I am very excited at being able to talk to Mickey Beaufoy, lead guitarist, and Steve Bruce, drummer, of Cock Sparrer.
Cock Sparrer were born in '72 when a group of school mates, influenced by the likes if The Faces, decided to form a band. They played locally, mainly at the old Bridgehouse. To-days line up still consists of four of the original members, Mickey, Steve, Colin McFaull on vocals and Steve Burgess on bass, joined by Daryl Smith on guitar, also guitarist for Argy Bargy, and road manager Will Murray.
Before the advent of Punk, Cock Sparrer, initially Cock Sparrow, were singing about everyday working class life in Dagenham...booze, birds, football. As a girl from the delights of Tilbury Docks along the river I can relate to the life!. The seeds of punk rock bought McClaren along to see the boys.
Lorraine - What did it feel like in those early days when Cock Sparrer seemed to have found their niche? It promised to be an exciting time, what did you see happening around you in the music scene?
Steve - It just sort of put us in the right direction. Instead of doing supports at clubs with bands you usually hated, who you had nothing in common with, you found clubs opening and we were playing with young, like minded groups. It was very exciting for a short while.
Mickey - The music scene was pretty stale when we started out. Some of the glam rock bands like Slade had stirred things up a bit but it was definitely time for a change. The energy at our gigs was unlike anything I'd seen before - thank god we had the Poplar boys on our side.
Lorraine - Everything seemed to move very fast in those days with the middle class powers that controlled the music business snatching back that control, leaving many bands and fans disillusioned. How did you view what was happening at the time and is that why Cock Sparrer lay down their instruments for a time?
Steve - We never really fitted in with punk. We always seemed to be on the perimeter. The crowd we attracted were more Upton Park than
Mickey - It was really hard work getting established - there certainly wasn’t any spare cash – we rehearsed in a garage lined with foam and mattresses and used to play for £5 a night and spend it all on fuel for the van and a few beers after the gig. Guitar strings used to last so much longer then……they were fine right up until they went rusty from the sweat and broke. When we signed for Decca it seemed like we had made it but they really didn't know what to do with us and it was soon obvious that there was no point in recording anything for a while as they had first dibs on any money that was generated. I never understood why they only released the album that we made=2 0with them in Spain - I never even knew about it until years after it had been released and have not even got a copy.
Lorraine - During this period you claim the only highlight to have been the West Ham ,Trevor Brooking, triumph over Arsenal in 1980 at Wembley. I have to say I was there and still have my ticket :-). Your interest in the music was reignited when Gary Bushell approached you with the idea for the first of three 'Oi' albums. Can you tell us a little about this period and did you take much persuading to have one of your songs included on the album?
Steve - We didn't really have much to do we it, we were just happy to be on
Mickey - Personally speaking, as the only Arsenal fan in the band, the West ham win was actually one of the low spots of 1980 - I never knew Brooking could head a ball before that shock goal. We did Bushell's birthday bash at the Bridgehouse which was absolutely rammed and I think that reignited the need to play music more that the Oi album inclusion.
Lorraine - I looked up 'Oi' on Wikipedia to find it described as 'a working class sub genre of punk rock that originated in the U K in the late 70's.' How would you define 'Oi' and the music of Cock Sparrer if you had to? Yes you have to :-)
Steve - Close enough I guess. I just think we play fast, catchy songs with a bit of an edge. Based on ourselves, or our observations or experiences.Mickey - We were playing what has since been called street music before Punk and Oi came along, it's only later that we have been pigeon holed in either of these two categories. We could only ever have played working class music about what was important in our lives - it's who we are. What we write is a mix of East End street life, cultural comment, humour and good stirring anthems – a lot of the credit for the lyrics is down to Burge - he is the source for probably 70% of all our songs.
Lorraine - Some people may not have heard the story of you being given a pre gig crate of beers in
Steve - We all stay sober now on the day of the gig and get plastered afterwards.We are mates first and a band second. We have always got together, along with the wives and kids. They are the best friends you could imagine. We have all been guilty at one time or another of being a complete arsehole while drunk.Mickey - We have a bad habit of having a few too many beers the night before the gig as we are meeting up with so many mates, which is why we are often seen wearing sunglasses on the morning of the gig. But we only have a couple of liveners on the day of the gig - people have come a long was to see us and we don't want to let them down. As Steve says after the gig all bets are off and I have seen the sun rise with a pint in my hand more than once.
Lorraine - Having had a few beers myself I have to ask Steve (Bruce) about this posing in teenage girls mag 'Oh Boy' in a 'sexy blue leather jacket'. What else were you wearing and were you chased relentlessly by young nubile fillies or are you still waiting? :-)
Steve - AH, those were the days! Fishnet tights and a pair of Wellington boots. I had my moment’s thank you. But I can't remember being chased!Mickey - No comment.
Lorraine - Throughout Cock Sparrers musical career you have been consistent in producing great, melodic, sing-a-long anthems that really lift the spirit. The brilliant album 'Here We Stand' produced by Lars Fredericksen, was released at the end of last year on the Captain Oi label, following a ten year gap since the release of the last album 'Two Monkeys' released on Bitzcore in 1997. Why so long?
Steve - We weren't happy with two monkeys.. Some good songs but it just wasn’t right. We had the opportunity to record another album in 2000 but Burge who writes the majority of the material wasn't satisfied with what we had and we didn't want to release a second rate album.This time we made sure everything was right.Mickey - As Steve said the previous albums since Shock Troops left us a bit frustrated - somehow the sound was not quite what we hoped for. There were some great songs and I love the albums when I put them on, but I have Here We Stand on my car stereo all the time - I'm glad we didn't rush it.
Lorraine - I have to say, I think us women get a raw deal in your songs. Strippers, tarts, shagged up allies....... Having said that, I was actually touched by the lyrics to East End Girl. Is it really just that you are overwhelmed by our superior beauty and intellect? :-D
Steve - Definitely. Most of the songs though are not generalisations. Sunday Stripper was our adolescent fantasy.Tart, Strip a boyfriend scorned/revenge songs.I think we are starting to get it right with east end girl and suicide girls as they are praising strong women and even last orders the girl chins the drunk. What more do you want!Mickey - I think that some of songs you mentioned put the men in the stories in a worse light than the girls - blokes fantasising over the strippers without ever having a hope of getting off with them. What about "Despite all this" - now that's a song about a strong woman who knows what she wants "She don't believe in compromise"....... I like to think that over the years we have matured in our attitude to women - you won't find a copy of Hustler under my bed - I hide them much more carefully than that.
Lorraine - There is a real buzz in
Steve - Us, only joking. I think people just get fed up with over produced soulless stiffs and need a bit of reality now and again.Mickey - I think that people will always want to hear genuine good music played by genuine people - and they don't come more genuine than us. We really are all still the best of friends even after 36 years - that's a lot of shared experiences.
Lorraine - Sooo, are you all prepared and looking forward to
Steve - I’d be very surprised if you didn't, except on gig day.There is always someone who wants to get their kit off, usually a 6ft.male skinhead.Mickey - Yep we're all champing at the bit - Blackpool is a real highlight of the punk/oi calendar and we're really up for it. Only planning to get drunk after our Saturday night gig - I'm guesting as the lead guitarist for the Crack on Friday and really don't want the usual hangover to start the day. Can't remember the last time we had a full strip - probably in CBGBs in New York in 2000. These days it's more normal for a bit of flirtatious dancing or a drunk skinhead but we never give up hope. Any offers - please e-mail Sparrer1@redhouseservives.com.
Lorraine - Finally, who does Daryl like best, Cock Sparrer or Argy Bargy? :-D
Steve - He is in a no win situation there so I’ll let him off with that one.Mickey - That's like asking him to chose between members of his family, so no comment must be my answer.
Lorraine - Thank you very much for taking the time out and I am really looking forward to seeing you in Blackpool ....even if it is a bit far North for me! X
Steve - My pleasure, all the best Steve.
Check out Cock Sparrer on Myspace
'BECAUSE YOUR YOUNG'