Nov 302012

(Front cover of the Hannibal release – couldn’t find a big enough photo of the back cover shot.)

MB: I guess it was in the plan because we were sort of a band before we met Graham. Funnily enough, we’d written and arranged a couple of covers before we met Graham, and Bob, the keyboard player, wrote a couple of songs. We worked out all of these, and in actual fact the very first gig with did as Graham Parker and the Rumour, where nobody knew Graham Parker from Adam, but people in The Rumour were better known than Graham, we used to do this very bizarre thing: we used to do a couple of Graham’s songs and then he’d go off, and then we’d do a couple of Rumour songs and he’d come back on. It was a really, really bad idea. We soon realized it, we soon realized that he was going to be able to do it. Because he’d never been in a real, proper band before, we were never sure, at first. You could tell he’s got good songs, but you were never sure… It was obvious very quickly we were much better off doing his songs. But we always needed an outlet for doing our own stuff. Over the course of the years we were together we did three Rumour albums, which were a mixture of original songs and covers.

RTH: I’ve got two of them: Purity of Essence and – it’s such a tongue twister – Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs, and Krauts.

MB: That was our tip of the hat to the European economic community. It’s a terribly, appallingly sort of English thing, but it sounded like a good title. Do you know where Purity of Essence came from? [I do not.] It’s from one of our all-time favorite movies, Dr. Strangelove. It’s one of those movies we used to watch on the bus when we were touring America. We’d watch it all the time, so everybody knew every line in that film.

Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs, and Krauts was the second one. The first one we did was called Max. Do you remember Fleetwood Mac? They had an album called Rumours. “We’ll put out an album called Max!” Gosh, weren’t we witty?

We recorded Purity of Essence twice. We recorded it once, and it was released by Stiff in England and Europe. Then a company called Hannibal, Joe Boyd’s company, were going to put it out in America, and Stiff wanted like $10,000 for it. They said, no, and I said, I’ll tell you what: record it again, it’ll be cheaper. So we recorded it twice and there are actually two albums. We recorded some new tracks for the second version that aren’t on the first version.

RTH: I didn’t know there were two versions; I’ll have to see what version I have. [Hannibal US release.] Mine has that hilarious cover with you wearing paisley shirts on a paisley background.

MB: Yes, that’s right. Now that was the original cover for the original, English Stiff record. I can’t remember what tracks are different…Hold on, I need to see what version I have myself. [He reaches back to his CD shelf to see if he can clear up this question. He seems to be looking through the Graham Parker section, for those nerds among us who may wonder, as I observed, if he files the Rumour albums under P, with Parker, or R, for Rumour.] I don’t have a copy of that one.

RTH: Speaking of albums recorded twice, what is the story with Stick to Me, did you really have to record it a second time, or is this story apocryphal?

MB: That wasn’t our fault! What happened was, we recorded it at Island Studios – not the famous Island Studios in Basing Street, where The Wailers, Free, and Cat Stevens and all those other Island acts were. But they opened up a second Island Studios in West London, and we went in there with a producer, I forget his name now, and recorded that album – the same tracks that are on it now. And it sounded absolutely sensational! A load of money was spent: there were string overdubs, there were horns, we got in extra female backing singers. There was a lot of money spent on it, big production. Then, when the tapes were played in other places, it didn’t sound right. The sound was all wrong. It was muddy, the EQ was all wrong. I don’t know how it all quite played out, but what we were hearing coming back through the speakers at Island Studios was not what was going onto the tape. And in the end there was a big fuss about it, because Dave Robinson said, “We won’t be paying for this!” and they said, “Oh, yes you will!” In the end it was settled by an acoustic expert, who came down on our side. There was definitely something technically wrong with the studio, and it was also considered the producer’s fault for not checking whatever.

So we were booked to go out and do gigs straight after, and we did a whole lot of gigs, during which time we played most of the tracks live, so we knew them backwards. Then we went back into another studio with Nick Lowe, Mr. Not Hanging About, and we did the entire album – strings, horns, and backing singers – in a week. But that is the story. The album got very mixed reception; some people thought – the classic phrase was “grimy and blurred.” In fact Nick was going to call his records Another Grimy and Blurred Production. Other people thought it was a great record. I think the songs on it are great, and I think it sounds fine. It’s not the best of the albums we did, but it’s certainly a good album.

At that time, when that one came out, 1977, we were starting to have big problems with our American record company, which was Mercury. They did nothing for us. We did these back-breaking tours of America: six of us in a station wagon, two people facing out back. It was just awful. In the middle of winter of 1976, minus 20 in Minneapolis, and these jerks from the record company would turn up – we were doing Heat Treatment at the time. They’d say, “Listen, we’ve got this great promotion!” And their promotion was an electric blanket with Heat Treatment stamped on it. They were doing nothing. So it got to the point where we did another American tour in ’77, it was getting worse. The following year, ’78, we didn’t do an American tour. We went to Australia and New Zealand and a couple of other places. We released the live album to fulfill the contract with Mercury. Graham made a song called “Mercury Poisoning,” but they didn’t put that out. And then we signed with Arista.

The first album we did for Arista was, I think, the best album we did, Squeezing Out Sparks. I think that and the first album we did were the absolute best. There’s something on every album, but for me, Squeezing Out Sparks is the most unified. It’s got the best songs, it’s got a thread running through it, it’s really powerful. We got rid of the horn section, we got back to basics. And boy did it show.

RTH: I agree with the two albums you cite as the best. Each one has a strong identity. They sound like they came from a particular time and place.

MB: The first album of anybody’s got to have a good backlog of songs. The tricky second album is always the one that’s hardest. As Graham says, he was basking in the glow of the critical reception of the first one and going out touring, and then they said, “Well, what have you got ready for the second album?” And he said “What?!?!”

The second album had some good songs on it, but it’s not my favorite, mainly because of the production. It was recorded with a guy called Mutt Lange, who went onto become one of the world’s most successful producers – wouldn’t you know it! AC/DC, Foreigner, and his wife, Shania Twain. Co-wrote that Bryan AdamsRobin Hood song… Just sickening!

RTH: At least he has one good album to his resume.

MB: He did the first Rumour album as well, and he mixed the live album, Parkerilla.


  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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