
Q: It was also the end of A&M.
AFL: It was too. Yes. I saw the guy that signed them (Derek Green) the other day working with Glyn and I never mentioned that moment but he was well aware that I know about it. It was a big moment and it literally was the end of me. I was always available for charity gigs because I had no work and through those gigs I met loads of people. Chris Rea, Van Morrison, whoever it was, whoever I worked with, I met doing something for nothing. They’d ask if I fancied doing a gig and would say yes and it built from there but Roger was the constant, Eric was thirteen years and then I worked with Pete Townsend, toured America with him. I’d done The Who album It’s Hard so we knew each other. That was a funny old tour.
Q: Pete did like his brandy at that time.
AFL: Yeah he used to clean his teeth with vodka actually and then say ‘It doesn’t really affect me’. Well actually Pete, I think it does. (smiles) It was great to play with him though. He is a pretty phenomenal guitar player.
Q: Did you have any difficulty following him because he tends to wander off a bit on stage.
AFL: No but he is on his own. In fact there was another guitar player as well, Phil Palmer, so I’d do a bit of acoustic, sing…generally as I would do with most of the gigs, a bit of everything but it wasn’t what I wanted to do is the truth.
Q: You’re career is milestoned with the all the great Rock events, all except Live Aid…
AFL: Aaah! No, I did do Live Earth though in New York with Roger at some stadium (Giants Stadium) but in the eighties I was out of it. I wasn’t worth a phone call and I wouldn’t have been on that because I never connected with eighties music at all. Unemployed and the Roger thing was the thing that kept me afloat. It’s a great gig playing someone else’s music and I grew to like all the Floyd stuff which I didn’t in ’67. I wasn’t particularly fond of it: I just didn’t get it but Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun is one of my favourites and they played that on that Hendrix tour: that was their first song in the set. I used to think ‘What the hell is going on there?’ (laughs) but I get it now.
Q: You said that you started working Roger in ’84 and before that was a difficult time but you played the ARMS concert in ’83…
AFL: Yes that’s how I got the job with Roger. Eric had done the Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking in Europe and then when he left Roger said to a friend of his, a lady who was the press officer on that tour, ‘Who can I get?’ and she said ‘You need to get Andy.’ He told me to come up and he didn’t say anything about my playing, he just said ‘Let’s see if we get on’. That was it: I came up, we got on and I did the Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking tour in America only because of that ARMS tour. I was at Glyn’s house when Ronnie (Lane) phoned up and said ‘Any chance you could put something together?’ and Glyn said to me ‘You’ll do it won’t you Andy?’ and I said yes. Then Eric got on it, Jimmy (Page) got on it, Jeff (Beck) got on and everyone else. It was fantastic.
You played with…
Q: You’ve played with so many people, if you don’t mind I’d like to just throw a name out there and you give us an anecdote or whatever comes to you mind.
AFL: Yeah by all means!
Q: Let’s start with Rick Wakeman.
AFL: The A&M years were fabulous years and every now and then they’d have parties and that’s where I’d meet Rick. When I first went with A&M I didn’t drink and I also didn’t want to go to the parties either but I got persuaded to go, Rick was there and they were playing darts – that was part of the social thing that went on. You’d drink, play darts and you’d meet all the other artists on the label. I went, I was very stiff socially with it all, didn’t want to do it and then someone said have a drink and I said ‘No orange juice please’ and Rick said ‘Stick some vodka in it – it’ll loosen you up’. Well it did loosen me up and I was the last one usually to leave the parties from that moment on. (laughs) Rick’s a really funny man and a hell of a player. That Gastank was a bizarre thing because Phil Lynott was on it, Tony Ashton, Godley & Crème but it was interesting. I have never seen that. I remember doing it because my interview got delayed and delayed and by the time I got to it I was very very very drunk. Then I went to Phil’s house afterwards and Hurricane Higgins* was there too. Like I say, interesting times.
Q: Gerry Rafferty
AFL: I was at home in Wales and I get a phone call from Henry Spinetti. He asked if I was doing anything and I said no and he said the Mickey Moody was in the studio with Gerry and for some reason he had to go home and would I go up and do the sessions so I went up for the City To City sessions. The first song I played on was Baker Street for which I’m not credited on the album – I am for other tracks on the album – but I know I played on Baker Street because I can hear what I played. Hughie Burns plays the guitar right at the end but I am on there playing rhythm. I never got credited on that but I did have a great time with Gerry – he was fabulous. Every now and then I’d go up to Glasgow and Gerry came to one of my shows there and we hung out. A good man with a very sad end.
Q: Your fellow countryman, Tom Jones
AFL: Tom’s new album, Long Lost Suitcase, Dave (Bronze) and myself are on. I think we did something like 28 tracks in three weeks and that was about a year and half or two years ago and it’s only just come out. They picked eight tracks that I was on and I get to sing with Tom on two of them, Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To Do – the old Hank Williams song – and Raise A Ruckus by Jesse Fuller. He was unbelievable. It’s the first time I’ve ever worked with a singer. No headphones, just a small amp, everyone in the room just like Elvis would have done it. Ethan Johns, Glyn John’s son, produced the album and I just want to know what happened to all the other tracks we did. I hope we get to hear them at some point. A fabulous man: absolutely fabulous.
Q: The Brian Rogers Orchestra
AFL: Thank goodness for Glyn. It was Glyn’s suggestion for me to work with Brian who did strings on Da Doo Rendezvous and Travelin’ Light…whatever, if there were strings to be done Brian Rogers was brought in and Glyn said how about doing an instrumental album of Gallagher & Lyle’s songs and mine. A lot of my work, maybe 90% of it, came through Glyn like Joe Satriani. I had an email from Joe just before we came over saying he was playing my home town and would I like to come but it was on the day after we left to come here. Working with Joe was an experience.
Q: You must have picked up a lick or two.
AFL: No. I couldn’t even understand the licks! (laughs) It was a live album, I was in the room and he would spend most of the day telling me what to play and what finger to use and then Glyn would come in and say ‘Why don’t you just let them play? What’s the point of having Nathan (East) Ethan (Johns), Manu (Katché) and me if you don’t let them play?’ Then by about eight o’clock, keeping I mind what he’d said, we’d play and that would be the track that day.
Your Forrest Gump Box of Chocolate Questions:
Q: Can you speak Welsh?
AFL: Ermm…Tippen bach which means ‘a little’. I was brought up in Cardiff and Cardiff is more metropolitan. It’s North and West Wales that speak the language and keep it alive and I’m a bit of an outsider because I don’t speak it but in truth, I’m 100% Welsh even though my Father was Scottish. (laughs)
Q: So is your Father’s name Fairweather –Low?**
AFL: Yes. My name is Low but my middle name is Fairweather and my Father’s middle name was Fairweather. Every second son of a ‘Low’ family traditionally has a Fairweather in it. I’ve met a couple of other Andrew Fairweather-Low’s, one in Australia and one in Scotland.
Q: Are you doing a No Stiletto Shoes concert this year?
AFL: No I think we’re done with the No Stiletto Shoes. I and Dave (Bronze) do that and we did something in France last year with Gary (Brooker) but he’s cutting down too. He had a nasty accident in South Africa so he doesn’t hear as well and his taste has gone but he’s still out with Procul Harum. We did No Stiletto Shoes for over 20 -25 years or maybe more and we’re still friends with Gary but we might be done with that because we’re doing this and it occupies that space.
Q: Do you have a guitar collection?
AFL: Yes: more than I should have but the majority of them are not players. They are old Airline guitars, Taisco’s…I just love funny, weird looking guitars…funny colours…The Taisco I have is a stereo three strings through one amp and three through another. It doesn’t play that well but it looks fantastic. For all the gigs I do with Roger or whoever, I have to have two of everything. It’s not like you can break a string and say ‘Give us a minute while we re-string it’ you have to have a replacement straight away. So I do have two of everything for those gigs, two acoustics, two electrics, two 12-strings, whatever so that gives me more guitars than I need.
Q: Roger’s gigs were always note-perfect; there was never a fault.
AFL: Well put it this way: After every gig, wherever we were going, he would have that gig on a VHS or a DVD and he would be watching that gig on the plane and writing it down and if you were not right that night, you had to be there the next morning with him. This went on every gig for every world tour and even on the last date of the tour, we’d do a soundcheck from the moment we arrived until the show. With Eric, there’s no soundcheck – just turn up – but Roger would be there working on something I had been playing for fifteen years. Eric will do three weeks rehearsal and say ‘That’s it. You sound men now, it’s your job.’ I saw The Wall in Manchester towards the end of their run and it was pretty spectacular. I did The Wall in 1990 in Berlin but this was spectacular.
Q: The technology has moved on though.
AFL: Yes. They actually put the wall up before the show, knock it down, then build it up, then knock it down again and take it away. They put it up before the show to put all the graphics on it.
Q: Is there any type of musicians you feel more comfortable with?
AFL: Eric because I’m a guitar player. I’m a good guitar player, he’s a great guitar player and I fit in because I know and love his music so that works. With Roger I was a bit of a bass player, a bit of an acoustic player – most of the time I played bass – but he always had two other guitar players so I’d get maybe eight or sixteen bars and that would be it. Then I’d have to watch them play all night and I’d be going ‘I’ve had enough of this’. I didn’t mind doing it for about twenty years (laughs) but for the last four I was thinking ‘I need to be playing’ rather than watching.
Q: You also played drums with Dave Edmunds.
AFL: Yes I did! Well researched. I made an album with a band called Gairent Watkins and the Dominators (1979) and I played drums on that as well as producing it. There were two drummer: myself and Henry (Spinetti) and he didn’t want me to play drums but I said ‘I’m paying for this. This is my album’ (smiles) and I played guitar as well. It’s a good album. I saw Dave Edmunds quite recently. We did Albert Lee’s 70th birthday bash in London and the Lowriders were the band who backed a lot of people. Dave came along and he was in good form. Normally he’s quite miserable (laughs) I mean about work. You know, normally he doesn’t do much but it was good to see him.
Q: I wish he’d do more.
AFL: Yeah me too but he’s stuck where he is. He’s got into songwriting now which he didn’t do much of and that was the main part of the conversation with him. He got a computer and it had sucked him in. I’m not fond of the computer to make music at all but he was loving it.
Q: Yesterday at the gig you said the first solo you learnt on guitar was Route 66: what was the first song you learnt on guitar?
AFL: Dance On by The Shadows. Apache came later but Dance On, I just loved it and the thing was, as a kid growing up, if you went to any fairground, when you went on holiday to Margate or Porthcawl the music would be Guitar Tango or Wonderful Land…all of those things…Wipeout which we used to play in the set. In fact in the set we use to play Pipeline by the Chantays and Wipeout but we’re moving on looking for different ones but I love that period of music.
Q: John Ford (The Strawbs) said the same thing recently.
AFL: Good because it’s very special!
Q: I must confess though, I prefer Kathy Kirby’s version of Dance On.
AFL: Ooh really? Well she was fabulous. Ry Cooder’s version of Secret Love from the Mambo Sinuendo (2003) with Manuel Galban playing guitar, an instrumental, it is staggering! A fabulous song.
Q: Which book are you currently reading or what is the last book you read?
AFL: Well first of all, I’m not a book reader but I just read Glyn John’s book. How perfect is that? It was a really easy read in that the chapters were short so I’d start reading it and I’d look to see where the next chapter started and think ‘Oh I can manage that’ and I learnt a lot about Glyn that I didn’t know. I knew a lot because I’ve spent a lot of time with Glyn but it was really interesting.
Q: Last question: Are you coming back with Eric in April next year?
AFL: Yes. We should be back whenever it is - in April – but that League of Gentlemen can change their minds (smiles) but at the moment, we are on for it. We had a letter saying ‘Can we keep you free’ and I said yes.
Q: This has been a great pleasure. Thank you very much.
AFL: Thank you and I will be in touch.
*Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins was a famous Irish snooker player in the ‘70/80s who was world champion twice in 1972 and 1982 and popularized the game for young people. The British game of snooker was famed for its slow, methodical pace but Higgins used to run around the table, finishing a game in 10 minutes where it usually took half an hour, hence the nickname ‘Hurricane’. He was a notorious drinker, smoked 60 cigarettes a day and died, not surprisingly, from throat cancer in 2010 aged 61.
**This seems a strange question to Japanese people but because of how surnames work in the UK, it’s possible that his Father’s name was either ‘Fairweather’, ‘Low’ or ‘Fairweather-Low’.