He fell into the music industry via a friendship with Ian Dury before going on to work and hang out with a dizzying cast of characters. He counts The Clash, Blondie, Talking Heads, B52s and Wreckless Eric as former buddies and colleagues. It was while he was making friends in esteemed musical places, Jock began writing and performing his fiery poems.
His stark delivery, insightful prose and confrontational honesty attracted the attention of Davey Henderson of cult bands Fire Engine and Nectarine No.9. Jock subsequently appeared on the band’s Saint Jack LP and Unloaded For You EP. Davey helped him release his My Personal Culloden album while he also found fans in indie band British Sea Power, who invited him on tour. Sadly Jock’s health isn’t what it used to be but we caught up with him to ask him about his life and work…
How did you first get into music?
My father was a musician. So there was music in the house. He was in the army and when he came back, he had various instruments – banjos, ukuleles and a piano. My mum was always trying to get him to get rid of them.
Did you play an instrument yourself?
I tried the banjo and ukulele but I was never a musician. I tried to play guitar when I was 15 but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the hand, eye co-ordination.
Your biog states that you’ve worked with a huge cast of characters – how did you hook up with them?
I used to go out to concerts and at one gig, I met a member of the road crew. He took me backstage to meet Ian Dury. I got chatting with Ian in his dressing room, met him again after the gig and continued chatting with him late into the night. He asked me to come to the next show and I did. It all came out of meeting Ian Dury by accident really. Yeah I know people say he was difficult but I didn’t find him difficult at all. There was always lots to do. I had a crap job and wasn’t really keen on rushing back to it, so I made myself useful around the camp.
When did you start writing your own works?
I always fiddled round with verses at school. I liked pop lyrics, how silly they were. I kept it up, kept doing it, and started writing my own little songs without tunes.
Was it a big step to start performing them in front of people?
No I didn’t mind as when I was a child my father would make us all perform in front of people in the house. When we had house parties, you were expected to perform. Everyone did. Or else.
Which artists/authors inspired you?
People around me – I liked Wreckless Eric – I was with all the Stiff People you see. They had Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Ian and Eric – I thought they were all the best around. It was weird how many of them fell into the same hat.
Why did you decide to publish Where Is My Heroine?, your first book?
I was losing material I’d written. I used to wander around with a polythene bag with 20 poems in and read them in the pub and expect people to pay attention. But that wasn’t really working. So I thought I had to get these in book form or even a pamphlet. I gave them all to my mate to see what he could do with it and he got them printed up in a pretty good form. People get hymn sheets printed for the church every week. It’s not difficult to do it.
Why did you start making recordings?
Well I’ve got nothing against books or reading books. My house is full of books. But I just thought that when you write books, you seem to spend an awful lot of time writing. Why don’t you just record it? Do it quicker, get it out as quick as possible.
I had the lyrics already. When one was finished I’d send the words up to Davey. I’d be in London, he’d be in Scotland and we did the whole record like that. I wrote the text and he made up the music.
How did you end up working with British Sea Power?
They approached me. They used to play my record in the van when on tour. They thought that was original so got in touch. I started doing my routine before they came on.
What have been favourite musical works?
The music I did with Davey for Saint Jack worked quite well. I only did a little bit on it but I enjoyed that. I’m working with Davey at the moment, I saw him in Edinburgh over the summer and we were working together then.
There’ll be an avalanche of stuff once I’m dead. They are all planning to cash in one way or the other. But I’ve got all the photos, hahaha.
I just wanted to get the PRS sorted out [He’s recently joined PRS for Music] before so that, if there’s rising interest, or is something that will make some money, then I’d like my wife to get it. I’ve never made a shilling.