8th January 1977
By Sheila Prophet of the Record Mirror
Liverpool Express have had the kind of break that every up and coming band dreams about – a nation wide tour with Rod Stewart.
“Our record company fixed it for us,” said keyboard player Roger Craig.
“They’re giving us a big push at the moment, and they reckoned the tour would be good exposure.”
We were sitting in the foyer of the Marble Arch Holiday Inn, the group’s base in London. Finding themselves with 10 minutes to spare before they had to set off for that evening’s gig, the other three members of the group had slipped out to the health food restaurant across the road. But Roger had bravely forsaken his breakfast to chat about the tour.
He seemed surprised at how well it had been going: “Naturally, we were apprehensive about it, but so far it’s been excellent. We haven’t had anything chucked at us – we haven’t ever been booed!
“It’s gone really well, especially in the smaller places like Manchester and Leicester. The only place that we haven’t been top happy about is Olympia. It was just a bit too big for us. While we were playing they kept the lights on at the back of the hall.
Normally, all you can see from the stage is a black space. But at the Olympia, we looked out and we could see people coming and going – really off-putting.
The band have encountered other problems as well. Like all the support groups, they’ve had to get used to being treated as second – class citizens.
“We haven’t been able to use our own lighting,” explained Roger. “We’re just using the equipment that’s already there.”
Playing as a support group has also meant they’ve had to change their act.
“When we were playing in smaller venues as the main attraction, we did a mixture of our own songs and other people’s,” said Roger. “We did Beatles songs, and some other old favourites. But this time round, we’re having to concentrate on our own numbers.
“We’ve learned a lot, though. Since the first three songs are the crucial ones. That’s when the audience are deciding what they think of you.
“After these three, they’re actually beginning to get involved, and from them on, it gets easier.”
Relationships between the two groups on a tour can often get a bit fraught – how had they been getting along with Rod and his band..?
“We haven’t really mixed at all,” he answered. “Up until now, we’ve played within travelling distance of Liverpool, so we’ve been going home after gigs. It means spending a couple of hours on the motorway every night, but we reckon it’s worth it. “The first couple of nights, we stayed around to watch Rod, but now we head for home as soon as we come offstage. He was good, but it’s really just the same show every night, isn’t it?
“We’re looking forward to the Scottish dates. We won’t be travelling all the way home from there. So we’ll have much more time to meet the other group. That should be fun!”
At that pont, the rest of the group came back.
Despite their heathly breakfasts, they were looking distinctly subdued. Roger explained that they were suffering from an overdose of festive spirit at our office party the night before.
“We ended up carrying Derek along Oxford Street in the middle of the night,” he laughed.
But hangover aside, the others seemed equally enthusiastic about the tour.
“The best thing about it is the audiences have been amazingly varied,” said Billy.
“Rod seems to be attracting people of all ages these days – which is great for us.
It’s all good practice for the group’s first major tour, which should be in the spring.
They’ve come a long way in the six months since they had their first hit with ‘You Are My Love’. Since then they’ve followed it up with ‘Hold Tight’ – a minor hit – and their new one, ‘Every Man Must Have A Dream’, currently leaping up the charts.
They’ve also just released their new album, ‘Tracks’ (tracks, express – get it?), which is in the much the same vein as the singles.
“Yes, it’s very poppy,” agreed Billy. “We recorded it over the past year, our next album will be recorded at one go, so it’ll be more of a whole…”
But that’s all in the future. At the moment, the group are too busy with the tour to worry about what’ll be happening in three months’ time.
Everything’s happening very quickly for them – in fact, as we go into ’77, it looks as if it’s full steam ahead for the Express!