Martin far right 1974 in Jet (who became
Radio Stars) and in 2009
Radio Stars remained one of the under-rated gems of the new wave era
and played Friars three times. Bassist Martin Gordon lives in Berlin and
saw the website and got in touch and we spoke to him in October 2009. He
remembers Friars (he went on the site and was on it hours later.) and
today has a dual solo and Radio Stars career. He has just released a new
album as part of a five album trilogy (!) (see his website) and has been
a live or studio musician for many people such as Blur, Boy George,
Robert Palmer......and Kylie, the lucky man.
Martin, thanks for talking to us. Very glad to have you on
board. As you know, I've already spoken to Andy (Ellison) and I am
pleased that Radio Stars are still going even if intermittently. There's
geographical issues as well of course....
And demographic issues as well...we need people to come and see us but
that's another issue.
Is it just you living
in Germany? (regards Radio Stars)
Yes. There's three of us and a permanently rotating drum seat. The last
drummer came from Boston which made it even harder. A good drummer
Tell us about the new
material you have?
In about 2001, I started to make records under my own name after doing
other things for 25 years either for myself or for other people. I
started working with other people after Radio Stars to make some money
and then a Japanese record company got in touch in about 2000 suggesting
I make a solo album. I said I wasn't interested but it started to get me
thinking. I came across a Swedish singer who had liked what I had done
before in Jet (precursor to Radio Stars) and then in Radio Stars. To cut
a long story short, he became my singer. If it wasn't for that, it
probably wouldn't have happened as I am very dependant on having a good
singer and I found one.
So that launched you in
terms of going out under your own name?
Yes, and now we are up to the fifth album in the Mammal trilogy...
Er....the fifth in a
Yes, a trilogy which goes up to five in case anybody asks.
Shouldn't that be a
quinology or something.
A quintology I believe.
I have heard some of it
and it is good. Are you or have you been gigging in support of your solo
Very occasionally. It's a lot of work to try to get together. We did one
show in Boston, and then I supported myself on Radio Stars last UK tour
where I was the opening act.
That must have been
It wasn't too bad - we took enough drugs to make it work. (clearly
tongue in cheek. - Ed) and we did one here in Berlin recently and we
might do one in Sweden..so it's quite sporadic really. But we will do it
if factors prevail.
What inspired your move
to Germany, you've been there about ten years now....
Sausages. I had a girlfriend from there. She came to live in England and
then I went to live there. Berlin is a very nice place. The people can
be a bit grim but apart from that, it's OK.
People of our
generation when you mention Berlin think of the wall and Trabants...and
a grimness (associated with the Eastern bloc)
Trabants have been banned now. Because they were 2-stroke cars,
effectively four wheeled lawnmowers spilling out huge clouds of noxious
gas. So they are banned unless you have them souped up, and bizarrely
there are still two Trabant limos which have have souped up engines.
There's also a stretch version....
(laughs) That doesn't
bear thinking about - I'm surprised that U2 haven't tried to get one.
They used loads of Trabants on their Zooropa tour. The image of a
stretch Trabant is very hard to conjure up.
Moving back a little
bit. You're doing stuff under your own name now, but let's go right back
to before Radio Stars. You were doing stuff including being Sparks
original bassist and played on the legendary This Town Ain't Big Enough
For The Both Of Us.
Yes, they were my first band.
So that was you on Top
Of The Pops with them?
It was me on bass, but I was only on once. We recorded TOTP on the
Wednesday, it was broadcast on Thursday and they sacked me on Friday.
The next appearance was with a new but more willing bass player. It's
that version that you see on the documentaries and TOTP DVDs. All there
is of me is a promotional video which involved me shooting Russell Mael
(lead singer of Sparks) with a double barrelled shotgun, but
unfortunately it was only acting.
All I know
about the Mael brothers is their on screen persona.....
They don't speak much and probably for a very good reason.
What did you do after
I ran into Andy (Ellison) - we kind of knew each other through the band
Jook whose bassist had replaced me in Sparks. Andy brought Chris Townson
along and we made noises together and then that turned into Jet and then
Radio Stars....which was Jet in different trousers.
I'd read somewhere that
Jet were described as glam, is that a fair assessment?
(laughs) I suppose so, but that's not what we thought. Mike Leander,
Gary Glitter's manager, signed to us his management company and part of
the deal was to wear certain clothes. We were being paid £35 a week to
wear these clothes. Mike Leander thought that was what the pop kids of
1974 wanted to see and mercifully he was proved wrong. So with Radio
Stars, the trousers were different.
With Radio Stars, you
played Friars three times. You did the Wilko gig in December 1977....
I can't remember that one but we did do one with Eddie and the Hot
Yes, that was next time
round in February 1978. Squeeze also on the bill and then headlined and
sold out in September 1978.
That's one I do remember, as it became interesting how Radio Stars
suddenly became this big draw...
That tour went on
forever didn't it?.
Months. The record company didn't manage to get the record out in time
for the tour - the usual sort of cock-ups that happen so we kept on
adding dates to the tour hoping the record would appear. Not sure it did
actually (in the end).
Then the band decided to kick me out of my own group. I was in hospital
having my wisdom teeth out and the manager turned up and said "oh by the
way, the band have got the bassist from Sparks and are going to go out
on tour". Nice. So they carried on touring but the record company were a
little perturbed that the guy who wrote and produced the records was no
longer in the group. Then the record company dropped them. To this day
it irritates me that it nosedived into the ground because of somebody's
lack of vision.
It's what could have
been isn't it?
Yes, but it does irritate me in life when there is a wilful lack of
vision and so clearly stupid. Not an obvious career move. Radio Stars
had a good concept and could have been good. We did a 34th anniversary
concert in London last year and that showed what could have been.
There's no mileage in dwelling on it and we all enjoyed the moment.
So whilst you have a
solo career, you do the occasional Radio Stars gig....
Yes, when it all works out. We did a great gig at the (London) Forum for
the Punk Rebellion thing, which was good. When someone comes in with an
offer that makes sense, we can do it.
How did you keep busy
between the end of Radio Stars and the start of your solo career?
I became a keyboard player and worked with Kylie Minogue (there's a
joint video on the MG website), George Michael, S Express, Blur, Primal
Robert Palmer as well?
Yes, he was great, but no wonder he died of a heart attack. A great
singer and a really nice guy.
You've also worked with
Boy George, another interesting character.
Yes, I met him in Bombay. I was working with Stephen Luscombe from
Blancmange who was working on a project with him, so that's how we
connected. Then I became his house programmer and worked for Jeremy
Healy (ex Haysi Fantaysee) which kept the wolf from the door.
Would you have called
yourself a producer or session musician during that time?
All sorts, writing with S'Express, playing live keyboards with Blur,
remixing for Primal Scream. TV shows for Kylie. All things to all men.
That's a hell of a
pedigree as those kinds of artists will be choosy...
Looks good on the CV. And there was also the couple of dates with the
Oooh....a bit of name
dropping. This gets better.
That was just after Radio Stars. The record company had a French partner
and somehow I ended up as house producer for this French partner,
Barclay Records and they put me up in this house and for a year I
produced whatever rubbish they threw at me. Then I ended up in Pathe
Marconi studios with the Stones. They didn't have a bass player and I
Your career has been
incredible and I'm glad you're still making music.
So am I, it's what I do best. I did wonder if I was deluded about the
whole thing. I listen with extremely critical ears to what I do. My
crisis of confidence has passed and what I have done now with the new
release 'Time Gentlemen Please' is probably the best thing I have ever
done. Who knows, maybe someone else will join me in this position.
Maybe we should do that Eddie and the Hot Rods, Radio Stars and Squeeze
That would be
interesting. Martin, thank you for your time and best wishes to Berlin.
Official Martin Gordon website
Official record company website
covering Jet/Radio Stars/Martin etc
interview and its content are © 2009 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and
may not be used in whole or in part without permission.