'80s - Matchbox (2013)
'Still Rockabilly Rebels - The Matchbox Story'
Matchbox was formed in 1971 by Iain "Houndog" Terry, Fred Poke, Jimmy Redhead and Wiffle Smith. After 1978, the line-up consisted of Graham Fenton (lead vocalist), Steve Bloomfield (lead guitar, vocals), Gordon Scott (rhythm guitar), Fred Poke (bass guitar) and Jimmy Redhead (drums). Redhead had left in 1973, Smith in 1977 and Lupton in 1978 to tour with Chuck Berry. Dick Callan joined Matchbox on guitar, saxophone and violin until approximately 1985, writing many of the band's B-sides.
The band's biggest hits include 'Rockabilly Rebel' (Bloomfield, 1979), 'Midnite Dynamos' (Bloomfield, 1980) and 'Over The Rainbow' (adapted musical song, 1980). Their last single, 'I Want Out' (Brian Hodgson/Ray Peters/Tony Colton, 1983) from their album, Crossed Line, was produced together with Kirsty MacColl.
In 1989, Graham Fenton put together a band with Iain Terry, Bob Burgos, Howard Gadd and Greg Gadd. They called themselves Graham Fenton's Matchbox. They recorded six albums in the early 1990s. The original Matchbox line-up reformed in 1995. The band has been playing live all over Europe since their comeback, especially in Germany, France, Holland, Spain, Finland and Sweden. On occasions Iain Terry and Dave Dix were used as replacements for Bloomfield and Poke.
They have recorded one album since their full 1995 reunion, but as they still play live in Europe so much, I caught up with Graham Fenton for a one-on-one chat about the old days.
Taking it from the top, and Matchbox was actually formed in 1971 by fou guys, and it wasn't until 1978 that you and three others came into the group. So, with all those people coming in and out, eventually the band was set @ early 1979. Reflecting back to those early days, what was it about the band that had you wanting to join them in the first place? "I liked the songs and the style of playing that Steve Bloomfield (lead guitarist) was doing and could see potential!"
It seemed that straight away Matchbox had massive back-to-back-to-back hit singles (in the UK) with singles like 'Rockabilly Rebel,' 'Midnite Dynamos' and 'When You Ask About Love.' So having joined the band to sing, and then find yourself on TOTP and riding high on the charts, was that expected or unexpected at the time? "Well, it wasn't expected back then! It was kinda surprise later when the general media started to take an interest in what we were doing."
But the hits didn't keep coming for a few years thereafter - why was that though, what had changed? "Well, the band started to break up as Steve left to write songs. Then some of the other members get despondent and gradually different members joined the band as others left! Although they were good musicians it lost that magic and I left to go solo and on the road with many of the great names from the '50s and '60s. Until I formed Graham Fenton's Matchbox!"
Yes, come 1989 you did leave the band and created your own band, Graham Fenton's Matchbox. Indeed, that band recorded six albums in the early '90s, but did you ever get into legal trouble for using the name Matchbox in the title? "Yes, there was a problem! But it was the late Les Grey, from the band Mud, who told me to put my name in front of Matchbox as he had done when he left Mud. But, of course, when the five of us reformed it was different as the magic was back again! I still perform as a solo act occasionally. Like I am going to Las Vegas in March with Gene Vincent's band The Blue Caps and some other USA musicians too! Viva Las Vegas Festival at the end of March!"
Taking a look at some of the bands original hits, 'Rockabilly Rebel,'
'Midnite Dynamos,' 'Buzz Buzz a Diddle It,' and 'When You Ask About Love,' please tell us a little more about the time spent recording and what they meant to you at the time "Well, a lot were written about the scene at the time. The Rockabilly Kids and Midnight Dynamos was a gang who got their kicks after midnite. Some were about various situations and then the covers were by The Crickets and Freddy Cannon, who we met in Germany. And others were songs we just liked in general, I guess."
Since your full Matchbox reunion in 1995 the band has sadly only recorded one full album - knowing that you are still touring today (with Steve Bloomfield, Gordon Scott, Fred Poke and Jimmy Redhead) are there plans to have another new record out again in the stores, perhaps? "It is a shame we have not done another album since some of us want to, but Steve don't write songs no more! Although there is still a possibility, so who knows. Maybe it will happen?! I have done a solo album called Raging Heart and will be doing another one later this year, hopefully with some new songs."
What are the main differences for you touring today vs. touring back in the '70s and '80s? "I guess the scene has changed a lot and various places have a bigger RNR scene than others. And lots of new bands and festivals too! Most of out gigs now are in Europe and Scandinava, although we do some festivals and RNR weekenders in the UK."
Cherry Red Records have recently re-released a remastered version of your 1981 album Flying Colours on CD. Is this good or bad news?! "This album was not my favorite as the record company were trying to change us from what we set out to do! I know it was well recorded, but I only like a few tracks on it. So, I could live without it!"
And with regard this new remastered Flying Colours CD, one has to wonder if you yourself make any money from Cherry Red releasing it these days?! "Yes, we do. We do make some money from these re-releases, but not a fortune. But we do sell them on the road with the merchandise also."
If asked to record one for charity, what '70s or '80s pop/rock song would you love to cover today? "Wow! That's a tough one, but I guess something like 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' by Queen. As it's a good song, cheesy, but it does rock! Or 'Rock 'N Roll Is King' by ELO. A great song. I like it anyway!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you? "Yer! I love 'em! We got some! They breed at our local wildlife park here on the Isle of Wight. Great, great little fella's! I have filmed them too!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk