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  • Barclay James Harvest - Woolly Wolstenholme and The Mellotron

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  • Alan Freeman Interview, December 1987

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    Original URL path: /fluff.htm (2016-02-08)

  • Woolly Wolstenholme Interview, November 1988

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  • John Lees Interview, April 1989
    pack now which is Jon Astley who has a lot of credibility In the States and Canada and also has an American management who are very keen on the project and very pleased with what they ve heard already We sent two rough mixes of unfinished tracks to America and Jon Astley s manager heard these and thought they were finished mixes So from that point of view it s very encouraging NL Have you heard Jon Astley s solo albums what did you think JOHN I liked the album The Compleat Angler there s a couple of songs on it two or three that I think are very very good I ve not heard the first album He s just got a big advance from the Americans to do a third album so he s obviously somebody to watch NL Going back to selecting material for your own LPs do you think there s a danger of being too democratic in that you tend to split songwriting credits down the middle If Les came along with ten really strong songs would you record a whole LP of his material JOHN I suppose you d have to The way it works out really is that they look at Les s songs and they pick the best of his songs then they pick the best of my songs I think the problem is that they are so very different at least for the past few albums the material that Les writes and that I write is absolutely poles apart but a lot of people think that s good NL Could you envisage Les and yourself writing a song together at any stage JOHN I don t know that s not something I ve thought about We haven t actually sat down and written songs together in the past but I have helped him in the early days to do a lyric or two Early Morning was the only song that the band actually wrote together NL Some of the early songwriting credits are a little confused JOHN It was democratic in those days When we set off it was decided that we would sign as Barclay James Harvest as a group and that everything would be split between the four of us In actual fact most of the material was written by myself and Woolly in the early days but to make sure there was no disparity everything was split four ways so anything that was split four ways came out as credited to Barclay James Harvest Before we actually got a record deal we did an enormous amount of songs maybe something like fifty or sixty songs that never saw the light of day There were very few of those early songs that ever got onto record I don t know what happened to the demos I ve just got a list of titles We did a documentary film for Granada Television and that s got material on it that has never seen the light of day NL If you were told that money was no object and that you could use the very latest technology to re record an old song which song would it be JOHN I don t know I don t remember half of them If I could do any one I d like to do Pools Of Blue one of the early unreleased demos with a full orchestra At the same time as I wrote Pools Of Blue I wrote Mocking Bird Dark Now My Sky and Galadriel and Pools Of Blue was the one that was picked to be the follow on to Early Morning but we never came to terms with it it s all about somebody that s blind it s imagining what it would be like all the things that we can see that a blind person can t see only touch and smell NL Can we expect any surprises on the next tour JOHN The album will dictate exactly what happens afterwards Hopefully the record will sell because to tour you have to have promoters who want you to tour and they have to put up the money We ll know when the album s finished whether we ve managed to do the trick or not We feel like it s a real watershed in our career and we re going to go out and do an absolutely magic album that s going to grab everybody by the throat and make them go out and buy it NL In a poll in the club magazine the top three songs that people wanted you to play live were For No One Suicide and Guitar Blues any chance of you doing any of these JOHN For No One is a great song isn t it I was listening to that the other day when I was doing some work for this album I went back and listened to a few old tracks Suicide that s another one they still shout for that Again it s something that I don t have any control over it s democratic the three members of the band pick with the management and at the end of the day you go with whatever the majority say I really wanted to do more of the old stuff on the last tour I wanted to do Jonathan I think it s one of the best songs that Les has ever written but it didn t go in the act NL A lot of people asked us why you didn t perform Guitar Blues JOHN 1 really don t know Guitar Blues interesting song that it goes back a long way it was written for Ring Of Changes There were a couple that didn t get on that album and that was one of them so it went on the Face To Face album That has happened a few times in the Barclays career Child Of The Universe got overlooked and Hymn was around for a long time before it was recorded NL You brought back Medicine Man which went down a storm JOHN That was David Walker he s been trying to get us to do that for years I ll go along with that Again it s a super song NL Are there any others that you d like to air again JOHN Certainly For No One is a cracking song it really is and Suicide is as well from a performance standpoint On that last verse you could hear a pin drop I was always really impressed with that people were really listening to it NL Have you got a favourite amongst your own songs JOHN I liked How Do You Feel Now I thought that was an absolutely brilliant song it was just the wrong person singing it It really wasn t a song that somebody like me should have sung I couldn t do it justice If some really big singer had done a cover of it NL You re obviously quite a private person does it bother you when fans seek you out at home JOHN Yeah it really embarrasses me I can t handle it I have to obviously but I don t really relate to what they relate to It s kind of like when I read Nova Lepidoptera I probably read it like one of them all these stories about this John Lees character These people see this lifestyle they see you on tour and this sort of mad extravagant thing but when you re at home you re not like that at all you re just like them so it comes as a bolt out of the blue when someone recognises you That s the price you pay I suppose In one respect we re lucky I think that we re not monstrous in England I m sure I m quite eccentric but I have no illusions I m just a normal person that is artistic NL You don t think that fame has affected you at all JOHN No NL Do you see yourself as famous JOHN No I don t What s fame A good indication of the kind of reaction you get here is the chap that we re working with now Andy Mac When it was all being put together that we were going to be produced by Jon Astley and Andy MacPherson it s a joint production we had to provide them with back catalogue of everything we d done for them to listen to to see where we were going I got a phone call from Andy MacPherson who said I ve just listened to all this stuff and it s going to sound really bad but I ve never heard anything you d done before and it s brilliant He really enthused about Face To Face and said Now I realise what kind of standards I m going to have to better NL If with this album you suddenly became as big as say Dire Straits or Fleetwood Mac could you handle it JOHN Oh yeah Everything s keyed up and ready to go No problem at all that s the beauty of twenty odd years experience so I think at this stage of the game I could quite easily cope with every benefit This kind of music does have a wide appeal If a wider audience could be subjected to it If it would be possible finally to get something through people would have all those other albums to go back to The band has never got over the fatal mistake it made right at the beginning this band was a working band so by the time the first album hit the market we d got a substantial following The trouble was and this is where the trouble s always lain that the media didn t discover the band the people that we played to discovered the band and the press has never forgiven that Even to this day that kind of stigma s carried on reporters have this inbuilt thing about the band What we need to do now is bring out an album that s going to go across the board and that s what we re trying to do NL How have BJH survived for twenty one years when so many of the people who were around when you started have long since fallen by the wayside JOHN Hard work and a combination of lucky circumstances that established a pattern for the band I think the first fortunate thing that happened to us was the abysmal failure of the orchestral tour and the debts that were left behind NL That was fortunate JOHN I think it was fortunate in that we had to work to save the situation to recoup the money and we had to recreate the sound of the orchestra that we hadn t got That produced the standard of live shows that pulled US through that period I think the second fortunate move was that we changed to a management in David Walker who provided a sound accounting and financial base to secure a future for the band Unfortunately I think that really led to the demise of Woolly he never quite got over all that changing about and the more determined effort to be commercial which we undertook with David as well David s big thing was that he never had Hymn because he thought that that was a number one that never happened NL Could you actually see the split coming with Woolly JOHN No it was straight out of the blue I ve missed him ever since because he was like a real ally I write songs but I m not terribly up on arranging them and he used to be of great assistance in that respect I think he was fed up of the continual touring it s really hard work and that combined with a lot of other things he made his mind up and that was it We went to do these summer festivals in Germany which were like a prelude to the Berlin gig they were enormously successful and I pleaded with him the whole time At this place called Loreley there were thousands and thousands of people as far as the eye could see you just thought there couldn t be any more people and we were top billing over people like Dire Straits and The Police it started to go dusk and we started playing Hymn and there were people sat in all the trees and there were all these lights in the trees I got backstage afterwards and I said You can t walk away from all this you can t do it but anyway he did NL Going on to your solo album can you throw some light on the puzzling track listing a release schedule from EMI in 1973 gives totally different track titles JOHN Yeah I don t know it was recorded in about two weeks it was very quick then leaving EMI it just got lost Subsequently years later when they got onto me to release it on the Heritage label it had lost all context for me so I just left it exactly as it was I never even got involved and they produced that cover The original cover was absolutely staggering it was a really nice cover and the chap that actually did it is a really famous bird illustrator now NL What was the original cover like JOHN it was very much like the cover of Gone To Earth actually it was like a natural history thing a watercolour of a kestrel in the wild environment it was a gatefold and there was a photograph on the Inside but I don t think it was pressed at all the whole thing was just shelved NL Would you like to see it available again JOHN I don t see why people should want it really it s seriously dated it sounds like it was recorded in somebody s front room I ve got the masters and everything the album technically belongs to me and I ve got two offers to release it but it s whether I want it out or not I ve not really made a decision one way or the other yet I ve re contacted the guy that did the original artwork and if it did go out it would be with the original artwork If I could get someone who was interested and get them to pay to remix it that would be the best thing NL Is there any other music that you particularly like other bands or even the classics JOHN I like everything really music wise I m not very difficult to please I hear records and I buy them months and months after they ve been popular Somebody just lent me a CD and I ll go and buy it now because I liked it I d always heard this one track and I kept saying to the kid in the car Hey listen to this it s a real good groove and it was The Boys Of Summer by Don Henley I knew it was somebody from The Eagles but that shows you how far behind I am NL Talking about the Eagles why did you record Best Of My Love JOHN I thought they were great The Eagles I ve got all the stuff they did I had a thing about Eric Clapton James Taylor in the early days and then The Eagles and this one track I thought was going to be a monster We were working with this guy called Rodger Bain at the time and I did three songs as a single in John Kongos place Olympic Studios I picked Best Of My Love and a Clapton track and the actual B side which was a song written by me NL The label credits Ryder JOHN That was my wife That was her name before we got married so it was in her name but it was my song We went with Best Of My Love and it got playlisted on the BBC and Anne Nightingale waxed lyrical about it We got a very nice letter from The Eagles company but it was deleted very quickly that s why there weren t many copies of it We couldn t use the Clapton one because there was a possibility that he might use it as a single NL Just out of interest what was the Clapton track JOHN Er Feeling Free I have to sing the lyric to get the title I believe Polydor have got all three tracks and if A Major Fancy ever comes out it will come out with those three tracks on it if I can swing it because that will make it really interesting I haven t even got a tape of that Clapton song and I remember it being really good The track in question is actually called Please Be With Me and comes from Clapton s 461 Ocean Boulevard LP It was written by Charles Scott Boyer and originally recorded by his band Cowboy featuring Duane Allman on guitar Not a lot of people know that NL Would you like to make another solo album JOHN Yes Not because I don t like being in a group but I think there are things I do and have done over the years that aren t really representative of BJH There are things around that wouldn t be of any use to BJH that I wouldn t have minded the opportunity at some point to put down as with that particular record Whether I ll ever get the opportunity or not I don t know because it probably wouldn t be commercially viable NL Moving on to your BJH songs The Closed

    Original URL path: http://www.bjharvest.co.uk/john89.htm (2016-02-08)
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  • Les Holroyd Interview, April 1990
    happening out there and I couldn t believe furthermore that no one knew about it in England no one wanted to know I think it was about the whole of that situation NL Could you see the band doing another big Berlin gig LES I can yeah This is probably a bit of a prophecy too but I can see us doing a concert at the Brandenburg Gate I don t know how we d do it because to organise a gig that size you d need so much sponsorship and everything but I think it s on the cards to do something like that it s a problem at the moment because everyone wants to do something in Berlin I don t want to be seen as jumping on any bandwagon We never have I mean if we wanted to do that we ve had 20 odd years to do it we ve had plenty of opportunities NL What s your feeling about the most recent developments in Germany about reunification and the East German elections Are they going the right way about it do you think LES That s a difficult one I think they ve moved with their hearts instead of their heads and that s understandable I think it needed to happen that fast otherwise it wouldn t have happened because they d have got bogged down in so much red tape if you ll pardon the pun so it s got to be a good thing NL Welcome To The Show is in many ways the most interesting of your songs lyrically on the new album it seems that you re using the metaphor of the entertainment business to attack the political use of entertainment methods does that kind of cynical attitude also reflect what you think about the music business LES Not really no I think it s just something that from my own personal point of view had to be said it s interesting that you picked up on that because nobody wanted that track to go on They were all a bit sort of I don t really like the lyrics on that one it was just my own view of the whole media thing and it was really saying that it s totally irrelevant to what we re doing We re not Bananarama we don t need Cyril Smith to sell our albums thank you very much NL What s the difference for you between recording songs and playing them live LES Recording tends to get a bit boring I like both of them but recording you can only actually see it when you get to the finished thing or the mixing stages You might go over a song 500 times probably more I ve never actually counted it s difficult to get any enthusiasm it s obviously better to do it live because you only have to do it once NL Would you ever think about recording an album live actually playing as a band one take and that s it LES We have thought about it yeah We did get close to that on Time Honoured Ghosts we actually did that fairly live even to the point where John had to change from acoustic guitar to electric halfway through the number He had to get out of his acoustic tiptoe over pick his guitar up and it was a Strat so he had to get away from the amp and turn it off NL Are you a perfectionist in the studio LES I would think so yeah I think we all are I think that the people we work with are as well For example I ll probably say That s as good as we can get and Andy Mac d probably say Well let s just try for one more and then you try for one more and you think Well that s not right so you go for another one so that you re both happy Hopefully it comes across on record A live thing s totally different and it annoys me when people say you ve overdubbed something on the record Of course you have to do that sometimes because in a live situation nobody is perfect NL But should a live album be perfect LES I don t think you d do anyone a favour by putting for example a bass guitar passage on with some sort of distortion or a mains hum on it So you replace things like that it s not that you played it wrong it s that the sound is wrong and is messing everything else up The same thing with occasional vocals if they re drastically flat because in a big gig situation sometimes you can t hear it or you re just singing badly like I say nobody s perfect I really wouldn t like that to go down on disc to be played over and over and over again Certain things like keyboards if you play a bum note then fine but vocals are very personal things I m not saying it s done all the time because it isn t but on several occasions we have had to do that On a live gig it s there and it s gone ten seconds later you re into the next line and you ll never hear that again but on disc the more you play it the worse it gets particularly if it s on video as well That s even worse looking at yourself doing bum notes NL What did you think of the Victims of Circumstance video LES I didn t like it NL Did you have any say in the non live footage LES Not a lot We just let them get on with it basically because we were too busy to do anything else it is a problem that we ve got round recently by saying that any videos of the band must

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  • Les Holroyd Interviews, October 1990
    it would be great it would have to be the right concert Berlin would be brilliant but it would have to be the Brandenburg Gate right in the centre of Berlin Do you think you get good publicity for your music and your LPs because the promotion is not so big like Gary Moore or someone like that I don t know why it s nothing to do with me that If you try to get involved in everything then you d never play music I leave all that side to other people Barclay James Harvest have no front man like Queen for example We ve never felt the need to have someone because we all started out on the same level and we all wrote the songs and we all played the songs and produced them and it didn t seem right We re not that kind of band no one s ever been involved with the band like Freddy Mercury or people like that You make no scandals or anything like this in the press We re songwriters and entertainers we re not big movie stars that we feel the need to be in the papers every week If people were around at the right time then they d find out there were a few scandals it s just that people aren t around at the right time Fortunately Is your butterfly still a symbol for you after all these years Yeah it is It started with the first album and just continued it s a great image carried through the whole spectrum of things from the albums through merchandise badges T shirts whatever I think it s just a nice thing Are there any other artists who will carry on your style I don t know of any but I think this style of music will actually come round again There are kids in England getting influences from bands like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane so I think it will come round again like the early seventies which is when we really started David Bowie says he has no real relation to his old stuff after all these years is that the same with you Why do you still play Mockingbird for example Because people want it that s why we play it In an ideal world we could go on stage tonight and play the whole new album but I don t think that s fair If I go to see a band for example I ve seen Queen maybe ten times now I still like to see them play Bohemian Rhapsody That s what people go to see a band for whatever people want us to play we ll play it We do listen to people the Fan Club suggested songs and we listened They weren t all feasible to do after all we wanted to some modern songs as well otherwise we d be playing four hours a night What do you think now

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  • Mel Pritchard Interview, 1990
    and you hear the response of the audience there s no other feeling like it It s just that you ve got to do recorded work to reach out to people and hopefully when we do recorded work people that along out of interest come out saying Oh I m going to get the album a fan or a potential fan NL How will you prepare for the tour MEL First we re going to have to start looking at the set list I spoke to Les about it especially because I thin Spirit On The Water which was off If any can remember which album that was off NL Gone To Earth is so relevant now it was relevant then but it just sums up everything that s happening I d like to do that in the stage act and I d like to do After The Day that could be a stunning track with the keyboard players that we ve got but I ve also got another three that I d like to do With John and Les with another three they d like to do we re going to have to put a stage act together What we have got to do is sit down with the new album and see how many we can do off it I know the fans won t like this but we ve found from painful past experience that if you do the whole of the new album even for the most ardent fans it s a bit unacceptable I thin five or six is optimum but in between the songs that people know NL The next magazine will have another readers poll in it including five songs that you d like to see the band do live MEL Actually it does help that if you have some kind of guideline We ve got to do the best set possible I can certainly see maybe For No One or After The Day taking over I ll have to look at the old set list Hymn has been around for a long time NL Somebody wrote in the last magazine that Hymn shouldn t be the last encore that it s getting too predictable MEL Yes that s right I agree with them actually You kind of create a precedent and then once you ve done it try and break out of it The thing that people are now aware of is the fight that John Les and myself had to get that as the last encore People said it s nice to see Medicine Man back and I ll hold up my hand and say that I was against that for a long time NL Do you prefer playing in Britain or abroad MEL I don t mind as long as the dressing rooms are clean I suppose sat the back hidden I never seem to feel a different reaction Because it is Barclay James Harvest and we re not the flavour of the month a lot people go because they want to see us anyway so you get that glow or whatever it is It can be terribly depressing at a gig but when it s ten minutes to go and you start psyching yourself up all that s forgotten We ve done tents and everything we re just a bunch of old journeymen really but we still enjoy it I ll play anywhere anytime NL Have you done any session work outside bjh MEL No I haven t The only thing that I think everyone s aware of was the Davy Rohl Mandalaband thing that s really it I ve got a confidence problem in terms of working with other musicians I d like to I used to enjoy the jams with Kevin and Bias and Colin when we were there at soundchecks NL What drum kit do you now MEL It s a Pearl Export I m in the process of arranging a new one before we get into rehearsals It s just the more modern one it ll be an acoustic It depends on the set I might be using electric ones as well Colin will probably be using drum machines through pads but I m going to stick to the old acoustic NL I know that you and Les go back to schooldays what s your earliest memory of him MEL He ll like this one actually it was in the sandpit because it was at infant s school and everything it s that far back He used to live in the next street our parents knew each other NL Do you still socialise a lot now MEL Not really I ve got my own friends Obviously when you re out working it s back to how it was but in the early days we were in each others pockets for such a long time we just used to go out and drink and do everything together but as you get a bit older it just becomes your separate life NL What effect do you think Woolly s departure had on the band MEL It s difficult to assess I think at the beginning there was this terrible shock and then we had to go in the studio The thought then was to get the album and the keyboards done Les and John did quite a bit I think we got Ritchie Close in who s on the latest album I think we were all a little bit petrified about going into the studio because it s like one of your legs has gone or something Obviously it left a massive hole but I think as often happens you tend to close ranks Woolly used to come up with ideas on other people s songs he s got a very fertile mind so it s not just a matter of a missing musician He was a good ideas man that side more than any was missed

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  • Mel Pritchard Interview, July 1998
    need each other NL Can you tell us how the decision to take a sabbatical came about Mel It was more about John and Les I think For me looking kind of inside but still on the outside I think it s a time to reassess what direction we re going to go into rather than just keep going through the process of another album and a tour It was getting a little bit flat The court case took a lot out of us looking back now I don t think we realised how much it did take out of us It s only when you get working again that you realise how much it s drained you I certainly think that from John and Les s point of view that it s more of a reassessment It s being adult about it there s no great arguments it was just is this really what we want to be doing or should we take time away from each other and see what happens NL Some fans are concerned that this could be the end of Barclay James Harvest as we know it Mel With the conversations that went down I didn t get that colouration of it but having said that I ve been through as much as John and Les have with the court case and doing albums finding producers engineers and all the peripheral things that go with it plus signing contracts and all the rest of it and it was like let s just take a breath here and see if we are still doing the right thing NL What are your own immediate plans Mel Actually nothing at the moment I still practice I still get on the kit but I can t imagine me working in another band except Barclay James Harvest Until something happens I don t know I will have to do something pretty quickly but I don t want to get too involved in something just in case If we have another meeting and say Right it s a goer again I don t want to be locked into something that excludes me from doing it I m just taking my time and thinking things through Obviously I m optimistic about everything and hope that we will get together rested and getting a a bit more excitement in things and see how it goes from there NL Would you like to tour Britain again Mel Yes and I don t know why we haven t done it for such a long time It would be wonderful The audiences have been good and the thing that we mustn t forget is that this is where we started Without the people in Britain I m not saying that they re still around now and into us now NL I think they are actually but without that input the band wouldn t have carried on through its formative years to do the things that we

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