Transcript: Transcript Glam Rock Pioneer: John Springate and the unique sound of the Glitter Band

Thanks so much for being here with me. My special guest today is a very talented musician by the name of John spring gate. I’m not sure if you’re familiar or not with John, but I want to tell you I had to think very long and hard before agreeing to talk to him. Because for a great deal of his career, John was part of the glitter band, a group known mainly for its hard stomping glam rock, led by Juan Gary glitter. Glitter, of course, was convicted of child sex crimes and sentenced to 16 years in prison. And that’s really all I want to say about that. John’s bring gage assures me that he and the rest of the band knew nothing of glitters nefarious activities, and he says he and the other guys have paid a very heavy price for simply knowing the pedophile. Today we’ll hear bassist vocalist and songwriter John spring gates own story from being part of the glitter men, as the band was originally called to developing into a wholly original and captivating act in their own right, John Springdale. Great to meet you. And thank you so much for your time,


no problem.


You’ve got quite a big story to tell. I know that you’ve got a new album out now. And I’d like to come to that in just a little bit. Can we step back in time and talk to me about how you got to join the glitter band in the first place? All


right, let me get the brain cells working. Yeah, I think it will come about by my brother really. He had a group in the early 60s doing shadows music and the group used to rehearse in our front room at home and I can always remember what him the bass player and thinking I really liked the sound of that. And so eventually, I got to bass and I before I knew it, I was working with my brother. And we formed a three piece and we were making like 12 pounds and I we eventually ended up going to Canada. We had this dream in our heads that you perhaps it’s the back door to go into the states of being famous clincher we did come back we ended up backing Johnny Johnson on the bandwagon.


Before I joined, I was working with Clint Curtis, he used to be the lead singer of the foundation. So it was Kim coaches, the foundations, you know, I my brother and I had just come back from a work in in Canada for a long spell. And we were in the same for this group. So we were back in him. And by then I would I’d gone on to lead vocals with the band. And all my job was working with clay was he was seeing baby and I would go dad that I found you.


This isn’t a career move really isn’t you know, so I just decided to leave. I had nothing going on nothing at all. And I just decided to leave. And in those days, we had the Melody Maker, prime paper for any musicians who are looking for work every week that was loaded up with lots of lots of different work. And there were about five different ads that I answered, one of which was a Beach Boys band called Violet rounds decision. It was a local band to me where I lived in southeast London. I went for the test, they were having an army, you know, there just weren’t making up their mind at all. Then this other word ever came up, which said chart band seeks bass player. And vocalist, I thought, right. Okay, let’s have a little ring up. Now, when I rang them up, it turned out, I was talking to the tour manager, who I knew from previous bands when we’d been on the road, you know, we used to colleges and stuff like that. And he and he said, Come up that he said we actually is, you know, it’s for Gary Goodman in the glitter bet. And then that’s right. Okay. So is. He’s on TV tomorrow. Just have a quick look. And then give me a call back. If so if you want to come back up to the audition, which was in Sheffield was about 150 miles away. So I switched on what some of the pods watched what was going on. And I said to my mum, what about my image? You said what image she said you haven’t got an image. Because at that time is prior to glam rock. It was very traditional for musicians to wear the granddad t shirt and flared jeans. And that was it. That was the look that was said what image you haven’t got an image. Okay, all right. So anyway, I went up to the Sheffield in my Austin a 35. And they’re, they’re a collector’s item. Now I tell you, and I go to audition, and there were about 17 bass players sitting around. And what would happen was John Russell, who was the leader of the band was there, he was there, and one of the drummers and they were waiting for the rest of the band who were based in London to come up, but they weren’t getting there. So Steve, the two managers said, Go get up, play a bit. And I said, okay, so played a few things with the drummer, because everybody wanted to wait until the rest of the band right, but I wasn’t bothered, you know. So I got the job. However, in hindsight, I did find out the person I was replacing was this six foot guy who is overweight. And next setting is Jerry the guitar is didn’t wasn’t a good look. It just didn’t. So where I was saying I was the same height as Jerry, it wasn’t just the bike display. It was all to do with my look. And how tall you were. How short you were. That’s right. Yeah, you got the job.


So we’re roughly we’re both roughly about five foot five, you know, so that’s where it all started. So the 72 I think, it was.


So you said that John Russell was the leader of the band at the time. And you mentioned it was really strange when you join them in what way?


But it was something totally different. I mean, leaping into this new thing that was happening and it was glam rock. It was the beginning of I mean, I joined just out to dinner. I love detail. I saw your rock and roll was released. So it was right. I was right at the very beginning of it. And wearing the glittery mayhem were in these jumpsuits. It was just aliens totally alien to me. And it took me a while because I’ve done the claim Kaczynski but also I was very much a soul singer. And, you know, we’re talking about English Brit pop, basically, but rocked up. So did you take much convincing to get into the game? Not really. I mean, I thought well, I got the gig. And everybody was saying congratulations, you know, and, you know, it was I was in a band that was being successful, basically, you know, so it was just a totally it just because of readjusting. Basically. At the beginning of it. I thought I’m just gonna go with it. And the band always laughed at me because I always said I’ll give it I’ll give it three singles and an album and we had Good run. I mean it was five years it was a lot it was a long run. And it wasn’t until I did the first some of the pots were standing there on the stage hearing the intro music it suddenly hit me it was like I was actually quite drunk because it was the Christmas edition we’ve been invited into slides dressing room for a drink and we were getting really drunk. We’re doing rock and roll parts one and two and I was dressed in a in a brown cat suit with with green boots


Did you like the music or knew where it was? Where it come from? I mean, a lot of it was rooted in being very much Elvis. But the the core of the sound that Mike Leander got together was very much like there was a there’s a song that was out in the 60s. I’m trying desperately to think which one it was. And it just had this Bagby, which was very sparse, and you know, just drum orientated and vocal both vocally orientated. So it was just a unique sound as well.


Any you saying that glitter band sort of took on shades of that?


Yeah, most definitely. Yeah. I mean, as I say, Mike, the Ender invented it. He was the one who got it all together, and we adopted it as well.


Mike Leanda was a producer at Decca Records in the 60s. He worked on Maryanne Faithful’s earliest and most popular records, taking her from a person with a slight voice and no professional experience to someone whose songs were irresistible.


Leanda also worked with the VIPs, a group that evolved into spooky tooth. He produced Joe Cocker’s first single in 1964 and co-wrote two of Peter and Gordon’s hits. The glitter hits were informed by Leanne does fascination with the rhythm sounds of artists like John Kongos. He was that white South African guy who had a major hit with he’s gonna step on you again.


It’s very easy because we knew the recording process of how it worked with the drums, the special tuning of the guitar, which everybody was like, How’d you get that sound? You know? And it was a trade secret, which is fantastic. Can you share that now? Yeah, of course. Yeah. All the strings are tuned to a all the strings and so you got six strings on the guitar. So everyone is tuned to a Okay, so when you when you hit it is just a big Lang you know, it’s a big, it’s a big sound, you know, and we would we would record with with that guitar and the bass and the drums and plus with you know, with the with the bras as well. It just created a very unique sound.


It was a unique band, wasn’t it? The sound was unique. Yeah. As members you were unique and became an icon.


Well, there was a flattering statement once I think in Melody Maker was not certainly not NME. They hated us. But that was a vile paper anyway. But one of the papers they do, they did a weekly review of the new releases. And the headline was everybody wants to be like them, and a picture of us. Which was amazing. And there were plenty that came along that coffee weren’t there.


Yeah, but also in the running there were also some great bands like sweet and mud. I must say we sweet you know that they’ve made some incredibly good records and they were a good band. They really were it’s just so sad that there’s only one left. Absolutely you know, there’s not many of us left unfortunately.


British Glam Rock Band Sweet with Ballroom Blitz. Today, Andy Scott is the only living member and he’s still active with his version of the band suite sold more than 35 million albums worldwide. I’ll be back in a sec with more.


So glad you’re still here. I’m chatting with John spring gate from the glitter band. The group was formed by producer Mike Leander in 1972 as backing and session musicians for Gary Glitter, who fell dramatically from grace. John Russell was the musical director. And in an effort to distance themselves from their ashamed lead singer John had the glitter band start recording singles of their own. One of those was angel face.


Unfortunately, while they tried to avoid the shadow of Gary Glitter, the band started hopping around stylistically a little too much to establish an identity of their own. And John Russell left the group in 1974.


Yeah, that’s right. He was he went on to do some solo work and what happened with the band? How did things change then? Well, we carried on as normal, really, it was just a case of, you know, there was very much a sort of a systematic thing of writing songs as to be the next single, and we didn’t make it as a single that will go on to an album. So that’s, that’s what happened.


Right? You were responsible for writing a couple of their hits, weren’t you?


I was in the well, people like you. And people like me, was the main one. We did have a couple of things after that, which didn’t, weren’t very successful. But people like you. Yeah, it became incredibly successful in Germany.


I think a radio station used it as an ident because they were had this program about people talking to each other. And so people like you, and people like me and so, so that was quite nice, you know?


Yeah. What were you writing about John?


That particular song? Yeah. Well, I think we were just doing making a statement about people getting on with each other basically, at all, you know, it wasn’t a big deal. And I don’t think we could base it on anything that was going on at the time I don’t think there was any sort of war going on or anything like that. I think we just wrote it as a give peace a chance you know, it was one of one of those sorts of things you know, you also did loving the sun?


Yeah, that was a very hard song to write people like you I mean, we did about three different versions of that song because we couldn’t get it right in the feel of it because we didn’t know which way it was gonna go because if it could have had a big gospel feel to it people like you and people like me and it was just over the top and then we try I think we tried some other way then Jive Talking came out.


so the idea you know, and we kind of based it around that a little bit you know, for the whole field of me you know, and I did a sort of a Curtis Mayfield High voice on the track which worked but loving the sun was very lyrically very difficult to write we had a Jerry and I had a hard time we had a deadline as well and we would write in the lyrics in the studio as well. So I mean sometimes the adrenaline in fact the good does get going when you gotta go I’ve got to get this finished gotta get this finish.


Hard to Be extra creative best when you’ve got deadlines like that to meet sometimes, but sometimes it works and sometimes it goes you got to do it. You got to get it done, you know, we’ve got there in the end.


Very much a sort of a Beach Boys flavor, which was a nightmare to perform on Stage, you know, that it worked out. Okay.


Was there a lot of pressure on you to keep coming up with the hits and keep making albums in record time? excuse the pun?


Well, yes and no. I mean, well, it was just a case of getting on with it really, I don’t know what arrangements a production company made with the record company as far as like the release value goes, how many per year and stuff like that? Because I certainly with some groups, that I’m based in us anywhere near the Beatles, you know, but it was very interesting that George Martin and Brian Epstein and got together and they planned how many singles they would do a year, how many albums they would do, uh, you know, so with our something, we I think, you know, we did, after rock’n’roll, dudes, we did listen to the band, which in our brain was probably our Pet Sounds, if you like, we really mean by there, it was very much a good quality album. I’ll give you an example. The opening track is called Where have you been, which, for me was quite an epic, it was six or seven minutes long. And it was it was bits and pieces of songs, which I couldn’t put anywhere. And I just joined them up to make this sort of mini opera, if you like. And one of the fans told me that a brother she she said, My brother hates the band. She said, But I put the album on. And we haven’t been check came on where have you been? And he came in said, that’s great. Who is that? She said, the glitter band he said what?


As albums go listen to that, and I think was probably a pinnacle of writing. It was all good stuff.


The band really did polarize audiences, didn’t they? I think girls liked you much more than boys, generally speaking, and also the music just for the whole look and feel.


Yeah. I don’t know why, because we weren’t the most subtractive band in the world, you know, but was anybody in those days? I think, you know, I’d look at the look. And you know, the long hair and you think, I don’t really know, they were it was some attractive guys around. You know, David Essex was incredibly good looking.


John, what did your mother think? Oh, well, I mean, my mother was a total nightmare when it came down to being successful, Amelia. Like any proud parent, she was an absolute nightmare with friends. If they came around knocking on the door, she really invited me in for tea. You know, it wasn’t a case of like, Oh, he’s not in the moment. Go away, you know. And I always remember one time we were doing this big show of Brands Hatch, you know, the the racing track. It was a radio one big day. And there were lots of different acts there. Lots of different people. And it was one of those days where you were constantly in the public eye, and you were signing autographs, and you’re smiling, blah, blah, blah, you know. And when I got home, my mom had about three or four fans sitting in the in the front room having cups of tea, and I just wanted the claps, I just wanted to sort of go go, and then I had to keep the beaming smile and be nice to everybody. But she was obvious. She used to do this. Sometimes, if we were out, she pulled behind me. She will be harmed me have you peek to find out. See if anybody’s looking at me as they pass by me.


And she didn’t tell you off? wearing the makeup and the long hair and the crazy clothes?


Oh, no. I mean, my mother was very good light and my father as well you know that they didn’t have any problems with it. I do remember that, you know, the very first Top of the Pops I did. After which the next day I just went up the road to the newsagents to get a paper or something like that. And I did get the sense of people looking at me. I did get the sense of it. It was very strange, you know, but you just get used to it. There was a rule for me anyway that I didn’t go out between four and six because that’s when the schools came out. Don’t go anywhere between those hours because that’s very funny that you say that Tony Burrows whom I’m sure you’re well aware of talks about getting on the tube one day and he got into a carriage full of 14/15 year old girls was forced to get off at the next station. And what were you afraid of? I couldn’t handle it. I had to get out of it. I guess that’s the same thing you were saying to. Nobody even knew his face. Everybody knew your face right from the band. You are out there performing all over the place. Well, absolutely, yeah. But it was a good time you had and the band all got on well together.


Yeah, it was a good time. We did a gig in in Sweden. And this band came to see us they thought we were fantastic. They came back to places that we really liked, you know what you do and stuff like that. Three weeks later, we see them on Eurovision song contest with a star guitar and dressed up with more or less the same clothes as we had and that was Abba.


We just couldn’t do that transition. I mean, listen to the band was hopefully going to be a transition from not just being a glam rock band, but a band with the future. You know, and then we were trying to change the name, we changed the name to G band because it’d be thought, Let’s drop the glitter. Let’s just try and be something a little bit more mature if you like, you know. And then we did Paris Match. Unfortunately, I didn’t like at all it was just so dance orientated. And it was getting totally away from any rock bearings, you know, not that we were overly rock orientated, but it needs to be that sort of events, I think to make it work. But for Martin the end, they would produce this I think he was just sort of like going to too many discos thinking oh, this is this is where it should go


You bumped up against the disco craze as well as the punk phase, right?


Yeah. But the punk I tell this story so many times. And it’s a good illustration. And I remember I remember saying to Jerry guitarists, I said, You know what, I think there’s just time for another band like the WHO to come along. I said, it’s that time, you know, because we were doing tops of pops. And everyone was getting bored with it. It was really funny. Even the director came down to the girls and boys and said, Come on, this is your show. You should be enjoying yourself, you know, you know, things were going on. We had this phone call from the office saying this new band, The Sex Pistols. They’re doing a gig at a place called The Notre DOM holiness, the square defence are going along. And Jerry and I said, Yeah, okay. Yeah. Well, we went along to the gig. And we went in and the DJ was playing Led Zeppelin. It was really weird. Because at that time, there were no punk records at all. There were none that absolutely not. And Jerry and I were the only two people wearing flared trousers, or the rest said drainpipes, or you know, just something else, you know. So anyway, they came on, and they did about four numbers. And I looked at Jerry, I remember distinctly to this day, I pretty much said, Well, that’s it then. No, that’s it. And I swear, I think within about two or three months, all the glam rock bands were dead in the water. You couldn’t sell us for love nor money, because by then the whole thing took over. And that was it. It was dead.


I really apologize for that assault on your ears. I’m not a fan of punk music either. In 1977 the glitter band tried one more time, they released their final single gotta get a message back to you under the new name of air traffic control. However the tune never made it. And they knew the time had come to an end. But our story hasn’t so high noon, we’ll be right back.


Welcome back. If you’ve just joined us glitter band bassist songwriter and vocalist John spring Gage has been telling us of his rather wild ride through the 70s. And how glam rock fell victim to the times when it collided head on with disco, and punk rock.


Luckily for me, I had aspirations of getting a recording studio together, which I’d started. And by the time the whole thing grinded to a halt with a glitter ban. I don’t mind recording studio. So I you know, managed to sort of digitalization, yeah. But how was it for you with the realization that it was over?


I don’t know, really, I don’t know how I felt at the time, I think I’d had enough. To be honest, I think all of us had had enough, partly because we weren’t getting in the frustration of not getting the public support of swapping over to be a bit more of a mature band, but also for the the aspect of we were absolutely screwed with the money, like a lot of other bands. And so that wasn’t helping is as much as like, you know, what’s the point of carrying on if we if we’re not making any money, or it’s the hearing to make any money. So for me, it was like, I was quite happy to go into a situation where the recording studio I’d come from being a pop star to recording engineer is very, very weird, which is something I’ve never never done in my life. So when you’re first starting again, no, that’s great. John spring gate and the glitter band. I do have to ask you, Gary, of course, during this time, Gary, whose real name is Paul gad. At this time, it sold some aging million records. And he was abusing young girls. Yeah. The band has always claimed you knew nothing about this. Is that really the case? Yeah.


Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Whereas with Jimmy Savile, it was a different story. I mean, when we used to do, it was very odd, because when we used to do till the pumps at the Television Center, he had his own, you had a caravan parked up, you know, people would be sort of saying now then now then, you know, come into my little caravan little garden and and stuff like that. And it was just done in a jokey way, which on reflection was the truth, you got to remember this. And this is another thing I’d say. When we worked with Gary, he stayed in for house star hotels, we stayed in the bed and breakfast, he had the Rolls Royce, we had the full transit van. When we got two gigs, we had a cupboard to get change in here, the dressing room. So there was just total polarization, you know, between the two of us. And he was Gary Glitter, and we were just the menials. So we knew nothing about what was going on with what he what he did, or anything in that respect. Nothing at all. This whole thing only came to light because he went into PC World and asked them to repair. He asked them to repair his computer, but don’t look at his personal files, which they did, of course. And, you know, the stupidity of the man in reflection in a way you know what I mean? Yeah. If you’ve got that sort of thing on your computer, you smash it into a million pieces. You don’t go in that subnet to repair it and ask them not to have a look at it flagged that there was something on there. That’s right. So I mean, he sounds like he was really full of his own self importance.


Totally. I mean, well, nobody else could be Gary Glitter but him no question about it took his sort of mass ego massive ego to be Gary Douglas.


Oh, and how did you handle that ego? I mean, you and the other guys in the band and you just put up with it, though we told him to eff off sometimes, you know, go away and then I suppose what I’ll be the worst things were soundchecks sands Expo it could be an absolute nightmare especially if there was anybody in the hall be there they’re there for a reason security or something like that if it would get the sense of having a an audience there for some reason, you know, it would say can we go over a leader of the gang I don’t think was quite good last night. This is like, what are you talking about? We’ve been doing this stuff for like 20 years?


In some situations, I would just pull my plug out and say, That’s enough for me. Thank you very much and leave the stage and then you’d know the soundcheck is his behaviour certainly tarnished the rest of the band, didn’t it? We were able to get away from that.


No, no, it’s now become a little bit that is eased off a little bit because we’re now doing Butlins 70s weekends. So we’re Butlins is a holiday camp. Yeah, in the UK. They’ve got three big sites, and they do 70s weekends 80s weekends, not his weekends and stuff like that. So we are doing the 70s weekends we’ve only just started to do them but it’s guilty by association you know, that’s all that’s all it is.


Do you think that people generally believe that you didn’t know anything about it? Or they go Oh, yeah, of course you know, they would say that maybe don’t know. I don’t really know but no I can I can tell you now we just knew nothing about it. So I would presume is management team around him probably do knew something that was going on, you know, but for, for us knew nothing about it whatsoever.


Well, John Springate probably a good thing that you’ve started doing solo work since then. I believe one of the highlights of your career was teaming up with Jerry Shepard again in the year 2000. To write the song which represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest. Tell us about that.


I’ll never forget I’ve written to be Jerry for about a good 15 years and I rang him I said you first did some writing and he came. I said the aura. So he came over and I remember distinctly getting that song together all the bits and pieces that came together with it. And we were trying to write a middle eight and we couldn’t think of anything I said I said this is your revision this song is your revision. I said let’s forget the middle light and do a key change and finish it. So with your revision it has to come in at three minutes as came in at two minutes. 47 seconds perfect.


John and Jerry chose British vocalist Nicky French to sing it for them five years previously, we had a massive hit with Total Eclipse of the part which we did as a dance version.


I haven’t been doing a lot since then I rang her up I said, Nikki, would you put the invoice on? Yeah okay. I said do you like Eurovision? She said I love yours I said we’re gonna get the fee just come over and do it she came over and she put a voice in and I just instinctively it was one of those results this is perfect. And they didn’t edit 24 countries became 16 I always had this feeling of like, I don’t care if we win or not. Our son was the last that that breed of song. The entry was a lot fairer. I literally I just put it in the post. And that was it.


Understandably, John was pretty proud that his tune had made it to Eurovision. Since then he’s continued to write and produce material and has just released his latest album. Why is it called 72 because that was my age. When I when I released it for albums 67 The other ones aren’t there. But I did the Adele thing I’ll just use my age. It’s it’s hard work trying to think of an album title. It really is. Wherever my age was at the time, I just put it down. Is that cool?


So can you tell us a little bit about the album? Yeah, it’s just a collection of new songs that we’ve written. I mean, I’ve quite amazed myself over the last like, five years I’ve written like 40 songs, you know, 10 songs for each album. So it’s been four or four albums. And it’s still there, you know, the writing is still there. So what I try to do with each album is try to pick on different genres of music not the you know something which is going to be more rocky or it’s going to be something very Baladi with acoustic or I always plan to put a reggae song on there or a scar song, you know. And eventually, I’ve got one on there called anyway the wind blows at the moment with an English singer is picked up and done a done a version of it.