The Pampered Kid

Some people get it easy.  Gary Holton once lived in a nice pad in Chelsea and could afford to imitate the lifestyle of Alex from “A Clockwork Orange”.  As a member of a group called Biggles, he was given a house and equipment and paid £50 a week and at the end of 9 months still had not played one gig or made one record.  Now he’s the lead singer of Heavy Metal Kids, on whom Atlantic Records have lavished a 5 star promotion campaign, even though their music is rather derivative and routine. 


There always seems room for obnoxiousness in rock n’ roll which is probably why Atlantic Records are putting their promotional weight behind the Heavy Metal Kids right now – a band who have attained a high degree of crassness in just about every department. 


The message spilled out by their publicity blurb says the Heavy Metal Kids want to “put back some bollocks in rock n’ roll”.  This naturally means they are loud and rough and dedictated to a sort of aggro-rock. Judging from their album and their appearance at Uriah Heaps London concert two weeks ago it still manages to sound rather routine and derivative, but occasionally they show signs of real junkie panache.  Maybe unfortunately, they also have a kind of aggressiveness that suggests their intent on staying around. 


Vocalist Gary Holton already has taken to being a disciple of true rock ugliness, even if he has not quite perfected a unique way of doing it.  On stage he is into wellington boots, a top hat, umbrella and leopard skins – displaying nil amount of poise even by the standards set by others in his own specialist area. His vocals and mannerisms often suggest there is an exaggerated Steve Marriott in there  somewhere.  Like Marriott he is also from the East End so there is heavy play as the noisy cockney “character”.  He rarely seems to cool it.


On arriving at Atlantic last week he was involved in a fight over his lady’s parking space.  The front half of his shirt became ripped open in the fracas, but it hardly mattered since his adopted style of dress makes him look like he has been dragged through a garbage heap anyway.  His fashionably attired lady fawned over him, referring to him as “dahling” as he muttered purple threats towards his assailant. 


Up at Atlantic he is treated as something of a star already.  After being signed by A&R man Dave Dee, the kids had been launched with lavish promotion of the style that is normally described as hype.  Assuming this is correct, Holton still does not see why it should generate any ill feeling towards the band. 


For himself, he looks at it, quite coldly, as irrelevant.


“People say hype does not help a band but it’s not true.  If the band is good it’s not hype anyway.  All you’ve gotta do is back up what you’re saying”.  He opens the first of several cans of beer.  “Let’s face it, bands have been made by hype, bands that ain’t even any good”. 


Ok, so how much are the Heavy Metal Kids really urban renegades?  Holton, now 21, appears to have spent his teenage years working as an actor/singer through stage school, in the London stage “Hair”, with a band called Biggles – and otherwise running through stages like his “perverted skinhead phase”. 


This sounds interesting.


“We all used to go around in a gang and listen to classical music.  It was a little cult, dressed in bowlers and brollies – more refined skinheads ‘cept we used to fight then.  Everybody used to have really nice pads in Chelsea but could get well violent.  They got the idea from Clockwork Orange for the whole scene.  I was really into it, though if there was a fight I’d be running down the street”.


So how did this lead to his present attire and rock music?  “The clothes was just like… lack of money, plus I grew out of looking smart.  You go through lots of stages don’t you, everybody does.  Then it was really “Hair” that got me into rock music once I found I could basically sing.  Before that I’d really been acting but I had to be too conscious of technique – y’know I had to change me accent and all that.  With singing It seemed you could put emotion into it, more naturally.  So after “Hair” I joined a group called Biggles with all these wide eyed ideas and it started off alright cos’ we had all this money invested in us, a house and equipment, but in the 9 months we lasted we didn’t play one gig or make one record”.


“Basically we couldn’t write and I started getting into it for the money.  I’d be getting me fifties a week and turning up at rehearsals with a bottle of wine pissed out of me head.  Eventually they sussed it and threw me out.  Also they’d been writing all this technical Yes, ELP rubbish – at least it’s rubbish to me – and I was writing all this simple 3 chord stuff which really started me thinking you’ve got to be simple to get anywhere”. 


From there he formed Legs with an old friend guitarist Mickey Waller, which eventually became the Heavy Metal Kids.


“I wouldn’t say we’re really playing heavy metal music.  Like it’s more the blokes in the band that are like that, y’know a bunch of yobbos, more than the music.  When we were Legs we were sorting of pushing each other about and somebody said we were a real bunch of heavy metal kids so we took the names from there."


“Really we’re quite wholesome though.  We don’t waste our bodies or anything like that, we don’t go berserk on dope.   I mean I’m more of an alkie than into dope.  Like you see all these bands getting hepatitis and stuff like that so we’re watching ourselves.   All we do is have a good time, make the best of a small deal.  At the moment I can’t get enough of it”.


The music is naturally tied up with their personalities, and vice versa.  On stage Holton is a great believer in the “getting everybody on their feet” syndrome.


“If an audience isn’t clapping it’s the band’s fault.  I don’t believe in all that bad audience stuff.  If you’re good enough you can get em.  If nobody’s dancing I’ll go down on the floor myself.  I’ve done silly things as well, me and Mickey streaked across the stage in Manchester for instance.  Ultimately we’d like to hide all the equipment behind a white backdrop, just have the instruments showing.  Then instead of a support group it’d be nice to get somebody like Mrs Mills on who’d get all the crowd singing, like an old music hall thing.  At the moment I’m not too keen on those large concerts with all them bouncers cos’ it always seems everybody is a bit frightened to shout abuse and things like that.  I love abuse.  I have a good go at the audience now and again and they have a good go back”.


To an outsider the Heavy Metal Kids altogether seem to have the ideas, ambition and presentation side of things really organised.  It’s only in the music where things are still lacking, possibly because they’re working in what might appear to be an exhausted area.  At least it seems exhausted unless the band concerned are really amazing which the Heavy Metal Kids, at present, are not. 


However, Holton almost gives it a kind of revivalist flavour.  “It’s almost been sucked to the core in a way, in that there has been such a lapse over the last 2 years with all those chanting things, it leaves room for a little wave of it to come back.  Also there is a lot of this airey fairey country stuff around at the moment, isn’t there – the Eagles, stuff like that.  Energetic rock n’ roll will always be about though.  All the people who slag it off now are mostly over 23 and have seen it all before.  But if you go to a Uriah Heap gig the audience is really young.  To me I think we’re quite entertaining on stage and putting a bit of guts into it.  To me it seems like we’re going about things in the right way”.