Living in Manchester, I am supposed to “hate the Scousers”...but, despite being from Blackpool and living in and around Manchester for forty years, I spent the best ever three years of my life studying in Liverpool...so I love everything Scouse, even Jimmy Tarbuck. Naturally I jumped at the chance of interviewing Ian Prowse, who despite being a 'plastic Scouser' (he was born on The Wirral), has adopted Liverpool as his home for many, many years and now lives a stone's throw from Mathew Street. The former frontman of Amsterdam and Pele and now solo artist has been called 'The Scouse Springsteen' and lists the mighty John Peel as one of his early sponsors.

Having recently released compilation album 'The Story of Ian Prowse', and begun a tour as special guest of his chum and fellow Liverpudlian, the mighty Declan Patrick MacManus aka Elvis Costello, all was looking bright...until the world went dark and we were forced to stay at home. I grabbed Ian shortly after seeing him at the Blackpool Opera House and following the tour’s premature end.


PB: Okay, Ian, so let’s get straight down to it...tell us about how you were invited to tour with the legend that is Elvis Costello?

IP: We’ve been pals for a long time, almost twenty years. But I wouldn’t dream of asking Elvis for big favours. This came about because he really liked 2019’s 'Here I Lie' LP. It sort of followed on from that really. It couldn’t have come at a better time at any point in the past forty years since I first bought one of his records. Like it was meant to be one day.

PB: I went to the Blackpool gig on 9th March as a photographer. Despite the fact the Fun Police wouldn’t let me anywhere near the front of the stage, I was blown away by your show...and spent the rest of the night tweeting about it. You were “the support” so how did you manage to a) attract such a huge crowd and b) get them going crazy?

A) Yeah it was just lovely that the theatres were already 9/10ths full every time we went out to play. Elvis and his team were very generous getting the word out about us before the tour started.

B) Once presented with the opportunity we were like a ruthless musical shark. We went for the jugular in our thirty minutes. You got every aspect of what me, my band and my songs are all about.

PB: You may have thought that Blackpool Opera House was a theatre for Cannon and Ball and pantomine shows but did you realise previous performers on that stage includes Hendrix, Pink Floyd and The Move...and that was all on one glorious night?

IP: Yeah, I knew Hendrix had played there because there’s always a part of our gig where I reveal a dream I’d recently had. For Blackpool it was Hendrix who appeared to me like a vision, telling me what a wonderful old place the Opera House is. I always do my homework.

PB: The Blackpool gig was four days before shutdown, when the world went dark and all our lives changed forever. At what point did you realise that COVID19 was going to mean a complete shutdown of live shows and recording?

IP: It was lurking from early on the tour but the word from all organisers was we’d get to the end of the tour. All that changed in Manchester. The mood turned around within five minutes. We all knew than it wasn’t going to get to the end. We did get to play the Hammy Odeon as the last show though so I’m very glad about that, a lifetime dream realized for me.

PB: How are you and other musicians going to cope with access to income cut of and what effect do you feel it will have on your creativity?

IP: It’s very difficult for everyone because all work stopped overnight for all of us, and everything was gone.

Because I have a new album out I had a focus so we took the promo of it online where most of it happens anyway. We did a live show from my house playing people's favourite Ian Prowse songs. It was the most wonderful human reaction, so we’ve continued and will continue every Friday night until lockdown is finished. I need it as much as those who gather with me need it. It’s immensely heartwarming for all of us, joyous, sad, daft, irreverent, ad hoc and essential for me now.

PB: You are from Merseyside, which as we all know has been a nucleus of incredible talent over the years. Which of those great Scouse acts do you revere the most? (I know you won’t say the Beatles as that would be too easy!)

IP: I like them all. Many are friends these days. I’m very proud of the old place. Liverpool as a thing, almost a person, is a huge influence on all my music. If I have to name one I’ll say Digsy. Made bastard, incredible singer, outrageous songwriter, under rated.

PB: When I researched you before the Blackpool gig I read that all you needed was a big hit single, but didn’t you have a No 1 in South Africa? What was all that about?

IP: We were signed to Polydor who released records all over the world but didn’t keep particular tabs on them. Luckily for me a very good pal, John Higgy, had recently emigrated to South Africa and heard it on the Top 40 national radio countdown. He called me up demented with excitement. I didn’t believe him at first. He sounded drunk.

This presented itself with an opportunity to go there, cash in on the success, but the cultural boycott was still in place and free democratic elections had yet to take place. The MU would have barred us.

If you are a principled socialist, then know this: One day you will be tested on those principles. If you fail that test, every utterance you come out with after that is deeply suspect.

I didn’t fail the test. And unlike Queen, Elton and Rod I stayed at home.

PB: In Blackpool the crowd exploded when you broke into the epic ‘Does the Train Stop on Merseyside?’ That a very deep and obviously personal ballad about Liverpool. Did it take months to write?

IP: It took about twenty-five minutes! Honest.

PB: “McKenzie’s soul lies above the ground…” - Is that William McKenzie, the railway and canal guy who has a pyramid in a church up on Rodney Street? How come he became the focal point of the song?

IP: I wrote the song in a splurge one afternoon after reading the wonderful hokum ghost story about McKenzie and Old Nick, I’d always wondered about that pyramid. It’s a really odd grave. From that I asked myself, why is Liverpool at the centre of so many world events, and so much trauma and so much beauty? Why is it so different to the rest of England. Why am I so hopelessly in love with it?

PB: I was reading that John Peel had you down as one to watch! What was the connection there?

IP: Peelie was given a CD with forty Liverpool based acts on it by Phil Hayes who ran the Picket venue. He only picked out our song. Every time he played the song he couldn’t speak. He would get very emotional. He did that every single time. What an honour!

PB: When it’s all over in say September or October what are your plans ?

IP: All of my postponed dates are now rebooked so I’ll be out there doing my job, but with extra verve because we’ve all realized how lucky we’ve been down the years!

PB: And finally, as a registered Scouser, did Eric’s Club in Matthew St have any impact on your life or are you a teeny bit too young to have been touched by the greatest music establishment that has ever existed?

IP: Too young, yes, the music made by its inmates has had a huge effect on me though. 'Over the Wall' remains my favourite song ever out of Liverpool.

PB: Thank you.


The first and second two photos are by Andrew Twambley.
www.twambley.com











Related Links:

http://amsterdam-music.com/
https://twitter.com/ianprowse
https://www.facebook.com/amsterdamuk
https://www.facebook.com/ian.prowse.5


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