Interview with Dave Parsons of Sham 69

By John Wisniewski  

1. So what are you doing now, Dave?

 At this very moment I’m doing a month’s road trip around Texas and New Mexico escaping the dreadful British winter which turns out to be a good choice as most of the West coast where I’d usually go has been having unseasonably bad weather. Band wise I’m still playing with Sham 69, we split up in 1980 and reformed in 1986, in between I formed a band with Dead Boys singer Stiv Bators called the Wanderers we made one album Only lover’s left alive and put out two singles, toured Britain and one US tour at the end of which I ended up in hospital in an isolation ward with Hepatitis, I guess my lifestyle hadn’t helped matters. With Sham, apart from different drummers it’s still the same line up as on our first album Tell us the truth, amazing that we’re still all alive lol, I’m 64 but Jimmy and Dave Treganna are both strangely enough 69. We play around 17 gigs a year including a lot of Festival gigs, this is a great way of doing it because it means we’re always really looking forward to the next gig and still have the energy to perform like 18 year olds, well close anyway lol. 


2. Could you tell us how Sham 69 formed?

In early 1976 Jimmy and I were both playing in different bands around the Hersham and Walton on Thames area, neither of us happy with our own band, a gig at the local hop was organised and we were both playing on the same bill. It was one of those meetings where we both clicked immediately, he loved my playing and songs and I loved his attitude, it was just obvious that we had to get together and form a new band. We initially brought Jimmy’s old bass player Albie along who was soon replaced by Dave Treganna and Mark Cain was a young drummer we literally just bumped into, we went around to his parents house to audition him where he’d set up his drums in the kitchen, after a few impressive rolles he was in and we were off and running.                                                    

3. Were you guys influenced by The Sex Pistols?

We were about a year behind the Pistols and the Clash but as we were forming the band we were starting to see bands like Eddie and the Hot Rods and Dr Feelgood coming through the bland music climate at the time and then The Sex Pistols came on on a late night show for the first time which just blew our minds and were coming from exactly the same place as us, then Jimmy and me went up to the Roundhouse to see the first British show by the Ramones, the timing for us couldn’t have been better. We became good friends with both the Clash and the Pistols and Steve and Paul would joined us on stage for encores at some gigs.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

4. What was it like recording “If the Kids are United”? Did you expect to have a hit in the UK with that single?

Yes we probably did at that point as we’d already broken the  top fifty with Borstal Breakout followed by a top twenty hit with Angels with Dirty Faces. We had 7 top twenty hits in the UK with the highest placing at No.6 on the main chart and number one on the Capital chart. Our first album Tell us the truth was recorded at Polydors house studio in London with the live side recorded between the Marquee and Vortex clubs, our second album That’s Life was done at Tittenhurst Park which was John Lennons house and studio at this point owned by Ringo, you can see bits of it on Lennons Imagine video, the third album Hersham Boy’s was done at Le Chateau de Heurville in Northern France and the fourth The Game at Super Bear in the French Alps near Nice we were in just after Pink Floyd had finished recording The Wall there.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

5. Sham 69 was featured in the punk film D.O.A. Did that appearance help the band?

It probably did in some way internationally but we were getting a lot of exposure all over at that time. It’s a shame that Jimmy didn’t really want to tour much outside the UK as it put us at quite a disadvantage compared to other bands that were willing to come out and tour, it caused quite a bit of friction at the time because I really wanted to come out here and do some serious touring, but Ke Se Ra.                                                                                                                                            

6. “Hurry Up Harry” was also a hit for the band.  Who wrote the band’s songs?

Me and Jimmy wrote all the songs luckily we’ve always found it quite easy to sit down and write together though sometimes I’d put a song together with scatt lyrics and then give it to him to write the final lyrics which he was great at, always having a strong connection with what was going on around us and the problems that were affecting other kids our age etc. It’s funny because Harry was really an afterthought, we thought we’d finished the album and were suddenly told it wasn’t long enough and we’d need another track, so I took the band in the studio with an idea I had floating around and quite quickly put down a backing track, Jimmy at this point was out on Ringo’s lake fishing so I took the track down on a cassette player and told him he needed to come up with some lyrics for it, he came back with the finished lyrics and put it down in the studio just before we sat down for supper, Harry was actually his pet dog an old English sheepdog.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

7. What is your opinion of the punk scene circa 1976 and ’77?

It was an absolute breath of fresh air and as I said earlier perfectly timed for us, I was only 17 at the time four or five years younger than most of my contemporaries and for the angry rebellious youth that I was it was dream come true. Also to be in London at that time was just magic everyone on the scene knew each other and you’d constantly be bumping into people you knew going places, recording or playing gigs or setting up a new magazine it was like we owned the place such a buzz.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

8. What did Sham 69 turn away from punk later on, to play more hard rock sound?

Funny but we didn’t think we were, part of Punk was being honest and when we reformed in 86 the easiest thing for us to have done would have been to have simply cloned what we’d already done, but things had moved on and Hip Hop etc was coming through with bands like the Beastie Boy’s etc so we decided to take the harder route, picking up on what was now going on around us but still with the same heart and honestly and integrity that made us Punk Rockers in the first place. Of course we came in for a lot of stick from some quarters for doing that, but in the end I think people understood and got it, punk wasn’t about entrapment it was about being free to do what ever you wanted without fear of ridicule or whatever anybody else might think and I think in the end if you’re honest and sincere people will eventually see that, we’ve always thought of ourselves as Punk Rockers and proudly still do to this day.              

9. What lies in the future for you, Dave?

I’ve put two solo albums out Reconcile and Unstable and I’m in the process of writing a third but my main passion Sham 69 is still going strong and better than ever, people do need to watch out as there’s a fake band going out using our name playing smaller gigs, there is not one original member in that line up. Other than that I have four acres which I love looking after and keeps me fit and whenever possible I love to travel and see as much of the world as I can.