As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, The Lurkers GLM have a very fine new album out titled The Future’s Calling and I recently spoke with Pete Haynes, the drummer, about the new songs, his past in the punk heyday of The Lurkers and also his writing – he’s had four books published to date including an autobiography with another, The Offender’s Nemesis, out today.
If you’re reading this then it’s odds on that you know a thing or two about The Lurkers, if you’re new to them though, here’s a brief introduction to one of the most under-rated British punk acts.
Firstly a quick explanation, Pete, when he was the drummer with The Lurkers was often known as Manic Esso, so you might know him by this name. Confusingly, there is currently a version of The Lurkers doing the rounds (with no original members but led by Arturo Bassick who did join an early line-up) while until recently Pete drummed with a band known as God’s Lonely Men – named after the second Lurkers album – who consisted of three of the original Lurkers (Pete, Nigel Moore and Pete Stride). For the new album, this lot have reclaimed their heritage further by becoming Lurkers GLM.
Got that? Okay, I’ll continue.
During the long, hot summer of 1976, Pete started work as a petrol pump attendant at an Esso garage on Uxbridge Road – so that’s one half of his old nickname explained – and he also became aware of a new band from the States called The Ramones. Pete’s newly formed band began rehearsing in the basement of the Beggars Banquet branch in Fulham and before the year was out, they played live for the first time, supporting Screaming Lord Sutch at Uxbridge Technical College, where their set was so short they were asked by Sutch to repeat it.
They were soon playing London’s famous Roxy club, the Nashville and Marquee, a record deal was signed and Shadow released, the first of a great run of 45s: Shadow, Freak Show, Ain’t Got A Clue, I Don’t Need To Tell Her and Just Thirteen.
Despite serving up these three minute slices of raw but catchy punk; playing the Roxy; being signed to an independent label and recording sessions for John Peel’s show, The Lurkers always felt themselves to be outsiders in (and out of) the punk scene. There was no hanging out in SEX with Malcolm, Vivienne and the Bromley Contingent. Many music press journalists dismissed the band as Ramones clones, although Mick Wall in Sounds gave their debut album Fulham Fallout a 5 star review, claiming it was so exciting that he’d had to stand up while penning his thoughts on it: ‘The spirit of 1976, contrary to what you might like to believe, is alive and kicking and coming straight at you – all the way from Fulham.’
Earlier this year, I reviewed Carmine Appice’s biography Stick It! My Life Of Sex, Drums, And Rock ‘N’ Roll for Louder Than War. This was the tale of a drummer and the thousands of groupies he claims to have slept with, the hundreds of hotel rooms he smashed up and the many superstar names that he has either played with or partied with over the years.
Pete’s memoir of 2007, which again uses the title God’s Lonely Men, is about as far from this kind of excessive life on the road with a band exposé as it’s possible to get although during the course of the book he does eat six pies before going onstage one night in Accrington while, another time, he drinks sixteen pints before a show at the Music Machine in Camden. And then five more afterwards.
Oh and he did once meet Stewart Copeland in the early days of The Police, advising him to change the name of their band or they’d never get anywhere.
Pete, I should maybe add, possesses a rather self deprecating sense of humour. He also likes to throw in the occasional controversial statement. Harry Potter fans beware.
You have a new book just about to be published?
Yeah, it’s a novel called The Offender’s Nemesis and it’s out on New Haven Publishing, which is a Norwegian based company.
And how would you describe it?
It’s about the eradication of the liberal state, which I can see happening. It’s about the average person seeing celebrities as being more meaningful than politicians. There is a story to it about a guy whose brother ends up on a highly popular TV show called The Offender’s Nemesis and he gets killed cos they kill people off who they say are paedophiles or terrorists although they don’t necessarily have to be. The story is set within a dystopian climate of fear. It’s about retribution, going back to the days of medieval society.
That sound potentially very depressing. But also equally fascinating and I’m looking forward to reading it. Any other writing on the go?
I’ve written six 90 minute screenplays, which are comedies, and I have another book at a publisher.
I see you’ve tried your hand at theatre too and had a play performed at the Bush.
That was just a short actually. I did have another, longer one, Thank Your Lucky Stars, that ran for three weeks at the Edinburgh Festival in 1988 and was given a five star review in the Scotsman.
How does your writing compare with making music?
I feel I need to do it. Maybe that’s why I haven’t ended up in Broadmoor. I need to express myself and get it out there.
Do you see yourself now as a writer rather than as a musician?
Oh God, I was never a musician. I was the drummer in The Lurkers (Laughs). You’ve got to have a sense of anchorage in your life.
So how good were The Lurkers?
Well, it’s not like our music was The Beatles or The Move or anything like that. It was all quite rudimentary stuff, wasn’t it?
Rudimentary can be good.
Well, yeah I do like The New York Dolls. I like trash rock and roll, The Ramones, that kinda thing.
And what do you listen to nowadays?
When I put on a CD it can be anything from Beethoven to The Wombles. The Idle Race, The Kinks, The Equals. I like old rock and roll, rockabilly, Roy Orbison, Hank Williams. I’ve always had a very broad taste in music. I love The Velvet Underground. For me punk comes from them and Iggy Pop and The New York Dolls through to The Ramones.
I do actually have a lot of time for The Lurkers and I’m very protective of them but we didn’t move with the times.
I would say nearly everybody. And by moving with the times I mean people during the late ’70s began aligning their music with politics. I think a lot of them did that to sell their music rather than letting their music stand on its own merit.
Oh, I thought you meant musically moving with times.
Well musically most of it’s a load of old shit.
A lot of the bands that came along later were a bunch of old hippies with a fake political stance. They didn’t give a fuck about rioting in the streets, they wanted to be The Rolling Stones.
I liked punk best myself when nobody really knew where it was coming from politically. Okay, The Clash were always a political band but The Damned weren’t political, The Buzzcocks weren’t very political. Johnny Rotten thought that anarchy was mind games for the middle classes and I doubt Steve Jones could have even told you who the Prime Minister was at the time.
How much time do you put into the band nowadays?
Well, just to give you an insight, there isn’t a great deal of input at the moment. We meet for an hour and a half every week. We’re not playing live at the moment and nothing is planned, but who knows, we might one
That’s a pity, especially as I like the new album and I’m sure a lot of folk would like to hear the songs live. Actually a lot of those new tracks could be weaved into your live set along with the old favourites and fit in really well.
D’you think the album sounds contemporary?
I might be the wrong person to ask. I do listen to a lot of new music and a lot of that doesn’t sound very contemporary. Sounding good is more important to me nowadays than sounding contemporary. As a whole it sounds fresh to me.
I do think it sounds pretty fresh myself even though we’re old bastards and it’s 2016.
It’s funny, I remember back in the punk era Johnny Rotten slagging Mick Jagger off for being an old bastard when Jagger must have been mid-thirties. Never thought I’d say it but I do like going to see some old groups nowadays although if anybody is just getting back together for an nostalgia trip and churning out the greatest hits then I’m not really interested.
Problem for us is, not playing any live dates to promote the album means we’re not really reaching our audience.
I’m sure marketing people would agree.
On the subject of marketing, I found out that a major part of a company’s budget nowadays goes on marketing. People have to be told what to like, they have to be told what to wear or what to watch or read. The biggest thing for me was that whole Harry Potter thing. I’m sitting on the Underground in about 1999 and this 50 year old man in an office suit opposite me is reading a stupid fucking story about a four eyed cunt and some goblins and wizards, I felt like saying, ‘Give up, will you?’ He wouldn’t be reading that unless he felt pressurised into it in some way.’ What I’m trying to say here is that it was the power of advertising that made people like him read something like that.
One of the things I liked about your biography was the genuine down to earthness, like when you played Max’s Kansas City, a venue that all these cool acts like Television and Patti Smith had played and you only give it two sentences whereas you write a good few pages about Jimmy’s, a boxer’s bar in Harlem that you stumble into. That seems more important to you.
I think so. It was great to play Max’s. The bloke gave me a T-shirt which I’ve still got. Hardly ever wore it then put it in a cupboard.
That’ll likely be worth a small fortune on eBay.
You think so? It’s just a little memento. I think a lot of people go to these places to see who’s there. I didn’t give a fuck who was in Max’s that night. I was more interested in the price of beer. I think the group as a whole was the same although Pete the guitarist was maybe a bit more in tune with that kind of thing.
I didn’t realise till I read your book the extent of how much of a group of outsiders that you felt The Lurkers were.
We were never trendy or cool. The Lurker world wasn’t ‘rack n roll’ – more tea rooms and neurosis, while drinking vats of beer and feeling out of place.
Finally, being Scottish, I was amused by the fact that during the height of punk in the summer of ’77, you played the Isle of Arran. That was some booking agent you had by the way.
The bookings had become a joke by the end. We’re a young band, from London at the cutting edge of punk and they book us to play Arran of all places.
Yeah, lovely island but it’s about ten or twenty years behind the times. I think The Rezillos played there round about the same time actually.
The shows were absolutely mad. It was all flared trousers and long hair. Most of the crowd in their late 20s and everybody was really aggressive cos we’re from London and we had to be very cowardly and just smiled when they said we were shit.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I never made it along for that one. A bit complicated to get to from where I was living. Didn’t get to see you at the Silver Thread either.
The Silver Thread in Paisley?
Yeah. Couple of bus journeys away from me at the time. Plus I would only have been fifteen and they probably wouldn’t have let me in anyway.
Where is it you’re from, Glasgow?
Originally, yeah, but just outside back then.
Whereabouts in Glasgow?
Govanhill in the Southside originally, then a few other places across the city and surrounding areas.
I used to stay sometimes at a pal’s place in Barrhead.
Yeah, that’s nearer Paisley.
He took me to see Celtic play St. Mirren one time. St Mirren won 2-1.
Thanks for talking Pete and good luck with the new book.
Pete will be taking part in a reading on Saturday (1. October) at Kentish Town Library.
For more on Lurkers GLM, click here.