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Interview with The Tearaways and Blondie drummer Clem Burke

Ahead of their gig at the Cavern, music writer Matt Jacobson interviews The Tearaways and Blondie drummer Clem Burke.

The Tearaways are back on tour celebrating their latest album, And For Our Next Trick .The band, with Blondies Clem Burke at the helm, broke from the Santa Barbara indie scene from their simple origins back in 1981. With a legion of fans around the globe that also includes Tom Hanks and the Beach Boys they have combined the sound of the Ramones, Clash and Blondie and they perform with high energy, and a performance to be enjoyed. 

I wanted to know more so interviewed Clem about touring, creativity and working with some of the biggest stars around.

Interview with The Tearaways and Blondie drummer Clem Burke

The band are back on the road – how has touring changed from the first time you started out gigging on the road?

Well our touring now is very much old school – we are playing some rock and roll clubs, other than that the monitors are much better these days! Touring with Blondie is different from touring with the Tearaways like I am now. It’s very reminiscent of what we did back in the day when we were trying to make it. I always enjoy it – we see so much of the country and various cities, it’s so much fun and we have a great bond between the band. So overall, technology has advanced. But when you show up at a small little rock and roll club bar it reminds me of New York City and the bars we started out in. So its changed and stayed the same in many ways.

Does it give time to write and record?

At the moment of our tour we are promoting our new album, so we are playing from And For Our Next Trip – we played Bristol and had two encores so we also played a few cover songs after our original music set. We like playing live and want to play to people who want to hear it.

In terms of the writing process, are you always thinking about new music and recording?

Songwriting can be inspired anytime of the day or night. It could be architecture, it could be a conversation. It’s never ending writing songs. The lyrics are one of the most important things as there are only so many chords in Rock and Roll so they have to say something. I’m always thinking about writing many songwriters do.

Your career history, you have played in Blondie, Ramones with Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, and Nancy Sinatra. Do you ever reflect on your career and look back at such great times with amazing artists.

Yes, I reflect on those times, and when you play with some like Dylan you learn so much. He’s a genius. Iggy was an influence on rock and roll back in the day. I was asked to join Ramones several times – because of my friendship with them so I did play with them. You sit in awe at times and as the drummer you are the foundation of what you are doing. Nancy is a legend, an icon is banded around too frequently, but Nancy really is. I’ve learned so much from all of them.

Interview with The Tearaways and Blondie drummer Clem Burke

Artists such as Debbie Harry, Dylan and my hero, Morrissey – will never be seen again, they’re a one off, there is something special about them, do you agree?

Oh for sure, they’re not like anyone else, they’re special. I met Debbie when I was 18 and it led to a lifelong career and a stepping stone to work with other artists. Being a musician is about playing and playing and playing to 20 or to 20000 people. I like to do the little club tours in between to keep me moving and being creative.

The song, “Keith, Charlie and Ringo” is a tribute to the artists, are the bands from Liverpool an inspiration? 

Well, The Beatles you know, I was in the states and it was a life changing moment when I saw them on television, and Rolling Stones showed you anyone could do it. The song mentioned commemorates Keith Moon and Ringo and also a list of American drummers, like Al Jackson Junior. You take from the people before you, from the masters and this can become and change into your own style if you’re lucky. The song, “The Wrecking Crew” actually commemorates the session musicians in LA and played on numerous hit records. Eddie Cochran and Glen Campbell were session guitarists before they were famous.

I’ve played the Cavern several times, originally The Tearaways needed a drummer as they were playing Beatle week, not to play covers but because we were influenced by the Beatles. I’ve played both stages and the history of the club and I was handed a brick from the wall from Julian Lennon. I have friends in Liverpool, it’s a wonderful place. The streets that the Beatles walked gives me a buzz.

What next for the band?

Well we are playing Brighton and we are excited to play there because of the Mod influence – being an American and coming to the UK to play these special places fuels my creativity. We are playing shows in states and we have a new Blondie album and tour ahead and I’m writing my memoirs – and I’m writing a rock opera so its busy, but I like being busy, its helps creativity.

I wish you all the best for the future, Clem – lovely to speak to you.

Ok mate, thank you.

With thanks to Clem Burke


Matt Jacobson

Explore Liverpool

For tickets head to the website here.


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