Thursday, 16 December 2010

The End Of The Long Ryders by Sid Griffin

Sid Griffin was a long time friend of the magazine – his band the Long Ryders even supplied a track "Baby We All Gotta Go Down", under the alias of The Spinning Wig Hats, to the album that accompanied issue 6. Besides being a great frontman with his band, he was and remains to this day a mighty fine writer. I have a signed and annotated copy of his “Gram Parsons - A Music Biography” (1985) that remains a most treasured possession, and his two Dylan books, “Million Dollar Bash” (2007) and “Shelter From The Storm” (2010) are two mighty worthy additions to the canon of Dylan biographies.

I'd spent a few hours in a London studio with the Long Ryders during the recording of their final Ed Stasium produced album “Two Fisted Tales”. Yes, that's The Ramones “Leave Home” and “Road To Ruin” Ed Stasium. Anyway, Sid had said he'd write something for issue 7, little knowing, when he agreed, that the band were on the verge of splitting up. But that's what he ended up writing about:

A Brief Description Of The Sad Break-Up Of My Life's Work These Last 5½ Years

Don't worry my friends, it aint the end of the world. It is merely the end of an era or perhaps the end of an error. The Long Ryders have broken up, and you good people/kind readers will be the first to know why. It's even kinda funny in a bitter-sweet, quixotic way.

Okay, do you know who I am/ we are? “Looking For Lewis And Clark”, the Whistle Test appearance, three UK tours, American music played by ex-punks who re-located on the west coast to be in the California sunshine, yeah, that's us. I'm the guy with the map-of-Africa styled sideboards and a bowl haircut. I stood in the middle and said funny things between songs, at least I did when we took breaks between songs (told ya we were ex-punkers). Remember? Good.

Last August 2nd (1987), in a Toronto hotel room, on a day kinda like England but gloomy enough to be Death, Stephen McCarthy, lead guitar and a close personal friend of Sid Griffin's, announced to a stunned audience of fellow band members, that he was quitting the group at the end of the tour. I was so shaken up I could not stand. Stephen quit because of personal reasons and we need not get into that here. I mean, you think we got problems, fuckin' True West had bassist Kevin Staydohar DIE of a BRAIN TUMOUR! There's a sad tale, my friends. He was a great guy too.

But anyway, Tom Stevens had already quit last May, and it was obvious that continually being told “you guys are the next big Yank success story, the next REM, the next Los Lobos, the next Georgia Satellites....” was taking it's toll, and more than just the rats were leaving the sinking ship. For three years plus, victory was right round the corner but it never came and so what....?....The Blasters and X are still out there and they've been around far longer than we have and are AMAZING bands in their own right, as are NRBQ who formed in Goddamn 1967, and are Elvis Costello's fave band period right now, and no-one who isn't a friend of his or mine in the entire UK even knows who they are! So you think I got problems, no way! Ask Neil Kinnock about problems, not me. (I tried to vote Labour when I was in Sheffield last June but they heard my accent and threw me out. I did try though.)

So drummer Greg Sowders and I sat down with Stephen and had a little chat, and we agreed it would be silly to go on stage without Stephen and say we were the Long Ryders, so Greg and I said we would retire the name, which is, I think, the honest thing to do. Even though we have a nice name for ourselves with that particular moniker in certain parts. So Greg and I will have a new band in 1988 with a new name, and a slightly newer or at leat different sound, although it may well be an old sound merely sped up. Which is what ex-punks like me like to do, 'cause it fools people under twenty into thinking you are doing something new when in reality you are just doing something older less well, but as you're doing it faster no one notices. Ask the Pogues. Hey, no lie, I'm going to be on TV with Joe Strummer in two days, no kiddin'!

Anyway, here's the next part. Our label long ago decided we were cunts for some reason, which is weird as up till near the end, I thought they were fine people and honest and all that....which goes to show you how much I've learned about the record industry during my 5½ years in the fucking thing! So dig, we knew since bloody (I use that word 'cause I LIKE you Brits) August we were going to split, so you know what we did? WE DIDN'T TELL ANYBODY SO WE COULD FOOL THE LABEL INTO PAYING A LOT OF BILLS WHICH THEY SAID THEY WOULD BUT WERE TAKING FOREVEER INTO PAYING UP BECAUSE THEY WERE JERKS AND WE KNEW IF THEY KNEW THE BAND WAS NO MORE THEY WOULDN'T HAVE PAID THE BILLS AT ALL!! BUT WE FOOLED 'EM FOR SIX MONTHS AND THEY PAID SOME BILLS SO FUCK THOSE PRICKS!!

And that's where we stand now. Greg and I will have a new band, Stephen doesn't tell me what he's up to but maybe he'll have a baby with his girl as they are in love and THAT'S LIFE. I also lost my girl-friend in late 1987, but so what, I'm back to being friends with my Dad after about 12 years and he and Mum are reconciled to my being a bum/musician for ever and a day AND they bought me this new typewriter, so you know things are on the up and up. GOD BLESS all of you like Chris 17 who were so nice to us, too....you made life worth living. You will be hearing from me again soon. Stay tuned.

Sid Griffin

PS What about the Spinning Wig Hats though?


Sadly, the tale remained untold until this day. Sid of course now fronts The Coal Porters http://www.sidgriffin.com/, Greg Sowders is a bigwig at Warner/Chappell Music, Tom Stevens you'll find at http://tom-stevens.blogspot.com/, Stephen McCarthy was playing with Steve Wynn and was responsible for the title of the latter's 2010 album "Northern Aggression".

Now for that Spinning Wig Hats track, "Baby We All Gotta Go Down" from the album that accompanied issue 6 of What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen.

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