Remembering The Chords Book – An interview with Author Ray Butler

Remembering The Chords Book – An interview with Author Ray Butler

The Chords are a 1970s British pop group, commonly associated with the 1970s mod revival. They were one of the more successful groups to emerge during the revival period. However surprisingly there is not many books depicting their journey and accomplishments as well as celebrating the impact they had on the British music industry. That is until now….. Ray Butler is compelling a book dedicated to the band with fan contributors from all across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. I am also very excited to have contributed, so we caught up with Ray as the release date approaches to find out more about the book and his reasoning for starting the project and more.

It obvious that your inspiration for writing the book was ignited by your love of ‘The Chords’. When you first discovered Them what was it that resonated with you about the band and their music?

I was late to the party when it came to discovering in The Chords it wasn’t until the ‘So Far Away’ album in fact and not long after they disappeared…but wow, what a sound. It resonated with me on so many levels the first thing was the drive, the catchy, sing-along style … almost chanting, if you like. Then there was the drumming adding a real punch, making Billy’s scathing vocals really hit home…. but most of all I …. related to the lyrics cynical… scalding and about social Injustice. So the whole sound really connected with me in a big way

Why was it important to compile a book dedicated to remembering ‘The Chords’ and how did the idea come about?

It was because of their short lifespan and how just how good they would have got me thinking……we don’t hear about them. There are not any books on them. You had this energetic band, from my area, from south London bursting onto the scene, saying all the things I wanted to say as a disgruntled teenager….then as quick as they arrived they were gone.
There are a series of books called ‘The day I was There’ and I contributed to the one on the Jam. I wrote about seeing them when they recorded the ‘BBC in concert’ way back in 1981 and that’s when it first dawned on me that there weren’t any books on my favourite band, The… Chords nor was there likely to be in the future. They were only in existence for the 18 months, but they were brilliant. So as a graphic designer and having worked in advertising for nearly 30 years I thought if the big publishers would not do it then I will. After all they deserve the recognition and realise in 2020 was the 4th of their album everything just line-up

Has the end result altered from the original idea and concept behind the book?

It’s unrecognisable from the original idea and I’m glad it has evolved the way it has. It took on a life of its own. To begin with I thought I would gather the memories of the Chords fans from the UK and if I was lucky one member of the Chords might write something, as it turned out all members of the band of kindly written something for it. Early on I was talking with her ex colleague in Norway about the band and I was acutely aware that the new wave movement, punks, mods were probably a British Movement so when they told me that The Clash had performed in Norway and had been shut down by the authorities because they were too loud …in fact straight after they banned loud music. So that got me curious about whether other countries embraced new wave, mods, punks and loud music…. this quest lead on to many countries and international fans got involved …… and then I explored bands that supported the Chords…the fanzine writers ……..authors journalists from way back in the day….. photographers…. key figures from Polydor…… it just went on and on and I am really pleased it did

How would you describe the band’s sound and in your eyes what makes them stand out against other bands of the 70’s mod revival?

So here’s the thing, I discovered while compiling the book that their sound is undefinable……… people would say they are ‘mod with an edge’ or ‘punks in parkas’ or ‘new wave’ basically unique, a sort of Clash meets The Who and that was the appeal for me….. they were energetic but not anarchic, the lyrics protested but I didn’t rant….. they had complexity, lyrically and musically…. yet they still maintained a raw edge to them …..other bands either sounded predictable, simplistic or just similar to one another.

The book features many contributors such as musicians, bands, photographers, writers, record companies and fans from across the world new and old. What was the most surprising submission from contributors you discovered?

Funny enough it’s a story that centres around the making of ‘So Far Away’ album . There was a buzz on the door and a bloke asks if he can see Chrissie, apparently Chrissie Hynde was at the studio also recording …..and so the band says ‘hang on’ and closes the door on Ray Davies ……… the greatest songwriter in British history !!
But all was forgiven when they realised and he even listen to their album being made.

What challenges or difficulties have you faced compiling the book and how have you overcome them?

I thought the production would be the most difficult part and I did have a major disaster halfway through….. my laptop died on me and I lost everything……. fortunately I had just started the backup to the cloud…….. that great cloud in the sky! (Mwah)
No, the main difficulty was creating balance for each member of the band…as some fans raved about Buddy and his drumming and others raved about Chris and his songwriting . There was also much praise for Billy kip and many great comments made about each of them…….. but it’s not about how many name checks each person got ……. it’s about the overall love for the band that matters

Has the ‘The Chords’ been supportive of the project and what was their reaction to your ambitions behind compiling the book?

Like I said the whole band really got behind the project but like most bands they have had their disagreements in the past and I was adamant from the offset that the book would concentrate on the bands talents and would only feature positive comments. It is after all, a tribute to them …..
the band agreed and it was the main reason it has worked so well and even has the books structure changed and evolved they all adapted accordingly so yes incredibly supportive.

When will the book be available to purchase and where can we get our hands on it?

Ok, so from the 1st July I will be taking pre-orders via that ‘Remembering the Chords’ website via Facebook. On the website there will be payment details and that will be running throughout all of July.

Funny enough some fans can’t wait and I have unofficially kept a pre-pre-order list of those that have expressed an interest but there is no need to worry about not getting a copy because it is self-published, so I placed the print order according to the pre-order numbers…that way there is no waste and no disappointment …..the only thing is the wait from July to September when the books are sent out. I opted for top quality paper with a stitch spine in UK Royal hardback……. a real quality piece

Can we expect an official launch party or book signing to promote the books release?

I had thought about a sort of launch perhaps in an independent record shop or mod outlet but in honesty apart from the coronavirus putting paid to that, is the fact that I am printing to order – so I’m trying not to over print. I will probably order 120 to 300 depending on the demand with 10 extra but if there are any more request after July then perhaps I will do a second print run who knows.

I will also be signing the first 60 pre ordered in July.

For more details and to pre -order your copy click HERE

Words by Johnny Bradley
Pics by Ray Butler

Copyright © Mods Of Your Generation, 2020, All Rights Reserved. Image Credit Ray Butler . No part of this review may be reproduced without the permission of the authors.

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