Chas Hodges On Butlins, The Beatles & Breaking Eminem

With the duo about to head out on tour, one half of them lets fly with the most anecdote-heavy interview you're ever read...
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'I turned round and Ringo gave me the wink, so I just cracked on'

The clanging sound rattling round your pinna is not Chas Hodges dropping iconic names like confetti at a wedding, but snatches of a career that limbers from embryonic rock n' roll oll to peroxide hip-hop pioneers.  He's also got more rabbit than Sainsbury's.

You and Dave are touring again, what did you miss about not having him on the road?

It's just good to have him about really, he's not like me; whereas I have to gig once or twice a week or I start feeling a little funny, he is happy to ride his horses or paint his caravans. But he gave me a call and said he fancied getting on the road again, so it's as simple as that really.

When you were 16 you played in a group called The Stormers, didn't you tour the seaside resorts?

I tell you what, anyone who knocks Butlins don't know what they are taking about. I mean picture it, I'm 16, just getting into girls and I go to a holiday camp for 3 months, all I had to do was play and someone pays me 20 bob a week - honestly it was heaven.

 You were then in early 60's producer, and notoriously temperamental, Joe Meek's house band.

Yeah that was great, I remember seeing Tom Jones in the studio once, him and his band had come all the way from South Wales, problem was Joe had forgotten about them so they were just stood there looking a bit lost. Next thing I know he's on Top of the Pops.

It's fair to say there were two sides to Joe?

Put it like this, if he lost his temper you got out the way, there was one time he charged in going mental lobbing tapes and all sorts, claiming we purposely played a song for his fella Hienz in the wrong key, cause we hadn't done that. But there was no telling him, so we made a bolt for the stairs and out off down the Holloway Road.

 What was touring with Jerry Lee & Gene Vincent like?

Sharon Osbourne's dad, Don Arden gave us the gig. Jerry Lee by that point had done the infamous '58 tour where he had gone and married a 13 year old and this was the first time back in the country, by that point he wasn't really on the booze and was playing great, so it went off fine.

Gene Vincent on the other hand was a little different, one night in Hamburg he was convinced his Mrs was messing around with someone, so he drank nothing but whiskey for a week, literally nothing, no food, nothing. I offered to get him some sauerkraut but he wasn't having it. He was in some state by the end.

You supported The Beatles on their final European tour as part of Cliff Bennet and the Rebel Rousers.

I could see why John Lennon got the hump with all that, whenever they plugged in it was like someone switched on a screaming machine, no raise or fall, just an absolute wall of noise. They could of been playing any old thing, the crowd weren't to know.

 What were The Beatles like?

One night they called us into their dressing room and played their new album, which was still a month or so before it came out.  All the boys were there and at that point they hadn't named the record, so the call when up for a bottle of whiskey to anyone who could come up with a title.  Problem is we couldn't think of anything; in the end they settled on Revolver.


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Can you tell me about the time you played at Clapton's wedding?

Me, Dave and the wives were invited, then at the reception there was a stage set up and  one of the kids asked me to play 'Gertcha' so up I went and bashed away on the keyboards. After that I did a few rock n' roll numbers and then from behind me I heard some drums start up. I turned around it was Ringo, he gave me the wink so I cracked on with me head down, next thing I hear this bass plonking away in the background, I look up and it was Paul McCartney, I looked up again straight after that and George Harrison is plugging himself in. We played on for about half hour before finishing on 'Get Back'.

 Didn't Clapton then appear on your Christmas special?

Well dear old Eric, and he'll admit this himself, in those days he was heavily on the booze. He would be having these large vodka's at 8 in the morning, and nobody's going to be able to keep that up. Nowadays he has straightened himself out completely, but back then he was  well on it. By that point we had toured together, so we knew him quite well and got him to come on the show and perform with us, when at the time he wasn't really doing anything like that.

Your Christmas special was set in a pub wasn't it?

For the show they built this pub in the T.V studio, it was so realistic you'd swear blind it was some boozer you'd see down the Mile End Road, but because we were serving real beer a few people got caught short and had to use the gents. Trouble was it wasn't actually the gents, it was just made to look like that for T.V.  Really it was just a door leading out the back of the studio filled with all these old tapes and boxes, eventually though it all got a bit much and people just thought fuck it and went for a piss there.

Tell us about supporting The Libertines at the Forum.

Pete bless him said he wanted to come and play with us during our support slot; all day we kept getting word that it was off and on then off again. At the start of our set he appeared in the wings, now I don't know what he'd been on, but by the looks of it he'd had most of what ever was going. We got through it and that but he was falling all over the shop. We've seen him since and he's been better, hopefully we'll see him again on this tour.

Finally; you had a backwards hand in breaking Eminem?

It came out the blue; my son came in and asked if I'd heard of him, it rang a bell but I wasn't sure. Turns out his first big hit 'My Name Is' sampled a session me and Dave had done with Big Jim Sullivan on a Labi Siffre track back in 1975. I gave it a listen and sure enough there i am on the track. We didn't get any dough out of it, I think it went to Labi, but really Big Jim should of got it, but doesn't always turn out like that though does it?

Chas and Dave are currently touring the country, more details here: