Luke Morley Interview / How Thunder took Backstreet Symphony to Donington – Part Two

For those hungry for output from Thunder, the recent announcement of the reissue of their classic debut, alongside the equally excellent second and third albums Laughing On Judgement Day and Behind Closed Doors, in glorious double-coloured vinyl editions with a mouth-watering selection of additional material, has been a cause for celebration.

MetalTalk’s Paul Monkhouse caught up with guitarist and chief songwriter Luke Morley for a chat about the making of this seminal trio, their rise to the top and how they became one of the most loved bands in the UK.

Backstreet Symphony

While Thunder were recording Backstreet Symphony, Ben Matthews has been quoted saying it was like being at a party, and then an album would break out now and again. “That’s probably about fair, really,” Luke says. “I mean, a little bit of an exaggeration. We did work very hard, but we’ve never been the kind of band that works long hours. I always thought that you get much more out of an intense 6 to 7 hours. If you are recording all night when you’re knackered, and you’re making bad judgments. So, we tended to go at it very hard.

“Obviously, with Andy being there as well, he’s of the same philosophy. So we worked really hard during the day and in the evening, we had fun. It was summer. In the evening, we played cricket on the back lawn or went up to the local pub. We had a lot of fun. We invited our mates to the studio. It was a good time.”

Thunder - Backstreet Symphony album cover
Thunder – Backstreet Symphony

And so, armed with a selection of absolute gems, along with their cover of the Spencer Davis Group’s Gimme Some Lovin, debut album Backstreet Symphony was released on the world in 1990 to great public and critical acclaim. You just hit a sweet spot there, I say, for your opening album.

“There are times in your career,” Luke says, “and I think anybody that writes songs will agree with me, where you, for some reason, tap in the sort of a vape form. There’s no bloody reason for it, as far as I can see. Maybe it’s what’s happening in your life or various things filtering through your subconscious. I don’t know., I tend not to want to analyse it because it keeps it exciting. If you knew the reasoning, life would be very boring, I guess.

“It is a good bunch of tunes. It’s funny really because we were a song short. We decided that we were missing a song. So that’s how Gimme Some Lovin’ came to be on the album. I listen to that now, and I adore the original. I’m a massive fan of Steve Winwood, and Spencer Davis was a great band. But ours has a kind of energy about it, which I think is really good. The whole album worked really well.

“It didn’t take long to make. It took about four weeks, I think. The salient point here is that we couldn’t have made that album as quickly and efficiently and had as much fun doing it had we not been through the Terraplane experience, and that’s a big part.”

With the reissues, it still sounds as fresh as ever. “I’m not in the habit of listening to stuff we’ve done,” Luke says. “But going through this process, we’ve had to listen to it, and it has a lot of energy about it. We all sound really young. [laughs] But it’s great. We captured that moment. There’s great energy. We had a great time making the album, and I think you can kind of sense that, really. It reflects a happy time in all of our lives.”

Subsequent touring with both Aerosmith and Heart opened things up further, but it was their legendary appearance at that year’s Monsters Of Rock festival that really blew things up, the band tearing the place apart and cementing their place in the hearts of many.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that that gig probably changed our lives,” Luke says. “We had a very good year. We played bloody everywhere. I mean, we didn’t stop working that year. We were plying the very old-fashioned rule of rock ‘n’ roll from the ’70s, which is that if you play rock music, you probably won’t get on the radio. So that’s what we did. We just went and played. EMI, to their credit, there’s no way we could have made a profit because we didn’t have an audience when we started. So they invested heavily in that aspect. They saw sense in it, they embraced the philosophy, and it paid off because we somewhat arrogantly knew we were a good live band. So we knew that if we could get in front of people, we could convert. So that’s basically what we did.”

“But we didn’t realise quite how far we’d gone until we did that show at Donington,” Luke said, “because, as I said, we had supported other people. I don’t think we had headlined anything bigger than about 1000, maybe. So when we went on the stage, I’ve never been nervous since, actually. That was the last time I was ever nervous. But 80,000 people in daylight will be trousers off. But as soon as I hit the riff to She’s So Fine, I looked up, and the hands were up right to the back. Fucking hell. There was this huge release of energy, and we all felt it with the band. It was like, fuck, this is it. This is our moment. That was honestly the quickest 45 minutes of my life. Just by in a flash, we all came off absolutely leaping with energy.

“Our tour manager was a very sage character guy called Roger Sell. Roger had seen everything in rock ‘n’ roll at that point. He worked for The Who for years. He just wandered into our dressing room. He was always very low-key. He went, ‘Well done, boys.’ He said, ‘I think we’ll have it away our toes now,’ and he left.

“It was a very special day. We were staying in a hotel in Nottingham, and I remember Spike from The Quireboys saying, ‘Can I come back to your hotel?’ I said, yeah, cool. So he came back on the bus with us, and he said, ‘I thought you guys were fucking amazing’. And that’s the beginning of a long friendship. I’m still very good mates with Spike.

“But it was just a fantastic day, and the weather was great. It had to be good because two years previous to that, obviously, the kids who got crushed when Guns N’ Roses played. So it was important it went well. So there was quite a lot of pressure on us being the opening act to get it to a good start. But as I said, the net effect of everything we had done in the nine months to a year before that all kind of came out on that day. That was like Jesus Christ. Lots of people know who we are, and it was quite a moment.”

You can read all Four Parts of the Luke Morley interview here.

Backstreet Symphony will be pressed as a double LP, one gold disc and one silver disc.

Laughing On Judgement Day is a double LP, one white disc and one blue disc.

Laughing On Judgement Day is a double LP, one white disc and one blue disc.

The albums will also be available as a CD Digipak. Visit https://thunderband.lnk.to/bsslojdbcdPR for more details.

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