The iJamming! Interview: Wayne Barrett, Slaughter & The Dogs
In advance of my reading in Manchester this Monday November 26 (7pm, Waterstone’s in Deansgate with Tom Hingley, author of Carpet Burns):
One of the more interesting interviews I conducted for my Smiths biography was with Wayne Barrett, the former singer with Slaughter & the Dogs. With the help of Slaughter archivist Moz Murray, I was able to find him and enjoy a lengthy phone interview in which he vividly recreated his childhood experiences growing up in Wythenshawe ‘“ none too ironically, the same ‘˜new town’ as Johnny Marr called home. Â Slaughter & the Dogs are one of those groups, like the New York Dolls in the States, without whom’¦ In Britain, specifically in Manchester, they provided a necessary bridge between the glam rock years of the early 70s and the punk scene of the late 70s. They were also, as the Manics would have had it, 4REAL and it is for reasons of working class uncouthness that they became much maligned, both locally and nationally, and generally written out of the cool version of punk history. But Wayne was able to move himself away from a potential life of crime into becoming a self-educated Francophile and eventually starting a new life there, and if that itself is a rare positive story, he is also living testament to the difference one good teacher can make in someone’s life. There is the additional point that when Barrett quit Slaughter for a new life, none other than Steven Patrick Morrissey all-too-briefly replaced him, alongside guitarist Billy Duffy, but that is not the purpose of printing this particular piece. This is one of the few interviews I’ve done in recent years where, as I was listening over the transatlantic phone line, I could imagine writing it up as a first-person account, without need for my questions or additional commentary. And so, and allowing for interesting instances where Wayne sounded more French in his choice of words than English, here he is. Mr. Wayne Barrett.
“Wythenshawe, where Mick Rossi and myself grew up, was like the Thieves Den. It was so poor. It’s very comical when you say ‘hard times hard times,’ but it really was. It was the biggest housing estate in Europe at the time, and a massively mixed population. Irish communities, Jamaican communities, and it was like a ghetto.
Mick was from the Baguley part of Wythenshawe and I was from Peel Hall. There was a posh side to Peel Hall, if you can call it posh, and there was a council side to it which was really shameless. Then there was Benchill, which was one of our fighting areas, where we would congregate and reunite for our fights. You’d have lads from Winslow would come, Benchill, Didsbury, Peel Hall, etc. There was quite a lot of fights used to happen down there when I was a kid, showing how you could mark the page, because there was nothing else to do. It was fighting, mugging, stealing, that’s all there was… terrible, really.
We’d hang round the pubs waiting for a bob or two to come into our pockets. When we started, I was at school with Mick, and we started the band from school. I met Mick ’cause I was playing double bass at the time. I was pissed off ’cause I was the only person playing it, and I got Mick on the bass with me, though it was too big for him, and then I got him to play guitar. And he said okay.
Mick and I both got kicked out of St. Augustine’s Grammar School, where Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke from the Smiths later went. Just for being stupid, not being interested. Ignoring, wagging off school, we were going down to Manchester etc etc. We were both about 13 when we got asked to leave, though I was a year older than Mick and only got to know him when we both went on to Sharston Secondary Modern School together. At the end of the day that was the only school that would take us on. Sharston was our Colditz, it was the bad apples school.
When Mick and I were at school we were told our opportunities. There was football, music and acting, that was one way out; second way was the dole; third was robbing post offices, and you either get your bed and breakfast courtesy of the Queen for 20 years or you get away with it. That’s basically what we got told by the headmaster, which was incredible, I couldn’t believe it. And we were basically told that we were going down the third path.
My only good memories of school are meeting Mick and Muffet (Brian Grantham, Slaughter and the Dogs’ drummer). It was school where we hooked up and we’d go see Bowie concerts at Free Trade Hall or Bellevue. I don’t have fond memories otherwise. We were told ‘you’re a piece of shit’ from the headmaster, ‘you’ve got no life ahead of you.’
All the schools in Manchester, the teachers just gave up on us. I’m not saying it was their fault, it was the system. They couldn’t be arsed about it. They were getting lousy pay, they were teaching kids that they knew wouldn’t get out of Dodge or very very rarely they would – they knew what the future held for us. At a moment in time they just stopped trying to help us. At Sharston, the only teacher who helped me was Mr. Howard, the music teacher, ‘cause he caught me in the music room trying to play piano on my own. And he asked me if I was interested in playing music. By the time I left school at 16, about 75% of my lessons were music. I was the only person in my year who was interested in, let’s say, a ‘cultural arts’ type of thing. There was nobody saying, ‘I want to be a painter, or an actor or actress. There was no expression of, ‘I want to do something with my life.’
When we went to the Bowie and Roxy Music concerts at the time, that’s when I turned round to Mick and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ And he said, ‘Alright, me too.’ And we jumped on the music bandwagon. We said to ourselves, ‘This is the only way out.’ ‘Cause we weren’t going to be car salesmen or dustbin men. There was only music for us at that time which would calm us and get us off the streets.
When we started, all the equipment that we got was all from thieving. We were nicking water grids off drains – and weighing them in. We used to nick them on the streets and take ‘em to get weighed in and the money we got from that would pay for the amps and guitars.
I was what you’d call a bootboy, and at the same time I was walking round with platform shoes and dying my hair and all that. So there was a complete conflict in the two personalities. Because the rough area brought the skinhead out of you, whereas with the music you just wanted to forget everything and just think about being a star, like ‘I want to be like David Bowie or Bryan Ferry or Lou Reed.’ You’d be going to the football matches, going to see Man United on Saturdays, beating shit out of the other team’s fans, and then Saturday night you’d be listening to Ziggy Stardust and taking acid pills and pyramids and uppers and downers, getting off your head and escaping from reality. The situation was weird. The conflict between the two situations was hard to cope with, but we didn’t really think about it at the time.
I was picked on, though. Walking round Piccadilly with green hair you get stick. But you just have to fight against it. And be more aggressive than they are to show where you stand. Which is hard because when you’re 16, 17 and you’re going through life at that time, you don’t know how to finish masturbating!
There were youth clubs, but we weren’t allowed in. We were youths, but we were classed as thugs. At that time I used to love going up to Wigan. I was pretty young at that time, I had to slide in to get into the clubs ‘cause I wasn’t 18 and it was very strict at that time. When I left school at 16 I wasn’t a man, and I was no longer a child. Like many others, I was on the verge, where they said you have to work, you have to pay taxes, but then again they’d turn around and say well you’re too young to do this and too young to do that. So we were alienated from 16 to 18. So all the youth clubs, we’d sit outside the youth clubs, we’d boycott the things. We’d show our faces and make sure that if there was any fighting to be done, half of it would be done by us.
When I left school, I thought, ‘˜This is great, I’ll have 6 weeks holiday then sort meself out.’ Me mum woke me on Monday morning, 7 o’clock… she’d got me a job! She’d got me a job with a painter and decorator.
In 1979 I came back and Mr. Tricket, who had been headmaster, I bumped into him in a bar. He invited me in to speak to the kids. I kicked the teachers out and said ‘Don’t believe anything they say, they’re all fucking liars, you have to fight for your lives.’ When we finished the talking I took them all to the pub. It was a good laugh. It was so hypocritical of them (to invite me back as a success) ‘“ all I could see was being in the headmaster’s room with Mick, and the headmaster saying, ‘You’re going to make nothing out of yourself.’
Back when we were at school, Mick and I would take a bus down to London on a Friday night and go Bowie-finding. Basically sitting outside (manager)Â Ken Pitt’s apartment or Angie Bowie’s apartment and waiting to see if Bowie passed by. Go down Kings Road and speak to some Bowie fans, find out the latest, go into record stores and pick up bootlegs. When we started, our main event was just to copy Bowie. The first name of the band was Wayne Barrett and the Mime Troupe that I picked from Lindsay Kemp, ‘˜cause Bowie had been working with Kemp.
Our music didn’t set out to be punk. It was Martin Hannett called us punk. For me, punk was Jimmy Cagney, the old black and white films, the gangsters, that was a punk. I thought Martin was referring to us the way we bought our equipment, from nicking grids to get our way through. Cause nobody would sponsor us, we had to sponsor ourselves. Except my mum lent me Â£40 and said she wanted it back by the end of the year. I had to work to pay it back to get my friend a bass guitar. Cause when we started I was singing and playing bass. Then we picked up Howard (Bates). He went to a special high school, we brought him in ‘˜cause we had two guitarists but that didn’t last because the other guy was a hippy and we kicked him out after the famous Sex Pistols gig we did at Lesser Free Trade Hall!
You can walk out the house now in Wythenshawe and walk no more than 3 minutes and find yourself a football pitch or running facilities, the only way we’d run is when we had the cops running after us! There was nothing. Our sports facilities were crap. So how do you expect kids to do anything when there’s nothing to do.
Mick would come to my place and me to his, we’d go into our bedrooms, and try and write some songs and stay together for two hours and then walk all the way back with our equipment. When you walk from Peel Hall to Baguley we’re looking at 5-6 miles. With the amplifiers in the Tesco caddy, crossing the fields with it. We talked about that, Mick and myself a couple of years back. Crossing a field with a caddy is not easy. Especially when it’s full of amps!
Mick and myself, we started out playing old men’s clubs. The British Legion, the Conservative Club, the Naval Club, all them places. They were the only places that had the PA system. Half the time we got paid to stop playing! All we had was our mobster team, which was about 30 friends of Mick and myself who’d follow us around, and they were all underage. So the bouncers would cordon them off into a small corner, and said you have to behave yourselves, but you can’t really behave yourself when you’re that age! So halfway though the set the managers would say ‘That’s it’ and pay us to leave.
It was around March or April 1976 that we hired the Wythenshawe Forum. When we said we were going to do the gig, I think we didn’t really realize the consequences of it. We were like, we can get 400 people in there, but there was a lot more came. At least double. We pulled it off. The thing is, the punk scene didn’t exist. So these are like rowdy fucking yobs who are renting the hall, that was the problem. The authorities thought it was a thug gig rather than a punk gig, which it was. There was Wild Ram and Medanza playing with us. Wild Ram later became Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds. Medanza were like a Genesis hippie band, a lot older than us. It worked. We got no money out of it as usual but after the expenses and all that, it was a good gig. That was an eye opener for the London people. Tony Wilson came. We were calling him up every second day ‘cause we wanted to get on his TV show. I knew the DJ from the Forum, this guy Alan Erasmus, he was a mate of Tony Wilson’s and he got us in contact with Tony, and we asked Tony to come and introduce us, which he did do.
We were speaking to Martin Hannett because he recorded 4 tracks with us in the beginning, in a small house in Didsbury, like a 4-track studio. That was the first recording we ever did “ ‘Marks,’ ‘Love Speed & Beer, and ‘Child of Nature.’ About a month later, Martin got in touch with us again and said, ‘I’ve found a studio and I’d like to re-record some stuff with you guys again.’ We were changing, not a dramatic change. ‘Cause ‘Cranked Up Really High,’ and ‘the Bitch’ to me, weren’t punk songs, they were just songs about drugs and kids on the street. It wasn’t in any aim to punkize. But like I say, Martin called us punk when we were recording ‘Cranked Up.’
It was our manager who brought us to Martin Hannett. That was Mick’s brother, Ray Rossi. Ray was working with Mike Bancroft on building sites. The money they were making on the building they plowed into the band to get us gigs. He wasn’t a good manager in a normal, way but what he was good at was he sensed that there was a way of making something out of it. There was no paving to be done – we were all uncontrollable yobs. Howard and Muffet were very Rolling Stones, and Mick and I were very David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, so our worlds were separated culturally and socially, though it all made for a melting pot and mixed together for the band. Mick and I had the same opinions, but the other two had completely different opinions towards life.
Everyone was on pills half the time, because heroin was too expensive and you couldn’t get it. So it was like going into the local chemist and getting the maximum number of pills you could get for the prescription you’d robbed from the doctor’s office. And the look was pretty much Fred Perry and Doctor Martens. The Fred Perry was a cheap t-shirt but it looked smart. It wasn’t like it was the thing to wear; we wore it because it was cheap. It’s like the V-neck. If you look at kids today they’ll spend mindless money on Doc Martens and Fred Perrys, but that was our cheap clothing. Our following and the lads who used to hang around with us, they were hard, very hard. And at that time they’d die for you, and I’d die for them. You see, this is why we got separated from all the other bands in Manchester, they did not want to frequent us whatsoever. They were pretty scared and when I look back on it I can understand why they were. If they weren’t okay with us, we’d beat shit out of them. That was the day.
We used to hang out with Eddie and the Nosebleeds. They’d go to the same boozer as us. We got on well with them, ‘cause their background was the same as ours, it was pretty similar, when I look back on it I understand why Mick tried to get Eddie into the band when I split the band up. Because he did fit in.
Malcolm McLaren picked up on the success of the gig at the Wythenshawe Forum, and there were echoes went back to Neil Spencer and Caroline Coon and other journalists and photographers. And it went back down south that we’d done something a little bit ballsy and had a good crowd. We had basically moved the Wythenshawe community into a hall, all the kids. McLaren knew that would be good for the show, he didn’t know anything about the music we were playing. He just heard we were a good pull.
Now McLaren had already done a Manchester gig with the Sex Pistols which we didn’t know anything about. Apparently there were 25-40 people at the gig. McLaren contacted Ray and they decided to rent out the Lesser Free Trade Hall and put on a double bill. It was meant to be Slaughter and the Dogs, Sex Pistols and the support band. Then we’d go to London with Sex Pistols headlining, Slaughter second and a support band there. We needed to get down to London to get a bite of the apple and try and hit the London press. They were ignoring us because they were anti-north west and hated anything that came out of Manchester. That’s how it all started as regards the Lesser Free Trade Hall gig.
A few years ago Mick and I did an interview for this documentary called ‘I Was There.’ Basically you could fill Knebworth with the people who said they were at the Sex Pistols show. Even Morrissey said he was there. Well, he would have kept his mouth shut and been in the corner, because he’s a Salford lad and the place was full of Wythenshawe hoolies. It was absolutely mental. There was 300 people in there, my mum was on the door so the count was done, etcetera. But then you listen to this documentary ‘I Was There,’ you’d think it was put together by the Buzzcocks and we had nothing to do with it.
The Buzzcocks I can’t remember anything about from that night. But the Pistols, definitely. It was like, ‘I wanna do that! How do they get to do that with intelligent words when all I’ve done is yobby ‘I love you you love me, I hate you’ et cetera.’ They were using a different kind of dialect, and a way of expressing themselves which we already had. We were wearing the David Bowie clothing onstage, but our music was less edgy than what the Pistols was. And Mick and myself just said ‘Why don’t we just kick everything, our devotion and respect towards all the other artists, why don’t we just fuck it and do what we want to do, like they’re doing?’ That was it. That was our eye opener. After the show, we spoke to Glen (Matlock) and Steve (Jones), and they were sound guys. They were just exactly like us, in a southern way.
There was meaning in the Sex Pistols words. In a sense, it was like a book. There was a beginning, a middle and an end. What we were doing with our books was there was no middle in it, just a beginning and an end. They were a complete eye opener. Just watching JohnnyÂ Rotten on stage. It was like, ‘How can you go against all rules?’ He went completely against everything. Singing out of tune’. If it would have been 4 years before that he would have been, literally, kicked off stage. But we were so sick of the disco glam, and politicians lying, and ‘˜Britain is still great and you can be proud of it.’ And it was all lies. And the filth and the edge of the Pistols, the way they were playing, their arrogance towards everything’. Mick and me said, ‘That’s it. Let’s just be ourselves, right. We don’t have to be anyone else onstage,’ which we were doing, copying Bowie and Lou Reed and Roxy – ‘Let’s just stop. Just do what we want to.’ And that took us to another stage where other bands in Manchester feared us even more.
I think a lot of bands understood that we weren’t going to be around for long but we could do a lot of damage. You see, journalists would come to us, people like Tony Wilson and Neil Spencer, and Garry Bushell later on, they wanted to make something out of it. They’d ask ‘what does this mean and what does that mean?’ and the answer was, ‘Fucking nothing!’ All I want to do is see them sweaty kids, in a concert hall, get so knackered that all they want to do is go home and sleep after the gig. Just play play play and thrash it out so the kids don’t go breaking cars, robbing old women and all that shite. So that all they want to do after the gig is go to sleep. Some of them would go to sleep in the alleyways ‘cause they couldn’t get home, ‘cause they were so knackered. The gigs were so intense at that time, because we would do an hour, hour and a half set, just thrashing one song after another out. The compact places we were playing, you’d see the kids pushing each other around and just having fun, a physical expression. The journalists and the TV commentators couldn’t get around it. I was just being honest with them. Sure I want to be rich. Who doesn’t want to be rich? Who doesn’t want to be famous? That’s why we do it. We’re all narcissistic in one kind of weird way. We want our works to be shown throughout the world, and say, ‘Look, here I am, I do exist.’ And that’s basically it. There was no political message, and that’s what bored them. They couldn’t be faced with that because in the north west they needed a Sex Pistols band to say, ‘we’re politically this or that blah blah blah.’ We didn’t care about politics, all we cared about was, Was it the Labour Party paying our dole checks this week or was it the Conservative Party?
We used to play a song by the New York Dolls, ‘Who are the Mystery Girls.’ The New York Dolls came from Muffet. He introduced us to the New York Dolls because he thought the band were very Stonesy, and he was a big Rolling Stones fan. He actually got the first new York Dolls album and ripped the central label off it, stuck a white label on it and flogged it as a Rolling Stones album to a Stones fan!
Although we were very yobbish in Wythenshawe growing up, I loved songwriting, I loved great words. Even though I didn’t write great words. I loved writers like Lou Reed, Iggy, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and I became a great fan of Jacques Brel. I met Ken Pitt cause like I said before when we were kids we used to sit outside his place and one day we just knocked on his door and he let us in. We spent two days at his place which was great ‘˜cause he showed us all he old Super 8 rushes of ‘Space Oddity,’ ‘Love You Till Tuesday,’ he knew that we were completely mental over Bowie and wanted to know everything about him. And it amused him. He explained a lot of stuff to me about the music business at the same time. And it was a great eye opener. And at the same time he was making me listen to other artists and he said, ‘Have a listen to this’ Because I was speaking about ‘Amsterdam,’ the B-side to ‘Drive-in Saturday,’ I said ‘This song is fucking great!’ And he said ‘It wasn’t Bowie wrote that song, it was a guy called Jacques Brel.’ I said ‘What? Where can I listen to Jacques Brel?’ He said ‘Do you want to listen to some stuff?’ And he gaveÂ me the complete collection of Jacques BrelÂ – and this is all in French. I’m like, ‘Fucking hell!’ It’s like listening to someone singing some Paki song when you’re an Eskimo. It was worlds apart. I heard ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas.’ [Translated as ‘Do Not Leave Me’ but better known in English as ‘If You Go Away.’ The few hairs I had on my arm at the time all stood up, I had all these goose pimples. I don’t know what he’s singing about, he could be singing ‘All English are twats,’ but all my hairs are on end. He’s chilling me. Something’s happening and I can’t understand myself. That was it, I just went ape shit over Brel. And not speaking French, I don’t know what he’s saying, I had to find some people to translate for me. And then Ken called me up when I went back to Manchester and he said ‘When you next come back down to London, pass by my place and I have something for you.’ So we went down the next week and he had the whole collection of Rob McKuen, the guy who used to sing by the fireside with the sheepdog on TV, and he’d done a whole translation of all Jacques Brel’s songs in English. And I just went apeshit, swept all that up.
The French have a saying, I will not drink your water. ‘Cause one time you’ve got to be thirsty. I was learning French at school with a Manc idiot teacher, speaking ‘VOUL-EZ VOUX, BON-JOUR.’ He was basically pushing us away rather than making us discover the language. But at the same time I was getting more and more interested towards the French language, the French way, the French art. The cineclubs on the Sundays and Fridays, it was all French stuff, Truffault and Alain Delon. I loved watching French films even when I was a kid. And then when we were doing the European tour, I met my first wife in Paris and one thing went to another and before long I was packing my bags and buggering off to live in France. I thought the French life was a great lifestyle and it was far from the Wythenshawe thing. It was a step further. I had found my sanctuary.”
With thanks to Wayne at to Moz Murray.