Norman Watt-Roy

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Norman Watt-Roy
Watt-Roy singing into a microphone onstage
Watt-Roy performing live at The Water Rats, in 2011
Background information
Birth name Norman Joseph Watt-Roy
Also known as Normsferatu
Born (1951-02-15) 15 February 1951 (age 65)
Bombay, India
Origin Harlow, Essex, England, United Kingdom
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • composer
Instruments
  • Bass guitar
  • vocals
Years active 1967–present
Labels Stiff
Associated acts

Norman Joseph Watt-Roy (born 15 February 1951) is an English rock musician who first rose to fame during the late 1970s, during the punk and new wave era of rock music. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Watt-Roy has been the bass player for Ian Dury and the Blockheads and before that of The Greatest Show on Earth.[1]

Early life[edit]

Norman Joseph Watt-Roy was born on 15 February 1951, in Bombay, India. In November 1954, the Watt-Roy family, including Norman, his older brother Garth, and his sister, moved to England. They settled in Highbury, North London, where Norman went to St Joan of Arc Primary School, Blackstock Road. When Norman was eight, the family relocated to Harlow, Essex. At the age of ten, he had been shown some guitar chords by his father, and played in some school bands with his older brother Garth, who started playing in 1961, on the lead guitar. Norman left high school at the age of 15 and briefly studied art at Harlow Technical College, before moving back to London.

Early band work[edit]

In early 1967, Norman Watt-Roy formed the band The Living Daylights with his brother Garth and released a single on the Philips label called "Let's Live For Today" (April 1967) and did regular gigs in venues such as The Angel Blues Rooms in Edmonton, London. In 1968, Norman and Garth Watt-Roy formed a nine-piece soul band and toured US military bases in Germany, backing American soul singers such as Sonny Burke and played a summer residency at the Maddocks Club in Spain.

By this time the band was known as The Greatest Show On Earth and by 1969 had won a recording contract with Harvest. This led to the release, in February 1970, of the single "Real Cool World", which was a hit in Europe, reaching #1 in Switzerland. The band's debut album Horizons was followed by a second album The Going's Easy, both issued in 1970, and another single "Tell the Story".

Pre-Blockheads[edit]

In 1972, Watt-Roy joined then band Glencoe and met guitarist John Turnbull. The quartet released two albums Glencoe and The Spirit of Glencoe along with three singles and four recorded John Peel radio sessions before breaking up, and in 1974 got together with keyboardist Mick Gallagher to form the nucleus of a band which, with the addition of drummer Charlie Charles, would become Loving Awareness (managed by Radio Caroline guru Ronan O'Rahilly). It was while during a session with Charles for a friend in 1976 that they met both Chaz Jankel and Ian Dury and went on to play on the album New Boots and Panties!!, which was released on the Stiff label.

Ian Dury and the Blockheads[edit]

Main article: The Blockheads
John Turnbull and Watt-Roy performing live at The Water Rats, in 2011

The Loving Awareness quartet were later to join up with Jankel and Dury for the first Stiff Tour of UK and became known as Ian Dury and The Blockheads. Under the management of Andrew King and Peter Jenner, the original managers of Pink Floyd, Ian Dury and the Blockheads quickly gained a reputation as one of the top live acts of new wave music. They released two more albums on Stiff and a bevy of singles, achieving a UK #1 in 1979 with "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick".

It was when Jankel was replaced for a time in 1980 by Wilko Johnson that a rapport between Watt-Roy and Johnson resulted in Watt-Roy becoming a regular member of Johnson's own band by 1985.

Other work[edit]

During the 1970s and 1980s, Watt-Roy did session work, appearing on albums such as Nick Lowe's Jesus of Cool, Rachel Sweet's Fool Around and Jona Lewie's single "You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties". He also made an appearance on The Selecter's 1981 album Celebrate the Bullet and played on The Clash's Sandinista! album along with fellow Blockhead Mick Gallagher on keyboards. Watt-Roy performed on the Sandinista! tracks recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York, including "The Magnificent Seven", "Hitsville U.K.", "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe", "Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)", "Charlie Don't Surf" and others. Watt-Roy also played bass on their Cut the Crap recordings. Topper Headon said in a recent interview that it was Watt-Roy who played bass on "Rock The Casbah" which featured on the album Combat Rock.

In 1983, Watt-Roy provided basslines for the Frankie Goes to Hollywood single "Relax" during a session which included Blockheads John Turnbull, Mick Gallagher, and Charlie Charles. This version however, was not used for the final release of the song. In 1984, he teamed up with Gallagher again for Wreckless Eric's Captains of Industry 1985 album A Roomful of Monkeys.

In 1984, he provided bass on all tracks to the Who's Roger Daltrey's solo album, Parting Should Be Painless[2] on which had one minor hit single "Walking in My Sleep" which featured Watt-Roy and Ian Dury in it's music video.

In 2001, Watt-Roy completed sessions with members of Madness, with whom he sporadically joined for live work at the time, and the ex-producer of Depeche Mode, who had recorded him jamming with drummer Steve Monti with plans to sample the results. Since then he has found work with Nick Cave on Cave's solo shows, without the Bad Seeds, and continued as bass player for Wilko Johnson.

He guested on Viv Albertine's The Vermillion Border (Cadiz Music) in 2012 and in 2013 released a solo album, Faith & Grace, also on Cadiz Music, with guests including former Blockheads drummer Dylan Howe.

Discography[edit]

The Greatest Show on Earth[edit]

  • Horizons (1970)
  • The Going's Easy (1970)
  • The Greatest Show on Earth (1975)

The Blockheads[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Blockheads celebran 30 años de su hit "Rhythm Stick" con nuevo disco". Emol.com. 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  2. ^ "Parting Should Be Painless: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  3. ^ "Music - Review of The Blockheads - Where's The Party?". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 

External links[edit]