“Stale” America Need A New Act — And They May Extend Their Line-Up

IMPERIAL COLLEGE, London, was America’s last gig before their current tour of the States. Backstage it was more than a little chaotic, with the dressing room packed out with American high-school types in teeshirts and tennis shoes. Everybody, it seemed, who had ever known the group had come to wish them well.

In the midst of it all, Gerry Beckley, Dan Peek and Dewey Bunnell attempted to tune their guitars while reflecting on the changes brought about by the recent success of their single, ‘Horse With No Name’.

“Ever since we appeared on Top Of The Pops our audiences have been getting a lot younger,” said Beckley. “There were a few girls in Scotland who even screamed at us.

“As we’ve never been through it before I suppose it’s all rather flattering. There’s been a lot more response and freaking generally, especially when we play the single. But I think there’s a danger in appealing to just a young audience.”

BELIEFS

Basically the group have no wish to get into the T. Rex syndrome or aim exclusively at the singles market.

They’ve always felt more interested in albums, feeling that this is the medium where they can best express themselves. The single’s huge success rather took them by surprise. Obviously it’s helped the group — but it hasn’t changed their basic musical beliefs.

“We want to try our own approach to the market,” said Bunnell. “We know how we want to present ourselves, and we want to stick to that without this stuff about singles interfering.

“Already our record company have been on to us about a follow-up, and we’ve told them nothing’s planned. And at present there isn’t. We don’t want to release a follow-up single as such. Maybe a single at a later date, but not as a follow-up.

“The thing is, we haven’t really trapped what we want musically from albums,” added Beckley. “Both Dewey and Dan have tons of songs stored up that could be turned into hit singles. But we’d never dream of releasing them — except perhaps under an anonymous name.

“We were writing single-type songs in the very early days — simple songs that no longer hold our interest. Commercially they stack up, but on the level of what we want to get into — they don’t.

“Basically we want to keep a serious approach to music and get more into things like under melodies… give every song a little catch rather than the same old harmonies and guitar parts. It’s a big step.”

America have now written about half the material for their second album, which they’ll record on their return from the States. On a general level it’s a good indication of how the group are thinking.

“We want to keep the whole thing running, so well maybe play little interlude parts to tie the tracks together,” explained Bunnell. “Hopefully the tracks will run into each other rather than be just separate tracks. I think when you’re listening to an album it’s good to hear a whole side flow.”

“To me, albums like our first one tend to sound like those ‘Greatest Hits’ records after a while,” said Beckley. “It sounds like somebody has taken a whole bunch of singles and just lined them up. It’s not really using the full potential.”

The success of ‘Horse With No Name’ has also helped their debut album into the charts. It came out over six months ago (to fairly varied reactions), so I wondered how the group felt about it now.

“I personally always feel it’s like the first three pages of the diary of our musical lives,” said Bunnell. “You can’t erase it and you don’t want to.

“Alter we finished making it we were so sick of hearing it that we didn’t want to know. We lost sight of it completely. But now it seems to mean a whole lot more.

“Possibly the lyrics are a little naive — as many people said when it came out. But they’re real in the sense that that’s what we were doing at that time.

RE-BIRTH

“Really, most of our thoughts over the last couple of weeks have been on this American tour. I guess we go to bed thinking about it every night, None of us have been back for several years, so just on that level there’s a great curiosity to see the place.

“Well be doing the same act that we’ve been playing over here. After all, there’s the same job to be done.

“It’s going to be strange in a way. It’ll be like a re birth — starting all over again.

“The trouble is we’ve been doing this set now for so long we got tired of it about five months ago,” said Beckley. “We’ve got the numbers down pat, we know them backwards, and they’ve been taken to their fullest extent. The only thing that creeps in is a little bit of staleness, which we try to avoid.

“We’re going to think deeply about live performances over in the States. Maybe well add another member… there’s still a bit question mark on that. But at the moment we’ve taken it as far as it’ll go.”

© James JohnsonNew Musical Express, 5 February 1972

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