Press Clippings and testimonials

Don't let me be misunderstood

Obscure lyricist's poignant plea at graveyard of rats.

(Phil McNeill, NME, 1977)

'This is the place where the rats come to die' lisps the skeletal blue-haired giant onstage at Paris's Bataclan club, and right now it feels like it.

We've come virtually direct from the airport, feeling flight-shocked and hungry, to enter the portals of this stark, dayglo psychedelic cavern, featuring nothing to drink, nowhere to sit and a hideous light show.

Mutant tones resound from a tape machine to introduce the Doctors of Madness one by one - Urban Blitz, Peter DiLemma, Stoner, Kid Strange - and then...

And then the Doctors start their set on 'Mainlines', the slowest, most desolate dirge in their whole gruesome repertoire, rats dying in the very first line. Well, it's a ludicrous spectacle. Smoke bombs explode - and the awful lighting seems deliberately to serve the exact opposite purpose to most lightshows, uglifying rather than prettifiying.... I try to make sense of this aural and visual sado/masochism, but it's no use. All I can see is a bunch of pantomime characters onstage seemingly striving to induce neurosis in an audience which seems oblivious to the band's intention, but which responds as it would to a heavy metal group, banging heads on walls and the more noise and smoke the better.

The sensory bombardment escalates until by the end of the set the hall is strewn with debris and strafed with strobes, stenched with cordite and steeped in feedback, until the roadies have wheeled on an exploding dummy and trundled the remains off again, until the Doctors have turned in the bleakest rendition even 'Waiting For the Man' has ever received... and I realise, soberingly, that The Doctors of Madness have begun to take themselves seriously.

I suppose they always have done.

 

Kid Strange, songwriter/spokesman/sleevenoter/etc/etc, is a peerless punster - he once told me a certain line had '14 different interpretations' and I'd lay money he could enumerate them all for you.

It's not just in speech and lyrics that this operates. Just as he can apply any of his songs to, say 1977's significance in the history of mankind, or, say to what he had for breakfast, so he applies a song to his relationship to his audience. The bewildered spectator listens.

'I hope that the ambiguity is always there,' he says, after I've explained to my surprise at seeing what I'd always considered a kind of cartoon suddenly, several days after the Paris gig while idly perusing a Doctors album pic, stand up as a viable reality. Not only were they taking themselves seriously, but for a split second the image assumed life for me too; the turmoil the group strove so hard to impose on the Paris gig glimmered briefly at me.

'We survive on a tension between heaviness and lightness' Strange continues. 'On a tension between seriousness and humour, or wit, or whatever'. Comedy is probably the word he's avoiding.

'And y'know, Where the two are one, that's where we have our fun, those microscopic spaces' he recites, doing the apt quotation trick. 'That song
"In Camera" is really about us, the artists, and the people who the artists are supplying the art for.'

And what has the blue hair to do with art?

'That was to get people talking' Kid assures me blithely, having just shaved it to a convict length which, if anything, makes him look even more lurid.

'It never caused me any consternation whether the music was strong enough, because I knew that the mucis was intellectually and musically stronger than a very large proportion of anything else that's happening - and I donŐt say that in conceit or bravado, I just know it to be so.

'There are very few people trying to make the connection on the level we're trying - which is very multi-storeyed, starting from a visual stimulus and going, I hope, all the way through to some sort of didacticism. It is, at the death, an attempt at education.'

Isn't that a bit....

'Pompous? Absolutely. But I dont have a lot of time for false modesty'.

But Kid, a lot of what you write is so cliched, particularly the imagary you use: razors, suicide, rats, guns, a plethora of cliches and melodrama (the first of which I hate, the second of which I tend to like). Don't you think this hinders communications on the very emotional level you work on when at your best?

You have to find a level to talk to people on,' Strange explains - not that he and I seem to have found our mutual level. Even playing back the tape, I'm floundering around trying to sift the bullshit; as Kid would point out, that's all of it and none of it.

'Most of the words you've mentioned are very strongly emotive. I'd rather use things like that than something which wouldn't necessarily be called cliched because it it so cliched - things like the occult, that whole chunk of nonsense from your Yesses to your Black Sabbaths.

'Look at what you are and read newspapers and try and use that sort of language, and if those come over as cliches it's probably because we do live a cliche; which is a cliche.

'The question then is, does an artist transcend cliche? Is an original statement necessarily devoid of cliche?'

Kid Strange thinks not: 'I don't know if you devalue something or put it slightly downmarket to make it more accessible by doing what I'm doing. I know I could write a much higher art were I to so choose, and I could get involved with something much less image orientated and much more intellect orientated if Ii so wished. But I'm not that much more of a purist and an elitist.'

If, as I am certain they can, Kid Strange and his band can reach through those 'Microscopic spaces' and touch your heart, why do they smother it in so much bombast? And why is that boring old cool rocker image, that most thoughtless barrier, being allowed to assert itself?

'That's why I always want to give out clues', Strange says, mentioning that lyrics are proved on 'Figments of Emancipation' along with obtuse sleevenotes pointing out meanings to the songs.

' I don't aspire to the the Greatest Misunderstood Artist of Our Time. I want to make that connection. Rock'n'Roll and films are the greatest image banks of our time. You gotta do it - and I'll go into it with as much vigour as anyone. I know you can never get rid of the stage and the audience and the performers, but it can be a very useful device to have.

'Especially if you consider what you do to be in some way an attempt to....' (entertain?) 'To teach.'

What a twerp, you're thinking. It's not what his manager thinks.

 

Brian Morrison is fuming. The customs have just confiscated his wristwatch, and as we power into London from Heathrow in his black Rolls Royce, he champs on his cigar and vows he's going to sue them. He seems to mean it.

On our way to the West End we stop at what looks from the outside like a studio or even a warehouse, a slightly scruffy building in West London. However, on venturing inside, I discover it's Morisson's house, virtually an art gallery, wall-to-wall originals, deep pile black carpets, sunken bath in the corner of the bedroom, a dome ceilinged living room which, Morrisson gleefully tells me, the decorator compared to the Royal Albert Hall.

This man is by far the most ostentatious rich man I've ever met. It might as well be decorated with ten pound notes.

An immensely likeable guy who made his millions for himself, Morrison started out as the Pretty Things' manager after he booked them for a tenner at his London art school, dropping out to do it, and finally threw in the towel as a rock entrepreneur for health and boredom reasons just before the Pink Floyd, who he'd managed from scratch, cut 'Dark Side of the Moon.' He also managed Free, T Rex, and many others.

The Doctors of Madness rekindled his interest. He believes in them - and with his bread, it's got tobe a fascinating band to get Morrison back in the biz.

In a world of music that plays safe, he recognises the Doctors as unique; they may not be totally original, but they are absolutely isolated. As Paul Morley said, 'the most unfashionable band of all time.'

 

After the gig, there's 16 of us round a table in a restaurant. Rene, who designed the florid 'Figments of Emancipation' cover, chucks some insult Brian's way.

'Right', yells Morrison, 'That's the last Doctors cover you do!'

'Oh no', groans Kid Strange, 'That means the end of our psychedelic period. Better practise gobbing, lads.'

 

Footnote: I caught the Doctors again at the Marquee during their Route '77 tour. With a rearranged set, they were back to their beautiful best - I loved every instant of it. The place was packed, the sound, lights and performance were great. Dave Vanion (sic) of the Damned joined in on 'Waiting for the Man'. - They wuz fantastic. Just thought you ought to know.

 

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'the slowest, most desolate dirge in their whole gruesome repertoire.'' 'the

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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