Star Interview: Chas Hodges

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Whether rightly or wrongly, some accents do seem to be trendier than others.

And there was once a time in music when the American accent was very much on trend; even for singers who had never ventured near the USA.

But then came Chas & Dave, the London duo who ditched the fake USA twang so many British singers had adopted in their rock ‘n roll songs, and instead pioneered the Rockney genre.

With Chas Hodges at the piano and Dave Peacock on the bass guitar, the duo became famous for achingly catchy songs, often about everyday life, and each one sung in a cockney accent.

Since then musicians such as The Libertines and Lily Allen have cited the pair as an influence and, although the idea of faking an American accent in music has not been banished completely, the British accent now also seems to be considered ‘cool’.

Chas, who joins Dave on stage for a performance at Kettering’s Lighthouse Theatre on April 11 and The Stables in Milton Keynes on March 22 and April 9, said: “I first had the idea [of singing in a cockney accent] when I was in a band called Heads, Hands and Feet and had been singing in an American accent, but I felt a bit like a fraud.

“I thought, there are American people out there and I am singing in their accent. I started trying some new ideas out vocally. I spoke to Dave and I said I’m ready to go to the piano as my main instrument and to start singing in my own accent and writing about what I know about. Dave said ‘yes, OK’ and that is where it all started.

“It was obvious to me that I should sing in my own accent. A lot of people are doing it now and we are getting some good quotes; Lily Allen quotes us a bit, and The Libertines.”

Having both performed in bands previously, Chas and Dave got together to perform in the 1970s and are still together and touring, despite some earlier discussion of Dave retiring after his wife Sue died in 2009.

Recalling their first meeting, Chas said: “I was in a band called Outlaws, playing a bass guitar and we were on tour with the Jerry Lee Lewis band which was a dream come true for me. I had seen him and wanted to become a piano player. I was thumbing a lift home from my girlfriend’s and an old school friend pulled up and he said I have heard you are on tour with Jerry Lee Lewis. He said we have a band and that is my bass player in the back. And that was Dave.”

The pair went on to have hits with songs such as Gertcha and Rabbit. They also contributed theme tunes for TV shows such as Crackerjack and In Sickness & In Health, but not Only Fools and Horses (they turned this down as they were too busy at the time).

Chas said: “It was just one of those things we weren’t able to do. It is not something we look back on and think we wish we had done that. My main thought back then was about getting out there and doing live shows. I did become friends with writer John Sullivan and we got Del and Rodney in the studio.”