It’s less than 5 days until Common People opens it’s gates in not one but two fantastic locations in the UK. We spent some time today interviewing Chas of Chas and Dave ahead of their appearances this weekend. It was a brilliant chat about inspirations and past experiences, along with advice for newbies and a brief acapella sing song. Here’s what we talked about…
So you’ve been playing with Dave for over 40 years, how different is it performing now compared to when you started?
Just that people know us now, they didn’t know us when we started so er, that’s the big difference and you obviously improve as you go on if you love what you’re doing you always make improvements as you go along, so yeah we’re better now than we’ve ever been.
Working so closely together all this time must have been challenging at times, what advice would you give to people trying to make it together as a duo / group as long as you have?
Well, we were friends first, I met Dave in 1963 when I was on tour with a band called The Outlaws. I was on tour backing Jerry Lee Lewis and I got picked up by some girlfriends and Dave was in the car, he was a bass player in another band at the time. So we became friends just because we had very similar taste in music, and so we were friends for 9 years before we decided to get together and I gave up playing bass and went onto piano. So initially we were pals and that’s very important, a lot of people get together simply on a professional basis and a lot of them make it work but it is obviously an advantage if you are friends in the first place.
Over the years you’ve worked with some heavyweight musicians, who’s been your favourite session musician to work with?
Well the best musician I’ve ever worked with, (which was my mentor who I learnt piano from) is Jerry Lee Lewis. I first saw him in 1958 when I was a young lad in a skiffle band playing guitar and that’s when I decided I wanted to learn piano. Not many years later I toured with him and yeah, he’s my all time favourite and I’ve worked several sessions with him over the years. So yeah he’s very much top of the list of favourite musician I’ve ever worked with.
What would be your most memorable performance?
That’s very hard umm… I straight away go back to the first ever time I was paid to play when I was 13. I was playing guitar in a skiffle group, and I was playing in the top of a pub in Edmonton and I had the most fantastic time of my life, I really was and at the end of it I was floating on a cloud and then someone came up and gave me a pound note and I said what’s that for? And they said well it’s for tonight’s gig! And something went ‘ding’ in my head and I thought this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, play music the most enjoyable thing I can think of and get paid for it. And so that’s the first gig that comes to mind but there’s been many gigs some with Jerry Lee Lewis. Topping the Albert Hall on our own, doing Glastonbury there’s been many in-between.
In 2014 you played at Sonisphere festival, what was it like playing there and were you nervous with it being a heavy metal gig?
Not at all! We notoriously can fit in anywhere, we don’t fit in anywhere and we do fit in everywhere. Someone said to us years ago when Pavarotti was still going strong, “you could come on in the middle of a Pavarotti concert and raise a cheer” and I thought, yeah we could! We fit in everywhere, and it went down absolutely fantastic, it was just a sea of people dancing and singing along so it was like any other gig, just loads and loads of people there. We first did it in 1979 at Knebworth with Zepplin!
I think it’s fair to say that Rabbit is pretty much your best known song, how did you come up with the idea for it / what was your inspiration behind it?
Well we’ve got a lot of popular songs, I think top of the list is ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ that made number one in most charts. There’s a lot of songs, ‘Gertcher’, ‘Snooker Loopy’, ‘London Girls’… but ‘Rabbit‘ that virtually came about because Dave had the idea about an old girl that used to talk to much and we got together wanted to put a bit of rock and roll into it, and there was an old rock and roll song called exactly that.. (singing) “You talk too much, You worry me to death, You talk too much, You even worry my pet, You just talk, Talk too much” So we thought let’s do an English version of that and that’s virtually how it started and the rabbit, rabbit, rabbit thing sort of came later on as we were mixing the song. So it sort of built up from writing it to actually recording it, bits were added and we got the final recording done and as you know it did very well!
Finally is there any parting message you’d like to leave for young musicians trying to make it in the business?
Well over the years there’s been changes in the recording industry and things, but, the bottom line is what we’re still doing now is doing live shows, that will always be. No matter what the media does whether it be CD’s or downloads, or Vinyl or Cassettes or all the other things throughout the years, companies come and companies go, people will always want to go and see a good live show. So my advice to any young musician out there that really are serious about making a career out of it get out there and get yourselves a live show going, get confidence in front of the audience. Give them what you want to give them but at the same time take note of what goes down and what don’t go down well, that’s what we’ve done over the years. But never think what does the audience want, think what do I want to give the audience and then you take from what their reaction is and over the months and the years of your career, if your earnest about it will get better and you should make a good living for the whole of your life.
Chas and Dave will be performing on Saturday the 28th May at Common People Oxford and on Sunday the 29th May at Common People Southampton. More details on Common People Festival can be found HERE.