State is sitting on the top floor of the Clapham Grand in London, face to face with two of Sheffield’s finest exports – former Pulp frontman, Jarvis Cocker, and his one-time band mate and successful solo artist, Richard Hawley. They’re here to celebrate whisky-man Jack Daniel’s birthday, and they’ve brought a friend – none other than the legendary master of twang himself, Duane Eddy.
“This is as good as it gets for me – playing with Duane Eddy. It really doesn’t get any better.” From the off, Richard’s enthusiasm for the event is clear. Later in the evening, the trio are set to play a Tennessee-inspired set of rock ‘n’ roll after a performance by popstel-of-the-month, Ellie Goulding. Originally intended that they’d each play separate sets, Richard explains that it didn’t quite work out that way: “It was supposed to be more polarised but we all started playing together and it worked immediately. We have quite difference styles but it just fit. None of us wanted to shut up.”
The excitement is understandable, coming from a man whose father told him he’d be all right if he were half as good as Duane Eddy, and also from Jarvis who credits Duane’s music as being the ‘shorthand of song-writing’ but would a Grammy-Award winning rock ‘n’ roll instrumentalist who once usurped Elvis Presley from a ‘World’s Number One Music Personality’ list be quite as joyful?
The softly-spoken 72 year-old tells us that Richard ended up “ten times as good” as he was, and is visibly pleased with the project. “It’s been a big honour for me. I’ve had some fun, listening to these guys play, listening to what they’ve come up with. These two never fought for any spotlight. They’ve enjoyed this music from day one.”
Later in the evening, the three perform their own hits alongside some American-tinged tracks such as the Everly Brothers’ ‘I Wonder If I Cared As Much’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis Tennessee’ – which bizarrely also features Chas of Chas and Dave fame on the keys. Collaboration, says Richard, is like being good at conversation. “If someone’s talking to you all the time, you’re going to walk away. The art of conversation is extremely similar to music. You have to listen as much as you talk, listen even more.” Jarvis puts it simply: “You…think ‘could I add something to this?’ If not, you shut up.”