A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
Melody Maker, 14 July 1973 by Michael Benton
Wishbone: Reacting To Pressures
Wishbone Ash are back in Britain and busily healing their touring wounds. In spite of health problems the lads have recently achieved what every group in Britain dreams of – cracking the States. They’re happy to be home again because it gives them time to recoup their energies and prepare for their next onslaught. Two of the band are still unwell, but guitarist Andy Powell is fit and happy with Ash as it stands today.
With the group’s manager, Andy and myself embarked on a touch of the high-life – the G.P.O. tower to be exact. After acclimatising ourselves to the fact of revolving around in their plush “Butlins” restaurant hundreds of feet above the rest of London, we settled down to some honest chat about the band.
“This last tour was a particularly heavy one. We were following Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin around, so we really had to fight for our audiences. It was incredible because we still managed to play to capacity crowds the whole time,” says Andy.
The tour was the band’s sixth. It lasted eight weeks and by the time it was over the Ash men were quite poorly. One cheering fact over-shadowed their problems – they’d broken down those traditional barriers which surround America’s music lovers. It was Pete Townshend who encouraged them to keep at it.
Andy recalls, “It was the third tour of the States. Things had been pretty tough and then we were booked to support the Who on two dates. We played for about thirty minutes before they came on and it was after one of the gigs that we were sitting in the dressing room.
“Pete walked in and someone said we should give up and concentrate on Britain and Europe. He looked at us and said “Don’t give up. It’ll take a couple more tours before they begin to accept you.” We took his advice and this last tour has proved him right.. We needed to continue plugging away at the States if we want our reputation to last over there, but its going to be pretty hard to combine tours there with tours at home. It’s really important that we don’t neglect the people who gave us the opportunity to go to America. At the moment we’re just playing one-off gigs in Britain,” Andy says.
Since their MM poll-winning album Argus, Ash’s reputation has gradually grown bigger. Argus was preceded by two other fine albums, Wishbone Ash (1970) andPilgrimage (1971). Andy and Ted in themselves were something quite new. It was their compatability as guitarists and they were labelled “The Guitar Twins”. All along the line Ash’s music revolved around the instrumental passages. It made them famous. It’s a heartening thought that bands can get that far by just playing.
“Suddenly you get a little famous and everything – the process of being better – has to be speeded up. We had to run with the tide, but now we’re beginning to feel that we’re in a position to consider how we want to work. The last British tour was only twelve dates and on each one we played for two and a half hours at a time and it was nice. Granted there were a few hassles organisation wise, but we’re concentrating on guarding against the pit-falls,” insists Powell.
“It used to be a very simple affair to play a gig, but now it takes something like three days to set things up. It gets harder in a sense because people expect things from a name band. Naturally our concerts, our presentation has to improve the whole time. If it didn’t then we’d go backwards,” explains Powell. “The more you get known then the more people tend to judge you – like people waiting for the release of the album.”
Wishbone Four has been a considerable step forward and change for the band. More emphasis on lyrics was the idea and it’s presented Wishbone in a totally new light.
“In Britain it really got some bum reviews, but in the States they really loved it. I think people in Britain have tended to play safe and are unwilling to accept something new. At one point in our careers we would’ve taken it on a personal level, but we realise that’s a bit silly now. When we come to make the album we put Argus completely out of our heads. We just had a collection of songs and we put them down as we felt.”
There are possibly another two albums from Wishbone this year. One live and another studio production for release around Christmas. Ash are determined to produce another album that will stand up by itself and they also have thoughts on singles.
“Making singles is an art,” says Powell. “To be able to write a single that can capture the overall sound of a band is an achievement. It’d be nice to have a hit and I don’t think it would so us any harm, because we’ve taken such a long time to build our reputation that Wishbone fans are Wishbone fans. I couldn’t see us concentrating on the market because it can be an incredibly fickle one, that picks you up for a year and then drops you.”
There now seems very little else for Wishbone to achieve status wise, although America is still to be fully secured.
“Up to the last couple of tours, America improved our playing. It also taught us how to cope with larger audiences, but we all felt on the last couple of Stateside jaunts that we weren’t playing well. I think we were reacting to the pressures. We felt we couldn’t take any more of it, but as soon as we arrived back in England, we felt the pressures lift. Now they’re gone,” he says.
On a more personal level Wishbone are beginning to feel that they want to expand individually. “Play with other bands and learn new instruments,” says Andy.
“The position now is that we feel we want to stop playing things like ‘Phoenix’ and get people interested in our new material. I think we’re becoming a more listenable band and we’re slowly getting into a wider range of material. For instance we now play ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’, which is nice because it makes a change.”