Andy Sharrocks and The Incurable Romantics will perform a headline show on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, at the legendary venue The 100 Club, Oxford Street, London, United Kingdom. The event is free, but people do need to register.
With support from Pete Kosanovich and one other act, TBC (booking information at the end of this piece), Riverside Radio DJ and poet Carl Chamberlain will serve as the evening’s host.
It should be a great evening, and Andy Sharrocks is one of those names in British blues rock that has been connected to great music for decades. There is a lot of respect in the business for what he has achieved. As background, Andy Sharrocks started writing songs in 1976. He found a vehicle for these songs with punk band Accident on the East Lancs. This started out as a covers band, but Andy soon became frustrated when the other members wanted to stay that way. The band disintegrated, but Andy retained the name, forming a new cutting-edge four-piece playing his songs. He financed their first single in 1979 on his own label, Roach Records.
This was a double A side, as one of the sides was a ditty called “We Want It Legalized.” The other side was a Bo Diddly kind of groove called “Tell Me What Ya Mean,” which Record Collector magazine recently said sounded like a song The Strokes should cover. This line-up fell apart when immediate success failed to arrive, but Andy formed another band out of the ashes of local band Wilful Damage and the guitarist out of the original covers band. They recorded and released on Roach Records another double-sided single in 1981, as well as an album released on cassette tape on Cargo Records. The singles now exchange hands on the collectors’ market for over seventy pounds, The album has been re-released on vinyl twice, once on a German label and once on UK’s OZIT/MORPHEUS Records, which came with a bonus live album The singles have been released on many punk compilations, and “We Want It Legalized” is about to be released on a new Manchester punk compilation on Cherry Red Records.
Andy left the band in 1982 for personal reasons and had a single deal with “I Believe in Love” on the Vibes record label in 1985.
Refusing to compromise and do covers, Andy found it impossible to make a living doing his own material, which was now primarily Americana, after discovering alt.country through Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett in 1985.
He went on the road as a tour manager, which is where he met Hilly Briggs, who went on to produce Andy’s first solo album in 2004 called Walking in Familiar Footsteps, which featured ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, Bluesband and Manfreds frontman Paul Jones, and Bobby Vee’s sons Jeff and Tommy on drums and bass, respectively.
Andy was then living in London and was gigging regularly on his own or with a revolving circle of musicians going under the collective title of Andy Sharrocks & The Smokin’ Jackets. He played over five hundred gigs all over London and the UK. He also did many supports for Mick Taylor, Buddy Whittington, Steve Gibbons, The Strawbs, and Curved Air, supported John Mayall on a UK nationwide tour, and played the Jazz Café in Camden twice with John. He also played The Hells Angels Bulldog Bash three times, The Skegness Rock n Blues Festival, The Herelbeke Blues Festival in Belgium, and The Colne Blues Festival.
In 2009, he released another album called Dirt with the Smokin’ Jackets, which came out to great critical acclaim.
After a ten-year hiatus, Andy has just released a triple album of UK Americana, called “Country Rock n Roll n Durty Blues.” The link to buy the vinyl is here.
We were very happy to sit down and talk over all things music and more with Andy recently, and we started by reflecting that he is often seen as a “man of many parts”—so which of those parts is he currently most satisfied with in 2024?
Andy: My songwriting. I am so pleased with the songwriting side. I do view myself now more as a songwriter than as a musician. I am really particular about the lyrics, and the words are always written first with the melodies; then the music follows after.
We had to comment on the triple album, “Country Rock n Roll n Durty Blues,” an impressive feat in any era. But today, when the movement is more toward the single download and the repeated quick releases for TikTok and YouTube, the triple album is a statement of intent!
Andy: I would take the listener back to the time when you would go out and enjoy buying the physical album, looking at the album cover, studying it and seeing who had played, produced and guested on the album. It was an experience, and that was my whole concept when I thought about this. I want people to have a physical thing to hold; it is very much for vinyl lovers. I agree, though, that the way we now digest music and put it out has significantly changed. They are linked in the way they are short and sharp, one single after another. I want people to have a treasured piece of vinyl. If I had not been me as a kid, I would have loved this album!
“All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison and (I think) “Egypt Station” by Paul McCartney were notable triple albums, but they are not common.
Andy: The Clash did one “Sandonista” (1980), but it was a bit meandering. Yes, did the live album “Yessongs” (1973), and I guess you would have to be dedicated to listening to that! There haven’t been many, and that’s another reason I wanted to do it: to make people sit up and say, ‘bloody-hell, a triple album, why?!’ And from the check-it-out purpose, it does seem to have achieved that. It brought more attention to it than if I’d just put out another album with the standard 12 tracks. There are so many of those going out, and as you note, there are singles flying out all the time. Musically, I have a distribution deal with ‘Cargo,’ and they had reservations at first due to the triple album aspect, but then they gave in! I may have some impending record appearances in stores coming up, so watch out for that!
And the shift toward taking CD players out of cars is actually a bigger change than we may think; it significantly shifts the market. It presumes people no longer want to listen that way and forces everyone down that line.
Andy: I think it’s outrageous how they judge what people want and place those judgments on the millions of people who drive cars and may wish to put a CD in.
We get lost sometimes with all these charts they have now as well; it gets so confusing over who is actually doing well or not!
Andy: It does dilute it. I think it’s a shame. You can literally make music in your bedroom now and release it. Get a computer, and, hey presto, you have a song. But have they sweated over the words and labored over the chord sequence? It has to be more than pressing a few keys and watching it repeat all the time in the melody. Patching up the computer with some lyrics like “Do you love me, baby?” doesn’t really do it for me! And AI, can you be proud if AI writes the lyrics?!
We listened to the album and it is a journey of musical tastes, a veritable buffet of rock, blues and country synthesis. Opening up with “Little Boogaloo,” we pulled out a song from Side 2 that we wanted to talk over, “Jane’s Blues.” It has a stripped-down sound and a haunting lyrical refrain; we liked it. Of course, as Shirley King says, ‘you have to have lived to sing the blues.’ This song seems to be one of those.
Andy: I agree with that. “Jane’s Blues” is sparse musically, and I wanted people to listen to the lyrics. I like to write songs about people I know, and some of the tracks are about people I’ve met. For example, “George’s Blues” (side 3) is about a guy I met in Liverpool when I was on tour, and he came up and told me the story that forms the song. I like to write about people, and Jane was a real person. She was a tragic character, heavily addicted to drugs, and it turns out she was abused as a child by her father, which is in the lyrics. She died at the age of only about 41, but she lived her whole life trying to escape this trauma. I just felt as if she deserved this song, so that she is not just lying forgotten in a graveyard. She was a pleasant character, but she had an aura of tragedy that followed her; she seemed to meet the wrong people all the time. When I play that song, the last words, ‘Jane’s got a secret, buried where she can’t find it’,” still affect me, and I want people to connect to it.
The other amazing fact about this triple album is that it was recorded in 8 days! Now, I do know that The Beatles recorded their debut album in one twelve-hour session, but this appears almost beyond belief for a triple album! Surely all the demos must have been nearly done and dusted?
Andy: We did hit the ground running. In all honesty, Danny, the guitarist, and I demoed the songs at his house over a period of about one a week over a long period. As we were doing them, I was sending them out to Phil, the drummer, and we had no bass player until the very last minute. Phil introduced the drummer, and he was someone that he had played with years ago. But when in the studio, Danny had met Phil but didn’t know he was a drummer. I had met the bass player once, but Danny had never met Phil, the bass player. I had never met the brass player. We just went into the studio, hit the ground and had no time for rehearsals. We would run over the songs four or five times, and then the most takes we did on a track was 3. I did all the acoustic numbers, including “Jane’s Blues,” in a two-day block. Once the acoustic numbers were done, I was left with 26 other tracks to do with the band. We ended up doing 25 numbers in five days. I must say that, when we walked in, Gaz, the engineer, and the studio owner looked at us with the view that we had no chance! But we had plotted it all out, and I come from a history of tour management and production management, and Danny was pretty good at that sort of thing too. But I always had every faith we would pull it off. It was intense; it was like soldiers going to war. There was a point near the end where I did wonder if there would need to be a decision over leaving some songs out. Three songs were placed at the back, but we carried on, and it turned out that we caught up. The sixth day was with Mr. Wilson’s Second Liners with the track “Saucier Man,” again not rehearsed, but they are such professional musicians that they have the magic. They do a lot of work around Europe doing New Orleans style dance tracks; they are amazing. The whole song was done in about four hours. That was a special one; Howard Jacob was on drums for that one; the drums have that New Orleans feel.
No sleep till Hammersmith then! Closing up the interview, the use of the soup can was an interesting choice of album cover. So we had to ask about that!
Andy: I had the title to start off with, “Country Rock n’ Roll n’ Durty Blues.” I was thinking that further on, when it is out, how does it get marketed? The title took me back to the old advert, “Does What It Says on the Can” (the old Ronseal advert). So I used the can; that took me to Andy Warhol and his cans, and that is exactly what I did. It leans toward the iconic! I messed around with it and looked online for the back of the soup, copied it with tongue in cheek—musical value instead of nutritional value—and so forth.
And to finish up with, what was the last album Andy listened to all the way through, and did he enjoy it?
Andy: Rolling Stones, “Hackney Diamonds,” and I didn’t especially enjoy it. I am a massive Stones fan. I have worked with Mick Taylor. As for “Hackney Diamonds,” I felt it was okay, but it has attracted these wonderful reviews. Although some tracks grew on me, they are not up to par with the greats. Maybe I came at it from a jaded angle, but it was corporate rock, more like a Mick Jagger solo.
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Andy Sharrocks and The Incurable Romantics plus Special Guests will visit the following location:
Wednesday, February 14, 2024: The 100 Club, Century House, 100 Oxford St, London W1D 1LL, United Kingdom (Nearest Tube Station is Oxford Circus)
Official Website: https://andysharrocks.net/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andysharrocks
By Lorraine Foley
Mark C. Chambers