Mark Helfond is a lovely man, very unassuming and gentle person (am I spoiling your street cred) he lived through the very early days of Punk (before 'Punk' had a name).
He was there with the bands, as his close friends, ‘The sex pistols’, ‘The Clash’etc.
Mark worked for The Clash manager ‘Bernie Rhodes’ and he even posed for the cover of a Clash single.I also read in John Robb's 'Oral guide to Punk History' that he ran The Clash fan club.
Marks story is relatively unknown to many and he keeps a low profile - this guy has some stories to tell................so why wait any longer let's get to it!
Mel - Mark I know you were one of the very first to be part of the 'punk movement' in London in late 1975 you were part of the inner clash circle and your known as an authority on the early punk days ...tell me more ? You've also been very good friends with Glenn Matlock for decades, how did you meet?
Photo of Glenn Matlock and Mark Helfond at St Martins 1975
Mark - Glen Matlock and I met up at St Martins School of Art in 1974.
Yes that St Martins given a name check in Common People by Pulp.
Anyway, what I mean by this story is that in general, females attended St Martins not as a calling, but were placed by their parents as a cheap finishing school. So as the males generally came from less higher social strata, we tended to bond together.
Other persons in our year were Frank Tovey (who went on to become Fad Gadget… now sadly no longer with us) and Nick Cash, a drummer who has worked with many groups since. In fact Nick’s name was his real name. His moniker was purloined a few years later by Keith Lucas (from Ian Dury’s Kilburn and the High Roads who then formed 999).
Mel - How did you get start to get acquainted with ‘The sex pistols’ in 1976?
Mark - Sometimes Glen would bring some of his friends into the School canteen. Glen introduced his friends as Steve and Paul. Nearly all teenagers then had long hair and we were all no different. One day, Glen, Steve and Paul came into the canteen and they all had their locks chopped off. They stated that they had started a band that was named QT and the Sex Pistols. They asked if Nick and I would like to see their band rehearse that night at Hammersmith Studios.
Mel – What about the artwork during this period?
Mark - During the coming months while at
Mel - When you worked for Bernie Rhodes and the clash why were you called Mark “Frothler” Helfond.
Mark - I found this out only over recent years. I got the nickname from Steve Jones. Apparently he believed I had a resemblance to Frankie Howard and his mannerisms. You may remember Up
Mark on stage with 'The Clash's Joe Strummer
Mel – Give us a good on the road Clash Gig tale.......spill the beans
Mark - I’ll tell you about one of the best gigs I’ve seen. In 1977, the Clash did a 3 date excursion in
Mel - A little unknown fact for our readers you appeared on the cover of the single 'rock the cashbah' who's idea was this and how long did you have to stand on one leg lol
Mark - Kosmo Vinyl, the band’s publicist and grand fromage, was responsible for the set-up. He cajoled me into dressing up as a frummer… an orthodox hasidic jew with all the trimmings… fake hair plats, the Polish business man outfit, a large hat purchased from ‘Golders Green Road’, dark shades, the whole shebang.
The photo session was arranged for Peter Ashworth’s studio in Clerkenwell. Kosmo had in tow one of his mates, again cajoled for the Arab role. Peter decided to use fast film for the session, which meant having set up the pose, the characters had to hold the pose due to the long shutter speed. From my ungainly position, you may gather that it was extremely difficult to maintain complete stillness and I fell over on my arse a few times before Peter got the pic he wanted.
Mel - You appear in 'The devil dolls rock n roll street gang video' with Ray Gange (The Rude Boy actor), to a B side track of theirs called Radio London. How did this come about?
I think you filmed in and around
Mark - About 5 years ago, Glen got invited to
Thirty years on and time marches on. There’s not many a building or places left. For example the pub the Clash used to frequent, ‘The
Mel - What has changed from the 70's music scene to today's music industry?
Mark - I recently bumped into a friend of a friend who owns one of the last independent record stores in
Mel - Do you still see any of ‘The Clash’ members around? What do you think about the music they are making now, such as Carbon/Silicone and The good the bad and the queen? What's Bernie Rhodes doing these days?
Mark – I still see Paul, Mick and Topper very occasionally. Although as Topper lives in
Bernard is working on his novels and threatens to release the first of the trilogy later this year.
Mark with Veronica Wurter, Glenn Matlock and Spizz Engergi
Mel - What music do you listen to now - what bands do you go and see live?
Mark - Have to say that there’s not a lot out there which tickles the fancy. But over the past year I can recommend ‘Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’. A three piece band of teenage siblings, knocking out various interpretations of early R’n R.
Also, try to check out ‘The Hugs’ from
Sad to say that I’ve seen many bands over the past year, and none of them have that edge. Hey, I would really love to see something fresh, stimulating and vital but unfortunately it’s just not there. Maybe that’s the reason why The Police, Queen etc all can raise their heads over the parapet again. Just no decent competition.
Mel - I see you have a great interest in literature and the arts - tell us more. Who/what are your inspirations?
Mark - I can always read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and what makes Sammy run by Budd Schulberg. I revisit those books constantly. Patricia Highsmith’s stuff is cool. Most people would’ve dipped into the Ripley series but I also recommend her short stories. I’ve always loved Allen Jones and over the past few years managed to acquire a few prints and watercolors. In fact on my visit to a private view, I got invited to dinner afterwards with the great man. Fantastic!
Mel - Did you read 'Redemption song' the biography of Joe Strummer by Chris Salewicz and if so what was your opinion?
Mark - I haven't read the book, I know he spent yonks on research and he is a real nice bloke... but a criticism I've heard is that there's not enough of Joe's dark side included. Joe made promises he knew he couldn't keep and many close people got turned over.. not Machiavellian stylee, but strung up like a kipper nether the less. Yet because of his charm and personality, few are bitter... Joe did have that aura that filled a big room. For a top read, I'd recommend Pat Gilbert's "Passion is a fashion"... very well rounded and does provide a true flavour of events and character.
Mel - Finally one last question what about the Joe Strummer movie by Julian Temple? I know you went to see this what was your impressions, did it do Joe justice?
Mark - As a kid, I remember Neapolitan Ice Cream.. I don't know if Walls still make it, but it was three different flavours and colours of ice cream in one slab. Now "The future is unwritten" is a bit like that but not so tasty. It starts off being a straight documentary and then into something else & then into some lark about campfires. I left scratching my head & wondered was it me, only to turn round and notice that everyone was bewildered as well.
Many thanks for the interview Mark - see you in 'The Elephants Head' drinks are on me !!
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