TERRY CHIMES - THE CLASH/CRUNCH
Over the history of rock, each generation has largely been defined by one artist or band. In the 50's Elvis Presley changed the course of music, whilst the 60's will forever be recalled for the earth shattering impact of the Beatles. And so on, bands such as The Smiths, Stone Roses and Oasis have had a disproportionate effect on the musical landscape, relative to their commercial success.
For someone like me, growing up in the changing musical scene of the late 70's, the Sex Pistols started a fire in my heart that has not been extinguished since. However for me, and millions of others, one band really called the shots...THE CLASH.
From their incendiary first album they trod a path unlike any other punk band. Taking in an eclectic mix of influences and styles, they showed that the genre did not have to remain in the cul-de-sac of three chord thrash and were happy to combine reggae, dub, rockabilly and funk into the mix. Their influence continued unabated long after the band split, culminating with their induction into the rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and being ranked in the top 30 artists of all time by US rock bible Rolling Stone magazine.
Therefore, it was a no-brainer for me when an opportunity arose to put some questions to original drummer TERRY CHIMES (aka Tory Crimes) of his recollections of those revolutionary times in British music, his departure from the band (twice), a dramatic change of career path and recently picking up the drum sticks again, whilst also writing his autobiography.
First up, how's life treating you at the moment Terry?
Great doing just what I want to do which appears to be the secret.
Tell me something about your earliest musical influences and how you started out playing the drums?
First record was Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison (still sounds great). Then discovered rock by listening to Alice Coopers Killer album. Then found Led Zep and was hooked.
You were briefly a member of the London SS in early 1976. What do you recall of this semi-mythical band? It seemed to contain many of the people (Mick Jones, Tony James, Brian James, Rat Scabies, Keith Levene etc) that would go on to form the nucleus of the British punk rock scene.
Yes- basically everyone was in that band except it never really became a band.
You later successfully auditioned for The Clash. What were you first impressions of your new band mates? I'm led to believe that you didn't know what to make of Joe Strummer at the time?
Well Joe came after my first rehearsal. He seemed about as unlike a rock singer as you could get. What I was impressed by was the drive and ambition of the guys.
You only stayed a relatively short period. What was the reason for your departure and how did you view the denouncements from the band after you left?
Youd have to read my autobiography to understand it all. I only came to understand it myself whilst writing the book.
Given that, how did you feel when they asked you to return to drum on their eponymous debut LP? Do you feel the finished album did justice to the band and how did you take to being called Tory Crimes on the sleeve?
I was pleased to do the album as it put down on permanent record what wed achieved so far. The name Tory Crimes was just a joke really we used to argue a bit about politics. Never expected to be talking about it 35 years later!
After leaving again, you had stints as stickman for both Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers and Generation X. How was it working with two of the more colourful front men of the music scene, namely Johnny Thunders and Billy Idol?
They were both great in their own ways and both wonderful to know.
You seem to have had a relatively successful career post-Clash, playing with various bands and as a session musician. How did you take therefore when, in 1982, the band again approached you to fill in on drums, this time after the departure/sacking of Topper Headon?
Well Id sort of wondered what it would have been like had I stayed on rather than play for all those other bands so it gave me the chance to find out.
By this time The Clash had gained success in the USA and were shortly to depart for a major tour, taking in all corners of the States and playing over 70 gigs. What are your recollections of that time and how did you enjoy the tour and having the trapping of being a major rock band?
I enjoyed the music and the touring although the problems between Mick and Joe were getting worse during that year which cast a shadow over things.
Just looking at the video for "Should I Stay or Should I Go" shows how far the band had come. It must have been pretty special playing to 40,000 people as support for The Who.
Actually it was 70,000 not that I actually counted them.
So in the end you left the Clash for good. Any regrets?
Not really I think I was lucky to be in the band during the two best periods and after 82 it was never going to be the same again.
After that your career took on a distinctly Heavy Metal feel, with time spent in Hanoi Rocks and Black Sabbath. How did that come about and how did you enjoy the experience?
I met Hanoi Rocks whilst playing with Thunders and we got on very well. I joined when Razzle died. I had listened to Sabbath as a teenager so it was great fun to then go on and play with them.
I believe a member of Sabbaths entourage had a profound effect on the future direction of your life. Wasn't it their chiropractor that cured a problem with your arm, eventually leading to you taking up the same profession?
Yes, but I didnt rush out the next day to go back to college it was more like the planting of a seed.
You have run your own successful chiropractor business since 1994. Was that meant to be the end of your musical career or have you still kept your hand in musically?
I never kept my hand in but I also said Never say Never.
However, you have recently re-emerged on the music scene in the punk supergroup The Crunch. I believe that when Sulo Kariosson approached you, Mickey Geggus and Dave Tregunna last year for his book launch, it was meant to be a one-off gig. So what went so well that you wanted to make The Crunch a semi permanent band?
I think it was all those hours in the café discussing music. I realised that we liked the same things and, crucially, got on really well together.
I gave your debut album "Busy Making Noise" a five-star review. Primarily, for me it seemed to have all the hallmarks of a classic Clash album - strong lyrics and melodies, great vocals, raucous guitar led tracks and slower anthemic numbers - and the drumming wasn't too shoddy either! Are you happy to be back playing and what are the future plans for you and the band?
I recently realised that Ive always left every band after a year or so. I bit like being a serial dater. I think its time to stick with one band and this is it (like when a serial dater finally gets married).
Finally, you have an autobiography coming out shortly. What prompted you to write this now and should anybody be fearing the revelations in your book?
Nothing to fear but the truth!!! Im at the age when Im old enough to have done something and young enough to remember it.
So thanks go to Terry for an insight into his long a long and varied career. However, if you fancy finding about it in greater detail, and what it was like to be a member of The Clash, the book (and Crunch CD) are available on his website.