100 ICONS OF ROCK: THE COMPLETE VERSIONS! Lemmy on Tina Turner… Steve Harley on Leonard Cohen… Noddy Holder on Little Richard… Chad Smith on John Bonham… Glenn Hughes on Sly Stone…
Some of the choices of Rock Icon in the current issue of Classic Rock were edited due to space restrictions. Over the next several days we’ll be posting the full, unexpurgated versions for your delectation. Here are a few to be getting on with…
n the current issue of Classic Rock were edited due to space restrictions. Over the next several days we’ll be posting the full, unexpurgated versions for your delectation. Here are a few to be getting on with…
Lemmy Kilmister on Tina Turner
Tina Turner was fucking amazing when she was young. I saw the Ike & Tina Turner Revue at the Middle Earth in Covent Garden. There was only a small stage. It was… I don’t know, two feet high. So I was in direct crotch level with the Ikettes.
It was a hell of a show. I remember being gobsmacked by the Ikettes – there were four of them, as I recall, and I was captivated by the one in the blonde wig. But then Tina Turner came out and she made me forget about the Ikettes straight away. She was so beautiful, and she had legs up to here. She was like greased lightning.
This must have been 1967. She was doing great records like Proud Mary, and River Deep Mountain High was the big one, of course. When Tina went solo she picked very unfortunate songs and she lost all that dynamic. I think it was a conscious move to get away from the Ike & Tina Turner thing, but at the same time it fucked the act. Because whatever he [Ike] did to her, he brought out that wild woman in her. Did I ever meet her? No, not properly. I said hello to her once at Hammersmith Odeon, just “hi” as she was passing by, and then she was gone.
You might think Tina Turner is an unusual choice for my icon, but my music memories go back a long way. I remember when Elvis’s first record came out. So I wouldn’t be likely to choose David Coverdale, d’you know what I mean?
Steve Harley on Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen is reputedly very depressing, but he’s not. That’s an ignorant cop-out for those who are unfamiliar with him. Bob Dylan has become Leonard Cohen. They both, in their later years, have become almost like Lenny Bruce in embryo. They’re like Jewish stand-up comics. Dylan’s even called his new album Modern Times, which is a Charlie Chaplin film.
Dylan is so funny. And Leonard Cohen is funny, too – the wit is there, the dark humour. It’s very dark but, boy, is it here. I can quote him all day.
When did I first get into him? Very early on, when I was smoking dope and wanting to slash my wrists I daresay. It was bedsit land in 1971, 1972.
I love his songs Chelsea Hotel No.2 and Suzanne. When you hear this Canadian guy say the word ‘oranges’ you hear a sound that’s unique and mysterious. ‘She feeds you tea and ooo-raaa-nges that come all the way from China’ [a lyric from Suzanne, a song also made famous by Neil Diamond]. Another lyric [from Dress Rehearsal Rag]: ‘And then the cameras pan, the stand-in stunt man, dress-rehearsal rag.’ I’m sorry, but anyone who doesn’t get that is missing the point totally.
Leonard Cohen is a novelist. I read Beautiful Losers before I heard his first album. He’s a man of letters. And he plays a lovely fingerpicking gut-strung guitar. They call him a ladies’ man but he’ll tell you he’s shy of women.
I admire great artists. Cohen influenced a lot of people – Cat Stevens definitely, and maybe Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who are fellow Canadians of course. But Leonard is way out there. There’s something weird and sexy about him. He’s one of my few heroes because, as much as anything, he’s a literary figure. Which Dylan is. Pete Townshend, Neil Young and Paul Simon are others. But there aren’t many. That’s important to me, that kind of approach, and Cohen helped shape the way I write songs.
Leonard Cohen melts hearts. I know a lot of women who find his music very powerful and moving. Why is that? I don’t know. I suppose because they think he’s a ladies’ man. He’s a craggy-featured matinee idol.
Noddy Holder on Little Richard
I started singing when I was seven years old in working men’s clubs. The first song I ever performed was by Frankie Laine, I Believe. It the No.1 song at the time. I discovered rock’n’roll through Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley & The Comets, and British guys like Tommy Steele were around, and then of course Elvis hit. Then a lot of these films started to be made – they’d have loose plots, and they’d throw in a lot of American acts like The Coasters. They used to have a rubbishy plot just to link the songs together.
I’d already heard the rock’n’roll of various people like Elvis and Fats Domino and various people, and I’d heard Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti – and the sound of it excited me. I might’ve even thought he was black at the time. Anyway, I went to see a movie called The Girl Can’t Help It, and Little Richard was in it. He came on and performed the title song – he pounded his piano, he had big bouffant greased hair, a baggy shiny suit, which they used to call a be-bop suit in those days, and his band behind him all had their saxes swinging in unison. It just absolutely floored me.
The Girl Can’t Help It was a simple, two-minute rock’n’roll song and the lyrics were crap-great. They were so bad they were fantastic: ‘If she winks an eye, the bread slice turns to toast.’ That’s brilliant. It floored me.
Little Richard was showbiz, but he was dirty, nitty-gritty showbiz. When I saw him live it was just pandemonium, all the teddy boys there and everything. He was jumping on the piano, and we’d not seen this in Britain before. The sweat was rolling off him and every time he shook his head the sweat was came out into the crowd. He had his powder on, and his make-up, and he was as camp as custard, but and nobody in those days knew why he was like that.
I thought, this is what I want to do. I want to be a rock’n’roll singer. I want to be an over the top rock’n’roll singer. I want to be a colourful, extrovert, dressing-up rock’n’roll singer. Little Richard changed my life.
Chad Smith on John Bonham
John Bonham influenced me at a very early age. I was a young guy; I was eight, nine, 10 years old at the time. I was just learning to play the drums. To me that music from the late 60s, early 70s, that hard rock blues music, was very influential. My brother was two years older than me and he played the guitar. Jimmy Page was his hero. My brother had a great collection of records by The Who, Queen, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Cream. So he first turned me on to that kind of music.
I liked all the drummers but people like Ian Paice, Ginger Baker and Bill Ward – even though Sabbath were so heavy – were a little lighter in their technique than Bonham. Those guys cut their teeth in the mid 60s, during that jazz-turning-into-blues thing. Especially Ian Paice, who was almost Buddy Rich-esque.
It was the sheer power of Bonzo that appealed to me. And his sound. I’d never heard drums with //that// sound. Page’s production was important of course. Bonzo had depth and air, and he played so musically. The way he played around those Page riffs with such power, musicality and finesse was very impressive. I just wanted to be in Led Zeppelin just by hearing Bonzo’s drums. I would put my headphones on and go down to my drum kit in the basement and pretend I was in Led Zeppelin. But I never tried out the Moby Dick solo – that was kind of crazy.
I think Jimmy Page was right to call an end to Zeppelin when Bonham died. Right there it shows you that here’s a guy that’s irreplaceable. Both as a person and as a musician.
I went to Bonham’s grave. It’s out in the middle of nowhere in Rushock, a beautiful village in the heart of the Black Country. I was doing a drum clinic in Birmingham last October. I asked my driver: “Isn’t John Bonham, buried somewhere near here?” For some reason he knew exactly what to do. He typed in www.findagrave.com on his laptop and we got the location. We drove down a little road and we found an old, old church. We went through a little creaky gate and no one was around; we just walked through. Most times in America you’ll see big mausoleums but Bonzo’s just got a very humble little gravestone. I managed to recognise it because there was a good slew of drumsticks sitting at the bottom of his stone. It made me really sad because it was such a waste of life.
Glenn Hughes on Sly Stone
The big turning point for me was when I first went over to America with my band Trapeze in the very early 70s. I turned on the radio and heard Sly & The Family Stone. The likes of Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and Donnie Hathaway had influenced me vocally, but Sly Stone’s music had a deeper resonance. Especially on There’s A Riot Goin’ On, which is a live album. Thank You For Takin’ To Me Africa, Family Affair… songs like that. It sounded just superhuman to me. I also liked Sly’s bass player, Larry Graham. I started to really explore the possibilities of being a bass player, leaving the notes out and just slapping with it – because no one was really using a slapping technique in rock back then. And the guitar player – who sometimes was Sly, by the way – was also really influential. I was never really a guy who enjoyed guitar solos, it was more about textures to me.
When Sly sang he used two or three different voices, which influenced the way I started to sing, from real deep down to kinda screamy – that was just //me.// It was //going to be me.//
I never saw Sly & The Family Stone live but I met Sly himself in 1980 at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. I was doing a session there. He’s a very small guy but he’s got enormous talent. He shook me to the core. His influence really rubs off in [Trapeze track] Way Back To the Bone, you can hear it.
I’ve always been a fan of black American singing musicians like Sly. When you play [Deep Purple’s] Stormbringer and you listen to You Can’t Do It Right, Hold On and Love Don’t Mean A Thing – the way Ritchie [Blackmore] played, it’s //funky.// The way Ritchie hooked in with me, Paicey and Lordy – that’s some funky stuff. We didn’t use the word funk then because that might’ve offended some rock fans – but it’s the whole core of who I am.
Thanks to Sly Stone, when I joined Purple I added a swagger that wasn’t there before. I feel good about that.