Marco Pirroni – Man Called Marco

By Mark Youll | 21st March, 2011 | Q & A interviews |

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“...I know there are lots of punk fans out there that say it’s nothing to do with it, but you can see direct parallels between Ziggy Stardust and Johnny Rotten.”

Before moving to Harrow in your teens, what do you remember about Camden musically growing up in the early ‘60s?
Not a lot really, I was still very young. I was born in 1959, so in terms of the early sixties scene, I wasn’t really aware of much at all. I wasn’t really a music fan. I remember stuff like ‘Telstar’ by The Tornados and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, things like that. I think the first music I really liked was the theme to Fireball X-L-5, apart from that I wasn’t really buying records at that point.

What was in artists like Link Wray, the Spades and Joe Meek that appealed to you?
I don’t really know. It just started later really. Who can say why things strike a chord with you.

Would Link Wray and Meek have been your first love musically?
No, my first love would have been stuff like T Rex and Roxy.

What about the Morricone and John Barry influence?
Well, I’ve always liked James Bond films and the music John Barry made for them. But that stuff really came later, when there was a sort of lull in about ’74, when I just got into different things.

So it would have been stuff like Roxy Music that inspired you to play guitar?
Yeah, Roxy and Mick Ronson. Aladdin Sane made me want to play.

Were you a fan of bands like the New York Dolls or the Stooges at that point?
Yeah, I liked the Stooges and I had Raw Powerbecause Bowie had worked on it. I thought The Stooges were OK, I wasn’t a wild fan but they were definitely in my orbit. It’s funny because I’d never heard of The Stooges before Bowie had produced their album and I’d never heard The Velvet Underground before Bowie did Lou Reed’s Transformer. You sort of go backwards and trace the steps. I think over stuff like the Pistols and Clash, Iggy’s The Idiot was the best LP of ’77.

With all of these influences, especially the Link Wray and John Barry thing, did you ever think those particular styles would be something you would like to approach musically one day?
Yeah, definitely. I think I wanted to get that kind of thing, that kind of sound, into something I was doing with the guitar.

What sort of teenager were you before punk?
I’m not really sure what I was like. I was an only child so I spent a lot of time on my own obviously, so a bored teenager probably.

Was Harrow a tough place to grow up in those days?
No, it wasn’t harder than anywhere else in the suburbs really.

You were hassled a lot because of your appearance. Didn’t people shout things at you in the street?
Well yeah, a little bit. But even before punk I was dressing up a bit, and I had an unusual taste in clothes.

Would that have been the brothel creepers and Lurex socks?
Yeah, that kind of sudo-glam ‘5os thing.

In the early stages, do you think the music of the 1950s shared the same stylistic relationship with punk as say reggae did in the mid-1970s?
Definitely around ’72 or ’73 there was a big interest in the fifties thing again. Malcolm had his shop of course.
There was the Rock ‘n’ Roll festival at Wembley in 1972.
Yeah, that was a big part of it. There was a big rise in its appeal but I’m not sure I really liked rock and roll. Some of it like Eddie Cochran, I loved all that. But yeah, there was a relationship there.

How important would you say glam rock was to the advent of punk?
I think it was really really important. I think the glam thing laid the ground rules and maybe the foundations. I know there are lots of punk fans out there that say it’s nothing to do with it, but you can see direct parallels between Ziggy Stardust and Johnny Rotten.

In what way?
Well, they both have spiky red hair.

When did clothes and fashion become important to you?
Definitely through Roxy Music and going to those shows.

Did you ever go through the soul period most Bowie fans followed him through?
No, not really. I knew all about it but it wasn’t something I was particularly into.

Would you have been an active musician around that time, ’73 into ’74?
I wouldn’t say active, I was still learning at that time. I had a guitar then but it wasn’t electric.

It was through you attending a Roxy Music show you found out about Malcolm’s shop.
No, I found out about the shop because of some ad in a music magazine. The music of the ‘50s was almost a clashing reference because the early ‘70s was very kind of retro, and before that it was Great Gatsby and stuff like that. The David Essex film That’ll Be The Day had just come out.

Didn’t Malcolm make the clothes for that film?
Yeah, so I was really interested in that teddy-boy look. I think I read about Malcolm’s shop in something like (1970s light pornographic magazine) Honey or something. Or maybe it was something in the NME, it was a piece about rock tailoring that mentioned Antony Price and Malcolm and there was an ad for the shop.

What was your initial reaction to Let It Rock?
Really scary. It was just Vivienne (Westwood) there at first, I met Jordan later. It was extremely dark and I couldn’t really work out what they sold. They didn’t really fit into any fashion that I could understand. Of course I was only thirteen or fourteen but I felt I wanted to be one of these people.

You have mentioned that Harrow back then was quite dull and straight. Was the King’s Road and Malcolm’s shop a kind of escape for you?
Oh yeah, it was an escape from everything.

Where you attending art college in Harrow at this point?
No, that came later. I started doing art at college around ’76.

Was that when you formed The Beastly Cads?
Yeah, that would have been around the same time.

What was the rest of the band’s opinion of the King’s Road scene?
Well we were all heavily into Bowie, but I had taken more punk influence on and added it to the glam thing.