Nov 302012

MB: None of us would have been a natural frontperson for the band, and none of us would have been a prolific songwriter. So the idea of hooking up with a potential frontman and a great songwriter – and of course developed into a fantastic frontman, a great communicator with the audience. So it worked out very well, although it didn’t achieve what everybody thought it was going to achieve.

There’s a filmmaker in America, called Michael Gramaglia. He made a film about The Ramones called End of the Century. It won a couple of awards, I believe. It’s a very good film – I don’t mind The Ramones, but you know, they’re not the top of my list, but the film is really, really good. The last couple of years he’s been making a film about Graham Parker & The Rumour, putting it together, getting old footage. He’s been over here [ie, England], interviewing me, interviewing Nick Lowe, interviewing Dave Robinson. He’s interviewed Graham, he’s interviewed pretty much everybody. The premise of the film is Graham Parker & The Rumour: What Happened? Or What Didn’t Happen? Because there was a point when Bruce Springsteen said, “Graham Parker & The Rumour: the only band I’d pay money to go see.” We were the critics’ favorite and a big draw live, but we never sold the records that went with the rest of it. So it kind of never happened like it was supposed to. That’s the angle he’s doing it on. I’m still not sure when it’s coming out. Hopefully that will be out before too long.

Damn, we never got a chance to discuss who would win the battle of the Hamer guitars: the Rumour, Rockpile, or Cheap Trick!

We split up around 1980, and The Rumour carried on for a bit. In fact we did an American tour, we were employed to be the back-up band for a singer called Garland Jeffreys in which we got to open to promote our Rumour album. It worked out very well, then we broke up. I moved to working with Carlene Carter in her backing band for a couple of years – I had worked a bit with her before. Then that band became Nick Lowe’s band and went on through ’86-’87. Since then I’ve been playing with the bands I’m playing with now.

I’ve done quite a lot of sessions over the years, but I’m not really a session man in the way that a session person is able to be able to turn up and play anything that anybody wants you to play. I can’t do that and I have no desire to do that. You want me to play like Jimmy Page, well, then get Jimmy Page. That’s not my thing.

RTH: One of my good friends was very excited to hear we’d be talking. We came of age listening to you and Brinsley Schwarz, discussing your guitar dynamic, imagining what you went through…

MB: There are several templates for two guitars working together. There’s the classic Beatles template, if you’d like, where you’ve got an out-and-out rhythm guitar, which is basically a strummer, which most of the time would have been John Lennon, and then you’ve got a lead guitarist, with a lot less restraint than lead guitarists today, who would be putting in little fills and joining-up bits. Sometimes they’d be playing pretty much the same thing.

Then there’s Keith Richards-Brian Jones and Keith Richards-Ronnie Wood now, where Keith describes it as the “ancient art of weaving.” They don’t do it as lead guitar and rhythm guitar. They do it as both playing whatever and they sort of weave in and out of each other. That’s the sort of thing you can do when you’ve both been playing together for a long time. I don’t think any way is right or wrong; it’s whatever is appropriate to the set-up of the band and whatever other instruments are playing. If you have two guitars and a keyboard that adds another dimension. If one of the guitars is an acoustic guitar the electric guitar, which is the lead guitar, needs to work around the acoustic, because the acoustic guitar tends to be the center when it’s that type of country thing. With Hank Wangford, he plays the acoustic guitar, I play the electric guitar, and we’ve got a pedal steel player, so again it’s all about finding your niche in the overall sound of the band appropriate to kind of music you’re playing.

RTH: When people come to you as a sideman – I can see a lot of clear connections among the people you’ve played with – but is there a Martin Belmont Sound they’re expecting? Do they point back to specific recordings you’ve done over the years?

MB: Yes, I think people know the kind of bands and artists I’ve played with, and they kind of know what they’re gonna get. They’re not gonna get any Metallica type of guitar thing. It’s not going to be jazz; it’s going to be pretty much basic – I just call it rock ‘n roll, but it pretty much encompasses a whole lot of things. I think what I’m good at – what I’d like to think I’m good at is playing to the song, to me that’s what the best guitarists do. If you look at Scotty Moore, George Harrison, Ry Cooder…they play to the song. They can do flash bits, if they need to; they can do hardly anything, if the song requires hardly anything. The song is the starting point. [Belmont slips into what I imagine is his guitar teacher tone.] You play to the song. You don’t play the song as an excuse to get in a flash solo. If the song requires a flash solo, then you can put one in. You can improvise, if it’s that kind of song. Or if it’s an instrumental break you can have a very short, pithy solo: just straight to the point, four bars, and out.

RTH: Were the separate Rumour albums always part of the plan?


  26 Responses to “The Rock Town Hall Interview: Martin Belmont’s Got Answers”

  1. Right On! Thanks to Mr. Mod for conducting, and even more to Martin for his extensive and informative answers.

    A rumor of a Rumour movie is captivating. Let’s hope for fruition.

    Love seeing those live clips. Always looks like Martin is really enjoying himself. The dude always has an understated but entertaining version of Mach Shau going on.
    You’d better get him the Hope and Anchor show. He earned it. I know it will live up to his recollection.

    Well done!

  2. Awesome job, Mr Mod! Great audio dugout chatter

  3. mikeydread

    Mr Mod: two big thumbs up! You are the Samuel Charters of the interwebs,

  4. Very very cool.

  5. I was under the impression that Brinsley was the lead guitarist, and Martin the rhythm guitarist for some reason. Maybe just from the couple of Squeezing Out Sparks videos I saw as a youth. You Tube and this interview cleared that up. The 2 of them really did play off each other well.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    Yes, they seemed to have a pretty good split of responsibilities. I think you’re right that the videos and songs performed on Fridays when we were kids featured Brinsley on lead.

    You know what I love seeing when I watch the old GP & the Rumour clips? The movement of each band member! Natural, onstage movement is something I can’t get enough of when I see a band live. This probably ties into my somewhat bizarre thoughts on the possibilities for crossover between sports and music, but if you’re choosing sides for a pick-up game of football (American or otherwise), wouldn’t you look over at a band like The Rumour to make your first pick?

  7. Yeah. That’s the Mach Schau I noticed, too. No one is doing windmills, but everyone seems to have their own circle of energy up there.

    It’s got to be basketball for this band. MB is 6′ 5″ and Bodnar and Schwartz don’t look that much shorter. We should challenge them! I’ll cover Parker.

  8. BigSteve

    This was pretty cool. You can tell he’d be a good sideman, very easy to get along with. Wouldn’t it be great to have him as your guitar teacher?

    I think it’s interesting that punk never came up in the interview (unless it was edited out). Guys like Belmont and the Rumour seemed to be catching the wave at the time, but really they just kept doing pretty much what they’d been doing all along. Andrew Bodnar’s golden suit in that first clip was a bit much though.

  9. Mr. Moderator

    Punk itself never did come into the discussion. Throughout, such as when I asked him whether Ducks felt like part of a “movement,” his take was more along the lines of he and his mates being committed to and happy with what they were doing. Meanwhile, I was having too much fun doing what I was doing in talking to him as freely as we were to loop back and try to ask a similar question regarding punk. By the point of the punk years, I took it, the band was gunning for mainstream success.

    That’s one of the things, as a teenage fan of those bands, that I always take out of that time in my life as a rock fan: I truly hoped that, and expected that, a few of my favorites would be “The New Boss” – not Him, not Bruce, that is:) – but among the mainstream standard-bearers of the traditional forms of rock ‘n roll that I grew up loving. Tom Petty, who I liked coming out of the gate, made it, but although people like Elvis Costello and the legacy of The Clash et al are respected and still carrying critical weight and space on the “coffetable collections” of educated rock fans, they’re still not threatening to play the Super Bowl.

    Whether this would have been a good thing or not is beyond the point. When you’re a boy you tend to root for things, don’t you? I did, and from the way Belmont tells it the Rumour also felt they should be getting some of the rewards that some other artists were able to manage at that time.

    Can a teenage boy still “root” for his favorite underground bands to “make it” to this bigger level? Are there kids sitting around hoping that Vampire Weekend will succeed to a level that will cleanse the earth of all that they feel sucks about today’s popular music?

  10. sammymaudlin

    I could hear the wind leave your sails when he, appropriately, chose the Mick Taylor era.

    Nice tune-age under the chatter. Is that like our version of the Final Jeopardy music?

  11. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod, you outdid yourself! That was great!

  12. Not a particularly deep observation, but having a lilliputian lead singer with a clearly receding hairline tends to limit the overall mass appeal of an artist regardless of the quality of the music. Then again, Petty’s no cover model either. Great section about the lack of Mercury’s promotion. That played a part, too.

  13. Mr. Moderator

    My wife thinks Tom Petty’s HOT – but this is the same woman who’s digs young Woody Allen and pre-promotional baseball cap-donning Ron Howard. God, what does this say about me?

  14. 2000 Man

    That was a great interview, Mod! When I get a chance I’ll play the dugout chatter, but right now I’m listening to the Quadrajets and that really can’t be interrupted.

    I had a friend in high school that looked like Tom Petty. He even had Tom’s haircut before Tom did, and I think he enjoyed the ridiculous amount of attention girls gave him. They all seemed to think he was something else, so I just assumed Tom Petty was a good looking guy.

  15. Fantastic article and interview – thanks for posting! Just a few questions if anyone can answer them:
    Has Graham Parker and The Rumour’s “Heat Treatment” ever been released on CD? I’ve searched high and low to no avail.
    How long did The Rumour’s stint backing Garland Jeffreys last? Did the full line-up of the band join him on tour?
    I ask because Jeffreys has posted a good number of YouTube videos ( where he’s backed by only a few members (Steve Goulding and Brinsley Schwarz) of The Rumour in 1981.
    Jeffreys, like Parker, has never received proper recognition from critics or the public.
    Thanks again!

  16. Mr. Moderator

    welcome aboard, rockandrolldetective. This isn’t a sting, is it?:) Yes, Heat Treatment is available on CD. It’s available through Amazon:

    I was looking for a Jeffreys video with the full Rumour for use in this post but only came across the ones you found. Thanks for checking in.

  17. 2000 Man

    I really liked the audio Dugout Chatter. However – You sure are slow to pull the Cop Out car on a celebrity, aren’t you!

    I hope he gets a shot to play with Dylan some day. He’s paid his dues, and he’s go the chops. Bob would be lucky to have him along for a tour.

  18. Mr. Moderator

    I consider it “respectful,” 2K, but firm. I did make him choose a Stones era, didn’t I? I know, though, I let him slide on choosing ONE favorite guitar part. My apologies. For future audio chatters I’ll come up with a “Cop Out!” drop, as I think they call them in the biz, a little clip of someone yelling that phrase to cue the interview subject to make up his mind already:)

  19. diskojoe

    Thanks for the interview, Mr. Mod, which was highly entertaining & informative. I was also a big fan of GP & the Rumour.

  20. Great interview Mr. Mod and love the Dugout Chatter audio!

    He sounds like such a nice bloke. Invite him to the next RTH meetup!

  21. Just listened to Hound Dog and yeah, the second solo IS an “OH Shit! what do I play!” moment…

  22. Great job, Moddy! I really, really enjoyed that. Mr. Belmont has been a longtime guitar fave. Glad to see that he’s a real gent, as well.

  23. Anyone who knows whatever happened to Brinsley Schwarz, the man not the group I mean. Did he just quit playing after his stint in The Rumour?

  24. Mr. Moderator

    Welcome aboard, leif. From what I’ve read, Schwarz (the man) pretty much left the playing end of the music business and got into equipment design. I think he modifies and designs amplifiers, in particular. I found a good interview with him a while back, while researching for this interview with Martin Belmont.

  25. There’s a video of Garland Jeffreys performing “We the People” with nearly all the original members of the Rumour on YouTube at Band members include Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont, Steve Goulding, Andrew Bodnar and Artie Funaro.

  26. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for the tip, connectartists, and welcome to the fray!

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