TEENAGE FANCLUB: APART FROM THE ORGY

October 8th, 2010 | Interviews


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Teenage Fanclub make pop songs like Big Star but make them faster and lasted longer, and their newest Shadows is out now on Merge. They speak now before returning to America and display respectable capability for details on rock ghosts and rock genitals. This interview by Chris Ziegler.

What happened the day you met Little Richard in an L.A. hotel?
Norman Blake (vocals/guitar): I can tell you exactly what happened—I can’t tell you the year. We were staying in the Hyatt in L.A.—that famous one on Sunset. At this point we had an American manager, but that was only a short time. But for the opportunity to meet Little Richard, we’re eternally grateful. We were in the lobby and the elevator doors opened and Little Richard walked out! I have a memory of a big suit—big shoulders—looking like a million dollars! Tons of make-up and lipstick—he looked great! Our manager had worked with Living Color, and they had worked with Little Richard, and he was like, ‘So if you wanna say hello…?’ I can’t remember what he called him. ‘Hey, Mr. Richard!’
Hey, Little?
N: And he says, ‘Hey, Jim! How’s it going?’ ‘I’m working with this band now from Scotland—Teenage Fanclub.’ And he grabs my hand! ‘Teenage Fanclub from Scotland! Woo!’ That was pretty much it, but it was enough! It was like touching the hand of God. I didn’t wash for a day.
By the transitive property, who have you know shaken hands by proxy with?
N: Little Richard toured with Buddy Holly, so maybe he shook Buddy’s hand. ‘Have a good night, Buddy Holly!’
Ellis Amburn’s biography claims Buddy Holly lost his virginity in a Texas gangbang.
N: There’s many stories about Buddy. The amazing thing is how young he was when he died. But that’s quite a way to lose your virginity. Lots of men and one woman or lots of women and one man?
One woman and a bunch of men in the back seat of some car.
Raymond McGinley (vocals/guitar): Did Little Richard not write a scandalous story? Saying Buddy Holly had a really big cock?
Are you thinking of the famous Crickets-walking-in-on-the-orgy story? Where the Crickets supposedly caught Little Richard and friends backstage and either joined in or just watched in shock?
N: Either way, they didn’t leave the room!
What’s the most famous Teenage Fanclub orgy story?
N: There are many—but maybe just in some of my fantasies. They’ve never been realized.
Gerard says he only had a job for three months in his whole life. How do you two rank in terms of avoiding employment?
R: I’ve never had a job ever! I was a paper boy—the only job I ever had.
N: I was a chef for one morning. In a hotel. They told me it’d be split shifts—like ten til two and six til ten. A break in the day and you have to go back. Like going to work twice in one day! So I finished one shift, said, ‘See ya in four hours!’ and never went back.
What is the secret to never getting a job?
R: If you’ve never had gainful employment, you get used to not having money. As soon as you get used to having money, it gets difficult. For a while, we didn’t have money. But that was fine!
Didn’t you sell a refrigerator to fund your first recording session?
R: That and a washing machine! They’d been leased to me and an elderly neighbor.
So after you made that record, she had to go hungry and stay dirty?
R: No, she died. She left them to me and I sold them and paid to record the first album.
N: It was winter, so you could keep food on the window ledge in the kitchen!
R: It was a smart investment! Don’t sell your refrigerator in the summer! Sell it when you’re just getting to winter. And then we made our money back and got another one. These Wall Street guys shoulda taken a clue from us and there wouldn’t be all these problems!
Kim Deal said she wanted to write songs about boys the way you write songs about girls. How exactly do you write songs about girls?
N: I’m not sure! I’d think we should ask Kim!
R: Can you get her on conference?
N: She’s probably referring to ‘The Concept.’ The girl that goes to rock ‘n’ roll concerts. That’s what I think she meant.
Is the girl liking the Status Quo in that song a compliment or a dig?
N: It’s not a dig, really! ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ is a classic! I’m not totally crazy for ‘em but I also think using the name of a band … like if you use an NME band that’s really hip then, they could be rubbish now. So a band that’s perennially unfashionable is what I was thinking.
R: I didn’t write the song, but as an observation—there’s something about girls where they aren’t as uptight whether bands are ‘cool’ or not. It’s sort of a questionable link but girls are less uptight about what they like than guys are.
What’s your favorite band that a girl turned you on to?
R: We’re guys! It doesn’t work that way. Only kidding!
N: Maybe my wife—she’s taught me quite a lot of things I’m unaware of. Things I didn’t really have a lot of time for in the past. Cat Stevens in Harold and Maude. It’s a great movie and I hadn’t seen it in years, and my wife said the music’s really good. That was the last music I was turned on to by a woman.
R: Yeah, Cat Stevens! As recently as a few months ago, my wife bought the entire Cat Stevens back catalogue. She’ll tend to do that—hear one song, like it, and buy everything. Like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I saw ‘em play years ago. But we were on holiday and got Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! and my wife really liked it and bought the entire Nick Cave catalog.
Do people ever do that for Teenage Fanclub?
N: I wish they would! Unfortunately it’s never happened. That’s the fantasy of all musicians. Apart from the orgy one, of course.
Who was the Lesa Aldridge of Teenage Fanclub? The girl behind all the love songs?
N: Just our girlfriends at the time. Now we’re married to other people.
So we should quit talking about this.
R: Don’t get him started!
N: On my past muses!
Do you ever run into your old muses?
R: Not yet!
N: I suppose my girlfriend—she used to fancy herself a French girl, so now she lives in the south of France. And I’m not spending a great deal of time in the South of France.
Do you really have a tape of Joe Meek having a séance with a cat in a graveyard?
N: Yeah—that’s true!
R: Is that not commercially released?
N: The BBC had a documentary series called Arena, and they made one on Joe Meek like 25 years ago. On the show, they ran a tape of Meek in a graveyard with Geoff Goddard, and you sort of hear this noise. ‘Meow? Meow?’ ‘Hello, do you need help?’ ‘Meow! Meow!’ They think he’s saying yes! It’s pretty bonkers. You can get the documentary on YouTube. If you wanna hear that talking cat, you can hear it this afternoon!
R: If you want to have a séance of your own and contact Joe Meek, he’ll tell you where on YouTube.
N: Geoff Goddard actually claimed that song [‘Tribute to Buddy Holly’] was written by Buddy Holly! It’s a pretty good scam. ‘John Lennon! Bob Marley! They’re all hanging out fucking jamming in heaven!’

TEENAGE FANCLUB WITH RADAR BROS. ON MON., OCT. 11, AT THE EL REY, 5515 WILSHIRE BLVD., LOS ANGELES. 8 PM / $25 / ALL AGES. GOLDENVOICE.COM. TEENAGE FANCLUB’S SHADOWS IS OUT NOW ON MERGE. VISIT TEENAGE FANCLUB AT TEENAGEFANCLUB.COM.