30 years ago: the Payola$' Paul Hyde talks up Hammer on a Drum

Thirty years ago tomorrow—on February 18, 1984the Payola$ played the PNE Gardens with opening act Darkroom. At the time the bandwhich also included guitarist Bob Rock, bassist Alex Boynton, drummer Chris Taylor, and keyboardist Christopher Livingstonwas basking in the success of its latest album, Hammer on a Drum.

That disc was produced with one of my all-time fave guitarists, Mick Ronson, and boasted four singles in “Where Is This Love?”, “I’ll Find Another” (Who Can Do It Right)”, “Christmas is Coming”, and “Never Said I Loved You” (a duet with Rough Trade’s Carole Pope).

If I recall correctly, I think I preferred the Payola$’ previous LP, 1982′s No Stranger to Danger, which Ronson produced entirely on his own, and also played and sang on. Everybody loves “Eyes of a Stranger”, right?

Besides the Ronson connection, the Payola$ had me mightily impressed at the time because another of my top rock heroes, Ronson’s buddy and bandmate Ian Hunter, sang backup on “I’ll Find Another”.

So when the time came to interview Hyde in the offices of A&M Records, I was definitely primed for some Hunter/Ronson anecdotes. Here’s a shortened version of the story that ran in the Feb. 17, 1984 issue of the Straight.

Your second album, No Stranger to Danger, was dedicated to Alex Harvey. Is that the sensational Alex Harvey?

Oh yeah, Bob and I are real big fans of his. He’s one of the best performers I’ve ever seen live in my life. I saw him about four or five times, and the first time was the only time I’ve ever gone absolutely out of my way to get backstage and meet somebody. I lied, and tried to fake a Scotch accent. I got right to the door of the dressing room and they asked me for ID, so I never actually did meet the guy.

He was backing up Slade at the time, around ’72. He just floored me, the guy was so magnetic and dynamic and completely in control. And it was a Slade audience–they were throwing stuff at Alex and booing–but he just stood there and delivered. I just thought it was fantastic.

About the new album, Hammer on a Drum. You recorded it in two stretches, with several months off in the middle.

Yeah, that’s just the way it happened. But as it happened, it was a good idea, because it’s easy to burn out if you take a month and a half and never see daylight. It becomes a bit hard on the system.

So breaking it up in two allowed us the leisure of listening to the first half for a while in the middle, and deciding if it needed changing. Also, when we went into the second half we had enough energy left to give it to the mix.

There was one song, “I’ll Find Another”, that you did a lot differently when you came back to it.

Yeah, it used to be called “Dancing With Another”. We did it for a year, and it just got so boring that the lyrics meant nothing to me anymore. I just couldn’t sing it with any sort of conviction. So when we found out that Ian Hunter was coming up we just changed it round completely, so that it was sort of a tribute to Mott the Hoople.

Hunter sang background on that song. You must have been excited about working with him.

Oh yeah, I’ve always wanted to meet the guy. And I’ve probably picked up more than I care to admit, vocally, from him. Because there was one period way back when I didn’t listen to anything else but Ian Hunter for a long, long time. His vocal style just went straight to my central nervous system, and I couldn’t help it. I probably wouldn’t do that with anybody else. It’s just that he sang the way that felt best to me, and I think my body said, “Take a little lesson from this guy”.

I see that on No Stranger to Danger you’ve got a song titled “Rose”. Ian has an old song called “Rose” as well.

He certainly does, and I think it’s one of the Top 10 rock and roll songs ever written. That’s why I called mine “Rose”, ’cause it’s about the same chick.

Mick Ronson produced the new Hammer on a Drum as well as No Stranger to Danger. Were his production techniques any different than on the previous album?

Mick tends to work through a sort of free-flow, grabbing-at-anything attitude–there’s no set plans for doing things. He goes by just whatever his heart feels is right.

Does that jibe well with the band?

Yeah. On the first album it was a bit of a problem because it’s hard to make a decision sometimes when you’ve got conflicting ideas. Like if Mick wanted to go one way, and Bob wanted to go the other way, and I didn’t know which way to go, then you’re stuck.

Bob Rock (middle) shares the console with the incredibly awesome Ronson.

So we decided before the most recent album that the three of us have a voting system, and that the majority would rule. But we never actually disagreed to the point that we had to take a vote.

Do you intend on working with Mick on the next album as well?

No. We’re going to use somebody else. We’re in contact with about five people, but I can’t say who it’ll be yet.

It would be nice to end this stroll down memory lane on a positive note, but that producer turned out to be schlockmeister David Foster, who took the band further away from rock ‘n’ roll with their next album, Here’s the World For Ya.

They shoulda stuck with Ronno, methinks.

By the way, Mick Ronson is one of those guys those jokers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame refuse to nominate. Feel free to call them up and voice your disapproval, or sign this petition.

Comments (6) Add New Comment
South Slope
I remember Mick Ronson sat in on keyboards with the Payolas/R&H - for an appearance on maybe the Variety Club Telethon - or a show at the Gardens - Payolas also played the West End Community Centre with Black Flag - crazy bill and not a bad venue. Who was Darkroom? Sounds like a Sam Feldman top 40 act gone original.
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A. MacInnis
Early Payolas were great - but as soon as they started getting radio airplay (and money) and making choices to increase the likelihood of getting more of the same, they sure went downhill fast. I still love that first EP and In A Place Like This, and No Stranger to Danger and Hammer on a Drum both have moments, but there are songs on both that make me wince, too, but they were clearly on a slippery slope at that point... and by the time they changed their name to Rock and Hyde... no, no, no. (Their comeback album from a few years ago was kinda cool, tho - tho' no one seemed to notice it much).
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Martin Dunphy
No Stranger to Danger was when Chris Taylor broke in his new set of Stacattos, if I'm not mistaken.
Their Doppler-bashing sound made "Eyes of a Stranger" for me.
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Steve Newton
...and Bob Rock would live to rock again--or at least churn out some kickass Ronson-style Les Paul licks--with Rockhead in the early '90s
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Coastguarder
No Stranger to Danger is one of my top 10 albums of all time. I pull it out and pop it on the turntable at least once a year and every time I am amazed at how fresh it still sounds. And Eyes of A Stranger is in the running for my favourite single of all time. I never get tired of hearing it and anytime it's on the radio I keep it on the station (air drumming my ass off of course). It really was too bad that they chose to constantly tinker with their image and name and sound chasing a fickle American audience. This unfortunately lead to the release of some very 'meh' material as the 80s turned to the 90s. I can understand the allure, but in my opinion they should have taken the same path the Tragically Hip did. Be Canadian superstars and if an American audience develops great and if not, you can still make a nice living selling out the Commodore for 5 nights in a row.
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melodie scoville
i`m a huge fan of the payolas and i could`nt get it the stores anymore. i would have to download from computer to get the songs onto disc 4 discs so i can listen to the payolas. i can even do the print outs like the payolas albums when i look it up on computer front and back. someone will have to teach me how to download 42 songs of the payolas as soon as possible. i`ve been listening to the payolas when i was teenager in the 80`s so i know how it`s like when i was on the dance floor at school in the evening they were 4 songs, stuck in the rain, it won`t be you,wild west,christmas is coming on the school dance floor i did`nt have dancing shoes so i had to go buy 2 pairs of dancing shoes they are metallic colours medium blue other one is medium green. i love my dancing shoes. i wished that music never ends. they alot of various songs in the 70`s and 80`s in school. i go dancing on tuesdays and thursdays weekly until graduation time
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