Episode 28. A decade of albums.
Growing up in the 1970s, my friends and I were overloaded with great music and gigs. We can all pin memories on albums and songs and all have our favourites of that decade. This month I have selected one album from each year that received a lot of my needle-time in the 1970s and added a little story relating to it.
Live At Leeds
It was 199something. I was in Australia working for a musical instrument import company and we did a trade show. This one year, John Entwistle was coming down and doing a clinic and he had Will Cahoun from Living Colour on drums. I have no recollection how this happened but somehow it was arranged they would also play a pub gig and I being the one at the company with experience was elected to take care of it. I arrived at the venue early. Lights and P.A. were set up so I did a quick tuning with the graphic equalizers and waited for people to arrive. I ordered a drink and about half an hour later, John walked in. A big man, he slowly looked around, saw the place was empty apart from me and that the bar was open. He started to walk towards me, I was in awe – John Entwistle! He arrived, ordered a Southern Comfort and said nothing. I thought I should introduce myself as the sound engineer for the night so I said “You’re John Entwistle” and held out my hand.
“I know that.” he said. “Who are you?”
The Allman Brothers
Live At Fillmore East
In 2013, Dicky Betts played some solo shows at Billboard in Tokyo and beatleg magazine asked me to do the interview. Another one of my heroes I’m about to meet and I get paid to do it – this is the life for me. Come the day, I dig out my rather worn copy of the above album and took it along to the interview, laying it on the table as we began with the intent of asking him to sign it at the end. The interview went well and come the end, I requested the autograph which he gladly gave. As he was signing, I noticed his guitar in the corner and mentioned it looked a bit old. ‘Yeah that’s my SG…you play?’ ‘A little bit’ said I as he handed my treasured album. He then reached over, picked up the guitar and said ‘Wanna try it?’ Dumbfounded, I took it, noodled around on it a bit, complimented it and handed it back. Now for those of you that don’t know, this guitar is legendary as it’s the one Dickey gave to Duane Allman to play and also the one Dickey used on a lot of the Allman Bros recordings. Half an hour later I watched Dickey play Jessica on it whilst I fondled my album cover with saucer-eyes and a silly grin.
A Girlschool story. It’s ten years after this album came out and I am living in Clapham, South London at Denise Dufort’s parent’s guest house. I was pretty broke and so any invitation of a free night out was welcome. The phone rang and it was Kelly who asked what I was doing. Nothing as usual so she said come over to her place in Fulham for a bit of company. You couldn’t get me out the door quick enough and when I arrived, we talked, listened to records, drank wine and laughed. I’d been there a couple of hours when her phone rang and I heard her invite someone else over. I was a bit jealous to be honest as it’s not often you get to have someone like Kelly all to yourself but a while later, the doorbell chimed and in walked Angie Bowie. She was lovely. Friendly, warm, an instant mate as we chatted away but felt a bit embarrassed and awkward after a while being there so I gave my excuses and thanks and with a wink to Kelly, left them to it.
Brain Salad Surgery
One of the things that saddens me every now and then is that I never saw ELP live. Quite how this happened I have no idea as I was and still am a huge fan. Just one of those things I suppose in that the opportunity never came along. I did see Greg Lake perform solo with Gary Moore on guitar and worked for Asia on a short tour with Carl Palmer playing drums. I also saw Keith Emerson’s solo gig in Japan in 2008 so individually I saw them all, just not as ELP. As such then in late 2015 when Billboard Japan announced that Keith was doing some solo gigs there, I was ecstatic. I was writing for beatleg magazine and we had covered many shows Billboard with both interviews and reviews so I knew we had a good chance. Needless to say, as soon as the shows were announced, I was in like Flynn applying for an interview - it was granted. I poured my heart into this one. Researched and wrote questions he’d never been asked, rehearsed how I would ask them, listened to everything I could find him playing on including a mountain of bootlegs. Then just a few weeks before the gigs, the news hit that he had committed suicide. I was stunned…we were all stunned. Word got out that it was because he feared he wouldn’t be able to play as well as his Japanese fans expected. I hoped that was wrong but to this day, it seems to be the reason. Whatever it was, I still feel the selfish loss for myself but there isn’t a week that goes by that ELP isn’t played in my home.
I’m pretty sure this was my most played album of 1974 and I also saw them in November of that year: it was my third concert. At one point in the show a bloke ran on stage, adjusted one of the black boxes in front of singer Russell Mael and ran off again. This intrigued me and the next day at school, a mate who knew more about these things and was also at the gig explained that the person was a roadie and that he was adjusting the monitors – he also explained what monitors were. Well this sounded like a good job as I didn’t know how to play any instruments and thus the seeds were sown for my future career. July 2008 and I’m browsing through the racks of Tower Records in Shibuya and spotted the brothers Ron and Russell also browsing. I knew they were in Tokyo as they were playing at Fuji Rock but was still a surprise to see them casually wandering around. Hesitant at first but then unable to resist the opportunity, interrupted their browsing and said ‘Excuse me, I saw you at Leicester De Montfort Hall in 1974’. ‘My goodness that was a long time ago’ said Russel and I then explained that it was thanks to them and that gig that I was in the music business. They listened, looked at each other and Ron said ‘Well that’s a first for us!’ after which we shook hands and went our separate ways. That was a good moment.
Don’t get excited, I haven’t met ABBA. I came close to meeting some of them on two occasions, the first being in Germany in 1983 when I was there with Rock Goddess doing a TV show which also featured the Thompson Twins and Anni-Frid who was promoting her solo single, I Know There's Something Going On. We did ask the producer or director or someone if it was possible to meet her but for whatever reasons, our request was declined. The second was in a studio in London, circa 1986. I’ve trawled my diaries to find out more about this but the date eludes me and therefore, so do the details but Girlschool were in a studio either doing rehearsals or recording their single I'm The Leader Of The Gang (I Am) with the now infamous Gary Glitter. Denise’s drum tech Steve Pritchard and I left for the pub and as we walked down a corridor, a door was open to the left. In it sat Benny and Björn, listening to a playback in a small demo studio. I don’t recall what the music was but they were quite engrossed in it so we didn’t disturb them. Two hours later, we returned and fuelled with a bit of Dutch courage decided to say hello, only to discover they had packed up and left for the day. I live in hope.
I saw Dr Feelgood a few times in their heyday and the first of those was with the killer line-up of Lee Brilleaux, John B. Sparks, The Big Figure and Wilko Johnson. Make no mistake, this was one of the best bands to come out of the UK in the 1970s and when Gypie Mayo took over from Wilko in 1977, they were still top drawer musically, it’s just that one of Rock’s unique characters had moved on. I still went to see them and also saw Wilko’s Solid Senders a couple of times but lost track of him as the nineties dawned. After moving to Japan, I was pleased to discover he had a good following here but then he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013, given less than a year to live. We didn’t know if we’d see him play again but he announced his farewell tour and it included Japan. I was going no matter what but fortunately asked if I would interview him for beatleg magazine. On the day of the interview, there were several magazines there, we were the last and Wilko was great, laughing and joking even about his imminent demise. Half an hour later, he took to the stage and gave the performance of a lifetime. People wept, myself included, as he said goodnight after the encore of Bye Bye Johnny and although the fans wanted more, he was done. The following morning, I was trying to come to terms with the previous night as I wrote up the interview. The last interview at the last concert in Japan with Wilko Johnson meant a lot but it wasn’t something to celebrate so I took solace in the fact that Wilko himself had come to terms with it and if he had, so should I. I did and as we now know, Wilko was misdiagnosed, survived an operation and he’s still around playing gigs. What a bloke. You had us all going there for a while mate, Gawd bless ya.
The Boomtown Rats
The Boomtown Rats
Truth be told I played the follow up to this album A Tonic For The Troops, far more than debut but I already have a story for 1978 so hence this album. In 1981 I moved to London convinced I was going to be hanging out with Rock stars nightly and that they were all rich. I soon discovered that the reality was somewhat different. It was a bitter cold February morning in 1982 and I had to go to the other side of London for some long forgotten reason. I wrapped up as warm as I could, headed out the door to see snow had started to fall and briefly thought about cancelling whatever it was I was going to do and going back to bed but I didn’t. Instead I trudged up the pathway of 20 Poynders Road, turned left and started walking towards Clapham South tube station. Less than a minute later though, I was standing staring at Bob Geldof. He was at the bus stop in the middle of a line of dozen people, each one seemingly oblivious to the mega-star just a few feet away. He wore just a denim jacket over a T-shirt and a scarf; he was shivering and staring at the ground. I momentarily caught his eye and acknowledged I knew he was with a nod, he nodded back and I walked on. Walking up to the station I tried to work out why Bob would be standing at a bus stop on a frigid winter morning. I concluded his Rolls-Royce must have been in for repair.
Lots of people didn’t like this album when it was released but loved it. I have a very fond memory for it as well as it’s the album that cemented the friendship between Mark Healey and myself whom I have mentioned in other articles. That’s another story but this one is about being in the Townhouse Studios in 1988 when Vow Wow were recording there. The Town House to give it its correct name was located at 150 Goldhawk Rd in Shepherd's Bush and was the old Goldhawk Film Studios. It was owned by Richard Branson and had state of the art equipment (it’s the place Phil Collins recorded In The Air Tonight with that incredible drum sound) and at this time we were in Studio 2, Queen – who had booked it for a whole year - were in Studio 1. One day I went to the recreation room and as I walked in, noticed Roger Taylor standing on his own looking very forlornly out of the window. I introduced myself and asked if he wanted a coffee. ‘I’ll make it’ he said and promptly made us both a cup as we chatted about nothing in particular. After the coffee, I got up to leave and asked him how the album was going. He seemed to revert to the distant look he had when I walked in and said ‘It’s going ok thanks’ after which I left. I thought nothing more of it but in later years came to realise it was when they were recording The Miracle and unbeknownst to us and everyone else, the time when Freddie was very ill. I’ve occasionally wondered what was on Roger’s mind that day.
The great rehearsal rooms and recording studios of the eighties in London were great levellers in that no matter your position on the charts or place in the media, you were all there for the same reason – to make music. There were occasionally egos of course but generally speaking, I found that once inside those places, the egos of stars were checked at the door as there was more than likely someone else inside more famous and popular than them. This not only applied to the musicians but crew as well; we were one big gang who mucked in for whoever needed what and supplied whatever was available. One day in 1989, I was at John Henry’s studios in North London with Nick Sizer who at that time was Carl Palmer’s drum tech and for a break, headed up to the canteen. Not normally busy, this particular day it was but we queued up and managed to get a table with four seats. Not long after we sat down, a voice asked ‘May I sit here?’ and I looked up to see the goddess Chrissie Hynde gesturing to a chair. I admit it, I was star struck so it was Nick who invited her to sit down and dear readers, I would now love to tell you the philosophies we swapped and how we solved half the world’s problems but alas, I can remember very little about the conversation. I do remember something about Bob Dylan as Nick had just finished a tour with him but other than that, nothing. I could give you a detailed description of her jeans, boots, T-shirt, hair and eyes though.