I recently had the pleasure of interviewing songwriter and musician Jo Burt (Freddie Mercury, The Troggs, Black Sabbath) and cult 'Quadrophenia' actor Gary Shail for the local newspaper. It was a highly amusing hour, so for those of you too far afield to have seen the piece, here is an updated version of my chat with them.
This month, Jo Burt is bringing his popular band The Jo Burt Experience, also known as The JBEx, to a venue in Dorset & another in London for his now traditional end-of-year rock concerts. With his summer single release 'King of Fools' receiving an immense response on YouTube - over 67,600 views to date; and his brand new single 'Under The Radar' receiving well over 21,000 views already (at the time of writing), I caught up with Jo and Gary on one of their regular coffee meetings at a Dorset pub to chat about the November show and filming the latest video.
Gary: Sitting here with Jo Burt in our normal haunt having my early morning coffee an obvious question springs to mind. Jo - most people know by now that you've played with some of the biggest names in rock & roll; Freddie Mercury, The Troggs, Black Sabbath, Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats ... that's very impressive. And now me! And I just wanted to know, Jo: what made you come up with that ridiculous decision to put me into the mix?
Jo: (laughing) It was an accident, really.
Gary: Oh! You couldn't get anyone else cheaper, huh?! (he laughs)
Jo: Well, I knew that you were an established musician in your own right, and I thought, well ... it's only a trumpet part, after all ...
Gary: And I can't play the trumpet anyway!
Jo: So you were perfect for the job, really!
Gary: Thank you! And I understand you want me to wear the Marigold gloves on the night.
Jo: They're the 'special effects'.
Gary: Yeah, right! For people who haven't see the video we should probably explain that Jo's new single, Under the Radar, which has around - Jo, how many views does it have now?
Jo: Around 21,000 I think.
Gary: 21,000 people have seen me dressed like THAT?! (he laughs)
Jo: You're typecast now, of course.
Gary: Yes. Typecasting into looking like an idiot! For those of you who haven't seen it, you should watch, because I do a marvellous performance, unexpectedly; dressed in a marching band uniform and playing a trumpet solo! What made you come up with that idea?
Jo: I was doing the dishes!
Gary: Your wife lets you do the dishes?
Jo: (laughing) Yeah! And I was thinking of you while I was doing them, Gary! And I just thought you were the perfect person. You're an actor and it needed someone with real gravitas to carry off this role ... (they dissolve into giggles)
Gary: It's going on my CV!
Jo: Well, it is a significant part of the song, with the beautiful melody that I wrote especially for you!
Gary: I was quite touched that I didn't have to audition for the part! (more laughter) But enough of this nonsense! What about the gigs?
Gary: I was there at the Sherborne show last year - I thought it was great, actually, and I thought 'you know what, I really ought to be up there doing something.' And this year, I am!
Jo: You've wheedled your way in!
Gary: Yep! I thought there's no point living in Sherborne, a town with a resident rock star, if I can't play! So I'll be MC-ing both shows, won't I?
Jo: You obviously have nothing better to do on those nights!
Gary: And you've asked me to MC.
Jo: (aside to interviewer with a smile) No ... he just forced himself in!
Gary: I'm doing it! (they laugh) I don't even know what MC means! Is it Master of Ceremonies?
Jo: Exactly. The perfect fit! I'm also thinking about asking if you'd get up and sing a song.
Gary: I know ... there's been a rumour going around for ages that I should be getting up!
Jo: Is that you spreading that rumour?
Gary: Of course! No one else has said anything! (more laughter) So what song do you think I'm going to be singing then?
Jo: Well, in the show I play a lot of my own music but I pepper the set with well known tunes from the bands that I've worked with over the years. I played with The Troggs many years ago, and one of their songs that I must have played a thousand times is Wild Thing. And I thought, Gary has been a well known 'Wild Thing' so it would be quite fitting that you should come and join in!
Gary: Right! Wild Thing!
Jo: It's done slightly differently, of course.
Gary: Do you find that easy, then? Putting your own spin on something? What happens if you get that wrong? Do you find it nerve-wracking to cover these songs that you played on? I mean, your version of 'Paranoid' - I like it better than the Black Sabbath version! The first time I heard it was before I met you, on the local radio station when I was in there for an interview. The DJ asked me if I'd heard it and I told him, to be honest I'm not a Sabbath fan. He said 'wait 'till you hear this' and he played it on his show. I thought it was a fantastic version! I do genuinely prefer it to the original.
Jo: Quite a few people have said that, strangely. In fact, one of the things we laugh about is that we were kind of hoping for some controversy! For some people to hate it, you know? It hasn't created any angst, which we could have used for publicity! (he laughs)
Gary: I know what you mean! You need "I really hate this!" from Sharon Osborne!
Jo: But no, I don't find it difficult to do these cover versions. I do remember finally being in the studio in London with the band, ready to record Paranoid fully live and then I did start to get quite nervous about the fact that I was doing it at all! Because it's like anything - often the idea of doing something is easier than actually doing it!
Gary: Oh yeah! The idea of skydiving is fantastic, but once you get up there ...!
Jo: I guess it was also having the Sabbath connection. Heavy metal fans are vociferous in their support, and I just thought it was 'do or die' at the time! But once I knew how it was going to be - and I guess I've done the same with Wild Thing – it is probably better than doing a direct copy. John Lennon said that he didn't mind people covering Beatles songs as long as they were different, and I agree with him on that.
Gary: I think most people are far more open to cover versions these days. If you watch those talent shows that's all they do! But for them it's all about trying to sound like someone else: music to paint your living room by. But if it's done properly it gives people what they want.
Jo: Exactly. So what would you tell someone who was thinking about coming to my show, then?
Gary: I saw it last year and it's an unexpected treat. I didn't know what to expect really, last year. And also, because I know you it's always difficult. I was sitting there going 'I hope it's good'. You know? Because I've got to see you the next day in the pub! (they laugh) So I was really hoping it would be good. And it was absolutely brilliant. I don't say that about everything but it really was brilliant. Musically, the light and shade of the show worked; the lighting was brilliant so it looks fabulous, too. It's a great show and you get to hear not only your stuff but the songs that everyone knows. The only problem is I'm not going to get to watch it this time as I'll be on the side of the stage with Marigolds on and a trumpet in my hand! (more laughter). What do YOU tell people? Why do you think they should come?
Jo: Hmmm …
Gary: (shouts through his hands) I need the money! (they collapse with laughter)
Jo: Well, yeah! (controls himself with some effort) Well I think it is a musical experience. It comes from my rock roots but there are elements of real life in my songs. I like to write positive songs and I know that people who have been to see the show are affected in some small way by the music. It's a great show. Very much a 'show' not just a gig.
Gary: And there's a bar!
Jo: Yes – there's a fully licensed bar.
Gary: By the way, what's my backstage rider?
Jo: Lime and soda!
Gary: And blue M&Ms!
Advance tickets for Sherborne are £10 and available at Sherborne Tourist Information Centre and online - click here: Sherborne Tickets. Tickets on the door will be £15.
Advance tickets for London are £10 via Music Glue. Tickets on the door will be £12.
For more about Jo Burt including his music videos, biography, & live dates see his website.