He played bass with Deep Purple and survived to tell the tale. Now Glenn Hughes is back with a new acoustic show, writes Dave Freak.
What’s the weather like over there?” asks legendary rock bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes down the phone from Los Angeles.
About to fly to the UK, he’s all too aware of the horrors of the damp British winter.
“I was thinking ‘shall I wear my new suede jacket and leather boots?’ but they’ll just get wet and ruined,” he laughs. “In LA, there’s sunshine 325 days a year... when I’m at home in England, it’s a whole different thing. Not bad... just different.”
The US-based Hughes is returning to his home country for a series of intimate “greatest hits” shows, including one at Birmingham’s Glee Club next Tuesday.
“I’ll be playing songs I’ve written, that meant something to me, songs from my 40-year career,’’ says the Cannock-born 60-year-old. ‘‘It’ll be very in the moment, very spontaneous. When you perform like that, something happens... you play the same songs every night, but every night, they’ll be different.
“The first song of the show is the first song I wrote and the last song will be the last.
“So we start with It’s Only A Dream from the first Trapeze album, from 1970, and end with the last song I recorded, which was Cold, earlier this year, with Black Country Communion, and there’ll be all the other songs people know in between.
‘‘I’ve chosen only songs I’ve written – not just sung – and those that sound appropriate played on acoustic guitar – and most I’ve written on acoustic guitar, even the heavier ones.”
In between tracks, Glenn will also discuss the corresponding periods in his life, touching on anecdotes that appear in his no-holds-barred new book, Glenn Hughes: The Autobiography.
It’s a tome which begins with Glenn’s youth in the Staffordshire mining community of Cannock. Seduced by rock’n’roll, he initially made his name in Black Country rock combo Trapeze before jumping ship to join Deep Purple in 1973, in a line-up that included David Coverdale.
This led to an extravagant and hedonistic life of private jets, groupies, celebrity mates, famous girlfriends, and mountains of hard drugs, which in turn led to a succession of missed opportunities and failed relationships, unforgiveable behaviour, complete addiction, drug psychosis and near death.
“My life story’s gone from a complete celebrity lifestyle to nearly dying, and back to where I am today," Hughes admits.
"There’s a lot of dark, brooding, menacing stuff happened to me. I went from the Black Country to being rich and famous, and then the wheels fell off, and I couldn’t get off, I was loaded all the time, snorting the ‘devil’s dandruff’,” he says, referring to his once huge cocaine habit and subsequent spectacular decline.
While much of his excesses have already been well documented, Glenn wanted his tale to tell all. This was not an easy process for him.
“I started the book five years ago with Joel McIver, my co-writer. We spoke on the phone at length, he came over to LA, I came over to his home in London, he did the interviews with other people, and after three years, we’d done it.
"But I’d omitted a couple of stories that were crucial and it took me two years to own up, to grow the balls to tell them.
“A lot of people take their secrets to the grave, but I didn’t want to. All was not well with me when people thought I was well, I dodged a couple of bullets there.
"Drug addiction is a disease – on your shoulder, you have this devil, this voice that tells you you don’t have an addiction. It’s like demonic possession. It’s dark. It’s decidedly not attractive, and not attractive to see someone really out of their head.
‘‘There were key moments in the ‘90s I’d not told anyone about and I could have gone to the grave with them. But the fact was, I was keeping those things from my mum and dad, from my friends, and that was not cool.
"You know what? It was very liberating for me to bare my soul. Someone on drugs and drinking is in denial and I needed to address that, address the addiction process.
“I thought that this was my only chance and I needed to be absolute, so it goes from celebrity to denial, fear and acceptance. I didn’t want to be a faker.”
While it might at times read like a Hollywood movie, complete with all-star cast, there’s little glamour in Glenn’s fall from grace.
“When I drank, I drank until I blacked out,” he says. “There was a good period in the ‘80s that I do not remember a lot of what happened. I was so far out there, it’s a decade I don’t remember.
“I never said I wanted to be an alcoholic or an addict, it’s in my genes, it’s a disease like cancer, that needs to be treated. If it goes untreated, you will die – maybe not straight away, but you will in later life, and you will lead a miserable life.”
Though he continued to work in the ‘80s and ‘90s, notably with Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath and chart-topping pranksters KLF, who dubbed him “the voice of rock”, it’s only recently with Black Country Communion that he’s been truly back on top.
Formed in 2010 with drummer Jason “son of Led Zeppelin’s John” Bonham, blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa and keyboard player Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater, Alice Cooper and Kiss fame, the rock supergroup have already released two huge albums and a DVD, Live Over Europe.
“And we’ve just won Best New Band of the Last Ten Years on VH1 in the States – that’s a big deal.
“I never guessed we’d be so successful. Never. Why have we been so successful? These songs, it’s all about the song. It’s about quality. If the song’s bad, you can have great musicians playing it and it’ll end up being a bad song played well.”
Though Glenn would love to get back with the band soon, he’s aware they all have successful solo careers, so is reluctant to discuss the future until everyone’s been consulted.
“It’s best if I say there are no plans at the moment, there are no confirmed shows. I’m the spokesperson for the band so I have to be careful what I say, so I don’t want to say anything without speaking to everyone, but I do believe everyone wants more Black Country Communion.”
* Glenn Hughes plays the Glee Club in Birmingham on Tuesday November 15.
Tickets and details at www.glee.co.uk/performers/glenn-hughes or 0871 472 0400.