Episode 37.  Excerpts from Interviews II

It doesn’t take much these days for fact to be turned into fiction and fiction to become fact as events of the past are often altered to suit a narrative as I mentioned in my last article about Rock biopics. Events are also told from the perspective and memory of the people who were there and quite often they don’t correlate. The last time the Barmy Girlschool Army got together for a reunion, we argued about one particular night after a gig where we all crashed out in a derelict building. Or it could have been a house that was being built – we were 50/50 on that one. No matter, it was, as one of us pointed out, in Bristol. ‘Sheffield’ somebody piped up and the debate continued about where it was, in which city, who was there and where the gig was the next day; there were three options for that last one. The point is that everybody’s memory changes over time and things often get written into books or films as fact when little or no research has been done, least of all with the people who were actually there. 

So one of the great things about doing interviews is to be able to talk to people who were present at moments and times in Rock history that have passed into folklore and whilst their memories may be unintentionally erroneous, it’s the best you can get and every person’s memory I interviewed below, after doing my own extra research, I believe to be 100% correct.

Pete Best 2013

I’m sure you know that Pete was the drummer in The Beatles and I wanted to ask him about their bass player, Stu Sutcliffe was is always portrayed as a weak link.

Q: What I say to people who question Stu’s ability is that how come the Beatles became so good if Stu wasn’t any good? Time hasn’t been nice to Stu as it has portrayed him as an incompetent musician. Is that true?

PB: No, far from it. I’ve been one of Stu’s biggest advocates defending his corner.  That was a media thing started by the media some idiot said he couldn’t play bass, the world picked up on it and he got crucified the same as me. I have always said that when you watched Stu onstage, he had a stance that looked like he was turning away but that was just the way he wanted to be portrayed, he was comfortable that way.  You have to remember that rock and roll was very simple in those days and Stu and myself were the engine room of the Beatles.  We locked into one another as he was great to lock into.  I’m not saying he was a brilliant bass player but he was a good bass player. It was his decision that he wanted to leave the band in June 1961 just prior to recording with Tony Sheridan.  It was his decision but by goodness me he had done the first trip to Hamburg he had come back to Liverpool being there in the essence of Beatlemania starting in the Casbah, we erupted in Liverpool went back to the Top Ten club in Hamburg and conquered that and everyone was enamoured with the Beatles.  So the argument that you correctly turned round and is that if all of that was bad, why were we so good even at that early stage?

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Pete Best. The actual interview was nearly two hours.

Brian Auger 2014

Hammond player Brian Auger never took drugs and never drank to excess. He gave Jimi Hendrix his first show in the UK.

Q: I must say it’s nice to be able to talk to somebody who wasn’t off their heads for the entire decade of the sixties because it means you have a more reliable memory. Jimi Hendrix’s first UK gig, you were there…

BA: Everybody knew everybody in London and I was friends with The Animals and I was asked at one point by Chas Chandler to go up to his office because he had something he wanted to talk to me about. This was unusual because the office was basically Mike Jeffrey who I thought was probably the biggest crook on the scene at the time – and proved to be true! (laughs) So, I went up to the office and I had just put the Trinity together with Julie Driscoll and Vic Briggs was on guitar and I had my standing rhythm section which was Rick Brown and Micky Waller. When I get to the office, there’s Jeffrey behind the desk with dark glasses on so I sat in front of him and Chas came in and said ‘Mike and I brought this guy over from New York. He’s a guitar player and we want him to front your band.’ I replied that I didn’t know who this guy was and I’d never heard him! The other thing is, I already had Julie and Vic and so asked them ‘Are you saying to me that I should fire these people and install this guy I’ve never heard before?’ (laughs) They sort of said that they hadn’t really thought about it that way but ‘Yeah, he’s absolutely fabulous’ and all these superlatives so I said to Chas ‘Look I know what we can do. We are playing at the Cromwellian* on Friday, why don’t you bring him down there’ because it would be a chance for me to hear the guy and the other thing is, the Cromwellian was one of those clubs that all the guys and all the bands after doing their early shows would go to. It would put him in front of the who’s who and whoever was around the scene. I think at the time there was Clapton, Beck, Alvin Lee, people like that…the guys from the Spencer Davis Band, Lulu…it was just full of everyone who was anyone. I hate to drop names but it will give you an idea.

*Many sources have this listed as the Scotch of St James. Brian was insistent that it was the Cromwellian as he had a residency there at that time. However, Kathy Etchingham, Jimi’s then girlfriend says it was a Thursday, not Friday.

Looking a bit starry-eyed at meeting one of my heroes from the 1960s.

Jeff Christie 2013

It wasn’t until 1970 that song writer and musician Jeff Christie achieved fame with his band Christie and the song Yellow River but he had been around for a few years before that.

Q: As a member of The Outer Limits, you did that tour in 1967 with Jimi Hendrix, The Move, the Pink Floyd, The Nice and Amen Corner…

JC: It was unbelievable. It was pretty well that last of the great package tours. I used Blue Weaver’s Hammond for the tour and we opened the show and did three or four numbers. Jimi was amazing and painfully shy and there was a bit of a jam session that went on one day in the dressing room with Trevor Burton from The Move – this was before Jeff Lynn joined them - and a few were trying to play along with him. I was standing in the doorway thinking ‘Dare I?’ but I didn’t join in. Hendrix filmed all of the bands from the wings on the tour and at the end of the tour, everyone was invited back to his flat which I think was in Edgware for an after-tour party and he was going to show these films but we couldn’t go because we had a gig and I was absolutely gutted.  Hendrix pretty much kept himself to himself and travelled separately but he would mingle a little bit backstage before he went on. I always remember once when he walked past me as he was about to go on, his hair looked like he had just been electrocuted and gave me that shy smile and said ‘Gee I hope my hairs not too messed up man.’ He’d give you a little wink and a smile. Just watching him was amazing. I never bought any Hendrix stuff until a few years ago because nothing ever seemed to capture him because he was so amazing live. One particular thing I remember was pretty close to the end of the tour at Newcastle City Hall. We all used to stand and watch the other bands and I didn’t really dig Floyd that much at that time because they were a light show with music. I liked Arnold Layne and when they started getting into a song but I wasn’t a big fan of light shows. I preferred The Move with Blackberry Way, Fire Brigade, etc because Roy Wood is another genius; we had to keep The Move and Floyd apart because they didn’t like each other. The reason being that Move were working class lads and Floyd were all artsy-fartsy students. There was lots of this stuff going on and I also remember Keith Emerson experimenting by throwing knives into his Hammond. I remember listening to their conversation in the dressing room about how they could get more attention and that was the start of the knife throwing stuff. One day, I think Hendrix said to said to Keith “Come on, throw the knife at me” or something but I don’t think Keith did. That’s a little bit of a blurred memory though. Anyway, Newcastle City Hall and I’m standing with Carl Wayne in the wings watching Hendrix do his set. It gets to the end of the set and he was playing Wild Thing and, in that song, he used to play a really bizarre solo of the song Strangers In The Night. He would play it completely out of key to Wild Thing but it worked. Now, in those days there were always problems with guitars going out of tune because of the heat. You used to go onstage and if it went out of tune you just toughed it out as best you could until you had the chance to tune it up as there was no guitar changes like there are these days: Stratocasters were a nightmare particularly with the tremolo arm. Back to Jimi and during this performance his guitar is going way out of tune and we could see him getting more and more angry and more and more pissed off and it was really buggering up his number. Of course, the audience didn’t know. Very few members of an audience realise if a guitar is out of tune or a there is a bum note unless they happen to be musicians themselves but Jimi, as an artist, wanted to get it right. On this particular night, he was playing a Gibson Flying V and he’s standing about eight or nine metres from the Marshall stack. One of the roadies was Lemmy from Motorhead - although I don’t really remember him from then - and in those days the roadies always used to stand behind the stacks because they never knew what Jimi was going to do. Anyway, Jimi took off his guitar and threw it like a spear and it stuck right into the middle of the Marshall stack. It went right through the speaker, seemed to explode, smoke was coming out of it and the whole thing started moving and making bizarre noises. The audience went ballistic and all of us watching in the wings, our jaws were on the floor. The chances of it happening were almost nil but he threw it almost perfectly and it hit the middle of the stack and quivered and it didn’t fall out. If somebody had that on film it would be worth millions; it was just one of those spontaneous things. A once in a lifetime moment that was the height of the tour. It’s also the tour that Syd Barrett went mad on of course.

Tour Program from that legendary tour. Now here’s some food for thought, if Hendrix filmed all of those bands from the wings, where are those films now?

Andy Fairweather-Low 2015

Q: Amen Corner formed in ’66, a few months later you signed to Deram and a few months after that you were on tour with Hendrix. That’s a rather remarkable rise isn’t it?

AFL: It is. It’s pretty spectacular. We started at the Albert Hall on the Hendrix tour and every other show from that was two shows a night so I got to see him twice a night. A phenomenon, absolutely phenomenal.

Q: I spoke to Jeff Christie (The Outer Limits) about that tour and he told me a story about throwing his Flying V…

AFL: ..into the amp. Yeah Newcastle City Hall – we’ll never forget it. In truth, it wasn’t always good because that guitar didn’t sometimes always stay in tune as it ought to but when it was on, it was phenomenal. It was unbelievable and the places we played, Sheffield City Hall or Birmingham Town Hall weren’t made for music to be played in. You got the event and you also got The Floyd without the sheet. That was a strange experience, Syd was with them but the Floyd without the sheet were not…you had to have the full package and they only had the sheet at Albert Hall and Sophia Gardens in Cardiff because of the fire hazard. 

Q: To us who were not there, it seems to be an amazing time where you could see Eric Clapton or Hendrix play every night or bump into a Beatle somewhere. Was it really like that?

AFL: Absolutely true. I went down the Bag O’ Nails once, went to the toilet and bumped into John Lennon. We said hello and I said ‘I’m Andy’ and he said ‘I know who you are’ because Bend Me Shape Me was big at that time. Hendrix played with Amen Corner twice down at the Speakeasy and I sang on a re-cut of Stone Free in New York in ’69 with Roger Chapman. I saw The Stax Tour (1967)…yeah everyone was about. The Stones, the lot. It was unbelievably exciting because it was new. Now it’s not.

Yes, I am wearing the same T.shirt as in the Pete Best photo and I still have it