Known and loved for his role in the classic Quadrophenia, as an actor alone Phil Daniels firmly etched himself within the history of British music culture with his epic portrayal as every ones favourite mod. In a film still very much celebrated to this day. He’s also known for other stand out roles such as ‘Richards’ in Scum, or ‘Mark’ in Mike Leigh’s play ‘Meantime’ and many more. But did you know that Phil Daniels is not only a pretty handy guitarist and singer songwriter but as a kid he was as big on music as he was on acting. Even getting to the stage of releasing an album with his group ‘Phil Daniels and The Cross’.

Here we take a trip through Phil’s musical career with comments taken from his own excellent biography ‘Class Actor’. Giving both his thoughts and recollections on putting his band together and releasing an album, he also talks on some of the artists he worked with and ran into along the way – like Sting, Johnny Lydon, Phil Townsend and of course Blur. And its with some very honest, funny and interesting quotes that he tells it just like it was, enjoy.


Phil on musical inspirations/learning guitar
His first live musical experience came as he and his dad one day passed the local town hall in Kings Cross, hearing live music coming from the hall they both wandered in to see where it was coming from – only to find rock band Argent playing their classic ‘God Gave Rock’n’Roll to You’ “We just stood there and listened, it was one of those great moments in life when you feel like your in a film”

“At school there was a guy called Pedro who played Spanish guitar, and he told me about this guitar teacher who came to my school one day a week. It turned out you could get out of your lessons if you went to his guitar class, so I’d stay all day in his class just playing and learning guitar. The first guitar I got was out of a Janet Fraser catalogue, my mum was an agent for them and she would get a small percentage as commission. So I got money off an Eko acoustic guitar which I had for years.”

on his first group – Renoir
“Me and my mate put a band together for a rehearsal. In my mind the band was called ‘Borax Flux’, which I thought was a great name. It was a kinda bonding agent I saw in metal work class once. As luck would have it I’d met up with a guy called Peter Hugo-Daley from at Anna Scher’s acting classes. In the years to come I ended up doing a lot of different things with him (played the nutty drummer from the film ‘Breaking Glass’ ). After a big chat on music one day he said ‘You play guitar don’t you, I’ve got 2 mates who want to start a band togather” so we all went off to Barry’s house in Stoke Newington and rehearsed in his bedroom. As a band we had very odd tastes. There was a lot of Who about, but Peter had 5 brothers and as a result was into a lot weirder stuff, more progressive groups like Gentle Giant and Sassafras. It was Peters idea to call our self’s ‘ Renoir’…though I was never quite clear on the concept of ‘Impressionist Rock’.”

“I remember we did one song called ‘The Decline of the West’ which went –
‘All the good tunes have been written/All the good songs have been sung/Some where a promise was broken/Long ago when we were young’.”

“Probably our heaviest number was based on a poem written by band member Mile’s mum titled ‘The Rope’, which went” – ‘I can’t go on/I cannot cope/To end it all/ I choose the rope’. We were Islingtons answer to Joy Division, before Joy Division even happened.”

“Despite our music being a strange mixture Peter was the real musical brains of the operation – he had a Fender Rhodes and some kind of synthesiser. Where as the songs I wrote were a bit more straightforward, even a bit punky. When punk eventually came along we didn’t really like it much (it didn’t like us much, either). After ‘Anarchy in the UK’ we wrote a song called ‘Anarchy in the KP’ because we thought it was nuts.”


on his first gigs
“We started playing the Old Red Lion in Islington, it was only natural that the Kings Cross boys came up to see us. The pub is south of the Angel, where Roseberry Avenue goes down towards Sadler’s Wells, a real Irish boozer back then.
On one occasion a few of the local boys from the Islington area were there too and it all went off. Unfortunately that was the night my mum and dad had chosen to come and see us play, but it ended up with my mum hiding under the table while everyone was throwing bottles at each other and fighting. I don’t think she came to see us again.”

Phil Daniels on Johnny Rotten
“There was a lot of fuss about who was going to play Jimmy in Quadrophenia. I think The Sun ran a competition or something, but that was more to drum up a bit of publicity for the film than anything else. In the end, the two other people who made into the final three were Phil Davis – a really good actor and great guy, who also taught me to play golf. And John Lydon; who I don’t really know.”

“Lydon had barged into Miles Landesman’s house once (Renoir band member), before The Sex Pistols turned him into Johnny Rotten. He tried to take over a Renoir rehearsal with this big-bully mate of his who was a bouncer, Steve I think his name was. But we weren’t having any of that. I didnt’ actually find out till a bit further down the line that he had done a screen test. Obviously I wouldn’t of been too happy about him trying to muscle in on my part the same way he’d once tried to muscle in on my band. But apparently at that point the insurers said they wouldn’t cover him, maybe it was something Franc Roddam (casting director) came up with to save John’s feelings. He’s quite sensitive apparently, beneath all the bluster.”

on Sting/The Police
Phil, Leslie Ash and Sting in 1978

“I remember Sting being quite good at improvisations. I thought he’d be a bit shy, but he wasn’t. He was playing it cool but that was what he needed to do for his part. And having him in the film definitely ticked some of the same boxes that having Lydon in there would’ve done. The Police weren’t yet that big, but they were about to be.”

“You could tell they still had a way to go, during filming they did a gig at Camden Dingwells which Sting asked me to come down to. I went along and it wasn’t full at all, I remember buying a drink and being able to put it on the stage at half time. They were already doing Roxanne’, ‘ Cant Stand Losing You’ and all that stuff, though they were tight as arseholes; a really top band.”

on Phil Townsend/The Who
“Once they decided I got the part playing Jimmy, we all had to go and meet The Who at Wembley Studio. I was awestruck, because they were proper rock stars – always have been, haven’t they. They’ve always held themselves a bit aloof. What ever might of been going on in their lives you wouldn’t see them falling out of places drunk in the papers. Well maybe Keith Moon would do that sometimes, but he’d always do it with a bit of style.”

“Later on, when the film was more or less done I met up with Townsend again. And it was just me this time, for a photo shoot at a Shepard’s Bush pie & mash shop. There’s a publicity shot that always turns up everywhere of him with his old army coat on and me sat next to him, gurning away.”


on Punk
The trouble with our band was Peter having such complex ideas. To the point some of his compositions had us stretching ourselves to a technical level that we couldn’t quite reach, causing a lot of frustration. We were quite a loud band, really noisy in fact. But while we used to do a lot of very fast tracks, we weren’t punks. So when punk came along we got left behind. Punk rock beat us up, basically.”

“I could of been a punk at a drop of a hat though, but I didn’t like the style. It wasn’t that I was a hippie. OK…I smoked a few joints and was therefore considered a bit weird by some people who didn’t. But in terms of clothes I was wearing at the time, it would still of been Levi’s Sta-Prest or the occasional combat trouser – Khaki, not camouflage – maybe with a cheesecloth shirt or something from John Lord.”

on Gary Kemp
“Not long after Quadrophenia came out I remember Gary Kemp coming out to see Renoir and telling me “Look, this music is good, but it ain’t going no where. If you want to get a record deal, maybe you should reinvent yourselves as a mod band”. The Mod revival was in full flow by then. Gary’s band at the time were called the Makers – they hadn’t yet become Spandau Ballet.”

“I remember them playing on a Friday at the Old Red Lion, all dressed as mods. They obviously had a manager who knew the score and what they would do was jump on any image that came along until the right one eventually turned up (which it did in the end). Whereas Renoir didn’t really have an image. We were a bit stuck in our own way of doing things, and a few changes definitely needed to be made. What happened to Gary’s band next just speeded them up a bit.”
Gary Kemp & Phil Daniels

on the break-up of Renoir
“These two blokes called Alan Blaikley and Ken Howard came along and took a bit of a shine to me, wanted to help me get on and I was ready to listen to what they had to say. They’d written hits for Elvis and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick & Titch among others, and they’d gone on to discover Peter Frampton. I went to see them at their house in Hampstead, They had a big grand piano in their front room and they played me this song they’d written that they wanted me to do as a single. ‘I’m Your Meantime Man’ it was called. ‘Who’ll come around at the drop of a hat? I can‘…that was one of the lines from it. The whole thing was very old fashioned, and Blaikley and Howard were a bit like a poor mans Rodger’s & Hammerstein. I think they were thinking initially about me being in a musical, but then it turned into more of a David Essex thing.”

“When I first got it together and signed a deal with them it was very exciting. The difficult part of it was deciding what I was going to do with Renoir. I knew I wanted to carry on working with Peter, because we were a writing team. The bass player Barry Niel was really good too, so there was no problem with him. But Miles Landesman was the most heartbreaking decision. From his book, its clear that his brother Cosmo thinks that when I left Renoir and formed the other band, I was being a bit of a cunt. But I suppose you have to be if you’re trying to get a new band together. He always had his own rhythm Miles, and although I loved hin, I felt the whole Renoir thing had gone as far as it was going to. In short, some where between Quadrophenia and Breaking Glass, Renoir went out of the window – and Phil Daniels and The Cross came in.”

on ‘Phil Daniels & The Cross’ and album release

“It was quite a complicated arrangement in business terms. I had a deal with Blaikley and Howard and then they got me a deal with RCA. I remember that when I saw the final contract big chunks of it were painted out. I was allowed to see my part, but not the arrangement between the record company and Blaikley and Howard. I nearly didn’t sign because I felt from the word go that there was a bit of uncertainty as to whether it was my deal or theirs. As it turned out the record we ended up making wasn’t successful enough for it to really make that much difference.”

“The album was produced by Zak Lawrence, who was a friend of Blaikley and Howard. I remember him telling me ‘I know whats wrong with your lyrics, they’re the wrong way round!’. That shows the level of understanding there was between us. We didn’t have a great sound worked out for the album. They’re is a funny mixture of songs on Phil Daniels & The Cross album. There’s one called ‘Shout Across The River’ which was the title of a Poliakoff play I ended up not doing because I got the part in ‘Zulu Dawn’ instead. There was also ‘News at Ten’ which was my South Africa protest song, ‘Cromer Aroma’ was about Kings Cross and ‘Wet Day in London’ was about my dad, and his technique for reviving tropical fish.The single releases included ‘Kill Another Night’ (image above) and ‘Penultimate Person’.”


on Arctic Monkeys


“The songs I was singing were a mixture of all the things that were happening in my life, like ‘Free You’ which was about me signing that fucking contract for the album, and Ballsache High which was taken from the tune ‘Class Enemy’ (Below). People said it sounds a bit Arctic Monkeys in places. Feel free to download the album illegally (mine, not theirs) and hear it for yourself if you don’t believe me. From the first time I heard Arctic Monkeys I thought their singer had the same kind of voice and the same attitude as I had. All that stuff about prossies on the corner just seemed very natural coming from him.  Obviously their records have done a bit better than mine though.”

Phil Daniels & The Cross – Class Enemy (ballsache high)

on acting & being in a group
“I still think it was a good album, but people were really dead against me doing both things. As far as some people were concerned it seemed after Quadrophenia I was no longer allowed to be an actor and a musician at the same time. Which seemed to be a bit unfair as a lot of other people got away with it. Being in that film didnt seem to do Sting or Toyah’s pop careers any harm. I’ve seen the cross over between the two worlds of music and acting from a lot of different angles over the years. Not only from being in bands and then in plays, but also because I’ve played so many roles where I’ve been either a musician, or a manager, or someone hanging around the fringes of the music industry in some capacity or other. I also had the NME at the time of filming Breaking Glass telling me my album was no good. They thought I was jumping on a bandwagon – yet another actor trying to moonlight as a singer. So Phil Daniels and The Cross kind of got dismissed.”

on the film Breaking Glass/actor Hazel O’Connor
“I did have a certain amount to be agitated about at the time of filming Breaking Glass. My album came out around the same time we started shooting, and nothing more was happening with it. So I was a bit resentful of the fact that Hazel O’Connor’s music was getting all the attention. Everybody was singing her praises and not mine, and there I was playing the manager in the film. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed doing the film and it was a very good part, but at that point it felt quite strange for me to be working in a fictional setting where I was surrounded by the music industry, when all I wanted to be was a performer. As it turned out this tension would resolve itself in a quite unexpected and very happy way. All sorts of people turn up in Breaking Glass. Rat Scabies of The Damned does an audition for Hazels band, Boy George is in the film as well.”

“David Bowie, who was the godfather of that whole New Romantic scene, is supposed to have come on the set of Breaking Glass once. Because he was working with Tony Visconti at the time, but I never saw him. Apparently Hazel O’Connor gave him a haircut – which was only fair as she’d taken a lot of her act from Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. For all my envying how much attention she got. I don’t think Hazel made much money out of all the hit singles that came off the soundtrack, because the rights went to the people who produced the film. Hazel had a second album later on, which Tony Visconti also produced but I don’t think so many people got to hear that one.”

on the film Breaking Glass/actor Hazel O’Connor

on playing with The Stranglers
“Standing in for Hugh Cornwall of The Stranglers was another good gig. It would also end up as a dress rehearsal for my later role as the elder statesman of Britpop, though of course I didn’t realise that at the time. The whole thing came about partly through Alan Edwards (who was then co-managing the band) and partly because I already knew Hugh, and he’d had the odd chat with me about wanting to become an actor. What happened was that Hugh Cornwall got put in jail for two months. He was banged up in Pentonville – just down the road from me, for having some heroin on him. I don’t think he was really expecting to get a custodial sentence because it was only a little bit for personal use. But he was unlucky and the judge went garrity because he was a pop star.”

“The Stranglers had two gigs booked at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park (3rd & 4th of April/1980) that they didn’t want to cancel. So Robert Fripp, Wilko Johnson and Robert Smith of the Cure played Hugh’s guitar parts, and I was one of a series of guest vocalists. Alongside Toyah, Ian Dury and Hazel O’Connor. I know this sounds a bit unlikely but there’s a live CD out there some where to prove it really happened. The Stranglers songs I did were ‘Dead Loss Angeles’ and ‘Toiler on the Sea’.

To make the whole scenario even more improbable, Joy Division were the support act for the second show. Which must of been one of their last gigs (apparently they played at the Moonlight in Hampstead on the same evening and Ian Curtis had a really bad epileptic fit because of the strobe lights). It was quite a strange experience all in all, but I enjoyed singing at the Rainbow – especially given that my character in Breaking Glass got thrown out of an after-show party there.”


on Damon Albarn/Blur

“Steve Sutherland, who was in charge at the NME at the time told me there was this young band who wanted to talk to me about a song they’d written. He put me in touch with Damon and told me that he and Graham Coxon were fans of my work. They arranged for me to go down to the studio they were using at that time – which was in Chelsea, so that was a good omen. When I turned up I was treated like royalty. I had long hair at the time for a part I was doing, and I think they thought I’d be a short haired 19 year old, wearing a parka. Stephen Street was producing the album. I think the original plan had been for me to be on a different song, but they were having a bit of trouble with ‘Parklife’. I’ve got a tape with Damon singing it all somewhere, and its all right. But not as good as the version I did, obviously. So they decided I should give that one a go.”

“The first time Damon showed me the words for it I thought ‘I can do this’. I just imagined flowers and parks and not having too much to do. You never knew exactly what the song was about, and I still don’t. Which is part of the magic of it. What I do know is that as soon as it began to get played on the radio, dustman started apologising for waking me up in the morning. When we’d first recorded it, there was no way of guessing anything like that was going to happen. It only ended up being a big hit because everything else on the album was such a raving hit they thought ‘why don’t we get this one out as well?’. And then it went on to win Best Single and Best Video among the four awards Blur won at the Brits in 1995.”

on Liam Gallagher
“In terms of Britpop’s own cold war – Blur v Oasis – all I’d really like to say is that it made both parties a lot of money. I was having a piss at some do once and Liam and Noel came into the toilets and Liam said (with apologies for the phonetic spelling, but where the Gallagher’s are concerned it would be patronising not to use it). “Fookin ‘ell, man, we really like Quadrophenia, what yer doin with those wankers?”. I said “Well, you know, Blur are all right”.”

“And they were fine with me after that. I still see Liam every now and again when I go for a run on Hampstead Heath, and he’s a lovely guy. I think the rest of Blur were a bit scared of Oasis, and they were probably right to be. In those days there was a fair amount of falling over going on with both bands. And even though it was fun, it could get a bit hairy.”

on performing with The Who
“I ended up doing Quadrophenia live at Hyde Park with The Who in 1995. I remember Rodger Daltry getting hold of me at rehearsal one day and asking “What’s it like playing with a fucking proper band?” ‘Oh lovely’ I replied. I was in band wars. I’d got Blur and the Who fighting over me, and Oasis were after me in the toilets. Luckily my formative experiences with the Stranglers stood me in good stead. I like to describe narrating Quadrophenia on stage as being one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had. Obviously this is a bit of an exaggeration, and from one point of view it was a dream come true. But as the person whose job it was to interrupt the thing the crowd did want to hear (the Who) with the stuff they didn’t (me talking), I was on a bit of a hiding to nothing.”

“It started out as a small scale endeavour, then I got a phone call from Pete Townsend saying he wanted me to play a few local club and pub gigs with him doing some numbers from Quadrophenia on his acoustic guitar, and me doing some bits of narration in between. I thought that sounded like fun, but then the trail went quiet for a while. About two months later I got a call from Bill Curbishly, the manager of the Who. Informing me that this little Quadrophenia mini-tour of the old blues pubs of Richmond and Barnes had turned into a full-blown Princes Trust extravaganza at Hyde Park. Then I was asked to do six dates at Madison Square Gardens, of course you can’t really say no to that.”

“The whole vision was nearly fantastic, except that there I was sat on a chair in front of a packed Madison Square Garden. This time as the band finished ‘5,15’ and it was my time to speak, all I got from the American fans was ‘Shut up, you limey fag’ or less respectful words to that effect. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to do it. I sat next to Entwistle’s bass stack, and he was brilliant and we had a party every night up in his hotel room. Pete and Rodger would always wander off on their own after a show, but Entwistle was a bit of a legend. Whatever rock’n’roll antics he’d been up to, he’d always go on stage and some how be perfect. I suppose that’s was why they called him the Ox.”

The Who/50th anniversary


Joining the Who once again in 2014, Phil appeared among a host of rock’n’roll royalty for a large scale charity concert. Held at the O2 arena in Shepherd’s Bush to mark the bands 50th anniversary with the night in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust charity, Phil entertained the crowds alongside Kaiser Chiefs front-man Ricky Wilson with a performance of The Who’s ‘Bell Boy’ (below).


follow Phil Daniels on Twitter – @1phildaniels

also hear the actor and Chelsea diehard with co-host Ceri Levy on the podcast‘The Chels’


carl stanley/Twitter – @Grimupnorth74

Previous article“Mogwai Young Team” at Classic Album Sundays
Next articlethe 20 names for Manchester’s Hollywood style walk of fame announced
drive careful cos I'm walkin...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here