Horse Sense

Rosalind Russell Canters round to the stud farm where Jimmy and Robbo are known to HORSE around to chew things over. The boys reckon the nightMARES are over, so's the HORSEPLAY, and they've really got the BIT between their teeth at last.

The wild man of Wild Horses has calmed down his act (a bit) now. But when he was building his reputation as a hell raiser, there was a reason for it that none of us knew - not even the rest of Thin Lizzy, his companions in uproar at the time. Brian Robertson, the Scottish wait with the curly hair had been told that he had a serious illness. So he was determined to live each day to the limit.

"It was just before the first Thin Lizzy tour of the States," Brian told me. "Before we left, I hadn't been feeling too well. I got a card sent to me, asking me to come in urgently. When I got there, the doctor told me I was really ill. I didn't tell the rest of Lizzy. I was worried that they'd think I was a liability and kick me out so I just told them I had a stomach ulcer. I went on tour a week later with this in my head, and just went on the rampage. At the peak, I was going round bashing people twice my size. Scott pulled me out of so many fights. He was my guardian angel. Then In Chicago, I collapsed in the hotel. Scott made some remark about my drinking and that did it. I pulled on a pair of jeans, nothing else, and went and sat at the front door of the hotel. It was snowing outside and I just sat there.

Eventually, Scott came down and found me and I told him about the illness. It was one of the most emotional times of my life." 'When Brian got home from America, he found a stack of letters waiting from the hospital And when he went to see the doctor, he found the whole thing had been a terrible mistake. Some X-Rays used for teaching purposes had been slipped into his file by accident. The X-Rays the doctor had seen belonged to a man long dead - and by coincidence, the dead man had the same name and initials as Brian.

"That experience should have bred a sense of responsibility in me," said Brian. "I should have fell relieved, but I just felt angry. I've got such a temper on me. I felt sorry for myself, I felt hard done by. I started going out and drinking two bottles of whisky a day - and it was that that pulled me up. I don't drink nearly as much now." But now, Brian has the calming influence of fellow Scot, Jimmy Bain. Like a pair of book ends, they're always together, supporting each other, writing, playing and carousing. When Brian's in full spate, the words tumbling out. Jimmy hardly gets a word in. But though Bain is the quieter of the two, Robbo makes a point of saying how they work as a team. The two men who have worked In the shadows of others too long are determined to see their partnership work. Brian was frustrated in Lizzy, taking a backseat to Phil Lynott; Jimmy lived for two years in the uncertain company of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Two years is pretty much a record - not counting Cozy Powell's amazing staying power.

"My attitude was to have a good time for as long as possible," said Jimmy. "Ritchie figured that as Jimmy was older than the rest of the band, he might go bald too," said Robbo. "So he kicked him out when he didn't." Knowing how sensitive the man in black is about his thatch. Jimmy skated over the interruption and went on: "Ritchie has spent 10 or 12 years building up his reputation as an enigma. And now he's desperate. He believes that his guitar playing is the most important thing in the band... "He thinks he's the greatest guitar player in the world." put In Brian. "How could he be when I am?"

"I enjoyed my stint with Rainbow," said Jimmy. "I learned a lot from him, because he's a great showman. When I did get the sack, he said to me, 'You'll be all right because you're a good songwriter', but I never got the band to do any of my songs. That was one of the reasons I left. Also, I threatened him once. He had this thing about tuning all the time. We were doing a festival in Germany and he kept coming over to me between numbers and telling me I was out of tune. I was so fed up, eventually I said if he did It again I'd ram my bass down his throat.

"He and Cozy used to fight physically sometimes. Then we went to Japan... We never got the chance to meet anyone, with all the security. But Tony Carey and I used to talk to the punters in the hotel and after that they used to watch us at the gigs. I think Ritchie noticed how popular we were getting, we were taking the attention away from him. So I was out and they said it was musical differences and that I couldn't play. But after two years..."

Half an hour after Jimmy flew in from Japan, he saw Brian in his hotel. The pair decided then and there they should get their own band. So when the final split happened between Brian and Lizzy their plans were made. Wild Horses got off to a galloping start by having their debut single, 'Criminal Tendencies', banned by the radio stations. "It was anti-criminal anti-drugs, so if they banned it because of the lyrics, that's crap," stressed Brian. "But just looking at the title - plus we had 'The Rapist' on the B-side, and our reputations... I was very worried about this new one ('Face Down') in case they did the same."

Ah well, 'The Rapist', the mere mention of which propels me in the direction of the nearest soapbox. A number of bands have used the theme of rape in their songs, and while I'm certain they don't mean to glamorize the crime, it doesn't exactly do the opposite either. Given the power rock stars have over their audiences, and the romance and glamour which surrounds them, they're in a position to make a strong impression on people. Not everyone catches all the words of a song when it's performed live, maybe they'll just catch the Chorus, they'll certainly be aware of the title. And I think It's wrong to give rape any status other than disgusting and vicious.

"We're not glamorising it, and it's not based on the Yorkshire Ripper, said Jimmy, whose lyrics they are. "I abhor that particular crime. But you're right, I didn't think about that point of view. Recently we've been looking closely at the lyrics. I'd like to do a song about that pesticide they used in Vietnam".

The wind removed from the Russell sails, Jimmy went on: "I wrote a song about Ireland, a pacifist song. I took it to Warner Brothers because I wanted to bring it out, but they wouldn't touch it I didn't even want any money for it. We just write about things that happen. Our song 'Reservations' is about the Indians getting ripped off, I lived in Canada for three years and I saw it happen".

Wild Horses have their first album out in a few weeks, but already they're working on the next. Brian and Jimmy work in an eight track studio, doing all the playing themselves, to get the ideas all sorted out before they record with rest of the band. And though their music is basically powerhouse stuff, they've been trying out other styles too. Their single in Japan will be the gentle 'Fly Away'. The two of them are very much aware that people have said their partnership will never work, so that's made them more determined than ever to succeed. And the deadly duo have all the horse power necessary. But Brian still can't believe it.

"I can't come to terms with Wild Horses being a known band." he admitted. "I still tend to think of myself as Brian Robertson, member of Thin Lizzy. I was with them from the start and went through so many hard times. But what Jimmy and I have is unique. "We both like a good bevvy before we go onstage, but Jimmy calms me down if things go wrong. Jimmy has a very good rapport with the audience. We have hardly any trouble at our gigs. We keep their attention so that they don't have time to think of violence. It sounds corny, but we're trying to entertain, to give people a good time.

Perhaps Jimmy isn't the only calming influence on Robbo. Surely his recent marriage to Dee Harrington must have made a difference to his life? "I'm probably a bit quieter now." agreed Brian. So what was the story? Love at first sight? Eyes meeting across a crowded room? (I'll have to give up watching 'Dallas' the story of everyday farm folk down in rural Texas' it's softening my stoney heart).

"I'd been introduced to Dee a while ago," said Brian, "but I don't remember it really I was probably too into drinking. Then I went down to the Reading Festival the year before last - I was looking for a guitar player. I was with Kenny Jones, as he was to be our drummer at the start I saw Dee in the bar, and I asked Kenny to introduce me as he'd known her from the Faces days. "He did the introductions and I started rabbiting away to her and I asked her out to dinner. We went out two weeks later with Jimmy and his wife, and who should be there but Richard Young the photographer.

He came up, shouted 'smile' - flash - and that was it. It nearly blew everything there and then. But I courted Dee for two months. something I'd never done before I used to take her out, go and play cards with her until two in the morning, then go home. I was going home a lot at the time, because Scott (Goram) was phoning me from the States, where he was touring with Lizzy. They had Gary Moore working with them then.

"But Scott and I had been so close, you just can't forget something like that, so he was phoning me a lot." It came as a surprise to everyone when Brian and Dee named the day. "I was a bit surprised too," said Brian. "More so because of having our pictures in the national papers. I think they must have picked the worst of the session to print." Jimmy and Brian are rather more careful about the pictures that get printed now.

As they conch other as an equally important part of the team, they were a bit upset that only Brian's mug shot was going on the RM cover. Poring over the contacts of some black and while shots, Jimmy smilingly pointed out a resemblance between himself and Paul McCartney (the same half closed eyelids). But It's obvious they hope that the resemblances doesn't end there. Not because they want to sound anything like Paul McCartney, but because they're keen for their songwriting partnership to be as fruitful and as strong as Lennon and McCartney's was.

"Everything fell Into place the day we met," said Brian. "I was wandering down Wardour Street and decided to drop into the Marquee for a drink and to see who was playing. It was Jimmy's band, and when I saw him play I thought 'there's a guy I could work with'. I went Into the dressing room and Introduced myself". So now Jimmy the quiet man from the north of Scotland, and Bran the wild man with the flaming red hair from Glasgow have finally sorted out their dream. And they have so much faith in each other. It's bound to work.

© Rosalind Russell Canters, Record Mirror - April 12, 1980