Mickey Jupp is doing well. He doesn’t care at all that he’s without a record contract.
When he was told, two months ago, that a planned Dutch tour couldn’t take place for financial reasons,
that was the limit for him. He put a band together with his own hands, rehearsed for two weeks,
loaded the shabby equipment in his van and started to play everywhere, entirely at his own expense.
This method makes roadies an unnecessary luxury, and he looks pretty knackered.
However, for the first time in years, he does something he’s completely approving,
and the direct result –enthusiastic public – satisfies him.
“I was sick of having to do things all of the time that I didn’t like at all. I’m 36 now,
I’ve been sent from pillar to post through the years and it led to nowhere”.
The short performance of Jupp and his band (Bob Clouter, Dave Bronze and Ian Duck) does not
show up for 100% at the windy Muntplein (Mint Place) in Brussels that evening. Mainly swinging
and composedly played R&B (much Chuck Berry), but a very emotionally sung performance of
Ben E. King’s “Stand by me” slows every passer-by immediately. Giving interviews isn’t exactly
Mickey’s favourite cup of tea. That afternoon he keeps trying to postpone the interview with all possible means.
When the tape-recorder emerges he looks at it Argus-eyed. “I don’t like it at all to talk at these machines”.
He gives a very nervous impression. Cigarettes, which he refused before with a wry face, are now
being smoked at a quick rate. The notwithstanding everything very sympathetic Jupp isn’t an easy,
let alone hearty narrator. He gives ultra-short answers in which everything will be put into perspective immediately.
In short: a true struggle.
In ’62 he starts his career in Southend. The group’s called “The Black Diamonds” and the influences are
American R&R and R&B. A few years later the Merseybeat explodes and only then Southend, like almost every
British town, develops a prospering “scene”. Meanwhile he plays with “The Orioles”, a group which, together
with “The Paramounts” (with Gary Brooker and Robin Trower, among others) is one of the leading groups in
Southend and surroundings.
There’s never been any contact with other British R&B pioneers of those days (e.g. from London).
“Yes, that was strange, Southend being so close to London, that you could almost say it’s a suburb, and yet it
seemed to be miles and miles away. Southend was always quite isolated: our own little world apart”.
Only much later that isolation will be broken when musicians like Wilko Johnson say to be strongly influenced by Jupp.
Mickey feels flattered: “It was like the pupil complimenting his teacher”. From ’69 till ’72 he makes three albums
with his group Legend, filled with own compositions, ranging from creamy R&B to wonderful ballads which by all
means make it clear that this man doesn’t neglect his lyrics. Albums that don’t sell much. Musicians start families
and Jupp starts selling guitars and drum kits at the local music shop. Attempts, mainly pressured by people like
Wilko and Lee Brilleaux, to get a new band off the ground, seem to succeed at first. But after a year the only
result is that both the band and his marriage come to pieces. Mickey admits to have been a little “pissed off” in that period.
In ’78 he lands at Stiff because someone there makes up a compilation of the three Legend albums.
After the release of “Juppanese” he’s included in the Stiff tour, together with Jona Lewie, Lene Lovich,
Rachel Sweet and Wreckless Eric. A group of people in which he feels anything but at ease. “Mainly because of my age, yes.
The only one I could get along with was Rachel, that was a sort of father-daughter relationship.
But the rest: Eric was always drunk, Jona was weird and Lene ... she talked too much. Look, I can’t talk about music,
I like a song or I don’t, and that’s it. But them ... phew, for hours and hours”. At the question why he didn’t join
the rest to the States he raises his hands and answers, dead serious: “Christmas ... as simple as that.
It was Christmas and I had to do my Christmas shopping. And I’m not exactly fond of flying”.
After the Stiff failure he sends a number of demos to Godley and Creme. Mickey, who stopped buying
records after ’62, declares to be a great admirer of 10CC (“good songs, good lyrics”).
An album (“Long Distance Romancer”) produced by them, is the result. An album, at which Jupp’s versatility
emerges excellently, and that, despite a reasonable publicity – you may guess it already – doesn’t sell.
That is exactly why Chrysalis Records dumped him recently. “By chance I found out how much that
album cost: 28.000 pounds, just insane. I can make a good rock album for less than 5.000.
But they have to put you into an expensive studio at all costs. It’s their own fault”. His management, led by
the illustrious Procol Harum songwriter Keith Reid (who has Frankie Miller under his wing as well) is already
looking fanatically for a new record company at present. Mickey does not. You have only to look at him to see
that he is no rock star and will never be. “I’m standing outside the business.
I look at it like: ha ha ha (bends head-shaking across the table-edge). Of and on I get into it, to get out of it
again when I don’t like it anymore. I don’t need the rock business”. He always wrote his songs for himself
in the first place and still does. The need to record it on a piece of plastic diminishes more and more.
“After all I never earned a penny with those albums”. Artists like Gary Brooker, Nick Lowe and Dr. Feelgood
recorded his songs. It doesn’t bother him that all those people do succeed. “No man, I get such a great kick
when I’ve written a good song, a song that I like; I couldn’t care less what other people think of it.
That’s the only thing I’m living for. When I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore ... well, I dunno ... I’d rather die”.
At that moment he startles and looks at his watch. The gig’s about to begin.
Like blazes and visibly relieved, he takes to his heels.
“Thanks a lot” it sounds, from the corridor.
Thanks to Ron Bijnen for providing the article both as a scan and the translation.