Jim Sullivan’s Famous Quotes, Vol. 1: December 2019

The former Boston Globe rock critic digs through his back pages for his most memorable interviews

Jim Sullivan & Iggy Pop / Photo by Roza Yarchun

I’ve talked to a lot of rock ‘n’ rollers over my 40+ years of covering the turf on which they tread.

Backstage, in front of the stage, on the phone. Drinking. Not drinking. Serious. Playful. Full of themselves. Humble. And like many writers of my ilk (and generation), I’ve got stories. Here’s six. Some of what follows made it into published stories; other bits are out-takes. 

Take a guess as to who said or did what follows and then check the answers at the end of the piece. 


1. Which rocker said this to me during a phone interview?

Setting scene: It’s 1979 and I’m wrapping up this terrific half-hour interview. There was no specific allotted time. It was open-ended (those were the days), but I’d gotten great stuff and thought I’d taken up enough of his time. I politely say, “This has been terrific. I should let you go.” He responds: “No, I’m fine. I’ll stay and talk to you as long as you want. I’m downstairs from my hotel room, but there’s this chick in my room I’ve been trying to get rid of. I fucked her last night but she won’t go and I’m hoping if I stay here, she will leave.”  


2. Which rocker responded this way in 1978 when I was doing an in-person interview at his record company’s branch office?

Setting scene: I say, “There are people who’ve listened to your band’s music and allege that you’re misogynists” His response: “We’re not just misogynists; we’re misanthropes — we hate everybody.”


3. Which famous rocker-turned-country singer-guitarist-bandleader swore off what he used to do with this in 1984?

“Everywhere we go, people go crazy,” he said, talking about the response he and his country band were getting on tour. “I was very surprised they get off more on hearing fiddle than they do on hearing a rowdy rock ‘n’ roll solo. You’ve been hearing that for so long. Who cares? How many guitar solos can you play?! I’ve had it.”    


4. Which ever-hip avant-garde singer-songwriter told about his performance style this way during a 1999 interview?

“I do like to stomp and scream into the microphone while waving my hands. It allows me to vent my spleen enough, I guess, in what is considered a `safe’ environment, where nobody gets hurt.”  


5. Follow-up to the question to the above. Same person, same interview.

Setting scene: It had been 11 years since he’d toured America’s theaters and six since he released a new album. I asked “How have you been spending your time”” 

“Sheetrock, electrical, and plumbing,” he said.

Asked to clarify, he repeated: “All three — sheetrock, electrical, and plumbing. Factors related to my absence.” 

Fair enough. I ask, “Would you care to expand your account of the elapsed time?” He said: “Gold was discovered in California; then there was the Irish potato famine, the war with Mexico, and the death of Napoleon.” 


6. Setting scene: This punk band was making the climb from clubs to theaters. Those were still the days of punk vs. disco. Which two of them talked about disco this way in 1979, backstage before their concert at a Boston?

Punk rocker No. 1: “I hate disco music. It’s disgusting. It’s some kind of Communist plot to make our brains smooth, to take the crevices out of it. Each artist sounds the same. Everything sounds the same. It’s all fabricated. It’s moronic.”

Punk rocker No. 2: “I can’t make any sense of it. All it is is a bunch of loud music and freaks hoppin’ up and down.”  


Answers: 1) Iggy Pop, 2) The Stranglers Hugh Cornwell. (Many years later when I reminded him of that quote he was mega-embarrassed as to his jerkiness and apologized.) 3) Neil Young (then on tour with the International Harvesters, His stated position did not hold), 4) Tom Waits, 5) Tom Waits, 6) First quote: Johnny Ramone, second Dee Dee Ramone.


VIDEO: The Ramones on The Tomorrow Show 1981

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Jim Sullivan

Jim Sullivan has written for The Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix, the Boston Herald, Boston Common, the Christian Science Monitor, and Creem. Follow him on Twitter @jimsullivanink.

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