ONSTAGE HE's a dynamite adrenalin crazed guitar player. Offstage you'd hardly recognise him
Chris Spedding is a cautious man who looks out of place, almost nervous, as we sit in Mickie Most's plush suite in the Rak records office.
"I'd appreciate it if you played down the punk rock thing," he says mildly, looking at me out of the corners of his soft brown eyes. "I don't want people to think that I'm leaping onto a bandwagon, when I can stand on my own two feet."
SURPRISING words for someone whose latest claim to fame-or notoriety is his involvement with the Vibrators, one of the new wave band. "Pogo Dancing," their single, is threatening the charts right now. So dammit all, Spedding, explain yourself.
"Well first of all the Vibrators aren't really a punk band anyway. They're too old for one thing - one of them is thirty-two.
"And our working together has always been seen as temporary.
"I first got involved with them last summer when I was looking around to get a band together. The harder I tried, it seemed, the harder it got.
"Then the Vibrators turned up and they were just right. They're not all that experienced but they've got just the right energy and they seemed to need a bit of direction so I thought they were ideal."
But Spedding is careful to keep their relationship at a discreet arm's length: "It's a very loose arrangement. The Vibrators want to be a completely different entity to Chris Spedding and the Vibrators - when they played with me on Supersonic the drummer unscrewed his drum head because it had their name on it.
"So it means that we can both do what we want, and when we go our separate ways we can do it without any bother."
His cautious detachment is not part of any desire to keep his image untarnished - he sets little store by what people think of him. "There's nothing more boring than being respected," he says.
"It's just not what rock and roll is all about. I mean, I didn't respect Eddie Cochran, I just thought he was far out.
"And i don't want people to respect me."
HIS RELUCTANCE to commit himself to the punks comes as the result of some shrewd observations he has made about music. And as he explains these ideas Spedding loosens up perceptibly.
"A lot of musical taste is just inverted snobbery," he says. "For instance, a lot of kids who play or follow punk rock are very middle class.
"Like, the Ramones come from Forest Hills which is a very respectable American suburb - you get the picture?
"And these are just nice kids who feel that they're missing something in their comfortable middle class lives, so they look for a way to express their aggression or frustration. It was the same with eric Clapton really - he was an art school student who wanted to break out a bit, so he got into black music.
"Not that I'm any different. I mean my dad was a bank manager, but at least I'm honest about it and I don't try and pretend that I was born on the street."
He stares out of the window and chooses his next words carefully. "When I was a kid I never felt a part of straight society. Then the peace 'n'love era happened and historical perspective shows us that it was mainly a reaction to the Vietnam war.
"I never felt a part of that movement either, just as I don't feel involved in the punk rock wave. It's just one reaction after another and when something happened as a reaction, rather than spontaneously, it gets tied up in dogmas and uniforms.
"Then before you know it, any so-called new wave gets swallowed by what you could call the boring old fart syndrome."
This caginess would account for the many phases which Spedding's career has gone through. In the summer '74 (???) he scored a hit with his single "Motorbikin'". To the great British public, that's the only record which really shows where he's at - or was at.
But you've probably heard Spedding much more than you realise. He's done session work with Elton John, Roy Harper, Gilbert O'Sullivan, and John Cale among many others - as well as playing guitar on most of the Wombles records.
SPEDDING'S unquestionable ability is evident in the session work, and has earned him a high reputation among fellow musicians. Yet he is rarely moved to think of it as anything more than bread and butter stuff: "People think that if your name's on the record sleeve then you automatically endorse the music, and that isn't really true.
"A typical example is when I worked with Roy Harper - they use my guitar in an attempt to 'Zeppelinise' his music and make it a bit stronger. It was a challenge and I think it worked well.
"But when anybody started discussing Roy Harper's music with me, I found I had nothing to say. I was completely neutral about it."
So when will we hear something that comes straight from his enthusiasm? At the moment he's wrapped up in an impressive schedule of session work. His name will appear on forthcoming albums by Ginger Baker, Frankie Miller and John Lodge.
Spedding also played on Bryan Ferry's last two singles and it's on the cards that he'll do the rounds with Ferry's solo tour in February.
After that he plans - at long last - to go into the studio to cut his own album. Perhaps the real Chris Spedding will stand up then.