A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
Beat Instrumental, Dec 1971 by Steve Turner
A Surge of Greatness
Wishbone may seem to have suddenly emerged as this year’s brightest hope but as with all overnight success it’s been a hard slog. The wrong question to ask them is ‘What was the biggest break you got?’, because they claim to have built up their following gradually over the years. “We all think positively,” says Andy ‘Snap’ Powell. “Miles (their manager) had great faith in us. He’d tell us we were “gonna be the goddam greatest” We’ve always had faith in each other as well.
Probably the biggest events that Wishbone have yet experienced are their American tours. Recalling their first tour Andy ‘Snap’ says: “It meant a complete upheaval of our stage act because we were playing to such large audiences.” Steve Upton agrees: “We had to adapt to them rather than them adapting to us.” Andy ‘Snap’ adds that everywhere you play for the first time you learn something new. “The first time we played the Filmore East we realised the degree you could take a rock show to. You’ve got to project yourself much further to get over to a large audience. With a thousand people you get the sense of a show. In a club it’s a matey thing. America gave us a surge of greatness.”
Steve likes to think that America changed Wishbone from semi-professionals into professionals. All the members of the band are eager to mention the fact that meeting Miles Copeland was a supreme event in their career. A lot of their confidence must stem from the fact that someone, somewhere believes they’re gonna be the “goddam greatest”.
Wishbone excel as a live act. Everywhere they go the kids pour into the aisles and jerk around in time to the music. Surprisingly enough they seem to attract a large percentage of male fans. The autographs they have to sign after the show are often for guys not very far removed in age from the group themselves. On stage it’s a different world, and each member of Wishbone lives for that world. Andy ‘Snap’ dresses in his woolly hat, tee shirt and tight trousers tucked into knee high boots. That’s his image and what’s more he really knows why he’s up on stage. He moves in all the right directions and the kids imitate his movements as they shake and flutter in the aisles.
Ted Turner is just the opposite to ‘Snap’ although both play lead guitar. He’s the silent member with the golden locks. Ted’s a good name for him. It conjures up pictures of cuddly Teddy-bears of gold.
Martin Turner (no relation to Ted) plays bass and also handles most of the vocals. Often he’s to be seen hiding behind the drums but occasionally he comes out to duel with ‘Snap’ during a fast rock number.
The drummer he hides behind is Steve Upton who recently distinguished himself by cutting his shoulder length hair off. Steve seems to have the abilities of an organiser and leader as well as those abilities required by a drummer.
“It’s the best time out,” says ‘Snap’ of their life on stage. “Going on to perform at the end of a day allows you to get all your energies out. I feel that when we go on stage it’s an event. I’m sure the audience feel that. I think that the young kids go for something rough with guts which gets rid of their adolescent forces.”
It is adolescents that seem to make up the average Wishbone audience. “Younger kids want to get excited,” explains ‘Snap’. “They want to get their minds blown. If you smash up your equipment then that’s an added treat!” ‘Snap’ feels that the older audience that would be found at a Band concert are the type of people that have to be “dragged from their little boxes”. And of course they have to be satisfied beforehand that they’re leaving their little boxes for something worthwhile and of previous guaranteed quality. They’re not the sort to take risks on an up and coming group!
One of the most distinctive features of Wishbone Ash is their use of two guitar harmonies. “We had the idea right from the beginning,” says ‘Snap’. “We also use voice and guitar harmonies but I think the sound is more high energy than it was at the beginning.” Their ambitions at “”the beginning” were simple: “All we said was that we wanted to do something with guitars that hadn’t been thrashed to death. I mean, it had become such a bore. We wanted to evolve our own sound and I think we have.”
‘Snap’ believes that it’s the memory of a song which has been heard before which motivates the songwriter. “The objective listener is more likely to notice this than the songwriter himself. After the Beatles changed their lyrics from using terms such ‘honey’, ‘darling’ or ‘love’ into ‘girl’, ‘woman’ and ‘my friend’. The people who are now using ‘my friend’ quite naturally are probably not conscious of copying in any way, but it’s there.” Obviously ‘Snap’ feels that riffs and melodies are unconsciously ‘borrowed’ the same way. “Underneath the vogue thing,” he says, “there must be a depth.”
Both Martin and Steve have been reading a book called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler which argues that the future is coming upon us so quickly that we are not being given enough chance to adjust to it. In other words, as soon as we are accustomed to a certain way of life another lifestyle is enforced on us and before we have time to accept that a further change is made. Wishbone feel that they experienced something of this disorientation when flying around the States. “It’s a very mental thing and it’s happened by the time you realise it,” says Steve. “We were travelling from gig to gig every day for a fortnight. In the end we were waking up in the morning and thinking that we were where we were two days before! Your body adapts to it but your mind doesn’t. Mentally you have nothing there long enough for you to grab hold of.” Steve began to realise that this feeling of not knowing where you were, coupled with the fact that they were never stationary long enough to have a feeling of belonging, was responsible for at least two of the band momentarily cracking up.
“The Holiday Inns where we were staying were identical all the way over and it’s as though you’ve been sitting in the same restaurant for two weeks. It was only when we stopped a while in Los Angeles that we could completely wind down. You hear of people having nervous breakdowns and now I can see why. I can see what the build up to it is. At one point I couldn’t believe what was happening to Martin…the things he was saying.”
At present Wishbone’s second album Pilgrimage is high in the charts and a third American tour awaits them in the New Year. The surge of greatness is having a lasting effect. Miles still says they’re gonna be the goddam greatest. Wishbone just play on, brightly hoping.