Posted: March 5, 2015 in MUSIC
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Liverpool post-punk band The Teardrop Explodes released the single “Reward” on Mercury Records, taken from their debut album ‘Kilimanjaro’ & backed with the non-LP “Strange House in the Snow”; music weekly New Musical Express (NME) awarded it ‘Single of Week’, with Paul du Noyer writing “the outstanding feature is a brilliant, crazed horn arrangement… absolutely un-ignorable”; it became the group’s biggest hit,

I was the last member of the Teardrop Explodes to take drugs. I’d loved Jim Morrison since I was 14, but I wanted to be like Captain Beefheart, who’d said: “I don’t need drugs. I’m naturally psychedelic.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t. One day our guitarist Alan Gill said: “Just have one toke, mate.” Then, soon after, our keyboard-player, David Balfe, gave me some acid. It was a revelation. I went from drug puritan to acid king. I would ride imaginary horses to the studio with Gary Dwyer, our drummer. His was called Bumhead, mine Dobbin.

One day, in the middle of this madness, Alan said: “I’ve got a song that sounds like you wrote it.” He played me this fantastic bassline, then turned to Balfey and said: “And you play this.” Balfey, who was also our manager, was always telling us what to do – so I loved someone ordering him about. Gary could only drum two ways, reggae and soul, so he played it soul and we had a song, “Reward”.

We first recorded it for a John Peel session. The opening line – “Bless my cotton socks, I’m in the news” – was how I felt. We were on the radio! We’d made it! But when the band heard it, they went: “That’s rubbish … no … it’s brilliant.” Because I’d grown up in Tamworth, I had this idea that Reward had to sound like a northern-soul classic. When we recorded it as a single, I urged the producer to make it sound hectic and frenetic, like we were playing in an ice rink, but the first mix just wasn’t mad enough. So me and Bill Drummond, our co-manager, booked another studio with another producer, and I took acid. I remember Bill saying: “Julian, you’re dancing and the music’s not even playing.” Bill’s Mr Teetotal, but I drove him so nuts he got a bottle of whisky and drank the lot.

Suddenly, I was in command of a possible Teardrops hit. The first thing I did was cut the drum intro, so it went straight in at the trumpets, which we’d started using because I was obsessed with the Love album Forever Changes. Then we took the guitar out. There’s only one guitar chord in the whole song – and the guitarist wrote the music.

By the time the single came out, we’d split up, calling each other wankers on stage. Then we were asked to do Top of the Pops. Gary and I put a new line-up together and got some acid to take along. But as we drove past Balfey’s house, I was struck by a sense of loyalty, even though we’d been pummelling each other. So I shouted: “Balfey! Come on Top of the Pops with us – you can mime the trumpets!”

Julian only hit me once. Although it was scary, it wasn’t serious. He’d gone nuts because I was fed up with him being late for rehearsals. He’d been finishing some conversation with someone at the Armadillo tea rooms. He chased me round the rehearsal room and started thumping me. There was always tension between us, even though we were friends. Bands are like that. One minute you’re best mates, the next it’s: “Thump the drummer!”

I remember the first time I heard Julian play the Reward bass riff. It was exhilarating – like we’d plugged into the mains. When we did it live on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test, we’d taken amyl nitrate and weren’t sounding great. A week later, we were in the studio to record it, and the producer said: “Oh, I hope we’re not doing that song.” I remember all sorts of problems with the horn solo. I kept saying: “No, no – it’s got to sound like wild elephants.” When I heard the second mix Julian did, I thought it was genius.

I was on Top of the Pops four times with the Teardrop Explodes, each time playing a different instrument. I was so out of my tree on acid the first time, there was blood on the trumpet because I was banging it into my face so hard. It still amazes me that Reward got to No 6. It’s a mad awesome record unlike anything else in pop.

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