in Melody Maker
by Carol Clerk about Stiv and Michael Monroe, 1985
Bator and Mike Monroe... together? Yes, it's true. Carol Clerk is
in at the beginning of a wacky new partnership.
Stiv Bator: "There's an old saying in the American Mid-West that whoever
New Year's Eve with, you spend the rest of the year with."
This New Year's Eve, Stiv Bator bumped into an old friend, the glamorous Mike
Monroe of Hanoi
Rocks. Together, they set off on a round of festive celebrations, starting at the home of
Police drummer Stewart Copeland and eventually winding up at Stiv's flat in the
Ladbroke Grove area of London. Much later that same night, Mike and Stiv picked up guitars and began to play.
Thus began an unlikely liaison that would finally guide Monroe into the first
steps of a
new solo career, a liaison that, true to the traditions of the MidWest, will carry on
at least until the end of 1985.
WE arrive at the Bator residence, now also the home of Mike Monroe, at eleven
morning to find the chaps in the middle of getting up. We take seats by the table in the
centre of a large, comfortable sitting room that's strewn with all the paraphernalia,
posters and memorabilia you'd expect from two rock'n'rollers in a flatshare. Ziggy the cat
wanders inquisitively round the sofa while Stiv darts about making coffee, switching
videos on and off, playing bits and pieces of tapes and generally entertaining myself and
the dentist weary Blackmore.
Michael ,as he now wishes to be known, has just come out of the shower.
He flits around the flat, trying on one shirt, then another, then another one again,
interrupting the morning's make-up routine to race in and out with a photo album for our
perusal, a new guitar with a personalised neck, a copy of the recent Jonn Fogerty album
for the record deck. It's well after noon by the time Michael and Stiv are ready to settle
down and spill the beans about this most unusual pairing of talents - truly the Beauty
and the Beast of the Eighties.
When Michael and Stiv first started singing, playing and writing together it
was by way
of a hobby. But now that Hanoi Rocks have split, Michael intends to use the joint
compositions, as well as some of his own, as the basis of a solo set. He's currently in
the studio with Stiv, working on ideas for the first demo tape. And although it's too early
yet to be detailed about the material that, after all, is in its infancy it's
likely that a gentle ballad entitled "It's A Lie" will be one of the first tracks to go down.
This one features Michael and Stiv on both vocals and guitars. Having heard
performed live in the privacy of their front room, I can confirm that the two voices, in
harmony, are more compatible than you might imagine. Both singers are capable of
setting aside the standard "rock" approach in favour of an effectively softer delivery.
first found this out on New Year's Eve," said Michael, bracelets sparkling
wrists as he paused to readjust the angle of his cap. "We were singing 'The Last
Year' (a Bator song) the voices sounded real good, and that's when we got the idea
that we could work together."
Shortly afterwards, Stiv's band Lords Of The New Church (which, incidentally,
not be affected by his collaboration with Michael) went into the studio to record their
infamous sendup of "Like A Virgin". Stiv, originally, was having some difficulty with
his vocal arrangement.
came into the studio with me and we stayed there for about 12 hours getting
the hang of it," recalled Stiv, crossing one ridiculously leg over the other. And it was
Michael who guided me through it. I ended up doing things I'd never even thought of,
hitting notes I didn't know I could hit." This feeling, that they could each test and
stretch the other's abilities, added to the potential of the partnership.
Their output of songs increased substantially when Michael
moved into Stiv's flat in April ("I went out on tour, gave him the
keys to feed the cat and he moved in" Stiv) and
intensified when, later in the year, Michael decided to leave
Rocks really finished when Razzle died," he reflected,
dabbing at his fingernails with a pretty, glittery polish. "The band
meant so much to me that I wanted to see if it could keep going.
At first it seemed like it was going to work, but in the end, I had
to face up to the fact that it didn't feel the same."
wasn't the same magic there. There was something
missing. Hanoi Rocks had always been like a family before, but
then it started feeling like just a band. Holding auditions and
things like that... it felt real weird having some stranger standing
felt good once I decided to leave because I knew I was right. I couldn't do
didn't feel was right. You've gotta have a heart for it, otherwise it's not worth it. I felt if
I'd gone on with Hanoi Rocks, I would've been cheating myself and the fans. I'm not
interested in money and success. For me, the attitude has to come first."
music I'm doing now is music that comes naturally. I really feel for the songs.
very exciting. It's fun, it's new, it's something I've never done before. I'm taking things
as they come, seeing how they work out, taking it easy. If I started worrying about
things, it would drive me nuts. I'm not rushing into anything. I want to do it slowly so it
turns out just the way I want it."
an outlet for both of us," declared Stiv. "There's no role-playing,
no pressure, no
deadline. It's good for Michael because he's able to take control of the music. There
doesn't have to be any compromise." The possibllities of the new material have already
impressed no less a person than Miami Steve Van Zandt who recently flew over to play
with The Boss at Wembley and to produce the Lords' forthcoming single ; a cover
of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Hey Tonight" backed by a TV Smith song called "The
already known Steven for two or three years," explained Stiv, emerging
kitchen with another tray of coffee. "And then the last time the Lords were in New York,
he came to one of our gigs and did the encore with us. I said to him afterwards 'Oh, by
the way, we were recording a live album tonight'. He says 'You prick'. We met up a
couple of days later and hung out and he says 'I wanna produce the live album'."
then Miles (Copeland, Lords manager) decided to hold the live album back until
around next Christmas. He now wants to put out a compilation called 'Killer Lords'."
(That compilation, released in a few weeks time, just after the single, includes
like "Gun Called Justice", previously only available as the Bside of a European
single "When Blood Runs Cold" ,and a remix of "Dance With Me".)
As a result of the changes of plan, Miami Steve selected to produce the single.
Smith had written 'The Lord's Prayer' for us," continued Stiv with a typically
stare, "and Steven came round here to help arrange it on the night he met Michael.
Michael and I had been trying to learn the harmonies to 'You've Really Got A Hold On Me'
and we couldn't get it. Steven told us how to do it, and we ended up doing three-part
harmonies on it. That's what started it off, the rapport between Steven, Michael and me."
had a real nice vibe from him," added
Michael, twisting at the rings on his fingers. "I played him about three of my songs, and
he specially liked 'It's A Lie'. I met him the next day and he wanted to go shopping. I
took him and his wife to a few places like Kensington Market, and I met him again
several times after that when he was in the studio with the Lords and I was in the next
room practising my sax."
Stiv took up the story: "When Steven was leaving, he said to Michael 'Send
me some of
your tapes. I'd like to listen to them and help you out, maybe with arrangements or
whatever'. Steven, if he likes somebody, will help out if he can but if he doesn't like a
person, no amount of money in the world will persuade him to work with them."
Michael has always been a great admirer of Miami Steve. I well remember his
at the Status Quo Crystal Palace gig last summer: he'd rushed all the way across
London after a radio interview to see Little Steven and the Disciples Of Soul, and missed
them by five minutes.
Stiv is particularly struck by the sequence of events since then: "Michael
has only ever
had three different posters on his bedroom wall. One is Hanoi Rocks, one is the Lords,
and one is Little Steven. The way that everything has worked out is like fate,
everything falling into place at the right times, pushing us into it all."
What the fates have in store for Michael Monroe is not yet clear. He says himself
never expect anything", and although he's thinking vaguely of a break in New York later
in the year, he's not looking very much further ahead than the current demo tapes
which will be submitted for consideration by his former record company CBS.
There are no immediate plans for live gigs, and he's doubtful of ever finding
band that could offer the closeness he shared with Hanoi Rocks.
His residency in the studio involves himself on vocals, guitar and bass ("I
anything!"), Stiv on vocals and guitar, and a Linn drum. There's also the possibility of
some contrubution from Lords' guitarist Brian James.
Stiv, with the Lords, has the year fairly well mapped out. The group are busy
negotiating a new record deal, having left manager Copeland's IRS label, there are tours
of Spain, Japan and America on the books, and a Hammersmith Palais gig on August 11.
In the more immediate future, Stiv and Michael are preparing to record a duet
release in Scandinavia and Japan.
Neither are ready to disclose its identity. "It might be a cover,"
hedged Stiv. "I think we
might call it 'Prancing In The Street'!"