Gary James' Interview With Jerry Shirley Of
In 1983, Fastway paid a visit to Syracuse, N.Y. Sharing the bill with Coney Hatch and Iron Maiden, Fastway brought the house down with their hit at the time, "Say What You Will". Drummer Jerry Shirley spoke with us about Fastway and the group he used to pound the skins for, Humble Pie.
Q - You went from drumming for Humble Pie to working as a furniture polisher, a painter and a decorator. That must have been some come down for you.
A - It was a rude awakening, but it was one that did me a lot of good.
Q - In what way?
A - Just putting me back in touch with reality, not that I was really out of touch with it. But after years of being on the road, it smoothed things out. It was a come down, but to look on the positive side of it, it made me even more determined to get back into something I could really get creative with.
Q - Were you nervous at all about working with Eddie Kramer?
A - I wasn't nervous at all. I'd known Eddie for a long time. I knew what sort of music he's capable of producing and getting on record, which is anything that can be classified as powerful Rock 'n' Roll. He's one of the best people there is for recording Hard Rock.
Q - Your guitarist (Eddie Clarke) said "We don't want to be another Metal band. We want to be different." So how is Fastway different from other Metal groups?
A - Without intentionally going out there to contrive an image along with the music, other than exactly what we are, we go onstage and play as damn good music as we can play.
Q - One record company executive believes that when kids buy a record album of their favorite artist, and then go to see that artist in concert, they are really worshipping themselves. Is he right?
A - I would say so. I can remember going to see Rock 'n' Roll bands when I was starting and saying to myself, that's what I want to do. I would imagine that kids do use their favorite Rock bands as an extension of their own possibly future self or image or just an alter ego that they enjoy playing the part of.
Q - Jimi Hendrix once said "When you hear somebody making music, they are baring a naked part of their soul to you." Can that be said about a Hard Rock group?
A - I would think so, yeah. Yeah, you're baring your soul to them, especially when you're having a hard time off the stage. The only times I would say when somebody's not baring their soul is when they are involved in an act that becomes so mechanical that they're literally going out there doing the same thing every night. Going through the motions, and it's just like clock work. I imagine when Jimi said that, he was talking about the way he feels and anybody else that plays with feeling.
Q - What kind of a job as Columbia Records done for Fastway?
A - Columbia Records is being absolutely fantastic towards Fastway.
Q - Jon Landau (Springsteen's manager) once said "Rock 'n' Roll has to be body music before it can be head music or it will wind up being neither." Do you agree?
A - Yeah, that's close. You've got to move someone. The music has to move somebody and moving them makes them think possibly about the lyric. The actual feeling of the music has got to touch their soul first. If you don't do that, you won't get to their head.
In 1984, I once again interviewed Jerry Shirley, drummer for Fastway. At the time "All Fired Up" was the title of the group's latest album and they were out on the road supporting acts like Ratt, Rush and The Scorpions, with a few of their own headlining gigs thrown in as well.
Once again we spoke about Fastway, Humble Pie and David Lee Roth!
Q - Jerry, it's been about a year since I last spoke with you. How has your life changed in that time period?
A - Quite radically, actually. A lot of things have happened. A lot of real good things and a lot of real bad things. Firstly, last year the take off of Fastway worked out much better than we anticipated. From when I saw you, we were on the road all the way through to December. So, we got home right around Christmas and poor Eddie ("Fast" Eddie Clarke - Fastway's guitarist) finds his mother very sick and in the hospital and my wife had left me. It was one of the classic Christmas everything is falling to pieces. Eddie's mother, God rest her soul, passed away just after Christmas. He handled that really well. I couldn't believe how strong he was about it. Then, we had to start going in and writing and rehearsing for the new album. Right before then, a really dear friend of mine and my wife's, and a very well-known person in the business in England, Alexis Korner, passed away. So, being home, my wife and I agreed to show up together at a farewell to Alexis type thing done by his wife and children. That evening on the way home, we both sort of owned up that we were not in fact happy being apart and we didn't want the divorce to go through. So, that night we tore up the divorce papers and we haven't been happier since, which was beautiful!
Q - That's a good lead to my next question. David Lee Roth said there's something almost hypocritical about bands going onstage and telling their audience to "party" and "rock 'n' roll" when after the show they go home to their wives and children. Is it hypocritical for a Rock musician not to indulge in drugs and "groupies" after the show?
A - Not at all. * The guy's obviously an idiot. He's a rich idiot. I respect his wallet. I never did like him as a performer anyway. Eddie Van Halen I have a lot of respect for, a tremendous guitar player. I think that David Lee Roth is an absolute fool in every respect. He can't sing and believe me, I know more about singers than he'll ever know because I've worked with some of the best in the world. When you've worked with Steven Marriott, Bobby Teach and even Frampton to a certain extent and now Dave King, when you've worked with B.B. King and when you've worked with Roger Daltry, you know what a good singer is. He's a baby. There's nothing wrong with a band getting up on stage and saying to their audience "Let's party!" because what that is doing is telling the kids what they want to hear. It's entertaining the kids. And when the band is onstage is when they should party. When they got off stage it's completely up to them whether they want to go home to their wife and kids or whether they want to stay up all night snorting Peru. It's got nothing to do with hypocrisy. He's the hypocrite for trying to cop out of, you know, the fact that he does it. That's the most asinine thing I've ever heard anybody say. How dare he judge me or Pete Townshend or anybody who's been doing it fifteen times longer than he has. And some of us have got big bank accounts to match his. Unfortunately, I don't. That upsets me. (Roth's remark)
Q - Why do you believe David Lee Roth would say that?
A - It must have been some sort of flip thing he said off the top of his head. He knows better than anybody. It doesn't make a blind bit of difference. You don't have to. If he's saying that to qualify the fact that he behaves as a star when other people are quite perfectly normal human beings just doing their gig, if he has to qualify that by saying he believes you should behave offstage the way you are onstage, then that's him just qualifying his own screwed up ego. That's a stupid thing to say. With a bank account the size of his, he can't be stupid. He probably just said it as a throw away. Believe me young man Mr. Roth, I come from the generation that invented the stuff that you get up to do. We were throwing stuff out windows and driving cars into swimming pools and getting drunk all night and screwing chicks all night when he was still in high school.
Q - Younger groups would appear to be paying more attention to their business affairs these days. They will point out people who were ripped off and your name does come up. You're not this down on your luck, pathetic figure, are you?
A - No. I'm not a derelict walking the street. I've never lost my attitude. I may have lost my money, but I didn't lose my attitude. I refuse to become a loser.
Q - Any chance of ever recovering that "lost" money from your Humble Pie days?
A - The manager in question at the time has so long ago spent that, that I would have no way of getting my hands on it.
Q - What would it take to make Fastway a headlining group?
A - It would take this record, "All Fired Up" to take off at least Platinum and then some, which we're praying and hoping 'cause we've got mouths to feed. Every indication at this time is it's a strong album. We're putting on a much better show than we did last year. We're an improved group. Our attitude is in better shape. We're not partying so much, so we're playing better David Lee Roth. He'll find out when he grows up. He hits 30 and he wakes up one morning with one too many hangovers. He's gonna go "Ooh, I can't do this no more." By the way David, anything I said is only out of complete disbelief that you would say something like that.
Q - Have you ever wished you didn't get into music?
A - Very occasionally. Only when I've seen some real low life things happen and I thought this really sucks. But that happens so rarely. I have been given something by God which is the ability to earn money by doing something that I love doing. And, as David Niven used to say, when asked what it was like to be an actor, his reply was, "Well, it's better than working for a living."
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