A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
NME, December 1973
Wishbone: We don't have to play second on the bill
Wishbone’s Andy Powell sits quietly in the corner of a restaurant just off Oxford Street. Before him is a dish of snails, at which he picks and prods – occasionally devouring one of the slimy blighters.
Looking extremely fit after a lengthy six-week tour of the States, Andy is back in Britain to recuperate, move into an old cottage in the country and record, before flying off to America for another two weeks of concerts in late January to follow up the success of their new Live Dates LP.
“We’ve definitely arrived there, as this tour has proved,” he says. “Wishbone now has its own kind of audience, just as it has in Britain. It’s nice because everything the band has strived for over the past four years is now coming together. Ash has become a kinda household rock and roll band. We don’t have to play second on the bill, in fact you might say that we play on our own terms,” explains Powell proudly.
The last – and possibly most vital – tour was their sixth, the band playing six sold-out nights a week. The previous five resulted in professional success – and physical exhaustion that took so much out of the group that they didn’t want to go back. But, being the dogged musicians they are, health was restored and the group fought on to reap the reward that success in America automatically brings.
Andy Powell is Ted Turner’s guitar twin. The two of them form a musical relationship that is not only highly original, but also a particularly strong selling-point of the band. Just as it sold the band to Britain, America fell for it as well. The group are completed by drummer Steve Upton and bassist Martin Turner.
In spite of being a relatively new band in America, the audiences they attract there are similar to those in this country. They are a mixture of mature music fans and kids who can enjoy a concert by Cassidy or the Osmonds just as much as a Wishbone performance. This is the strange thing about Wishbone – they can appeal to all types of people by simply being themselves, a rarity these days.
Since starting their career in music in late 1968, the band have weathered all kinds of hardships. In ’70 they met their manager Miles Copeland, who has since guided the band to success after success without interfering with their musical beliefs.
After Wishbone Ash and Pilgrimage the band hit the big time with an exceedingly fine album, Argus, which took the band from near-obscurity to the forefront of British bands. Their last studio album, Wishbone Four, was something of a new departure for the band, because prior to it they’d been sating their fans’ appetites with almost purely instrumental tracks. Four however, contained lyrics which accompanied the tastefulness of Wishbone’s music. A lot of people resented the change, while others who hadn’t previously taken notice of the band were now doing so.
“That fourth album of ours was a kind of more commercial one. It was a lot more into rock and roll, with each track suitable for a single. This is the type of direction the band is taking now and I think a hit single from us next year might well be a strong possibility.”
“Singles-wise, we are definitely more commercial in the States, because in Britain you’ve got to be so blatant. There’s definitely a 70’s sound in Britain which seems to hinge on the glitter and glam image. We won’t even be prepared to go as far as that, we’ll have to do it by way of our music; in other words, people will have to like the single for the music, our own music, rather than going for an image. We’re thinking very hard about putting a single together, but what we’ll have to do to satisfy ourselves is to put everything that Wishbone’s music is about onto that one single. Then if people dig it, it’ll mean that they’ll dig the group,” says Andy in somewhat stubborn tones.
But because Wishbone are one of the last of a dying breed of the rock culture that whizzed rock music to its current position of progression, they are now more mellow through years of experience. They’re not to be labelled as one of yer actual ‘eavy bands.
Continues Andy: “Slade have gone into a particular market – one that is specifically aimed at singles buyers, the kids. But we don’t compromise, because we’ve always been given our heads to do exactly as we want. Our record company, MCA, never hassle us, neither does the management, and that’s good. I know bands like ours are supposed to look down on pop stars, but I’ve got to admit that artists like Cassidy and the Osmonds are really where it’s at. Just like when I was 16, I was digging pop bands like the Who, Small Faces and the Rolling Stones. They progressed out of being just pop bands, but during that time they were the groups that were really where it was.
David Essex – now he’s a guy who’s got great potential, because he knows where he’s at. He looks good and his singles are giving him his own sound….sure he’s selling out, but he’s doing it with a bit of class. David Bowie is the same. He did it with class and individuality and I can tell you that not all singles these days sound like just plastic to me,” says Powell.
When Wishbone first embarked on their career many people knocked the group, but they’ve stuck to their beliefs and now those same people are praising the band. They’ve achieved most things in their sphere and I asked Andy how he saw Wishbone’s role in British music next year.
“We’re hoping to upgrade our recording and produce a hit single. That would consolidate our audience. Gigs will be more like events – things people will look forward to and remember for a long time afterwards. We play to 2,000 people at a time in Britain and I can’t see us enlarging on that because there aren’t the venues to do it. Wishbone have a lot of ideas for next year and we are looking forward to getting on with them.
“It’s only now that I’m beginning to realise that we’ve got a history. I’ve always looked upon Wishbone as a new band, but we’re not – we’re an established group. I know we haven’t reached our full potential yet, so we still feel like a new band. I just hope we keep seeing ourselves like that,” concludes Andy.