How We Met: Chas & Dave - 'I was surprised we weren't more successful more quickly'

 

Chas Hodges, 70

Born in Edmonton in 1943, Hodges (left in picture) is a musician and one half of the pop-rock duo Chas & Dave, whose hits include "Gertcha", "Rabbit" and "Ain't No Pleasing You". He has been performing for more than 50 years. Married, he lives near Stevenage and has three grown-up children

When I met Dave for the first time, I was in a band called the Outlaws. It was 1963, I was still playing bass guitar, and on the road supporting Jerry Lee Lewis. That's where I learnt the piano, actually, watching Jerry every night. Anyway, yeah, Dave: I was thumbing a lift home from my girlfriend's place one night, when he and his mate stopped to give me a lift.

We hit it off pretty quick, and bonded over the same taste in music. We stayed good mates for the next 10 years, but by the early 1970s I was no longer in a band, and I think Dave was disillusioned with his. We'd both been doing rock'n'roll, the whole Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent thing, and we loved it, but we'd got tired of singing in American accents. We thought it was time to be more honest, and to sing in our own accents. A lot of people misunderstood that at first. They thought we were trying to be chirpy cockneys. Of course, astute people caught on early. The less astute? They caught on later.

When things really took off for us, in the 1980s, our manager at the time wanted us to do all sorts. He wanted us on [kids' TV show] Tiswas in the morning, a radio show in the afternoon, a club late at night. In the end, I had to put my foot down. I told him I did a lot of my songwriting in the early hours. I said I didn't go to bed until 4am, and that I wasn't going to get up before noon for anyone, not for the rest of my life. And you know what? From that day onwards, I've been healthier, happier.

Me and Dave have endured, I reckon, not only because we're great musicians, but because we know how to entertain. The two don't always go together. It also helps that we're great mates. Dave's wife – she died in 2009, sadly – and my wife were best friends; my uncle was friends with his sister. One big happy family. Our wives went on holidays together, cultural tours, that sort of thing. They'd come out and join us on tour from time to time. We've always been close like that. Nik, my boy, he's our drummer now, and our manager.

The only thing we've ever argued over was football, Spurs: who's the best player? We never fell out, never split up. But in 2009, after his wife died, Dave did leave; he packed up. I carried on doing Chas and His Band, and I just thought, well, let's give it time. As we all know, when somebody close to you dies, you can't see through to next week, much less the next few years. But then he did come back, and we're back out on the road again.

We're still the same. We still talk about the same things: music, football. The only thing that's really changed is that we can't go to the pub for a quiet pint any more. People always want us on the piano, a singsong. It's a sacrifice, I suppose, but hardly a big one, right?

Dave Peacock, 69

Born in Ponders End in 1945, Peacock has been the bassist and co-singer in Chas & Dave for the past 40 years. A widower, he lives in Cheshunt

Fifty years is a long time, isn't it? When I first met Chas, I was in another band. The Rolling Stones, I think we were called… Anyway, he was in the Outlaws. He was a well-known bassist round our way. I liked his stuff.

We were mates throughout the 1960s, always meeting up in pubs and bars, taking out our guitars and banjos, turning everywhere into a party. His aunt had a pub. We used to go down there Christmas time, and get the singsong going. Could never resist it.

I think it might have been his idea to get a band together in the early 1970s. He'd just left a band he was in, and I was passing the time in a country act that was just about paying the rent. But me and Chas, we just clicked. And, no, it was never Dave & Chas. Doesn't roll off the tongue, does it?

Once we started writing songs, we couldn't stop. It all sounded great to my ears, so to be honest with you I was surprised we weren't more successful more quickly. The gigs were always selling out everywhere we went.

Even when the success came, we stayed levelheaded. We toured the world, we played Glastonbury, we were on This is Your Life, we had hit after hit. It was a brilliant time. We were never into fast cars, never went on stage drunk, and were never particularly materialistic. Sure, we had nice houses, and we probably made decent money, but the taxman took a lot as well, didn't he?

Our wives were best friends. I remember my 39th birthday party, just the four of us, around the piano, singing songs into the night. That's all we needed. I'm godfather to Chas's three children, and though I never had kids myself, I'm caked up with babies all around me: cousins have got them, nieces, the whole lot. They're everywhere.

Our wives liked to go on holiday together, but I never really liked holidays. I'd always rather stay at home. We toured all the time, we were always away. So whenever we had time off, I just wanted to go home. I've got horses, see? I like to spend time with my horses.

Over the course of our time together, me and Chas probably haven't gone a couple of days without meeting up or talking on the phone – 2009 was probably the longest we went without contact. My wife had died, and I just packed it up for a year, stayed in the house. I was despondent. I just didn't fancy it. To be honest, I didn't miss it. Now of course, we're back on motorways again, but it's fun, you know? Singing songs, having people sing them back to us, it's always been fun.

Chas & Dave's most recent album, 'That's What Happens', is out now. For upcoming tour dates see chasndave.net

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