January , 1980
The Fabulous Poodles
Thinking Pink with the Poodles
It sounds like the name of a famous act of performing dogs in a Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus show rather than the name of a rock 'n' roll band.
Regardless, the only acts these Poodles have are behind instruments. The only tricks that they perform are on the audience where their antics and music leave one wondering what have they just seen and heard.
"In England, people are puzzled," explained lead guitarist and singer Tony deMeur in a heavy English accent. “They aren't sure whether they should like us or not. They aren't sure if it's hip to like us, and it does create problems.”
"England at the moment is kind of conscious of being hip, because it is where a lot of stuff, music, comes from. They're not sure they should like us, but eventually we win them over.”
"I don't get recognized by as many people in London as I do in Dallas. That doesn't mean that I think that Dallas is necessarily the place to be. Perhaps at the moment it is. We're not enormously successful in England. They don't play our records on the radio, and we've got a lousy record company. We were going like a year or so with our first album in England before we had any management at all. It was a real problem. We had no radio exposure. Our second album isn't even out over there yet. It's all over the place here."
It's no secret the Poodles are from England. London to be exact. The band is made up of Richie Robertson, bass; Bobby Valentine, (a dead ringer for Clark Gable) violin and- mandolin; Bryn Burrows, drums, percussion and backing vocals; and of course the bespeckled deMeur.
If you've ever seen the Fab Poo's (a pet name they have affectionately been dubbed by their fans) in concert, there is no telling what your immediate reaction was. Are they different? Not really. A lead singer wearing pink glasses isn't all that weird when you think about it. The Fabulous Poodles have recently released their second LP entitled Think Pink, It contains such songs as "Cossack Cowboy," "Vampire Rock," and "Bionic, Man." "I write things that haven't been written before," commented deMeur. "If the things have been done before, I try to do them in a different way, keep myself interested in what I'm doing. It would be easy for us to come out with some heavy metal riffs like a lot of other bands.”
"I don't know whether or not you would say that we are making fun of things when we sing and write our songs. I often don't know really. Some nights it feels like we're not. Take for instance a serious illness. Just because it is a serious illness doesn't mean you can't write a rock 'n' roll song about it."
Not any one group’s success hinges on them coming up with a hit single. There are too many groups around today to disprove that theory. They do help, but as far as it being a necessity in order to be noticed by the general public, is a very debatable issue.
"I think we DO make it without one," remarked DeMeur. "What is making it really? Is it making lot of money? What is it? I mean, we do make it. Maybe we are making it in a smaller way than a lot of other bands.”
"I'd like to have a hit single as long as I felt it was us, represented us. Yeah, I'd love to have a hit single. It would be great, but I don't think that it is all that important."
If there is anything that deMeur is dead set against when it comes to music, is the idea of writing a concept album that takes listening to the entire album to get its message across.
“Most people are impatient," replied deMeur. "I'm real impatient. I'd rather see something said in two and a half minutes than spread over two albums. I couldn't wait because I don't have the staying power.”
"Take Pink Floyd's The Wall. I've only heard a few tracks off the record, but I think I know exactly what they're saying, and it could be said in one song, you know. Like the Who probably said it all in "My Generation," in two and a half minutes. So what the heck do you need two albums for? You need it because it retails at twice--ten times--24 times the price of a single, and it makes a lot of money.
It just makes everybody happy. It makes the record company happy, it makes the band happy. It means they can live in the styles in which they've been living for ages and ages.
"But, it's all b.s. because it's got nothing to do with immediacy, spontaneity, or anything else. It's just boring. I mean, what they are saying on that record is just we're all part of the wall. It's like society is conditioning us into being this mass whereas we're really individuals and we can feel it and take it. I don't know, maybe they're not saying that at all."
To produce any album, it costs lots of money. An extreme case of that was Fleetwood Mac's production of Tusk, which costs a million dollars in studio time to mix and record. An interesting thing about that is the cost of making the album was released before the album itself was.
"You shouldn't have to spend that much time on a record," said deMeur. "But, a lot of people are impressed by that. A lot of people don't actually listen to music, don't actually feel anything from the music and are impressed by that sort of thing.”
"They think if an album costs that much to make, and it took that long to make, then I'm going to buy it. It must be good. Maybe it is good, but it's criminal in a way. So much money being spent on an album that could actually be spent on other bands that might have a few more interesting ideas."
If you tried to describe the Fabulous Poodles style of music, undoubtedly the term new wave would pop up. Robertson prefers to think of the Poodles music as 'microwave.'
And to relieve the tension on the road.
"We play scrabble," he said as he glared out of pink glasses. “City Scrabble is a new wave game." The Poodles are currently touring the country with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Robertson says that opening for Petty is an education for the band in teaching them to play before a large amount of people in concert.
"I love playing in large halls," exclaimed deMeur. "It's great. We feel much more comfortable in bigger halls now that we did, like say six months ago. We can deal with it just as well. We could play in a club or we could play in a big hall. "I wouldn't really like to play to more than three or four thousand people because I think you really dc start to lose it. When you play before a large amount of people, you approach it differently music-wise to reach all the people. You've got to think bigger, exaggerate more, project more.
"The L.A. Coliseum was the biggest place we ever played. It was like 45,000 people, and it was frightening. The audience was all Ted Nugent fans. They are really intelligent people, prepared to listen. You know, very understanding sorts of people."