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Old Apr-20-2009, 10:32 AM
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Icon35 Clean-living rocker Glenn Hughes has Sadie to thank

Clean-living rocker Glenn Hughes has Sadie to thank

The Australian
April 21st, 2009
Ian Cuthbertson

The first record released by Glenn Hughes, former bass player and vocalist for Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and sundry other less well known but no less proficient musical outfits, was a cover of Sadie the Cleaning Lady.

It's not exactly Ozzie Osbourne biting the head off a dove, and it's not the frantic metal riffing we associate with Deep Purple, but it does bring him into line with one of our own: John Farnham.

Like Farnham, who also recorded a cover of the song, Hughes is almost apologetic. "Back in the late '60s, pop bands were doing these awful novelty songs," he says. "I was in a band called Finders Keepers. I was at least 10 years younger than the rest of the guys, and I was catapulted into Sadie the bloody cleaning lady. Trust me, everybody has a skeleton in the closet."

Though he denies his vocals were used on the recording, Hughes in any case developed a reputation as a singer's singer. He is affectionately known as "the white Stevie Wonder" for his ability to manifest a soulful, black-sounding voice.

The Wonder connection is no accident: Hughes cites the blind pop maestro as one of his main influences. The feeling appears to be mutual, as Wonder has described Hughes as "my favourite white singer".

In fact, after three albums with Deep Purple in 1974-75 as bassist and co-vocalist (with David Coverdale) Hughes released his first solo album, Play Me Out, which owed far more to Wonder than to Deep Purple.

After a distinguished career that has traversed a variety of styles, and with a recording roster as long as a tall man's arm (he has played on more than 100 records) Hughes is bringing his musically versatile world tour to Australia. During the past few weeks he has played in seven or eight European countries and, most recently, some highly memorable shows in New York.

Speaking from Los Angeles ahead of this week's Australian shows, he says of playing live: "It's better than sex and it's better than drugs. It's the damn finest thing I've ever witnessed. Those last two shows in New York were some of the finest moments of my life on stage."

But far from fatigued, the 57-year-old Englishman, who maintains a cracking pace, says he can't wait to get to Australia.

"I was there a couple of years ago to do a few low-key acoustic shows and I spent some time recording with Jimmy Barnes," says Hughes who, like Barnesy, has new-found energy and determination since giving up the traditional rock'n'roll lifestyle for a clean and sober approach. The two recorded a blistering version of Hughes's song Monkey Man for his 2006 solo album Music for the Divine, readily available on YouTube.

Of course being a bass player who also sings is a bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Still, it hasn't harmed Paul McCartney or Sting. Asked if he has any difficulty doing it live, Hughes is sanguine. "I've got three words for you," he says. "Practice, practice, practice."

Hughes admits he listened "a lot" to McCartney's melodic basslines. As well, he was influenced by Motown. "Many bass players from the '80s come with a wide variety of flashy techniques," he says. "But I come from the school of Tamla Motown, groove, fat back bass. And that enables me to bob and weave the lines in with my soulvocals."

As rich as his glamorous past is, Hughes prefers to focus on the present. "I don't want to think too much about yesterday," he says. "I'd rather think about right now. And right now we're all so looking forward to getting to Australia. The show is going to be classic rock. Big hits that people who are fans of mine from that period will know."

If the idea of playing songs from the past sounds incongruous with the idea of being here now, man, there is method in Hughes's madness. While the hits will surely flow, audiences can expect an eclectic mix of old and new, in particular songs from his 2008 release First Underground Nuclear Kitchen, which he describes as late-night music, "a very sexy record".

So fond is he of our wide, brown land that he wants to colonise it and make it one of his regular touring destinations.

"I want to sort of stake my claim over there. I've always really enjoyed coming to Australia. We're laying a foundation. I want to do a five to 10-year plan in Australia. I want to come over more often and spread the love," he says, as only a veteran bass god can. "An artist develops a feel for a particular market. Some like North America, some like Japan, some like Rio de Janeiro, but I'm really drawn to Australia."

Beyond the market, Hughes feels an almost spiritual pull. "I want to centre myself there," he says.

Sounds like wise thinking. A notorious bad boy in the 1980s, with drug and alcohol problems that nearly killed him, the newly energised Hughes emerged clean and sober in 1991, ready to rock as never before.

Ironically, for a bassist associated primarily with jazz fusion and metal bands, the first hit of his new existence was America: What Time is Love? with the KLF, the British acid house pioneers, also in 1991. The last song for the KLF, which disbanded soon after, was a watershed for Hughes. He has said that the entirely joyful experience of this record and its subsequent commercial success virtually saved him from drug abuse.

He hasn't looked back.

Glenn Hughes, The Voice of Rock Tour 2009, is in Melbourne, Wednesday; Adelaide, Thursday; Sydney, Sunday.

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Old Apr-21-2009, 9:14 AM
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Nice write-up in anticipation of Glenn's Aussie shows.

Speaking of Oz, I can't believe after all this time, and for as famous as he is, someone would still refer to Ozzy as "Ozzie" Osbourne.

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Old Apr-21-2009, 8:08 PM
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Originally Posted by toadsterama View Post
Nice write-up in anticipation of Glenn's Aussie shows.

Speaking of Oz, I can't believe after all this time, and for as famous as he is, someone would still refer to Ozzy as "Ozzie" Osbourne.


Yeah, that is a little sad - still, it was a pretty cool interview.
Four more days 'til GH!!!

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