Medway garage punk legend Billy Childish is a man for whom the word ‘prolific’ barely seems sufficient. The hirsute polymath, an influence on artists as diverse as Jack White, Tracy Emin and Kylie Minogue, is renowned for having more than 100 albums to his name, not to mention the volumes of poetry, the paintings, fiction and films that stack up in his considerable back catalogue, and over the past five months he’s added a further five LPs to his considerable body of work with his latest project The William Loveday Intention, and the new tracks, covers and reworkings from previous records sound as fresh and vital as any of their predecessors.
With the fifth and final instalment of this run, The Bearded Lady Also Sells The Candy Floss, due for release on 19th February through Childish’s long-term home Damaged Goods Records, we caught up with Billy to talk about the project and the strange times in which it’s being released, and asked him to guide us through the record track by track.
Releasing four LPs in four months is pretty fast going even by your standards – were they recorded as one big project and then split or was the idea for each album fully distinct from the beginning?
I just pressed the start button to see if the engine would go. It did so then I had to keep up – writing songs on the hoof, often the night before the sessions.
The LPs sort of suggested themselves as we went along – no plan and no one asked for them. As normal I just do what I fancy not what the world wants, or asks for. (We actually recorded 5 LPs – but The New & Improved Bob Dylan was released separately on Hangman Records.)
Did recording and releasing them during the pandemic have much of an impact, either on the writing process or the recording?
Yes for sure. We had problems getting people into play, etc. . . But it was something to do other than paint and work on my poetry and novels. It’s best for me to mix things up as I get bored easily.
This project has seen you recording new versions of tracks from you back catalogue – with more than 100 albums to choose from, how did you manage to whittle it down to these four LPs? What was the selection process?
I selected tracks I thought had more interesting lyrics – ones I had a soft spot for.
Who else is playing on the record, how did the band come together?
We basically use friends and muck in together. Jon, (Hamond organ) played bass in The Buff Medways. Jim Riley knew Richard (violin). I’m friends with Dave (Lead Guitar) from co-writing/recording an LP for his group The Wave Pictures. It was tough getting everyone to record in lock down so me and Jim (Harp) sometimes had to cover drums, bass, guitar organ, etc . . .
There’s a few people come and go. William Ivy Loveday sings, plays guitar/some bass, J A Loveday sings a few + backing and a bit of bass.
Adolphus Havard: Drums
Jim Riley: Harp/Some guitar
Jon Barker: Hammond/piano and some bass
Dave Tattersall: lead guitar
Richard Morley: Violin
Tom Moor: Trumpet
Jamie Taylor: Hammond/Piano on a few tracks
Can we expect more William Loveday Intention records, or is there a new project formulating for the next thing?
I had the dreaded lurgy over Christmas and wrote some songs in bed, when well enough. Now I’m on my feet so we just recorded two more LPs in the new year and I think that we’re getting the hang of it.
(New LPs recorded and unreleased: They wanted the Devil but I Sang of God and Cowboys Are Square)
Billy was also kind enough to pen this track by track guide to the new LP The Bearded Lady Also Sells The Candy Floss.
To Sing the Blues You Gotta Be Blue
This is another approach to the song with similar lyrics on the Blud Under The Bridge LP – ‘White Whale Blues’. The song is the simple idea of having to be authentic in relation to what ever your doing- not just chasing the dollar and sex. Plus I like to have a bit of Moby Dick in there as it was a big book for me in my 20s.
When the Eagle Becomes a Hen
Another take on the lyric of ‘It Happened Before Will it Happen Again’, off Blud Under The Bridge. I do these revisits to try to get to the core of the lyric. This song is about a lover’s lack of generosity, repeat behaviour that we all get trapped in and the likelihood that if you’re in a bad relationship the person won’t change – so get out!
This one is all about the modern world’s love of victimhood. It’s not about the “Woke Generation” anymore than it is about the “New Right”. It’s about all-and-sundry not making a stand in humanity, truth and responsibility.
Hanging by a Tenuous Thread
This track is about my nervous breakdown and mental illness. A cheery little number. Tough but I think good fun.
The Bearded Lady also Sells the Candy Floss
This is a reference to how we went about doing our gigs back in the day. Since Thee Headcoats I drove the van, wrote the songs, played the guitar, packed the van etc… My wife booked the shows, played the bass, sold the records, etc…. We were like an old style travelling circus where the bearded lady has several jobs. There are also various references to the old carnival world and the smoke and mirrors of life and performance that fool the people.
What Kind of Friend Were You?
A simple track about a friend who turns out not to be much of a friend at all. We’ve all had one.
A version of the great Bob Dylan track.
The Dept. of Discontinued Lines
I guess that this is something about what I do: offering up what has largely been superseded by a world obsessed with glitter, more, different, now!
A Dull Blade
A story of love and confusion – one that accosts many of us in our teens. ‘The Dull Blade’ could be that the story is in the past and lost its cutting power.
Revisited from the punk versions in our earlier incarnations. A simple portrait of the bastards who filled the boots of Thatcher including the arts and music. The weakness of the ‘me’ generation, if you will.
A Rusty Stain
A lyric possibly about acceptance of our perceived imperfections and somehow referencing my time working in Chatham Dockyard in 1976.
The Bearded Lady Also Sells The Candy Floss, and the four other William Loveday Intention albums are available to order via Damaged Goods Records.