IN Glasgow in the early 1980s, while most musicians were jangling merrily on their guitars and flicking their floppy fringes, a mean, snarling beast by the name of James King & the Lonewolves stalked the fringes of the scene with a menacing blend of blues, country and garage rock, always ready to go for the jugular onstage – and off.
Looking back, King feels that their reputation for chaos “was more down to impatience rather than wilful self-destruction. We wanted the money right now. We didn’t recognise that we had to compromise.”
This volatility led to a revolving door of band members, including one Craig Ferguson, who was the band’s drummer for about a year from 1982-3. He left because, as King recalls, “we were due to play a gig and he said he couldn’t do it because it was his 21st birthday. Over the years we would bump into him in clubs, and he pretended he couldn’t recognise us!”
The band were signed to Swamplands, Alan Horne’s post-Postcard label, and worked with one of their heroes, John Cale, on an album which was never released. “It was really strange for the first couple of days,” says King. “We thought he was going to the toilet but he was marching out the studio to the pub across the road. He was very homesick for his family in New York. But we did have fun times socialising with him, taking him to parks in Fulham and doing Michael Jackson dances. He has a very weird sense of humour.”
Despite acclaim and exposure, including an appearance on Whistle Test, the group disintegrated in the mid-1980s. After a lengthy hiatus, during which King went back to college, attending Strathclyde University’s music course alongside the likes of Isobel Campbell and Aztec Camera’s Campbell Owens, he has reformed the band with original guitarist Jake McKechan and Joe Sullivan of King’s post-Lonewolves outfit Fun Patrol, and is currently working on a new album of old songs.
“We don’t want to be some band who come back from the 1980s like a corpse in a coffin, painted up for people to view,” he says. “We want to be viewed as a live entity, not as a tribute act. There’s no way we can go back to the way we were when we were younger but I think we have something to offer.” And what if Ferguson wanted to rejoin? “I don’t think he could handle the wage rise!” l James King & the Lonewolves will play Stereo, Glasgow, tonight.