"My Amazing Adventures Growing Up In
1951 to 1975
My First Memories1951:
I was the third and last child of Margaret and Stanley Goodman, born at home on a beautiful spring morning (apparently), on the day of the Oxford and Cambridge boat race and the weekend of Easter. Dad was out doing a regular spot of overtime as a toolmaker – I guess times were still hard then, we’re talking 1951 when food rationing was still in force, not long after the massacres we call World War II.
When my Dad came home he held my tiny hands in his and made the prediction that "these were the fingers of a musician". – he certainly wasn’t disappointed on that one. I’ve lost count of the instruments I look after, love and play. Bass guitar was my main bread-earner for many years but I also dabble in guitar, sitar, flute and keyboards. And now, at the start of the 21st Century, I specialise in a mix of ancient and futuristic instruments – star drums, dimension beams, theramin, ocarina, kalimba and marimba to name but six…
The first memory I recall was waking to find a birthday card with the number ‘1’ on it next to my bed. so I guess I must have been one year old. I suppose I could have been two or three and my parents were into a bit of recycling – who knows? I also remember being in the pram and someone handing me a threepenny piece. I held it for a while and distinctly remember the octagonal shape. One day soon after this I came close to being crushed under a lorry when my big sister Val let go of my pram whilst looking in a shop window - thankfully someone stopped me in the nick of time. ( I don’t remember this bit, but Val sure does.)
I also remember Val reading me Noddy stories at bedtime and freaking me out by putting on a sinister voice when it got to the ‘dark, dark woods’ bit. "It isn’t very good in the dark, dark woods, in the middle of the night, when there isn’t any light – in the dark, dark woods" etc. This was one of the first Noddy books to be banned I later discovered, as it also featured Noddy and Big Ears being kidnapped by gollywogs who then strip them naked and leave them tied together in the woods! I think the more disturbed I became at hearing this, the more big sister Val enjoyed it. She's always been a bit outrageous. She was the first to wear luminous green socks to school, which brought about a total ban on them. She also got herself in the papers as ‘the Punk Granny’, but that story will unfold later.
I remember my parents carrying me up to Stonehenge (there was no fence then) and laying me on the altar stone. We had probably stopped there on the way back from one of our trips to Devon. I was quite high up and remember staring at the stars, while the rest of my family danced around me making silly noises. (Mum was probably merry on cider- a rare occasion indeed.) Looking back to that event, I find it fascinating that they may have unwittingly conducted an initiation ceremony as old as the hills. I can`t remember being freaked out by the ordeal, in fact it felt great. Fifty years in the future I attempted to recreate that moment, but the boys and girls in blue say "NO CAN DO".
My pre-school years were, in retrospect, very peaceful. Afternoons sitting on Mum’s lap enjoying ‘Listen with Mother’ and ‘Uncle Mac’s Children’s Favourites’ (the BBC’s Uncle Mac managed to make a career playing the same dozen songs week in and week out, usually with ‘Sparky and his Magic Piano’ - a bit of early psychedelia there - and ‘Three Billygoats Gruff). I loved the sound of that valve radiogram and as soon as I could reach the controls, experimented with them. I always turned the bass EQ up to full - although it only went up to seven in those days - and on shortwave you could create endless Frippatronic type sounds. I guess this was one of my early musical instruments, along with the usual bog paper and comb.
My first real introduction to the marvels of pure electrickery came one day when I was about three. It had been decided that I should have my own bedside lamp. I sat and watched Dad wire it up and connect a push button switch. He pressed the button and voila – light! He then summoned me over to do the same. "There you go son, just press this button here." I did, and was blown clean off my feet by an electric shock. On closer inspection Dad found a rogue strand of wire sticking out of the switch. It took me a while to realise that it was all an accident and not a new weapon of torture Dad had created in order to punish me. With hindsight, I can see that it was probably from that moment on that I began to question orders from adults. I should have known better from a previous nightmarish situation that my Dad got me into, but that was so traumatic for me that I totally repressed it, only to uncover it some 30 years later. Read on and all shall be revealed!
One of the earliest dreams I remember came to me one night when I was about three or four. I had already seen Walt Disney's 'Fantasia', with the dancing brooms and spooks. I had also attended church and observed and taken in the Christ archetype. In addition, I had gone to Sunday school and heard a few stories about angels and serpents. The dream began with me sitting in the bath, waiting to be got out by my Mum. The water was getting cold and I started calling out for help. No one came - in fact it felt like I was the only one at home.
I finally got out myself and stood on the top landing shivering. Suddenly the hatch to the attic above me opened and out of the darkness came a sort of ghost parade. White floaty ones, skeletons, a hatstand walking on its three legs and similar scary apparitions. I stood rigid as they passed by me in single file and proceeded down the stairs into the lounge. I felt compelled to follow. When I got there they were all sitting down on the settee looking up towards the bay window. The curtains were pulled and shafts of golden light filtered in between the cracks. As I looked up to see what they were looking at, I was struck by a most beautiful life-like vision of Christ on the cross. The half light was reflecting off the beads of sweat and blood that ran down his body. His head hung low, but suddenly he raised his eyes and looked straight into mine. With his last, dying breaths he spoke to me almost in a whisper. I couldn't understand what he was saying. To get a better listen, I moved closer to him, but as I did so this giant snake, which I hadn't previously noticed wrapped around the base of the cross, woke up and with exposed fangs and forked tongue lashed out at me. I stepped backward and fell on the stairs just as his tongue stung me. At this point I awoke with a jolt, feeling an immense, fork-shaped pain on my arm. It's incredible to think that one so young can have such extraordinary dreams. I wondered for years what Jesus was trying to tell me. In the end I concluded that he must have been saying, "Mind the bloody snake!"
For what seemed like endless days, cuddling Mum, living in a fantasy world of my own, the back garden was my domain. In the centre was a cherry tree, planted for me on the weekend I was born. By the age of four, I could climb right to the top. We had a whole heap of fruit and vegetables growing there, to which I could help myself. Once I had learnt (the hard way) not to eat the tomatoes until they were red, things were great, apart from the army of red ants who fascinated me - and me them, obviously, for they tried to eat me. Mum had the solution – boiling hot water. I had to administer the deathblow though. I don’t think I have ever gotten over it. Here I was, an innocent 4 year old bringing death and terror to a whole colony of fellow beings. Not my idea of a picnic, unlike Barry Parker who lived at the end of the road and was the first to introduce me to pulling legs off spiders and watching them twitch.
From the safety of the garden I could sail the Seven Seas
in a craft made from a milk bottle, two bamboo sticks and an orange box. The
same orange box that used to be my sister’s bedside table and bookcase – later
to become part of my boxcart. One day, fascinated by the big fluffy clouds
overhead, I felt a desperate need to touch them. Standing on tiptoes I couldn’t
quite reach. Ahha! Use one of the bamboo sticks I thought. Still not high
enough. I know, stand on the coal bunker with the stick. Almost there. Now, if I
can just fix the two sticks together - on tippytoes….. At this point Mum appears
to witness the spectacle. Maybe I was doing what most children do. Mum was right
there with me. "Those clouds are real high," she said "you’ll need a thousand
sticks to reach them." Now if I’d been bright I’d have thought; ‘A thousand
sticks? Okay, well I’ve got two, so there’s only another 998 to get…" But
instead I thought, ‘A thousand? Blimey, that’s more than ten! Cloud poking’s not
for me," and went off with my wooden sword and shield to kill some imaginary
My First Invitation From The Crystal Palace
At the end of our garden, next to an old disused well, were several apple trees. I used to climb to the top of them and peer off into the distance and watch the planes coming in to land at Heathrow. This particular day, I spied a tiny speck in the distance heading my way. I didn`t take my eyes off it for a moment and as it got closer, I realised it was a balloon. I wanted that balloon more than anything and willed it to come to me. It did, too! Right into my hands. What’s the odds against that happening …? But there I was holding the balloon with this label tied to it. I took it straight to Mum who informed me that it had been set off from Crystal Palace Park about 30 miles away (as the balloon flies). We had to fill out the form, send it back and wait for our prize.
I`d almost forgotten about it until one day when I was playing in the front garden, the postman stopped and enquired if I knew the whereabouts of a certain "Davey Crockett Goodman?" Well, I couldn`t lie, I had the beaver hat on. "It`s me" I said gingerly. "Well this must be for you then." From his bag he took out this silver long barelled six shooter, complete with dummy bullets. Wow, now I can really be a sheriff ! Mum would never give me any clues as to where the gun came from but I guessed it was the Crystal Palace balloon prize. Twenty five years later I moved to Gipsy Hill - just a mile frrom Crystal Palace - lived there until August 16th 2002. I found it a magical place and on April 1st 2000 I collaborated with some fellow ‘eco warriors’ to save the park and woods from the commercial developers - and greed and ignorance - of Bromley Council, but this story has yet to unfold completely.
Another day, whilst playing in the garden in the fog, or smog as it was in the days before smoke-free zones, I encountered a kitten who seemed lost. Inspired by a lion tamer I’d seen at the circus, I made myself a whip from the privet hedge and proceeded to tame the beast. We developed loads of tricks that feline and I, until the call came from the kitchen – "David, time for supper!" I couldn’t bear to be parted from my new playmate, so I put the orange box over the kitten, knowing he would be there in the morning. That cat made such a noise it woke half the neighbourhood. Dad finally discovered it in the middle of the night and ended its captivity. From then on, whenever I encountered it in the street, it used to cross over and would never look me in the eye again. Poor cat
One game I really liked to play was turning the clotheshorse into a tent. It worked a treat down the alleyway at the side of our house. I had the bright idea to climb on top of it and make like a tightrope walker. I lost my balance and slipped, landing with one leg either side of this wooden pole, which cut up right between my legs. My Mum heard the thump and came to my aid. Nothing was broken and there was no blood, so we guessed it was okay. Three days later at bathtime my Mum noticed that my balls had inflated like balloons. I had ruptured the urine canal and was retaining my waste water inside. I was rushed to hospital for two emergency operations. The first one was to insert a tube into my groin, connected to a plastic container pinned to my pyjamas. I had no control over whether I peed or not and would sit there fascinated watching the bag fill with yellow water. The second operation was to insert a small plastic pipe to replace the ruptured part. Both were successful and it all still works today! This injury may of course be the reason why to date, I have never fathered children - to the best of my knowledge anyway. I've enjoyed practising though. Maybe I should take some tests to see if it’s possible.
Anyway, Mum and Dad thought they might lose me over this and were extra kind to me afterwards.
Oh, to revisit those golden days of childhood once again. They seemed like they would never end. But looming on the horizon was SCHOOL. Okay, give Mum her due – she held me back as long as she could and got an extra season out of me, but finally the big day arrived.
My First Day At School
1956, saw my first day at school. I’d gone along earlier for a medical, and standing naked in front of three strangers was a bit weird, but it was school, right? - and that’s what happens there. My Mum gave me a lift on the back of her bike and handed me over. I was ushered into the playground whilst she went back outside to talk to me through the ten foot high fencing. There must have been a dozen of us, all in a similar situations. When the bell rang and Mum cycled off, my heart sank. I’m not sure if I cried then, but I’m crying now writing about it. Fortunately, Barry Parker, my mate from up the road, was already initiated into the rigmaroles of school life as he’d started three months earlier. He offered to show me the ropes, like which toilets work properly and where to find a good, reliable supply of spiders. My middle sister, Marg was in the junior school next door too and we occasionally communicated through the fence. I managed to survive that first week and come the Friday afternoon, the adventure really began
After school dinner, we would stay in the main hall for circle dancing and folk singing. Then a kind of guided meditation and finally, off to Room Seven for music. We were all given percussion instruments of some kind and encouraged to play together. Then there was the recorded music. ‘Peter and The Wolf’ is all I can remember, but that was good enough for me. From that day on I was always keen to be in the school band or choir.
I grew to love my early school days. I was blessed with some pretty cool teachers, who showed us love and the marvels of nature. In fact life for me is an incredible, infinite blessing. I come from a long, long line of fornicating survivors. Ask yourself this question – how many eggs were produced by your mother? Maybe 360 or so. How many sperm were produced by your father? Gillions I guess. Times that by all the generations of your evolutionary past and you’ll find the chances of your own existence are beyond imagination. To be alive is something like winning the lottery every day. I often wonder if my parents planned me. Maybe after two girls they kept going until they got a boy. Or maybe they just wanted to get good mileage out of the luxury pram they brought for the firstborn, the wheels of which went on my boxcart.
My theory is we are a direct result of that one sperm and egg. I just can’t seem to get my head around the reincarnation concept. For a start, if we have been alive before, we can’t remember it. What is unique to us all is our soul if you like. It’s me, Dave Goodman writing these words and you reading them. If we were to imagine that this soul could return in another body it would suggest a finite number of souls. Well that’s ridiculous, how many would you suggest ? Or if we imagine an infinite number of souls, well, it’s hardly fair for some to experience several lifetimes while others have none. I rest my case. Perhaps I`ve missed the point of this very popular and dangerous idea. 'Life after death' is another popular concept. Nice idea - but don’t bank on it! No – life is a fucking miracle (recurring), with or without the afterlife and reincarnation and it’s to be delighted in for delight’s sake. My own theory is that we, as a species, will return to natural/cosmic law and eventually evolve from a tribal community to a global one that’s in harmony with ‘the everything’.
Infant school wasn’t without its punishments, of course. And I got a taste of this when we were having our first phone installed at home. Maybe we’re talking around 1957 here. Mum gave me a penny and a number and instructions and told me to ring her from the call box outside school on my way home. Whilst doing this, some busy-body prefect girl from the big school around the corner decided I was up to no good and reported me. The next day I was punished in front of the whole class. I was made to stand on the desk and pull my socks down and then teacher struck the back of my legs with two rulers. I protested my innocence to no avail. I guess not many people had phones then and not many six year olds placed calls. When I told my Ma what happened she was furious. The next day in class the headmistress came in with my Mum right behind her with arms folded and a livid look on her face. The head apologised to me most profusely. My Mother wouldn’t budge until she considered justice had been done. I got quite a buzz out of it and learnt that authority could be questioned.
1958 Junior School
Alas those exciting, formative years in the infant school eventually came to an end and I was about to enter the more competitive and disciplined world of Junior School. Southville Junior School in Feltham, Middlesex to be precise. The games were more rough - British Bulldog on a regular basis, until there became too many injuries and it got banned.
One of the teachers, Taffy we called him, used to have the nasty habit of pulling your sideburns. Another used to begin by throwing chalk at you and progressed to chucking the blackboard rubber. There were regular mass canings and bundles.
No matter what the weather, we were always sent to the playground for our breaks. Some winters were so cold you could ride your bike down the frozen river to school. Winter seemed to go on for months and months. We were lucky in the school food department. Meal after meal of the most delicious and healthy nosh – and the desserts – mmmm - tasty.
I was always somewhere in the top half of the A class, but through lack of interest and laziness (according to my teacher) I under-achieved. Sometimes I made a bit of a fool of myself. I was once asked what colour skin I had? Well, I had a long look at it and replied "Sort'a yellow, Miss." "Goodman, you dunderhead! It’s white of course!" The whole class had a good laugh and ridiculed me for a number of weeks. Perhaps I was a bit jaundiced that day. I nearly said pink!
Another time we had to write our name on the front of these large art folders. I had been studying sign-writing from my trusty Children’s Encyclopedia, so in large 3D, 3-colour lettering, I painted my name. I was so proud. When it was my turn I presented it to teacher, who held it up for all the class to see. Everyone, except me, immediately spotted the mistake! I’d left the ‘D’ out of Goodman! "David ‘Gooman’ – is that what you’re calling yourself these days?" How embarrassing! Still to this day I get called ‘Gooey Gooman’ by some of my old friends.
At school, for the first time, my dress sense came into question. The deal was, as long as you wore the regulation blazer and cap, the rest was your choice. Dad must have been doing loads of overtime at that point, because I was being bought lots of clothes and was selecting most of them myself. I usually went for bright colors and had orange, purple, pink, bright green and red shirts and ties. No matter which combination I wore, Taffy the teacher would comment on my lack of color-sense. "Orange and green should never be seen." he’d say, or "I’d rather be dead than seen wearing pink and red." Considering he wore the same drab clothes every day, in hindsight I think he was jealous (in fact, he later chipped my tooth with a rounders bat. It was an accident – I was batting next, after him, and when the ball came to his left he swung the bat, whacked me in the face, knocked the ball for six and got a home run before he even realized what he’d done.)
I loved to swap things in the playground. For 3 months of the year we used to get the fairground kids. You could swap your Dinky toys for rings and knuckle-dusters, even flick knives. One boy came to school with a rather impressive collection of old coins. They looked ancient and had a mammoth, a dugout canoe, the moon and the sun on them. He gave one to each of his close friends, me included. I was determined to own the whole set and swapped whatever I could to get them. Eventually I had five. I showed them to my parents who agreed they looked very old indeed. My Mum happened to point out that there had been a break-in in a local museum and some coins had been stolen. We decided to ‘lay low’ for a bit and then take them to the British Museum for valuation. The big day came. Father and son set off for the British Museum with dreams of owning valuable treasure. We arrived and were sent to a colossal door at the back, where we had to knock and wait. Eventually we were ushered in and escorted through a number of large, locked doors. I became increasingly excited. Finally we reached an extraordinarily ornate room containing a huge wood and gilt desk, behind which sat the man who would put a price on my, (or rather, our – they were now a family treasure) coins. He smiled and asked me to produce the coins. I couldn’t find them. In fact, I had left them at home! What an ordeal! So embarrassing that we could never bring ourselves to go back again!
Actually I did return about 30 years later. By then you simply took stuff to a counter on the side and received an answer in minutes. They turned out to be Mysore Indian, around the 18th century, maybe of some value to a collector but of no great interest to the museum. When travelling in Goa many years later I saw almost identical coins for sale for a few pounds. I still have them and a good few others.
Another treasure of mine was a tiny cat’s whisker radio. You just clipped it onto one of the drainpipes in the playground, inserted an earpiece and you had instant, free radio. Having an engineer for a dad was really handy if you wanted gadgets made to order. He made me a special trick – ‘the disappearing sixpence’. Most impressive. You put a threepenny piece and a sixpence inside a matchbox and shake it about a bit. You say the magic word and abracadabra, the sixpence has vanished! Very impressive. What really happens is that the threepenny piece is hollowed out on one side and amazingly the other coin always ends up inside it.
Dad also helped me make ‘the leaking perfume bottle’. Fill it with water and give it to your friends to smell. So long as they hold it the correct way round as they remove the top, a small jet of liquid will flow out of the front of the bottle and wet the victim. It wasn’t a popular trick and I soon learnt that you had to be selective about who you played it on.
One candidate was the school dullard John Eggerton – or Egghead as he was affectionately known. The way the trick worked was due to a fine hole drilled in the front of the bottle near the bottom. With the cap on pressure kept the water in, but once removed it was free to soak the person holding it. Egghead was fascinated by this and having grasped the principle, went on to make his own. He lost a couple of Brylcreem jars hammering a nail in with a brick to create the hole, but was successful in his third attempt!
One sunny afternoon when I was up the apple tree, Frances Archer, a very prim and proper lass from across the road, came into the garden and looked up to me in the tree. ‘Have you ever seen a girl's willy?’ she asked. I wasn't too sure whether I had seen one before or not. I had two older sisters and I'm sure we used to bathe together. Anyway, the invitation seemed too good to miss. ‘Go on then. Let's have a look’. She pulled down her knickers and there was nothing there but a hole. Nevertheless, it was sufficiently interesting for me to suggest that Geoffrey Atkinson, who lived on the corner, might like a peek. We all managed to climb over her locked side gate and get into her dad's shed. She showed us both again. "Okay - now let's see yours." she demanded. Well, how could we resist? Geoffrey, who was a year older than me, got his out and it started to go stiff. This sort of infant behaviour developed throughout most of the children in the street. A lot of the kids' parents would go out to work during the school holidays, leaving us free to get up to all sorts of mischief and madness. Doctors and nurses was a favourite - "Okay, get your clothes off and lay on the couch so we can examine you." The girls would demand. It's a shame in a way that this sort of behaviour didn't continue into our teenage years but, in fact, we grew out of it as quickly as we got into it. Once we'd had enough of examining each other's parts we never mentioned it again
About once a month, on a Saturday afternoon, I would go to my Gran's in Hounslow. She lived at one end of the High Street. There I would meet up with my cousins John, Jennifer and Thomas. We formed the Golliwog Club. To become a member you had to steal the Golliwogs off the Robertsons Jam jars in the shops. There were only so many times you could get away with this before you were caught. We became very good runners and knew all sorts of back routes and hideouts. Once you had a certain number of paper Golliwogs, you sent them off for a metal badge. There was a whole set to collect. Cricketers, banjo players, golfers, whatever. There was even one who smoked a curious looking pipe. Anyway we weren't stopping till we had the whole set. Another thing one had to do to become a member was to unscrew the numbers from people's gates and change them around. Any sevens we found we kept. Our clubhouse was Grandad's shed and he gave us an old trunk half-full of memorabilia and our own key to the lock.
As the years rolled by the Golliwog Club became very enterprising. We hit on a scam of writing to sweet and soft drink manufacturers, claiming we were doing a school project and asking how many Milky Bars they sold a year etc… It worked wonders and as well as receiving very polite thank you letters, we would often get a box full of goodies. We once got a gross of Lucozade. I tell you, that stuff really does give you energy! We used to down about three bottles, then run at full speed from one end of the High Street to the other. The art was to dodge the people without stopping. Occasionally someone ended up on the floor. We became really good at it and timed ourselves from the clocks at either end of the street.
Much of my Dad's childhood took place on Hounslow Heath. He knew every nook and cranny of it. He claimed he knew the whereabouts of Dick Turpin's secret hideout. He drew me a map of the heath and placed an X where he suspected the hidden treasure was. Other landmarks included a 'snakey pond' and a 'forty acre tunnel'.
I took the map to school, where it captured the imagination of many of my classmates. Before I knew it there were a dozen of us being led around the heath by my Dad. We were using the map for navigation and sure enough, there were the snakes in the pond and there was the tunnel. En route to Dick Turpin's hideout one boy discovered a lady's shoe in the long grass, then another, then a few items of clothing. This particular mystery ended when we found a pair of naked bodies rollocking in the long grass. Suddenly this was much more exciting than the treasure hunt and we sat there in silence and watched for as long as we could, before Dad came looking for us. He stumbled right into the copulating couple and apologising most profusely, dragged us away. When we asked him what they were up to he just replied that they were "Sowing their wild oats." Barry Parker had a different theory. "They're shagging and trying to make babies." he said with his usual discretion. Most of us preferred my father's explanation. "Someone has to plant the oats," said Timothy Diggins, "otherwise we wouldn't have porridge, then we would get cold in the winter and die." Personally, I couldn't wait till I was old enough to sow my own wild oats. It seemed like great fun.
After much searching and backtracking, we actually found the steps leading down to Dick Turpin's hideout. Unfortunately, they had been bricked up half way down, apparently by the soldiers from the army camp opposite. This might well have been the real Dick Turpin hideout. Local legends ran wild with stories of him hiding up a chimney or in an old pub nearby. I wonder whether it was ever properly excavated. Years later I returned, but alas I couldn't find the 'entrance'. It has now been covered over by a major housing estate. Who knows what treasures may still lay buried beneath…?
Experimenting with Big Sister's Tape Recorder
Bill Hailey, Joe Brown, Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones
Some of my early musical influences came from my big sister Val. She called herself a 'bohemian', although I'm not sure if anyone really knew what it meant. She hung out with a pleasant but mischievous gang who listened to Bill Hailey, Joe Brown and Buddy Holly. They used to talk in catch-phrases like, ‘Whatcha know Daddyo?’, ‘I scream for ice-cream’ and ‘See you later, Alligator’. They regularly got drunk on cider at the weekend and would experiment with new ways of getting high, like mixing sugar with coca cola and drinking it with a spoon (don't knock it till you try it!). They used to hang out in Richmond and in 1962-63 they’d regularly see a band called The Rolling Stones there, in a local pub called The Railway. I could have taped the Stones then, as my Sister Val had got a tape recorder for her birthday. She used it mainly to practise her elocution. It's quite a shock when you hear yourself recorded for the first time. You see, we come from Feltham ‘know wot I mean?’ Apparently it has the laziest accent in the UK. A lot of Eastenders came to Feltham after the war so it's a pretty mixed area, accent-wise. It's like we mumble, apparently, and leave bits off words most of the time although we all understand each other perfectly well. When one steps out into the big wide world though, one has to learn to talk again if one wishes to be understood (well, you did in those days, anyway). I was actually approached once, on board a ferry on a school outing, and picked out as someone who had come from Feltham and who possessed a classsic example of the accent. The chap was a professor of phonetics or something and it was him who pointed out what a bone idle accent it was we were using.
Anyway, as well as using her tape recorder to improve her speech, Val also had a strange collection of tapes she had recorded off the radio. It was all very avante garde, a pastiche of cat sounds heavily effected with reverb and echo. This used to scare the hell out of me, but the good thing was I got to use the recorder. It didn't take me long to discover you could turn the tape round and hear things backward. I used to learn a whole sentence backward then record it. Then I'd turn that tape over and see if you could understand it. I also discovered that ‘God in Heaven’ backwards sounded like ‘Never need dog’, and if you recorded a sneeze and played it backward it sounded like a guillotine in operation. Further discoveries included sticking a piece of tape over the erase-head, which resulted in you being able to do a crude bit of multi-tracking. You couldn't hear the previous track until you played it all back. It was impossible to know whether you were in time, of course, which led to some interesting effects mid the endless tracks of shortwave radio ambience.
Another effect I had in my homemade, improvised recording
studio was the overflow pipe in the bath. By running an extension cable from my
bedroom, I could place the mike right up against the overflow hole in the bath.
If I turned the volume right up I could hear for miles. Somehow the pipe seemed
to amplify the outside sound. You needed to be careful when planes approached
because you could deafen yourself on a quiet night. I could hear my
sisters talking right the way to the end of the street. By the same token, if
you shouted down the hole, your voice would come out amplified and I would often
confuse my sisters if they happened to be nearing the house at bathtime. Another
great thing about the overflow pipe was that it added a strange phasing effect,
especially if a vehicle passed or birds flew overhead. I wonder what happened to
all these old tapes?
It came to the time when I had to sit the Eleven Plus exam. The results of the Eleven Plus determined, essentially, how your life and career would develop. I believe it was something like the top fourteen kids from our year would go to a Grammar school and the rest of us would be shunted off to a local Secondary Modern. I came 14th and a new girl, Linda Jones, who’d recently moved in from Wales came 15th. Her parents argued with the powers-that-be that if she could do so well when she had only been at the school for six months then she should be upgraded. She was – to 14th place – knocking me off the Grammar school list. For some reason my parents didn’t put up that much of a fight, so off I went to Longford Secondary Modern. Coincidently, I remember meeting her some years later, after she’d just seen a band called John’s Children. Mark Feld was the singer and she claimed she was having a fling with him. Not long after that Mark Feld became Marc Bolan – who crops up again in these pages in some very strange circumstances - and Linda became pregnant. Being in the club meant she had to give up her grammer school place anyway – the place that you could argue was rightfully mine. Ah well, these things happen.
1962 Senior School
Longford Secondary Modern was even closer to home than my two previous schools, about half a mile I guess. I had a bit of an idea what to expect, as I used to pass the school each day on the way to my old one, and I’d also heard many stories, some quite alarming. The unofficial school uniform here was jeans and t-shirt in the summer – which was pretty rare in ’62 - and jeans and denim jacket in winter. The building housed boys and girls, but we were segregated by an imaginary line which ran through the middle of the building. The line didn’t really spare the girls our attentions, or vice versa, nor did it save anyone from the bullies. I’d been warned about the Bully Boy Mafia and advised to stand up to them from the start to prevent my life becoming hell. I took this advice seriously and on my first day, when Billy Clarke, Bully Number One, cornered me in the bogs and growled, "Give us yer dinner money or else!" I was prepared. I had written and learnt my response, which included telling him about my three older, psychotic, axe-wielding brothers, who would chop him up and feed him to our four Doberman dogs if he as much as touched me. In the circumstances this speech didn’t seem like such a good idea, so I began to improvise instead.
"Can you play the harmonica?" I asked him. He unclenched his fists and scratched his chin.
"Well, would you like to learn?"
"Er… yeh, okay."
So I took out my much-loved blues harp. "Give us a go then" he demanded. Now I was making real progress. A way to a man’s heart really is through music, I thought to myself. He gently took it from me, put it in his pocket then walked off and that was the last I saw of it. I later heard he swapped it for a packet of fags. He never did pick on me again though.
In the centre of the school playground were five long air-raid shelters, which were supposedly boarded up. Each one had been taken over by some school gang or other. There was a drinking and smoking club, a casino, a torture chamber, an alleged wanking den and, as for the other, well I never did find out what went on in there. To get in you had to be at least in the fourth grade, plus undergo the most horrible initiation ceremony known to man. Before I reached the fourth form the air-raid shelters were demolished and so the mystery lives on. There was no shortage of rumours about No. 5, from an entrance to a tunnel that led to the girls’ showers, to a recruiting office for a secret society which was in direct competition with the Freemasons to a private school for tattoo artists.
There were a lot of high jinks that went down at Longford and I’ve often wondered how the teachers let the kids get away with it. The truth was that they had no choice. The kids ruled and no matter how many times they were caned, they still caused it. The year before I started was the famous incident where the kids had had enough of one of the teachers and held him by his legs out of a top storey classroom window. Needless to say, he had a nervous breakdown and was never seen in the school again. During winters there, whenever it snowed the playground became a battlefield with snowballs flying right, left and centre. Over the years this activity had developed into quite an organised sport. First you made slides by getting water to freeze on the ground. They would become so slippery and shiny that you could actually see yourself in them. Next you split into two groups - the 'sliders' and the 'bombers'. The bombers got busy making a stockpile of snowballs, while the sliders talked tactics. The object was to get from one end of the slide to the other without being hit by a snowball. If you were hit, you'd have to join the bombers, if not you'd keep on sliding. I guess anyone in their right mind would have realised the dangers of playing this game, but at our school it was actually overseen by the teachers.
We had a retired headmaster, who we believed actually lived in the school tower. He had a limp and used a walking stick, so we called him Pegleg. His special duties included administering his own sadistic brand of caning to the unruly and to blow the whistle to end these 'winter sports'. The first time I witnessed this I couldn't quite believe what had happened. Pegleg hobbled out into the middle of the playground and a deathly hush ensued. He braced himself before taking out the whistle and giving it a long, hard blow. On this cue he was bombarded from every side by snowballs. The First Years were quick to join in, me included. I think I may have seen some teachers join in too. Pegleg stood there in defiance, waving his stick around, fending off as many snowballs as possible, whilst still blowing the whistle at a deafening volume. I thought the whole school would be punished for this, but apparently it was some kind of yearly ritual. The one chance to get back at Pegleg for a whole year's caning. He even seemed to enjoy it a little. After surviving the trenches of World War One, I guess a few hundred snowballs seemed like confetti. One of his other duties was to stand in for absent teachers. We soon discovered that if you were in this situation, your best bet was to try to turn the subject around to the Great War. If you could manage this, then you could just sit back and listen to Pegleg's endless stories of the heroism and stupidity of this bizarre period of history.
I was gullible enough to fall for one of the stock jokes the prefects had lined up for us greenhorn firsties. "Have you seen the amazing way the light comes into this book cabinet?" "No - let me see." The next think I know, the cabinet door closes and it's put on its side. I barely have enough room to breathe. Trapped in total darkness, with my collar sticking in my throat. Very unpleasant. Don't panic, I told myself, you'll be let out eventually. I now knew what it felt like to be held in capitivity. A few years before this incident, a boy who lived in the next street to me had been locked into a wicker basket at school for a joke. I think he spent hours in there, and legend had it that he had a fit and died.
Most of those early senior school years were spent keeping out of people's way, making new friends and learning the ropes. If you could claim some quiet corner of the playground and just hang out there with your mates you might avoid unwanted attention. I occasionally used to get out my new harmonica and play one of two tunes my dad taught me while sitting on his knee, from about the age of three. ‘She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain’ or ‘When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbing Along’. They're still the only two songs I know on the mouth organ, but I could, and still can, improvise a little blues. One day I was spotted playing it by one of the prefects. "Oi! Goodman! Come 'ere. The school's starting a band and you're in it." Before I could protest, I was informed that I'd be allowed to skip French in order to practice. "Great! When do I start…?"
The school had just been awarded a total budget of £60 to start a brass band. We bought two cornets, a euphonium and a trombone. We also enlisted a student who had his own trumpet and could actually play it. I started out on the cornet then switched to the trombone when I'd found out that we were to be joined by a second trombonist from the girls' school. She turned out to be spotty, but an able musician. Now the only problem with this band was that two thirds of us couldn't actually play our instruments. Mr Davis, who'd taken on the task of knocking us into shape didn't seem too perturbed. "We've got a whole year to get a set together, then we're going to enter the county school band competition." I liked his enthusiasm. The fact that only two of us could read music didn't put him off either. He already had the set worked out for us. 'Colonel Bogey', 'Where's that Tiger?' and 'Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines', just for starters. As we didn’t have enough time to learn the rudiments of music first, we jumped straight in at the deep end. The teacher would sing to us our individual parts while we looked at the music. He did it so many times that we learnt it parrot-fashion. We then wrote the valve and slide positions underneath the respective notes on the music. Cheating, I know, but we didn't half get our act together quickly! Fair enough - there we were a year later, entering the Middlesex Schools Music Competition. The first time a secondary modern school had entered.
The week before, we went into extensive rehearsal and on the morning of the competition we gave our first public performance to the dinner ladies. It was Christmas time and spirits were high. We went down a treat and they had a whipround and raised a good few bob for us. Soon we were in teacher's car speeding off to the gig , stopping off on the way in the pub for several sips of Dutch courage. Most of us were only 12 or 13, but there we were being offered sips of the teacher's beer. A very good move in hindsight, because it put us in the right mood to play. What a ramshackle bunch we were - no uniform and a handful of beat-up old instruments with holly and tinsel tied on them. All the other schools had complete orchestras in starched white shirts complete with black trousers and cummerbands. The luck of the draw meant we were to go on last. We sat through a few sets and I noticed how bad an orchestra can sound just by having one or two dodgy players. The teacher took us outside and began psyching us up. "We can win this you know. The competition isn't that stiff and it’s judged by audience reaction."
Eventually it was our big chance. We declined the offer to sit down like all the others and instead came to the front of the stage and played in front of the curtains. We didn't even need the music now as we'd learnt our parts by heart. It must have been our laid-back manner that made a light relief from the stuffiness of the grammar school bands, from the moment we walked on stage we got a cheer. There was no stopping us now. As soon as we hit them with our opening number, 'Colonel Bogey' we had them clapping, stamping and whistling. We became real performers, breaking into a nifty little dance routine. Our second number, 'Tiger Rag' was one of my favourites. Its got a singalong chorus which goes "Where’s that tiger?" half a dozen times in succession, interspersed by this rasping trombone slide - I really milked this one! Finally, our piece de resistance, 'Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines'. It was a current hit movie and everyone knew the theme tune. I tell you, the whole house was rocking and on the final chorus, to our amazement, a whole squadron of paper airplanes were launched from the back of the hall. What we hadn't known was that some of our teachers had arranged for pupils to have the afternoon off and encouraged them to come along and give their support. I'm not sure whose idea the paper airplanes were, but it worked a treat and we won. With the £250 prize money we soon expanded into a 12-piece mini-orchestra. What I learnt from this experience was that audiences go for showmanship, attitude and hooky melodies. One doesn't have to study an instrument for years before giving enjoyment to others, and finally, if you are intending to enter a music competition, get as many of your friends as possible in the audience and make sure they all bring paper airplanes!
The next few years at school passed fairly unadventurously. The air raid shelter foundations were replaced by a new school wing and the school tried to introduce a new uniform, but gave up when over half the pupils refused to wear it. A few more teachers had nervous breakdowns or took early retirement – or both - and old Pegleg died. The school band kept going from strength to strength, until one day our music teacher had a heart attack. A replacement was found and the band played on. The new music teacher had an idea. His predecessor, who loved the Planet Suite by Holst, was now out of hospital and recovering at home. Why didn't we learn a piece from the Planets to play for him? He chose ‘Mars; The Bringer of War’, probably because it translates well for a brass band. Once we were rehearsed, we arranged to meet with our instruments outside our old teacher's back garden, in order to sneak in and strike up with 'Mars'. What a great surprise this was going to be! We were about 33 bars into the piece when his wife came running out flapping her arms and begging us to stop. "I think he's having a relapse! Can you please leave now!" He never did return to school and no one ever mentioned him again.
My parents seemed pretty adventurous when it came to summer holidays. The summer of '62 saw us load up the Ford Consul with camping gear and set off to Italy via the Alps. What an adventure! Camping alongside the beautiful lakes of Switzerland. Getting lost in the backstreets of Venice. One particular treat was the Cola you could get in Austria. Vivi Cola and Avri Cola as I remember. These potions were the real thing and still had a little bit of cocaine in just like the Vicwardian originals. I think me and my sister Marg must have averaged about three or four bottles a night. I just seemed to have an abundance of energy and became expert on the more difficult slot machine games. Yeah - those early holidays abroad were well cool. What an adventure for a kid of 12.
Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Wee Willy Harris
One day that Summer I was taken by my parents to Chiswick Empire with sister Marg, to see Cliff Richard and the Shadows. There were a few support acts, but the only one I remember right now was Wee Willy Harris. In hindsight, he might have done better if he’d changed his name to Big Willy Harris... Anyway, we were there as a treat for Marg for her birthday. She sat there, quite calmly through the support sets, and even through the Shadows opening numbers, but when Cliff walked on the stage, she, and just about every other teenage girl in the audience, went berserk! Total mania! Screaming, shaking and probably wetting her knickers. I'd never seen anything like that. Dad seemed most puzzled and concerned. After the show we queued up backstage to see if we could get to see the great man. We did, but first we got soaked by some joker throwing a bucket of water - well, that's what I hope it was - out of the dressing room window. My Mum was disgusted by this and threatened never to go there again, and she never did, because it was knocked down six months later (I don't think my Mum was responsible for the demolition though.).
My middle sister Margaret passed her Eleven Plus, went to grammar school and then rebelled against it by becoming a bit of a beatnik. Once she gave up eating conventional food altogether and instead ate rose petal sandwiches for several days. She always had some abstract painting or other on the go at home and listened to Woody Guthrie and early Bob Dylan. She used to smoke a pipe and I'd often hear reports of her being drunk on the way to school and having a go at fellow passengers on the bus for being ‘too straight’.
During one school holiday I was using my bed as a trampoline. I would climb up on top of the airing cupboard and jump down onto the mattress, bounce up and nut the wall. We all used to do this, right? I'd discovered that the closer you land to the side of the bed, the higher you can jump. On my eleventh jump I miscalculated and gashed a great hole in my shin on the metal bed frame. Margaret was in the other room and came running in when she heard the thump. "Are you okay?" she enquired, "Yeah" I said, lying and hiding my bleeding leg behind the other one. I ran a bath and got in. In no time the water was red. You could actually see my shin bone. "Marg help!" I cried. She quickly took me to a neighbour, Mrs Hill, who should 'know what to do'.
The cut was long and deep and at the top was a V-shaped piece of loose skin. Mrs Hill wanted to cut this off completely – "Come on," she commanded, scissors at the ready, "it won’t take a minute" - but my sister wouldn't let her. Instead, she borrowed a pushchair and pushed me about three miles to the hospital, where they cleaned it and sewed it up. If the piece had been cut off I don't think it would ever have healed. But it did and that summer the Goodman family were back out travelling around Europe, camping on lakesides and generally having a groovy time. Me and my sister knocking back the Vivi Cola and playing endless games of badminton. Dad had a new cine camera and was busy making home movies.
We went for a second opinion to some special hospital. When they examined it they pronounced that it was 'osteomylitis'. Suddenly the word popped out from the squiggles on the Austrian findings. I was booked in the next day for treatment. I was carried home, (Dad had stopped trying to make me walk) and put on the couch. My parents had to go off somewhere and left me watching telly. I became really engrossed in Dr Finlay's casebook. This was a drama series set in the 1920s, where each week the doctor is involved with a particular patient and at the end of the episode he tells Janet, his assistant, about the case.
This week it was about a famous footballer who kept getting an excruciating pain in his leg, especially just when he had a chance to score a goal. Eventually, he had his leg amputated to stop it spreading. Most tragic for a young star soccer player. Right at the end, when Janet asked Dr Finlay what it was, he turned to her and said (and I'll never forget these words) "It was osteomylitis Janet." Well, as far as I was concerned I was losing my leg tomorrow.
There I was, at home alone and I was beginning to panic. It all fell into place. This is why my parents were acting so strangely. The already knew and just couldn't break it to me. My folks eventually came home to find me in tears. "What's up?" they asked. "There was this football player on Dr Finlay who had a bad leg and they cut it off and he had osteomylitis and that's what I got and I don't want to lose my leg." I blubbered. My Mum had to stop herself from laughing. That's before penicillin could cure it she told me. Well, I'd never heard of this nurse called Penny whatever, but if she could save my leg she was alright by me. The truth was, there had been a mention that if it didn't clear up there might have to be an amputation, or at least a scraping away of the bone. Fortunately for me, after 64 shots in the backside of the magic medicine, the swellling went down and the pain receded. After 6 weeks in hospital I was back home.
I must say I quite got into hospital life. Daily visits from present-wielding friends and family, time to read endless books, bottom massages from friendly nurses and those painkillers. It was quite a trauma coming home, especially as my bike had been lent to a friend and come back broken. My parents had taken the opportunity to clear out a load of my old toys and even given away my train set. To top all this, when I eventually got back to school, my trombone had been given to a new band member. The only good thing was that I was now excused from sport and could convert this free time into extra Art lessons. We had a flamboyant art teacher called David Holmes, or Homo as he was nicknamed. He was actually caught soliciting in a Leicester Square toilet and suspended, but after he got married to an opera singer he was reinstated by popular demand. I learnt a lot from him about pop art and classical music. We developed a long friendship and he certainly never propositioned me. Or if he did I didn't notice. He really helped me to indulge myself in experimenting with shape and colour. If I expressed an interest in creating a 14 ft square painting, he would help me get the materials sorted out.
Woodwork was another favourite lesson of mine. After the obligatory making of picture frames, candlestick holders and a footstool, I was allowed to build an electric guitar. I'd never even played one by this point, so with every lesson the excitement grew. So much love went into this axe. I got as far as designing it, salvaging some old wood from a dilapidated church and beginning to build, including putting on most of the frets. Unfortunately I never finished it. At the end of the year I had to choose between woodwork and metalwork. The father's footsteps syndrome took over and I chose the latter. It meant I had to hand over my guitar to another student to finish. I don't know whether he finished it. I wonder if it exists today, or if it's rotting in the earth from whence it came.
Metalwork seemed a much more macho form of self-expression. Once instructed in the basics, the more able of us were allowed to help build this flying machine that Mr Henderson, our metalwork teacher, had designed. He had taken up the gauntlet laid down by Oxford University, to build a two-manned, bicycle-powered aircraft that could fly a figure of eight. His first design was based on an old tandem with aluminium and varnished tissue paper wings. On its first flight the whole thing collapsed into a pile of mangled metal and paper. Undeterred, it was back to the drawing board and a totally new design emerged. And so on, and so on. This project kept students active and amused for years to come. One day about 12 years later, I heard on the news that he actually got it off the ground and did half a figure of eight.
Geography was a subject I initially found a bit boring. All those facts and figures about this country producing this much timber a year etc. All that was to change after one Christmas - when I was bought a weather recording station. With my new interest in barometers, isobars and strato cumulus, I suddenly became the blue-eyed boy of Mr. Davis, the geography teacher. I was given the duty of going each morning to the central courtyard of the school (which I didn't even know existed). To unlock this cupboard which housed the weather recording equipment. I then took down the readings. Rainfall too had to be measured and I had to calculate the relative humidity. To do this you had to put a little wet sock onto the end of the thermometer and spin it around your head. (honest!) This daily duty meant I could miss out on the more boring part of assembly and get back just in time for the singing (if you could call it that).
I also managed to get permission to come into the assembly hall at lunch time to play around on the piano. One day, while plonking away on the old ivories, a posse of fifth formers came in and proceeded to wire up the piano to an explosive device which they had concocted. The next day was April Fools day (typist's note - It Is Today!!) and this looked like the practical joke to end them all. They must have had a tipoff as to what hymns were planned for the morning's assembly, because someone had managed to work out a special note which would only be played at the end of the last tune. (F# 2 octaves above middle C as I remember.) An electrical contact was placed across the note and striker, then wired up to a battery connected to a home-made magnesium flare. With any luck, on the closing bars of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ there would be a huge bang that would send everyone onward.
Next day at assembly you could sense that virtually every pupil present was aware of the impending prank. The anticipation was almost unbearable. I knew exactly where the explosion would come and could hardly bring myself to sing because of the excitement. Those at the front of the hall near to the piano had already started covering their faces and putting their fingers in their ears. Why none of the teachers reacted to this abnormal behaviour I'll never know, but it was April Fools’ Day and people did act strangely. Finally, when that high F# was struck, the detonator ignited and an explosion (well more like a fart really) came from inside the piano, followed by a huge cloud of blue smoke. So much smoke in fact that the sprinklers were activated and the whole assembly got a good soaking. Panic ensued and children and teachers were running in all directions. To further complicate things, our sprinklers were connected to the girls' assembly room next-door, and so they got wet too.
Later that week, when the mess had been cleaned up, the head gave us a good chastising, but no one was singled out and punished. I think they secretly admired our skill and imagination and this was just the sort of thing they used to get up to at teacher training college. We were often being told stories of their prankster antics, many of which formed the inspiration for our own. Yes - the great piano explosion of '63 would go down in the school history as one of the grandest April Fool jokes imaginable, only to be rivalled several years later by the 'mini on the roof' prank', where the old pulley in the school tower was renovated and used to winch the deputy head's mini car onto the roof. The problem wasn't so much getting it up there as getting it back down. It was up there for weeks before a plan was finalised to remove it. During this period we had visitors from rival schools just to marvel at the spectacle.
Fighting seemed to be an important part of growing up. Everyone at one point or another seemed to indulge just to establish some kind of pecking order. One day I figured the time had come to take the plunge into senseless violence. Instead of going straight for the bully, I thought I'd pick on one of the smaller pupils first. Instead of him being intimidated by my presence, he was well up for a round or two of fisticuffs. Up went the cry of "Bundle" and suddenly we were surrounded by a heaving mass whose only desire was to see blood. All this took me quite by surprise and as a total novice to real fighting, I backed off, but my tiny opponent wasn't having it and chased me around the playground to much humiliation. No blows were struck and my reputation as a warrior took a nose dive.
To regain credibility I decided to pick on the tallest member of our class and a fight was set to take place after school, alongside the Longford River. The chap I'd picked on was not one of the most popular members of the class and had only a few close friends, whereas I was quite high on the popularity stakes and had dozens of kids rooting for me. So there we were on the riverbank, eye to eye, fist to fist. Neither of us really wanted a fight, we had just succumbed to peer pressure. "Go on, smack him in the gob, kick him in the balls, bite his nose off," and other such words of encouragement came from the crowd. Neither of us was prepared to strike the first blow and the crowd were getting restless. It soon became obvious to both of us that if we didn't hit one another soon someone else would. There was a pile of rotting apples dumped nearby and these were soon being hurled at us as tokens of encouragement. My oponent took his eyes off me for one moment to glance at the river, which was all there was between this madness and freedom. He seized the moment and jumped into the river to wade across under an increased bombardment of apples. "Quick Dave - get him, don't let him get away" I felt I should show some sign of bravery, so I leapt after him with all my might, missed and landed head first in the river. He managed to make it to relative safety over a ten foot high wire fence and I just sat there waist deep in the water, watching my scarf float down the river, thinking to myself - this fighting lark sure ain't for me.
1964 Small Faces
One day whilst hanging out with my cousins and fellow members of The Golliwog Club at Grans in Kingsley Road Hounslow, we stumbled upon an early rehearsal of the Small Faces. They were practising in Ian McLaghan`s parents' front room. When they spotted us mooching around outside, one of them came out and told us the name of the band. "We're the Small Faces ain't we" It was the perfect name for these cheeky sleeky mods. They were pretty damn good and we'd sit on outside for hours listening to them go over the same songs again and again.
The Golliwog club disbanded when I was about eleven, when my grandparents died. Maybe somewhere in a box in a shed in Kinglsey Road Hounslow there is a complete set of Golliwog badges along with my Grandad's medals for bravery.
Sam and Dave, Marianne Faithfull, Marquees
My older cousin John Greenwood got some tickets to take me and my other two cousins, Jennifer and Thomas, to see the Stones on tour with Sam and Dave, Marianne Faithfull and the Marquees, featuring the guitar virtuoso Steve Cropper. The venue was a cinema in Chiswick. A great package tour if ever there was one. Brilliant songs, "Green Onions", "Knock on Wood", "Hold on I'm Coming", "As Tears Go By". The only problem was that when the Stones came on you couldn't hear them above the screaming. We tried to make our way to the front of the stage, but were kept in our seats by two women holding torches. What rebels we were. I'm glad I saw the Stones in this era although I didn't hear them. We also tried to get tickets for the Beatles, but all the girls got there first.
1965 The Who
I first saw The Who at Southall Townhall. It was a much larger venue than I usually went to to see bands. The support band were a dinky little combo called Max Ace and his Syncopated Rhythm Masters (I think). They put in a tight jazzy bluesy set. They had set up in front of the curtains and produced a pretty full sound considering they only had small amps and nothing was miked up. The place was packed, mostly with moddy types, all showing off their latest handmade Burtons suits. What really stood out for me in this mass of two-tone tonic mohair, were two guys who seemed as if they came from another planet. They both had long, curly hair, colourful, ornate, baggy clothes, beads, bangles and headbands - finished off with golden sandals and ankle bells. Suddenly my high fashion point of reference had changed. These dudes were the top peacocks of the show as far as I was concerned. It's a wonder they didn't get beaten up really, considering how different they looked. For some reason the bovver boys gave them a wide berth. Maybe it was their 'godlike persona' or the fact that there was no reference point with which to compare them. Looking back, I guess they were just two guys who'd been out to India and assimilated some of the fashion and culture. But this was certainly a taster of things to come.
A voice bellowed through the PA. "We've just had a phonecall from The Who. They've broken down and won't make it tonight." An almighty sound of disgruntlement went up. "Instead…we're gonna hand you back to the very excellent Max Ace and his Syncopated Rhythm Masters." Our boos and hollas were suddenly drowned out by a mega loud riff and drum storm echoing out from behind the curtains. The riff I recognised as the opening bars of Martha and the Vandellas' "Heatwave". The curtains pulled back and there were The Who in all their splendour. You can imagine how pleased the crowd were now. A neat bit of reverse psychology!
Moonie was a maniac and had his own separate rostrum, the like of which I'd never seen before. There were so many sounds coming from the guitar I thought there had to be another guitarist hiding behind Townsend's amp stack, and got right up to the stage and craned my neck round to see, but there wasn't. They did the 'bouncing the guitar off the stage' and the 'kicking the drums over a bit'. They were sensational, no doubt about it.
Summer holidays came round again. Each year now, the same four of us used to get together. There were Scott and Dennis, who lived nextdoor but one to each other a few streets away and were in the same year as me at school. John Wright, with whom I went to infant and junior school, but parted from when he passed his eleven plus and went to grammar school. Each summer we would devise some project or other to occupy our time. We would build camps in the woods and have competitions to see who could build the best balsawood boat. One year we made a huge raft out of a giant tractor tyre and attempted to sail down the river to sea. We got about 3 miles before the river went underground and we had to carry the raft home through the High Street dressed in just our swimming cossies. Most embarrassing. This particular year was a good one. Before the holidays I'd put my name down to take home the school acoustic guitar. Dennis' dad had made a few speaker boxes for a local band and been paid with a snare drum. John had decided to spend his savings on a chord organ - £7 I believe - and Scotty was keen to get a guitar. As I had already worked out a few basslines on the school acoustic ("Shaking all over" by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and Poison Ivy by the Stones), I elected to play bass. Well, its only got 4 strings right? So it's got to be easy. We spent the holiday listening to music and rummaging around junk shops. We got an old military bass drum for a couple of quid. Scott bought a lovely electric guitar, a Guyatone as I remember. He nearly killed himself with it, by wiring a 13 amp plug directly onto the end of the jack lead. He plugged it in and Kapow!! He nearly melted the strings. No one told him he needed an amplifier too. By the end of the summer we knew 3 songs, "Green Onions", "Louie Louie" and "Johnny B Goode". The fact that they were each comprised of the same 3 chords didn't put us off. We knew 3 chords - A, D and E and this alone probably entitled us to play at least a third of all the songs known to western pop history. Now we would be popstars, girls were becoming more interested. (we hoped).
My First Summer Holiday Job
I guess my parents thought it would do me some good to do a bit of real work during the school holidays. Local to us was the Champion Spark Plug company and they needed cheap labour during their summer closedown. Me, Scott and John applied and got in. For some reason the others got all the cushy jobs and I got the rest. The first thing I was required to do was paint all the factory piping. Air pipes were blue, electric red, gas yellow and water green. To do this I had to balance on top of a fifty foot high ladder with a paint pot in one hand and a brush in the other. On the first day I dropped the paint, which landed on top of this huge machine and ran into its innards. The machine had to be completely dismantled and cleaned, costing them a lot more than they were saving by using us schoolkids to paint their stupid pipes. Miraculously I never got fired ! The next job they gave me was testing box upon box of these reject spark plugs. To do this you had to place them one at a time into a copper ring, stand well back, then hit this button to send 50,000 volts across it. If the porcelain was cracked you could see a miniature lightening bolt come from it. If it was okay it would come from the top. As a safety precaution the button would switch off automatically after 3 seconds. The inevitable happened - tranced out by the repetition I hit the button and put my hand in. I now know what it feels like to be in the electric chair. That 3 seconds seemed like it would never end. I could actually smell burning flesh. When it was finally over I got up and kept walking - not even returning for my wages.
Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, Graham Bond Organisation, The Steam Packet , Rod Stewart , Long John Baldry the English Birds, Ronnie Wood, Brian Auger Trinity, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, PP Arnold, The Nice, Keith Emerson
My parents were fairly liberal and allowed me to go to clubs to see bands, although I was only 14 and you were supposed to be 16 or 18 to get in. Out of our gang, only John Wright was also allowed to go. We used to travel all over in search of the latest new sounds. One local club was the Zambesi, above a car showroom at No 1 Hounslow High St.. Here we danced our socks off and saw such bands as Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, Graham Bond Organisation, The Steam Packet (featuring Rod Stewart and Long John Baldry), the English Birds (with Ronnie Wood), Brian Auger Trinity, PP Arnold backed by The Nice with Keith Emerson on organ, Hendrix and Floyd. The list goes on. To think we got all these 'soon to become legends' in a club that was full with only 100 people. All on a Wednesday night for three shillings and sixpence (about 18 pence in today's money). I remember seeing John Mayall's Bluesbreakers there and going up to the guitarist twixt sets (you had to play at least two in those days). I told him what a great guitarist I thought he was. "What's your name?" I asked "Eric" he said "Eric Clapton.
"FRINTON BASSETT BLUES 1966
Left to right: Scott Whetton, John Wright, Dennis Smithers & Dave Goodman
1966 Early Sex
My first real initiation into sex was when Dennis the drummer rang me to invite me round to meet his neighbour, Anne Dickenson, Dickison as she became known. We spent the afternoon fondling her breasts and anything else we could get hold of. She sort of became a fifth member of our gang and many a summer's afternoon was spent half naked, romping around in the fields with her. We used to time one another, 15 minutes each. Poor old Anne. But she didn't seem to mind and in fact became the envy of her friends. She was a great networker and introduced us to many of her female acquaintances, who in turn expected the kind of attention we lavished on her.
Having Anne Dickenson in our gang meant that we got to know some of her classmates. There was Vicky, Vera , Dawn and Jan (who looked like a young Marianne Faithfull and was a sort of distant cousin of mine). Quite often we would all bunk off from school for the afternoon and hide out at my parents' place, where I would supply their endless craving for nicotine with duty free fags my Dad brought back from a recent visit abroad. We would lounge around on the settee listening to music, while keeping warm by the fire. While I was out of the room one day they hatched a plan to rape me. I thought this was an excellent plan, but wasn't quite sure what to do next to get the proceedings underway. Jan thought that I should be tied up and blindfolded, Anne on the other hand thought they could each spend 15 minutes with me in the back room (the tide had turned). Vera said she would be quite happy just watching. We all agreed it would probably be best if we got drunk first. I proceeded to mix us a cocktail, by taking a tiny bit from each bottle in the drinks cabinet, so it wouldn't be detected. There were green drinks, yellow drinks, blue ones and even something with a worm in it. By the time I'd removed a thimbleful from every bottle we had nearly a pint glass. I stirred it up and the whole thing turned purple. We passed it around taking huge gulps each. Jan was the first to pass out, followed closely by the rest of us. I spent the remainder of the afternoon cleaning up vomit. So much for the orgy. I'd missed my chance and this situation was not to repeat itself for a long time to come - but that's another story.
The trouble I had with early relationships was that I was a bit slow. Instead of doing the sex thing on the first date, I would gradually build up to it. This wasn't good enough for most of my girlfriends and I was regularly getting dumped for my seeming lack of interest in these matters. Some girls even lost their virginity to another, whilst waiting for me to make the move. One such girl was Camelia. I was first introduced to her by Jan at the local fairground. She was bubbly and vivacious with long flowing dark hair and olive skin to match. Her mother was Brazilian, with a fiery temper and not to be crossed by all accounts. I fell instantly in love with her and we started courting. Her mother's first words to me were "Don't even think about fucking my daughter unless you're gonna marry her." Now I was in no hurry to get married, but her daughter was in a hurry to get fucked. Fed up with waiting for me to do it, she got Jan's brother Lee to oblige instead. In case I hadnt heard about this act of infidelity through the grapevine, Jan had scratched it in large letters on the local bus stops - 'Lee fucked Cam'. Those words are still burnt into my heart. Nevertheless we went out with one another off and on for about another ten years, giving me plenty of time to get my own back. A tragic relationship, but not without many happy memories.
Camelia had a twin brother named Caruzo. We'd only get to see him once a year when he was allowed off the naval training ship HMS Arethusa. Their father, whom they had never met, was a captain in the Royal Navy and this entitled Caruzo to a place at the college from the age of eleven. When he was fifteen he gave it all up and joined the merchant navy. We used to look forward to his visits home, when he would bestow us with exotic gifts and tell the most unbelievable stories about life at sea.
My sister Marg left grammar school and did a few years at medical tech before becoming a dental nurse. She used to bring home half used phials of novacaine and mercury for me to play with. Was she trying to kill me? With her first wages she put a deposit on a little motor scooter. Whenever I got the chance, I'd ride it up and down the garden. I could nearly get it up to 30 mph before I had to slam the brakes on to avoid crashing into the back wall.
My own bicycle had been heavily modified into a track bike, with studded tyres, cow horn handlebars and front suspension. Due to the fact that it had a fixed back wheel, there was no need for brakes. Brakes were for wimps and they just slowed you down. I knew a whole load of dirt tracks where I could go and race me bike. As we were getting older, we were becoming more interested in motorcycles. One day me and the gang - Scotty, Dennis and John, found an old motorbike for sale at the scouts jumble sale. We got it for seven shillings and sixpence. It was a BSA 650cc side valve with rigid back suspension. Totally wrong for track riding but that didn't stop us. We took it home, took off all the unnecessary bits and went scrambling with it. This bike was only meant for a flat road and when I hit the first ramp it took off into the air and came crashing down with me on top. I still bare the scars. We then experimented with smaller bikes like BSA 125cc Bantams and Triumph Tiger Cubs.
At one point we acquired so many old bikes that we used to strip them down and rebuild them, sticking bits from everywhere. We gave them names like 'Trisba's' or 'Nortumph'. A creation of mine which really worked was an old stripped down Lambretta scooter. I took all the faring off and fitted cowhorn handlebars. It was perfect for dirt track riding and a hit with the girls. Although none of us were officially old enough to ride on the roads, we nevertheless could travel miles and had a whole network of back alleys, riverbanks and fields to help us get around. One day two policemen on bicycles raided our camp and confiscated the bikes as we couldn't come up with the correct paperwork. I didn't care too much as I was just coming up to 16 and my Mum had offered to buy me a secondhand three-wheeler called a Bond minicar. To start this vehicle you had to open the bonnet and press your foot on a lever. To go backwards you opened the car door and used your legs. My Mum was actually using this vehicle as a bribe to stop me from going out with Anne Richardson, our gang mistress.
It did the trick and ties were severed. With her new found freedom she hawked her body ever further afield and one day became pregnant. She claimed I was responsible but the dates just didn't seem to work out in my head. If she took me to court I had an army of volunteers who offered to stand up and claim that they too could be the father. No one ever came forward, although one of her brief encounters emigrated to Australia rather than face the ordeal. The baby was born funnily enough on the 29th March, my birthday. It was to be called David if it was a boy or Davida if it was a girl! In the end she was named Debbie. Anne soon got married and took the name Game.
Convinced that baby Debbie was nothing to do with me, I gave the matter little thought until one day my Mum arranged for Debbie to visit us when she was about seven. From the moment I met her I felt we were bonded. She had a resemblance to my family with dark hair and a dimple. I still to this day don't know the real answer to this mystery. Debbie, if you're out there and want to talk!
Living about 7 doors up the road from me was a bloody genius by the name of Colin Gardener. He knew all the Chuck Berry riffs and would teach them to us at half a crown each. He even taught us Chuck Berry riffs that Chuck didn't know, just to liberate us from every ounce of pocket money he could. Even when we'd run out of dosh he would teach us on credit, had contracts drawn up and made us sign our names across the Queen's head on a stamp - just so everything was 'proper'.
Colin was a real help and would sell us his old guitars and amps on tick when he upgraded. He was conducting experiments in chance and probability and would map the data on his bedroom wall. Everywhere you looked in his room were tiny ticks and crosses which must have meant something to him I'm sure. He once played 10,000 games of patience to see if there were patterns forming. During these experiments he would wear the same clothes and never wash ("It's for good luck" he would say) but it didn't stop us from coming to our weekly music lessons.
One of the wackiest experiments he conducted was what has become known as 'Sod's Law'. If something happens to go wrong, then it will do so in the worst possible way. Like if you drop a piece of toast the odds are for it landing on the buttered side etc. He enlisted our help with this one. If we did the dropping the toast bit once we did it a thousand times. We had to walk around the room blindfolded and see what the odds were against knocking over a valuable vase or stepping on a much cherished record. The experiments became more and more ludicrous as his imagination ran wild. After months of research into 'Sod's Law' he had to conclude that it didn't exist. This depressed him for a bit, but one day he woke up and screamed "Eureka!" He'd had the realisation, he'd seen the light. Of course it exists. It exists and he had the data to prove it. Of course, any experiment setting out to prove the existence of 'Sod's Law' would also be subjected to it and therefore fail. It takes all types, as they say, and the last I heard of him he owned a goldmine in some remote country I'd never heard of.
Our new fad with the band didn't subside and at the close of summer, our drummer's dad, Fred, offered to be our manager. We had some songs (mostly Chuck Berry), and we had some groupies. Anne, Jan and Cam - all we needed was a name and some gigs. Oh - and a PA and a van wouldn't go amiss.
The name came to me one day whilst reading a book. There was a military base in Scotland called Frinton Bassett. That playbreak I tried it out on Scotty and Dennis. "Frinton Bassett - what do ya reckon?" "Dunno - how about The Frinton Bassett Blues Band?" "Do we know any blues?" asked Dennis. "Is Chuck Berry blues?" "Not really" replied Scott "That's rhythm and blues." "The Frinton Bassett Rhythm and Blues Band? Sounds a bit long" I say. So we opted for Frinton Bassett Blues. We have the name - how about some gigs?
The local youth club was our first choice. Okay, let's start saving for a van and PA. We were now taking ourselves seriously and went into extensive rehearsals. We started out in Dennis' front room. Our amplification at this point was my little 10 watt bass amp. Somehow, we all managed to plug into it. We needed more songs and the easiest way we found of learning them was to send our girlfriends into the local music shop to nick the sheet music. Dangerous lives, huh? My cousin John Greenwood was some three years older than me and mod incarnate, complete with shiny new(ish) scooter. He got me into loads of clubs when I was 13 or 14 and he was around when the fashion started for adding something of your own to shirts and t-shirts. When moddy types began to put road-sign logos and huge initials on their t-shirts – I found ‘D’ to difficult to bother with so I had ‘M’ instead – John opted for ‘J’ on his and very smart we looked too until we went into the wrong dive. Everyone shut up at the sight of us and chairs began to be scraped back, hands turned into clenched fists. It seemed they’d been expecting an attack from two local thugs called Mick and Joe and they’d assumed that John and I must be them. Luckily the confusion was sorted out before we had to check into casualty. Such things did occasionally happen back then . Lots of young kids would carry catapults and little knives and their older brothers would sometimes take this a stage further. I once saw a gang of scally would-be mods-whose tiny leader was brandishing a loaded harpoon-gun as he demanded that a youth club deliver up some kid who supposedly owed him money. He even got the few coins in question and the last I saw of him he was waving the harpoon-gun in triumph as he marched down the High Street.
Our First Gig
We were finally ready for our first public performance. I was so nervous I couldn't even face the audience and on the very first note I tugged at the strings so hard I broke two and had to go home for replacements. We did it and there was no stopping us now. One good thing about being in a band was that you could bypass all that macho hardnut crap and instead, get the bullies begging to be your roadies. Back at school, I somehow got Scotty into my extra art classes and between us we used to design and print posters and T shirts for the band.
Our art teacher, Homo, started coming along to our gigs. Embarrassing us all by dancing right up to the stage in his cloak. The next holidays he leant me some LPs to listen to. "Just promise me you'll listen to it all at least once." Was his only request. "Well that won't be too difficult," I naively thought to myself. Wrong! He'd lent me some of Bella Bartok's more obscure weirdness for string quartets. The music manages to build up into an incredibly tense atmosphere, only releasing the tension momentarily before driving you ever further into sonic madness. I guess that was the start of my early psychedelic period. As well as turning us on to this strange music, he also showed us some methods of obtaining some pretty far out artistic effects. What you can do with mixing oils and paints, candlewax and dying and my favourite - tie-dying. I actually bought an original Grandad T shirt and tie-dyed it long before it became fashionable. I started to grow my hair long too, also ahead of fashion - we're talking about '65 here.
For a while our band, the Frinton Bassett Blues were allowed to practise at school. This brought us extra notoriety and an extra member by the name of Alan Cook on lead guitar. Our repertoire at this point was "My Generation" and "Can't Explain" by the Who, "Louie Louie" and "Well Respected Man" by the Kinks, "Sha la la la lee" and "All or Nothing" by the Small Faces, "House of the Rising Sun" and "We've gotta get out of this Place" by the Animals and "Last Time", "Walking the Dog", "Around and Around" and "Under the Boardwalk" by the Stones, who I guess were our absolute favourites. Every time any of these bands released a new record it was a major event and as soon as the sheet music was on the stand we had it in our ever-expanding repertoire. On top of this we 'threw' in a few Chuck Berry songs - "Maybelline" and "Route 66", and we were venturing out into soul - "Knock on Wood", "Hold on I'm Coming" and "My Girl" as I remember. We also changed our name to The Frinton Bassett Blues and Soul Band.
We all took turns at singing lead vocals and on occasion would actually harmonise with each other. Fred was turning out to be a great manager. He was getting our faces in the local papers on a regular basis. We also put on our own events, raising money for 'Action for the Crippled Child'. This good idea was Fred's. He also got us playing in hospitals and special schools. Fred reckoned we needed a lead singer and after a few auditions hit on Stevie from a rival school.
THE NEW FRINTON BASSETT BLUES BAND 1966
Left to right: Alan Cook, Scott Whetton, Stevie Crawford, Denis Smithers & Dave Goodman
What this meant of course, was that we were reaching a larger crowd. The next additions were Roy and Pete Watson on saxes. They too came from Stevie's school. With the brass line up we started doing covers of instrumentals like "Al Capone" and "The Guns of Navarone". Dat early Blue Beat and Ska man! We were now The New Frinton Bassett Blues and Soul Band.
At one of the Frinton Bassett gigs our guitarist Alan Cook nearly killed himself with the classic cross-polarity electric shock. You see we plugged the PA into one side of the stage and the backline amplifiers into the other. They both worked perfectly fine, but because one of the sockets had the red and black wires reversed it was a lethal accident just waiting to happen. And it did. When Alan touched the microphone with one hand and his guitar with the other he got 240 volts right across his chest. The problem with this kind of shock is that it won't let you go. Unlike more conventional shocks, which throw you back, this one is a real killer. There was Alan writhing on the floor, skin welded to the mike and guitar, minutes away from death. Realising we had to get the mike away from him, Scott tried to kick it aside. Instead he kicked him in the face. With sparks and blood flying the audience surged forward, thinking it was part of the show. Fortunately our manager Fred did some quick thinking and leapt onto the stage and pulled the plug just in time. When the applause had eventually died down, Alan got up, dusted himself off and once the electrics had been correctly sorted out, finished the set with us. After this spectacle we continually got requests to repeat it. We never did, in fact we purchased a test meter and used it religiously to make sure that nothing like it ever happened again.
Each year the Middlesex Chronicle would run a competition to see who was the most popular band in the area. This area encompassed Chiswick, Hounslow, Feltham and Staines. People were stopped in the High Street and asked who their favourite bands were. We'd only been playing together for 2 years and we came second. The following year we came first. The prize was a day (well 4 hours more like) in a studio in Chiswick called Modern Sounds. We cut an acetate with our version of "Hold On I'm Coming" (complete with 4 letter obscenities) and a self penned ditty called "Just Like That". I still have a copy and it still sounds crap.
I wasn't sure how long we could keep it together as a band. Members were falling in love, getting engaged and planning to marry. Stevie came off his scooter and had a brain haemorrage. He was completely out of action and took years to recover. I took over lead vocals and as my voice hadn't yet broken properly, it wasn't long before it was wrecked. We had a brief spell with a guy called George, who was half-Maori, but in no time at all he went mad, tried to rape Fred's wife, smashed up our van and put a curse on us all.
Before long I was poached by a rival outfit called The Bluesville Soul Band. As well as having this brilliant guitarist Kenny Sermon, they had more gigs and made more money. One day Kenny and I sat down to listen to some new music I had brought round to his house. ‘Music In A Doll’s House’ by Family, ‘In Search of The Lost Chord’ by the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd’s ‘Pipers At The Gates of Dawn’. We smoked a few joints and really got into it. Kenny had never heard music like it – or smoked stuff like it – ever before. And at the end of this magical, musical journey, Kenny was in a real trance, all he could manage to say for hours on end was "Wow". It took weeks of psychiatric help to get him out of it and he's never quite been the same since...
The Christmas of 66 was to be my last at school. The following summer it was to become mixed and the imaginary line would disappear. To mark this splendid event, the boys and girls planned to combine efforts and create a Christmas happening. Longford school would unite and hopefully make the grand gesture. Mr Thomas, our English teacher was quick to react and suggested that it could be based on the creation myth - maybe we could call it Alpha After. He had already drawn a symbol Ç and had strong support from his wife, also an English teacher nextdoor. Mr Davis the music teacher suggested our band, The Frinton Bassett Blues might like to perform in it. This is how it worked then. The screen between the boys' and girls' assembly rooms was thrown back and the two halls became one, making a large space in which an imaginary club called Alpha After was created. We were the houseband. On the other stage there would be an ensemble made up of members of the school choirs and bands. Theatre would happen around the room. This was yer original hippy happening mate.
David Holmes, our art teacher took the opportunity to display some of his students' art and we were asked to put our best work onto 8 x 4 foot boards. A piece of music was being composed for the creation play. There was even a team for special sound effects being trained up. Thunder was to be created by hitting metal lockers with sticks. The school anvil was brought in too and sounded like a bell when struck. There was a hugely controversial scene written for the play by the Thomases. To depict the creation of life and the evolution from the animal kingdom, an orgy scene was planned. No one would be naked, they would just look that way in the half light. There was no shortage of volunteers for this part. You had to wear a pink body stocking (see, I thought we were pink) and roll around on the floor with members of the opposite sex. The ethics of this were much debated and in the end letters were sent to the parents of those involved - but no one seemed to object. The local paper thought it was a good way for the students to get to know one another.
Every piece of lighting and sound equipment the schools owned was brought into play. There was also to be a dance routine involving a vicar, policeman and catburglar. Some deep moral tale no less. Virtually the whole school was involved in the creation of the Alpha After Club Ç. Suddenly there was an incredible buzz around the school. I actually got to design the poster. The whole thing was a total success and full every night. What a great way to end the year!.
With the advent of records like "Painter Man" and "Making Time" by Creation, "Eight Miles High" by the Byrds and "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play" by Pink Floyd, we were soon striving to emulate these new sounds ourselves. Dennis our drummer had started an apprenticeship as an electrician and one of his first home projects was to build an early synthesiser. The fact that it had only one note and you had to turn it on and off with a switch didn't stop us using it. With this new sound we were suddenly composing our own songs. Well, I think we wrote one. But when he built in the second note to accompany the first there was no stopping us
My first awareness of Pink Floyd was through their posters. Very warpy and colourful. With their name and posters like that you knew they weren't going to be another rhythm and blues or soul band. Off we went, expecting to witness something quite different. This was the first band I had ever seen using mikes on the drums and their use of echo and reverb was sublime. No one was quite sure how to dance to their music, so instead we all sat on the floor. This created a very different atmosphere from the normal everyone trying to outdance one another. We actually began talking to each other and sharing our drugs (purple hearts and reefers mainly).
We noticed some art student types at the back of the hall who seemed comfortable dancing to this kind of music. It was the first time I'd seen what was later to become known as 'idiot dancing'. You could get lost in this music and we did.
Pirate Radio Caroline had just started plugging Floyd's first single "Arnold Layne", which had been banned by the BBC. When their first album "Piper at the gates of Dawn" came out, I used to take days off school to go and listen to it in the booth in the local record shop, until I'd saved up enough money to buy it. I actually bought a copy in mono and it was years before I discovered the delights of the stereo version.
Then one day that was it. No more school. I felt a bit uneasy. I didn't have long to wait until I was learning again though - I had been accepted into an apprenticeship and would soon be attending technical college.
Jimi Hendrix, Troggs, Beatles
It was probably during his first few months in the UK that Jimi Hendrix played at our local Zambesi Club. I mean - no one I knew had heard of him. He strolled in and saw us all sitting around a table in front of the stage. He enquired as to whether this was a card game we were having or not? Without even knowing who he was, his presence was a bit awe-inspiring and we just mumbled into our Pepsi. This lack of response sent him off into the dressing room, well, broom cupboard actually. He didn't reappear until it was time to perform, although he did open the door at regular intervals, allowing strange smelling smoke to bellow out. His amps were pretty awesome too. Three purple Marshall 4 x 12s, the likes of which I'd never seen before. He also had two Marshall amps wired into one another. I know, because I went on stage for a closer inspection later. There was a wire coming out of the speaker socket from one, straight into the input of the other, which was set on a very low volume, but sounded mega-loud. I guess this acted like a kind of early overdrive sysem. I was so impressed with this sound that I got Scotty to wire his amp up to mine in the same fashion. It sounded brilliant set on volume one, but when we turned it up to two - it blew up. Hendrix was absolutely brilliant that night, though. We had never heard sounds anything like this coming out of a guitar. The volume alone was ten times louder than any band I'd every heard before. He started with God Save the Queen and his set included the Troggs' "Wild Thing", the Beatles "Daytripper" and ended with "Star Spangled Banner". He did everything he became renowned for with his guitar - playing it with his teeth, setting light to it, fucking it and finally putting it through the ceiling. He then collapsed at the end of this brief half hour show and had to be escorted off stage. I suspect this was a ruse so he could get off to another gig. We followed him out and watched him climb into the back of his very own chauffeur-driven psychedelic Bedford van, complete with Persian rug and armchair screwed to the floor. (The rest of the band had another van.) He sat in the Bedford with his guitar still round his neck and began to play as he disappeared into the night. I've seen him in concert many times since then, but I still reckon this was the best.
1967 Exam time
I only sat for two GCE O levels - art and technical drawing. The rest were CSEs. The art exam was fun. The same 8 x 4 ft board I made up for the Christmas happening was to be my presented work. It was hard to know what to put on it. Apart from my giant circles painting (which was hanging in the main entrance, hiding a crack) I'd mostly been making posters or T shirts for our band. David the teacher suggested that if he could get the school to buy some silk, I might like to print with it.
We also hit on this Warholian idea of producing a two tone image of Hendrix and recreate it twenty-one times on one painting. Each one would be a different combination of two of the colours from the rainbow. All this and more I did. I'm afraid I rather upset the still life artists who'd been busily sketching away all year to fill their 8 x 4ft exhibition. The silk print came out very abstract in gold, turquoise and purple. David the teacher took it from me after the exam and had it made into a shirt, which I've since seen him wear with pride on many occasions. On top of all this I exhibited a few of my posters along with the Alpha After Happening one. Technical drawing was the other subject I had a bit of a passion for. I could somehow grasp and remember what seemed like very complex processes, like how to draw a three dimensional spiral with just a compass, ruler, set square and tee square. Most of my exam results were unremarkable and my class teacher said, in my school report, that, "If I paid as much attention to my school work as I did to my Frinton Bassett Blues brand then I would be a star pupil!"
I got top marks in both Art and TD, though, and could have gone to art college there and then but the "following in father's footsteps" syndrome was clicking in again. I'd already applied for an apprenticeship as an engineer/draughtsman with several of the top local companies. As for making a living from music, well that could only be a pipe dream, couldn’t it?
F**k Art - Let's Dance
Scotty (our guitarist in the Frintons) had a novel idea for his art O level exam. Instead of dressing his 8 ft x 4 ft board beforehand, he left it blank and planned to paint it during the exam assessment. Then the review panel could see an artist at work. He'd already been experimenting with the style of modern art where you splash multi-coloured paints on, blow feathers on the wet paint, ride your bike over it, make coloured handprints, walk on it etc. etc. This piece he planned was to be his best. He fixed a paintbrush onto the end of his guitar and filled two water pistols with different coloured paint. He also brought in his trusty old Dansette record player, which he painted up specially for the occasion. When the exam started he put on this song called "Painter Man" by the Creation (a splendid psychedelic popsong). He then went to town and in no time at all he'd covered the board in a multitude of colours and textures. The song played over and over as the painting evolved. Scott wasn't bothered about whether he got good marks as he had already decided, like me, to have an engineering career. Once the examiners had left, the hall was opened up to the rest of the students, for them to peruse these articles of fine art. Scott continued painting and quite a crowd gathered. His final act of creative genius came when he turned the music up full and painted across his masterpiece in large pink letters - "Fuck Art - Let's Dance" we danced. Oh how we danced !
Pyrene Co Ltd
Out of several hundred applicants, ten of us were selected to begin a five year apprenticeship. Our starting wages, as I remember, were £3.8s.4d. We were placed under the wings of Mr Luffy, who we decided looked like an owl with his round glasses, beak like nose and silver curly hair. We had a secret call that went up every time he entered the factory. Toot toot - toot toot.
Pyrene was a huge complex on the Great West Road in Brentford. My father had worked there as a tool maker and I remember being taken to a Christmas party there when I was about 5 or 6. It had a large distinctive art deco stairway into the main entrance, flanked by two large lions. Our first task, (once we'd been dressed in our regulation green apprentice overalls) was to file this crooked block of metal into a perfect square within one or two thousandths of an inch. We then had to polish the surface so you could see yourself in it. It took weeks to complete. One thing that got us through this tedium was singing. One day as we were busily filing away we hit on a rhythm. I started singing "The Gnome" by Pink Floyd. "I want to tell you a story about a little man, if I can." Suddenly almost everyone joined in (apart from Jock who'd just come down out of the highlands of Scotland and may as well have come from another planet).
It was brilliant, it turned out that we all virtually had the same taste in music. What was more, nearly half of us were musicians. There was Tony (Bully boy) Pickworth from Chiswick, who was an ace drummer and spent a brief period with the Frinton Bassetts and would later go out with Anne Richardson. There was Johnny JoJo, whose bench was next to mine. He was a singer and just launched into another Floyd singalong, "I've got a bike, you can ride her if you like". Jock, it turned out, played the bagpipes. Not very well at first, but that didn't stop him from trying. Frankie came from a long line of musical comedians. He would entertain us with funny ditties on his dad's banjo ukelele. (banjelele?)
A vacancy came up and I managed to get Scotty to fill it. It was brill being a first year apprentice. We made our own tool boxes, scribbing blocks, screwdrivers etc and from the stores we managed to liberate the likes of screw cutting dies, abra files and center punches. I never did get the 'long weight' or 'sky hooks' though.
` My Dad bought me what must have been the Rolls Royce of micrometers - the Myson 0-1inch. When I showed it to our captain Mr Luffy (Toot toot) he called the toolmakers over and they passed it around carefully to one another, marvelling at its magnificence. To me a micrometer is a micrometer! It measures things for you and as long as it worked what's the difference? Well this bunch of seasoned toolmakers obviously thought there was one, and when they handed it back to me advised me to guard it well. Next Mr Luffy formally introduced me to them as Stan Goodman's son. At this several stood back and shielded their faces, while others looked and pointed up to the pipes running overhead. My Dad had had a love/hate relationship with Pyrene and had been sacked on three occasions and reinstated twice. Most of these toolmakers had worked with Dad and the stories started unfolding. My Dad was forever losing his tools and often insinuated that someone else may have taken them. Becoming tired of his behaviour in the tool room they planned a practical joke in revenge. When he was out of the room they took his much-loved micrometer (a Myson like mine). When he returned he was furious and singled out one particular chap as the culprit. This fracas nearly led to blows until the Foreman eventually shouted out - "Stan - look above you." Dad looked up to see his micrometer hanging from the pipes above his head. "You should've seen your dad's face they said "We had to laugh".
One of the reasons my Dad got the sack was that he was blamed for a major cockup on a huge machine tool he helped make. He had followed the draughtsman's plan to a T, but the tool was useless and had to be scrapped. No one else would take responsibility for this error, so clutching the plans Dad went upstairs to where the white collar brigade worked, looking for justice. The workers on the factory floor rarely entered this domain. The white collar workers had their own canteen, toilets, washrooms, longer holidays and more pay for less hours.
Dad stormed into the design department and demanded to know who was responsible for this error. It must have been the rage in his eyes, for suddenly one young draughtsman bolted from the room. Dad was soon on his tail and chased him all over the building. Eventually my father cornered him when he slipped on the stairs and extracted a confession from him. No blows had been struck, but the draughtsman had bruised his legs and arms when he fell. My Dad's behaviour was deemed unacceptable and he was fired. This caused a toolmaker's union strike and he was soon reinstated with a warning.
After the first year no more new apprentices were taken on. There was talk of a takeover and already sections of the company were closing down. We first years were sent into different departments for 3 months at a time. Pyrene Co Ltd specialised in fire fighting equipment with a sideline in car bumpers. Up to this point virtually every fire extinguisher in the British Empire had been made by them.
We also had our own fire fighting team, run by a retired Scots fire chief by the name of Logi. I became a member and once a week we would practise running out hose pipes and aiming them at targets. There was an annual competition for this sport and we always won. The reason for our success? We practised uphill.
It was around this time that the movies ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘St Valentine's Day Massacre’ were popular. This led to a new fashion and we were now shopping in Oxfam for old 1930’s overcoats and trilby hats. Some of us (me included) even used to carry around a fake Colt 45 handgun to complete the illusion. This was all a bit pathetic really, as I didn't even have a car and was often getting chased down the road by rival gangs who had their eyes on my hat.
Some of my friends' older brothers took the gangster fad even more seriously and began planning raids on banks and post offices. I'm not sure if any of them succeeded in carrying them out but the trend came to an abrupt halt one day, when a posse from the Feltham Hill gang broke down outside the Police station, wearing stockings on their heads and carrying a sawn off shotgun. They were arrested, jailed and briefly became local heroes despite their stupidity.
1968 Car Maniac
I passed my driving test the day after my 17th birthday. I had 2 formal driving lessons and many informal ones from Dad. He'd been letting me drive his car for yonks, in carparks and disused aerodromes - under his supervision of course. The day I turned 17 my parents bought me a secondhand Hillman Minx. It had already been souped up with twin carbs and a skimmed head. It cost £40. It would get up to a ton easily but not-so-easily slow down again. I felt free and would cruise around looking for friends to give lifts to. I soon swapped it for Kenny's (our guitarist in the Bluesville Soul Band) Ford Anglia.
An accident waiting to happen
The Ford had much better brakes, but bald front tyres. Unfortunately, before I fully acknowledged this crucial fact, I had a head-on collision on a nasty accident-prone corner. Camelia and her younger brother Symeon were in the car with me. I was taking the corner too quickly (we were rushing to pick her mother up) and lost control. Those last few seconds before impact slowed right down. I figured that if there had been a way to avoid disaster I would have thought of it in this temporal shift. But there wasn't, the car was out of control and heading towards a small van coming the other way. Fortunately only our wings collided and we bounced off each other. Suddenly the surreal slowness and silence gave way to mayhem. People were running in all directions. I thought the car was about to explode and tried with all my might to open the crumpled door. While I was doing this I had a bizarre apparition of a man in a wetsuit, dripping with water, looking over the hedge opposite. Finally I got the door open. Camelia was being brave and said she was okay, but her face was badly cut with broken glass and a front tooth had been knocked out. Symeon had banged his head on the back of the seat. In the other vehicle there was a couple and their baby, who'd been held in the front seat by its mother. The father threatened to do nasty things to me if his child was badly hurt. Soon the ambulance arrived and took everyone away, leaving me and two written-off vehicles awaiting the arrival of the Police. They came and took measurements and pointed out my badly balding tyres. They could have thrown the book at me, but for some reason let me off with a caution. I got the car towed back to our garage, where I stripped it down and rebuilt it onto a new body (eventually).
Dad took me to the hospital to pick up Camelia and Symeon. On the way in I encountered my victims (the couple and baby) they seemed relieved that their baby's injuries were minor and pointed to one of the cubicles where Cam was having broken glass removed from her face. Unfortunately a piece got left in and I'm told, still gives her a problem today.
Finally we had to face her mother. She made my father promise that I would marry her. No one would want her with a scarred face. It was my fault so I should do the right thing. That was her argument. I didn't argue with Dad at this point and as the scars healed the matter of marriage faded. I never wanted to repeat this experience and modified my driving accordingly.
Around this time there was a potentially cataclysmic catastrophe at the BP petrol storage facility at Heathrow Airport. Whilst filling a petrol tanker there was a spark and the tanker caught fire and exploded. If the containers, which held millions of gallons, went up too, then half of Middlesex could have been wiped out.
Our company was keen to develop an outside CO2 fire extinguisher system, to combat any similar disaster in the future. I was assigned to this boffin as his assistant and between us we set about building the beast. It was a glorious summer and outdoors was the only place to be. We had been given a piece of land up at the back of the factory to conduct our experiments in outdoor fire fighting. First, I had to build a large square frame out of scaffolding. In the centre we placed a big oil drum with holes in, over a metal trough. The principle of CO2 systems is that of smothering fire and starving it of oxygen. We had been building these systems for indoor application and they worked really well, but outdoors was a new venture. Boffin had it designed on paper and now I had to build it. With hundreds of yards of piping and flanges, valves and joints, I managed to follow the plans until one day it was ready for its test drive.
Situated about twenty yards from our area was an old disused petrol tanker, full of crude petrol. We took about ten gallons of the stuff and poured it into the container at the centre of our contraption. The petrol filtered out of the holes into a second container, where it was ignited and the whole thing was engulfed in flames. To extinguish it, you hit a lever on a large cylinder of compressed CO2 powder, which gushed out in all directions and put out the fire. That was the theory - and Bingo! it actually worked.
Invitations were sent out to all the bigwigs to come and see Pyrene Co Ltd's new innovation. There were representatives from BP, Esso and a whole contingent of Japanese. The works archivist was in position, ready to film this momentous occasion. As a precaution, retired Fire Chief Logi and his fire fighting team were standing by, armed with a foam hose. Fellow apprentices were given the afternoon off to come and witness the spectacle.
I was instructed by Boffin to fill it up - this time with twenty gallons of petrol. "Let's really make an impression." he said. So thirty gallons it was. The fire was lit and in no time at all there was an incredible inferno. I went to hit the lever to extinguish it, but Boffin stopped me. "Let it build right up first." he insisted. The heat was incredible. "Okay, now hit the switch." I did and the fire soon receded to a faint glow. That was close I thought. Just then a gust of wind materialised and blew the cloud of CO2 away towards the car park. Suddenly the fire was off again, this time even more ferocious. We had a smaller backup cylinder which in a vain attempt, I operated, but the fire was raging too fiercely.
Many businessmen were sandwiched between the fire and the fire station and were unable to move. A call went out to Logi and the boys and soon we were all being sprayed with foam. This only made things worse, due to the fact that the firemen were fifty foot below us in a gulley and had no idea where they were spraying. They were just spreading the fire and covering our guests in foam. To avoid the heat, smoke and foam, me and a few friends got behind one of the large metal rubbish containers nearby. The concrete was getting so hot it was sort of exploding. We crouched there in fits of laughter. "This is just like World War 3" someone exclaimed. Several businessmen escaped by jumping down the embankment of the underground train line, which ran along the end of the complex. I looked up to see the company archivist staggering backwards on a roof which had now caught alight. To give him his due he was still filming. I glanced across and noticed the petrol tanker close by and thought "Blimey, this could blow at any moment."
Logi and the boys finally got the fire under control. The company suffered incredible humiliation over this. It was on the TV and in the papers. It cost the firm thousands in compensation for damaged suits. As the CO2 powder was slightly corrosive and had landed on vehicles in the car park, somebody put in for a respray, had it approved and the whole company followed suit. If one single event had dug a grave for the company, then this was it. No blame came in my direction at all, but Boffin got his marching orders.
1969 Pyrene Closes
Shortly after that the company was bought out by Chubb. Virtually all the staff were made redundant, but not us apprentices. For contractual reasons Chubb had to find us suitable alternative apprenticeships.
During this period no one cared whether we came in or not. We had to go in to collect our wages, which were now up to £7 7s 4d. We used to go in anyway, just for the adventure. There were only about six of us left and we virtually had the run of this empty factory and all its outbuildings. We strategically placed pallet trolleys all over the place and used them like giant scooters. When you arrived at the main entrance, you could hop on one and ride it all round the factory. We'd have races and devised a course that ended up going through these rubber doors at the far end of the factory, down a ramp, through the yard, round the corner, then down again towards the gatehouse. To stop, you had to aim it at this grass bank and hope for the best. To begin the course again you placed the trolley in the lift, went up a few floors and there you were back at the start again.
I had started taking all the notice boards down and was turning them into speaker cabinets. We must have searched every inch of that factory. We found the underground air raid shelters, which still had the gas masks hanging up in them. Very spooky. We also found the control tower which had an intercom linked to each department. One day we took some instruments in, turned on all the speakers and had a jam. The security guards seemed to enjoy it. Mr Luft (Toot toot), who was supposed to be looking after us, spent most of his time at the works club house getting pissed, with one of the few remaining receptionists.
Another game we devised was ‘Battle Stations’. In one room there were piles of shredded paper used for packing. We used it to soften the blow when diving off the first storey landing. We'd tape cardboard boxe onto ourselves, like armour. We'd make swords from the plastic syphon tubes used in the extinguishers. On top of all this we had ropes hanging from the rafters, so we could swing between platforms, occasionally diving onto the shredded paper on the way. "Let the battle commence!"
The Flying Trapeze was another invention of ours. Once all the massive machines were removed from the factory, it left a huge empty space with just an electric pulley system, running from one end to the other. There was a large hook on the end of a chain, which went up, down, sideways, forward and backward. We fitted a rubber tyre onto the hook, which you stepped into. You could manipulate the controls yourself . It was like flying. At fifty foot high you could travel the length of the factory, which must have been 1000 foot long.
Eventually we were all to be transferred to the Crash Tender division in Feltham, which was good for me as it was within walking distance of home. Before we finally left the building we took the model fire engine that generations of apprentices had worked on (it remained unfinished) and connected it to the lathe with a long piece of rope. We set the lathe in slow motion and the vehicle slowly moved towards it. By the time we got to the front entrance we could hear the sound of mangled metal in the distance. The ritual was complete.
Pyrene Co Ltd (Feltham) - Crash Tender Division
The quality of work in this department was a lot lower. They tried to give us menial tasks, but most of us refused. They really didn't know what to do with us. In the end they found about half a dozen jobs we were prepared to do in rotation. One was refilling the oxygen bottles used for fire fighting. You simply connected them up, undid a valve and waited until it switched off automatically when full. Occasionally divers would turn up at the back door, asking you to fill their tanks. You could make a few bob from this and you rarely refused. The only problem was that diving tanks needed more pressure, so you had to bypass the automatic cut off valve. While I was doing this one day, a fellow apprentice across the way badly smashed his fingers (he was drunk). Rushing to his aid I forgot the oxygen tank. When I returned I could see the dial through the reinforced doors. It was well in the danger zone. No way would I enter that room to turn it off. I had heard stories of what can happen when a bottle blows. You could end up with shrapnel embedded in your skull.
I just stood there frozen, looking at it. Eventually there was an explosion. I ducked and when I looked up again the bottle had gone. It had taken off and gone clean through the sky light. It was eventually found by a man walking his dog in Hanworth Air Park three miles away and returned to its owner.
Next I was sent to the Research and Development Department. No one cared what I did there as long as I looked busy. I teamed up with a senior apprentice by the name of Bob Boissin. He hade a lathe in his bedroom and had quite rightly earned the name of Boffin. His speciality was making model cannons that actually worked. This fascinated me and one weekend I suggested that I could make a home movie about it. He made homemade explosive out of weedkiller and sugar, in which he'd soak squares of newspaper. It actually fired a ball bearing through a dozen or more tin petrol cans (I have the footage to prove it). I also had this crazy idea to shoot something arty. I bought a bottle of milk, a bottle of oil and a bottle of tomato ketchup. I lined them up on a Monopoly board. Bob the Boffin loaded the cannon while I loaded the cinecamera. A perfect shot - straight through the three vessels of contrasting liquids. I ran forward and zoomed in just as the smoke was clearing. I thought it looked magnificnt, this red, white and black pattern running over the surface of the board.
I guess the inspiration for this madness was something to do with the conflict between dark and light skinned people which was happening around me. It was at that time that Enoch Powell gave his controversial "Rivers of blood" speech. Ultimately I can't see why the colour of skin has to dictate the content of mind. The sooner man/womankind embraces this idea the better. Our strength is in our diversity as long as we move towards love.
Having requisitioned a 3 ft piece of gunmetal from the stores, I set about building my own rifle. Bob oversaw the operation. If anyone asked what I was doing I'd say I was building a laser gun. If they enquired further, I'd remind them that I had signed the Official Secrets Act and was not at liberty to discuss it any further. I'm sure shares in the company went up when the rumour eventually got out that we were developing laser technology. When I'd finished the rifle Bob made me put it through a series of stringent tests to determine its safety.
First we took it to the old disused air raid shelters opposite the works. We loaded it up with several squares of explosives, ran a long cord to the trigger and hid behind a wall. On jerking the string there was a massive explosion. Once we felt it was safe to examine our experiment, we were amazed to discover that the whole thing had disappeared and all we could find was mangled pieces of metal and shrapnell. Thanks Bob for not letting me use it before it was tested. If it had worked I have no idea what I would have done with it. I may have used it on my sequel movie, 'Custard, Prunejuice and Scrabble-boards'.
Completely disenchanted with firearms I now put all my energy into building a strobe light system for our band. The value of shares once again rose.
Another time I was asked to clear out some boxes from underneath these offices raised up on stilts. To my amazement I discovered boxes of smoke flares and explosives. These had apparently been used previously in training exercises and displays. Before the offices were evacuated (so we could remove and destroy the stockpile of explosives) I managed to acquire a selection for myself. There were multi-coloured smoke bombs, flares and very big explosives. I took the largest one I could and to check its power, detonated it in the local playing field.
This particular bomb had a conventional fuse which had to be ignited with a flame. I must admit that I set this off the cowardly way - by getting a young kid to light it for me. He had a bike, that was my excuse, as I figured he could get far enough away before it exploded. And he did, luckily. It left a huge crater in the ground though, well over three feet deep. My parents heard the explosion at home, half a mile away.
I set off one of the smoke bombs in the toilets at the technical college where I used to study part time. That morning we had all been subjected to the horrific scenes of devastation in the film ‘The War Game’. It's a kind of documentary showing you what to expect if England was hit by an H bomb. It ends up with the army having to go round shooting people in the head to put them out of their misery. The worst affected had skin hanging off their faces. Most gruesome. Many students were unable to sit through it all and had to be led out vomiting as they went. That lunch break, my fellow apprentice Frankie and I decided to put on a little show for everyone. In the toilets I set off one of the smaller explosives, followed by a smoke bomb. Frankie had bought a big cherry pie, which he took the top off and held to his face. In the smoke it looked as if the skin on his face had been blown away to reveal the raw flesh beneath. He came staggering out of the toilets into the playground, surrounded by reddish smoke. This spectacle really did the trick and in no time at all students were once again heaving and puking.
One form of punishment handed out to us apprentices was stints in the shred shed. This was a small shed situated right out in the main courtyard of the factory. If you had been banished there you had to laboriously pass sacks of old paper through the shredding machine and turn them into large square bales of shredded paper. This was then used as packaging. One summer we hit on this marvellous money making idea. At lunch times we would open the doors to the shred shed, move the bales of paper out into the yard and put on a liveshow. Workers would come and sit on the bales and enjoy the music. (Usually a few Beatles' songs played on an acoustic guitar, a tea chest, bass and flute.) We would then sell them cheese rolls that we'd bought in bulk that morning from the bakers. The Shred Shed folk club, most lucrative!
Another department we all did time in was the stores. There were racks and racks of boxes of fire extinguishers. As the company had stopped producing them the supply was slowly diminishing. We apprentices soon learnt that if you climbed up on to the shelves and carefully moved them around, you could create your own secret hideout. As the stocks of extinguishers became ever smaller, our hideout space would increase. It soon became large enough for card games involving half a dozen players. Eventually we had a whole labrynthine network of tunnels linking several hideouts. From our vantage point you could peer through gaps between the boxes and chain-mail fencing and spy on your colleagues below on the factory floor. Sometimes we would make catapults out of elastic bands and fire pellets of putty at them. I don't think anyone ever did suss out where they came from. We also had this other brick shed in a far corner of the factory grounds, where no one but us seemed to go. Inside it had old metal oil drums and metal lockers. Whenever us apprentices got really bored and frustrated we would go there and pretend we were The Who. We used broomsticks as guitars, mike stands and drum sticks and spent many a happy hour smashing the fuck out of the cabinets and oil drums. Group therapy of the highest order!
Finally my days as a Pyrene apprentice came to an end, when our band decided to make a go at it professionally. The contents of my toolbox were auctioned off amongst the apprentices and I took my leave. The company carried on paying me for months after this, until I officially informed them that I had actually left. The company fell ever further into decline and has now had its factory demolished and replaced by a leisure centre. I think my Dad was disappointed I'd turned my back on his career path. He did, however, fully support me in my decision and on numerous occasions gave me help above and beyond the call of parental duty. Thanks Dad!
HYDE PARK FREE CONCERTS
Donovan, Richie Havens, Edgar Broughton Band, Third Ear Band, Blind Faith
This was around the time when the hippy peace’n’love thing got really big. Back in that era they still stuck to some ancient bye-law that good Queen Vic had decreed a century beforehand – there had to be at least one free concert a year for the public in Hyde Park. The first Hyde Park free concert I attended was in ’68 and featured Donovan, Richie Havens, the Edgar Broughton Band and the Third Ear Band – one of John Peel’s favourites of the time, who came complete with cello, oldie worldie instruments and other New Agey things. Heading was new supergroup Blind Faith, featuring Stevie Winwood, Ginger Baker & er… now there’s a strange thing, I can`t even remember who it was now! It was a beautiful sunny day and the whole psychedelic vibe was pretty massive. Little children were wandering around giving out flowers, people were sharing food and passing ‘Mexican cigarettes’ and lots of folk were holding hands and huggging. At one point Donovan pointed up at a jet in the sky and asked us to send out some loving words to it, as he sang one of his hits – some 60,000 of us joined in and, for a few moments, the feeling was completely amazing. Richie Havens also put in a pretty good set that kept the mood bright, as did the Third Ear Band. For me this moment could have lasted forever. With no sense of fear or dread, I really felt at one with the universe - but all that was about to change. Thousands of latecomers were amassing around the perimeters of this natural amphitheatre, pushing for a view. Many had climbed into the trees, which began to lose their branches under the weight as people came crashing down onto the crowds below. An urgent appeal went out for calm, but to no avail. More and more people kept turning up and no matter how close we all moved together there wasn`t enough room. Some hot dog stalls, taking advantage of the size of the crowd, kept putting their prices up until the crowd could take no more and turned one of the culprits over. It seemed that the bulk of the audience had turned up to see Blind Faith – featuring Stevie Winwood and Ginger Baker. This was their first ever performance and the hype had been massive. People were curious to see just how super a supergroup could really be. When relative newcomers, The Edgar Broughton Band came on, for me the vibe definitely took a turn for the worse. Their music seemed very aggressive compared with what one was used to hearing at this type of gathering. They even staged mock acts of violence and pretended to kick one another. To see what all the fuss was about, a gang of drunken bikers trampled their way into the centre of the crowd and blocked the view of those behind. Someone threw a beer can and you can guess the rest. This event was witnessed by the whole 60,000 or so of us and there were cries of "no man, no violence", "keep it peaceful", "think of the children" - but it was too late. For me, this one incident put an end to the innocence of the peace and love era, things were never to be quite the same again, as the Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park concert confirmed. By the time Blind Faith hit the stage, the event had descended into chaos. Most people waited around for one or two numbers then left in disgust, muttering things like "if egos I go" and "penis in my ear".
By then the Bluesville Soul Band had became Orange Rainbow, with the addition of some extra brass and a Hammond organ. We named the band after some very fine acid we had had. We averaged about three gigs a week. On Fridays, after the performance, we would line up for our week's wages. After expenses you could end up with as much as £4 each. That was a fair amount of spending money then, when you consider that you could buy an ounce of dope for seven shillings and sixpence (less than 40p). Our singer Alan - who was older than most of us and still had a daytime job - used to run our agency from his work's office, with back-up from his girlfriend Sandra on the switchboard. Quite a few of the band were only 15 or 16 and still at school. During this period we built up a whole gig circuit and we would often travel as far afield as Brighton and Luton. We were now playing mostly soul covers, some excellent obscure ones at that, but if we were booked into a rock’n’roll gig we could easily revert back to the Chuck Berry and Little Richard riffs.
One day we went along to an audition for a band to play in a club in Italy for one month that summer. Without bothering to wait and find out whether we had passed the audition or not, we managed to extract from the judges that the venue was going to be The Ye Ye Club in Rimini for the month of July. That was it as far as we were concerned - we were going. We started saving tins of food for the treacherous journey across the Alps in our old parcel van. We managed to get some old aeroplane seat cushions and painted our name, Orange Rainbow, in large, bright orange letters on the side of the van - see we were original then! We finished it off with a Union Jack on the back, which we got wrong – ie upside down – thus upsetting a few, irate colonels on route.
We set off after our regular Sunday lunchtime gig at the Greenford Hotel, our last for some time. We had built up a huge following there who loved us so much, that when Eddie the eccentric barman came on stage to jam with us - on his spoons! - to raise cash for charity, they would literally throw money at us. When I say ‘throw money’, I mean it's a wonder nobody lost an eye in the hail of coins that came onstage. That particular lunchtime Eddie called out "Attentioni! Attentioni! Alan and de boys are off to Italy and won't be back for a whole month!" Once the cheering subsided we waved goodbye to our loved ones and off we went.
It was a great journey! We stopped to swim in Alpine lakes, camped in the woods. The van overheated on the way up into the Alps and the brakes failed on the way down, but we made it. We arrived at the club, only to find out that we had not been booked. A band called Root and Jenny Jackson were appearing there instead. The club was in the basement of this newly built hotel, just yards from the beach. The club owner, who was the son of the hotel owner, let us talk him into having two bands. We were given rooms in the hotel and were allowed to run up substantial bar tabs. It seemed like we were getting a better deal than Boot and Benny Jacket – as we had now nicknamed them - who were in some tatty pension house outside of town and had to buy their own food and drink. We, on the other hand, had room service, luxury meals with all the wine and champagne we could manage. Everything was hunky dory - but soon it was time to leave. The club manager presented us with a bill that had so many zeros on it I lost count. "We have no money," we chanted in unison before pleading that, "We need you to give us some money so we can get home." In the end we struck a deal whereby we would pay him out of our next hit single. A piece of paper was signed and we headed home, making the ferry by the skin of our teeth. Our trusty van finally conked out for good on Putney Bridge and its funeral seemed to mark the end of yet another era.
The Drifters Tour
We got some post-Rimini gigs from a London agent by the name of Alan Isenberg - not the one who sank the Titanic! He was yer typical fast-talking entrepreneur and – in a stereotypical Jewish hustler accent that may or may not have been genuine – he always used to say to us "My boiz - don't worry - I'll look after you! Trust me - I'm your manager!" I quite liked him but it's hard to trust someone who, the first time you meet him, answers the phone making out he's the office cleaner. And why did he keep going on about us learning Creedence Clearwater Revival songs? Anyway - he was bringing over The Drifters to tour the UK and they needed a backing band. It was very difficult for a band to bring over their own musicians. Apart from the cost, the Musicians' Union had agreed to a kinda exchange system, whereby if they let a thousand UK musos into the US, a thousand US musos were allowed over here - this is how they got John Lennon and we got Barry Manilow.
Anyway, the audition took place in our local youth club, the very same one where I had played my first ever gig. Mr Isenberg came strolling in with these four New York dudes in tow and introduced them as The Drifters. We passed the audition and had a week to get the show together. Fortunately, most of us could read music and after a few late night sessions listening to the records and extensive rehearsals, we had it. All the classics were there, ‘Sand in my Shoes’, ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’, ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, ‘Under the Boardwalk’. Those songs meant so much to so many. Our opening night was to be at the Excel Bowl, Middlesborough. Watford was about the furthest North we'd travelled at this point and we seriously debated about whether we should take own our food and supplies.
Mr Isenberg's assistant, Steve, who drove around in an open-topped E type Jaguar and claimed he once made the 280 mile journey to Middlesborough in under three hours - it used to take us nine - reckoned we were in for a real treat when we hit Middlesborough. "Loads of chicks in ‘Boro, the sex is crazy but," he later added, " you’ve gotta be careful, it's got the highest dose rate in the entire country!" He wasn't wrong on either count!
The opening night of the tour came and everyone loved The Drifters. There was much screaming and stage-storming. When it came to the opening bars of ‘Under the Boardwalk’, which starts with an instantly recognisable bass riff, followed by a short roll on the cowbell - well the crowd cheered heartily - me and the drummer looked down at our instruments and laughed at the power with which they were imbued. Everything went great until one gig when we came off stage after a soundcheck to be greeted by some official types who handed a notice to The Drifters, stating they were from Her Majesty’s Weights and Measures Department and believed "that the musical combo in question are actually breaking the law by calling themselves The Drifters…"
What we didn't know was that back home in the USA they were known as The Invitations. They had an original Drifter, Mr Bobby Burns - the bass voice - and they were the first band to tour the UK as The Drifters, but unfortunately there was another set of Drifters about to tour the country. This band's claim to the name was Clive McPhatter, the original lead singer. So halfway through the tour our Drifters had to change their name back to The Invitations. The audiences really didn't like this and the cheers turned to chants of; "Go home Imitations!", boos and heckles. Anyway, we somehow managed to survive the tour and when they got back home The Drifters – sorry, The Invitations - recommended us to their mate Ben E King, a man who’d also been an original Drifter!
Ben E King
For the Ben E King tour we had to find a replacement guitarist quickly and settled on Acne Alvin, who had a rather large nose protruding from a mass of hair. He also wore a red cloak and had so many blackheads on his neck that you thought he was wearing a string of beads. What's more, he claimed he was too weak to carry his own amp, but he was gracious enough to let us do it for him. On the first night he forgot the opening riff to Benny's first number ‘Soul Man’. Unfortunately, the song can't start without that riff. Ben had had his huge build-up and the whole club was waiting for it. After several minutes of farting around on his fret board Alvin finally managed to come up with something remotely similar and we were off. That night, after the show, we made him play it a thousand times, but that was still no guarantee that he would remember it.
In some of the hotels, or 'pro digs' as they were called, we used to sleep six to a room and that wasn’t including our female friends. One night, while staying in digs back in Middlesborough - known by performers country-wide as Margaret's - Alvin had the misfortune to be in a bed sandwiched between two marathon bonking sessions. After putting up with this frantic shagging for several hours he finally demanded we stop fucking so he could get some sleep. Obviously we were not going to do this. In the morning he refused to get up for breakfast and his daily practice of the opening riff to ‘Soul Man’ . Instead he lay in bed making out he was asleep. We did the usual trick of piling stuff on top of him - like coats, shoes and bedside lamps – but he still refused to move. We even managed to get big Rod's shower cap on him but we still got no response - nothing. Martin, our trumpet player, was all up for putting makeup on him, but then he was up to putting makeup on everyone. Next we managed to get a pair of headphones on Alvin and started playing him a tape of Derek And Clive Live, our very own copy way before it`s original release. Still no signs of life. We then decided to stand his bed on its end. He still wasn't moving. When the bed was almost in an upright position he finally cracked. Pulling back his blankets as if they were a door he stepped out of bed. Fully clothed, wearing a shower cap he announced he was leaving the band. He went straight off to call Benny. An hour later an orchid arrived from Ben with a card on it for Alvin, a card which he never allowed us to read. His face lit up like a Christmas tree and he picked up his guitar and started practising the ‘Soul Man’ riff. Benny himself was a brilliant singer and always a pleasure to work with. We got through the tour and ended up on the last night playing a mega-session at The Bag o' Nails, a funky little joint near Carnaby Street. There was no stopping us that night and we played through till about 6.00 am. We did the James Brown bit and took half an hour to find that bridge, "Take it to the bridge. Yo take it to the bridge, I can't find the bridge yo - where's that fuckin bridge?" The crowd got on down and boogied. We started swapping instruments around and discovered that Ben could play drums, bass, guitar and keyboards. He was also an excellent dancer. Acne Alvin had to go, we’d decided, and this was his very last night. We just hadn't told him yet that's all. I remember carrying Alvin's speaker cabinet out of the club with someone (it certainly wasn't Alvin!). We were treating it carelessly and it got knocked against a wall or two. As we were passing by Ben's dressing room it knocked a fire extinguisher off the wall, which went off spraying Ben's door with foam. Mistaking this for a knock, Benny opened it and got covered in foam. He also found me and my accomplice there in tears of laughter. He was very upset and would not accept it was an accident. The next day we sent an orchid to his hotel. It must have done the trick because he recommended us to soul singer Arthur Conolley and so on. We said our goodbyes to Alvin and carefully putting his speaker cabinet down in the dogshit in his hallway, wished him well. That was the last I saw of him for years, until one day he jumped onto the tube train and proceeded to tell all the passenegers what ‘idiot wankers’ they were. He had a demonic look in his eye and was still wearing the same red cloak. I'm glad he didn't recognise me.
The other great thing I remember about Ben. E. King was playing some stonking nights with him at Manchester’s legendary Twisted Wheel club. The place would always be packed solid and the kids would even help us unload – and no, they didn’t nick anything, they were much too into the music. Soul was like a religion to them. I noticed that lots of them were wearing thin leather driving gloves. I asked if they really all had motors but then found out the real reason for the gloves was handclapping. If you were gonna be slapping palms to the beat all night your hands would end up red raw – hence the gloves…
After the Ben E. King tour it wasn't long before we were asked to back The Fantastics. This band were initially imported as the fake Temptations in 1969. They fell in love with Britain and vice versa. Also, they couldn't afford to go back to the US. Instead an agency called IBA, run by Danny O'Donovan, started to manage them and they were touring the UK and Europe virtually non-stop. We would do a week's cabaret in clubs like the Fiesta in Sheffield and Baileys nightclubs all over England, plus early shows in working men's clubs, northern soul clubs, anywhere that could afford us. We had two brand new double wheelbase transit minibuses on permanent hire, one for The Fantastics and PA and one for Orange Rainbow. They were both bright orange and a bargain at £30 per week each. If the band worked we were paid £300 per week for everything - petrol, hotel, transport and wages. After expenses I used to get about £35 per week to cover food and accommodation. On average you could get digs for £9 per week back then. That left £26 for booze, clothes, Chinese meals, drugs and music. At this time my Dad was taking home £32 per week as a skilled toolmaker on overtime, so I guess we were doing pretty well. We rarely got days off and when we did it was a welcome break. Because we played at some nightclubs on a rotation basis, maybe one week in every ten, we began to establish a large circle of friends (mostly female). With rare exceptions we would look forward to meeting them. My own informal harem consisted of Sandra Dunham in Middlesborough, Lesley Ellis in Birmingham, Estelle in Manchester, Sharon from Blackburn and a fair few more I've yet to remember. But one problem with all this jack-the-laddin around was that if we played in Liverpool or Scarborough during the summer season then you might find several of your girlfriends in the same club at the same time. One time this happened to me. I nearly got away with it by sitting each of them in different parts of the club, out of view of each other. I managed to keep the deception going until there was a bomb scare and we were all ordered out onto the roof. How embarrassing - what a cad! I was passionately in love with about four girls at once. I couldn't help it. I was lonely and they were beautiful. In the end I guess they all got pissed off with me and hopefully found someone more devoted and single-minded than my shallow self.
The Fantastics really lived up to their name live. They were hard task-masters and really kept you on your toes musically. Don, who was the eldest, was also the musical director. They had all grown up in Brooklyn and while he was practising as a pharmacist he also studied musical arrangement. He could listen to virtually any record and quickly suss the arrangement before chucking in an improvement or two. This was an undoubted talent that helped our gigs become just that little bit more melodic. The Fantastics were the singers, of course, while we were merely the backing band - so they'd normally look a bit flash clothes-wise, while we plodded along in the same dark denims. One day though, we decided to freak them out by getting some new clobber. We found some two-tone flared jumpsuits, all shiny, with big pointed collars and edged in sequins. Some were in beige and brown, others in light and dark blue, black and white etc. Almost laughable now, but such threads were the height of stage fashion then - or they were to us anyway. We barely saw the Fantastics before they came onstage that night so when they spun round during the opening 'Theme from Shaft' they were completely stunned - as the spotlight hit us we lit up like the Las Vegas skyline, earning a big gasp and a ripple of applause from the crowd. The Fantastics were so gobsmacked by this sparkly apparition that they actually froze on the spot for a couple of seconds, missed their next musical cue and almost tripped over themselves getting back in time!
I`ll always remember one gig we did where the running order went, Ist band: Bay City Rollers, 2nd band: Garry Glitter and 3rd band: The Fantastics. We should have been 2nd but were late getting there. We arrived just in time to see Mr Glitter's sensational entrance, one where he spends at least 10 minutes poking his head out from behind a large glttered scarf that he`s holding while the band played an endless riff. It did the trick and soon girlies were swooning. With all their satin, medallions, stackheeled boots, backcombed hair and star shaped guitars, we had been outglammed. After their set the DJ kept plugging their record and I got the feeling it was going to be a big hit and Harry Fritter with it. It was, but about six months latter. Gazzer was a sensation that night and might prove a difficult act to follow. As we prepared to go on stage, we gave special attention to our appearance. There was vigorous backcombing and the hair dryers were out. Martyn had managed to talk the rest of the brass section into wearing eye make up,Graham had sprinkled talc in his hair whilst several others including myself, tucked their flared silk trouser bottoms into the tops of their boots. On stage that night, we played like demons. We were being scrutinised from the wings by the Rollers and the Glitters so we rose to the occasion. After the show Rob our sax player turned down an offer to play with the Glitter Band. I had a chat to the Rollers in the back of their transit box van in which they travelled, sitting on their equipment, and somehow a set of our two tone satin stage gear went missing, later spotted on TV when Gary Glitter made his T of T P debut.
The Fantastics gig must have lasted a good three or four years and what a great apprenticeship it was. Regular rehearsing and the constant introduction of new material kept it from getting boring. We also had the free time to work on our own material and build up an original set that we could play in pubs and colleges.
The Fantastics had already had a hit with "Baby Make Your Own Sweet Music" before we started working for them. It was well known on the Northern Club scene and would often bring the house down. It was produced and possibly written by Led Zeppelin`s bass player John Paul Jones. He also wrote and played the bass part, a work of art in it`s own right and most enjotable to play. I remember him turning up at a gig somewhere and standing right next to me as I struggled to keep up with the complexity and speed of his part. You see, live we used to do the song a lot faster than the original. Anyway, he complimented me on my skill and I thanked him for his brilliant bass part. The Fantastics put out a few more records untill they struck gold with "Something Old Something New"
Nicky Thomas Tour 1970
Prince Buster, The Skatalites, Chicago
The one reggae tour we managed to squeeze in back then was with Jamaican record producer and singer Nicky Thomas. He wrote and had a big hit in 1970 with ‘Love of The Common People’. Paul Young made the song even more popular many years later. Well, when Nicky was booked for the tour, his record wasn’t even in the charts, but by the time he got here it was No.6 and climbing. We had just two days rehearsal with no sheet music but most of us had been into ska and reggae for some time, which made things a little easier (three years earlier our set had included some pretty authentic versions of Prince Buster’s ‘Al Capone’ and The Skatalites’ ‘Guns of Naverone’). We spent the first day listening to endless records he’d brought over to pick out what his set should be. We discovered that we all knew the song ‘Mustang Sally’. We played it endlessly while Nicky came round to us one by one and sang the respective reggae-ised parts in our ear until we got it right. Once he’d completed this little circuit, he’d morphed our R and B style into a skanking bluebeat version. He got so excited he just wanted us to play the stuff for the rest of the day while he rolled on the floor, microphone in each hand, singing his socks off (come to think of it, he didn’t wear any) Nicky Thomas came from the coutryside, the mountain area of JA, and was quite innocent in many ways. His accent was so deep that we sometimes had trouble understanding him, a problem I’ve not had with any other Jamiacan. With just one rehearsal left before the start of the tour, we headed home armed with a stack of Nicky`s singles and stayed up all night working on the set.
Bleary-eyed we arrived at the next and final day’s rehearsal, only to find Nicky had been up all night too, chasing the ladies. He had two gorgeous gals in tow, sporting shiny new diamond rings (well, that’s what the girls believed they were). I guess having a record in the Top Ten might afffect your sense of personal wealth. We started banging out last night’s efforts when Nicky suddenly leapt up and jumped onto the the top of the Hammond organ, scattering the sheet music and upsetting piles of records in the process. Mister Thomsas’ giant leap onto the Hammond also upset Paul Sheath who was actually playing it at the time. Nicky then rolled off onto the floor and did a snake impersonation before jumping up, grabbing three microphones in one hand and singing at the top of his voice. Every two minutes or so he would just fall over – and then bounce back up again. Little did we know this was all part of his bizarre act and the best bits were yet to come. We spent the rest of the day merrily rehearsing the same ten songs and threw in a few island classics for good measure ‘Island in the Sun’and ‘Yellow Bird’.
Nicky insisted we sang the backing vocals and didn’t seem to mind in what style we did it. Funky, falsetto and opera were all tried and, in fact, the more we fucked around, the more he seemed to like it. It was fortunate that there was an element of humour in the music, because parts of the tour we were about to embark upon would turn out to be so hellish, humour became the only way to stay sane.
The opening night was Brixton Town Hall. At this point in time Brixton had no real reputation for its ethnic leanings. We arrived early that afternoon and went over the show a few more times. After the rehearsal the stage curtains were closed and we retired to the dressing room for some pre-gig merriment and unbelievable stories from Steve, our tour manager.
"Yeh, won the Tour de France three times in a row," he would boast, "the world record for the deepest aqua dive? Yep, that’s mine too. I keep all my trophies up in my castle in Scotland. I’m climbing Everest after the tour, the difficult way. Did I tell you about the time I did the Matterhorn blindfolded? I went to bed with three chicks last night. Do you know what they said to me this morning?|"
"No Steve what? ‘What time is it? Make some breakfast…?’ OK, we give up - pray tell us."
"Don`t stop," he winked and we didn’t, we lapped it up which just made him worse. Just then a friendly face popped round the dressing room door.
"OK boys – showtime! There`s a packed house and they’re getting impatient!"
We could hear a slow handclap echoing down the corridor. At this point, Nicky started removing the very smart catsuit that we’d all thought was his stage gear, and changed into rags. With a little help from his manager to untie his shoe laces, he removed them and started running around the dressing room barefoot. Well, he did live up in the mountains of Jamaica.
"OK, while Nicky gets warmed up, you guys go on stage and open up with a couple of your own tunes." Nicky’s manager told us. Standing on stage behind closed curtains at the Brixton Town Hall on the opening night of The Nicky Thomas Tour we were full of trepidation, to say the least. What kind of crowd packs this place to see a rising reggae star? We were about to find out. We’d decided to open the show with one of our more jazz-rock funk anthems, a cover of Chicago’s ‘Make Me Smile’. As we launched into the opening bars - which are in 13/8 time to be precise - and the curtains rolled back, we could hear a discontented murmur erupting from the crowd. A thousand pair of silky white eyes shone out of a thousand black faces – and there wasn’t a single smile anywhere. We carried on through the pseudo-classical instrumental section, on to the two minute 5/4 drum solo and finally, when we reached the trombone and bass duet, the crowd must have taken trombonist Big Rod’s final brass rasp as being a kind of ‘fuck you’ gesture. Come to think of it, I did see his fingers form something not a million miles away from a ‘V’ sign. I’m not saying that Rod was racist by any means but, for the record, his aging father was an active anti-immigrant campaigner who used to ride around Southall with a placard on his back saying "Yeoman of Olde England Unite…" If anyone encouraged him with a smile or a nod, he’d then stop and show his passport to all and sundry - much to Rod’s embarrassment. Well, whether Rod made a two-fingered gesture or not, somebody threw a beer can at him. It missed so we carried on. Others joined and suddenly there was a whole barrage of beer cans heading our way. Fortunately they were empty, well that’s what we intially thought, I mean, were we really worth wasting good beer on? Suddenly Martyn, our trumpet player got hit in the neck by a full can and decided to leg it off stage while he could still walk. He was closely and swiftly followed cby the rest of the brass section. Within a few seconds, there was only me and Graham the drummer on stage. As I was the furthest from the exit I`d only managed to get behind my amp stack, whilst Graham was well hidden behind the guitarist’s. From these vantage points we watched the bottles and cans come crashing in. We nervously grinned at each other "OK, on the count of three LEG IT!" we did - Graham took a direct hit to the shoulder whilst I got it in the leg. I did manage to catch one can and throw it back, before darting down to the relative safety of the dressing room. When we got there we found Steve the Fibb armed with a chair, advising us not to worry - he and Jerry had cleared a room once, just armed with a chair-leg and a smile…
A couple of minutes later the eerie silence that had materialised was destroyed by the thumping on the doors and walls - and the stomping on the skylight from the street above. Steve was all for us fighting our way out, but Nicky had the good sense to go up on stage and talk to the people – most of who were, after all, 'his' people. As he addressed the riotous crowd in some indecipherable tongue, they slowly seemed to calm down. Every now and then you could understand some words like "funk" or "one love"… but most of what was said was lost on our white honky ears. Suddenly, everything was calm and Nicky came running down the stairs and summoned us on with the sane advice of "no more jazzy funk, boys and you’ll be alright". We thought twice – well, we had been bottled off - and then decided to go with Nicky, most of us secretly hoping that someone would be kind enough to notify our next of kin. But now most of the audience were smiling. We launched straight into Nicky’s set and skanked it up with all our might. When it got to the "HIT", Nicky decided that, "as they’d been so good, he would do it two times," - we were not prepared for this and were faced with the musical dilemma of what to do when we reached the key change for the second time. Do we go even higher?. We did - forcing Nicky`s voice into a counter tenor. The crowd loved it and Nicky dived on the organ – again - then rolled on the floor. The Island medley went down fairly well too. For his finale song he went round and collected all the microphones up in one big bunch and then proceeded to sing through them all. Maybe he thought it would make him louder, which it did but wouldn’t it have been easier just to ask somebody to turn him up? You really couldn`t predict what he was gonna do next. He suddenly disappeared off stage, leaving us to fend for ourselves once more. He suddenly reappeared running along the back of the stage ducking behind some music stands. We kept the rhythm going whilst looking over our shoulders to see where he would appear from next. Someone in the audience spotted him on the balcony and pointed up. Before anyone had a chance to turn their glance his way, he ducked down, only to pop up in a different spot moments later. The audience seemed bemused and were now looking all over for him. He eventually exploded onto the stage through a trap door, dressed only in a pair of Bermuda shorts. He finally announced that as the audience had been sooooo good, he would play his hit again for them, FIVE times. Well, I thought that’s five key changes but if he’s up for it then I certainly am. Fifteen minutes later, when we finally finished the song, we were five tones higher than when we started. Nicky had now gone into this mad squeaky falsetto voice. It was hard to keep a straight face but we did and the audience loved him. Nicky could have gone on all night but we had a double at a West End club called The Revolution. We left the building carrying mike stands for protection but no further aggro occurred - until we tried to pull away and backed into a car which was pulling forward. The collision left little more than scratches and we could have left it at that if Steve the Looney hadn’t started an argument with the driver who turned out to be a self-confessed gangster and a member of the Richardson Gang. None of us had heard of them but they were pretty well known in south London and, a few years later, they became notorious for their various violent crimes. Insults were exchanged and as we drove across London we were convinced we were being followed.
For some reason, the van wasn`t running too well, I’m not sure if it was the accident but it started to misfire. Initially some of us took this to be gunfire from the lunatic gangster who’d supposedly been following us. When we reached Grosvenor Square it gave an almighty series of backfires before stalling in a cloud of smoke directly outside the American Embassy. The square was virtually deserted and the explosion echoed around buildings. Suddenly, as if by magic, we were surrounded by armed police demanding what we were doing there. There had already been attempts to blow up the embassy and threats of much, much more to come (although funnily enough, when the Angry Brigade did finally machine-gun one of its walls in some anti-Vietnam war gesture a few years on, no one actually noticed until three days later…). We quickly explained ourselves to the Old Bill, ("we're on our way to The Revolution" someone said, adding Oh! It`s a club officer" as an afterthought) made an adjustment to the engine, and arrived at The Revolution in time for the gig. Once on stage, we thought we noticed the gangster who`d been following us sitting at the back of the audience. He definitely had an "I`m gonna get you" look on his face. I couldn’t take my eyes off him for a moment, just in case he suddenly pulled a gun and started blowing us all away. We managed to get through the set without being shot. Finally, he approached us back stage and reached into his inside pocket. As I prepared to hit the deck, he pulled out a silver business card and handed it to us, asking if we’d give him a ring about playing at his club in Chelsea. Well, I guess this wasn’t our gangster after all - but you never know !
The next day Nicky was booked to play this Caribbean community centre called the Four Aces in Harlsden, North London. It was an afternoon caberet show including a full seated West Indian style cuisine. The house soon became packed and food was laid out on the tables, all except one that is. Right at the front, slightly to one side was the largest table with the shiniest cuttlery. This was the VIP area and everyone was waiting for its occupants to arrive before the festivities could begin. We had been standing on stage all tuned up and ready to go for at least ten minutes, waiting in limbo for the magiccue. Finally they arrived, and everyone stood up as they silently brushed through the audience to their table. They were obviously a very important family; all ten of them, all immaculately dressed in white. They took their seats and were soon surrounded by half a dozen waiters being attentive to their every need. We all waited while their food was brought, cutlery cleaned and the wine eventually accepted. Finally, with a wave of the chief dude’s hand we were allowed to begin. Everything seemed to be going well until we came near to the end of the set and one of our PA cabinets vibrated off the top of the disco speaker and came crashing down in the middle of the important party’s table. Fortunately no one was injured, but food and drink went flying everywhere. They leapt to their feet to avoid more spillage even though their pristine white clothes were now covered in every colour of the Rainbow. What a comic sight! It was hard for us to contain our amusement – unfortunately the dudes’ main man had spotted this and the rest of the show was cancelled. I think we were all still in serious trouble until Nicky offered to pick up the cleaning tab. Then we all had to personally apologise to every member of the family before we were allowed to leave the club, never to return in one piece if the king pin there had his way.
That night we were playing in the local Top Rank night spot. Some of the local community may have used this as a chance to get their own back on us for the afternoon’s altercations, because some prats took to dropping pint glasses on us from the balcony while we performed. Enough was enough for Sheathy, our organist, for he walked and refused to return. We played on without him once the balcony had been sorted. The next gig he wore a crash helmet but he couldn’t hear the rest of the band which made him sound even worse than normal. The gig after that he’d swapped the helmet for a Second World War helmet which was weird because Gary Holton of the Heavy Metal Kids was in the audience wearing one too. That week ‘Love of The Common People’ reached No.3 in the charts, bringing all sorts of people out of the woodwork. More and more gigs were hastily arranged and some days we’d be trebling at all night blues clubs, breakfasting on goat pattie pies. Apart from those early problems, most of the West Indian people we encountered were extremely friendly - which may partly have been due to our own innocent attitude - and would invite us back to their homes to listen to their music and sample their herbal highs. We had a unique insight into some of the more colourful ethnic communities that had sprung up in the cities and towns of this old mud heap we call Great Britain. We eventually made it to the last gig. The record was at No.1 and Nicky had mimed a Top of The Pops that day. After performing to a packed Lyceum we ended up playing in an exclusive Knightsbridge club. There were so many E –Types and Ferrari’s outside you could just smell the money as you approached the place – for the record, it smelt a lot like petrol. Inside Nicky was doing crap at the crap table while Sheathy and Big Rod were at the bar, inventing a new drink they named "Rainbow Cocktail" which was made up of seven differently coloured drinks. Steve the Superhero was chewing off the ears of the rest of the band with endless stories of his daring-do heroics and all-round grandeur.
"I caught a bullet in my teeth when I was minding Frank"
"Frank who?" someone enquired.
"Sinatra, of course, UK tour ‘69, any way me and Old Blue Ears were like that," he said making a cross with his fore and index finger, "did you know that ‘My Way’ was inspired by me?"
"But Frank didn’t write it, it was some French geezer," someone else said.
"That’s what they want you to think, sunshine," came Steve’s quick reply, "tax dodge, you know, you can read all about it in my forthcoming autobiography, when I find a publisher rich enough to publish it."
"So what’s your book called then Steve?" we all excitedly asked.
"Steve’s Way," he replied without batting an eyelid.
" Anyway, we should think about going on soon, I’d better go and help Nicky win back some of his money. I know he wants to give you guys a gift after the show."
At talk of gifts our ears had pricked up.
"So on the boards in one hour then," Steve suggested as he wandered off towards the roulette wheel.
This gave us just enough time to sink a few more Rainbow Cocktails while we speculated what exactly this "gift" was that Nicky wanted to give us after the show.
It’s bound to be money," Rod insisted, "don`t you get tax relief on gifts? I bet he gives us a oner each and claims it was a grand to the tax man."
"No, its gonna be jewellery," Martyn chipped in, "with the amount of rings and bracelets he’s been handing out to his harem, he must have a deal going with someone in Hatton Garden and gets a discount for bulk.
"He’s gonna take us all out to the Playboy Club, special privileges, know wot I mean," said Paul.
The ideas became more bizzare as they were soaked in ever more cocktails.
"My God, we’re on in ten minutes!" someone pointed out.
In our highly innebriated state we just about managed to negotiate the obstacle course to the dressing room, where we found Steve explaining to Nicky that now he’d got his, "unlucky streak out the way, it’s gonna be up and up from now on!" Then Steve performed the nightly ritual of helping Nicky undo his shoes. In fact we were so out of it we needed help to get out of ours. Some of us couldn’t get it together to change into our stage gear so went on in jeans and t-shirts and still gave Nicky’s rags a run for their money. That last gig we fucked about so much. We kept speeding up and slowing down throughout the set. We added silly endings to the songs and sang in ridiculous voices. When Nicky announced that, "as this was the last show of the tour," he would do his hit seven times. Well, we couldn`t stand up for laughter. What a relief when we finally reached the last chord - it was more like a fanfare really.
Nicky then summoned us to his dressing room - we thought for a bollocking for pissing around but, no, he said it was the best show of the entire tour. He was so pleased he demanded we all order a drink from the waitress present, anything we fancied. Seven extra large Rainbow Cocktails was the order. Once the drinks arrived and he made a toast to Orange Rainbow, he presented us each with a neatly wrapped package and told us to look after it, it would be worth a lot of money in the future. Ripping the paper aside revealed a signed copy of his latest single. What a disappointment.
"Thanks Nicky," we mumbled.
"Make a nice ashtray," I heard someone say under their breath… I’ve held on to mine for old times’ sake and low and behold, it is now worth money. I`ve recently had it valued in a specialist collectors' shop and it would fetch a small fortune. "Of course, it would be worth even more if some prat hadn’t written on it," the shopkeeper exclaimed as I left. I could have explained it was the artist's signature but would he have believed me? After all, it`s just a squiggle.
When later we started backing all-girl vocal group The Flirtations, their agent insisted on having a clause inserted in our contract stating that we would not be paid unless we all wore the same all-black outfits ‘at all times whilst on-stage’. I really got on with their driver, Andrew ‘Drew Blood’ Lipscombe, but driving the Flirts - as we used to call them - was no easy ride. You had to pick ‘em all up - carry their costumes, get them drinks and food. While they were on stage you had to mix the sound whilst doing the lights, and after the show you had to party with them. Those New York girls could be real bitches, but on occasion, sweet as hell. Drew lasted two whole weeks as their driver before he cracked. He drove their car around Leeds high street at 100 mph, with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a joint in the other, before handing in the keys to them. Well, ‘handing’ is the wrong word - he threw them actually.
Once, at the Sheffield Fiesta, me and the drummer went to the bar for our regulation pre gig pint. We were confronted with this new super lager called Carlsberg Special Brew (on tap). Well, how could we resist? Despite being warned of its potency, we did our usual "last down buys next round" drinking race. As usual, I won (well I had had more practise than drummer boy) "Wow, this lager is real special" I remarked and after the second pint, we were becoming wild and started heckling the comedian who`d we met earlier back at our hotel. We`d spotted him on TV that afternoon as one of the new presenters of the children's show Rainbow. Now he was telling the bluest of jokes and acted all embarrassed when we shouted out "how`s Zippy and Bungle?" "I`m feeling pretty pissed" exclaimed John Beard our current drummer. "I`ll have to eat" so we ordered scampi and chips and more Special Brew to wash it down. We were now more out of it and causing a rumpus on the dance floor with our eccentric dances. Break Dancing hadn`t been invented yet but I`m sure that night we came very close to it. I can`t remember how I got on stage, but I do remember falling off it. Beardy our drummer also wacked one of the Flirtations in the back when one of his drum sticks flew out of his hand. Back in the dressing room, the Bollocking call from the Flirtations came through first to our MD Martyn Hayles. "What the hell is Dave on tonight ?" Shirley screamed "Is he trying to steal the show?" they went on.. When he eventually handed me the phone, I answered it with the words "Hello, Lloyd Bridges here, glug glug glug" then submerged the receiver into a sink that was conveniently full of water and strolled off to the bar for yet more refreshments. With the show out of the way, I thought I could safely handle a few more jugs of this new wonder ale, I mean, I usually had 6 pints a night before hitting the scotch. How wrong I was, the rest of that evening degenerated into a beer sodden blur that is best described by others.
Speaking of madness, we finally did a gig just after this with one of my all-time faves – The Kinks. It was in a basement dive just off Leicester Square, not that far from the Swiss Centre. Despite having sold hundreds of thousands of singles with ‘Apeman’ and ‘Lola’ just a couple of years before, only 80 or so people turned up to see The Kinks and the crowd response was so limp that a disgruntled Ray Davies announced, after the last number, "I hope you enjoyed it, because that was our last gig – ever!" He sounded like he meant it too. I’d been at the front, dancing to them and I was outraged, so me – and the girl who ran the Kinks fan club plus a few others – went backstage and told Ray and co that they had to keep going; ‘You guys are still great’ etc… The group seemed genuinely moved that someone gave a shit and we all stayed there talking and drinking with them for hours. I really think we had an effect – well, The Kinks kept going, at least, and have produced the odd gem since...
Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons
Number 10 in my all-time favourite singles is ‘Let's Hang On’ by The Four Seasons. It was given to me by my girlfriend Camelia for my 14th. birthday and became one of our songs, along with Roy C’s ‘Shot Gun Wedding’, Percy Sledge’s ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’. You can imagine my delight when we were booked as the support act on their UK tour. They were extremely professional, brilliant musicians and all great characters with little Frankie Valli looking every bit like The Godfather, dressed, as he was, in shades, trilby hat and fur coat, flanked by his extremely tall and lovely wife and his extremely wide and not so lovely body guard. We all seemed to hit it off straightaway and we had our minds blown night after night watching them perform in small 700 seater theatres the length and breadth of the land. Those old theatres were really built for the job, they usually had three tiers of balconies so you felt you could reach out and touch most of the audience. From the stage you could appreciate how close they really were. The acoustics were absolutely marvellous too The Seasons’ American sound engineer had ordered far too much equipment and after the first night, he ended up sending most of it back. He discovered that it sounded best when he only mic’d the vocals and strings, letting the rhythm and brass sections blend acoustically. The final night of the tour was on our home turf at the Hammersmith Odeon. A lot of friends were there including my parents who I forgot to invite to the after show party – I’ve been disgusted with myself ever since.
Everyone got very drunk and somehow I managed to drive the van and everyone home. I don’t remember much about the journey except our keyboardist Sheathy putting his hand up my girlfriend’s skirt who was so out of it she didn’t seem to mind too much. I also remember a pear going somewhere it shouldn’t – I’ll leave the details to your imaginations.
The Jackson Five Over Europe
Orange Rainbow played with The Fantastics for almost three years and it got to the point where their management had to pay us whether we played or not. This later led to an overload of gigs and we ended up doing some ‘trebles’ nights for only an extra twenty, so I suppose they got their money’s worth out of us. The Fantastics were on Bell records, a label which had picked up the UK distribution of material by the Sisters Love who were on Motown in the USA. So, when the Sisters got picked to tour Europe with the Jackson Five brothers, Orange Rainbow got first bite at the backing band cherry – an adventure that was to end with a massive gig at Wembley Arena before 20,000 fans. For that tour, the Jacksons chartered their own 747 passenger jet and, along with the rest of the entourage and equipment were bundled onto it and it was ‘goodbye London, hello Amsterdam’. It was my first real experience of Amsterdam. There was plenty of strong grass around in the parks but it hadn’t actually been legalized over there at that point although it was pleasantly cheap. We stayed the night in the Amsterdam Hilton where John Lennon and Yoko had done their bed-in protest three years before. The gig was at the city’s Concertgebouw venue. Musically the Jacksons were a shambles at that first sound check, but they improved tremendously during the tour. It was a real family affair with Marlon and his brother on guitars, Jermaine on bass, a 12 year old Michael as the Child Star – and what an incredible dancing singer he was - and his younger brother Randy on congas and vocals. (I always wonder what happened to Randy, he was really talented in his own right.) The family package was completed by a cousin on drums, an uncle on keyboards and big daddy Joe as manager. Also in tow were numerous minders, several lawyers, a nurse and the German teachers - spinster twins! - who administered personal tuition to Michael and Randy. The twins made sure the boys got enough sleep, did their homework and washed behind their ears. I’m not sure if anyone else back then had noticed, but those teachers really seemed to enjoy a drink – or three. We certainly got the picture, especially when they turned up at some late night bierkeller we’d taken over and proceeded to drink all of us veterans under the table.
At that opening show we were warned of an impending riot that was to take place in front of the theatre. You see, Amsterdam has a fair number of young black people, all of whom seemed to be protesting at the fact that the Jacksons were only doing one - very expensive - show and all the tickets had been snapped up by rich middle-class mums taking their daughters out for a sticky scream. There was a massive police presence on the streets and the Dutch army had been put on stand-by as back-up. Some neo-Nazi types had also decided to stage a rally in protest at something or other – civilization, probably… or it might have been the colour of Michael Jackson’s trousers. So what were the authorities going to do about all the disappointed punters who’d started gathering outside, desperately hoping to catch a glimpse of the band? The music hall wasn’t that big but it did have many large windows and was situated in the middle of the town square. Due to the fact that we had a surplus of speaker cabinets, a plan was hatched to use them for the crowds outside. All the curtains in the music hall were drawn back revealing the beauty of the crystal chandeliers inside. Strauss, Beethoven, Wagner and Barry Manilow had all trod these very boards. Once the crowd saw the speakers going up, the atmosphere became more party like. Surrounding cafes brought out tables, which encouraged many members of the crowd to sit down and order refreshments. This was a city that knew how to party. At least three TV crews had gathered and dozens of journalists were busy interviewing the public.
After we arrived in Munich, for the German leg of the tour, we found ourselves even more in the spotlight. We discovered later that there had been of lot of controversy in the local media. Some right wing factions felt that the Jacksons should never have been invited to West Germany. One paper even reminded its readers of what some black American GIs did to their female captives at the end of the 2nd World War, although I failed to see what any of that had to do with music. The radio had been playing Jackson Five records all week though and ‘ABC’ and ‘I Want You Back’ had gone Top Ten across most of Europe.
That night’s show was to be broadcast live to the nation via Hamburg’s Star Club persons who had just arrived. On seeing the crowd, they set about organising outside projection, allowing the gathered throngs to see as well as hear The Jackson Five Touring Funkadelic Soul Show, complete with support acts the Sisters Love and London’s very own Orange Rainbow. We opened that night with a blinding version of Issac Hayes' ‘Shaft’ ("He was a bad mutha! – Shut Your Mouth! – Sex machine to all those chicks! – Can you dig it-dig it-dig-it?"). It was already popular in USA, being the theme tune to the very succesful film and TV series of the same name. But Europe had yet to discover it since the movie, and album, had yet to be released. We’d recently added a flautist by way of our new Swedish singer Per ‘Berne’ Dahlgen. Also in our line up that night was Graham Broad on drums, our skinny guitarist Bob 'Twiggy’ McGuinness, Donald Steward on keyboards, Frank Mizen on keyboards and trombone, Martyn Hayles on trumpet, Robin Lawrence on sax and me on bass. An octet if you like. The public began to take their seats. Some came dripping with pearls and gold. Tonight was a ball, and from the moment our guitarist switched on his wah-wah pedal and gave out the distinctive sound that is the pulsing intro to ‘Shaft’… can you hear it right now ? I bet your feet are tapping in time with that wah-wah in your head just like the crowds did on this sunny evening in Germany 1972. A cheer of recognition went up - mostly from the large number of our dark skin brothers and sisters outside who’d come from the local American air base. They were so familiar with the piece that they joined in on the spoken bits "can you dig it?" I certainly dug it as I’d been a soulboy since my days as a mod – and no one loves Motown like a mod. And Stax and Atlantic and James Brown and Isaac Hayes and all the rest. They really put so much into those productions (just listen to the intro of something like the Miracles’ ‘Going To A Go-Go’, the tom drums have been skilfully tuned to the melody of the song).
Halfway through this opening number I glanced to my right and noticed that the Jacksons were all in the wings, checking us out. This would have been the first time they’d seen us play. They seemed to be enjoying it and their father-cum-manager Joe made a point of coming early to the following shows just to enjoy our opening set. The Sisters Love were OK but in truth we were under-rehearsed as we’d only had two days with them. In one song, there was this complicated bass bit and I stuffed it right up. Their real bassist was the musical director for the show, he was not allowed to play because of the Musicians Union regulations. While he was conducting us on stage, you could see the frustration on his face at my bum bass parts. I wish I could have just handed him my instrument, but I didn’t want to cause a musicians’ strike. I mean the world never really recovered from the ‘Great Musicians’ Strike of 1933’ where musicians everywhere downed tools in protest at the playing, in clubs, of ‘phonographic archives’ (records to you sunshine)! They held out for seven weeks until The Night-Club Managers Union announced that ‘they too would go on strike if the musicians did go back to work". Finally, a compromise was struck, allowing musicians free drinks as compensation; I think they settled for one drink every seven records. Well tonight I didn’t want to invoke the wrath of the MU. I mean, can you imagine a night-club with no musicians? With only a DJ and perhaps the odd go-go dancer as well (I`ve seen some very odd ones, believe me)? Hang on, this all sounds familiar. After the show I looked for the Free Drinks For Records clause in my MU hand book. It wasn’t there! Maybe it was a daydream I had while fumbling through the Sisters Love bass lines. I, like quite a few other people have sometimes had problems distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Occasionally it would get me into trouble but, at other times, it’s gotten me into heaven. I very rarely seem to visit hell. Or have I been living in it so long that I’ve gotten used to it? There are some pretty hellish things that happen out there in the big wide world. This night was not one of them, fortunately, and as the Jacksons came off stage after three standing ovations they clambered straight into the biggest Roller I’d ever seen. The limo then drove about 30 yards up this ramp and into the back of a huge removal van neatly positioned in the loading bay. We waved goodbye to each other and big daddy Joe said they would see us back at the hotel where their record company was laying on a party for everyone. Whoopi! this was the life. The back doors to the removal van were secured and off it went through the unsuspecting hoards of fans and protesters. Far enough past the perimeter of the crowd but still within view, the van stopped and out slid the star-filled vehicle. We could view all this from the loading bay doors. We were very impressed. On seeing this, the bulk of the crowd outside dispersed leaving the rest to blend into the natural town square nightscape of this beautiful summmer’s evening. There wasn’t any violence at all, thankfully.
Our arrival at the party, which was still pretty much in full swing, made the entourage complete. The twins were there sitting right next to the punch bowl which was just being refilled. Joe was in the corner with his lawyers and probably representatives from the German Record Co. Everyone but Joe was holding calculators and lots of frantic note-taking was taking place. Michael had already taken over the DJ booth and was playing some great dance tunes. Randy’s congas were brought in and he immediately jumped up and started playing. Soon we were all on the dance floor - via the booze, of course. As a sideline, Orange Rainbow specialised in silly dancing. You do not hang out with me in a dance club for all those years without developing a knack for it. We could remember dances that were over a decade old then. We could do synchronised routines based loosely on the Fantastics choreography the likes of which we had seen performed a thousand times (although the view was always from the back of the stage admittedly). Most of the time we would free-form and tonight was no exception. We were soon joined by some Jacksons who were also good in the silly dance department and gave us a run for our money. The party evolved into a full blown Silly Dance competition with everyone, including the record company staff, standing in a circle and taking turns in the middle with their own interpreptation of the most ridiculous dance you could invent. Fingers spelt out names, torsos twisted and feet did wild tip-toes to nowhere. Points were given for the volume of laughter obtained. Even the ageing record company chairman had a go. Needless to say Micheal won the Silly Dance contest and little Randy won the Limbo competitions. Joe must have negotiated an exstention on their record contract for he was handed a cheque with so many zeros on it, it would make a Star Trek convention look empty. "There’s no people like show people they dance when they get paid!" And so the cheque was passed around the family to fondle before being placed in the safety of big Joe’s body belt. I could see this tour was also about winning them new recording contracts. What a brilliant way to do it, I thought. The rest of the evening became a drunken blur.
The next morning we boarded the Jackson Jet and headed for Frankfurt where they were playing yet another sold-out gig at the Stadhalle Offenbach. I noticed the equipment didn’t look so secure today. Michael was invited up to the cockpit and he had to clamber over the gear to get there. After take-off, he came back wearing the pilot’s hat, claiming he was going to land her. This didn’t amuse Twiggy our guitarist. This was going to be only his third landing. His fear of flying was so imense he’d been talking of little else for days and he’d screamed out loud when we left Heathrow. He spent the next part of the journey exclaiming, "We’re these little fragile beings, trapped inside this thin metal tube sevaral miles above the Earth, there’s so many, many things that could go wrong…" He finally drank himself to sleep and woke up just after we touched down. He did the same at Munich. But due to fog over Frankfurt, we were forced to circle for hours before we began to run out of fuel. Twiggy had been out cold but, as we were thus forced to land at a USAF base about 90 miles away, he slowly came round and was visibly sweating as we landed. Really, the USAF runway was far too short for our size of plane – I think it had been designed with nifty little fighter jets in mind - especially as we were loaded up with tons and tons of PA gear. Landing it wasn’t so much of a problem - Michael had already offered, of course - but taking off would be tricky although we were told that us and the gear would be transfered to the road transport that was on it’s way to meet us. This would also mean that the plane would be considerably lighter, thus lessoning the ‘short runway problem’. The pilot seemed fairly confident. "Full thrust should easily be enough to lift her above the trees at the end there," he said, matter of factly, when he was quizzed by the interested entourage, "at least the fog hasn’t reached us yet." That was another reason why that airport would never normally be used for civilian flights – there were densely packed trees all around, to help disguise it, I suppose. They went from the very edge of the nearest road right up to to the runway tarmac.
Unfortunately the growing fog in the area meant that the trucks they’d sent to collect us had been held up by a massive series of pile-ups – plus, of course, the usual roadblocks that were there to catch members of the Baader Meinhoff gang. An hour later we learned that they weren’t going to reach us in time for the gig. There were thousands of fans already gathering in Frankfurt and the city authorities were seriously worried about the possibility of riots if the concert didn’t go ahead. But no one on the plane was that worried about the trucks as Joe had plenty of time to sort out some alternatives. He was always pretty good at getting things done fast. So we all just sat around on the plane, sipping fruit juices – and a good few alcoholic cocktails – as Joe walked on and off the plane and up and down the runway, barking questions and orders into his radio phones and walkie-talkies. Michael Jackson said he loved my flowery kipper tie and I took it off and gave it to him, "Gee, thanks man," he whispered with such innocence that I ended up giving him my usual lecture on the dangers of stardom. He smiled through it all but I think he was listening, as a child star he was well aware that certain things in his life were really bizarre – to be world famous before you’re even a teenager is a trip that very few of us are (un)lucky enough to get on. My chat with Michael seemed to go on for hours but even after we’d finished, we were still waiting for fresh transport as the fog began to reach the airfield we were on.
After a few more huddled conversations between Joe, the air crew and the airport staff, the rest of us were told that we were definitely gonna go for it. Our overloaded plane would clear the trees OK, we were informed, and our pilot was going to do a dry test run just to make sure. We all agreed that that was well cool – OK, we were young and stoned, I admit it, and so we were looking forward to the trip, maaan. So we did a test run with the captain gradually revving down so he could easily turn off in time to come back and then go for it properly. On the second run we were almost at full speed before our pilot realized we weren’t going to make it - he revved back and slammed on the anchors and our seat belts all got a good stretch. We only just made it round the corner, leaning to one side and with the wheel brakes shrieking like sirens. And then we began our third attempt. Young Twiggy had said he’d be OK at the start but, finally, he freaked out completely as we hurtled down the runway for the third time. Three of us had to hold him down between the seats as the plane accelerated toward the line of trees that loomed out of the mist at us. With the front nose well up the engines reached screaming pitch – the only thing louder than them was Twiggy shouting out, "We’re All Gonna Die NOWW!" We did finally leave the ground as the back of the plane scraped the tree tops – that was something else we all heard – but the impact wasn’t enough to bring us down and a few seconds later we were happily on our way. Twiggy became blasé almost instantly – "after that take off, I can handle anything," he exclaimed – and, true to his word, he was relaxed, and almost bored, whenever we flew again.
Next stop Paris… As we cleared imigration at Charles De Gaulle, we were confronted with several thousand screaming girls. Police and security allowed them just close enough as the fab Five posed for Rue Fleet. Several fans managed to break through the lines before making a dash for a Jackson or two. Two teeneboppers grabbed Jermaine’s arm whilst a third snogged him furiously. "Now I know why they call it French kissing," he joked after the ordeal. Joe quickly took control of the situation and told the press how pleased he was to be back on French soil, the last time being as an Allied soldier in the Second World War. They all expressed the hope that everyone would enjoy the show and then they were whisked off to the Paris Hilton in gleaming limo. The rest of us in the entourage had to make sure all the cases got on the coach with us and arrived at the Hilton safely. We had over 300 pieces of luggage between us (someone took a picture of the J5 sitting on a pile of half of these trunks in some hotel foyer, with Michael at the top). We saw our coach in the car park sporting a large orange J5 sticker. Just then, several trucks of our luggage arrived. "In the car-park over there please mate, silver coach, orange sticker, J5," I said to one of the many men who came with the trucks. It was no good, neither he or any of the others were budging. It was like there was an invisible line they wouldn’t cross. We were suddenly surrounded by men with boards round their necks bearing the legend ‘10F’. Instinctively I took them to be porters offering to carry our bags for ten francs. Frankie, our trombonist, had an alternative theory, reckoning them to be IOF men, the letters standing for Inspector Of Foreigners. But our No 1 security man ‘Odd Job’ knew who they were all right.
"Vultures!" he exclaimed, "bloody vultures, don’t let them touch a thing."
Odd Job had encounted the dodgy Porters of Paris before. "If you let them, they’ll expect 10 francs each for every single item they touch," he warned us grimly. Before I could pick up my guitar case, there was a webbed claw on it. It’s owner was obviously a war veteran with medals, and a missing limb or two, to prove it. He pointed at the sign round his neck. I nodded. I felt sorry for him so, against Odd Jobs explicit orders, I accepted his kind offer of (paid) help. My actions only complicated the situation and suddenly all the porters were grabbing at our luggage in a cash-driven frenzy. Odd Job wrestled some bags back and, although we managed to carry about two thirds ourselves, a representative from the Paris Porters demanded to be payed for the complete amount. Which was nearly £300 if I’m not mistaken and we’re talking 1972 prices here, i.e. nearly four grand now . Odd Job offered the Porters’ main man a 1000 franc note,. The chief porter shook his head, mumbled something in French then grabbed hold of the entrance pole of the coach and refused to budge. Odd Job waved the 1000 F note at him once more. It was no good, he was determined to stay put untill he got the full amount. The coach driver suggested that if we started driving, then he would eventually get off, so that’s exactly what we did, leaving the doors open in anticipation. After several miles later he was still there, hanging on for dear life. Finally, at some traffic lights, he seized his chance and the note out of Odd Job’s hand before gobbing in his face and jumping ship. Odd Job just stood there frozen with a big greeny hanging from his nose. I swear I saw steam coming from his ears. He must have wanted to kill this French porter but knew he had to control himself to avoid more trouble. We all made a big fuss of him and told him that it took more guts not to hit back. We all seemed to share in his humiliation but that didn’t stop lots of jokes being aimed at Odd Gobbs (as he had now been so tactfully re-nicknamed). "He’s the spitting image of some Flemish actor," someone would drolefully quip...
We arrived at the Paris Hilton to find even more screaming fans and admirers. We knew they were there to see the Jacksons but that didn’t stop us from giving it the right Royal Wave as we strutted our stuff through the crowds and into the foyer. For security reasons, we had all been placed on the top floor. That afternoon was for R&R. Once in our rooms, we quickly set up our tape playback system. It was an Orange Rainbow ritual to get our sounds on the moment we occupied a new residence. We had at least two separate tape hi-fi systems. This meant we could spread them out amongst the dorms we’d been assigned. We could also link them together and with a bit of sound-on-sound we had our own recording studio. It was from this technological springboard that we experimented, recording all sorts of audio weirdness. Within minutes, our adjoining rooms felt more like a social club than a hotel. All the beds had been moved back against the walls. Rod had already invented a skittle game using empty beer bottles and tennis balls. Frankie had brought a kite and was flying it out of the window exciting the hoards of fans and admirers below. One by one, various Jacksons found their way into the Orange Rainbow Den of Enlightenment. We seized the opportunity and put on some recordings that we were currently working on. One song in particular grabbed their attention. Notably, ‘Hey Virgin Child’ a funky pop song with a cathchy five part harmony chorus line that goes "Hey virgin child, do you mind if I open your head… hey virgin child, look inside tell me why is it red… ? hey look at me, can’t you see, could it be that your dead?" and so on…
They were soon singing along. We managed to talk them into taking a copy as a possible J5 single or album track. I like to think that it was the song’s controversial nature that failed to put ‘Hey Virgin Child’ into the Jacksons’ repetoire. Whatever it was, we failed to hear anymore about it although I thought I detected a few of our brass riffs on the Thriller Album.
The Jacksons gig at the Olympic Theatre that night was magnificent. The party after was mega magnificent. Our own luxury boat cruised up and down the Seine. As the champagne flowed. Jermaine started acting strange and whispered that he had something he wanted to show us in private, up on deck. Surrounded by eight members of Orange Rainbow, Jermaine relaxed and informed us that the fan who had managed to snog him earlier had also managed to secure this necklace on him. We could see the gold chain around his neck but the pendant was hidden beneath his tee shirt. So, we asked, why the big secret over a necklace? Jermaine ushered us to be patient, saying "all will be revealed in good time". He made us all promise not to tell a soul. Jermaine then slowly lifted the chain. We were all eyes. Finally a shaft of light reflected from the revealed crystal pendant. Once it’s full splendour was unveiled, one could make out what it was. "A Crystal Dick!" Well I never, who’d a-thought it ? We now shared a secret with a Jackson and we hadn’t even had to sleep with him!
The whirlwind European adventure was over and we soon found our feet on home soil. J5 fever had reached new hights and they received a full heroes welcome. Unfortunately, our new singer Berne from Sweden didn’t have a work visa and was deported on the spot. We tried to appeal but he was quickly led to a plane bound for Sweden. "Don’t worry, we’ll get you back," were our last words of promise. And we did - by promptly announcing that we were on strike until he returned. Once the agent, Danny O’Donovan, realised we were serious, he set about oiling the wheels of the relevant authorities to get our singer back. The only man for the job was swiftly brought in. Steve the Fib was put on the task and, despite it being a weekend, had our Berne back within 48 hours, just in time for the Birmingham show. Our refusal to play had become an issue of international importance – almost of national security - so words were spoken in very high places and red tape was cut for little old Orange Rainbow. Steve refused to tell us how he actually pulled it off. He just kept saying that we wouldn’t believe him anyway and that we owed him, big time.
At Birmingham, as with most British venues, the Jacksons seemed to be attracting more or less the same fans as The Osmonds, The Rollers, Kenny, Sweet, Mud and Rod Stewart. We had hours of fun throwing J5 badges and photos out of the top story windows of our hotel. This was a game Michael turned us onto when he strolled into our room and, beckoning us to an open window, preceeded to throw out a handful of badges to the fans 20 floors below. These badges were about 5 inches in diameter and acted like a mini frisbee. When one gets caught in an air stream, it can cruise for a long way before it finally touches down. The fun part of this game apparently, was watching the screaming crowds run back and forth attempting to catch the descending badges. In some cases, girls would fight over them until somebody threw more. There was no shortage of badges, we could have easily thrown enough out for everyone but Michael thought it was more fun a few at a time.
Finally, the big day came. Wembley Arena, the very last night of the tour. Our relatives and girlfriends had been given complimentary seats to the side near the front. Unfortunately, the seats were only good for seeing the front of the stage from. The problem was that huge PA cabinets were blocking the view of the back of the stage where we would be performing. My mum was livid, I mean it`s not every day you get a chance to see your son on stage at Wembly Arena. She said that if she’d had known that she would not be able to see me properly, she’d have paid for a decent seat herself. We tried to get them moved but there was nowhere to move them to. We could have threatened another strike but that ploy was wearing thin. No, we would have to go through with the show. The only plan we had was to stand close enougth to the front of the stage so our loved ones could see us. This was OK for our opening set but when Sisters Love came on it all got a bit crowded upfront and must have looked comical. The whole experience was bizzarre. Entertaing 20,000 or more excited teenage girls was unexpectedly weird to say the least.
After the gig we were taken to some mock medieval restaurant that had been exclusively booked for us. Serving wenches poured goblets of vintage wine as roasted hogs with oranges in their mouths were placed on the table. The place came complete with court jesters – no, they weren’t A&R men – and, later, a few strolling minstrels. Big Daddy Joe was sitting in the Kings’ throne chair although young Michael and Randy took a few turns before the end. Since their flight back to the States was at 6 a.m. or so, it wasn’t worth sleeping and so the Jacksons seriously got into the party mood. Michael really loved the minstrels and kept borrowing their hats and requesting more medievil songs. Green Sleeves and Scarborough Fayre were the two most popular. It was five in the morning before they managed to escape. On their way out I asked one of them how much they’d get paid for that evening’s musical marathon. "Nothing, mate, it’s supposed to be a promotional gig for us. We’re on the same label as the Jacksons, we’re Amazing Blondel."
Before the boys left for Heathrow we swapped numbers and we were invited to come to Fort Jackson to record a track or two. Stupidly, we never followed that offer up. Maybe we figured they were just being polite but an agent later told us that they really were fans. Orange Rainbow had even featured in their TV cartoon series for two or three episodes – so there’s a cartoon of me somewhere, folks! – because, "the Jacksons really loved you guys, really loved your band." It’s a pity, in a way, that we didn’t make it out there. I’d like to have heard a Rainbow-Jacksons album…
At the end of the tour, our singer Berne was sent back to Sweden by the authorities where he waited for us to get him a proper work visa. We never bothered - I mean, he wasn’t that good - and so we never saw him again. Steve the Fib was not pleased – and he never let us forget the fact.
"So I move mountains for the fickle fucking Orange Rainbow ! I manage to get their precious prized singer flautist back into the country within 48 hours! On an emergency work permit! ‘He’s irreplacable!’ you all said, ‘We can’t play without him!’ You would not believe what I had to do to get it sorted, you just can`t imagine what I went through. And then what happens? you throw him out ! Have I got jerk written on my back or something?" Steve finally cracked when we all demanded to know what really happened. We sat there transfixed as Steve recounted the events that persuaded the home office to allow our Swedish singer back into the country. I never knew that Steve knew so many famous influential people. And he knew so much about their private lives too. When he finished, we all sat there speechless.
"See, I told you they wouldn’t believe me," he whispered to his beer, his one true friend in all the world. Funny thing was, this was one of the only stories of his I did believe. It was something about the country Lord, the actress and the three-legged dog that made it seem so real. And the bit where Steve paraglides into the grounds of Windsor Castle, well I can just His Royal Highness standing on the lawn ready to greet him. I could tell you the whole story but in Steves the Fib’s fabulous words, "you’d never believe me".
With the Jackson Five tour under our belt, we teamed up once again with The Fantastics for a tour of American military bases in Germany. For years we’d been doing them on home soil and the fee’s were generous. Up to now, we`d chose to avoid the German ones. The pay was crap and we’d heard alarming stories from bands who’d been stranded there and then had to work like slaves for the fare home.
All entertainment in the German US bases was paid for out of the profits made on the slot machines and gambling tables. A legacy of corruption had just been uncovered leading to the prosecution of many high ranking officers. Millions had been creamed of the top. It was no wonder that the poor old musicians were being royally ripped off. All this changed when a new system was put in place. As chance would have it, we were one of the first acts to be booked under it. Previously bands had to make their own way to the gigs and pay for their hotel and food as well. Now all expenses were covered and we got payed daily in cash, whether we played or not. Drinks were cheap and on the rare occasions that we actually did have to perform, a coach would come and collect us from our palatial hotel. Oh, what luxury!
When we played the US officers’ clubs, we knew what to expect from doing them back home. Once you entered those heavily gaurded gates you were in America, near enough. Families having picnics, playing baseball, driving around in Cadillacs eating pizzas. Career servicemen living what seemed to us a life of luxury.
The other side of the coin was far more disturbing. America still had National Service wich meant that a lot of conscripts resented being held against their will. Special escape-proof camps had been built to hold the dissidents that rebelled at their captivity. We had the pleasure of entertaining them one night and I remember one recruit pulling a pistol and blatantly loading it with bullets. I began to wonder what the Musicians’ Union response to this would be – ‘trombone players and bassists cannot be threatened with fire-arms more than once in any live session of less than 20 minutes or a pro-rata basis over the preceding hour’ . Before any other crazy thoughts entered my head, the reckless recruit started firing at random, his mouth open in a silent scream. It had all happened too fast for us on-stage and we just stood there, paralyzed, as the bullets zipped between us. The GIs, especially the Vietnam veterans, knew better and they were on the floor before the first bullet had finished ricocheting around. As the Military Police dragged the screaming gunman out, the others all stood up and started drinking their beers again. The only evidence that anything had happened was the still-swinging lampshade with a big crack in it. Everyone was so casual at the bar it was as if this kind of thing went on every night. Which maybe it did. It was like playing to criminals in prison the only difference being that this lot carried guns and were getting paid to get pissed. I even remember finding a full box of ammo on the ground behind the club that night. I dutifully handed them in to some high ranking brass who slipped it under his desk draw as if it were a pair of old slippers.
Another day, we had to meet a man in khaki in a jeep in a layby on the autobahn, in the black forest. (more of a dark green really). It was a secret where we were playing that night. We had to follow the jeep off the main road, deep into the forest. As the woods got denser, we could just make out the shapes of missile-launchers and tanks hidden amongst the trees. There were thousands of them! We still had no idea where we were going. Eventually, we arrived at a small compound surrounded by high wire security fencing. Inside were about 200 GIs taking a two week respite from the Vietnam war and all it`s madness. As soon as you saw the look on these guys faces you knew they were trapped in some kind of hell. This was their second day of freedom.
"Do you guys smoke? I mean really, really fuckin’ smoke? Know what I’m sayin’, maan?" hissed a Dennis Hopper lookalike as he waltzed into our dressing room. (or was he doing a foxtrot…?) We nodded in reply and followed him to his jeep. We, got in and a lad of about 19 swiveled round and pointed an M-16 rifle up at us. "Here man, suck on this," he smiled evilly. I thought our number was up before I noticed the lump of grass in the breech. He held his zippo to it, while I sucked on the barrel. I got one of the strongest hits I’ve ever had. By the time I got on stage that night, I was so out of it that I promptly threw up all over my guitar - much to the amusement of the chaps who’d got me slaughtered.
During the gig a vicious head-butting competition erupted in the middle of the dance floor. Fists started to fly and some on-lookers helpfully tossed a couple of glasses into the flailing melee. We musicians were asked to ignore it. Since there no guns involved the MPs couldn’t be bothered to break it up.
"Just young folks letting of steam," was how the smiling staff sergeant described it as the noses cracked and the blood flowed.
When the bourbon was flowing later, back stage – I’ve always preferred that to blood - stories were told of napalm attacks, psychotic snipers, poison arrow booby-traps, cheap heroin, strong cannabis and deadly whores. Some GIs started to lose it and became jibbering wrecks in the corner. There was a lot of shouting and threats of violence towards them. ‘Shut the fuck up, mo-fu! Or I’ll blow your frigging brains out!’ that sort of thing. Just the kind of language a shell-shocked man loves to hear.
Finally we managed to make our excuses and leave. As the gates opened to let our coach out, several squaddies tried to make a run for it but were too pissed and fell over before being almost licked to death by the guard dogs. This has to rate as one of the weirdest gigs I’ve ever done and, believe me, I’ve done some very wierd ones indeed. This whole experience had left us a bit traumatised. We had no idea we’d be playing to ‘Nam vets fresh from the front line. As it turned out, this was to be the only time we did, thank god.
There was also a lot of anti-American feeling amongst German youth back then. Vietnam was an unpopular war. Many times we’d be on one of the bases sitting down to eat some huge feast – top brass all around – when suddenly we’d all be evacuated due to a bomb scare. We’d end up standing outside in the rain, watching our food go cold as the bomb squad vainly searched for the explosive device that never was.
Anyway, the new entertainment organisers of the airbase cicrcuit were a bit slow in getting us booked so most days were free. And we were being fed and watered, ha ha! With all this spare time on our hands, we set about exploring our new environment. I used to walk for miles, up and down the hills, along the rivers, anywhere my feet and heart took me. I’d come back to the boys loaded with information about the location of the local student bars, record-stores, boutiques, music shops, swimming pools, cinemas etc... On one occasion, during the first few days, I discovered a happening beer kellar not far from our hotel named The Jazz Cellar. It soon became our hang out. The staff and clientele were friendly and soon the schnapps - a rather strong German liquer, I case you didn’t know - was on the table. Come to think of it, in those early Weisbaden days, we probabaly spilt more than we drank. I was amazed at how many young Germans spoke English. Our sax player Robin had learnt German at school and began polishing up his skills, which made a change from polishing his saxophone. He became our official translator and handled most of the financial transactions.
I had travelled through Germany a few times in the past but never really had a chance to sit down and have a serious conversation with people of my own age. I really came to like most of the locals we encountered. It must have been mutual for we got all sorts of invitations to dinner parties, gigs and gatherings. Before I’d left for that German tour, my dad had taken me to one side and placed a fatherly hand on my shoulder as he looked me straight in the eye. "You’ve gotta be careful out there, son, you’re gonna be among the enemy, you know," he warned. But, actually, after the first few days, it felt like the opposite.
We needed a place to rehearse, of course, and discovered that The Jazz Cellar had a room out the back with a stage which hadn’t really been used since the mid-sixties. Robin and I broached the subject with the landlord who not only agreed to let us use it, but offered us a sort of residency there. We could come in on our free evenings and jam around, put on a show, whatever we liked… as long as we were content with free beer as payment.
"How much free beer?" we enquired immediately.
"As much as you young Englishers can put inside your tiny bellies," he smirked. That was it. In an oblique way, we had, we felt, been challenged to a Drinking Competition. We immediately accepted his kind offer and ran back to tell the others the good news. The very next day we started rehersing there. Unfortunately there was no free beer for practising but they did some wonderful bread’n’dripping washed down with a potent tea made from the town’s spa mineral waters and locally picked herbs and spices.
On the way out after the rehersal, Otto the barman called after us.
"So English, you come back tonight ja, to play zee music for zee crazy jazz fans, ja?"
"Jahowl, Otto, mien liberdich," Robin replied. As we strolled back to our hotel for yet another culinary orgy, courtesy of the Grand Ol’ US of A, I wondered about Robin’s remark to Otto. ‘Leave her dick?" wot’s dat mean then? In the parlance of the time, ‘was our Robbie a poof or summink?’ We all had our doubts about young Robin. He was a very handsome man with a slightly effeminate nature but he was never that successful with the girls. Even though he was in a good position to attract them. Maybe that was why he said such strange things in German. Maybe he was ‘coming out’ in another tongue first to see how it felt, so to speak. This were the theories that a couple of us sometimes considered. For the record, Robin, to my knowledge, never did come out and he finally settled down in 1987 with a female friend of mine… who just happened to be German!
After our meal that night, the first of us to return toThe Jazz Cellar was Graham Broad, our drummer, Ted our keyboardist and me clutching my battered bass. The room was already half full, yet it was only 7 p.m. We’d been expecting to have a quiet, intimate little jam but it seemed that word had definitely got out. We later discovered that this evening was actually the official re-opening of the Jazz Cellar Music House. So we were playing for nothing? Not quite, not with all those beers lined-up on the bar.
As well as the younger crowd, we had also attracted quite a few Bohemian-looking types. Goatee beards, sandles, pipes and berets. Beatniks, a decade or two on. You got the feeling that some of them must have frequented this joint way back in the fifties. We strolled on stage to much enthusiasm. The sign outside read, according to Robin, ‘Tonight, from London, jazz-funk maestros Orange Rainbow!’ We knew we were gonna have to pull all the stops out that night. Suddenly, Otto’s head appeared through the hatch in the wall that cleverly linked the bar with the stage (no wonder the Germans can jerry-build a decent motor car).
"Come on English, music please, the crazy jazzy fans are waiting and waiting, no music - no more beer!" We agreed to play immediately and he then handed us a tray of litre steiners filled with the finest ale. We decided to do our three piece set including some Nice, ELP and Yes pieces which all had improvised middle sections that can be stretched out if neccesary. We were a sensation that night and the beers just kept coming. We had almost exhausted our organ, drums and bass repetoire when one of the audience asked us if he could ‘come and blow my horn with you funky jazz people?’ We busked something loosely resembling ‘Green Onions’ although ‘Pink Sour Kraut’ was more like it.
After that I asked if anyone else had a brass instrument with them, if so would they like to come and join us onstage. To this, half the audience got up and left. Brassaphobic! I thought. Maybe they’d grown up with too much oompa-oompa music? We carried on regardless though, remembering Otto’s ‘no music no beer’ threat. Fortunately, our own brass section had just arrived and they joined us. They were immediately handed a tray of booze through Otto’s magic portal.
Our brass boys had no idea that, ten minutes earlier, half the audience had left at the mere mention of brass. Would the arrival of Orange Rainbow’s horn section manage to clear the rest of the club? We woud find out by the end of the next song, no doubt. We launched into Chicago’s ‘Make Me Smile’ but no one else left. Suddenly, in burst about twenty people carrying boxes which they opened to reveal shiny brass instruments of all shapes, sizes and ages. Our brass section looked at me confused. Now it all made sense, the people who walked out earlier had gone home to get their instruments. They had taken my invitation seriously and were now jostling for a space on stage. The flow of brass players seemed endless. They were waving tubas, trombones, alto saxes, French horns - made in Germany, of course, which I suppose made them German Fench horns - and things I’ve never seen before or since. The Germans take their hot air seriously and I counted over three dozen examples of the species before I gave up.
The problem was that everyone wanted to play at once. Not a problem if it sounds cool but when it`s cacophony a go-go, some discipline is needed and that’s what they got. Martyn Hayles, our trumpeteer and musical director, took a lead role and saw to it that the following jams were a bit more organised. For a start, we all needed to get in tune with each other, secondly, not all instruments are in the same key. But it all got sorted and didn’t half make a difference. This was to set the tone for The Jazz Funk Club in the coming days and weeks. When we left that night, we knew a whole heap of new people including 37 brass players. Running the Jazz Funk Club almost made us forget that we’d come to Germany to tour American airbases. We’d been booked to do anything up to 42 gigs but thus far, a fortnight into the tour, we’d only played four. The new airbase system was still having it’s bookings ironed-out, much to our advantage.
Some nights we’d get so drunk, we’d go out baiting cops with our Basil Fawlty-does-Hitler routine. In retrospect we were probably pushing our luck a bit – all the cops were armed and we got chased a couple of times. I’ve got a photo somewhere of a German policeman pulling a gun on us. He only threatened to use it and somehow we always managed to get back to the hotel where we’d disappear amongst the crowd. Another time, we were stuffing our faces with pizza when we noticed some skinny guys busking outside. Once they raised enougth money, they came and joined us. It turned out that they too were Englishers who’d been brought over months ago. Unfortunately for them, they’d been playing the air bases for peanuts under the old system. They were thus stranded in Germany with little money and desperately needed to get home. Their drummer had already cracked and was last seen pushing his drums down the autobahn in a handcart, heading in the general direction of Calais. As it turned out, they were not alone in their plight. We saw loads of guys in a similar position. Germany seemed to be full of stranded English musicians all trying to hustle up enough dosh to get back to Blighty. It appeared that German booking agent Geezer Gunter was responsible for much of their misfortune since he’d allegdly been promising them fame, and a small fortune, and then hadn’t delivered. We heard that he’d done a runner now that his airbase racket had been broken. Charges of corruption were being considered too. One thing that we can thank the Yanks for is their support of live entertainment and the benefits it – later - brought to bands like ourselves. Although I didn`t know it at the time, my partner Kathy was also criss-crossing Germany with her vocal band Design, playing many of the same venues we’d done. Our paths were to cross a few more times before we finally met but that’s another story yet to unfold.
At the start of ’73 Orange Rainbow passed an audition for a residency for March, April and May in Zorba's Discotheque, El Arenal, Majorca. We booked the ferry well in advance as this region had become very popular with tourists. We scheduled two days to drive there. A ferry from Ramsgate to Calais and one from Barcelona to Palma. Graham Broad, our drummer, was going to fly out a few days later as his parents had flight concessions. We had a delay in obtaining the correct papers to get our equipment across Europe. On top of this, we'd just had a new engine fitted in our van and we were still running it in, so we could only go a certain speed. What all this meant was that we arrived in Ramsgate just in time to see the last ferry of the day disappear over the horizon. This delay had a whole knock-on effect and when we finally arrived at the Spanish border we had to go looking for the chief customs officer to sign our paperwork. It was now carnival weekend and we found him in a drinking tent, getting smashed with a beautiful young girl who was almost ceratinly not his daughter. We were penniless and had to take to begging and nicking carrots from the farmers’ fields. Needless to say we missed our boat from Barcelona to Palma and then needed more dosh to book another. We managed to call the club manager, who promised to wire us some money to a certain local bank. By now nearly all of us were suffering from gut-rot and hunger. I was about the only one still capable of driving and tempers were running short. All we could think of was a decent meal and a comfortable bed. We eventually found the right bank ten minutes before closing time. A small delegation of us went in to negotiate this transaction. But the bank knew nothing about any money. What cash transfer? Oh no! It looked like we were doomed to become the beggars of Barcelona.
Our delegation returned to the van. What to do now? I refused to move the van, even though we were being issued with a parking ticket. What did it matter? We just sat there, heads in hands, sulking, almost beyond hope. Just as the man in the bank was locking up, though, someone noticed him picking up a phone and then furiously beckoning at us. The call had finally come through and a couple of minutes later he was pressing a big wedge of pesetas into our hungry hands. With our new-found wealth we made straight for the local campsite, where we took over the restaurant and ordered three of everything, including bottles of wine. By the end of the evening we set up outside the restaurant for an informal gig. Quite a crowd gathered, most of whom insisted on buying us more booze. Nobody is quite sure what happened next. The following morning, though, we awoke to see piles of vomit stretching from our tents to the toilets. As all the boats were fully booked, we had to go each day at the crack of dawn and queue for hours in the boiling heat for a cancellation.
We eventually arrived in Palma at sunrise, eight days late. The first thing we noticed as we drove off the boat was this huge giant hording poster of our band. The next thing we noticed was a black-skinned youth waving his arms around profusely. It was Graham, our drummer, who had been stranded there alone, not knowing what was happening. He didn’t have a change of clothes or even a toothbrush as his suitcase had been with us, on board. When we finally arrived at the club and relieved the previous band, who’d been hanging on waiting for us to materialise, we were confronted by the manager.
He wanted to know how many sets we would do a night. We had to play for three hours, so we could play two 90 minute sets or three one hour sets.
"What about free drinks?" asked Frankel Boris Muzoski, our trombonist (we just called him Frank). "Well," the manager replied, "you get a free drink after each set you play."
"Okay, we'll play six half-hour sets then," we replied in unison.
Within no time at all we’d turned into alkies. If six free drinks weren't enough, you could get a bottle of Bacardi for less than a quid to take home with you… Between drinking bouts, me and Frankie developed a passion for snorkelling. We bought the whole kit - snorkel, goggles, flippers - we even got one of those writing pads you can use under water and we would write stupid things on it like ‘glug glug glug’. We even got a harpoon gun. Eventually we did manage to spear one fish, only to bring it out to discover it was a quarter of the size it had looked in the water. Poor, innocent fish.
We found our own private, little bay round by the coral reef and when the glass bottom boat came round with tourists looking at pretty coloured fish, we would swim underneath it naked and bang our butts on the bottom. No one complained, in fact, some folk claim that ticket sales went up. What a life we were having.
We noticed that prices of everything kept rising each week as we got closer to the peak period. In the bar of the hotel where we stayed you could buy a litre glass of lager from the barrel for 20 pesetas. By the time we left there it cost 200 pesetas for just an eggcup full. You'd be better off drinking water. In fact we probably were, as the barrel was filled up with ice every day and I never saw them change it.
We installed our own sounds in this bar and would give the punters an endless loop of stuf by The Kinks, Beatles and Stones. Whenever anyone asked who was playing this song or that, the bar staff would answer that it was Orange Rainbow and try to sell them tickets for that night's show. We were constantly being asked to play this or that song that someone had heard in the bar. ‘Play the one that goes la la la lala lola,’ they'd say.
One day an American battleship pulled into the bay. It was huge and virtually blocked out the sky. For some reason people felt obliged to entertain the sailors and a special party was laid on for some of them in our club. We were invited to join them in a private room upstairs to drink bourbon and smoka de jointo. One guy insisted that I join him down on the dancefloor, where we could find some chicks to dance with. I approached the first girl I came to and asked for a dance. When she stood up she towered over me - and I had four inch high platform shoes on. Nevertheless, we had a great time together. She’d had her passport stolen and I was able to drive her into the capital to sort it out. She came from Germany and her name was Siggy. Remember that name - it will become significant later, if you'll pardon the pun. That summer must rate as one of the best times I've ever had. I mean, what more could a young man ask for? Sun, sea, surf, sand, sex and snorkelling.
This whole adventure abroad had been a great relief to the increasingly dull routine of the caberet circuit back home. I think we all started to question what we were going back to. You see, we could make more money as a backing band for already established artists but we also believed we had commercial potential in our own right. We wanted to develop our own music. We still had some touring to do, back home with the Flirtations, but we’d made up our minds to get our own album together.
1973 THE WINTER OF DISENCHANTMENT
They say the entertainment industry is always the first to suffer in a depression and I was certainly witness to this fact, first hand. As prices and unemployment rose and morale fell, we entertainers started to become redundant. Most people just seemed to have less money after the ’73 Oil Crisis - and the Tories’ Three Day week, so those people went out less and less. Over the years we'd played with huge variety of musicians, comedians, magicians, jugglers, strong acts, mime artists etc - the fag end of the music hall, I suppose - on bills that had up to eight or nine acts. But such big line-ups soon disappeared. Clubs started booking DJs & go-go dancers instead of live musicians. Gigs got scarcer along with the money. We were lucky if we got three gigs a week from ’73 onwards – after that Winter of Disenchantment, as I called it. Thousands of caberet acts were ending up on the dole, their careers over, possibly forever. Around this time, I started to develop a phobia of night clubs. Smelly flea pits with plastic furniture playing dross music while balding comperes told secondhand joke. I really used to enjoy ‘cabaret’ life but now I needed a change. And so I strated to plan my escape.
I already had my own 4-track studio in a converted garage-cum-shed in my garden. I’d started to build this up from 1971 onwards. I’d seen an ad in the local paper, offering a prefab garage 16 foot x 8 foot. It sounded perfect and, to make things even better, it was free if you dismantled and collected it yourself. I got the thing and connected it up to my Dad's 10 ft x 6 foot shed. I then built proper soundproof doors and windows between them and covered the walls and ceiling with fibreglass insulation, over which I put standard BBC pegboard. And it worked a treat. My Dad made me some special mike stands which fixed to the walls and ceiling, saving me all sorts of floor space. In this small room we could get up to eight musicians playing live. I had an early Teac 4-track tape machine which had a fine sound (it was the same one I later used to record those early Sex Pistols backing tracks) and an Akai 2-track which Caruzo had found for me on one of his many sea-going trips to Japan. I also had a 16 channel Allen and Heath mixer, a Quad 303 power amp, some huge Acoustic Research AR2AX speakers – which had double-diaphragms and sounded great - plus an all-important reverb unit. What more could a young studio pro’ want?
We spend many happy days writing and recording new material down there, me and the band, rockin’ in the 4-track shack. It's amazing what results you can get from such basic equipment when you put in a bit of love, care and attention. Anyway, with my studio mixer and mics, I thus had half the makings of a decent Public Adress system. Kim Thraves, who was officially the Flirtations roadie, was my choice of partner in crime. Together we set the ‘leave cabaret’ plan into action. On the road we’d often talk about this brilliant PA we’d put together. Lets do it! I thought. So, a few days later, I finally announced "I can’t take this cabaret crap anymore!" and gave the group notice to find a replacement. Once they’d done that, I left. I unwittingly started an avalanche because within weeks the backing band Orange Rainbow had degenerated from an octet to a trio. This had it’s advantages for the Flirtations who had been wondering how to scale down their show due to financial restrictions.
What a relief to be off the road for a change. My parents seemed pleased to see more of me and I spent many happy days bumbling around in my studio, i.e. the near legenday Four Track Shack. I next set about building our new PA system. For our main speakers, I had my eye on some Altec ‘Voice of The Theatre’ cabinets. They were very large, very powerful and very, very expensive. They looked impressive too. I think in those days, early ’74, they cost about £500 each. A small fortune. I needed at least four so I decided to hire one for a day to see how it was built. I took it apart, measured it, then made replicas for less than £50 each. I reckon my versions were sturdier too. Sadly they were also a whole heap heavier. Next, I set about finding the best speaker drivers to put in them. Up to that point, I had been a Goodmans’ speaker man. Was this out of misguided loyalty to the family name? Well, maybe but Goodmans’ sounded "good man" and had a good solid construction, they were made in the UK and they were reasonably priced. The problem was, the 15 inch versions we needed, were only rated at a meagre 150 watts a piece. Through hanging out with fellow studio techie types, I had my attention brought to these new American Gauss speakers that were so well designed, they were rated at a whacking great 500 watts each. They weren’t cheap but with a bit of blagging, I managed to become an agent for them and found I could buy them for a third of list price. Suddenly, me and Kim were the proud owners of a new and pretty – and pretty powerful - 2000 watt PA. So proud, in fact, that we painted it bright blue, in contrast to the standard matt black that just about every other PA came in.
Next we had to advertise ourselves so we took out a weekly box ad in the Melody Maker. ‘Soundforce PA Hire..2000 watt, 16 channel with crew & transport, £40 per day.’ We obviously got our prices right because the phone never stopped ringing. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Ian Dury’s Kilburn & The High Roads, Al Stewart, Ducks Deluxe, Eggs Over Easy, The Fabulous Poodles, Starry Eyed and Laughing, George Melly… the list of customers goes on and on. One of the perks of the jobs was I got to see some really interesting bands and met a lot of friendly people.
This routine carried on for the next few years. We`d do about 3 or 4 gigs a week on average and on days of, I’d be recording some project or other. Whenever apropriate, Polecat would assemble in the 4 Track Shack and rehearse new material mostly written by members of the band. Once we got the rhythm section pretty tight we`d attempt to get it down on tape. We used to take as much time as was needed to get a happening groovacious backing track pinned down. Sometimes, we’d be at it for days before that illusive magic appeared, but when it did, you sure knew about it. Then we`d dub some brass and percussion, add a few guitar and keyboard overdubbs and finish it of with vocals. Over a two year period, we managed to record an album’s worth of original material.
He’s a session man , a chord progression man…
It was around this time that we started to get a lot of session work. We could all more or less read music and would often be employed en masse to help some producer or other get his stupid pop song together. We did a lot of work for Micky Most’s Rak Records label with the likes of Rogers, Cook & Greenaway, Tony McCaully and Big Johnny Goodisson. These guys were the Stock Aitken & Waterman of their day with a string of hits to prove it. We’d mainly get involved in the early stages of the recordings. It was really interesting to see how the big boys worked. For a start there was no shortage of musicians. Usually two drummers, three guitarists, a couple of keyboardists, brass players, percussionists, tubular bells and tympani drums and that’s just for starters. Everyone would set up around the sides of the studio and screens were placed between them for sound seperation. Several engineers would get busy with the microphones and cans (headphones really, but it would have been very uncool to call them that) as the arranger handed out sheet music. Within minutes we’d be bashing out one almighty din which usually sorted itself out into something resembling music (eventually). The producers would then sift through all the different instruments on the tape and pick the best bits which they added to later. A lot of these songs would be floating around for months whilst different artists would be tried out in that never-ending quest to reach that No.1 sound - and the glitter and gold that went with it.
It`s amazing what can go on behind the scenes in a studio. After we`d finished laying down our parts, we could hang around in the control room observing the process of hit making. We had our uses (tea & splee mainly). We also became a very cheap source of good handclaps and percussion once the woozies amongst us had been weeded out. On one occasion, we had to stomp on a amplified rostrum in time with the beat on some Slade or Gary Glitter single. Boots were better than sneakers for this. Ah, the tricks of the trade, huh?
As fully paid-up MU members we were able to demand the basic session fee of £18 for three hours work with two fifteen minute tea breaks (we’re talking 1974 here so that was good money). You were not supposed to overdub or double track yourself - if extra sounds were needed then extra musicians should be booked. The problem with this is, you get a certain sound out of double tracking say, a string or brass section which you can’t get from simply adding more musicians. The MU were aware of this and introduced the Double Tracking clause whereby if a musician was double tracked, he was entitled to a treble session fee of £44 on top. You can imagine the enthusiasm for Double Tracking amongst us muso’s. You could quadruple your wages with just one extra note.
One way that record producers managed to get away without paying large session fees was to record the run-through without telling anyone, thus getting a sneaky double track. The people who booked the musicians known as the Fixers - usually the main musicians and staunch union members – soon became aware of this and would counteract it by making the run throughs unusable due to bad timing or tuning. All sorts of new scams were invented just to get that money-spinning hit of Double Tracking.
"Shit guys we’re sorry, you`ll have to do it again, someone forgot to turn one of the mics on" or "the Dolby was switched off" or "the tape heads needed cleaning" any excuse just to double track. It was nothing new, Phil Spector had been doing it for years not to mention George Martin.
On several occasions, we were ushered in front of the multitrack tape recorder just to block out the fixers’ view of the record lights when someone illegally indulged in double tracking. It really is like a drug and if your not careful can lead to treble tracking and worse. The muso`s had their tricks as well. You wouldn`t believe what they`d come up with just to go one minute over time and qualify for a double session. I`ve seen producers almost in tears having to negotiate away large proportions of their hard earnt advance royalties with cold blooded muso`s just to get their puerile pop songs finished.
On some sessions we did, we were offered sort of shares in the record instead of full payment. It was usually a sign of how confident those involved were in our joint efforts. "Look guys, just think of what 5% of 10% of 90% the retail price of the record less 20% for packaging & tax would be worth if it goes gold Stateside ! (allowing 10% for returns of course) Well pocket calculators had just become affordable so we didn`t have to think. "How much is the tax in the states ?" asked someone. With that last piece of the equaton, it worked out to be about £50 yet we were being asked to lose a £75 session fee. Usually, you were better of going with a straight fee but you didn’t half feel a prat when those that took the gamble retired on the proceeds from something that just happened to go double platinum in Asia or South America or some unheard of European mega state.
With that brief intro to the musos over I`ll introduce you to the MD or Musical Director to give him his full title. Now MD was getting more than the rest of us, double in fact for the session plus a fee for copying the parts out plus if he was able to negotiate it, a cut of the profits if any. Arranger’s roaylties. The artist and the producer should get a cut too but not the engineers who do much complaining about this fact. "I bloody mixed it for him, and the tambourine was my idea". Producers tend to rely on the skills of their engineers and keep them sweet with backhanders and Chinese nosh. They - producers that is - can also get taken for a ride by the musos, especially if they are non musicians. (strangely many are). On several occasons I`ve seen musicians kick one another under the table when a clever compliment they just made to the producer starts to turn into an extra part or three. "Yeh man!" the sax player would say "you`ve managed to get such a brilliant sound on the strings, it could only be complimented by flutes" He started getting his flute out whilst kicking the drummer under the table in a nudge for support."Yeh " added the drummer "flutes would be real kool man, great idea" he said to the producer who was starting to wonder if it was his idea or not. All eyes were upon him, was he starting to bite ? "It would only take a couple of minutes" added the sax player who was now warming up his flute by playing along with the song.
Suddenly everybody was agreeing what a brilliant idea it was, what a damn good Mr Producer for thinking of it. "Oh go on then, lets stick the bloody icing on the cake" Little did he know that this one act of foolishness would lead him into extra time, double session fees and a possible law suit from Sax Man claiming joint composers’ roaylties at the very least. That’s if it sells, if not, no-one intelligent enough would give a toss. There`s always someone out there though who`d slap a writ on you if you so much as whistled their unpublished songs in the bath. To those I say "keep your songs" you can`t own good music anyway. It`s for all to share. I`m all for the development and sustaining of musical talent but there seems to be a disproportionate amount of energy and money gambled on what seems to me, very mediocre music.
The Record Producer was top dog on these occasions. I`ll never forget the first time I worked for record producer Tony McCaully. He arrived in an open top Ferrari dressed in white fur and chauffered by the most sexy blond in tight leather suit complete with a leather chauffer’s cap. "Cor, there must be some dosh in this game," I thought. Mind you, the amount of time he took to get his inimitable "snare drum" sound, he must be rolling in it if he got paid by the hour. While all the rest of us musicians sat around waiting to play, poor old drummer boy had to take his snare apart, rebuild it, take the skin of again put toilet paper inside, tighten it, loosen it, bit more bog paper, gaffer strips on the snare strands, take out the bog paper, tape yellow duster to the top skin and two and a half hours latter it sounds worse than it did when we started but no one dares say a thing, Not if you want to work with Tony Numberoney again. And another thing, how do you explain, that if it takes two and a half hours to sound check the snare drum, it only takes half an hour to sound check the rest of the band ? Answer by email if you please !
I guess my pursuits into the world of sound production was a natural one. I`d been experimenting with tape recorders from a very early age and was facinated by production techniques. I used to spend hours listening to Pink Floyds Ist album "Pipers at the Gates of Dawn" and the brilliant Pretty Things "SF Sorrow" concept LP and analizing the fine details of the sound. It was an inner journey most oftenly enhanced by my symbiotic relationship with certain plants and `erbs. I could get lost for weeks in some new album or other.
Cause I`m the Tax Man yeh! The Tax Man
None of us Polecats ever thought about keeping accounts and paying tax. As we’d never been registered unemployed, we didn’t really exist in the eyes of the Taxman. All that was fine until some of our old BBC live sessions were repeated and we all received a series of generous cheques for £350 to £650 each. Its fairly standard, or was, for television and radio to pay more for repeat performances of live music. Anyway these cheques eventually attracted the attention of the Inland Revenue who on the basis of this income, calculated that we must have earned over £150,000 in the past seven years! We were thus all presented with a tax bill for £17,000 each. The truth was, we`d probably earnt more like £40,000 and a lot of this would have gone on equipment, rehersals, transport, meals, clothes, entertaining etc. When we were off the road, our parents would support us so there was no need to sign on, although we should have been entitled to. Anyway I had just 14 days to find £17,000 or succesfully appeal against the demand.
Two weeks later I was tucking into my corn flakes when my mum suddenly asked. "Isn’t today the last day of your tax appeal?" It was, of course, so I couldn’t put it off any longer - I had to go and face the music. That afternoon I visited the Staines Inland Revenue offices and firmly requested to see the chap who’d signed the tax bill I was waving around.
"Have you come to pay him?" the receptionist asked.
"No, but he’s got some important information for me."
"Alright, Mr Goodman you can go in now…"
"Ah! Mr Goodman, the walking, talking reason why my TV licence fee has just gone up again. Have you come to pay us?"
"No, I’ve come for the information you have."
"The names of all the people I’m supposed to have earnt all this money from. If anyone owes me a hundred grand, I wanna know who it is," I said as Mr Taxman’s jaw dropped, "and another thing, do you know how much it costs to be in a band? Equipment, rehearsals, transport, meals, clothes, entertaining etcetera. I owe my parents a small fortune for all the years they supported me."
He took my tax forms from me and one by one filled them out with the magic words ‘nil earnings’. He then signed them and gave me copies. That was it, the years 1968 to 1975 scrubbed out. Down the road in the Hanworth tax office it was not so easy for Rob, Martyn and Rod, our brass section, who had also appealed against the said £17,000. I`m not sure what happened but they had to pay something and poor old Robin had to take a driving job and work like crazy for three years to settle his debt.
1975 saw Polecat become more popular on the London club circuit. We had regular gigs in pubs like The Nashville in Kensington and The Greyhound and The Golden Lion (that’s two separate pubs by the way) in Fulham. There was also the Red Cow in Hammersmith and clubs like Dingwalls in Camden Lock and the Marquee and The Sundown in Soho. The success of bands like Sly & The Family Stone, AWB, Chicago, Funkadelics and Edgar Winter`s White Trash brought jazz funk out of the backwoods and into the public eye.
During this period, we went through many line up changes. The core of the band had been together for seven years or more and we felt quite telepathic when we improvised. Some of our best players were getting offers of fame and fortune elsewhere and found it hard to refuse. Our keyboardist Dave Rose joined a 3 piece band called David cosisting of three guys all named David. Highly original I don`t think. They became Leo sayers backing band and were instructed to stand as far to the back of the stage as possible, and not make him look too short. Dave went on to work with many famous performers and is currently (2001) the musical director of the stage show Blood Brothers.
Our drummer Graham Broad signed a recording deal with a majour record label ( I think it was CBS) any way, the band was Grand Hotel and after intensive rehersals an album was cut and loads of dosh thrown at it. Eventually, the whole deal flopped leaving him with massive debts and bankrupcy. To keep his drum kit he had to sign it over to his father and change his stage name for a period. He`s recorded with the likes of The Kinks, Beach Boys and was a one time member of the pop group Dollar, he also played drums with Pink Floyd at the Berlin Wall concert A tottaly dedicated drummer who I one day would love to play with again.
To replace Graham, we found a young drummer who no doubt had african blood in him. Mel was his name and although he was still in his teens, he shaped up well once we had turned him onto the "go to bed with a metronome in your ear" method of good time keeping.. He later became Simple Minds drummer and I once heard an interviewed with him on the radio where he made a reference back to his days with Polecat and how our demanding music helped his playing no end. Big Rod our trombonist ended up in Roy Orbisons band and Martyn Hayles our trumpeter got into producing and aranging with the likes of The Specials and Orange Juice.
During this period, I was coming into contact with a lot of new musicians through my Soundforce PA Hire Co. This was real handy when one needed replacements for the desserters.
Durig most of 1975, I`d managed to record an albums worth of demo`s of our band Polecat. I was rather pleased with them and played them to Bay City Rollers producer Johnny Goodison who played them to DJM records and scored five grand to record it. We were given just one week to re-record an album that had taken us over a year to demo. Whats more, we had also been asked to knock out a few extra backing tracks for our producer Big John as well. A couple of songs he wrote and was hoping for a hit with. One song I remember had the laughable lyric in it that went "Girls in tight sweaters make me feel good" At least our lyrics had more depth (well they did to us) with lines like "Stone in a circle, one of my minds is about to get troubled, seems so mutch work yeh! For nothing but a pile of ancient ruble, along with memories" etc and "Cause it`s money talking, not about me and you, not about me and you, yeh it`s money talking, what is he gonna do, what is he gonna do with all that stuff ?" And other such profundities, all be they naïve. Well now we had the album in the bag we had to just wait for it`s eminent release.