Clive Jackson, better known as The Doctor from Doctor & The Medics chats with Kevin Cooper about the 29th anniversary remix of Spirit In The Sky, his thoughts on Harvey Goldsmith, that Union Jack coat and appearing at The Flashback Festival on Saturday 20th August.
Doctor and the Medics are an English rock band formed in London in 1981. The group received their greatest success during the 1980’s and are best known for their cover of Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky, the groups hit single which reached number one in the UK singles charts. It went on to reach the same heights in no less than eighteen other countries.
Whilst the band is still performing but with a different line up, the constant has been its frontman Clive Jackson, better known as The Doctor.
Whilst having a well-earned rest from touring, The Doctor took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.
Hi Clive how are you?
I’m very good indeed Kevin how are you?
I’m great thanks and seeing as I am speaking to you again that can only mean one thing; the Festival season must be fast approaching (laughter).
That’s right. The sun is out here today and that’s when I start to smile because I know that the festival season is not that far away (laughter).
Before we move on let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
No worries, it’s my pleasure as usual.
And just how is life treating you since the last time that we spoke?
Life is treating me okay at the moment. We tend to gig up to December and then usually January and February are dead months for us but this year we have been quite productive.
And correct me if I am wrong but isn’t 2016 the thirtieth anniversary of Spirt In The Sky?
Yes that’s right but as you well know, we don’t do anything that you would call normal (laughter). We didn’t wait to do anything special this year unlike most bands, so last year we actually released a twenty-ninth anniversary remix which appealed to me more (laughter). Joking aside it actually did very well getting to number one in America and also in quite a few of the well-respected dance charts. And as a result of that, I worked with some dance producers and writers and we recently released another dance track. It was billed as Julian Marsh Ft. Doctor And The Medics and is titled Lift Me Up. I really did get a buzz out of the whole experience.
Now that you have rediscovered your interest in recording, is there any chance of us seeing anything new by Doctor and the Medics?
To be honest we are currently recording our next if you like, original Medics song which may surprise a few people as it is a rock song (laughter). That will be released hopefully before the festivals.
And that will be titled?
(Laughter) we are currently keeping the title under wraps so if I tell you then I will have to kill you Kevin (laughter). So as you can see we have been working and working stuff out ready for the festival season. Despite what you may have heard we have not simply been idly sitting down watching the world go by (laughter).
I have been looking at your work schedule and true to form you are extremely busy once again.
We are indeed. Things are starting to get busy and that is exactly what we want. We are actually quite buoyant at the moment. We have had a great March and April and now May is beginning to look mental. At the moment June is looking a bit quiet but June is the mad time for festivals. It’s about now that the smaller festivals pop their heads up and start frantically booking bands for June. After June has gone we should have a very big and enjoyable summer.
The last time that we spoke you told me that you were intending to record a new studio album which would be released early this year. What is the current position regarding that?
Well the album is fully written and we have actually started work on it but due to a very hectic schedule we simply haven’t been able to get it finished on time. It is my dream to get the album out there sometime this year because I agree that it is long overdue.
You will be back here in Nottinghamshire for the Flashback Festival on Saturday 20th August. Are you looking forward to that?
Yes I am, I really do enjoy coming to Nottingham with the Flashback Festival. It will be my third time playing in Nottinghamshire and I have to tell you that those events are really special to me. I love the colour and the fun. All of the artists that I get to speak to all do love playing them. You can sense that, you can feel the excitement coming off them. People like Billy Ocean; his smile will illuminate the entire stadium. That man is so full of joy and you sense that. I am always really excited about playing these festivals in Nottingham; they are always very close to my heart.
Without wanting to dampen your spirits all that I will say is that if the weather is anything like it was last year then make sure that you bring your swimming trunks with you.
(Laughter) is that because of the rain or the sun?
It hammered it down with rain all day.
Well what people don’t know is that I am a Sun God and I have never performed in the rain at a festival in over thirty-four years now. So don’t panic Kevin, I will be bringing the sunshine with me (laughter). There simply won’t be any of that on my watch.
And am I correct in believing that as well as performing with The Medics you will also be once again the MC for the day?
That’s perfectly correct and as you know it is a role that I love and have grown into. I love it. I get to crack the whip backstage but only when it is needed of course (laughter).
You have briefly mentioned Billy Ocean. Who else on the line-up are you looking forward to seeing perform?
I absolutely love to see Bananarama and again it is for the same reasons. They have always got that joyous look about them whenever they perform. There is always happiness around them. Whilst I appreciate that Hue and Cry’s music is more serious on stage, the boys always turn up with smiles on their faces looking smart and everyone loves to see them, and that is the main thing. They are thoroughly nice blokes and they do change their songs a little bit on stage which I find very interesting. Some people don’t like that but all credit to them for being prepared to change things and try something new.
Obviously we can’t do that because if we went onto the stage and did a Reggae version of Spirit In The Sky I think that we would be bottled out of town let alone off the stage (laughter). But I think that they can get away with it and they put a few twists into their set. A great thing about the line-up is that there are so many different flavours; it goes from the rock to the quite soulful to somethings that are more of a jazz influence. If you had six or seven similar bands on one after the other then I really do think that people would get bored but the fact that you have got such a massive variety, plus all of those hits being played, then that is totally amazing.
I am personally pleased to see Roland Gift back on the line-up here in Nottingham.
You probably won’t believe this Kevin but I had never seen Roland perform live until two years ago now. I always try to go into these things with an open mind and I was actually blown away with just how good he is on stage. He has got lots of charisma and I personally think that his voice is far better live than I have ever given him credit for whenever I have heard him sing on record. He is a great performer and a great singer and I was truly impressed.
And on the subject of cheeky warm smiles there is nobody with a cheekier smile than that Nick Heyward.
(Laughter) no you are quite right. What a lot of people won’t realise is that Nick is a very funny guy. He is a funny guy who simply doesn’t take himself too seriously. When I say that people are having a laugh and they are not taking things seriously, don’t get me wrong; every single artist including me, as soon as you get on stage and you are performing, that is very serious because people have paid good money and they are there to be entertained. It is a very important day for people and you don’t get another shot at it as an artist. You make sure that when you go on the most important people there are the audience who are there to leave their worries at the gate, to go home singing the songs, and to have a great day.
That is so important and we all take that bit seriously. However once we are off the stage then it is good that we never take ourselves so seriously. I have to be so aware of that when I am the compare. If I hear or feel that I have lost the audience then I think ‘oh I’d better shut up now’ (laughter). I have to be so sensitive to that. If you get that bit wrong and you lose the audience, then as a compare it could easily take three or four bands for me to get the crowd back.
You have mentioned playing a reggae version of one of your hits, well the last time that I saw Lulu perform live she did a reggae version of To Sir With Love and in my opinion it is bloody awful (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) I can’t even imagine it being any good. The best reggae cover I have ever heard is, and I can’t find it anywhere, is a version of Ace Of Spades. It was unbelievably good actually (laughter).
I have to be honest and tell you that it takes me a while to get a new coat made because I do have one that I feel is The Doctor. However there are a couple of new coats around at the moment. Whenever we are asked to play at a festival I put all of my coats into the boot of the car and off we go (laughter). They all go on their summer holidays. They all sit through the winter steadily rotting and at this time of the year I get the sewing machine going, and get some of the old Shake And Vac on them (laughter), I’m painting a very glamorous picture here aren’t I (laughter). I like to change my coat between introducing bands as it is a huge part of what I like to do. I like to have some fun with it and put on just what I feel at the time will work.
As I have mentioned to you in the past my favourite coat and in particular to photograph is your Union Jack coat.
Well while we are on the subject of coat maintenance that coat is getting very old now. I think that it is getting a bit like the Turin Shroud in that it cannot be taken out too many times or it will just fall apart. I will try to remember that you like that one Kevin and I will give it its one trip out in the year up there in Nottingham (laughter).
Being serious for a moment…
(Laughter) I will give it a go…
I recently read that Harvey Goldsmith was quoted as having said that the era of the festival here in the UK is dead because there aren’t enough good bands to go around. He claims that if you go to three major festivals this year you will see seventy five percent of the same bands at every festival. Would you agree with his sentiment?
I just don’t think that he has been to enough festivals (laughter). I think that he should pull his finger out and do more research. For a start there are loads of festivals that we haven’t played. I agree that you will see bands here and there simply because there are lots of old bands who are making a comeback and there are lots of new young bands coming up. There are lots of bands who haven’t ever released a record but they are well known on the festival circuit because they are such great live bands. There is such a variety of acts out there that for him to say that is just Harvey Goldsmith trying to big himself up really. You take a look at our date sheet and look at how many festivals we are playing this year. There are more and more festivals happening every year and people are going to them.
At the end of the day Harvey Goldsmith can forget about the bands, it’s the people that count. The people themselves will tell you that he is judging it from a promoter’s point of view and bands selling tickets. People don’t necessarily go to a festival because of a single band. None of the bands at Flashback if they played that stage on their own would pull ten thousand people. Ten thousand people go to the event and it becomes a day out, and if the bands are great then it’s even better. It’s not just the bands that sell the festival; it’s the event, the atmosphere, and everything else around it. That is what we here in the UK are best at so I think that he has got that absolutely wrong.
I totally agree with you and feel that he should keep himself locked up in the O2 in London.
(Laughter) he can be the McDonalds of rock concerts and we will be the old fashioned British fish and chips and we will see which one wins (laughter).
You have mentioned new artists, are there any of the new artists out there who particularly impress you?
To be honest with you, no not at the moment (laughter).
One last serious question to finish with, what was the last song that made you cry?
Wow bloody hell. I actually do cry at songs but can I remember the last one; no I can’t, but I will tell you that I usually cry at the performance rather than the song. I will look at the performance and to be honest I welled up a bit watching Lady Ga Ga performing at The Oscars. A very special moment for me in music which I related to was when the late David Bowie put his arm around Mick Ronson and at that point suddenly gay people didn’t feel so alone. And I feel that what Lady Ga Ga did, well suddenly abused people didn’t feel that they were so alone. It was a very powerful statement and I really did well up at that point.
Speaking of the late David Bowie are there any thoughts on doing a cover or a tribute or something special along those lines?
I will be honest and say no simply because I don’t think that we would do it justice. There is stuff that The Medics can and can’t do and David’s songs just don’t sit comfortably with The Medics. If we did give it a go it would have to be something like Jean Genie and I don’t think with us that it would sound as remarkable as it should. There are bands that can do Bowie songs really well but I don’t think that we are that band. However we are working on a cover as we speak which should be ready by the time that all of the festivals come around and all that I will say is that Jimmy Somerville should watch out (laughter).
Should Jimmy Somerville, Gloria Gaynor and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes watch out?
(Laughter) no more teasers Kevin, just in case we try it out and it simply doesn’t work (laughter).
Does that happen a lot?
Yes because a lot of people will think that a certain song will suit the band and then when we rehearse it if it doesn’t gel straight away then it simply isn’t going to work. People say that we should do this song and that song and they appear to be obvious choices but when we start to play them they just don’t sit comfortably with the band.
Is that from both a vocal and a musical point of view?
From everything, absolutely. It has to work for us as did Tainted Love which I didn’t think was a typical Medics song but it just worked. As our drummer says we have to medic them up a bit (laughter). Then if they don’t medic up we don’t want to do them.
On that note Clive I will once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me and I really can’t wait to see you again here in Nottingham.
Thank you Kevin as usual it’s been an absolute pleasure. I will see you in Nottingham.