HAVING been at the heart of British rock ’n’ roll since its very earliest days, Marty Wilde knows what he’s talking about when it comes to music.
So it’s good to hear that the veteran singer-songwriter-actor reckons today’s singers and musicians are brilliant.
And perhaps not so good to hear his views on our modern transport system and how it takes bands twice as long to get to concert halls these days!
“Being on the road is tiring,” admits 77-year-old Marty, who’s been a music star since before The Beatles and is on his latest tour of Britain.
“It’s the travel, because we do journeys now that in the old days would have taken two and a half hours, but now take double that.
“There’s just so much traffic, and everybody has a car, so there’s no answer to it.
“The only good thing is that hopefully at some point, they’ll get rid of all this damn diesel and petrol and get alternative power sources, like electric cars.
“You’ll see much more of what I’d call clean cars. God knows the world needs it, especially in Britain where the pollution is dreadful.”
So clearly a man who cares about the world around him, and not just a rocker.
It’s extraordinary to realise we’re almost a full 60 years since the young Marty, who enjoyed Top 10 hits with classics like A Teenager In Love and Sea of Love, was first spotted and thrust into the spotlight.
He met some of his own idols back then, and has seen his own kids have hit records, so nobody has seen the business inside and out quite like Marty Wilde.
“It is a long time ago, but it left an indelible imprint on my mind,” he says. “Those days really were the time to be alive, in terms of excitement because it was all so new, the new sound and the new everything.
“I thought it would last, guitar music, and I think that way now. The guitars themselves may change in design and some of the sounds, but guitars will last forever.
“When synthesisers came in, that did change things. Guitars in pop music were put to the back of the queue, but it balanced out and the guitar still has its place.
“A guitar can portray happiness, sexiness, everything! In fact, I knew Joe Meek, a pioneer in sounds. I heard a song called Angela Jones, took it to an artist, and then took him to Joe’s studio, and we had a hit with it.
“Joe’s studio was in his house, an upstairs flat. I went into his kitchen and in the sink were microphone stands and God knows what else!
“He had a bathroom with a good sound when you tapped the bath. It rang out, and he’d record that, too. Joe was extremely inventive, ahead of his time soundwise.”
Another man doing something original, and bowling over Marty and everyone else in Britain’s youth at that time, was a certain Mr Cochran.
“I met Eddie Cochran when he came over in 1960,” Marty recalls fondly. “Meeting him and Gene Vincent was great. They were what you would call the real thing, but Eddie impressed me a lot. He just had a real style about him.
“I also met Conway Twitty, a really nice guy with a great voice. Johnny Cash was a very impressive man. These were the originators of a certain sound and style, but you know, some of our lads weren’t so bad either!”
Young British ladies certainly thought our lads weren’t bad — in fact, when Marty fell for the love of his life, Joyce Baker of Vernons Girls fame, he instantly lost a large posse of female admirers set on winning him for themselves!
“In those days, the fans didn’t like you to get married, although I think that is different now,” he recalls.
“We were viewed by the female fans, I suppose, as theirs! In fact, I met a woman the other week who had felt that way, which was funny as she was with her husband!
“It was just the way it was, but things like that have changed now. Thank goodness, the female population is a bit more intelligent.”
Not so clever, according to Marty, are some of the movies he’s been in!
“I made a few, but I’m not an actor, and most of those films we did, when viewed rationally, were appalling!” he laughs. “I am not going to mention any names, but I think they were very twee.
“Stardust was a good film, but some of those early black-and-white ones, my God! Jet Storm, for instance, that frightened the life out me, that did. The enormity of that hit me when I saw that a plane going across the screen was held by a bit of wire!
“Some people think these old movies had a kind of innocence. Well, OK, I’ll let you have the innocence!”
One thing from his past that he did love seeing was daughter Kim have hit singles like Kids In America and Chequered Love, both written by himself and son Ricki.
“That was a phenomenal thrill, one of the highlights of my life,” Marty enthuses.
“I’ve always loved writing, and in fact I am still writing and recording. I can imagine some people being envious of their children, if they were more successful, but thank goodness I never felt like that.
“I was part of it, and I was elated because to see your children do well is every parent’s dream, isn’t it? I had wanted to be a singer since I was 15, so I had lived it myself.
“It sounds strange, but because of that there was no difference for me to be a singer than it would be for a guy to want to be a plumber and come in the house and do that job. It was just what I did!
“I’ve never viewed myself as special, and at the end of the day it is a job.”
So is it all rubbish now, compared to his day, or even Kim’s era?
“No!” he insists. “I think it is good, and there is an awesome amount of talent.
“We also have incredible talent in Great Britain. Technically, in fact, the singers today are better than they’ve ever been.
“And we had so few influences in our day. Elvis could go to the local church and hear great singers, or the guy next door.
“All I could hear was the Billy Cotton Band Show.
“Today’s kids have all these influences from all over the world.
“They are bound to be better!”
Perhaps that’s why Marty Wilde has lasted and aged so well. He still enjoys what the kids are doing, and refuses to get stuck in his own era.
You can catch Marty on the latest Solid Gold Rock ’n’ Roll Show, with many dates across Britain, including Birmingham Alexandra on November 20, and Wolverhampton Grand on the 24th.
There’s also an amazing new 3-CD set out, Solid Gold Rock ’n’ Roll, with hits by the man himself, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and all the greats of the era.
It’s on Universal Music.