Eternal cynic that he is, Billy Childish is just the man who would name an album Failure Not Success, though by any creative standpoint, he’s been as consistently successful as any man in rock & roll since the late 1970s. How many people have made over 150 albums, and can honestly say the significant majority of them are actually good? Just as remarkably, after more than 45 years of making music, Childish hasn’t come close to losing his touch, and 2023’s Failure Not Success, cut with his combo Wild Billy Childish & CTMF, is practically a catalog of what he does well. AllMusic
New studio album by Billy and CTMF! Featuring Billy at his song writing best! Includes covers of Richard Hell and Jimi Hendrix songs, along with a newly recorded version of ‘Bob Dylan’s Got a Lot to Answer For’! We asked Billy a few questions about this mighty fine album…
Great album title! It will seem counter-intuitive to some but why do you favour failure over success?
If the Pop Rivets (the first group I was in in 1977) had been “successful” in the formal sense, then it would have been a disaster – no learning about sound, growth, and independence. Luckily, we considered ourselves successful from the outset by doing what we wanted the way we wanted. We believed the hype of punk rock – do-it-yourself and lived it, unlike the “successful” leaders of the movement. I’ve always wanted small gigs where your open and exposed. The same with recording – excitement, mistakes, humour, and hopefully joy. The reason to become “successful” is to cut yourself from your origin and roots. In short, we’ll decide what success is, not a critic, the world, or public opinion.
The album opens with a cracking cover of Richard Hell’s ‘Love Comes in Spurts’. You’ve previously recorded this with Thee Headcoats on Brother Is Dead… But Fly Is Gone! from 1998. What made you want to revisit the song? Has Richard heard it? If so, what did he think?
I forgot that we did it with Thee Headcoats. If I had that LP, I’d give it a listen. I do remember covering it live with The Pop Rivets in 1978. Richard said he liked it a lot and told his girlfriend he only wants my tunes at his funeral. I said, “not too soon I hope.” He assured me he’s well.
We’re digging the instrumental track ‘Walk of the Sasquatch’. Is this track in honour of the North Kent Sasquatch Research Group? What do you know about that mysterious organization?
The track is more about the pacific Northwest cousin of the English version (the Woodwose). The North Kent Sasquatch program has gone a little quite of late, but I believe they are still
trying to get Cobham Woods – nearby across the river – to be designated as a reserve, though of course this poses some danger to the public during the spring breeding season.
The album closes with a version of previous single ‘Bob Dylan’s Got a Lot to Answer For’. What would you say is the biggest thing Bob has to answer for? And what do you most admire him for?
It’s a different take from than the 45 version. The single was recorded in full lockdown.
What has Bob got to answer for? I guess a lot and nothing. It’s not his fault he is famous, it is the fans and enablers that should be strung up for turning poor little pop stars into demi-gods. He seems to be one of the few in the mainstream music industry, who has remained in charge of his own recordings, sounds, and writing. Besides writing a few very good songs, I also liked his pronouncement: “I made bad records on purpose.” Now that’s a great line – so maybe he deserves his Nobel prize after all.
You have a couple of CTMF shows coming up at the Lexington in London in February. Given you have such a great hat collection, have you decided what stage gear you’ll be wearing yet?
Billy’s “fashion box” will have to be investigated. I first got “into” fashion in thee Headcoats days. Thee Headcoatees started attracting members of the gay community to our gigs, that’s when I saw an opportunity to “go for the pink pound.” There was much excitement in the dressing room, pre-show, especially from Holly, to see “what fashion Billy might have in his bag this week.” Hats are of course top of all fashion requirements, and I’ll give my best thought and attention on the day. Damaged Goods
1 Love Comes in Spurts
2 Failure Not Success
3 Beneath the Flowers Serpents
4 Walk of the Sasquatch
5 Hanging By a Tenuous Thread
7 The Old Long Bar
8 Come Into My Life
10 Becoming Unbecoming Me
11 Moon of the PoppingTrees
12 Bob Dylan’s Got a Lot to Answer For