Saturday, October 5, 2019

"It Was 40 Years Ago Today": The Sound Of '79-Squire and "Walking Down The Kings Road"

Squire's second single "Walking Down The Kings Road" (released on October 5th 1979) will always loom larger over the heads (and shoulders) of it's peers in the ill fated '79 mod "revival" in my mind. It's distinctly Sixties feel of crunchy Rickenbacker chords and finger snaps and it's psychedelic ending is at odds with the Jam-inspired/punk anthems being offered by their contemporaries. Interestingly it was issued on Secret Affair's I-Spy label (which was distributed via Arista) and it was the label's second release, preceded by Secret Affair's August #13 chart hit "Time For Action" (both the band and the label's debut).

I had the opportunity to chat with Squire's founder and lead singer/guitarist Anthony Meynell recently to pick his brain about this iconic single that turns 40 years old today.

Anorak Thing: I guess to start out with was "Walking Down The Kings Road" something you had written a long time ago or was it penned in 1979?

Anthony Meynell: It was written in '77 or '78, but definitely in our set by '78.

A.T.:How did you manage to hook up with Secret Afffair and their I-Spy label?  Was it through playing with them at the famous Mods Mayday '79 gig at the Bridgehouse?

A.M: It was purely because they'd heard us at the Mods Mayday gig and while mixing the live tracks for the LP (Ed Note: Squire contributed three tracks to the album, "Walking Down The Kings Road" was among them). They wanted another band for their label, I believe their first choice was Back To Zero but they'd already been signed by Fiction so they went with us.

A.T.: I've always been struck by how psychedelic and Sixties influenced "Walkin..." was/is and that it seemed completely at odds with the majority of records by other '79 mod bands. Secret Affair's Ian Page and Dave Cairns produced it, did they have any input on the psychedelic effects and feel to the track or was that your doing?

A.M.: Once we recorded the main track Ian was keen to have an extended ending that he felt should reflect the aural experience of walking down King's Road past all the shops.

A.T.: Brilliant, I've always loved all the backwards bits and sound affects on the end of the track as it always reminded me of "Bike" by The Pink Floyd. Was the line up the same as on the Mods Mayday LP?

A.M.: No, the other guitarist (Steve Baker) had left by then and my brother Kevin came in as the new drummer (replacing Ross Di'Landa). Ian actually played harpsichord on it.

A.T: Was Enzo Esposito still on bass?

A.M.: Enzo was still on bass and and oh it was Ian on organ as well.

The Squire line up from the single: Kevin and Anthony Meynell with Enzo Esposito

A.T.: I'm still fascinated that Ian Page and Dave Cairns would craft such a trippy sounding, obviously Sixties influenced record as it was nothing like Secret Affair were doing and that they would include that on a record. You just finished a 40th Anniversary Mods Mayday tour with Secret Affair actually. I assume you played "Kings Road.."?

A.M.: I can't recall it being recorded at the same time as the music but we added finger snaps to the intro and Ian later went back and added the organ on the intro and the psychedelic coda later on afterwards. Ian was, and still is, quite a musical historian and though it didn't suit Secret Affair he was quite aware of my musical influences. We were just talking on the tour last week (by the way "Kings Road.." closed all of our sets on it) and Ian and I were talking about production and he said he saw Squire as more of a "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" (Ed note: Spencer Davis Group/Traffic 1967 movie soundtrack) meets mod Buzzcocks sound so he still remembers what his original vision for the record was. He was also very aware of Bowie and has an encyclopedic knowledge of prog and psychedelia.

A.T.: Who were your influences at the time on the track?

A.M.: The original rhythm for "Kings Road" was influenced by Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang", at least that's how I explained it to the band but then my brother changed it to a different swing so it became more of a Small Faces "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" thing so it became different between the "Mods Mayday" album and the single version.

A.T.: On the subject of psychedelia,  your later single "No Time Tomorrow" (April 1982) was based it on. You're obviously a big fan of 60's psychedelic pop so was there anyone in particular that influenced that as well as "Kings Road"?

A.M.: I'm a huge fan of 60's psychedelic pop , I can't say any single band influenced "Kings Road" in the same way "No Time Tomorrow" was influenced, backwards solo etc. "Kings Road" was more of a beat group thing but there was always going to be a Beatles influence in there somewhere. It didn't have a middle eight so I suppose it was unusual and the long coda was there just not with all the embellishments at first so I suppose that's a throw back to long Beatles outros like "Hey Jude" or "Ticket To Ride" even.

Anthony with his Rickenbacker 325, 1979

A.T.: I'm a a huge Rickenbacker aficionado, what sort of Rick did you use on "Kings Road"?

A.M.: A 1964 Rick 325, that's the 3/4 scale one (Ed note: See photo above).

A.T.: One last question, I was once told that the boating blazer you had back then came from the same bolt of material that was used to make a suit for Brian Jones. Is that true?

A.M.: Yes, that's true, it's from the same suit he has on the cover of the "High Tide and Green Grass" album (Ed note see photo below).

Photo courtesy of Anthony Meynell 

A.T: Well thank you for your time and patience and talking to us! Anything to add in closing?

A.M.: Anytime! Yes, you might want to note that by Fall there will be a reissued "September Gurls" expanded LP (order here) followed by a re-release of our debut single "Get Ready Go To" (order here).  There's also a "Get Ready" album in the works of pre-Squire material the "Passengers On A Train" solo LP reissue and hopefully next year the "Smash" album will finally emerge! So I'm busy here, all the best!

Hear "Walking Down The Kings Road":

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