‘For the last decade, I’ve been completely obsessed with the seven-inch single’

Sheffield psych-rocker and velvet-voiced crooner, Richard Hawley, has put together a new compilation album for the Ace Records label.

Called 28 Little Bangers From Richard Hawley’s Jukebox, it’s a brilliant and eclectic collection of mostly instrumental, garage rock, surf, rock ‘n’ roll and R & B seven-inch singles from the ‘50s and ‘60s that he’s hand-picked from his own vinyl collection.

Full of killer riffs, dirty sounds, fuzzed-up guitars, mean organ and twangy licks, most of these tunes are guaranteed dancehall floor-fillers and quiff shakers.

There are choice cuts from obscure artists like Ahab & The Wailers and The Dyna-Sores, as well as lesser-known tracks from famous acts like The Shadows, The Troggs, and even Jimi Hendrix, whose ferocious Hornet’s Nest, credited to Curtis Knight & The Squires, opens the compilation – it’s the first time it’s been released in its unedited version.

Say It With Garage Flowers dragged Hawley away from his jukebox and got him on the phone to tell us about the new album, his love of the seven-inch single, his music listening habits and compulsive record collecting tendencies.

“My obsession with it has carried on my whole life. It’s kept me out of a shitload of trouble,” he says, adding wryly, “but probably got me into a different kind of trouble…”


How did the idea for the compilation come about?

Richard Hawley: Do you know what? I can’t fucking remember – I think there was Guinness involved, which wouldn’t surprise me. In all fairness, it’s taken so long for it to come out, for various reasons – lockdown being a massive component.

Ace is a fantastic label. I had a long chat with Liz [Buckley – label manager at Ace Records] – she’s amazing – and all the folks there. They’re all fans of music – shit you don’t hear on the radio.

Liz and all the Ace people are incredibly knowledgeable about some of the most obscure music on the planet, but I think the stuff I mentioned surprised them – and me, to be honest. They’d never heard of it, and it sparked their interest.

I can remember Liz phoning me up and saying, ‘It’s about time we did something…’ It was pre-lockdown. They asked me to put 28 tracks together and, in all honesty, this is the funny bit about it… I know a lot of folks who do compilations and spend months agonising about what singles to put on them… I’m being completely honest, cos I don’t like lying – my manager, Graham, came around to see me and said, ‘Rich – you’ve been wanting to do this compilation with Ace for years, but you’re dragging your heels and you haven’t given them a list – get it together!’

So, I randomly picked up one of my many DJ boxes, pulled out a pile of records, counted 28 tracks, played them and there was only two I rejected. That was how it was. I guess I am a bloke who makes lists, but I’m not obsessive about it and I’m terrible at organising things. I deliberately have my singles in a random order, but roughly speaking, in whichever decade they’re from. I just like to reach in, pull a single out and play it.

Being a record collector, there’s a danger, but, to a certain extent, you have to put things in rough alphabetical order. But I’m very mindful that that’s super-anal. You end up stood at your record collection looking at it and you can never decide what to play. Do you know what I mean? I don’t know if you’re the same.

I am, but I have young kids and I don’t have time to play a lot of my records at the moment. I still buy a lot of new and second-hand vinyl, though – albums and seven-inch singles…

RH: I feel your pain, Sean. We’re empty nesters now – our kids have all flown. That’s a recent thing. For the last decade or decade and a half, I’ve been completely obsessed with the seven-inch single. I’ve been wanting to get a jukebox my whole life and I don’t know how I did it, but I convinced my long-suffering wife, Helen, that it would be a great idea. She always said, ‘Oh God, no, – you’ve got a record player and you come back from the pub pissed-up and play that stupidly loud…’

She knows what I’m like – I’ll come back, a few beers, and play rockabilly and old R & B singles up to the max. I managed to convince her a jukebox was a great idea and thank fuck for the timing – it was a month or a month and a half before lockdown. It’s a 1955 Wurlitzer 1800 and it’s a thing of beauty.

I got it from a dear friend of mine, Ian Clarricoates – he’s a restorer and a lover of jukeboxes –[www.jukejoint.co.uk]. He’s an expert and a top-flight electrician – he’s a lovely man.

We did a deal and he delivered it –  the picture that’s on the cover of the compilation was taken in my house. On the left-hand side, you can see a shadow of me and there’s one of my guitars on the other side. I’ve been obsessed with writing out the labels – it’s really super-nerdy. It takes 55 singles and you can actually DJ with it.

How does your wife feel about it?

RH: Oh, she loves it, honest.

You’ve collected lots of seven-inch singles when you’ve been touring all over the world. If you’re abroad in a town or city, do you make a beeline for a record shop?

RH: Yeah, basically, but there’s a darker side to it. I got into the ephemera of Americana and stuff when I was touring because it kept me from doing shitloads of drugs and hanging around with people I shouldn’t have been hanging around with and getting off me head.

I haven’t done drugs for nearly 24 years and there’s no chance of me ever going back.  I was spending a lot of my time being far more productive and going to record shops – it was a way of keeping myself busy on tour. Touring is incredibly boring, with long drives and all that. I’m not moaning about it and I’m very fortunate to have had the life that I’ve had – me dad was a steel worker who certainly didn’t have the opportunities I’ve had.

‘I got into the ephemera of Americana when I was touring because it kept me from doing shitloads of drugs. I haven’t done drugs for nearly 24 years and there’s no chance of me ever going back’

My dad was a massive record collector. I was just this little kid who’d tag along with him and I got into choosing me own music – he encouraged it. We used to go to Kenny’s Records in Sheffield – me dad’s mate Kenny used to drink in working men’s clubs and he was a massive rock ‘n’ roll, hillbilly and R & B expert. He’s in his eighties now but his record collection is just off the fucking scale – all originals and mint. He ran his record shop and I used to go there and hang out. I also heard a shitload of music from mum and dad, but it carried on… it wasn’t just a childhood thing.

I was too young for punk, but the whole post-punk thing was when I got into listening to John Peel, when I was a very young teenager. You’d just go out and buy the records – it’s not complicated! But the obsession with it has carried on my whole life. It’s kept me out of a shitload of trouble but probably got me into a different kind of trouble. Records contain information and, to me, it’s vital information.

You’ve called the compilation 28 Little Bangers because you said that seven-inch singles are like miniature musical hand grenades…

RH:Yeah – that’s one way to look at it. They fizzle out before they’ve even started – they’re over so quickly. You’ve only got so much time and a seven-inch single can only effectively and efficiently contain so much information before it starts to degrade.

Songs like Hey Jude and Bohemian Rhapsody that are really long took ages to master to get it right, but, generally speaking, it’s easier and quicker with seven-inch singles in terms of the length of time and less information.

I worked with Lee Hazlewood – he would look at a song and if it was two minutes two seconds, he would say it was three seconds too long. It had to be under two minutes – he was obsessed with that.

Now there are digital ‘singles’ for streaming, do you lament the loss of the physical classic seven-inch?

RH: Completely. I am a gentleman of a certain age. We’ve got loads of CDs but I can’t remember the last time me or me wife played ‘em – it’s just the jukebox…

Sanyo G2311KL James Bond portable record player.

My friend Meurig Jones, who runs Portmeirion [in North Wales] – you’re going to love this, Sean, and if you Google it, you’ll go fucking mental – got me into a Sanyo G2311KL James Bond portable record player.

I managed to get hold of one in fully working order for next to nothing and that’s kept me entertained. It’s good ‘cos it can only play records at a certain volume, but I’m happy coming back from the pub and playing ‘em on that, and, so’s my wife. It’s a really clear sound and it looks cool as fuck as well.

I’ve got Technics 1210s as well – so I listen to records on them, the James Bond portable and the jukebox.

Whenever I go to record fairs, I take a Columbia GP3 portable record player – I got it in Japan on tour, in 1998. They’re really expensive now.

‘In the old days, going to Europe, I’d be stuffing albums and singles in my guitar cases and amps and in the clothes wardrobe – anywhere I could shove a record I’d shove one’

I really like your sleeve notes for the compilation – you’ve included some great stories about where you first heard and bought some of the singles featured. Like when you were in a record shop in Germany on tour and the bloke working there played you the A-side of a single by The Troggs called Everything’s Funny, but it was awful, so he flipped it over and played the B-side, Feels Like A Woman, which you thought was great and have included on the compilation…

RH:That’s what happened. It was a friend of Anne Haffmans’, who worked at Mute Records. She knew I was into records, so to keep me out of the pub because I had work to do, she took me to a record shop. It was great, but I think it closed down in lockdown, unfortunately.

The bloke who ran it used to do the classic thing – get on a flight to America with two empty suitcases, fill ‘em with singles and bring ‘em back.

When you’re on tour, you have a thing called a carnet – you have to weigh all the equipment you go out with. In the old days, especially going to Europe, I’d be stuffing albums and singles in my guitar cases and amps and in the clothes wardrobe – anywhere I could shove a record I’d shove one and pick ‘em up at the other end. Brexit’s fucked that completely ‘cos you have to have a piece of paper for even a plectrum these days. 

You got the seven-inch single of Jungle Walk by The Dyna-Sores, which is on the compilation, for five dollars from a woman in a second-hand clothes shop in Tucson, Arizona, and you bought a shirt there at the same time…

RH: That’s right – I had to wrangle for it. I don’t think she charged me for the single in the end – I had to pay a dollar more for the shirt, so she could write it down in her book.

 Have you still got the shirt?

RH: I think I probably have.

‘There’s a sort of disdain when people buy records online. I’m certainly not snobby about it – I buy a lot of stuff online’

There are a couple of good record shops in Sheffield, aren’t there?

RH: There’s Record Collector and Bear Tree Records – that’s more modern stuff. I try and avoid the online thing but, the trouble is, nobody stocks anything serious – you have to go to record fairs for that.

There’s a sort of disdain when people buy records online – some people look down their noses at it – but, to be fair, I think that record shops selling online has kept them alive. I’m certainly not snobby about it – I buy a lot of stuff online.

If I see something I want that’s in Japan or Australia… I got an Australian release of a John D. Loudermilk single – he wrote Tobacco Road. Spending three grand or whatever it is on a fucking flight to Australia to buy a seven-inch single seems a little bit ridiculous.

The guy I bought it from wrote me a little note – he didn’t know who I was – but he said, ‘Thanks ever so much for buying my record – the online stuff keeps the record shop alive.’

What’s the most money you’ve ever spent on a seven-inch single?

RH: Oh, God. Sean – do you think me missus is going to read this?

What about rare vinyl? Are you on the lookout for anything?

RH: I bought a track called Hey Ma Ma by a garage band called The Crystal Rain. It was on a Texas psychedelia compilation and it’s such a fucking awesome track. My wife bought the compilation from Barry [owner] at Record Collector – there’s some landfill on it, but there are a couple of absolute bangers.

I always wanted a copy of Hey Ma Ma and one came up in the UK – I couldn’t believe it. It was some guy in Whitby and he just wanted a ‘buy it now’ price of £220. I paid that for it.

I bought a mint copy of Rock ‘N’ Roll no. 2 by Elvis – the English cover with the yellow background and he’s wearing a green velvet shirt – and I paid £250 for it. Me dad had it and played it to death, so his copy is unplayable now.

The first track on the compilation, Hornet’s Nest by Curtis Knight and The Squires, featuring Hendrix, is awesome. It’s a demented surf-garage rock instrumental – like a theme to a ‘60s superhero TV show…

RH: They were just jamming – a lot of those records were made as jukebox fillers. When you did a vocal, you had to pay more money to ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers], so there were lots of instrumentals which cost less money. Artists would just bang ‘em out – they didn’t spend hours, well some of them did, like Duane Eddy.

On that track, you can hear Hendrix starting to stretch out and starting to become what he became later. He was still playing the sort of Chitlin’ Circuit R & B.

I picked it up in New York for fuck all – about five dollars, if that. I can remember buying it. Now it’s one of the Holy Grails of seven-inch singles.  I can remember there was a cardboard box filled with copies of it – I wish I’d bought the fucking lot!

When I pulled the record out, it was a eureka moment, and when I first heard it, it was beautiful. I’ve been a Hendrix fan my whole life. I know what amp, guitar and pedals he used.

Has it been released on CD before?

RH: From what I can gather, it’s the first time it’s been released unedited and the first time it’s had a proper pressing. On the original single, the track is split, like those old soul or James Brown records – Sex Machine Part 1 and Part 2.

It was a long track but because seven-inch singles only contain so much information, they had to split it between an A-side and a B-side.

Liz at Ace said that the Hendrix Foundation and his family gave her their blessing – they wrote her a really nice long message. It was a real coup. From what I’ve been told, it’s the first time ever the Hendrix Foundation and his family have willingly given their blessing for the track to be released.

‘The intention is to do several volumes, but I don’t deliberately want to make them obscure. With a lot of collectors, it’s about how obscure something is rather than how good it is’

There are some well-known artists on the compilation, like Hendrix, Bobby Darin, The Shadows and Bobbie Gentry, but lots of obscure ones too…

RH: There’s virtually no information on some of them and part of me kind of likes that…

The mystery of it…

RH: Yeah. The intention is to hopefully do several volumes. I’ve got so many records, but I don’t deliberately want to make them obscure because obscure is not always great, as we know from some ‘50s and ‘60s compilation albums. With a lot of collectors, it’s about how obscure something is rather than how good it is.

‘There’s some great stuff out there on radio, but mainstream radio is just unlistenable’

When you’re asked to do your own compilation, let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a vanity project – I’m obviously aware of that – but I like the idea that folks might hear stuff that they haven’t heard before and fans of mine might be turned onto a different path when the only other option is just listening to the radio. There’s some great stuff out there on radio, but mainstream radio is just unlistenable.

Have you got a favourite track on the compilation?

RH: No – I love ‘em all and I kind of like the randomness. It wasn’t that I was just going to do all instrumentals… I pulled about 50 singles out of a box – I roughly knew there were a couple of tracks in there… Hornet’s Nest was definitely one I wanted and there was all this other stuff, but, together, by accident, it sounded great. Often the things that we do in life are by accident rather than design.

So, finally, you’ve chosen your 28 Little Bangers. Any plans to do Hawley’s Big Bangers – a range of sausages flavoured with Henderson’s Relish?

RH: [Laughs]. Perhaps I could do some chipolatas.

28 Little Bangers From Richard Hawley’s Jukebox is out now on Ace Records. It’s available on CD and two-LP gatefold.  




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