WHAT WERE YOU LIKE WHEN YOU WERE 13?
I was a mod prince. It was the very beginnings of sequin rock and I had lots of clothes because my mother made them. But I didn't have any money. I was singing in the streets. But I ran into a lot of people who loved it and they fed me. I was and am a free spirit. I wanted to gather information and to experience everything! To get out and really live, not just hang around the house and dream. I loved being out in the city at night. I loved meeting new people all the time. I was always being thrilled by the possibility of what could happen next. You know, when I was 14 in 1962, I was a mod fashion model and made weekly appearances on British TV. As I mentioned, it was my mom who was making all those great clothes for me. Then in 1965 when I was 17 (I had long since moved away from home and was on my own), I was a chauffeur to a very rich man in Paris. He was a professional magician. In 1967, I was part of a group called John's Children. But it wasn't my group. I was a lead singer
and we put out a record called Desdemona. My first group was Tyrannosaurus Rex, which got together in 1968 and we came to the US in 1969.
YOUR POPULARITY IN LONDON SEEMS TO MATCH THAT OF THE BEATLES AT THE HEIGHT OF THEIR MUSICAL CAREER. WITH BEING SO WIDELY KNOWN, CAN YOU EVER REMAIN ANONYMOUS AND TRAVEL AROUND FREELY IN ENGLAND?
Oh no! We even had to disconnect the public phone. Real emergency messages are relayed on a private line via a pocket bleeper. There have been incidents where I have gone out for a drive in the car and crowds have surrounded it and blocked me in. Really very close to riots. I never understood why people had dark windows in cars. I do now. There are times when attention can be fun. I end up signing autographs and talking about music. But it's not always like that. You might get some guy coming up to you that wants to smash you one. That's why I don't believe there is security. You could die tomorrow you know. So I try to live today. I never know when I may die. I've become very-well, not hard-that's not exactly the word. But I'm only concerned with the music and with the kids. The rest isn't that important to me. I'm obviously not going to be changed because of the success, I haven't been so far. I'm an honest person. At the moment I feel periods of great energy and periods of great
weariness. When I play a live gig once a week it helps to recharge me. I'm working on my new sound. Softer but harder, like liquid concrete.
DO YOU KNOW ANY OF THE BEATLES?
Oh yes, Ringo and I are very close friends. You see, Ringo has real empathy for my current position. Especially after what happened at the Wembley Concert. All the screaming, and everyone going crazy and all. After that night Ringo showed me some films of the Beatles' appearance at Shea Stadium in NY. There were so many parallels between the 2 events and the feelings. When Ringo was watching the film again of the Beatles at Shea Stadium, after not seeing it for so many years, it brought back many memories for him. He said he hardly remembered that night because he was so out of it at the time. Ringo and I have been working together on our first film Born to Boogie. We were both very conscientious workers, looking at things with a discerning eye. We also got up and went to work early in the morning and put in quite a long day trying to come up with the best possible film.
I often think about how the passage of time changes so many things. I've told you how Ringo and I worked so hard and seriously on our movie Born to Boogie. Well, one time Ringo was doing some filming of me at a concert and he was standing between me and the audience, and girls were climbing up to get at me and I doubt if most of them knew who Ringo was. It just made me think how I was 24 already. I feel the man, no longer the boy. And Ringo was 32 this year. Those 8 years between us represent an awful lot of forgetting-time. And then you ask me how was I at 13. My god, it makes me think! You know I'm an old rocker. I used to appreciate Buddy Holly. I once carried singer Eddie Cochran's guitar for him when I was 8 years old in 1956.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTERESTED IN ROCK MUSIC?
Oh, I asked my dad to bring home a record for me by Bill Hays, a big band thing. And by mistake, somehow in the record store, he forgot the name of the record I asked for and brought home Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock and the rest is history, as they say. You know, even though the record was bad, it was the best thing I had ever heard.
WHAT HAS AFFECTED YOUR MUSIC?
One thing that has definitely affected my music is my background. When I was younger and living at home with my parents I wasn't free. I never felt completely true to myself. They forced me to relate to a certain common denominator. Plus the fact that I never really had too much. Like I didn't acquire too many books or games or whatever because my parents were so poor. Now that I've got more money I think about spending it in the best possible way. Basically I am just a street kid and all the money I have now has allowed me to buy my freedom. And I can't think of any other way I could have earned it. I am a performer and only a performer. I don't know how to do anything else like bluepint a bldg or fix autos or anything. So this money has commuted my sentence of working in a factory for the rest of my life. Also I feel there is a curse on rock stars that is hard to tell the average person who is not experience the pressures and the changes.
IS IT EVER TOO MUCH TROUBLE BEING A STAR?
If I ever felt it was too great a hassle I would just split, stop performing. Really, everything has to be enjoyable. I don't do it for the money anymore. I'm a millionaire. I have half a dozen cars and a house in England. I don't try to be a star, some people are just special, marked with something. They know it about themselves and you just have to wait til other people recognize it. But, I don't feel I have to put up with anything or pretend to be something that I'm not. Some people are just a drag and I wouldn't invite them into my home and I wouldn't be friendly with them if I wasn't a star. There is no reason to be phoney and go through the pain of being polite and friendly just because they are a reporter, or concert promoter or something like that. I want fun now, life is here to enjoy, not to complicate and make difficult. I look forward to playing live on stage, I really do. I miss it after I lay off awhile. I just want to make contact with all the kids. That's what i
t's all about, the contact between me and my audience. I love it when they rush the stage, and run down the aisles. I need it you know.
ARE GUYS EVER JEALOUS BECAUSE THEIR CHICK DIGS YOU?
Well yes. Like some guy comes up to me at the airport and says 'my chick fancies you'. So I say 'cool'. You see, the incredible thing about rnr is that it gives you an incredible amount through your relationships with other people. Everything is so intense and blown up. So many things are always happening. But it takes alot out of you too. It's like if you take acid, it burns out brain cells and they don't regrow. Rnr is like that-it has killed more beautiful people musically and physically and mentally.
ARE FRIENDS IMPORTANT?
Without the friends I have around me I'd be in a mental institution. That's a fact. It's only the people around me that have held me together. It's heavy but that's the truth. I've got alot of good friends. And of course June, my wife, is very important to me. Things are so much better for me since we've been together. She is a help to me. And of course we really enjoy doing things together and travelling together. Some people think because I wear make up that I am gay. But one thing has nothing to do with the other. Just because I wear my eye make up, it has nothing to do with me not being masculine.
DO STORIES ABOUT IN THE PAPERS THAT AREN'T TRUE BOTHER YOU?
Nothing bothers me anymore. I guess the first time it happened I was heartbroken and rather shocked but once I got over the initial reaction and looked at it philosophically I really didn't care anymore. Lately, I don't even read the stuff really, I just glance through it. I used to read it all but not anymore. I look at it this way: if you have some control over a situation you try to exercise it and you do what you can to contribute and to mark it as yours. But I have no control over not only these stories that appear, but products that crop up. You know 'Marc Bolan towels' or 'shoes' or whatever. So since all the worrying or feeling bad wouldn't change things one iota in this particular situation I just lay back. Now how do you imagine let's say David Cassidy must feel about most of the stuff written about him in those teenybopper magazines or those David Cassidy belt buckles? He doesn't get a penny from this unauthorized stuff and neither do I.
HOW DO YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD GO AFTER WHAT THEY WANT?
Just be bold. Be strong and follow your own convictions. I could say do whatever you like, but I don't think you should try and hurt people. And you really can't assume that there is alot of time left to do what you like. This is what David Bowie is afraid of: that he will die before he gets a chance to make a real strong contribution. You see it may be all over for any one of us in 5 minutes. So I think you have to commit yourself to something and even if you die in the middle of doing it, you know that you've at least accomplished something. I speak this way because I really do feel there are many lives not just this one, but you've got to make all of them count. I know that I live my own life with a sense of urgency that most people can't comprehend. It's all part of the curse that I was talking about earlier.
WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS HELPED YOU TO MATURE?
Well, writing songs comes easily, but I spent 5 months working on a book, and believe me, it's hard work and alot of responsibility. It's an excellent way to grow, as is looking after other people and caring for other people. I've lived with my own ego for so long that I am bored with it. I feel much closer to people now, and I never did before. I've done alot of things since I was 12. I was once a 'wash up' in a hamburger bar. And now I have a best selling book in England called The Warlock of Love.
WHAT DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING IN THE FUTURE?
I try hard not to worry about what's going to happen in years to come because in the past things have always managed to get straightened out and I've always been able to adjust to any sort of situation that I have encountered. I've developed enough faith in myself that I can rely on my own abilities to get me through any kind of scrape. If I lost all of my money tomorrow, it wouldn't worry me because I've been about as poor as you can get, and I could do it again if I had to. So I don't think that far ahead.
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE REALLY LIKE?
I think that I am a child. Everything blows my mind.
WHAT IS YOUR WIFE JUNE LIKE?
She's fun to be with. Never pessimistic. She has a lot of style, seeing how she's skinny and has a great way with clothes. She's very smart, does my business for me, and can change strings on the guitar in 2 seconds flat. She knows how to live life to the fullest on every level, including dining with elegance. We love indian food you know, chutney and curry and the like. We're both vegetarians. Whether June is in jeans or satins, she's always very together. She has great respect for herself so she has the ability to love other people too. We discuss politics and movies and my career and anything. We're very upfront and honest and we both enjoy a good laugh. And, besides all that, we're crazy about each other!
DID ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR HAPPEN IN YOUR RECENT US TOUR THAT BOTHERED YOU?
Well, you know it's real hard getting used to another country. How many people do you know that are interested in going to Europe but never really get there and it's not the money or anything. It's the fact that they don't know their way around, they don't know any hotels or restaurants or people. And of courseld anyone want to do that? You see, rnr puts in these situations that, if you weren't a rock and roller, wouldn't even come up. It's such a killer. I'm not the kind of cat that will od. I think basically I am religious and that I'm mentally and spiritually clean. I don't do anything to an excess and basically I don't have any consuming pain inside me like many pop stars. So basically I am happy. I don't have a death wish.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR CURRENT PROJECTS?
Well, I am writing screenplays for 3 European pictures...including one for Fellini, the Italian director.