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The Roy Hill archive

is a mix of press cuttings, personal memories and mementoes...everyone is welcome to contribute.


PRESS CUTTINGS

Single of the Week

Roy Hill : I Like I Like I Like (Arista)

Tony Parsons in NME. Pix: M Harrison-Goudie.

4 November 1978

Roy Hill - Single of the Week in NME 4/11/78. Pix: M Harrison-Goudie.

I like the way Roy Hill takes the piss out of rock and roll's sexual mores, social manners, tribal customs, etc with such an ingenious poker-face that it's often hard to tell whether he's extolling their virtues like some decadent, nihilstic Yankee anachronism or clawing them to ribbons. Most of the sleazy sub-culture's putrid underbelly is here, so why not LingalongaRoy as he takes you down an ageing Outlaw's shock-horror-outrage memory lane... A sense of reality that is quite unreal, the click of a six-inch heel, the feeling of a ten-inch spike, I Like-I Like-I Like, long, blonde plantinum curls and - most of all - leather clad girls, hating rock music (it's just too much noise), preferring the comfort of mechanical toys, I don't like sculpture but I know what I like, I like-I-like-I-like...

I like the way the carefully concealed hand is suddenly shown with a truly gumbie-rock, 'I like New Wave Music!'. I like that band - the nearest the UK has got to the E Streeters - and what I'd really like is for the rest of the world to quite this Roy Who? bullshit and recognise the geezer as one of our greatest songwriters with no eyebrows raised. He's written far better songs than this one, see, and it still wipes the floor with the best of the rest this week. Even...

[Footnote: Singles reviewed that week included Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone, XTC - Are You Receiving Me?, Joe Jackson - Is She Really Going Out With Him?, Meat Loaf - All Revved Up, as well as X-Ray Spex, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Bryan Ferry, Al Stewart, Willie Nelson and Frankie Valli.]

Text copyright New Musical Express 1978, used without permission


Who is Roy Hill ... and why is he not being chased by, er, lascivious lovelies?

Tony Parsons in NME. Pix: George Bodnar.

2 December 1978

Roy Hill watches as Bimbo Acock is attacked. Pix: George Bodnar NME.

It was in the garret late last summer and I was sitting there at a loss how to translate into hot copy Joan Jett's gum-chewing, dumb resentment towards the infidels who think she cut the album for a cheap laugh, when something happened. I touched that dial from the Dada horrorshow of the LBC phone-in to Peelie on 247 and scowled, expecting nothing more than the uneasy aural bedfellows of punk, Rastas and the entire Liverpool first team squad. Instead, I got the bitter bile of frustrated ambition, the world viewed through the telescopic sights of Rockbiz London, the bloodsucked underbelly of the music industry in all its gory glory. It was perfect and I began banging it down..."There's a man in New York, said I had a good chance/ Now he's forgotten me, doesn't want a romance/ But he won't let me go just in case the tide turns/ Keeps me here on a lead, I can feel the rope burns....The band's playing really tight, they ought to play looser/ The album's dying on its feet, we need a new producer/ You just ain't colourful, wear beads and bangles/ The press don't want to know, give 'em some new angles/ Kiss girls, turn away/ Be straight, be gay/ It's only my life/ Tonight I think I'll end it with a knife....Everybody's finding me a new direction/ The press man is gonna make a real good connection/ There's optimism everywhere like an infection/And I'm rolling up my sleeve for a cash injection/ No drugs, no drink/ Write songs, don't think..." {It's Only My Life}.

Cut! Print it! Great, great...what's the name again? Roy Who? Hill? Roy Hill? Never heard of him. Obviously been around for years getting used as an A&R man's doormat, feels that the role of the singer/songwriter has been devalued by the events of the last two years, probably burnt all his Dylan albums when Bob went electric on Bringing It All Back Home, etcetera. If he directed that Randy Newman virulence away from the hand that might feed him and aimed it at Lipstick Vogue model girls he'd be the toast of tinsel town... Ah, but he wouldn't do that. This bloke sings like he's really got a grudge, the twisted bastard! For sure he ain't no chicken, probably got a really low visual profile - maybe even a hare-lip or something - just one more star-crossed old musician on his way to a music biz menopause of crying into his Pina Colada at Dingwall's chucking-out time that he gave you the best year's of his life, oh faithless mistress rock and roll...

I marked Hill down as one of the most neglected talents of our time and filed him away for future generations to discover and mourn. Then he turned up with his band doing a song called Piccadilly Lights on Revolver and the situation called for a complete reappraisal. In front of a motley crew that sounded like surrogate E Streeters there was this geezer singing and casually chopping rhythm guitar, the focal point without doubt, but this wasn't Roy Hill, there was no way that this was Roy Hill. Perfect puberty bedroom-poster fodder for disillusioned David Essex disciples, tall, moody and hunky, his standard good-looks just the right side of Spanish waiter - he's a rebel, but he ain't Roy Hill.

But it's unmistakably another gem of Hill's caustic commentary and acidic japes, whoever this bloke out front is; Eros nightlife, the West End at pock-marked play, slit-eyed tourists with bug-eyed Nikons immortalising it all as a postcard to show the next door neighbours back in Nippon. The shooting-gallery set queueing up for their Health Service placebo, clip-joint clientele losing their bank-roll on R Whites and their teeth on the pavement, the Sloane Ranger's sidekicks heading for Billy's, the boys with bow-lipped mouths and legs to match out walking their uncles, just-a walking their uncles...all of it drenched in the light of the quirky neon Arabesques. And did Kerouac's Red Brick vision, in ancient time, walk upon England's mountains green?

"Lady of the third floor deals in education/ Three minute French course/ No examination/ She doesn't need a phrase book/ Rather have a bodyguard." {Piccadilly Lights}. The singer is shivering all this with the poker-faced derision the song requires when suddenly camera one cuts - for just two seconds!! - to the sax player...a short, bespectacled, maniacally grinning little man...and the kin-folk roar as one. That's Roy Hill! See the way he knew exactly what was happening? How he needs the brown eyed mucho macho handsome one out front for the image, while - all the while! - Roy himself is at the back blowing sax cool and sweet to that Van Morrison melody fused to Springsteen's sense of the epic... the man's a genius! The singer, poor geezer, is now subjected to all manner of abuse from the kinfolk, who suggest he doesn't realise the incisive brilliance of the lyrics he sings. They are spiteful enough to suggest what his own lyrics would sound like. "If only I were worthy to be the father of your children!" "Your body is a flower to be plucked by the grateful!" "Hey babyee yoo Eeengleesh wanna go to deesco?"

Imagine my chagrin when I chose Roy Hill's I Like I Like I Like as Single of the Week - a brash caricature of spike-heeled, black leather, crotchless Janet Reger wear punky fetishist fashion and the sexual mores and manners thereof - only to discover upon opening a copy of the paper that instead of a picture of mild-mannered Roy Hill, some insensitive sub had put in a picture of the Ambre Solaire refuge vocalist trying his hardest to look smouldering and Mediterranean. I ordered the sub responsible to be brought to my study, where we pinned the bounder to the hearth of a blazing log-fire until the heat had scorched through his britches and he confessed the reason for his behaviour. "Because that - gasp - is Roy Hill. The bloke you thought was him is the saxophone and flute player. He's called Bimbo Acock." Oh.

"That's really strange!" chuckles Roy Hill when we eventually meet up in Arista's opulent gaff. Bimbo peers myopically at the world with a hesitant smile, a bemused expression his only defence against the outside world. He is, in fact, looking like a Bimbo. Like a man who has had a history of being tormented in the lottery of life and landing the moniker Bimbo Acock. Imagine him as a child. "You're tea's ready, Bimbo Acock!" God, he was lucky to live past infants' school. But this mere slip of Acock happens to be the nearest thing this side of the Atlantic to Clarence Clemons. Truth. Roy Hill subsides to a soupcon of smirks. Glad to see you're taking it like this, Roy. "Well, Bimbo's the only member of the band I've got now who's been with me nearly from the start," he explains in his polite Gloucestershire tones, his affable demeanour belying the acidity of the music. "The rest I've got one by one over a period of...many months. I want them to be what the E Street band are..." Definition? "Sympathetic dynamite." And what do you want to be? "A combination of Bruce Springsteen, Ray Davies, Randy Newman and Elvis Presley...I'm not saying I can do that," he adds quickly. "But I'm gonna try."

Hill is in his mid-twenties. His undiluted contempt for the corporate showbiz empires who bring us our rebel music courtesy of a kind of rock 'n' roll IMF dates him from his dues-paying days hustling his demo round Artists and Repertoire execs' front offices. He can name all the people who told him to go back to his day job and recite word for word the extent of their verbal abuse. The rockbiz obsession also relates to just about everything else that has happened to him in the nearly three years that he has been signed to Arista. For the first two years he was kept on a retainer before the first 45 rpm product got released -- during which time, of course, the lads from the Fagen's Den of Sex had changed the face of popular culture by making it de rigueur for every high street kid in the country to throw away his flapping Oxford bags and get a sensible pair of strides that were the same shape as his legs. Roy Hill, no BA in chaos to call his own, was suffocating under the weight of record company pressure to hit upon the correct formula and clean up. The disappointing end result of all this equivocating was his debut album release last spring. Produced by Gus Dudgeon, the album had a lush sound so appallingly sweet that it could rot your eye-teeth after just one side. "Well, all I can say is that I was overawed by the whole occasion. There was Gus Dudgeon, all the top session men in London...I was the only person I hadn't heard of. I got shit for letting Gus Dudgeon do it his way - Arista suggested I do it with him - and I got slagged off. So now I do it all my way so that if I get slagged off it's on my own terms..."

Seems like Arista snapped up Hill the second he set foot in their home of the hits, and immediately found themselves at a loss as to what to do with him - whether to go for coffee-table credibility like Elt and Bernie, to abduct the heart strings of the tired and emotional teenies, to make with the punk, baby boy... Hill appeared at a time when new acts into sensitive folks like Ray Davies, Tom Waits, Randy Newman and even Bruce on the backlash weren't exactly hailed as vital, relevant artists. At least we had the poxy Roxy. All Hill got was dunked in hip Hamstead syrup and a lot of stick... "And these lights are picking out bruises/ Little man you are a colourful sight/ And you're going nowhere after tonight." {After Tonight}. "After punk happened everyone expected just one pitch, one level of performance...didn't matter if it was Elvis Costello or Peters and Lee, they just wanted the one line. I'm not that one-dimensional. I like to bend that line. I've got junk songs, joke songs and...serious songs. I don't want a balanced set." Only a handful of songs on that album weren't turned into total write-offs. The opening cut Join Me was shades of Thunder Road meeting Cal Trask on Abra's window-ledge in East of Eden; After Tonight, the allegorical tale of musician-as-boxer getting beaten to pulp for the benefit of the vicarious ring-side thrill-seekers eating their bacon and waiting for a fall. Piccadilly Lights you've already met, which just leaves the Tracks of My Tears - haunted Marionettes, another song about exploitation, manipulation and many other -tions inside our wonderful business.

Of course, you don't have to stay in it, Roy... "I don't want to do anything else, though. I started out wanting to be rich and famous and now I just wanna be good. I think most people do it the other way round. Playing all those dates where nobody wanted us toughened us up." Hill's wife Chrissie is in hospital with a week-old baby boy called Jamie. It was Chrissie who kept him for years after he got thrown out of art school because he couldn't draw and set about, uh, Making It. He whips out his guitar and knocks out three new songs: One Time, a more personal, less nationalistic Political Science; Keep Away From Me, a basket-weaver, wild-eyed dreaming of settling scores, as funny as a strait-jacket, mush; and (Win or Lose) It's Something To Talk About, a fatalistic finger to a consumer society that laps up familiar corn of TOTPunks with their illusions of being both Che Guevara and a member of the local darts team, while uncharted quality like Roy Hill is telling you the way it was, it is and shall be. Better tell your Mum and Dad, finish up your grub (ha, ha)...

"High hopes are rising in young hearts today as pen approaches dotted line/ Flashbulbs blow, wide smiles are fixed and the executives sign/ A deal is made with Deadweight Records and Tapes/ Knowing groom and blusing bride/ Now all that talk of instant fame can just be pushed to one side....In dreams of house full signs they just want to play for you and me/ They're gonna call themselves The Marionettes and that's just what they'll be....So here we are inside the home of the hits, in the land of promises and lies/ Just waiting for those golden records to materialise/ (Before our eyes)/ Today they're everybody's brightest hopes, groomed for greatness, picked to thrill/ Tomorrow they'll just be a reason for another restaurant bill....Showbiz smiles have all been packed away/ The men who care have disappeared/ Leaving only paper cups and empty words to be cleared..." {Marionettes}.

What would you do if your son Jamie said he wanted to get into the rockbiz in sixteen years' time? "Show him my first reviews. Then tell him to get into it." What else can a poor boy do 'cept to sing for Deadweight Records and Tapes? Well I imagine there must be something. Otherwise is all seems so futile, doesn't it? (Cue Rock Is My Life by Bachman Turner Overdrive, roll credits and fade...).

Text copyright New Musical Express 1978, used without permission


PERSONAL MEMORIES

Brian Morris, from Ledbury, lifts the lid on the early 'mean and moody' Roy Hill years: I took a look at your site, no, I read the whole thing actually and I was truly amazed at what Roy has been doing since leaving Ledbury. I haven't actually seen or spoken to him for about 33 years, just before I got married actually. I did send him an invitation to the wedding but he didn't make it. He was living in Greenwich Village at the time with his then girlfriend, Chrissy Morrison who was a teacher at the time. Anyway, I completely lost touch with him and didn't know how to contact him again since his family moved to Cheltenham.

 

The Upways in the late 60s. LtoR: Toy Hill, Chris Smith and Brian Morris. {click to enlarge photo, courtesy of Brian Morris}It was strange how we came to form a band together since we both had our own circle of friends, plus he was a bit older than me anyway. But as I said on my website, he came to see me just after Christmas one year and asked me to tune his guitar for him (he only lived around the corner from me). I did and showed him a few chords. Roy was a natural, as you already know and was soon playing lead guitar like nobody's business. I can't remember how we finally decided to form a band, it just happened I suppose. But Roy was a great singer, an excellent guitarist and a fantastic performer and still is apparently. Of course, we did have our ups and downs in the band, falling out and stuff like that. But it didn't affect our performances. We only had one mike at the time, a double-sided thing and with me singing harmonies, we had to look at each other all the time. If we'd fallen out, we'd spend the night sneering at each other. All in all, it was great fun and a particularly memorable time of my life.

 

Roy's father did a hell of a lot to help out our band, taking us to gigs but most of all, he was the one who, out of his own pocket bought a lot of our stuff. He bought our first real set of drums and a pick-up for my little acoustic guitar. My folks weren't too well off you see. I eventually traded that in for a Hofner violin bass, only cos Paul McCartney had one, you see. The years in question regarding the Upways followed by the Crestas were the mid-late '60s. We were all at school at the time, me being the baby of the band at the tender age of around 13 or maybe 14. Roy and I became quite close during our time in the band, not only because we lived close to each other but we became firm friends. I even went on holiday with his family to the Norfolk Broads and we had a great time. We took my acoustic guitar with us and during the 'cruise' we came across one of those little recording booths. We ran back to the boat, got my guitar and with a bit of squeezing and juggling about, managed to get Roy and guitar in whereby he preceeded to cut a disc of the Rolling Stones, Playing With Fire which was a single for them at the time. I wonder if he still has it.

 

I came across some photos {below} of you know who from the old Crestas' days. We were preparing for when we hit the big time and decided to do some promotional photos out at Eastnor Castle. Yeah, I know, crazy isn't it but we were young and impressionable and it was something to do on a boring Sunday afternoon. I don't even remember how we got there. I think we might have been on bikes. No, not motorbikes but pedal bikes. Anyway, here are some pics of Roy, two were taken at the castle, the other was in his garden in Ledbury with his brand new Rickenbacker short scale guitar. His dad paid 385 for it back then, or somewhere around that price and that was reduced because it had a small chip in the top where a cymbal fell on it. Yes, I still remember so much about those days. As you can see, he still went for the mean and moody look. The girls all loved him though. He had groupies even then.

 

Anyway, all good things come to an end, we grew up and the band split after a big argument, I can't remember what it was all about now, but that was that. I didn't bother trying to join another band or forming one. I did get a few offers to play with other bands but I really wanted to give it a rest. Even after I sold my kit, I was getting offers. But I'd had my taste of music and it was good. Like the times we used to interupt each others guitar lessons just to make it more interesting. Or the time we were playing the Abbey Hotel in Malvern and got kicked out for playing around with the lift. One more thing about Roy before I go, he could never walk past a mirror without getting his comb out to do his hair. It became a bit of joke in the end. He was really proud of his hair and didn't like it ruffled. Anyway, I'm so pleased he's done so well, but then I should have expected it from him. Music was in his blood I suppose and I'm proud to have been there at the beginning with him. {To read more about those early years, visit Brian's website.}

Three photos of a 'mean and moody' Roy Hill {courtesy of Brian Morris}. Click to enlarge.

Eddy and Marie Geeleher, from Wigan, recall: About 25 years ago I took my new girlfriend to see Roy Hill at the John Bull on Chiswick High Road. It was our first proper date and I recommended him highly to her. As usual, he was very entertaining...Mister Templar, Elvis with no towel, Liverpool FC, Dalglish, etc. Then he did a song for the first time, 'Marie never goes anywhere without Eddy...' which I particularly found embarrassing, as my name is Eddy and my girlfriend's name was Marie! As it was our first date, we just froze and didn't even mention it! It looked as though I had taken her there deliberately to hear 'our' song! Now, 25 years later, still together with teenage kids, we still laugh about that first date. We do the occasional open mike night at our local pub and one that we do is 'She Sits Alone', one of our favourites from the LP. We spent a few hours in a recording studio this week (a bithday present for my 50th) and did 'She Sits Alone', Marie singing and me playing guitar. It sounds OK and we now have a CD of it. Please pass on our best wishes - we used to really enjoy the gigs at the John Bull.

 

Don MacPherson, from Canada, recalls: I first heard Roy on a 1978 FM channel in Sudbury, Ontario (Canada) where I was attending school. They had a weekly new music program and decided to give Piccadilly Lights a spin. That catchy tune led me to buy the album and it had quite a few fans amongst us impoverished university students. I was convinced, like Arista said they were at the time, that Roy was headed for the big time. I mean, songs like Join Me and Liner to Tangiers had some great atmosphere going for them, at least I thought so. Then...nothing!

 

Having that album but with no follow up (I'm feeling like I'm the only person in Canada with the album which hopefully was not the case!) was sort of a message in a bottle experience. Of all things...I was watching Brian DePalma's 'Body Double' on dvd last night and the cover has a Venetian Blind on it. Suddenly I thought of Roy's album cover with a similar effect (seems they wanted some kind of Boz Scaggs/Robert Palmer mystique as an image) and I thought...Roy Hill! Internet. Worth a shot...So here I am a quarter of a century later finally realizing that I should use this internet thing to investigate. Boy does your site ever reward the latent sleuth!...I wish Arista would wake up and re-release his (albeit 'overproduced' Dudgeonesque) solo outing so that Roy can reach some new fans through I-Tunes and other internet sites.

 


MEMENTOES

The first-half set-list from the 17/12/05 Cry No More Christmas Cracker. {click to enlarge}The 2nd-half set-list from the 17/12/05 Cry No More Christmas Cracker. {click to enlarge}


Arista Records published this flyer as a precursor to Roy's 1st single in 1978, called Marionettes.


A Cry No More concert flyer from 29 June 1986 {click to enlarge}A Cry No More concert flyer from 29 June 1990 {click to enlarge}A Cry No More concert flyer from 10 July 1990 [click to enlarge]


The Cry No More 'I Love Roxy' fold-out fanzine from 1990 {click to enlarge}


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Thanks to Roy Hill for the inspiration.