Introduction by Tony Rettman
Interview by Dale Nixon and Tony Rettman
Many knuckleheads were hipped to the talents of the British born Laurice via Robin Willis’ excellent Pure Pop blog a few years back when he posted the simply brain bursting pre-punk/trash glam single Laurice co-wrote/performed with Simon Godd in 1973 under the band name of Grudge*. Further thread pulling from the nerd crowd unearthed other unknown gems he was involved in from that era, including the druggy groove bomb of a 45 recorded under the name Paul St. John as well as the crunching and highly-sought after one-off single from Glam stompers Spiv. Some were all him, some saw him in the production seat, but every single one of them bits of plastic showcased someone with a singular vision who was very adept at making Champagne outta Carlsberg.
The later part of the seventies saw Laurice fly the coop of the U.K for the U.S and eventually Canada to become a disco diva of the ‘highest’ order. Check the cover of his Disco Spaceship 12” and try to tell us this guy wasn’t doing something of his own in the days of feathered hair and earrings. He had a brief foray into New Age and Smooth Jazz in the past few years, but is now mining his seventies archives due to the interest in that era of his career being shown by various turkeys of various stripes. Check out The Best of Laurice Volume One (Mighty Mouth) to see what he’s done dug up and sit tight for Volume Two.
For now, read the interview ya simp…
*= No relation to the late eighties SoCal Straight Edge parody group of the same name. We apologize for any confusion.
200LBU: Let’s start at the beginning. Where exactly do you hail from?
LAURICE: North Wales. I graduated from Leeds in northern England, an old redbrick university. At the time, it was very unusual for a guy with a degree to go into the music business. My career councilors were very puzzled. They wanted to know why I came to university. I told them it was because I wanted to prove I could do it. Degrees were very tough to get in those days. It’s much easier now.
200LBU: So what happened after that?
LAURICE: London. I worked for a music publishing company and became a talent scout for Pye Records, the home of Petula Clark of Downtown fame. I was also a resident songwriter, session singer and producer. I composed a lot of pop and rock music at the time. All sorts.
200LBU: Who were some of the artists you brought to Pye?
LAURICE: I brought a great glam rock band to the label, Spiv. I loved their energy and vitality. I immediately decided to write a commercial song for them. We made a demo – and it was steamy hot. But the record label guy was a dope. He insisted on going back into the studio to remake it. I did that, and even though it came out well, it never recaptured the energy and vitality of that demo.
I recorded Odyssey – A Greek band, because they were so different. I adapted an old Persian folk song into the track that became She Brings Me Love and they were very professional and cooperative. But the most professional artist I ever worked with was the little ten year old girl I worked with. Weeny Bopper and I wrote and produced David, Donny and Michael for her. No temperament, no fuss. She just was all business and a real pleasure to work with. There were others, but those three really stood out. Of course there was Paul St. John – FlyingSaucers Have Landed/Spaceship Lover - a great psychedelic space opus - both songs slated for Best Of Laurice Volume 2.
200LBU: What is the full story on that Spiv single?
LAURICE: It’s heartbreaking, really. As I told you before, I liked their energy and vitality when I saw them perform and heard a rough demo. They nixed the demo and then I remade it and released it. Unfortunately the BBC, which was the ONLY outlet for playing music at the time, had a real grudge against British artists. They only wanted to play American artists. Go figure. The supposed promotion teams from the record companies were virtually dumping promotional copies of records on the BBC’s doorstep. I was so angry about this practice that I literarily made a sandwich board and paraded up and down outside the BBC building in London saying that the BBC was unfair to British artists! But how do you break it to a band that their record, which was great, wound up on the BBC doorstep garbage heap? That is why so many artists left Britain during this period.
200LBU: What would you say were your biggest successes in the UK?
LAURICE: When Christine Comes Around/I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In by Grudge. As I have always said, they were punk rock before punk rock was even thought of! You shoulda heard the original demo of Christine. Friggin’ awesome, man. Almost a Beach Boys surfing 60’s feel to it. I had an acetate of it and it’s slated for Best Of Laurice Volume 2 – so look out for it, it’s really hot!
200LBU: I know you've probably told this story a million times, but give the back story on When Christine Comes Around.
LAURICE: My college mate Simon Potter was the co-writer of When Christine Comes Around. He became the head of the English Department at famous Wimbledon College, the Jesuit school for boys in London. When he started, he lived in a ground floor flat. Simon had a lovely girlfriend. But there was this girl who had an apartment above him and every time he had a visitor there would be a knock at the door and there she would be. She was a very homely girl and she could suck the oxygen out of a room in two minutes. And guess what her name was? Christine! We were driving over London Bridge one day after a friggin’ awful evening visit by this woman and Simon was talking about what he wanted to do to her. I said why don’t we write a song about it? It took us about 20 minutes and it was done.
200LBU: Who’d you have to convince to get that on vinyl?
LAURICE: I had hooked up with this guy Cyril Black. Cyril was a real character. At that time there was a very famous band leader called Stanley Black. He was very well regarded and very prestigious and then there was his brother Cyril - who was a walking embarrassment to Stanley, apparently! Cyril was really hungry for success. He had this tiny little room in Denmark Street, London’s Soho – Tin Pan Alley – the music row of that time.. He was such a stereotype, this little Jewish guy in Tin Pan Alley with glasses. You could trust him as far as you could throw him – which wouldn’t be very far. We went to see him and sung When Christine Comes Around to him and he thought that it was wonderful. Somehow he happened to know this rich heiress called Prudence. We went to see her and sang the song to her. Prudence thought it was wonderful and we were in the studio before we knew it with my band and it just took off. She loved I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In as well.
200LBU: And you spent some time at Abbey Road studios around that time as well, correct?
LAURICE: I met the Hollies and attended a few of their recording sessions. And I also attended some of the Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother Sessions.
200LBU: That must have been quite a thrill.
LAURICE: Well quite honestly it was rather a shock. The whole image of Pink Floyd was supposed to be anti-establishment at the time. But all I heard from the band there was "Will it be a hit?" and "Is it commercial enough?" It was really quite sobering.
200LBU: Did it sour you on the band?
LAURICE: Oh, not at all. I knew exactly where they were coming from. It was a relief to know that they were actually human, like the rest of us.
200LBU: What was your take on the Progressive Rock scene going on in England at the time you were producing?
LAURICE: After attending the Pink Floyd sessions, I realized that all these bands wanted commercial hits. After all, it was their bread and butter and their way to the big time. The progressive rock scene went in all different directions, and it was very exciting, with The Beatles leading the way. I was fortunate enough to attend a Moody Blues audition practice session before they really hit the jackpot, and they were just great, particularly Justin Hayward. He had a terrific presence. They did Nights in White Satin and I just loved it. I finally liked The Cream, mainly because I just loved Eric Clapton’s voice and his use of lead guitar. But there were so many good progressive British rock bands that just came out of the woodwork. Some sparkled for a moment and vanished, never fully receiving their due, while others are classics to this day: Eric Burdon and The Animals, The Searchers, The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Procul Harum, Genesis, Jethro Tull – I could go on and on. But to fully answer your question, I basically dug their progressive creativity. The 1960s and 1970s were the most progressive and influential periods of contemporary music up until now.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR PART TWO OF THE LAURICE INTERVIEW AND PURCHASE ALL THE RE-ISSUES DONE BY MIGHTY MOUTH HERE.
OH DUH...CHECK OUT LAURICE'S WEBSITE AS WELL