Following a Remarkable Year, America Take Stock

THE LAST THREE weeks have been something of a resting point for America. After returning from the States each of them split for a holiday, making a welcome break from the round of gigs and one-nighters.

Now with Dan Peek’s arm in plaster, it looks like the break will last longer than expected. But although it means missing Bickershaw it gives them even more time to plan ahead and collect their thoughts about the last year, a pretty remarkable one by anybody’s standards.

Twelve months ago the situation was a trifle different. At that time they were just three young guys with little experience of the music business, recording their first album and earning around ten pounds a week.

Since then things have moved upwards at a fairly amazing pace but the pressures of sudden success, the change to a busier, speedier life-style and even a full-scale tour of the States outwardly hasn’t had that much effect.

Maybe they’ve become a little more businesslike, or at least more aware of the business side of the music industry but their jeans, tee-shirts and sneakers still have that well-worn look. And, although Dewey Bunnell is moving out shortly to get married, they still live in their country shack Dirt Pit Farm out in Hertfordshire and hardly a country mansion.

Gathered in the offices of WEA Records together with their manager and right-hand man Jeff Dexter, the three Americans, Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Beckley treat everything with a kind of overt casualness.

Said Peek: “Thing got a bit hectic at times in the States. Like, our hotel rooms were always crammed with people and it was a bit strange not to be able to get any kind of privacy. You couldn’t even brush your teeth without somebody looking over your shoulder.”

“But it wasn’t the big glamour trip it must have been in the past,” added Bunnell. “We are a group who never seem to get that kind of response.

“Quite honestly this whole thing about being on a spacy No. 1 trip and how disturbing it can be is all rather mythical. Although it’s been hard work we’ve all been able to keep the fun end in it as well.”

And the friendship that the group was originally based on for the most part remains the same.

“Only sometimes can I see a whole pile of social monsters lurking under the floorboards,” said Bunnell. “Strange kind of vibey things that could devour you if you took any notice of them. The only thing to do is ignore them and then it’s OK.

“As for the States we knew before we went it was going to be hard work, probably the hardest thing we’d ever done. We were ready for that. Obviously the thing that surprised us was that things happened so fast once we were over there. But they surprised everybody.

“And in a way people in the States seemed more open towards the group. I think they were a bit suspicious of us over here at first.

“In fact in the States I feel there’s a lot of room for new groups and musicians.”

Before they left for the States they expressed concern about over-working their act in Britain. They knew they needed new material and a new act. Now, it seems, things are coming together.

On their second album which they’ll record when Peek is able to play again Beckley said: “We had enough material ready before we left for the States, it was just a matter of deciding whether they were the right songs. Since we’ve got back a lot of question marks have disappeared.

“I think there’ll be more variety on the second album. We’ll be stretching things a little wider. Like, we’ve got a couple of long-ish electrical things we’ll be using.

“The plan at present is to rehearse the album, record it and then go out on stage and play it live.

“We’ll still include a few choice old numbers but mostly it’ll be a completely new thing finishing up on electric guitars.

Added Dewey Bunnell: “We really want our stage show to come up to the standard we think it should be. And it isn’t at that stage yet. I mean we’ve done some good tidy shows but there wasn’t enough flexibility to get us fully involved.

“And I think we’re really going to get a percussionist for stage. That’s always been the original plan anyway the only difference now is that it’s easier to do it without making him a full member of the group.”

I wondered whether they had felt over the year their writing had changed much lyrically?

“A bit of the States has crept in here and there,” replied Bunnell. “Like, now we can write about cruising down Sunset Strip whereas before we hadn’t been there. Generally though, I guess it’s fairly similar. We still work in the same way — writing songs separately before working out the final arrangement together.”

Another point the group made before they left for the States was that they weren’t over keen to release another single as a follow-up to ‘Horse With No Name’. Even now, they seem no clearer on the subject.

“Certainly we don’t want to get in the situation where we have to release single after single.” said Beckley. “And we don’t want to go into the studios specifically to record one. We’ll just have to see. I don’t see much reason to rush anything. People are prepared to wait. If things start to cool down then they cool down.

“But then we should have some new kind of product out soon,” said Dan Peek, summing up. “England has always been our launching pad and I sort of feel we should give people something new.”

© James JohnsonNew Musical Express, 6 May 1972

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