Yesterday, we published part one of our two-part chat with Jeremy Clyde, half of ’60s British musical duo Chad & Jeremy. Together with his partner, Chad Stuart, Clyde put seven Top 40 singles on the American charts between 1964 and 1966, including classics like “Yesterday’s
Gone” and “A Summer Song.”
Next month, he and Stuart will join Mike Pender (of the Searchers), Denny Laine, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Billy J. Kramer on tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion. Besides the tour, Clyde is performing a rare solo show at the end of September in Tacoma, WA, and is readying a new solo album of rediscovered material.
Now, let’s rejoin Clyde from his home in North London…
We were talking a little bit earlier about how, towards the end of the ’60s, you two did get more experimental and do some really innovative things. Were you more proud of those later albums or of your earlier hits? Or, did you see them as being completely separate?
Well, here’s the thing — I started writing songs much more than Chad. He had started off being the songwriter, and then he sort of stopped. Now, the thing about Chad is that he’s classically-trained. He wrote the string charts for “Yesterday’s Gone,” our first hit, and, [our producer] John Berry, to his eternal credit, said, “Fine, go ahead, do it,” which he didn’t need to do. He didn’t need to take that kind of chance. So, big respect for John.
So, Chad became more of an arranger. That became his thing. I was now writing virtually all the material and I, personally, am a three-minute pop song guy. I think the three-minute song is the most wonderful form. It’s like the sonnet, or something, in our day. It says it all to me. Chad was the one who really wanted to push the [music] out more than I did.
I’ll tell you how it started — the last album was called The Ark, which is the one I like the most now because I thought “The Progress Suite” on Of Cabbages and Kings is just (laughs). God almighty, I mean, talk about the kitchen sink, and all our friends, and all the Firesign [Theatre] guys.
The Ark was Chad ringing me in England saying, “I’ve seen a wonderful picture” and him describing the picture, which is on the cover of The Ark, with all the generals up in the trees. That’s when I sat down and wrote [“The Ark”]. Then Chad went to work with lots of complicated effects. We got a lot of people to help and it became this huge production. But I just wrote a three-minute song.
To be honest, I’m very happy when we do some of this stuff on stage and we strip it down to what it used to be. The songs do hold up, you know. They’re built well. Of course, we weren’t selling records [at that time], and The Ark was a failure, and that’s when I said, “Look, I’ve got to go back to my career and do acting” because I was 29 still playing 19, so I hadn’t missed out at all and I could still play a juvenile.
As the ’70s progressed, you recorded sporadically, but in the ’80s, you started recording transatlantically with Chad using technology, and so forth. Did that, not save the partnership, but enhance it in a different way?
It was great. The trouble was that we were with a record label that was built on sand and, actually, the people who were running it ended up in jail because of fraud. I think we got paid in some mysterious way. But, I loved [recording that way]. As ever, pressures of time and place — it doesn’t help that we live on different continents. You get off the airplane, you go, “Fine, I’ve got a lot of ideas,” and he says, “I’ve got a lot of ideas,” and you’ve got 10 days to work out these ideas and go into a studio to write. It’s not like you can nip ’round the corner on a regular basis and keep chattering away and working on things so it’s nice and organic and has time to settle in. It’s always done in a terrible rush with us, which is why I’m now settling down and actually about to bring out — do you know of any of this? Has anybody told you of any of this?
About your solo album? Is that what you were bringing up?
Yes, I was going to ask you about that, actually.
I don’t know whether I’m supposed to say this yet, but I am! I’ve been writing continuously, really, for the past 50 years or so. I have this enormous catalog of stuff that nobody’s ever really heard, except for a couple of things.
It’s very difficult, particularly when you’re bringing up a young family and stuff, screaming children and all the rest of it, all those pressures, and I would write very, very sporadically and with great pain. I didn’t like my lyrics much. I’d say, “It’s all been done, cliché, oh God.” Very tough on myself. Then I met a guy at a party called David M. Pierce, who is an author with a number of books out, detective fiction mainly. [He was an] enormously tall Canadian chap with a cowboy hat, and I said, “What do you do?” And he said, “I’m a lyricist.” And it was like the heavens opened! “You’re a what?! Thats what I need! That’s it!”
I went straight ’round to his place the next day and looked at his bottom drawer, which was overflowing with genius stuff. We have been working together ever since in various parts of the globe. He now lives in Paris. I was over there recently, still at it.
There was a song called “Zanzibar Sunset,” for example, which has become a big thing in Chad & Jeremy world. I suppose that song was an early collaboration between David and I.
We do it the way a few people do it, like Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Bernie writes the lyrics and Elton sets them. I mean, you know, it’s not as simple as that — obviously there are tweaks and revisions and suggestions and edits and all the rest of it. It’s been glorious, but not all of [the songs] work for Chad & Jeremy. The first of January this year, I said, “Right, this is the year of music. I’ve been waiting a long, long time and I’m going to do this.” So, [the album] will be out this year, The Bottom Drawer Sessions, No. 1.
Of many more, hopefully!
Oh, many more. Many more! You have no idea how much. It’s not rubbish; there’s some good stuff in there, I dare say so myself. Chad’s heard most of them. We’ve had a little go at some of them, but he jumps on the ones that are good for harmonies, obviously, which makes totals sense because he’s a harmony genius. That’s his brilliance, and we play to that strength when he and I are working together. But there’s an awful lot of stuff that’s just sort of mine, I guess. It’s a great joy.
I imagine. And it’s great because you also seem to continue generating new material with Chad as well.
It’s nice to see that you don’t rest on your laurels — which also sets you apart from a lot of the ’60s acts, or, I should say, acts generated in the ’60s. I don’t want to place you solely in the decade.
It’s interesting — essentially, people sort of retire, and I’m not that kind of person. I don’t want to retire, but that’s also actors. We don’t retire, we just desperately hope for someone to keep on employing us.
I’d like to leave something behind, even if it’s just for my children. [The music] is what I want to leave behind because, when you’re acting, you’re in somebody else’s dream, you know what I mean? You’re hired to be part of somebody’s movie or play or whatever, and you do your best to inhabit that part, and it’s good if it works. Sometimes it doesn’t and you can’t rise above your material. That’s the other thing about acting — if it’s a bad script, you can be as brilliant as anything, but it’s still a terrible script.
And in music you generate your own sort of vision. It’s kind of flip-flopped.
Yeah. It’s David’s genius, which I think is absolutely brilliant. I wouldn’t be working with this guy if I didn’t still think he was extraordinary. He hasn’t had his time in the sun. He did a little bit with a band called Meal Ticket — he co-wrote some songs — but that was in the ’70s and only a few of them made the cut.
It’s worth mentioning that next month, you’ll also have a solo show in Tacoma, Washington.
I’ve been talked into this. I have been talked into this! Basically, it’s all part of The Bottom Drawer Sessions. I’ve got some very old, close friends of mine, Rick Jones and Valerie Neale, who have an album out. They’re going to come and help me do some of it, open the show, and help me out a bit. I’m just going to sort of introduce, see what happens, stand up there, and do some songs by myself. And I might even — I’m thinking about it — I think I’ll have to do the first and only performance of “A Summer Song,” solo.
Oh, wow. That would be a treat.
That’ll be interesting. What’s to lose? It’s all for a very good cause, Habitat for Humanity, and something of an experiment. Why not?
It’ll be an exciting night, anyway.
It’ll be an absolutely terrifying night, I can assure you!
Terrifying for you, yes!
Well, I’ve got to work very hard because I’m so used to reading this stuff off a song sheet while I’m recording it. I actually have to sit down and remember what verse goes where. It takes a bit of work. I shall be backstage strumming away while, you know, Gerry and the Pacemakers do their stuff. I’ll be off sitting in the corner preparing for the show in Tacoma.
At least you’ll have some time on the road to get your sea legs, as it were.
You’re absolutely right; I’ll be played in. There’ll be nothing but music around. Once you’re in that bubble, it helps because you’ve got lots of downtime waiting for a bus or another plane or whatever it is. It’s good — you can concentrate. And it helps being at home, actually, because you go into rehearsal mode, which is good.
Isn’t it true that you and Chad have sort of a bi-yearly touring schedule most years?
There are reasons for that. The dates that tend to be the backbone of what we do are what you call “performance art theatres” or “performance art centers,” which have seasons: spring and autumn. They provide the reason to leave and go to work because you can get a string of those dates if you’re lucky. Then everything else fills in after that.
Although, I had to cancel some dates a couple of years ago, because, again, I was starring in the West End — ho ho! But I was. We’ve made them all up since. That’s the other thing: it’s always slightly terrifying because, I mean, we’re already talking about 2015 and over here in the acting world, that’s like next month.
It can get very tricky. It’s only once in a blue moon you get a job that is so good. Most of the time, you can say, “No, forget it, I’m going to America, ‘bye.” It’s happened once; I don’t think it’ll happen again.
Do you feel like, at this stage in both your acting and your music career, you’ve achieved a good balance between the two?
Yes — now. It seems to have settled into a very nice balance. I do both and I like that. It keeps me awake, and again, I meet other actors of my generation — now, we’re talking the old, grey-haired gentlemen of our profession, the silver foxes (laughs)…
The distinguished ones.
…They are beginning to look at retirement and I’m not. They look at me with great envy because I do have this other life and it’s very exciting. I love traveling and the change of scenery, and I like being on the road. I’m up for adventures. The past few years, the balance has been splendid and I’ve really enjoyed it. I love working with Chad. We get on, we have fun, and music for fun and profit. What could be wrong with that? (laughs) Nothing.
So, one last question, and it’s kind of a random one. We have a feature that’s pulled from ’60s teen magazines. In one of them, you were quoted as saying that you, number one, had squirrels as pets, and, number two, aspired to be a squirrel breeder. Are either of these true?
No, that’s not true. I did have a pet grey squirrel who had fallen out of a tree; I think it had been kicked out by its mother. I don’t think it was a totally-well squirrel. We found him one day, I don’t know exactly where. It was a-little-tiny-milk-bottle sort of thing. He eventually wasn’t well, and I wasn’t actually there, so a friend of mine took him to the London Zoo and he was x-rayed. Turned out his bones were brittle, which is probably the reason he’d been chucked out of the nest.
It’s the sort of thing I wouldn’t do now — I mean, it’s interesting on a rather different scale. We didn’t have an advanced view of animals in those days, and I suppose I would put my squirrel in that category. I think wild animals belong in the wild now. Dogs and cats, fine. And hamsters, maybe.
He used to run up the curtains and then jump onto your shoulder. They’ve got quite sharp claws. You didn’t know he was there and then — ouch! You know, back of the neck job. And he was basically coming to say hello.
Oh, that’s kind of cute.
It was cute, but I now would say wild animals, you know, not in people’s flats anymore. But, there you are.
(Cover photo via Alma @ LilMarauder Productions.)