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Great rock songwriters with a punk soul
JR: And they were showing signs of being able to marry the punk soul of the band with real songwriting talent, real songs - the one thing you don't get so much in punk music.
DD: That was the thing. There were songs on that album that were gentle, heartwarming and touching, and some that were raucous. And I was impressed by the fact that Andy McCoy was writing in a language that was not his own and coming up with stuff that was really rather clever. Sure, anyone in Finland or Sweden or Denmark will be taught English at school from the age of four or five, because they know that no one in the world speaks Finnish. They know that to make any kind of impression anywhere that they've got to be able to speak English. It's all very well to speak a foreign language, but to be able to write lyrics in a foreign language has got to be pretty damn difficult.
To give some perspective on this, I quite like the Scorpions. I was never a huge fan, but here's a bunch of German guys who wrote in English. But when I compared the Scorpion's lyrics with Hanoi Rocks lyrics, I thought, "They're not even in the same ballpark." McCoy is just a much better lyricist. Andy knew he needed to write in English. Andy had a brother who used to play in a band with him, a band called Briard, and they were singing in Finnish. If you don't speak Finnish, you're not going to bother picking the thing up, but if it's in English, you can sell it all across Europe and all across the world.
JR: That's true. Even in the early Hanoi songs, you'd pick up on these cool lyrical bits. For example, in the lyrics to "Don't Follow Me" on Oriental Beat, there's the line "She just emanates troubled times with her knives" - a line I always liked. Later on, we get classic lines such as in the end of the bittersweet "Ice Cream Summer", when Mike sings, "All there is left, is a photograph. You smile, and the ice cream's melting down your pants." Not the kind of creativity you'd expect from an "English as a second language" band.
DD: This wasn't just doggerel being thrown together. I don't want to say that I actively dislike songwriters who just write garbage, there's a time and place for all that. Some years ago, Paul McCartney got to the top of the British charts with a song called "Frog Chorus" or something like that. When asked why he wrote the song, he said something like, "I just wanted to find out if I could get any shit to the top of the charts," and he did. The song was just completely and utterly meaningless and he knew it when he wrote it. [Editor's note: according to our research, the McCartney song Dave is referring to here is "We All Stand Together," released by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus in 1984. It is widely regarded as the worst Paul McCartney single ever released.] So you can get away with selling shit, but with Hanoi you had a different case entirely. It wasn't like every song had brilliant lyrics, but most of them had something to offer, and it also got better as the years went on. There was enough in there for me to think, "Andy is a real intelligent guy." I could tell that before I ever even met him. And when I did actually meet him, we hit it off.