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When John Miles hit our charts with "High Fly" towards the end of last year, more was said of his James Dean appearance than his music, and John found that people were expecting him to live up to the rebel image of the mean, moody and arrogant star. But that was never the real John as Robin Tucek discovered when he interviewed him recently. John did choose the image, but that was built-up only to complement the music. If the soft spoken, polite 26 year old from Jarrow was going to take his chance of stardom when he heard that "High Fly" was in the charts and TV appearances had been booked, he would have to make a quick decision. Up till then John had had long, shoulder length, blond hair (pictured left) but that took the chop from the barber's scissors and in came the Jimmy Dean haircut and with it the image, although that was an afterthought. Then came "Music", destined to be one of the sounds of 1976.
*How long had John been playing professionally?
"I've been playing professionally for seven years, most of that time in local clubs in the North East. Then two years ago Bob Marshall, the band's bass guitarist, and I decided that to get to the top we would have to come to London first. We stopped live work for about a year and concentrated on writing."
*In all that time, did John ever think of giving up?
"I only once thought of packing it all in. That was about three years ago, during a period when nothing was happening at all - that was when I started thinking about moving away from Newcastle. Bob was keen on the
idea, but it took me about six months or so to make up my mind, then we moved to London. I wish we had done it sooner." In London, John lives with his wife, Eileen, in a flat in Highgate, although he is now looking for a house.
*How long had John known Bob Marshall, and how important an influence had he been on him?
"I've known Bob for about four years now, and we've been writing together for about three of them. Bob's a great influence on me, because basically I'm a bit lazy. He's pushed me along. Bob is a Sunderland fanatic, and we both used to go and watch them nearly every week. He still does! In fact, he even
bought his car from Sunderland's Billy Hughes. Bob lives with us in London, and he's unbearable if Sunderland lose - if they win, he's ecstatic! "After Sunderland had won the F.A. Cup in 1973, my Dad gave him a mug with the dates Sunderland won the cup on it. My Dad's a Newcastle suppporter, and he bought me one with their winning dates on it. That didn't please me however, as Newcastle have won it six times to Sunder land's two!
*Which do you prefer - appearing on TV or in front of a concert audience?
"I find TV appearances, especially "Super-sonic", more nerve racking than
>>> performing live at a concert. You go over your number so many times that, when you finally get to record the show, it's easy to panic. When you're appearing on TV. you're in the Studio for a long time. You can even be there at 10 o'clock at night if things are running late. Once your audience has accepted you at a concert, you can relax.
*John writes with Bob, but does he find writing songs comes naturally, or does it take a lot of time shut away?
"One day I find it easy, but there are others when I just can't seem to begin."
*How would he describe the music he writes?
"That's difficult, , but I prefer songs to be melodic like Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, but I wouldn't really like to compare my songs to those they write."
*When did John first take an interest in music?
"I started playing the piano when I was five. It was the usual thing, my parents sending me to a classical music teacher, but I didn't really enjoy it. I wish I had carried on longer then and learnt more. It wasn't until I was at grammar school that I started to take an interest in the classics, and I feel that they have influenced me subconsciously."
*John used to play soul music, and had admitted an influence from Stevie Wonder. Now he has developed his own style of music, however, does he see its direction changing again?
"Certainly as far as singing goes, I was very much influenced by Stevie Wonder, but if was not a conscious thing. I like the idea of having the backing of a full orchestra, with lots of violins. I hope other artists will record our material; it keeps you fresh if you don't only write for yourself. It's not a good thing to do that."
*"Rebel" has won acclaim with the critics, but is John happy with the album itself?
"Yes, I'm happy with it. It was the sort of album I wanted to do. I've never been one of those muscians who could play rock all night - I like variety in music. It's the same when listening to albums. That's why we've tried to put plenty of variety in ours."
*So what has John Miles got in store for us now?
"At the end of May, the band starts a British headline tour, covering major towns, and there should be another album out in the Autumn."
If that album is as good as "Rebel", then John Miles and Bob Marshall will find that everyone wants to record their songs, which will be nice. Their talent is enormous and they deserve their success - certainly no music critic can deny it to them!
Colour pin-up by Richard Fitzgerald