"I'm a great believer in dreams and ideals. You win some, you lose some. But what keeps you going is trying to fulfil them". We were sitting in the front room of Gary Holton's London flat. While his girlfriend Sue made tea, toddler Max hid behind chairs looking shy, and baby Red cried periodically from a bedroom, Gary hopped around the room in his familiar excitable manner, played tapes of a few new songs and informed us we'd just missed a visit from Jimmy Nail.
"I knew 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' had a touch of class to it", said Gary, unusually modest, as we talked of the sensationally popular series. "I was proud of the job I'd done. But I didn't know it was going to be so successful. I had an inkling when we got to the seventh episode" the one where I took the Birmingham lad out on the pull. When I saw that, I thought ' we've got a good chance here'. "The hardest bit of it all was when I had to give a girl a bunch of flowers and say 'This is for you, as is my heart'. It was so difficult. I was just laughing, and so was she. I'm not a romantic...in public".
Unsurprisingly, 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' is Holton's proudest professional achievement. "I'm proud, first of all, that they chose me for it when there are lots of damned good actors about. Secondly, that I was accepted as an actor rather than what I used to get - 'Gary Holton : a musician acting'. It's nice to be successful here, because it's home. And it's really nice that the series has reached everybody, people from all walks of life."
It has been noted before that the cocky, streetsmart, bird-pulling Wayne bears more than a passing resemblance to the young Holton. "Oh yeah, It's exactly what I was like when I was 23 or 24. Wayne is a wide boy, everybody's mate. I don't think he's a rip-off, he's got a set of values but they're all wrong. I wouldn't trust him..." He gave one of his famous smirks. "I wouldn't trust him with Sue!". "Neither would I...", said Sue, and poured another cup of tea.
Fans of 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' will be pleased to know that a full-length film featuring the same cast in Germany, is set to start shooting this Autumn. And a new series, set either in Spain or the Falkland Islands is bound for our TV screens next year.
Fans of the Heavy Metal Kids, meanwhile, will be happy to note that Holton is "99 per cent certain" of a major record deal in Britain, is working on material at the moment, and is ready to go back out on the road. This couldn't be better news for your start-struck scribe, a long time Gary Holton fan and someone who's been playing "Anvil Chorus" for nine years without the slightest trace of boredom. The sort of basic, good-time, good humoured, rollicking, rolling and tumbling rock'n'roll that the Kids played in their time is the sort that doesn't date, the sort that the young bands of today are enthusiastically reviving, the sort that Gary Holton fully intends to carry on with (if the tapes he played me are any pointer).
It's significant, therefore, that a lot of bright new outfits have cited the Kids, as well as Gary's brief sojurn with the Gems, among their influences - and that Holton, for his current musical projects, has enlisted the help of past and present members of the Duellists, a young group first brought to your attention by Melody Maker last year. "I can't see any difference between acting and rock'n'roll" said Gary, bringing back immediate memories of his chain-swinging, bottle-swigging, costume-changing persona as The Kid.
"I might have been a bit over the top in those days", he reflected "I think the Heavy Metal Kids were under-estimated, we were very good at what we did, but it became too contributed...too much of a pantomime. We'd get a beautiful song and we'd say 'how can we send this up?' And people were taking it too seriously as well. The people that mattered believed in it too much. All those bottles of wine were full of water!" 'Are the public ready for you now, Gary?' "I think most people are fed up with the political side of rock'n'roll. Everybody when they're young wants good time rock'n'roll, cock rock straight from the hips. I try to do things with a bit of thought, but there's such a short distance between my brain and my mouth, I tend to always speak my mind. I can't put deep thoughts into songs, just feelings. Fashions are changing back to rock'n'roll. Women are starting to look like women again. They've got high heels and little mini skirts, and they like to go and watch a bit of cock rock music from the hips. Bloody women in Doctor Martins - that's what put me off rock'n'roll for a while. I suppose I am a bit of a sexist, a bit old-fashioned in my beliefs. A woman's a woman and a man's a man. Take Sue, Now, she's got her own career, yet she's much better with the kids than I am, for instance, and I expect her to be that way. I handle the problems that men handle, like changing light bulbs. We are very equal, you know. We consider the relationship to be the most important thing; that's quite sacred. I'm still really in love...after four years. It gets better with us two. It's really good, having a family. It's so rewarding. I was always quite scared of it all, but you've gotta have the right woman. That's what it's all about."
It was one day quite a long time ago, somewhere in the last decade, that Gary Holton grew up. While the sharp, wise-cracking fizz of The Kid seems superficially unchanged, a definite mellowing, a focusing of priorities, has been taking place. "I just woke up one morning, I had a failed marriage behind me, and I thought 'Fuck, I'm in this performing business for good, mate'. It's a big responsibility when you make that decision. I used to be a little upstart that didn't give a toss if I had a deal or not. Now I'm more aware of what I'm doing, more aware of my surroundings. I very rarely do anything totally spontaneous. I can tell good people from bad ones these days. I've learnt when to trust and when not to trust, whereas before, everybody was my mate. In the Kids, the business side of things really used to piss me off, but now I quite enjoy the business. And I have more respect for it now because it's given me a few things I wanted, a few assets. Before, I never used to care. I had a few bob in my pocket and I'd buy a few beers and go in a few clubs. When I met Sue, nearly four years ago, I was down to my last £500. I was doing it all down Sandown racecourse. Another thing, which is a bit of advice to other bands, is that you've got to learn your trade. There's an art to it. It's not just a matter of learning an instrument. There's an attitude for a start. You have to create your own laws and work within your own set of rules. If you stray beyond them, you start to lose your own identity. I've just learned how to survive..."
We talked for around an hour and as we did, the phone rang continuously. Seems that someone, somewhere, thinks of Gary Holton every 10 seconds, frantically itching to offer him work. At the rate he's going, this man could have his own chat show by the New Year. But his own visions of the future are somewhat different. "I'd like to do films, I'd like to get a little bit of recognition for writing songs and I'd like to write a kids' book as well. I've written some music for it, 'kids' rock'n'roll. We're all right for money now, and I won't be broke any more, I know that. I want a male secretary, a personal assistant and I want a full-time driver, because I'm lazy. And I want my kids to get a good education. I really am worried about that quite a lot. I want to stick together with Sue until the kids are old enough. I suppose we can review the situation then. But if we carry on the way we are, we haven't got anything to worry about."
Watch out for Gary Holton when his band is in your town. An experience: definitely. A success? Who knows. If it is, though, can't you just imagine the headlines in your super soaraway Shun "Gary Holton, an actor singing". Now that really would be an irony!
"To get on in this game, you have to keep playing it...you've gotta be a lifer".
If anybody's entitled to say so, it's Gary Holton. Acting since the age of 11, rock'n'rolling since the mid-seventies when the Heavy Metal Kids kept threatening to break through and never did, hustling incessantly for every scrap of experience that would widen his capabilities as a real performer, Holton is only now tasting success for his portrayals of the hilarious Wayne in "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet".
It's been a long, rough old ride down the years. He may have been big, and getting bigger all the time in Scandinavia (always knew they had sense up there!), but in Britain, Gary Holton seemed like he was doomed to some sort of cultish obscurity, always trying, always on the verge, never quite clearing the final hurdle. Yet, through all of his various activities, from fringe theatre to country music, he never lost sight of his ambitions or his optimism: