Musician is part of the Liverpool Next Stop New York show at View Two Gallery
Horace Panter is best-known as the bassist with ska/two-tone legends The Specials.
But he is also a professional artist, and art and music come together next week when the 61-year-old shows his work as part of LIMF (Liverpool International Music Festival).
He is taking part in the Liverpool Next Stop New York exhibition at View Two Gallery, opening on August 7, which investigates the links between the two cities, and how the relationship was enhanced by an appreciation of Black American music and culture.
Here he talks about art, music and Liverpool.
How did you get involved in the exhibition?
Via Red House Originals in Harrogate and Richard McTague, who is a keen supporter. He was involved in it and thought that some of the blues paintings I’d done would be appropriate for this New York/Liverpool exhibition.
So here I am.
How much do you know about the musical links between Liverpool and New York?
I know that musically Liverpool took the world by storm in 1963, 64, 65, and heralded in the Swinging Sixties, and Britain became this amazing creative hub for pop music.
And I think a lot of that was to do with the fact Liverpool got the American records before anybody else, because it was the first port.
So that’s why the Beatles could play Tamla Motown songs to people in Hamburg, or rock 'n' roll stuff, before anybody had ever heard of it.
So musically, there’s a terrific respect due I think to the shipping that came from America and stopped in Liverpool, and the musical pollination – that’s a good word – that happened subsequently.
And as I’m a big fan of American music, and especially the blues which was the earliest form which eventually became rock and roll, then it works.
Growing up in the 1960s, what where your influences?
I was heavily influenced by the pirate radio stations, in 1964-65, Radio Caroline, Radio London.
But I think one of the first LP records that I owned, I think my mother for some reason bought With the Beatles, and I really liked Roll Over Beethoven. It took me ages to realise that actually this was written by C Berry.
Who’s C Berry? He’s not in the Beatles. He’s not Lennon/McCartney/Starr/Harrison.
And Money of course. But obviously they were songs that the Beatles would play down at the Cavern or over at the Star Club over in Hamburg.
You went to art school, but did you always want to be in a band?
The two have always gone hand in hand. It’s extraordinary. I suppose once I realised I could actually make a living and wasn’t this great fun playing music, that that edged ahead a little bit.
But I always tell a story that when The Specials first went to New York in 1980, everyone else went out nightclubbing, but I went to bed early so I could get up early the next day and go to the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art while the rest of them nursed their hangovers.
I would always use the fact I was travelling the world with this pop group to see some of the great art galleries and great works of art.
The Specials did three shows in South America earlier this year, we played in Mexico City, and that was like 1979 all over again, because it was the first time we’d been there, to see these people.
And I took an awful lot of visual references back from my trip to Mexico. I really liked the whole thing about the Catholic church representational sort of stuff, and then the wonderful colours of all the Maya and Inca stuff.
Will you get to see the exhibition yourself?
Oh crikey yes! Any excuse to spend a night in Liverpool. It’s great.
I showed at a little art gallery in Penny Lane about three or four years ago, and since then I’ve always wanted to find a space to be able to show my work. And I’ve got some friends up there as well, so it will be nice.
It’s cool, because The Specials played in Eric’s which was the other side of Mathew Street to the Cavern.