This Charming Man: Roddy Frame in 1984
I would never buy a compact disc player.
In the annals of poor predictions, the above statement is probably not up there with Morrissey’s insistence that “we really want to by-pass the whole video market… I think it’s something that’s going to die very quickly.” But Roddy Frame’s casual dismissal of the compact disc reveals just where we were back in early 1984: at a point where “the next big thing,” which Frame’s Aztec Camera most certainly were at the time, would still demo on a four-track cassette machine, yet with the digital revolution right around the corner.
Where were we, geographically? In Marple Bridge, just outside Manchester, something I can only say with anything approaching certainty, because Johnny Marr told me, during interviews for A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths, that he was actually living in the same village, in a similar state of rural retreat, at precisely the same time. (However, the pair of 20-year old guitar wunderkinds passed like ships in the night, unaware of each other’s proximity.)
This interview, which recently surfaced “from a Camden Market Aztec Camera bootleg VHS,” (and which came to my attention via James Endeacott) is one of my fonder memories of working for the TV show The Tube, for which I had one season as an occasional co-presenter in 1983-84. Certainly, of the various outside broadcasts in which I participated, sometimes clearly out of my depth, this was the most enjoyable.
The entire feature was shot in one take. There are two short introductory sections omitted from the YouTube clip, in which I was followed by the camera finding my way to Roddy Frame’s cottage, over a country style if I recall, upon which we walked in to the cottage for the first time (Roddy was awaiting us, though he and I had not yet been introduced), set up the recording equipment, conducted the interview, all marveled at Roddy’s musical genius, and then packed up. It was all of about 11am by this point, and when the approximately eight-person crew returned to Manchester, they went betting on the horses with their considerable union pay for the day, won a bundle (unlike myself, who shied away from gambling), and celebrated with a hefty lunchtime drinking session. In later years, working for Rapido, I was restricted to a two-person crew who just happened to be teetotal, which reminds me to share my Keith Richards story soon enough.
But I digress. I can’t bear to hear my cockney accent, and I’m glad to say that I offloaded the Michael Jackson leather jacket when I turned vegetarian. Still, I’m happy to see this emerge online – if only for the opportunity to get up close to Roddy Frame again, and hear him play not just ‘Down the Dip,’ but ‘Birth of the True’ for the first time in any sort of public. We had the opportunity to spend more time together later down the line. He always was, and, I am sure remains, a most charming man indeed.