Gary James' Interview With Kim Simmonds of
You can almost count on one hand, the number of groups that survived the 1960's. Well, Savoy Brown is one of them. Formed in London in 1965 by guitarist Kim Simmonds, Savoy Brown has just released a new album, titled "Kings of Boogie" on GNP Crescendo Records.
Kim Simmonds talked with us about Savoy Brown and his life of music.
Q - What happened to the guys who were in the very first Savoy Brown? Are they still in the business?
A - I don't think so. The other guitar player, Martin Stone was very good. He never really managed to do anything else. There were one or two people in Savoy Brown who were the real motivators, the fire behind the whole thing. Everybody else was just there. I don't want to sound disparaging against the other guys, but that's reality. That's what happens in bands And that's why one person continues on, and the others just fall by the wayside. It happens all the time. Very rarely do you get 3 or 4 guys who are into the same thing, well, maybe the Beatles.
Q - Is it true that you ruled Savoy Brown with an iron hand?
A - (laughs) One tends to laugh when something like that comes up, because you tend to think of yourself as a decent person and not like that. I think that I was very committed to what I wanted to do, and still am. I really push for what I feel is right. I knew what I wanted and knew what I wanted to do. In that sense, I think I was hard to work with at that point for that reason. And really, things haven't changed that much, I suppose over the years.
Q - Is it true that you hired and fired members regularly?
A - Again, that sounds very harsh. I do my very best to keep this line-up together. Actually you're the first person I've told this, but we had a bass player change. Nothing I could do about it. I do my level best 'cause I think it's essential for the media people to see me with a regular band. In other words, it's something that's beyond me. No matter what I can try to do, for personal reasons that come into people's lives, it's very difficult. No matter what you do, you're gonna lose people. Of course I fired people. There's no doubt about that. It's not a question of hiring and firing, it's very difficult to keep a band of people together. Years ago, when I was younger and not so experienced, I was 20 or 21, 22 years old in those days. If someone was dissatisfied back then I'd say, "Well, why don't you leave then." I wouldn't say what's going through his mind. If somebody was taking too may drugs I'd say "go". Nowadays, I'd say "what's his problem" and try to help him. Of course it's a different era now as well.
Q - The kinder, gentler era?
A - (laughs) I think I've had to realize that I am hard to work with and I've realized that this year actually. It's a little bit late in the day to realize it. (laughs) Most of the time it's beyond my control.
Q - Is it true that you were more popular in the U.S. than in Britain?
A - Oh. very much so. We came to prominence in England in 1967, in the Blues movement. As in any trend, it lasts about a year. Then, you can't get a gig. We were about to bust up in 1969. We were one of the hottest things around in '67. And then, when the blues faded, all of the sudden, that was the end of us practically. Then, we had the offer to come to America. And bang, we were big stars in a very short period of time. And because the country is so big, we managed to be in a position to possibly make a comeback now.
Q - Were there many bands playing the type of music Savoy Brown was, back in '66?
A - Well, see that's one of the reasons why we did make It through, because nobody was playing the music we were playing, apart from John Mayall, who was trail-blazing with Eric Clapton at the time. Even us, we were playing our own form of blues. Up until that point you had R&B, the Stones, an R&B explosion in '62 and '63 in England. But, it was kind of tinged with a little bit of the folk influence. By the time '66 came around with Mayall and Savoy Brown, it was real tough, hard Chicago blues. There was no folk about us. We were the real thing - Marshalls and Gibson guitars. We were very fresh, very new. We were the U2 of England at the time, (laughs) People hadn't heard guitar playing like that. They never heard that thick blues guitar. They'd heard the Beatles and Keith Richards, but nothing like what we were doing.
Q - You recorded 3 albums before you toured the U.S. Where were you performing before that?
A - We played all over England. We played all over Europe. We were a top draw in England. We were doing very well. There's no reason why we couldn't have a renaissance in the 90's. It could be a complete turnaround for the band. I don't think I'm dreaming too much by thinking the renaissance period could be for us here. That's what we're hoping for. We don't feel we're a revival band. We feel we got something to say. Hopefully, we're not doing it on past glories. We're doing it, 'cause we want to re-establish the group.
Q - Savoy Brown opened shows for Janis Joplin. What do you remember about Janis Joplin?
A - She taught me how to drink tequila. That was the first time the band had ever come across the drink as such. It's not a drink you drink in South London, (laughs)
Q - In the early days, how many days of the year were you on the road?
A - Oh, constantly. That's what really made Savoy Brown in America. We weren't afraid to work and were one of the top bands in that era that could command an audience everywhere. For that reason, Z.Z. Top's first national North American tour was opening for Savoy Brown. We were a band, that through hard work had really conquered the whole of the country. The band, although it never reached a superstar status in the past, we were really a very, very, highly respected band and had a very strong following. And we still have an audience most anywhere we play.
Q - And your albums sold well because of the touring.
A - It did in the old days. That's the whole idea of touring. The whole idea of touring is to promote a record. There's no other point in it really. It doesn't mean much otherwise.