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9 March 1974
I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATSISNAME
It's a curious rarified air in which the big bands live on tour. It has nothing to do with 'glamour', and everything to do with the inevitable and increasing gulf between what's happening on the streets and in the factories and what's going on up there in Room 837 of the local Howard Johnson's, where Jimmy and the Bootlaces are closeted for 12 hours, split by a few hours of being shipped with elaborate precautions to and from the Big Gig in a Big Black Car.
Before long, the band isn't really aware of where they are, what the weather's like. Food is brought in, women break in through the usual routes. All they have to do is rehearse, write, record, play, be interviewed, and maybe think about home — the wife, the dogs, the car, everything with a little sanity, stability and normality about it, away from this bazaar of touring.
Sometimes, it's the gradual fade-out, other times there's a sudden chute back down to being just someone else instead of being one of OOH, LOOK, IT'S THEM!!! Is the bump back to normality a gentle return to sanity or a bruising end to a fulfilling dream. We've been asking a few people, and in this, the first of a short series, ROB MACKIE talks to CLIVE BUNKER.
* * *
Clive Bunker is a nice, easy going, mild-mannered guy who owns an engineering factory in Luton and lives with his wife and some red setters in the country nearby. In his spare time he enjoys clay pigeon shooting and does a bit of drumming on the side. From the mid-sixties until 1972, Clive was Jethro Tull's drummer.
"It's only now and again that it comes to you that you're in a big band. It's only since I've left that I've realised just how big Jethro Tull is. I used to find myself trying to make up for it if people knew who I was, trying to be one of the lads. It made me go into my shell a bit."
Clive's decision to leave was a simple, straightforward one, although he admits to still having the odd twinge when he reads a music paper, and it probably pleased his parents, who thought he was daft to leave his steady job as a fitter and join a band.
"Tull is one of THE incredible bands, for me. I've always thought so, but I always said that when I got married I'd leave. Getting married was more important."
Does getting married have to be incompatible with playing in one of our most popular bands?
"Whoever I'd have been with I'd have left to get married, but it is incompatible with a band like Tull because they were a ridiculous touring band, masochists really in a way. If they could have worked it so that you still have plenty of time at home, that would have been nice, but it was England, America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand all the time."
Unlike a lot of touring rock stars who get so blinkered from life outside that they only meet the arse-lickers and star-stuffers who are determined enough to force their way into the company of the famous, Clive had a girlfriend in Luton to correspond with and didn't get too involved with all the rest of the caper.
"She's definitely a non-music person, she wouldn't even know if the dog's howling in tune, and so-called pop stars make her pretty embarrassed."
More than most, Clive's aware of the falsities of the whole 'star' set-up and can laugh at it.
There was one occasion when he was still with Tull, and sat in one evening with a mate's little dance trio. Someone in the audience recognised the name on the drums, and asked Clive where he got them from. Naturally, he couldn't believe this was the same Tull Bunker that he'd seen on stage that far away and read about, so in the end Clive said he was a friend of a friend and had borrowed them for the evening. He decided that he'd show the guy in the right way, by putting everything he had into the drum solo that night, and reckoned he'd done one of his best.
One sweaty dressing room later. The same head pops round the door. 'Well you might have his drums,' he says, 'but you'll never be able to play like him.' Collapse of dance trio plus drummer.
There was the same sort of thing with Jude, which was Clive's band for six months or so after he left Tull, the band which preceded The Robin Trower Band for Robin and Jimmy Dewar.
"Robin and I would both do our solos, the sort of thing that would get them all on their feet when he was with Procol and I was with Jethro, and it would be like this at the end of it ..."
[...] he puts the fingers of his left hand into the palm of his right to create some polite maiden-over-at-the-Oval cricket clapping.
It's the old 'For Free' syndrome — if it's being played at the end of a room with 100 people and the band's only getting £50 and hasn't had a gold record yet, then it can't really be worth clapping too hard. It didn't do Jude any favours, anyway, and after six months, the people at Chrysalis said that the progress so far hadn't really been up to expectations, and that was that.
So what next? Well, what would be the most UNlikely thing for a Jethro Tull to do, I mean, vere a buncha freaks, innay? Running a factory must come pretty close to it.
At any rate the image couldn't have been more opposite. Where Tull had been just a bunch of guys, from whom audiences expected and imagined all manner of weirdness, Clive became a rock 'n' roll scruff in the straight businessman's world.
"With Jethro you had to be a freaker, and then it had to be smarto smarto. I had to go the Black and Decker to try and get them interested in my little firm. Luckily, the guy I went to see there loved Jethro, which helped."
Clive would look pretty much at home on either side of the fence nowadays, but he looks back on his old hairy passport photo with some surprise.
"At the time, I just looked the same as the people I was around, but now, it doesn't look like me any more."
The last couple of years have given Clive a whole lot of confidence of being his own man, which he never really got from Jethro.
"Before I was just a drummer with a name band, sitting at the back and watching the others do their act, and everything was pretty much planned out for you on tour.
"Practice, sleep and eat was about all there was before. I sort of wondered how I got into it, never thought it would get that big, never. Maybe I should have gone out to be a bit more of a star. I never really felt part of the music business, though. There are some nice people in it, but it's more cut throat than a bloody factory."
Setting up the factory meant working every bit as hard to establish it as you do with a new band: doing the day shift and the night shift, regular hours plus. Where Jethro had become "not stopping to think too much and just keeping the ball rolling", the factory meant a rain of decisions for Clive to sort out on his own. If Jethro Tull is Ian Anderson, the factory is Clive Bunker.
It's come to the point now where Clive's proved his point and the factory doesn't need him around all the time any more. The time's right to get involved in music again.
"In the end, there still isn't a substitute for playing. I used to get quite depressed and moody with Jethro, but you can go on stage and forget all your troubles, just blow up a storm."
"The factory's going a treat now. I've rebuilt the machines and done everything, up to here in oil. Now I don't need it. I don't like mucking around in oil too much, so that runs itself.
"So it's just right now to start playing again, and it's all fallen into place really. I phoned Terry (Ellis, Jethro's manager), originally because I wanted to join Wings actually. They've got what I like, something very casual about it, not trying to be superstars, just getting some good sounds together. But I couldn't get hold of McCartney — left a few messages at the office, but they never go very far do they! — so I phoned up Terry to get his number, and he said that Jon Anderson from Yes was putting together a band."
"He said 'Was I interested in that,' so I went down for a blow. The band's called Fragile, and it has two guys from Jackson Heights and this French guitarist, and originally Jon was going to produce and they weren't going to have bass and drums, they were going to use tapes."
That plan got changed to include a more orthodox rhythm section again, with Clive and a bass man called Roy Foster, and they are now in the process of "Gettin' it together ... but not in the country." Well, it's time a band emerged from a cottage in the city.
Nobody's counting any chickens yet, let alone a golden egg.
"Here I go being vague as usual — basically we don't know what's happening."
Still, early results are encouraging, and now Clive's in the situation where he can take it or leave it without biting his nails down to the quick about whether the band makes money — he's got his own piece of territory mapped out.
How do Jethro Tull look from the outside?
"I went to see them at the Empire Pool for the first time since I left, and I was really proud of them. When I was a part of it I just thought of it as a glorified youth club band. Now I can look at it like a teeny-bopper and think 'AAAGH!' Wembley? Musically it was brilliant, but the first half of it [A Passion Play] sounded to me like a tape that was spliced at the wrong places. But after the film [The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles] — really good."
The obvious question now is this — if Fragile or any future band get to be a big touring band, where does that leave Clive's future?
"You don't need to do that amount of touring now, you see. When Jethro started, you had to get a following and then bring out an album, but it's not like that any more."
Which doesn't really answer it — my guess is that if things get too big, Clive would start again with a few mates, and take it from there. Everybody has their limits.
Note: "I had to go the Black and Decker", i.e. "go the full drill", the smart professional/parade-ground look.
".. two guys from Jackson Heights", i.e. the band led by Lee Jackson, not the district of Queens NYC. The two guys in question were probably John McBurnie and Brian Chatton.
Thanks to Jan Voorbij for this article.