June 2008

SPLIT KNEE LOONS: Wah! Wah!, Stix, Ernie, Cosmo. Absent Arthur's omnipresence dominates the picture

Wah! Wah!, Stix, Ernie, Cosmo.
Absent Arthur’s omnipresence dominates the picture

You don’t mess with Arthur Guitar, the masterbrain behind THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS. When he allows you a rare audience, you’d better bring along a couple of bouncers to help you keep your mouth firmly shut – otherwise, your jawline might be artfully chiselled by Mr. Guitar’s sharp wit. The man’s angular vision shaped The LOONS, a brilliant combination of singing himself on that strings-challenged sitar, Cosmo Toons on ivories-and-ebonies, Stix Hoypolloy on the skins, Ernie Orme on double oud and Wah! Wah! Wahtkins on the pedals attached to a six-string thingie.

Them was The LOONS, a band that still loom large in every self-conscious rock encyclopedia, and woe betide those who omit the ensemble. Their only EP, released back in the early ’80s, is re-issued now as a full-fledged album, "Loon Knee Tunes", that’s simply a must-have for every self-conscious music fan.

If you don’t have it, Mr. Guitar might get heavy with you, so you’d rather get those damn minders. Don’t say you didn’t know – the following conversation is a good warning.

– THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS were larger than death – at least Terry Pratchett’s one. How come you’ve been forgotten until now?

What do you mean “forgotten”?! Damn cheek! THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS will never be forgotten. They are remembered by intelligent people as the greatest live band ever.

– Arthur, is that true your first instrument was a two-gut-string fiddle and then you fiddled with bass before progressing to a guitar?

Everyone knows I am a multi-instrumentalist and talented vocalist with incredible five octave range. My voice is instantly recognisable as the lead goat from “Jesus Christ – A Nativity” and musical records and Broadway stage appearances. You need to do more research, young man, if you want to make it as a journalist. My first instrument is the zither but when I started playing guitar in the Sixties I was, as you know, extremely succesfull so became known as Arthur Guitar. Mr. Guitar to you!

– Oh sorry, wretched me! Mr. Guitar, where did your licks come from? From that duck-walking roll-and-rocker Buck Cherry, eh?

What the bloody hell does that mean? Are you dislexic? I have no influences whatsoever!

– No influences? What about your parents – did they instill anything in you?

I have no influences whatsoever!!! Leave my parents out of this! Do you know them? I don’t.

– Did MOODY BLUES really influence the LOONS? Were you progressive rock fans?

Don’t be ridiculous! It’s well-known that the MOODY BLUES were heavily influenced by THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS. Progressive rock fans? Are you deaf?! We were – are! – the epitome of the progressive rock genre.

– There was a little band you certainly influenced called GILLAN. Why didn’t you sue their weirdo bassist McCoy who blatantly copied your gracious moves?

Ah yes! GILLAN. John McCoy was producing that band and asked me on several occasions to join, but, of course, there wasn’t enough money in it for someone of my huge musical talent, reputation and stature. Instead, I would secretly go to Queensway Sound Expedition Ltd. where they recorded in the middle of the night to help John out with guitar parts and general guidance. I was angry at the time at how they blatantly stole mine and THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS’ ideas and songs. They tried to make good by offering us support gigs after having huge international success with our ideas, songs, sound etcetera. It was a recipe for chaos and I dont think all of THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS ever made it to any gig at one time. So we were reduced to this pathetic supporting position while they made all the money and pies. I don’t hold any grudges against that bunch of saddos though, I’m well above that. Of course, they split up amidst huge arguments when their singer left for his own personal reasons, and, of course, they asked me to be their singer. As you know, lots of people want me to be their singer but few have the money to afford me. And, by the way, I don’t regard Mr. McCoy as a weirdo at all!

– Wasn’t it offensive when Lloyd’s offered you some princely sum to use “Mutually Insured Third Party And Theft” and GILLAN stole the song to convert it into “Mutually Assured Destruction” and got away with it?

Offensive? Yes. But that’s the way of the music biz. Some people have no scruples.

– Was it you – under the Wan-King pseudonym – who produced GILLAN’s “Future Sock” album?

I was involved as executive producer on many of the “Future Sock” and “Gory Load” albums’ songs etcetera but, of course, never received a credit or payment. I was glad to help those young chaps who were obviously struggling to emulate the sound of THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS.

– Your own album was supposed to be a triple one, but even the CD version contains material only for a double. Why did you dispose of the rest of the tracks?

Once again it was internal band disagreements, so the rest of the tracks will be released at some point in the future. The consensus of band opinion was that the full triple album could have caused problems for elderly fans. Mental problems.

– My copy of the album came without a cuddly toy. Not that I dare to apply for one, but how does it look like?

Another casualty of marketing. We had about a thousand cuddly toys in the shape of brown furry turds, but Wah! Wah! Wahtkins sold them in Oxford Street, London along with the other junk he sells from a suitcase.

– How did you hook up with that other guitarist, Saul Hudson? Oh no, that’s Slash! I mean Saul Pamson, or what was his name?

This question confirms my suspicions… I presume, in your retarded sad way you are asking about Roger, or Paul, Samson. Well, back in the Seventies my friend John McCoy had a band that needed a guitarist, but although they begged me they were, of course, no way good enough for me to become involved with. Nice polite chaps but I had my reputation and residencies to consider, and they didn’t have any money. I was giving tutorials at the time and many young hopefuls came to The Divine Church of Weedonology in Batley, Yorkshire, where I would hold guitar seminars. One young whippersnapper was Roger, or Paul, Samson. I taught him over an intensive week-long period, how to put the strap on, plug into an amp and about volume controls and the desired settings. He changed his name to Paul and joined the aforementioned band and became one of my most succesful pupils.

– What is The Divine Church of Weedonology? Is holy smoke real sweet there?

The Divine Church of Weedonology is a retreat founded by myself for troubled guitarists who are striving to emulate my own work and, of course, the incomparable talent of Bert Weedon. It is run as a charity and guitarists are allowed to chant Bert Weedon’s name for eight hours a day in the vain hope that this will enlighten them. Please, send donations for this worthwhile cause to me. In cash.

– THE HAMSTERS CAGE ENSEMBLE who sang back ups for the LOONS… Were they Alvin and the Chipmunks in disguise?

Do you mean Alvin Stardust?

– Uh, no. Forget it! How did you manage to win over the Giuseppe Verdi Foundation who took you to court over the rights to “The Confidante Opera”?

This was handled by our lawyer, Tarquin Farqhuar-Smyth, and Cosmo Toons. I stayed out of the argument because as you know I am always right.

– Is it true there is “A Bagpipe Tribute To The LOONS” album out there?

Yes, of course. I suggest you contact our friends SAOR PATROL who recorded it.

– As I know there’s a 20 CD LOONS anthology in the pipeline. When will it be out – and are you competing in the archive-digging art with those Americans DREADFUL MAD?

In the pipeline? In the pipeline? Manufacturing problems are slowing down that particular plan. By the time we agree there may not be CDs anymore. THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS are often compared to DREADFUL MAD, particularly our lengthy jam and marmalade sessions, and I think Terry Gas Ear is a promising young guitarist but needs guidance.

– How much will it cost to lure the band into a reunion anabasis?

Are you offering? Let’s just say in excess of six figures. But now bugger off and stop bothering me!

You were warned, weren’t you? What you should know now is that THE SPLIT KNEE LOONS were, in fact, the band called GILLAN without Ian Gillan. Who was who? Go figure – but fear the ripper called Guitar.

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