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Hi and welcome to the blackroom. My name is Pauline Black, lead vocalist with The Selecter.

My week started with a surprise last Sunday 28 February. Early in the morning I had a phone call from a very good friend of mine, Pick Withers, who was the original drummer in Dire Straits. He left Dire Straits back in the late eighties and is currently drumming with Dr Hook. He invited me over to the gig they were playing that night at the Bedworth Civic Hall.

Now Dr Hook were always one of my favourite bands since I first discovered them in the early ‘80’s, so I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to see the great Denis Locorriere sing hits like ‘Sylvias’ Mother’s Said’ and ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’.

But as luck would have it, Denis Locorriere is also a very, very nice man and when asked if he would do a short interview for the blackroom, after they had finished soundchecking, he immediately said yes and next thing I knew, I was whisked off for tea and sandwiches in his dressing room. Find out what he had to say in The Story So Far and a review of the gig in Bands 2C.

Bands2C : Dr Hook

@ Bedworth Civic Hall, 28 February 1999

Dr Hook - early '70'sDr Hook was an American country rock band, originally named Dr Hook and The Medicine Show.

Formed in New Jersey in 1968, the original members included Roy Sawyer, Dennis Locorriere, Bill Francis, John David and George Cummings.

They came to prominence with material written by Shel Silverstein and the craziness of their stage show transferred to records well, reaching it’s peak with the mega-hit ‘The Cover Of The Rolling Stone’ in 1972. Then they mellowed in style and their main chart hits tended to be ballads as the decade wore on.

By 1985, Sawyer and Locorriere went their separate ways and Dr Hook was no more. Sawyer revived the band later, but apparently has trouble singing the songs as well as Locorriere. Now Locorriere wants to re-dress the balance and is trying to revive the tarnished reputation that Sawyer has established for Dr Hook.

This present incarnation of Dr Hook is basically a mini super-group. The line-up includes Pick Withers (ex-Dire Straits, Bob Dylan) drums, Benny Gallagher (Gallagher & Lyle) bass, Mike Bell (Albert Lee band) keyboards, Rod Smarr (Dr Hook and Dolly Parton) guitar and the brilliant other half of the Dr Hook partnership (ie the man without the eye-patch!) Denis Locorierre.

The show kicked off promptly at 8pm. Benny Gallagher did a solo spot on guitar for 20 minutes as a warm-up to the main event. Looking splendid in a jet-black suit, with only an acoustic guitar, his voice and self-penned songs for company, he entertained with an easy style and grace; finally giving the audience what they wanted with a lovely rendition of an old Gallagher and Lyle hit, ‘Heart on Your Sleeve’.

Next up was ‘the voice of Dr Hook’ as Denis Locorierre was billed. As soon as he opened his mouth to sing, he had the audience eating out of his hand. The band was rock solid; smoothly taking us on the journey of Dr Hook’s major hits, like ‘Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’, ‘Sexy Eyes’, ‘When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman’ and ‘Queen Of The Silver Dollar’. Some of the new material from his current ‘Love Songs’ album was lyrically not up to the standard of the old stuff, but nonetheless, it was patiently listened to by the audience

Few singers can take a song and make it live for the few minutes that it lasts, but Denis Locorierre must surely be ranked among those few. By the time he had sung ‘Sylvia’s Mother Said’, alone with just his acoustic guitar, you knew that you were in the presence of a great performer. The sweetness of his high notes laced with the whisky rasp of his lower register allowed him to inhabit even the most banal of lyrics.

This coupled with the fact that he knows how to talk to an audience made for a great evening, even if it was largely nostalgia.

Here’s what Denis Locorierre had to say to me before the show:

The Story So Far…

Q  What is that makes Dr Hook so successful after nearly 30 years in the business?

A  Do you know that I like to think that we just pick good songs, whether we wrote them or we found them or somebody wrote them for us. You know, we just may have done the right thing, because it comes back around so many times. And I see the audience out here now, it’s people bringing their children and it’s like we have a whole new audience and it’s like it just keeps going on. It’s unbelievable. I mean I’m so surprised. I wasn’t sure who would be here this time. It’s everybody and their kids.

Q Do you think that the current favourite boy-band 911, having a No.1 hit with ‘A Little Bit More’ has introduced a whole new audience to your material?

A I don’t know, because I don’t know whether the people who like 911 would come and see me. But I think that certainly they called attention to the song and if nothing else they’ve kinda woke my old audience up, because people are coming to hear the original now. They’ve turned it into something original, when it was just a song. And I think that they did a good job of it too, because they kept it pretty much the same in terms of melody and nuance, perhaps it’s a little quicker, so you can dance to it, but I think it’s great to have a no.1 record these days. When I first got here, people were saying you have a no.1, but I thought like, well, it isn’t me. It’s like betting on a horse and 30 years later it runs by again. It’s just nice to know that you’ve done something right.

Q It’s not the first time one of Dr Hook’s songs has been covered. Marianne Faithfull did a stunning version of ‘Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’ on her Broken English album in the eighties. Did you ever meet her?

A   I met Marianne Faithful on Top Of The Pops and I asked her where she’d heard the song and she said, ‘I bought your record, silly’ and I thought of course. You just don’t end up thinking like that. She told me about the night that Mick and her came to The Rainbow in London to see us, and I thought yeah, you just never know who’s going to be out there. You live in a nice little isolated world, when you’re on the road and you just don’t know what’s going on around you.

Q  Is this tour part of a world-wide tour?

A   Hopefully. You know I want this tour to be a means to an end. I don’t want to come back and get back into the 70’s thing and please remember me; although I am doing a lot of old songs tonight. Last time I toured I did a lot of new things, because I like to find out what the people think of the new material. Obviously I know they like the old ones, because they keep buying them. I’m hoping that this will re-introduce to me to a lot of people who know me already.

I’ve had a strange career, because I’ve sung a lot of songs that people know, but we had the guy in the band who had the eye-patch and a lot of people close their eyes and see him while I’m singing. And he’s been touring, because I’ve been out of the picture for the last 10 or 15 years and people see him and expect when they go to see him that it’s going to be the original band, or I’m going to be there. So I just wanted everybody to know that I’m still alive and still have a pulse, plus all my hair and teeth and I’ve come back to reclaim a little territory.

I wasn’t sure who was going to be here, but the audiences have been sell-outs or damn near close to sell-outs, so I’m just thrilled. And they don’t seem like they’re just coming back to recapture the past. I have a theory and I might be wrong, but a lot of the audiences we had in the 70’s went on and had children, lives and families and devoted all their time to that. Now some of the children are a little older and less of responsibility to them, so they’re looking around saying okay what’s entertaining to me. And they’re back and they’re bringing those kids and you know I really think that’s why Paul McCartney had a good year last year and James Taylor, because I think that ‘baby boom’ generation just want to be entertained and we are still here to entertain them.

Q  You’ve had a long songwriting partnership with Shel Silverstein. What makes that relationship so special?

A Shel Silverstein is such a wonderful writer. He actually made that phone call featured in the song ‘Sylvia’s Mother Said’ and he was told that ‘I’m sorry she’s getting married and you can’t speak to her, because it will upset her’.

Shel is just such a great story teller and when I was just a young guy of 19, 20 years old and was given his songs to sing, he gave me stories to tell, not just a song that will go by later on, but a story that you could always tell, so he gave me things that are timeless - stories that don’t seem to date.

In particular he gave me ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’. And Marianne Faithfull’s version, well my God she sounded like Lucy Jordan. When I sang it, I was just telling the story of this woman, but when she sang it, with that voice, she sounded as though she was up there on the roof. It was a nice match I thought.

Q  Did you ever get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone?

A   Yeah! But it was a cartoon, because I don’t think we had any photos of us back then and it said "What’s their names make the cover" - they didn’t even bother putting the name of the band on it. I think their plan was just to get us famous and over with. But it was another great Shel Silverstein song.

He called us and said "How would you like to get on the cover of the Rolling Stone?" and we thought "what do we have to do" and he said write this down and we wrote down the lyrics and sang it that night. It was just a great song for the time, because it poked fun at so many of things that other people were taking seriously.

We always said that we like to take a sacred cow and turn it into hamburger. So many people were taking themselves so seriously. We took what we did seriously, but not ourselves. God we were a bar band who were lucky enough to have international success, but we never thought that we were any more than an internationally successful bar band.

So to sing things like, "I’ve got my poor old grey haired daddy driving my limousine" and things like that, well we thought that was funny. We had one big rock star come up to us and say, "That’s about me isn’t it?" really seriously. Just like Spinal Tap, but that was a film. A lot of people thought that was a real documentary. People thought that we were really living that life, but we were just poking fun at those who were.

Q  What are you planning after this series of dates?

A   After 54 shows in a little over two months, I’ll be lying down for a little while! I’m hoping this tour will be a means to an end. I don’t have to teach a new audience anything, I just have to remind them that we’ve known each other for a long time. The good thing about the Dr Hook ‘Love Songs’ album is that as well as the 17 old songs I’m singing, they’ve let me put three new songs on it as Dennis Lacorriere, the voice of Dr Hook.

Somebody reviewed it and said a tad emphatic ‘The voice of Dr Hook’, but I’m having to say that now, because I’m not the face or eye-patch of Dr Hook.

But with the three new songs on there, one of them is now becoming a single, I’m hoping that I can come back with a solo album, because we’ve recorded a lot of things in the last year or two. I’d like to get that out there again. I’d like this to be the beginning of something, not necessarily me, milking the end of my career for as long as it will run, cos I’ll stay home before I’ll be on the super seventies tour.

I love it when people come up to me and say, "It really reminded me of my childhood", but I really do hope that there’s a future to it and it’s not just reminding us of who we were, because we’re all okay now too. You know I think I’d like to convey that as much as anything, because you don’t just have to pine for the past. We can still all roll on from here.

Dr Hook Interview @ Bedworth Civic Hall, Sunday 28 February 1999

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Behind The Scenes

Last week I promised you a sneak behind the scenes of The Selecter’s life on the road, during our gig in Paris scheduled for Saturday 6 March.

Well, unfortunately our keyboard player fell over (no he wasn’t drunk at the time!!) and chipped a bone in his foot, so he can’t gig for a few weeks. So you’ll have to wait for the next instalment. Still it gives me plenty of time to get out and see new local bands!

The Selecter are playing The Foundry in Birmingham on 20 March.

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Future tense

That’s it for this week. My thanks to Martin Nike for emailing me with info about a new band Endless Knot, that he thought I might enjoy.

Bands 2C this coming week are Boiling Peter Bread, Prole Position and Endless Knot; plus an interview with ex-Specials, ex Fun Boy Three, Coventry star Neville Staples for The Story So Far… See you out and about somewhere!

E-mail me on with your opinions and questions, which will be answered on these pages.


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CWN / the blackroom / 9 Mar 99

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