The Ultimate Eurythmics Website
An Interview With
Mr Clem Burke
UE: Hi Clem, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. You had worked with Eurythmics prior to the Revenge album. Can you recall your initial meeting with Dave and Annie and your work on the album In the Garden?
CB: I was hanging out in a club called The Embassy in Piccadilly in London, and at that particular night, Michael Jackson was there and Lemmy from Motörhead was there and Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy was there, and I was hanging out at the bar and this attractive girl came up to me and it turned out to be Annie. She asked me if I’d be interested in meeting her friend Dave and that they had a band called Eurythmics. I said yes, and I was aware that they had been in The Tourists previously.
I went over to her flat because she and Dave had broken up and they lived on top of one another in separate flats in the same building. I went over to Annie’s and she made – at the time I guess we were all eating meat – she made a Sunday English roast, Yorkshire pudding and all that, and they told me they were working with the producer Conny Plank who I was aware of from Kraftwerk and Can and that they had recorded some stuff already and they were gonna go back to his studio outside of Cologne and would I be interested in coming. I had been living in London at the time for about six or seven months; it was one of the times Blondie wasn’t working, which is crazy because it was like around 1980 when we were at our peak, but we didn’t do any shows… for whatever reason. And I went and recorded with them in Germany. My girlfriend at the time came over; she went with me and we all went and lived in this farmhouse out in the German countryside and had a really, really great time.
Holger Czukay, bass player of Can, plays French horn on the In The Garden album… I’m sure if you’re a Eurythmics fan, you know who he is. They did their first-ever TV appearance on Old Grey Whistle Test with myself and Mickey Gallagher, and Holger came out and played French horn. And Eddi Reader, the singer, was also in the band. Yeah, that was it. It was a really, really great experience and actually opened my eyes to a lot of what can be done experimentally in the studio. It’s actually a big learning process. The producer, Conny Plank, was an amazing person, and his family was really nice.
UE: How and when did you become involved with the Revenge album?
CB: I was asked by them. We did the MTV Awards. We lip-synced the MTV Awards. It was Annie and Dave, Dee Dee, and Cindy from the B-52s, that was the band. It was Annie, Dave, Dee Dee Ramone, Cindy from the B-52s… That would be something to find on YouTube (UE: See the next slide for the video) I gotta look that one up myself if it’s out there. And then I went over to England with them and started working on the Revenge record.
Right before that, I think I was doing a record with Dave with Kiki Dee and I think I was doing something with Dylan with Dave too. Before we did the Revenge record (I think). But they were my friends, and the opportunity presented itself. I think I had just stopped working with the band I had right after Blondie, the band Chequered Past, and I was able to do this.
UE: When you were approached about the Revenge album was it initially just as a recording process or were you aware that a full stadium tour would be involved?
CB: I spent a few years with those guys from the time we did the Revenge record. It just evolved. I think Annie and Dave were putting all the pieces together where they were gonna go with that, and I was on board early on as far as playing drums. A couple people came and went in the recording process, and ultimately we got the bass player Chucho Merchan right at the end of the recording process, and a friend of mine, Phil Chen plays bass on a few of the songs. I also worked with Phil on a Pete Townshend record. No, it just kind of all evolved.
We wound up finishing the record in Paris at a studio called [Studio de la] Grande Armée. I remember the train ride from Paris to London. We took a train and during that time, I remember Annie and Dave and I were sitting on the train together and we’re talking about what the future was going to hold and just kind of went from there. It was an amazing arena tour. We were doing the same shows that Springsteen was doing, I mean like 70,000…. football stadiums and things in Sweden and crazy stuff. And I really think, you know that band Roxette, they sort of appeared right after that because the record was huge in Sweden.
UE: Initial work on the album was started in Germany at Conny Plank’s studio and later transferred to France. What memories do you have of the recording process?
CB: The two studios were completely different. Conny’s studio, although it was technically advanced, it was in a farmhouse in the German countryside, and studio Grande Armée was in the heart of Paris, in the basement of the Grande Armée which is the huge opera house. I believe that’s what it’s called; I believe that’s why the studio is called Grande Armée. The studio was wired into the concert hall so you could do symphony recordings and things like that.
We set the drums up for “Missionary Man” which was one of the last tracks we did. We set the drums up in the stairwell of the studio in Paris to get that sort of big reverberation sound. A lot of good meals at Conny’s… a lot of good meals that we’d always break for dinner and make sure we’d all sit around this country farmhouse table and his wife Krista would make these amazing meals, and then there’d be a lot of conversation, a little bit of drinking and smoking and things like that. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and a very beautiful experience for me.
UE: Did you find a difference or any changes in the recording process between the two Eurythmics albums, In The Garden and Revenge, that you worked on?
CB: Sure, studio technology had advanced and also in between those albums, there were several other Eurythmics albums, one of which was the Sweet Dreams record which Annie and Dave did on their own with a synthesizer and a drum machine. The first record I did with them was an organic, sort of band record using acoustic instruments – when I say acoustic, I mean we used electric guitars and things but there wasn’t really any synthesizers involved. It was more like banging on milk bottles for special effects and hitting, like huge bass drums and sounds of laughter and sort of musique concrète type of approach, available sound, something like English Garden where there’s just like the sounds of rain and things like that.
And then of course, when we did Revenge – actually, those two albums are similar in a lot of ways because the Revenge album was pretty much a band’s record, a live band record. Of course synthesizers were involved but they weren’t predominant like the Sweet Dreams record was. The budget was much bigger for Revenge. Annie and Dave had tremendous success by that time, so everything was pretty first class, although there was nothing wrong with the In The Garden record than the way that was made and the approach and the facility and all that. It was all really great.
UE: What memories do you have of the Revenge tour and for you what were the highlights?
CB: One of the highlights was that I met an amazing girl in Sydney, Australia. And I don’t know, we parted ways. We went out for a while in New York and I haven’t really thought of her in a long time until you just said what your memories of the tour are. It was a rock and roll experience really, by the time we were playing such huge venues. And one of the most memorable of all was playing Wembley Arena multiple nights, and I’m playing… I forget what song I was playing… I look over to the side of the stage and I see, sitting down, it’s George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. It was when Jeff Lynne first started working with George Harrison. Also Daryl Hall was there and all kinds of people were there. But I was playing and I looked over and there was George, and afterwards, we met and got to hang out and became friendly a little bit and I had dinner with George and his wife, with Dave and a bunch of people once or twice. That was an amazing night.
Also, we did the Prince’s Trust with the Revenge band when we met Princess Diana and Prince Charles when we were in the receiving line. (Click to see the interactive programme) The funny thing about that was the Princess, the first thing she said – you know, we’re saying hello and a couple of the guys in the band, myself and Jimmy Z, we’re not English – and I greeted her and she says to me “Well are you all English then?” and obviously I’m talking with my New York accent or whatever kind of Americanese accent I have, so that kinda was funny. And then she said to Jimmy Z, “Touring must be difficult… what do your wives or girlfriends think about you being away from home?” and Jimmy looks her right in the eye and says, “My wife doesn’t mind very much but my girlfriend really doesn’t like it.” And then she kinda turned red, and we all looked at him and said you’re not supposed to say that to the Princess. But anyway, that was funny. What was the question again?
UE: What memories do you have of the Revenge tour and for you what were the highlights?
CB: Yeah, those are some good memories. Australia was amazing in general; we played multiple nights in huge arenas and the stadium in Sweden which I can’t recall offhand was just completely off the hook. And also, playing at the Reichstag right before the Berlin wall fell with Tina Turner and Joe Cocker as our opening acts… I mean Eurythmics were so huge at that point. The only regret was we only spent about six weeks of that two year tour in the States. We did some great shows, but it was nothing compared to the way it was around the rest of the world. We played the Greek Theatre in L.A. and things like that and I remember we played the Pier in New York, I forget what pier number it is, next to the Intrepid battleship. I remember I came with my dad and my dad was hanging out with Mick Jagger and that was pretty funny and kinda cool because everybody knows who Mick Jagger is, even my dad knew who Mick Jagger was.
I mean this is like, you’re talking about 25 years ago; pop culture wasn’t what it is today, so it was pretty cool though. That was a great, great experience working with those two. With the whole band. It was a beautiful thing. But also, being hired to do a job is a lot different than being in the middle of a business situation with a band that you’ve started… being hired to just play and enjoy myself was this great treat for me coming from a lot of the acrimony with the Blondie breakup and things like that, so it was really good.
Picture Gallery From The Pier 08th September 1986
UE: What input did you have on the arrangements of live versions of the songs on the tour?
CB: A lot of the songs from the Sweet Dreams record for instance were, as I said, a drum machine and a synthesizer, and then we were interpreting those much more organically like a live band would do. Of course, Dave and Annie led the way in all of that, it was their—they were steering the ship, but I think we all put our energies into it. My drumming on that tour, it was a lot to interpret. I was doing, like I said before, a lot of people thought we were playing to click tracks and using drum machines and sequencers and none of that was the case.
Pat Seymour, the keyboard player, he is such a great pianist that he’d be able to play all the arpeggiated parts and things like that, manually. He wasn’t like today where someone just presses a button and you get an arpeggiated keyboard or whatever – a sequencer going or a drum machine going. We did it all organically, so we all contributed to the sound of that band for sure, especially when it came to interpreting the other music that was not on the Revenge record.
UE: How was the Revenge band put together and had you worked with any of the other musicians previously? Do you still keep in touch with any of them?
CB: The bass player Chucho Merchan, I saw him play with Pete Townshend. Pete Townshend was doing a solo gig, one of his earlier solo gigs. I think it was at the Brixton Academy and I really took note of Chucho. I remember we were on the train ride from Paris to London and Dave said, “Do you know this guy Chucho?” I said, “is it the guy who played with Pete Townshend?” He’s like, “Yeah, I don’t know, I think so.” I said, “that guy is great.”
As I said, we had a couple other bass players but for whatever reason, it was decided they weren’t going to be on the tour. Jimmy Z was from L.A. I was aware of his work with Rod Stewart and Tom Petty but I didn’t really know him. Pat Seymour, the keyboardist, worked with me on the Dylan thing that we did with Dave and also a little bit on the Kiki Dee thing. And Joniece, the amazing singer that was basically doubling a lot of Annie’s singing, I didn’t know. I’ve had dinner with Chucho a few times, but the others, no.
I would like to see them at some point but we don’t really keep in touch. Jimmy Z, I’ve come across a few times in L.A. He’s a brilliant blues harp saxophonist; he plays a lot in the clubs and I think he does a lot of sessions in L.A. I come across him here and there.
UE: What is your fondest memory about working with Dave and Annie?
CB: Just the amazing creative input they have in their endeavors, and they’re sort of a catalyst for really interesting things happening. And I liked having a drink with Annie once in a while. That was fun. I remember one time we were in a hotel bar somewhere and someone recognized her and asked her to sing and she was singing. Oh, in Vancouver, we all went out to karaoke and we got up and played. She got up and sang karaoke and they had a little drum set and I played along. And a lot of good dinners, good parties. It was kinda like at the height of all that.
And doing the Grammys with them, which I think was another thing I did before the Revenge tour for sure. We did the Grammys, and Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones sitting in the audience. Oh, we did the Grammys for Sweet Dreams. When Annie dressed as Elvis Presley or dressed as a man and Stevie Wonder was there and Dylan was there. It was just a lot of amazing stuff like that with the time I spent working with them.
UE: Blondie are back with the album Panic of Girls, are you looking forward to the new tour and how are you finding the audiences reactions?
CB: The tour is just about to start, and I’m planning on finding the audience reaction to be exceptional. We’ve put together an entirely new show incorporating a lot of the songs from Panic of Girls as well as some of the older songs that we haven’t played in the last bunch of tours.
We’ve kind of took out some of the songs that we always played and replaced them with other songs that we haven’t played in a long time that people really want to hear. So I think for Blondie fans, they’re really gonna have an enjoyable concert experience.
Just really looking forward to getting back out there… being on tour for me with Blondie is like being on vacation, it’s like the lap of luxury. I do a lot of other playing, a lot of other touring, and the circumstances under which we tour are always really great so I’m really looking forward to it.
UE: Clem, thanks for taking part in our Revenge 25 interviews.
Thanks for the questions. I hope everybody else in the Revenge band gets to chime in and I’d like to have them know yeah we miss everybody and it was a great time.
It’s almost like people you were in a band with, or you have a lot of shared history with or shared experiences with, for the average person you could relate it to people that were your friends in school, then you haven’t seen them in a long time but you’ve had all these great experiences. So they’re really always your friends, you don’t have to really see them all the time to be connected to them.
There’s still a connection and that’s how I feel about all the members of the Revenge band and all that stuff. So, all the best to everybody. Peace and Love.
Please visit blondie.net here to read other questions that Clem Burke has recently answered, including several Eurythmics related ones.