Barry Bliss, 2013 Barry Bliss, 2013

Thin Lads: Barry Bliss Speaks

Debra Persons: I was very pleasantly surprised to find the following message from Barry Bliss in my email this week. Bliss, formerly known as Barry Copeland, was the extremely charismatic front man/vocalist for the '80's Norfolk band Thin Lads.

He has been living for many years in the New York City area and hasn't really been in touch with our local scene in quite a while. We were able to shoot a short video of Barry when he was in town during a tour in 2009 and included a portion of it in our movie, Hardcore Norfolk: A Story of Rock'n'Roll Survival. As with several others who have reached out to me privately during the course of this project, I am blown away by Barry's honesty and insight about the past. Andrea, Paul and I always understood that our movie would stir deep emotions and sometimes painful memories for some. I am that much more in awe of these artists and their willingness to open themselves to us and contribute to the movie. So, without further ado, and with his blessing to share this with you, I give you Barry's response:

Watched the main feature of Hardcore Norfolk.Good job. Some of those bands I never saw--like The Candy Snatchers.

I obviously had not entirely figured out who I was back then. (That's a journey I still may be on.)

That song that was playing in the background during the Thin Lads segment is one I can remember, but I have not heard it since when it was done. The faked semi-British accent (like a fake British accent where I attempted to slightly disguise it) is pretty embarrassing, but that is what we are here for--to grow and let go of fear. I was figuring out who I was and that was a phase.

The Carol Taylor thing was interesting to me. She once said there was no need to go see me when she could go see the guy I was imitating--John Lydon (I paraphrase.) It was true. Really though, it was a combination. I was not entirely an imitator and it was not done maliciously. Like I said, I just was not mature enough and did not know how to shake off Johnny Rotten's influence completely. (That did eventually happen. It was a process.) There was some unique/original stuff and some imitation stuff regarding what I did in the Thin Lads.

Jeff Maisey said everyone was telling me how great I was, but I believe really they were telling each other (at least some were), because I got very little feedback from anyone in those days. I was always searching for food and a place to sleep. It was sometimes extremely physically difficult. Sometimes I felt like a doll that people were passing around to play with until they grew tired of it. People outside of the scene were laughing at me.

I am sure Jeff is right when he says I wrote 'I am God', or 'I am Jesus', but really it was more about me attempting to figure out who I was and what it was all about. I had come from a "Christian" upbringing and I had been very scared to cross God. Me writing that stuff was probably me attempting to reclaim what was mine aka an attempt at self-empowerment.

That scene--I was an insider 100%. I didn't really work. I just attempted to somehow last another day and do another show. People fed me - one day at a time.

My immaturity was incredible at times, and I was really egotistical and mean and deluded sometimes---so in that sense Maisey may be on to something. I just remember not being big-headed for the reasons he may think. It was me attempting to not completely disappear and me attempting to make something of myself instead of fading away.

The Thin Lads started as Jeff Maisey and I. (Plenty of folks do not know that before Jeff was my peer/friend he was my teacher. He was older than me when I met him and he was more bold and blunt and I learned a lot from him. By the time we started doing music together I had grown to the point of being like he was.) Basically he'd write the music and I would write the melody/lyrics. It was a true partnership and we were both equally important. I certainly was not the star any more than Mick Jagger is and Keith Richards isn't. When Jeff Broadnax was playing drums and Steve Reel was playing bass we had four peers--four equals in that band. I was totally aware of that--that I was not better than them. It was simply my job to play my part.

Hopefully you are happy with what resulted from all of the work you did.

Carol Taylor was pretty much right--and it was me that she told that too--though it was on the phone and I did not say who I was and she maybe didn't know it was me (or maybe she did). It was one of the first times I had heard what I suspected outloud--that I was imitating Rotten (and Bowie, and Ian Anderson). Soon after I wrote about it on paper and then destroyed it, but there was no going back from admitting it.

Maisey made things happen. I see him as a brilliant guy. His compliments about me in the film were touching to me--especially knowing how discerning he is.

Take care, Barry Bliss


Audio Track: Listen to the Thin Lads, a track called 'Babylon' (aka. Happy Town) recorded in 1986 below in media player.


A track called 'Babylon' from 1986 Thin Lads (Norfolk, VA)