Denny Laine

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

Madhouse Magazine:  I see you're on this Moody Wings tour. So what can people expect when we show up to this Moody Wings show? What's gonna happen?

Denny Laine: All right, it's not Moody Wings. It's called The Moody Wing Band.

Madhouse Magazine: Oh, okay, The Moody Wing Band.

Denny Laine: All right, we're doing the Band On The Run album, and we're doing a selection from the Magnificent Moody's box set, which is the first Moody's album. And that's a box set that's available now, and it's got about 30 tracks on it. So we're doing a selection of songs from that. And then a few more songs I'm associated with, with Wings I suppose, and solo stuff, and that's the show.

Madhouse Magazine: All right, well, you can't ask for more than that. You're doing the full "Band On The Run" Album, one of the greatest albums ever recorded, which you are a crucial part of. 

Denny Laine: Thank you. 

Madhouse Magazine: What do you remember about the recording session for that album?

Denny Laine: It was done in Africa. It was done by me and Paul, and Linda. Actually, me and Paul doing the backing tracks, because the band that was supposed to be going to Africa, two of them didn't turn up, so we ended up doing the album ourselves at EMI which is just down the road from where Ginger Baker lived, he's a friend, and that's why we did it.  We wanted to be in a different area, being influenced by different music, which we were. That's one of the good things about recording. You can record anywhere you like and just get a fresh approach to the album.

Madhouse Magazine: Right, absolutely. Well, it worked out well, I gotta say.

Denny Laine:  It did. 

Madhouse Magazine: Now, you mentioned Ginger Baker. He's a friend, and you played with him with the Air Force, that great album. He's got a reputation as being difficult, to say the least, to work with. Did you find that to be true? 

Denny Laine:  I personally never had a problem with Ginger. He was always a good laugh and had a good heart, and I got on really well with him. Yeah, obviously, we've all been there. We've all seen people have arguments with press people, or whatever, or people at gigs. They just want to get it right, that's all. Ginger does have a tendency to be very belligerent when he wants something done. But generally speaking, he seems to run well and he's done well. He's fine. I didn't have a problem with him in Air Force at all. I enjoyed that. It wasn't for very long, and I'm still in touch with him now.

Madhouse Magazine: That album (Ginger Baker's AIr Force) was so good, and your guitar playing on that is excellent. You don't get the credit you deserve for this great solo guitar work. 

Denny Laine: Well, thank you. Well, you know, I mean, I've developed that a little bit more. Let's face it, in Wings, I was more of a rhythm guitarist. In the Moody's, I was also rhythm and lead. But then again, we had a piano, so I wasn't playing a lot of lead. But since I've doing my own thing, I've really developed to playing lead as well.
Madhouse Magazine: I'm very fascinated by this mid '60s time in London, the swinging '60s. 1965, London, Carnaby Street. Can you give me an idea of what it was like, all the parties? How much fun were you guys having at that time? 

Denny Laine: Well, it all started in the clubs really, because all the bands that came from out of town were all converging in the clubs. So everybody was getting to know each, and we were all playing the same gigs. We doubled with a lot of bands. We'd double the with The Yard Birds, Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, a lot of names in those days. Of course, they were all up and coming like we were. 

Denny Laine: And so, therefore, we were on the marquee circuit, which was a blues circuit. We had a lot of parties, as you say. A lot of people came to our parties. And then there was the fact that everything else is going on in the '60s, like you say. There was the fashion world, and there was ... Everything was actually happening at the same time, so you felt like you're amongst good friends. In all, everybody influenced each other. 

Madhouse Magazine: Right. And who was someone that you can name who was a notorious partier, who would always show up and end up swinging from the chandeliers, or something like that? 

Denny Laine: Keith Moon. In a word, Moon the Loon. I love Keith though. He's one of those guys. He got banned from The Speakeasy one night. And he's parked his limo outside, and everybody going into The Speakeasy Club had to go into his limo first to have a drink with him. It was a good laugh, dangerous, but good. 

Madhouse Magazine: Yeah, they don't make rock stars like that anymore, you know? 

Denny Laine: They don't. They really don't.

Madhouse Magazine: And then later on, like '67, you had an electric string band, and you guys actually opened for Hendrix. I was listening to that. It was really good stuff. Do you think you were ahead of your time? Because ELO had a lot of success with that kind of format much later.

Denny Laine: Yeah. Well, the drummer from ELO was in my first band Denny Laine & The Diplomats, Bev Bevan. Anyway, I was kind of connected to those guys, because they all come from Birmingham, and we were all mostly influenced by the same kind of music. Now, I know that my influence for that came from the folk scene. I had a single out called Say You Don't Mind, which has folk players on it, and I also had ... Well, I just had influences from all sides, really. What can I say? 

Denny Laine: George Martin and Paul McCartney were doing it as well. I mean, that's what they were doing in the studio. I just happened to be the one doing it on the road, that's all. And because of that, even Jimi Hendrix gave me a compliment, because everybody likes to see something a little bit fresh and a bit new. Believe me, I had a problem with those string players, because they'd never used pickups on their instruments before. 

Denny Laine: They'd never been on a stage like that, so it was pretty hairy, and especially with Viv Prince, the drummer from Pretty Things on drums. It was a pretty rocking thing, but it went down really well that night, and it wasn't long after that, well after the ginger thing, and that's ... I kind of got in with Paul, because I knew Paul already. I knew him from the early days. 

Madhouse Magazine: I don't really care about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a lot of people don't, but it's a lot of fun to talk about, I think. It starts  conversations and fun debates. So obviously you're in there for Moody's, but Wings is not. Paul McCartney is in, but The Hall of Fame is just like, "All right, forget about Wings." But it was such a good band.

Denny Laine: Well, it was, but it had ... it was just three or four different good bands, wasn't it? And it was classified as a Paul McCartney project. That's all I can say. Maybe by name it was a band, but it really wasn't. It was Paul McCartney & Wings, in a sense, but that's just the way it is. I mean, I don't know. I don't know how they work it. I mean, at one point, they didn't want to put me in the Hall of Fame until some people stuck up for me, and said, "We're not gonna vote if you don't put Denny in." That's how I got in. That's the way it works, isn't it? 

Madhouse Magazine: Yeah, nobody knows what goes on behind he scenes at that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Denny Laine: Well, they didn't put Clint Warwick in, who was the bass player with the original Moody Blues, posthumously, but there you go. 

Madhouse Magazine: Automatically, the original members should be in. It doesn't make any sense to me.

Denny Laine: Of course they should. Listen, a lot of Moody Blues fans don't even know there was a Moody Blues before Justin and John. That's the truth of it.
Madhouse Magazine: So, I hear that you're a big Django Reinhardt fan.

Denny Laine: I was very much so as a young guy. I didn't really know how to play guitar, and it was a jazz guitar player that taught me how to tune my guitar. I was already into jazz. I was already into Ella Fitzgerald and people like that, and Oscar Peterson, the jazz greats at the time, guitar players. So I mean, Django was my style. Django and Stéphane Grappelli, I listened to a lot, along with a lot of that '50s stuff as well, from my sister's record collection. I was really brought up by a lot of old records, old 78s. And so, yeah, that was my style, but I wasn't playing jazz so much. I was just influenced by it.

Madhouse Magazine: Tell us about touring with Chuck Berry? He had a tough reputation as well. 

Denny Laine: Yeah, we weren't backing him. We were closing the first half. Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce were in the first band that was on. That's how we got to know them. They were in a band called the Graham Bond Organization, and we closed the first half. But we did get a lot of ... "Go Now" was going up the charts, so we got a lot of people going out and buying that record as a result of that tour, so there you go. I mean, it did us a lot of good. It was our first ever concert tour ever actually. 

Denny Laine: We'd never done a concert. But I mean, we'd never done live theaters. We might've done the odd one or two dance halls and clubs, and all that stuff, but we never did theaters. That was our first taste of that. It was actually a Robert Stigwood production, and it did us a lot of good, yeah. I love Chuck. He was a good guy. I mean, he just wanted to get paid. You can't blame him.

Madhouse Magazine: Ginger Baker and Chuck Berry were infamous for being difficult. You seem to get along with everybody. You're like the Henry Kissinger of rock and roll. 

Denny Laine: [laughs] Get out of here. I don't get along with anybody really, but I'm just saying what's going on. But the thing is, all the bands got ripped off financially bar none ...

Denny Laine: from The Beatles down. So, that's a fact. If people don't know that, then they don't know anything, because it's a fact of life. So you've gotta be honest and up front about that, and that's what leads bands to break up, not want to continue. The money got lost, whatever, stolen. It was like the Wild West, right? 

Madhouse Magazine:  You guys all paved the way. It's a shame what happened with all these crooked lawyers and managers, just rampant stealing.

Denny Laine: Of course. And listen, compared to some people, we got let off lightly. I know a lot of stories. A lot of friends have told me a lot of stories about their managements and stuff. 

Madhouse Magazine: I think the worst story I heard was about Bad Finger. They were ripped off terribly.

Denny Laine: Well, I wasn't gonna mention it, but that was the worst of all obviously. Tragic.

Madhouse Magazine: Do you have any good road stories that you can tell us from your time with Wings? It must've been like a big party. You're all traveling first class everywhere, and it's chicks running wild.?

Denny Laine: [laughs] No, don't start that. No chicks running wild. It was a family show, but we did have situation ... You talk about like luxury. Even though we're traveling around in a jet, we still ended up landing at the wrong airport one day and having to take cars to get to the gig. So there's always some kind of mess up on the road. We're on the road now, and every day it's different. It's never according to plan, so it's no different when it's on that level. It's no different at all. 

Denny Laine: And the worst part about that like stalkers and all the rest of it, is that obviously Paul and Linda, Linda especially, got a lot of that stuff from people who weren't happy with her for marrying Paul McCartney.

Denny Laine: And so, we were all very aware of the weirdos, but look what happened to John Lennon. So you've gotta be on your toes when you're touring and working in the public, although most of the people are great. There's always a few that you've gotta watch.

Madhouse Magazine: Do you still have a few weirdos out there even now? 

Denny Laine: Of course. If you want to call them weirdos. They don't call themselves weirdos. They call themselves fanatics. 

Madhouse Magazine: Yeah, exactly. It's life on the road. So, I heard something very interesting that I thought was very well said, that you mentioned that if you want to be a rockstar or an actor, whatever you want to be in the entertainment world, you have to give it your all. You can't have a backup plan. You have to go for it.

Denny Laine: Yeah, you do. You have to do. It's a 24 hour job. That's all there is to it. I mean, I started out when I left school. I got a job as a trainee buyer for musical instruments, can you believe? And I just couldn't stand that for more than a year. And I had to go on the road, because it was ... Well, even at school, it was affecting my school work. I mean, you can't do two things at once, man. You've gotta be on your toes at all times with this. And it's the time value. 

Denny Laine: It's that you're always doing something, and not getting enough sleep, and things take a lot of time to get things done. It's not all smooth sailing. So you really have to give it all, really. You have to know all sides of the business. Your experience, like I said, the finances, your experience, everything in this business. And you gotta be ... Yeah, you gotta be totally involved. 

Madhouse Magazine: Yeah, absolutely. So, are you still enjoying it? Do you still like going out on the road and all that?

Denny Laine: Oh, yeah. Of course, I mean, that's how we started. I wouldn't be doing it if I wasn't enjoying it. But it's not easy. Nobody says it's easy. It's just something we do. A lot of people don't want to do it, like session men don't want to do it. They don't want to travel. They don't want to do all that stuff. They aren't interested in playing to an audience. But we've always done that, and I don't feel like I'm a proper musician unless I've got an audience. 

Denny Laine: They bring it out of you. They make you work harder and better. And for all us lazy people, it's very good for us. 

Madhouse Magazine: So now, what do you prefer? Do you love the intimacy of the small club, or do you love playing the giant stadium back in the '70s?

Denny Laine: Well, I like doing the stadiums obviously, yeah, because it's another animal completely, but it's great. But this thing as well. I'm still trying to build up to something much bigger as well. I mean, you go out and you do ... It's almost like a new band. You go out and you start small. You try to and build up to bigger audiences. That's all you can do. And it doesn't matter who you are. If you're not any good in front of the small audience, you're never gonna be any good in front of a big one. 

Madhouse Magazine: Absolutely.

Denny Laine: So you have to test out ... Like this tour is like a testing ground for this thing, so for this show. So we'll do it until it gets really, really perfect and take it to the next level.

Madhouse Magazine: You've led a fascinating life, so do you think you have a book in you?

Denny Laine: I have a book in me, but it's not coming out of me, not for a while. It's a lot of work. I've tried it once, and I thought ... I need to be able to say everything that's gone down and not just stories about Wings, and that's what people commercially want to hear, so that turned me off. 

Madhouse Magazine: How could you even remember everything that happened in your life? With all that partying too, you know?

Denny Laine: Yeah, you can't. Well, the partying thing is a little bit exaggerated, let's be honest. You see like the ... You see bands these days walking around with bottles of Jack Daniels, and smoking, shooting up, and all that. It really wasn't anything like on that level. It really wasn't. I mean, you get reputations. It's hard work being in a band. You can't ... It don't last five minutes if you end like ... if anybody ends up like that. It just becomes exaggerated. So the partying really was minimal. You know what I mean? 

Denny Laine: It was more like if you're on the road and you're working with someone, you'll stay in the same hotels. Yeah, you might party a little bit until you gotta get on the road again. But it wasn't like a one party. It was work. One party after another, that's ridiculous. How could it be? But again, there was a lot of clubs and there's a lot of mostly talking about music and jamming going on. It was all about that really. It wasn't about getting out of your brand and being silly. It was about just ... well, winding down a lot of it really. 

Madhouse Magazine: It was a fascinating life, and I want to thank you for all the music you gave to us. It was a great career and Good luck with the tour.

Denny Laine: Listen, man, thank you. Thank you for that. 
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