Making new music strikes Chord with songwriter Pope

IN 1980 The Chords were leading lights of the British mod scene, hitting the Top 50 with a string of hit singles and touring the world, but they burnt out after just one Top 30 album, So Far Away.

Now the man who wrote songs like Now It’s Gone, Maybe Tomorrow and Something’s Missing is back with a new version of the band, The Chords UK, a clutch of new songs and a new attitude.

Chris Pope says the band fell out of favour because he refused to stick to the mod straitjacket, but the emergence of internet has allowed his music to gain a new lease of life.

The Chords UK

“The first album, So Far Away, was kind of crash bang wallop and it did really well, put us on the map, but do you just want to repeat that?” he asks.

“People didn’t accept the way I wanted to go with it, but by mid-1981 I wanted to move on and do other stuff. People weren’t listening because they thought we were of a certain genre and should stick with it. For me, it was first and foremost about the music, not fashion.

“In any case, fashion-wise things moved on to new romantic scene and I didn’t fancy that.”

The Chords limped on for a while with former Vibrators frontman Kip Herring replacing original singer Billy Hassett, but success eluded them and there was no second album.

Chris formed a band called Agent Orange but any fledgeling promise was killed off when it had to change the name because it was the same as that of an existing American band. By the 1990s he had to get “a proper job” but saw his chance to get back to what he loved via the internet after the turn of the millennium.

“Thirty years ago it was all corporate and without a major label you just couldn’t do it,” Chris explains. “But now you can get music out there without a record company, which is great for me.

“In the 1980s, if you made a demo, it just sat in your drawer because once you’d sent it to the major record companies there was nowhere else to go. It’s healthier now – it doesn’t sell like it used to and it’s a struggle and frustrating when people just stream it, but you can get it out there for people to hear.

“I’d love to still be in the NME and on Top of the Pops but things have moved on.”

The Chords UK now play around 40 gigs a year, mixing and matching Chords originals with Chris’ newer songs which feature on recent albums like Take On Life and last year’s Nowhere Land.

“The Chords did seven singles in 18 months and I still like playing them because people want to hear them and I wrote them, but I love playing the new stuff too.

“It’s quite weird playing stuff you wrote 40 years ago alongside something you wrote three minutes ago but I like it all. I’m not really tempted to just go down the purely nostalgic route like so many others do these days. I’d rather do what I do, making new music.

“Instead of selling 10,000 albums, people just download it or stream it but I’m still able to go out and play and enjoy it.”

The Chords UK will headline the 12-hour Punk Valentine event at the Fiery Bird in Woking, which kicks off at lunchtime on Saturday 16 February. Also on the bill will be Finn Panton’s Seeds of 77, Phoenix Chroi, Stone Heroes, Jellly, Kilter, Holy Faction, The Anoraks, The Glorias, Plague UK, Rage DC, Nancy Boy and Broken Idols.

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About the Author: Barry Rutter