ANDY FAIRWEATHER LOW, lead singer of the Amen Corner is a placid sort of bloke. But he blows his cool if you ask him about comments that the group’s stage routines are “dated.”
The Amen Corner — back in the MM chart this week with ‘Bend Me Shape Me’ — have been at the receiving end of some biting criticism by at least one psychedelically inclined group in recent months.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said Andy, “but it upsets me when people say things like this. A lot of work goes into our stage work and dated or not, we’re pulling in the crowds wherever we play.
“And we play what we want to play and not what we think we ought to be playing to be commercial. I suppose there are people who think we are old-fashioned — in London. But in the provinces and even in places like Finchley and Barnet, we are playing what the people want to hear.”
And that, says Andy, is music with a strong, strong beat.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is coming back,” he said. “In clubs and ballrooms, all the rock and roll things like ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Hound Dog’ are going down a storm. We are doing some Little Richard things on stage and they go down like a bomb.”
This is the Amen Corner’s second chart entry. They made their impact originally with ‘Gin House’, but have been working steadily in between even without a chart record.
“We’ve been able to work to good crowds all the time. It hasn’t made any difference that we haven’t had a hit. In fact, our money’s being going up steadily.
“I think that if we were a coloured band, we’d be raved about. But we’re not. We’re white. If we weren’t I think we could be the rave of America.”
Strong words, but the Amen Corner have always been noted as a musically exciting band who do all their own arrangements and routines.
In fact, they completely re-arranged ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’ from the American version brought to them by their manager.
“He said it was commercial and that we should record it. After arguing against it, I agreed to do it if we could change the whole concept of the number and even change some of the main lyrics.
“This is what we did, and our version and the American version by the American Breed are entirely different.
“The only thing we kept was the punchline — the ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’ bit. The rest is new.”
The Amen Corner have completed work on their next LP which Andy described as “very varied.”
“There’s a lot of different types of music on it, including some ballad things and four numbers we’ve written ourselves. We’ve not decided on a title for it yet but it’s due out in February,” he said.
Did he think ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’ could make number one? “Who knows? Whenever you release a single, you hope it’ll be a number one. But if it goes up, I’ll be satisfied.
“It’s funny, but I have absolutely rotten judgement where records are concerned. We listen to all the new singles and say ‘that’ll be a hit’ or ‘that’s a flop.’ But I’m never right. The ones I pick as hits never are.
“I don’t think I could pick a number one to save my life.”
© Alan Walsh, Melody Maker, 3 February 1968