Suburban Kid Meets Gail Higgins – The Heartbreakers Road Manager.
Gail Higgins road managed Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers from their arrival in the UK in 1976 to their eventual demise. As a bonus to this issue’s Kris Needs Zig Zag Heartbreakers archival, Suburban Kid caught up with Gail recently for a brief chinwag that went a little something like this:
trakMARX - When did you first become aware of Punk Rock, where were you living at the time & was there any kinda scene?
That depends on where you think punk started. Living in NY & growing up with The New York Dolls & then The Heartbreakers, and all the CBGB's bands like The Ramones, for me PUNK was already on its way. But if you mean ‘when was I aware of English punk’ - I can remember it exactly. I was at Max's Kansas City & I heard this record & went running up to the DJ, who happened to be Jayne County, to scream: 'WHO IS THIS?' It was 'Anarchy In The UK' by the Sex Pistols.
trakMARX - When, how did you first meet up with Johnny?
Me & my cousin Janis used to go to the Fillmore East every week to see groups like The Who, etc. At every show there used to be a group of guys from Jackson Heights who I guess were into music as much as us. After many weeks of staring, Johnny started talking to Janis which turned into an intense romance, and myself to his friend Ozzie Garcia, who is now a top holistic US doctor, and from then on we went travelling everywhere to see bands like the MC5 and the The Stooges. This culminated with me, Janis & Johnny all moving into an apartment on Ave A in the East Village. It was the first time any of us lived away from home & was where Johnny started to teach himself guitar.
trakMARX - How did you secure the Heartbreakers UK tour managers job?
I had just lost a job managing in a big department store in NY for being a square peg in a round hole (their words) - & went to London & showed up at The Heartbreakers gig at Dingwalls. Leee Black Childers was managing them at the time and said: ‘Hey, how do you feel like going on the road with the band?’ Since I knew all of them really well & had no job to go back to - & it was being paid for by Track records - I thought, why not! Road managing a band can't be that different from managing salesmen - except for the DRUGS!
trakMARX - Any particular memory that stands out from that tour?
DRUGS, BOYS & ROCK & ROLL - & a gunman holding us hostage in Leeds.
trakMARX - How long did your professional relationship last with the Heartbreakers?
Until 1979 when everyone started moving back to the States.
trakMARX - Did you stay involved with music after the Heartbreakers split?
I stayed in London - met Smutty - who became bass player for Levi & The Rockats - & we all moved to California. The Rockats went on to do loads of TV, etc - Smutty & I got married in NYC in 1980. I worked with a couple of NY rockabilly bands after that & then went back to fashion, vintage clothing & collectables. Alternative music, art & lifestyles are all intertwined anyway.
trakMARX - What are you up to now?
In 1988 I started up my vintage clothing shop, THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT, on Essex Road in London, closing just after Johnny died with a tribute window display dedicated to him. I now still run THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT in Alfie's Antique Market with my partner, Jasja (also in a band - THE BAD BREED - just can't get away from it!).
Suburban Kid – tMx 14 – 04/04