Sunday, November 21, 2010

An EXCLUSIVE interview with THE JETSET's PAUL BEVOIR!





By Stephen SPAZ Schnee


(An edited version of this interview appeared in Discussions Magazine, Volume #46)

      A quarter of a century ago (1985 to be exact), the record store bins were filled with slickly produced pop and pap. From Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, The Power Station, Debarge, Madonna, The Pointer Sisters, Starship, New Edition and Mr. Mister to The Smiths, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, Love & Rockets, INXS, Falco, The Pogues and The Cure, there was pretty much something for everyone… and a whole lot of diversity. Yet, no act on the planet seemed more out of place than The Jetset, a British quartet who owed more musical debt to The Monkees and The Beatles than anyone within spitting distance of the Top 100.  And while they didn’t shift the amount of units they so richly deserved, their fanbase remains as dedicated as ever, long after Whitney discovered that ‘crack is whack’ and Starship realized they had built their city on over-produced schlock and not ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ as they previously claimed.
     The genesis of The Jetset began during the Punk, Power Pop and Mod movements of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Led by songwriter extraordinaire Paul Bevoir, The Jetset, with tongues firmly in cheek, created a laundry list of myths and legends even before releasing a single note. By the time their debut album was released in ’85, they had spun so many tales that, 25 years on, it’s hard to remember which ones were truths, half-truths and downright lies. Did they have their own weekly TV series? No, but that would have been great!  Were there really Jetset bubblegum cards?  Yes, although I’ve never personally seen them.  Did they have their own theme song?  Absolutely. Did they make some great records? Hell, yeah!   
     Mixing the American-ized ‘60s Pop of The Monkees, Paul Revere & The Raiders and The Turtles with the Merseybeat influences of The Beatles, The Jetset were a band purposely out of time.  They were so out of time, in fact, that their music has remained timeless.  Bevoir had a knack for taking a classic ‘60s Pop tune, turning it on its head and creating something brand new yet oddly familiar. The Jetset were a glorious Bubblegum Pop band from a time when most artists took themselves far too seriously. They were precocious when others were pretentious.
     With five albums in their back pockets, The Jetset called it quits before the ‘80s came to a close. While all the original albums remain sadly out of print, Cherry Red Records recently released Swings & Roundabouts: The Best Of The Jetset, a glorious two CD collection that contains almost all of their officially released recordings alongside a few unreleased gems to boot.
     Spaz caught up with Paul Bevoir, who is amused and bemused that the quasi-mythical band he created so many years ago still has a dedicated legion of fans…



SPAZ: What music inspired you while growing up in the Bevoir household?
PAUL BEVOIR: My dad had a great record collection, loads of 78s and I was obsessed with playing them all …Johnny Ray, Sinatra, Al Jolson Sarah Vaughn, Glenn Miller, Elvis Presley, Doris Day, Frankie Laine, those were the ones I remember most. Eventually I gravitated towards 1960’s music, obviously, because I was a child in that decade and the radio and TV were on all the time, and my parents loved pop music, so I was exposed to it all.

SPAZ: While The Jetset’s debut album, There Goes The Neighbourhood, was released in 1985, the genesis of the band started long before that.  How did it all come together?
PB: Blimey, have you got room for all that? Well, Melvyn J. Taub (Jetset singer) was my childhood best friend and we both loved music, so eventually we wanted to start a group. I decided to learn the guitar because he was too lazy, and then we found other friends who could play too. I’ve known Mickey (Jetset drummer) since we were maybe 9 years old. The Jetset began playing live in 1981 (I think) but we didn’t make a single until September 1983, then, during 1984 we recorded the first LP and it was released at the beginning of 1985. It didn’t seem that long to us, but I suppose it does seem strange that it took so long.

SPAZ: Was the band a continuation of the Mod bloodline that had swept Britain during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s?
PB: Well, we were associated a little with that ‘Mod’ scene, although we were much too ‘Pop and Bubblegum’ for the Mod purists. We liked to think we were ‘Mod friendly’. Mod was too restrictive in my opinion: it was like they had ‘rules’ as to what music you should or shouldn’t like.

SPAZ:  Was the band’s existence a direct reaction against the then-current music scene?
PB: Ha! Ha! I wish I could be serious and say ‘yes yes, it was a reaction’, but we didn’t ‘react’ to anything: we just did what we liked doing and we hoped some others might like it, too. We were never astute enough to have a masterplan: we just did our own thing, living out our own silly fantasies really! We honestly didn’t care what anyone else was doing; I think that’s quite obvious when you look at it now! We must have been bonkers!

SPAZ: How did you come up with the idea to create a myth behind the band’s history even before you released the album?
PB: It’s not really a myth, more of a tissue of lies! We wanted to sound like we were more interesting than we actually were, so we just invented stories, all part of our little fantasy world! The problem is, I can’t remember now, which parts were true and which parts were ‘created’. It all blurs into one messy story.

SPAZ: While the band spoke about their non-existent television show, what would you have done had someone actually offered you a chance to star in your own TV series ala The Monkees?
PB: Do I really need to answer that? Come on… what do you think? NOOOO!!! Ha Ha!

SPAZ: While you were the band’s songwriter, Melvyn J handled the lead vocals.  Was it easy to write songs for someone else to sing?
PB: Sometimes it was easy, especially at first, but later it became more difficult. At first, I saw myself in the ‘Boyce & Hart’ role supplying the songs for the project, but later I felt like we’d changed the idea of the group, and I wanted us to be more like The Beatles with our own roles and everybody singing and writing, but nobody else was writing, so that didn’t work at all! Dang it! You see, no cohesive plan at all!

SPAZ: What are your feelings today in regards to There Goes The Neighbourhood?
PB: I liked the pink cover artwork best! The album is OK: it was the best selling LP of The Jetset; It was downhill all the way after that one!

SPAZ: The sophomore album, Go Bananas, continued in the same vein as your debut.  Were the songs on the album written at the same period as those on the debut or were they written specifically for this project?
PB: It’s that old cliché, the ‘difficult’ second album. You know, you have all your life to write the songs on the first LP, and then only six months to try and write 10 songs that are as good or better! I think I failed in that task! The jingles were probably better than the songs.

SPAZ: From the album title to the songs, were you afraid that there might be a backlash against the unpretentious, fun-loving image of the band?
PB: We never worried about that, nobody ‘serious’ ever liked what we were doing anyway, so it didn’t matter. ‘Backlashes’ were for U2 or Coldplay or those kinds of groups. The concept of a Jetset ‘backlash’ is hilarious! We never even had a ‘forward lash’, so a backlash was completely out of the question!

SPAZ: What are your feelings today in regards to Go Bananas?
PB: I like the yellow cover artwork! The album is OK. It was the second best selling LP of The Jetset!

SPAZ: With two solid albums behind you, the ‘odds and sods’ collection, April May June & The Jetset was released as a stop-gap between albums.  This collection of unreleased material was just as strong as the first two albums.  Did you have an abundance of completed material left over from the previous albums to use for this release or were these the only usable tracks?
PB: Again, this album is awash with lies and deception. Some tracks were the first demos we made as the Jetset; some tracks were from our earlier groups. It wasn’t recorded as an ‘album’ in the traditional sense, just an odd collection of tracks that we just wanted to get released because we liked some of them. Some tracks on that LP should never have seen the light of day in my opinion, but there you go!

SPAZ: What are your feelings today in regards to April May June & The Jetset?
PB: I liked the green cover artwork. It’s not a really great LP for me. I don’t know how well it sold, because Anthony Meynell (leader of Mod band Squire) released it on his Hi-Lo label

SPAZ: Once you released album #4, Vaudeville Park, the band’s image had changed and the music had advanced a great deal while still maintaining the distinct Jetset sound.  Why the change?
PB: Gosh! Maybe we couldn’t fit into those trousers anymore? I do remember Paul Bultitude (influential Mod scenester, musician and producer) found some groovy 1967 neck ties in a shop. There were four ties together and he took this as an omen. He bought them and said to me, ‘Look! This is the way forward!’ How could I not agree? He was a great ‘ideas’ man, Bultitude.

SPAZ: Do you remember Vaudeville Park being more difficult or easier to record than your previous work?
PB: Only because there were so many people involved in the recording, lots of ‘outside’ players. I remember spending so much time at the piano playing them all the songs so that they could try their parts. Other than that, it was no more difficult, although I thought the songs were better than before, but you might not agree! Paul Bultitude did some superb arrangements on those recordings, but ultimately, I hated the overall production.

SPAZ: While you were always the main songwriter and musical leader of the band, Vaudeville Park sounded more like an album created by a ‘band’. Was this the case at this point in time?
PB: It was more an album created by Paul Bultitude. My role again was only supplying the songs; most of the work was done by him. We did play on all the tracks, but with so many extra people, it wasn’t really like a ‘group’: more like a dysfunctional orchestra.

SPAZ: While the band were on an independent label, were you disappointed that Vaudeville Park didn’t reach a wider audience  or do you feel it achieved what you set out to do?
PB: Of course, you always want more people to hear these things and enjoy them, but this was 1987, and machines had taken over pop music! As usual, we were completely out of step with ‘modern times’, but still we didn’t care a hoot!

SPAZ: What are your feelings today in regards to Vaudeville Park?
PB: I hate the cover artwork! The LP is OK, but it’s not my favorite. It was the third best selling Jetset LP…are you seeing a pattern emerging?

SPAZ: While Five wasn’t as focused as Vaudeville Park, it was yet another turning point for the band.  Did you realize that this would be the last Jetset album?
PB: Five is a long and complicated story. I didn’t want to make another Jetset LP.  I wasn’t happy with the previous LP and I thought we should not do any more. Other people had other ideas, and promises were made, all that kind of thing, I don’t want to go into all the details, but it wasn’t a happy experience for me. Yes, it was obvious that it would be the last LP because we stopped talked to each other during the recording sessions. It’s ironic that we almost became like a ‘serious’ group at that point. It’s funny that we became like the groups we tried to emulate, even to the point of the acrimonious split! The funniest thing about Five is that the LP title came about years earlier when I was watching the Beatles at Shea Stadium concert, and John Lennon says... “This next song is from Beatles Six or whatever it’s called here in America, I don’t know, I haven’t got any of ‘em”… Well, I loved the idea of our LPs just having numbers so we could say in one of our concerts… “This is from Jetset Five, or whatever it’s called, I don’t know I don’t have any of them”… Me and Melvyn thought that would be funny… but, of course, we were never likely to be playing anything from Jetset Five, because the group was all over by then!

SPAZ: The album sounds as if it was a precursor to your solo career. What was the general vibe within the band at this point?
PB: There was not much of a ‘vibe’ to be honest, I couldn’t agree with anyone about anything at this point, because I really didn’t want to be there doing what we were doing.

SPAZ: What are your feelings today in regards to Five?
PB: I like the artwork, and, ironically, now it’s my favorite Jetset LP. Nobody bought it at the time, but now it’s the one that many people tell me is their favorite.

SPAZ: Why did the band finally call it a day?
PB: Because we were even less interested it the Jetset than everyone else seemed to be.

SPAZ: Since the break-up of The Jetset, what have you been up to?
PB: After the Jetset, I spent two years completely lost to be honest! Then in 1990, I got together with some other guys and we made a new group called Smalltown Parade. We made a few singles, and even released a couple of albums, which did OK in Japan, but my heart was never truly in it! But hey, we did two UK tours supporting Take That… whatever happened to Take That?

SPAZ:  Have the other members of The Jetset remained in the music business?
PB: Melvyn (from what I hear) was, and still is the tour manager of the group Oasis and also works on tours with groups like Travis and Simply Red. Mickey and Angus (Cumar) still play and record with me, and Paul Bonin has had some success in Germany as a songwriter and recording artist. I haven’t really had any contact with Melvyn or Paul Bultitude since the Jetset finished.

SPAZ: Is there any chance that we’ll ever see a Jetset reunion on stage or in the studio?  You have to admit and/or realize that there are people who would love this to happen!
PB: Over the last how ever many years it’s been since we finished, there have been opportunities for that to happen, but it seems Melvyn was not interested. However, I think it’s much too late for that now and it couldn’t ever really work without Melvyn. We occasionally play one or two Jetset songs when we play concerts these days, but mostly we play songs from my three solo albums.

SPAZ: What’s next for Paul Bevoir?
PB: Well, I’ve been writing and recording for another solo album, hopefully out next year. Last month we played in Barcelona, Spain, and we always play at the IPO in Liverpool each year, plus the occasional London concert. Also at the moment, I’m working on songs with the Spanish pop genius Guille Milkyway for an animated TV series for kids called Jelly Jamm, which will be on TV throughout the world next. It’s fantastic to be doing something like that, and to be working with Guille who is one of the most talented song writers in the world today. I feel very fortunate indeed!
  
SPAZ: What is currently spinning on your CD and record players?
PB: Always a good mixture of Pop, Punk, Sinatra, Disco, Sunshine Pop, Spanish Pop
‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s… TV themes, Film soundtracks, and Jelly Jamm songs! Everything really, there’s so much fantastic music in the world, and I’m always discovering new and old things that I’d never heard before! Wonderful!

Thanks to Paul Bevoir
Special thanks to Dave Timperley and all at Cherry Red



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