Music

Chas Hodges: The songs that made me

In a Big Issue series, we ask the great and the good to discuss the songs that have influenced them. Here's the selection from Chas & Dave legend, Chas Hodges

Chas Hodges

Having started his career in the 1960s working as a session musician and member of rock’n’roll instrumental group The Outlaws, Chas Hodges has since become best known as the piano-playing half of self-styled ‘rockney’ combo Chas and Dave alongside bassist David Peacock.

Their mixture of pub rock, boogie-woogie piano and music-hall humour scored them several UK top 20 hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s including Gertcha, Rabbit, Tottenham Hotspur’s 1981 FA Cup Final song Ossie’s Dream (Spurs Are On Their Way To Wembley) and Ain’t No Pleasing You. Chas and Dave even inspired the theme song to sitcom Only Fools and Horses, and would have recorded it too if they weren’t on tour in Australia at the time.

Chas and Dave even inspired the theme song to sitcom Only Fools and Horses

Despite Hodges currently receiving treatment for cancer of the oesophagus, the duo are still going strong, with a date supporting Phil Collins at BST Hyde Park in London set to be their comeback after several gig postponements in 2017. As he convalesces in the comfort of his allotment – gardening being his other great love in life alongside music – Chas discusses five of the songs that tell the story of his life and career, from the early rock’n’roll and skiffle numbers that inspired him to a huge hip-hop anthem upon which he’s very prominently sampled.

Lonnie Donegan – Bring a Little Water Sylvie

Chas Hodges: I obviously go back to what made me want to become a musician first. My mum was a great piano player, she brought us up around the piano, and she dearly wanted me to be a piano player. But I didn’t want to know when I was a kid because I was more interested in football and fishing and playing out in the street. All the kids I knew that learned to play the piano, I’d say to them, ‘You coming out to play football’ and they’d say, ‘Nah, got to go ‘av a piano lesson’, and I’d be like, ‘Bugger that’.

But one day I heard a record and it was Lonnie Donegan, and I just liked the sound of him strumming that guitar. I said to my mum, ‘I’d love to play guitar’ and she was so happy, she ended up getting me an old guitar from my uncle Alb over in Hackney – he had an old guitar. She actually learned to play it and taught me. So that record got me started, along with my mum’s encouragement, to becoming a musician.

Jerry Lee Lewis – Mean Woman Blues

CH: It wasn’t until I was in a skiffle group and I went to see Jerry Lee Lewis in 1958 – he came to me home town, the Edmonton Regal in Edmonton – and when I see him playing the piano I thought, ‘Well now I’ve got to be a piano player.’ I think that one of the first records that really made me see just how good a piano player he was was the B-side of Great Balls of Fire, Mean Woman Blues. Listen to that and it stands up to this day – if you want to hear rock’n’roll piano playing, put that one on.

To cut a long story short, after that the bass guitar was quite a new instrument and I was the first one to buy one in North London, and everyone wanted me in their band because you didn’t have bass guitars in 1959. The band eventually became The Outlaws with Ritchie Blackmore (later of Deep Purple) on guitar and by 1963 we were doing the rounds –we made a couple of hit records with Mike Berry, then we got asked if we wanted to back Jerry Lee Lewis when he was coming over to tour. So in 1963 we toured with Jerry Lee Lewis for a couple of months, and that’s when I came on leaps and bounds as a piano player, just watching him every night.

Eminem – My Name Is

My Name Is prominently samples Labi Siffre’s track I Got The…, upon which Hodges performed as a session musician.

CH: I think anybody who’s been sampled like that, it’s the same feeling. You do your session – it was fun, nothing special about it – get paid for it, and then it’s just one of them things that comes out of the blue. I don’t really think too much about it really. It’s not an achievement, you done your session, enjoyed it, you got paid, and someone nicked it. We didn’t get any money for it, but that don’t matter. That’s not something that sticks at the top of my mind at all. I still think of my highlights as being on the road as Jerry Lee Lewis’ bass player, listening to the master playing the piano.

I’ve never sat and listened to the Eminem song. But it don’t bother me much

I’ve never sat and listened to the Eminem song. But it don’t bother me much. We’ve had some people get more annoyed about it than I do. My idea of music is, as long as I can pay me bills, then I don’t want any more money. I’m doing okay now, I’m paying all me bills, what would I want more money for?

The Libertines – Don’t Look Back Into The Sun

The Libertines have spoken often of how Chas and Dave were a big influence on their music, and have performed shows with them.

CH: Now that is a big compliment – dead opposite for me to the Eminem thing. Pete Doherty said to me, ‘It was you, your band that made me want to play.’ Now that is one of the greatest compliments you can have. When I was a youngster I knew what I liked and I knew what I didn’t like. It was love – you hear a noise and you want to make that noise yourself. And that’s the greatest compliment when a young kid comes up and says something like that. And they do now and again. It’s great, great praise. To be honest I remember listening to The Libertines’ album, but I can’t remember a particular song. If you played them to me I’d pick one. Most of the stuff on my jukebox is rock’n’roll and jazz.

Fats Waller – Honeysuckle Rose

CH: Any of the old jazz stuff I love. My mum, she loved Fats Waller, but it was hard to get his records – we only had a couple of records of Fats. These days you can get everything – people are putting everything on YouTube. I love 1930s jazz, 1940s jazz, Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Christian. Put any of that on and it never fades, it never ceases to please. I’ve got Fats Waller on me jukebox. I’ve got a CD jukebox and it’s great, I know where all me CDs are. Fats Waller has done so many and they’re all good, but maybe Honeysuckle Rose is my favourite.

Funnily enough, now with the YouTube, I get music on me phone. My middle daughter Katie, she’s a fantastic piano player and musician, and she’s well into 1930s dance bands. She sends them over to me on the phone, ‘Have a listen to this, Dad’. So now I click on it, put the phone in me top pocket and walk around the allotment listening to somebody like Harry Roy or something like that. So that’s me latest listening on the allotment.

@ChasnHodges

Chas and Dave play BST Hyde Park supporting Phil Collins on June 30

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