ARTHUR Billingsley was carving out a decent career for himself as the main man with country psychobilly act the Blubbery Hellbellies in The 1980s – before a chance meeting with a German musical legend led to him returning to his punk roots.
As Arturo Bassick, Arthur had played bass guitar with London outfit The Lurkers on their first two singles, Shadow and Freak Show, as well as contributing to their debut album, Fulham Fallout.
But when the Hellbellies were plying their songs like My Baby She’s as Fat as Me and I Don’t Wanna Be Thin at a festival in Dusseldorf, he met Campino, frontman of German legends Die Toten Hosen (The Dead Trousers) and they started talking about punk.
“I told him I used to be in The Lurkers and he said ‘You must be Arturo’,” recalls Arthur. “He seemed really impressed and said he would love to see us and could we play in Dusseldorf?
“By this time The Lurkers hadn’t played for ages, but I got in contact with the old members Pete Stride, Nigel Moore and the drummer Esso.”
Original singer Howard Wall was unable to rejoin but the gig went ahead – and was a huge success.
“The gig went so well that we carried on and Die Toten Hosen financed a comeback album in 1988,” says Arthur. “Then Pete left and shortly afterwards Nigel followed him – but I’d given up on a successful gigging band to start The Lurkers over again and I didn’t feel I should have to give up just because they didn’t want to do it. So I carried on.”
Stride and Moore later reformed another version of the band, The Lurkers: God’s Lonely Men and eventually recruited female singer Danie Centric to record new material – but Arthur carried on separately, relying on old hits like the early singles plus Love Story, Ain’t Got A Clue and Just Thirteen.
“Pete doesn’t like the fact that I carried it on but he hasn’t played a gig in years – he hates gigging,” he says. “I love it because I get drunk and have a good time.
“Anyway, I haven’t got enough money to stop. I won’t be able to retire, I also play bass for 999 these days and I’ll have to carry on until I drop down dead. I can’t get a proper job. Can you imagine the interview? ‘I haven’t had a job since 1982 and I have no discernible skills’…’Oh you’re just what we’re looking for’…”
Arthur, who now lives in Durham, explains that he left The Lurkers in November 1977 after about 40 gigs, saying: “I wanted to do my own thing and started playing guitar in Pinpoint, which was a lot more serious with political lyrics.
“I was 21 or 22 and I thought I had a lot to say about the state of things. The Lurkers liked the New York Dolls and The Ramones – and I did too – but they just wanted to play poppy rock and roll really, or bubblegum pop really.
“I was writing about the state of the world, anti-government sort of stuff, nuclear weapons, the human condition really – stuff that people still write about.”
Nowadays, his social conscience has led to him rescuing ex-racing greyhounds at his home in the North East.
“I love it up here, I don’t really like big cities, they’re expensive and full and dirty,” he says. “Also I have the space here for my greyhounds. I got into them maybe 30 years ago and they need a lot of rescuing.
“It’s so cruel, that game. Once they can no longer race people just hit them over the head with a shovel, people do awful things to them if they don’t make the grade or have finished racing. I feel sorry for them.
“I’ve only got four at the moment, but I’ve got a yard and I have four sofas – they have one each… I’m on the floor!”
Arturo Bassick brings the latest version of The Lurkers – with himself on lead vocals and bass, Dave Kemp on guitar and Craig Casson on drums – to the Fiery Bird in Woking, on Friday 18 October.