colin larkin - 2nd july 2002

Carl Wayne: We have on the line Mr Colin Larkin who wrote the Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties music and has now followed that with the Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music. Colin Larkin, known as the Professor of Pop, for his mind-boggling work on these encyclopedias of popular music. Colin, good afternoon.

Colin Larkin: Hi there, how're you doing?

CW: I'm good, what's happening?

CL: I'm working on the database, as usual. I just noticed, in fact, on the database, because I knew I'd be talking to you, that I haven't actually got your full name, and you just gave it to me. So that's a piece of useful information I've now got.

CW: You've also got Ulysses Adrian Wood under the Move, but he was never that. Ulysses was something somebody planted him with, he was never called that!

CL: Is that right? That's another useful piece of information. 

CW: Adrian Wood, Roy Adrian Wood. Anyway, this is quality stuff, your book, it's quite extraordinary. I see you fear the great tradition of writing timeless pop records is coming to an end. Tell me about that. 

CL: Well, we just haven't had a great songwriter, I don't think, in many, many years. Also I think we're at the stage where the record companies and music publishers are getting together and manufacturing artists to make money. We just don't have the innocent times where we had people like Pete Townshend and Ray Davies, Jagger and Richards and obviously Lennon and McCartney. Just ordinary fairly working-class chaps knocking out hundreds of classic songs. Damon Albarn of Blur is a decent songwriter in recent years, possibly the Gallagher brothers, although they basically use Beatles riffs and turn them back to front. What I'm seeing is the death of the classic pop single; I don't think the writers are out there. 

CW: How do you research your books? From the database and other books, presumably?

CL: I've never thrown away a music magazine or newspaper since 1961, so I've got a massive archive that I've collected over many many years. 

CW: A massive valuable archive!

CL: A very valuable archive. I know my mother didn't think so at the time, or my wife, but it's now come to fruition in that it's enabled me to go back over pop history and write these music encyclopedias which I've been doing for a number of years. You keep your hand in, basically. I suppose my days are still spent researching new stuff. I hanker for the end of the day when I can sit down and listen to some old stuff. It's a little bit like being on a hamster wheel, sometimes. I wouldn't mind getting off and stopping, music just stopping for a week. No new bands, no new artists, no new magazines to read, just let's go back over some great stuff  and stop it all. 

CW: Let me take you back then to an absolutely brilliant record, if I may, and you can tell me, what was the only Move record to reach number one?

CL: Was it Fire Brigade?

CW: No, it wasn't!

CL: Blackberry Way?

CW: It was Blackberry Way. So we'll play it and be back to you in a couple of minutes.

(Track: The Move, "Blackberry Way")

CW: Well, what do you think of that, Colin?

CL: Fabulous, a classic pop song, isn't it. Really mature, faultless, and just another one of those great sixties songs that just has not dated at all production-wise, melody-wise. Just a classic. 

CW: I'm often accused of refusing to sing that. But I think you can tell, because you know what you're talking about, that Roy's voice has a certain something with that song, doesn't it?

CL: Absolutely, he had a unique way of hitting those high notes. A very, very underrated man, Roy Wood. 

CW: He is. Singing with him is a bit like Clarke and Nash. You always had to sing up in his register, but it made it sound more commercial.

CL: A lot of similarities there as well with classy pop songs. They were another one of my favourites. They never pandered to trite stuff, there was always a bit of quality there. And then they came in, like the Move did, with those harmonies, the bit where the hairs stand up on your arm, that special hook that just gets you. 

CW: Well, that's why I always loved working with Ulysses. I'll tell him that because I think he's going to come in tomorrow! Listen, just a couple of corrections on your little bit on the Move in the book. You said that after I left the Move carried on as a trio. Not quite right, because Jeff Lynne was also on "Brontosaurus" and "When Alice Comes Back to the Farm".

CL: But was he performing with the band?

CW: Yeah

CL: I thought he was just going into the studio like a Brian Wilson. 

CW: No, we actually tried to get him to join the Move when Trevor Burton left and he wouldn't do it then because he was in a great band, as you know, The Idle Race. 

CL: They were another fabulous band, weren't they?

CW: They were the business.

CL: They didn't actually get any hits as such, but "Come With Me" and "The End of the Road", great little songs like that, immediately demonstrated what a great writer old Lynne was. 

CW: I'd like to talk to you more, it's always good to talk to people who know so much more about the music business than me, but I want to wish you luck with the next book. The Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music, ladies and gentlemen, written by Colin Larkin. It's just wonderful if you want to plough through something, it's so invaluable. In fact, we've taken our competition questions from that today, Colin.

CL: Yes, I gather, I'm not going to tell you the answers, but I do know them!

CW: Thanks a million, Colin, all the best.

CL: Lovely talking to you. 

Transcribed by Helen Macdonald for The Official Carl Wayne Website

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