It is a massive pleasure & honour to feature an interview with English actor, director, producer and musician Gary Shail on “Mods Of Your generation”. Best known for his role as “Spider” in the iconic cult movie Quadrophenia that many of us still admire and talk about today. This year (2019) marks the 40th anniversary of the film which is a massive milestone for everyone involved. The fact that its still talked about today makes it even all the more great. Gary is a great guy who has attended a lot of events over the years in aid to raise money for charity. We asked Gary about his own event coming up called QUAD 40 and about his career and experiences filming Quadrophenia & Jack the Ripper. We also discussed his book “ I think I’m on the guest list” published in 2015 and his Christmas song “ Modding up my Christmas list ” (2017) and more. Gary has done a variety of interviews throughout the years so it was difficult to ask him questions that he hadn’t been asked before, however I hope you enjoy the interview as much as we enjoyed asking the questions. Make sure not to miss out on the anniversary celebration of the movie on Brighton Pier August 25th 2019 for more information go to www.quad40.co.uk#ModsOfYourGeneration
(1) I have heard you are a huge fan of the Regents a four-piece band based in Essex heavily influenced by the original mod spirt of 1964. Are there any other new bands influenced by the mod scene who you are also a fan of? Yes I’m a big fan of ‘The Regents.’ I’ve known Sea Jays the lead singer since he was 16yrs old and he definitely has the right attitude. Mind you, he has always had the right attitude! Another young band I am really impressed with are ‘The Lapels’ who I saw play in Derby at a MOTM event the year before last. They completely blew the roof off the place, and nobody wanted to go on after them! The drummer was only 14yrs old at the time I think, and I watched them play with his mum! (2) You were just 18 when you were cast to play spider in Quadrophenia. I am sure you have been asked this many times before but did you think Quadrophenia would become the phenomenon it is today at the time of filming. Of course I didn’t know that I’d still be being asked questions about a film I was in 40yrs ago, but, I think we all knew at the time that it was definitely something special (3) On Christmas 2017 you released a song called “Modding up your Christmas list” to become number one. Have you any plans to do this again in the future. “Very catchy tune by the way LOVED IT” HAHAHAHA..My Mod Xmas Song? Well, I actually got a hell of a lot of flak for doing that by certain people who shall remain permanently nameless. But it was great fun to do, and a lot of people loved it, especially the kids. I had people sending me videos of their children doing dance routines in their living rooms, which was brilliant! But no, I don’t think I’ll be the next Cliff Richard.
Modding Up My Christmas List- 2017 (Official Video) (4) You have been involved in many MOD and Quadrophenia events over the years. Is this something you enjoy being part of and do you have any memorable moments from any of the events that stand out. Yes I do enjoy all the events I get asked to. Over the years I must have met thousands of people who love Quadrophenia, and it’s always a great feeling when my presence can actually help to raise money for a worthy cause. Some of the funniest memories I have are probably un-printable, but trying to get a kebab in Stoke at three in the morning with Alan May (The Glory Boy Radio Show) doing Withnail & I impersonations sticks firmly in my memory! (5) Your character in Quadrophenia had many memorable quotes in the film. What is the one that fans mention the most? Always the one about getting a gun! (6) Your book “I think I’m on the guest list” published by New Haven publishing LTD in 2015 was highly regarded and recommended. I found the book to be a very funny memoir of your life and the extraordinary people you have worked with and met throughout your career. Can your briefly describe the book to someone who has not yet read it. The book was actually written because of Gary Holton (The Rocker who beats Spider up) Gary and I became really good mates after Quadrophenia, and actually formed a band together called ‘The Actors.’ But when Gary sadly died in 1985 I never spoke to the press or anyone else for that matter about it. Then I was contacted 30yrs later by someone who was writing a book about him and wanted a contribution from me. I wanted to put the record straight about a few things, so I agreed. The publishers of the book loved what I’d written, so I was offered a publishing deal for my own story. I thought I’d better do it myself before I was dead and some other twat was ‘putting things straight’ about me! It’s certainly not your average autobiography I think, and later on this year I will be doing an Audio Version with a soundtrack, which will be totally different to anything you’ve ever heard I hope.
(7) Many fans of Quadrophenia have expressed an interest in a follow up to the film. Is this something that you would support? or like myself do you feel it is best left alone. There has always been talk of a “follow up” But I can’t see that ever happening. It’s always interesting to hear some of the Ideas of what our characters would have been doing in later life though. I think Spider would’ve become a hit-man for Ferdy’s drugs cartel!
(8) You are a huge fan of Trojan records, what is your favourite track, album or artist under the Trojan label. Yes I grew up with the Trojan record label, and one of the first artists I remember driving my parents mad with was Desmond Dekker. But I’ve always loved reggae and had a very respectable collection of Jamaican Pre- Releases by the tender age of 13. Last November, I was proudly invited by Neville and Christine Staple to their 50th Trojan Anniversary weekend at ‘Skamouth’ In Great Yarmouth where I actually met ‘The Pioneers’ who were about 100yrs old. They could still cut it though! (9) This year (2019) marks the 40th anniversary of Quadrophenia (film). To celebrate this, you have organised, and event called Quad 40 in Brighton on the 25th of August 2019. Tell us a little bit about what to expect from the event and where fans can buy tickets. It’s actually on the 25th August Johnny! Yes I have hired Horatios Bar on Brighton Pier from 12 noon ‘till midnight on Sunday the 25th August. And I can tell you now that I never thought I had this much bottle to actually try and pull something like this off. It’s a logistical fu**ing nightmare, but I’m actually really enjoying it. I’ve spoken to almost all of the other cast members of Quad who have all promised to attend (work permitting) but trying to get us all in the same country together is hard enough, let alone on a bleedin’ pier! On that morning before the actual party, Quadrophenia is being honoured with ‘The Brighton Music Walk Of Fame Plaque’ to be unveiled at the pier entrance, so it would be great if there were a few mods about. Tickets and details available at www.quad40.co.uk
(10) A question received by Jimmy Hemstead follower of Mods of Your Generation and Blogger at MOD TV UK “HI Gary in your younger days was you ever a mod and did you ever own a scooter, can you tell me when and how you got into acting and why please?” Hi Jimmy, love all your art-work by the way!No, I was far too young to be a mod; I was born in 1959, so I was only 5yrs old in 64 and the only scooter I owned was made by ‘Chad Valley.’I never had any ambitions to become a professional actor at all when I was a youngster, but somehow found my way into drama school at the age of 12, thanks to my parents and a couple of Comprehensive High School Teachers who probably just wanted me just out of the way!Quadrophenia was my first professional job when I left. (11) Do you have any plans to release more music, Books etc or what are you doing now that we can look forward to in the future? Yes, I will definitely be writing another book I think, but not part 2 of my autobiography, that would just be a bloody diary. It will probably be about my time working in the advertising industry in the 1990s. You think actors and musicians are crazy? They’ve got nothing on advertising people! Musically though, I never really stop. I had a solo album out last year called ‘Daze Like This’ (see below) which a lot of people liked, and I guested on ‘The Transmitters’ debut album which was great, although I hear that they have now split up. I’ve also recorded a couple of tracks with Steve ‘Smiley’ Barnard which are on his ‘Smiley’s Friends’ albums, and I’m back in the studio in a couple of months with ‘The Regents’ for their new album. I’m always writing though, and will hopefully record some of my own stuff probably next year now.
Title track from the album “Daze Like This” (12) Do you keep in touch with any of the main characters of Quadrophenia 40 years on? Yes, I see quite a lot of Trevor Laird (Ferdy) and I’ve recently been working with Toyah. Hopefully I’ll be seeing the others soon
(13) What do you regard as your biggest achievement in your career or what are you most proud of? I actually don’t think like that. Everything that keeps me off of the unemployed statistics is an achievement these days! I am extremely proud of my family though, and very recently became a granddad to a beautiful baby girl called Ellie May. I’m very proud about that! (14) In 1988 you appeared as the tough pimp “Billy White” in the tv series of “Jack the Ripper”. Sir Michael Caine also appeared in the series as Chief Inspector Frederick. Caine was a huge influence on British Culture in the 1960’s and referred to by many as a style icon.What was it like working with such an influential person in British pop culture? Making ‘Jack The Ripper’ in 1988 was like a dream come true, and working on a film with Sir Michael Caine was an experience I shall never forget. He was so interesting to watch, whilst he was working on camera, and I learnt a great deal from him. Everywhere you looked on that set there was something extraordinary going on in the acting stakes. Lewis Collins, Armand Assante, Susan George, Jane Seymour, Lysette Anthony, Ray McAnally, Hugh Fraser, Ken Bones etc etc.They were all giving it their all. I was just glad I gave it mine!
(15) Finally, How would you like to be remembered? Just to be remembered at all would be nice! Again it was a massive privilege to interview Gary shail and a big thank you to followers of “Mods Of Your Generation”, Please continue to show your support. Please like & share the “Mods Of Your Generation” Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/modsofyourgeneration/ interview conducted by Johnny Bradley for “Mods Of Your Generation”interview (C) 2019 to Johnny Bradley & “Mods of your Generation”
Jamaican producer and musician Harry Zephaniah Johnson, 67, credited with producing what is widely considered the first reggae single “No More Heartaches” by the vocal harmony trio The Beltones, passed away on Wednesday, April 3 in his Westmoreland, Jamaica birthplace, succumbing to complications from diabetes; Johnson leaves four children and three grandchildren.
Born on July 6th, 1945, Johnson, better known as Harry J, initially entered the music business as a bass player with The Virtues prior to becoming the group’s manager. Shortly thereafter, he took a job as an insurance salesman but his love for music continually beckoned. He booked time at producer/sound system owner Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One in 1968 and recorded The Beltones. The resultant debut release on Johnson’s Harry J label, “No More Heartaches,” is considered a defining record heralding the emergence of the reggae beat as distinctive from its rock steady predecessor. (“Nanny Goat”, a 1968 song produced by the better-known Coxsone Dodd and sung by the duo Larry and Alvin is also cited as a transformative record, moving the rock steady tempo into a reggae rhythm).
“At the time we were under contract with Coxsone Dodd but he wasn’t doing anything for us so a member of a popular group The Cables took us to Harry J; Harry was new to the business and happy to record us so we broke away from Coxsone and went with him,” recalled The Beltones’ former lead singer Trevor Shields told Billboard.biz. “The driving sound on “No More Heartache” was totally different; we were like outsiders starting something new but didn’t know it at the time. The song was No. 1 on the Jamaican charts for about four weeks, which was no easy feat in those days.”
Harry J’s next big hit “Cuss Cuss” by Lloyd Robinson, released in 1969, boasts one of the most recycled reggae rhythms in the voluminous Jamaican music canon. The same year Harry J released a succession of reggae instrumentals credited to the Harry J All Stars, a revolving cast of musicians that included pianist Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson, keyboardist Winston Wright, bassist Jackie Jackson, drummer Winston Grennan and guitarist Hux Brown. “Smashville,” “Je T’Aime” and “Srpyone” an assortment of Jamaican originals and reggae adaptations of international hits, are just three of the Harry J All Stars’ instrumentals that garnered steady play from Kingston’s sound system selectors.
Their most successful was “Liquidator,” led by Winston Wright’s spirited keyboard solos, which peaked at no. 9 on the UK Singles chart and became an unlikely skinhead anthem there. The song’s opening bassline was subsequently featured on the introduction to The Staple Singers’ 1972 Hot 100 chart topper “Ill Take You There” (Stax Records). According to an April 7 report in the Jamaica Observer newspaper by Howard Campbell, based on a 2000 Observer interview with Johnson, drummer Al Jackson (of Booker T and the MGs, Stax’s in-house band) visited Kingston in 1969 and met Harry J who gave him a copy of “Liquidator”; Johnson was shocked to hear the song used in the Staple Singers’ hit and took aggressive steps to collect royalties from Stax but made little progress.
Following “Liquidator’s” UK success, British reggae label Trojan gave Johnson his own Harry J imprint; his instrumental productions never again reaped the popularity of “Liquidator” but Johnson triumphed working with several of the island’s vocalists commencing with Marcia Griffiths and Bob Andy: their 1970 duets covering Nina Simone’s “Young Gifted and Black” and Crispian St. Peters’ “The Pied Piper” reached the upper tiers of the UK singles charts.
In 1972 Johnson opened a sixteen-track studio at 10 Roosevelt Avenue, Kingston, which revolutionized the reggae capital’s recording industry. “Back then, we were recording two-track and four-track sessions so it took great foresight for someone to go all the way to 16-tracks, which brought us on par with the rest of the world,” engineer/musician/producer Stephen Stewart told Billboard.biz at Harry J studios; there Stewart learned audio engineering in the 1970s while still a teenager, working alongside the late Sylvan Morris. “Because he had the latest in technology Harry J attracted the best artists of the day,” Stewart noted.
A sampling of the classic 1970s roots reggae recordings done at Harry J studios includes: The Heptones’ “Book of Rules,” The Melodians’ “Sweet Sensation,” Toots and the Maytals’ “Reggae Got Soul,” Burning Spear’s “Days of Slavery” and Dennis Brown’s “So Long Rastafari.” Bob Marley and The Wailers also recorded their first four albums for Island Records at Harry J (“Catch a Fire,” “Burnin,” featuring Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, “Natty Dread,” and “Rastaman Vibration” with the I-Threes); presently, framed gold copies of those Wailers albums adorn the walls of the studio’s main room.
Harry J Studios are featured in the 1978 film “Rockers” (directed by Theodoros Bafaloukos and starring Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Gregory Isaacs and Jacob Miller) in a scene that spotlights singer Kiddus I recording “Graduation In Zion” there.
Although the 1970s were Harry J’s production heyday he continued to produce and release hit singles throughout the 1980s including Sheila Hylton’s cover of The Police’s “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”, which reached no. 38 on the UK singles chart. Harry J responded to the massive “Sleng Teng” rhythm released by the King Jammys label in 1984, which jumpstarted Jamaican music’s digital revolution, with his aptly titled “Computer Rule” rhythm that spawned numerous hits for various singers and toasters including Daddy Freddy, Charlie Chaplin, Uglyman, and Little John.
Following a seven-year dormancy during the 1990s, Harry J studios reopened in 2000, under the management of Stephen Stewart who refurbished and re-equipped the facility, with Johnson retaining ownership of the premises. “Harry J pushed the business aspect of the industry, putting deals together and cataloguing his songs (including releases on the Jaywax, Roosevelt, 10 Roosevelt Avenue and Sunset subsidiaries), which were separate from the studio operations,” Stewart offered.
Countless reggae veterans including Toots Hibbert, Burning Spear, Sly and Robbie and Luciano have recorded at Harry J studios in recent years while upstart Jamaican groups Raging Fyah and Di Blueprint Band and an abundance of European reggae acts have each sought out its authentic roots reggae sound. “People come here to capture that live session chemistry where recording is more than just one person using a computer program,” observes Stewart. “The legacy of the musicianship that has come through here makes Harry J studios really special, it’s part of the vision Harry brought to Jamaican music.”