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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Robyn Hitchcock Interview

For more than 30 years, Robyn Hitchcock has been writing twisted, unexpected pop songs -- first for the Soft Boys, later for himself. Tonight the 54-year-old plays T.T. the Bear's Place in Cambridge with the Venus 3, a band that includes REM guitarist Peter Buck. The group also played on his most recent album, 2006's "Ole! Tarantula." We spoke with Hitchcock by phone from New York City.


Q This song, "(A Man's Got To Know His Limitations) Briggs," raises a question for me. Who is
Briggs? I'm worried about him.

A Have you seen that Dirty Harry movie, "Magnum Force"? That's one of the characters.

Q Of course. I knew the line. I guess I forgot the lieutenant. You're a fan?

A Well, I've seen the film, really by accident. Six times without ever meaning to. I don't watch a great deal of television, but it just sank into my consciousness and took root. I watched it in German. I got people to pirate it, and I just began to find a world there.

Q You also do a tribute to Arthur Kane, the late New York Doll.

A I saw the movie [the 2005 documentary "New York Doll"] and just thought it was really poignant. It encapsulate s his life like a firefly in a jar , and you see the cycle he went through. On a curve of decadence, falling through a window, finding Jesus, and getting a call from Morrissey to join the reformed Dolls. And going back there and being a rock star again for one moment and bang, two weeks later he's dead of leukemia.

Q You've worked with Peter Buck and Gillian Welch, even John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. Who have you not worked with that you'd like to work with?

A Brian Eno. I first saw him in 1967, when he came to my school. People like him would come in with their blue sunglasses and blow up helium balloons, and we'd write messages on them and send them into the sky. I'm sure he's incredibly expensive, but he's somebody I would love to work with.

Q How about Paul McCartney? I'd pay to hear that.

A If Paul were to walk in and say, "Let's go," I'm sure I would. But I don't think he does stuff like that. If Ringo Starr walked in and wanted to play drums, I wouldn't say no.

Q So in just about everything I read about you, you're compared to Syd Barrett. I like Syd, but he made, what, a few albums and then spent the next 35 years riding his bike and gardening.

A He was a really big influence. I don't know how much I sound like him these days, but I love his stuff. I recommend anyone check out those records. I think he's up there with Bob Dylan even though Dylan has produced a life's work.

Q Are there songs you actually get tired of, and sort of beg off playing live ?

A We've started doing "Balloon Man" again, but I haven't done it regularly since 15 years, since the end of the Egyptians. "Queen Elvis" I do fairly regularly, but there's no song I do every night.

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