Press Clippings and testimonials

ALIENS IN GLORY LAND

Jonh (sic) Ingham, who's always trying to be different, talks to the Doctors of Madness, who ARE different.

(Sounds, July 10, 1976)

Abbey Road's Number Three studio has received a considerable face-lift since the Beatles last trooped through the door to lay hand to mixing desk and guitar. The control room now accommodates 24 tracks with quad capabilities, rear speakers hidden in the wall.

The government grey walls have been banished by Habitat chic, the double windows, between which Roy Harper's son used to play Superchicken, have been built in. No more irate neighbours.

The air conditioning finally works. Planters grow out of the walls. A twist of the dial creates endless moods in lighting; creativity shall not be hindered by the harsh glare of a light bulb. It looks a plush imaginative set for a science fiction rock movie. It is here that the Doctors of Madness are recording their second album.

Final overdub stage has been reached on the last song, 'In Camera', which Webster's tells us is a closed meeting or a meeting in a judge's private chambers, is in need of some camera snaps and clicks.

Kid Strange, hair a deeper, less day-glo tone of blue than in the past, is adamant that the photographer out in the studio giving a lecture on which angle his Hassleblad will be best recorded in relation to the microphone is just some guy they found outside taking snaps of the immortalised Abbey Road pedestrian crossing.

Since the snaps man doesn't have the benefit of a motor-drive and must contort his camera awkwardly in order to convey the snap of the shutter and the whirr of the next frame winding into place in time with the music, Kid's claim seems reasonable.

The snapsman wonders whether his camera is in the right key. 'Oh God,' moans Kid. 'A dilletante.' He pronounces it 'dilletanty'.

 

Producing this second opus-de-Madness is up-and-coming John Leckie, a Harper engineering alumnus who has also produced Be-Bop Deluxe amoung others. In contrast to the first album, this venture, entitled 'Figments of Emancipation', which Mr Strange thinks an accurate description of the contents - 'free to fly as far as the lead will let you go' - is constantly twisting through strange choral passages or harmonies or changes from song to song.

Titles besides 'In Camera' are 'Out', 'Brother' (sic), 'Suicide City' ('a perfect non-fiction fantasy'), 'Perfect Past'. They're far more listenable than the first effort. More attack, more assurance, greater vision. Absorbing the traditions of the studios, there are odd moments of Floyd, Beatles, Harper. 'Doctors of Madness', though, sounds and feels remarkably similar to the Velvets's 'European Son of Delmore Schwartz'.

This happy state of affairs, opines Kid, has been equal effort between band and producer.

'We were mutually aware of the direction we were going in with this one. A lot of the time we worked without discussion. With the first album there was a lot of talking about the songs, and the producer would put his bit in.. John is very responsible for the quality of the sound. I got him because he likes our stuff and he's a mate, which makes for an easier session.'

'On the first one,' adds Peter DiLemma, 'I think John Punter had a different impression of what we were from us. There's the basis of a great LP in the raw tracks. It just needs to be remixed.'

'Also,' rejoins Kid, 'He only heard the songs a couple of times, and there was a feeling of 'gotta start, gotta start', and before you knew it the song was finished and it was a bit out of control. There wasn't much room for contemplation.'

 

This 35 minutes of grooved vinyl will be available in September, at which time the group will embark on a major tour. Before that, through, is the July Midsummer Madness tour. There might also be a Continental tour since the first album resides high in the Belgian charts. It also happens to be the best selling import record in Southern California. That the English public havne't been similarly moved is of some aggravation to Kid.

'I thought it was misunderstood', he says in a serious, sincere voice.

In what way?

'It didn't get the attention it deserved!' he laughs. 'The people of Belgium, of course...'

.... know more about what's going on, blah blah?

'Exactly.'

Have you considered that it mightn't have received more attention because it didn't deserve it?

'No, no. When it came out I only played it four or five times. It receded more and more into my mind and I was thinking it must have been awful. I played it this week and it's not. I thought it was really different, and that there was a lot going on there.'

Unlike their present musical bliss, and you are expected to buy it in vast quantities, the stage show has yet to reach fruition. Due to the constantly changing sizes of clubs and stages they must forego a backdrop - 'Some kind of urban backdrop' explains Urban Blitz, excusing the pun - but the make-up has vanished and hopefully stages will be large enough to allow an amp-free stage.

'The trouble,' complains Urban, 'is that small stages force us to rely on equipment like all those other bands who just stick their amps up there - that's art as far as they're concerned. We went to cut that out completely'
'I'd like our performance to not be a rock band playing' says Kid. 'I'd like it to just be an experience. The more clues you leave lying around the stage that it's a rock show the harder it is to get people out of that frame of mind. I know the hardware is what makes it for a lot of people, but we're very much a 70s band, whereas most other bands are playing 1960s rock.

'You get to thinking, who's out there? There must be a few 70s bands in America, but over here it's so lethargic. The Who do a good show, but it's more or less the same show they did at Woodstock. Really, Pete!'

Reasonable enough assertions. Certainly no-one else in their mid-twenties seems to be making 70s out-on-the-ledge rock.

As to what genesis the Doctors of Madness, Possible Experience, had, ol' blue hair isn't too specific.

'It was an immaculate conception. Virgin birth. It was Peter and I playing about 30 percent of the songs we still do, knowing funamentally we were right but the components outside ourselves weren't happening. It took us about two and a half yeas to find the other two gentlemen. By early 1975 we'd done most of the spade work - the donkey work, I should say for our National Front readers, but it was very much in embryo. We didn't tour as Doctors of Madness, really, until last October.

'I thought it would be very uphill. We'd established a very small core of fans - disciples - on the first tour, which is what happened. On the Be Bop tour it grew- you know if you throw enough shit at the fan, some of it will stick.'

A beautifully mixed metaphor there. 'And a lot of it did stick. Then on the March tour it started to happen, only two months after the first Be-Bop concert.

'It didn't surprise me that people were absolutely fanatical about us, but when people said it was okay, that surprised me. The occasional 'You're as good as...' Fill in the dots, saying they were accepting us as a rock band on this level with other bands. I don't think we work on a level with any other bands. We function as a glorious failure, which is great because we're only in it for the glory anyway, or the most mind-shattering experience since Smirnoff.

'But all in all, it's exactly what I thought it would be. Probably a bit better than I thought it would be.'

 

So good, in fact, that Kid has made the crossover to Filmland. 'A small part in Hamlet, directed by an Italian, Sarastino. Quentin Crisp is in it and he's very gelled off because my hair's bluer than his. Helen Mirren's playing Ophelia and Gertrude, identical twins are playing Hamlet and they're both on stage all the time. It'll be shown in festivals - there won't be a premier at the London Pavillion or anything like that. Maybe the Picadilly Classic!'

There seemed only the penultimate question to ask.

What made you want to be a star?

'I've always been different you know', he replies in his serious, sincere tone of voice. 'You don't talk about it, you just know that everyone else in your class is going one way and you're nothing to do with them. It's really like being an alien, a visitor. It never occurred to me that I would do anything else than be in the public eye. It's really no big deal for me because I've never considered any other possibility.'

Outside the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane after John Cale's first concert there in early 1975, Kid Strange, his hair a midnight blue perilously close to black, vowed that in a year it would be him on that stage. Damned if he wasn't, too.

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Front cover of Sounds, 10/7/76. Kid takes a leaf out of Chris Spedding's book. The Doctors article tied in with the kind of competition music rags just don't do these days! See below...

 

 

Notice "The Doctors' brand new Yamaha..." as if the band were giving up their communally-owned motorbike for the purposes of a Sounds competition!!

If the lucky winner of this comp is out there, please get
in touch - I want to know more about this! Was the bike presented in a Jim'll Fix It style ceremony by the Doctors
in full stage regalia?

 

Here's the coupon....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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