"The MacPhail Monologue" - Richard MacPhail talks to TWR about Anon, Genesis and much more. Interview conducted at Vic's place Charango Emporium on Tuesday 24th February 2015. Photos by Stuart Barnes, Decca Records, Brian Roberts, Marcia Mence and Jeff Lawton. Memorabilia: TWR Archive/ Mino Profumo/Richard MacPhail. Voices from stage left: Mr A Phillips.
Well, it has been a long time in the making but here at last, we finally get to chat to Mr Richard Macphail about his memories of the formative years of the band. Over to you, Richard….
TWR: Let’s start at the beginning, you met the guys in Charterhouse, what were your first impressions of them?
R M : Well, what happened is, this is all pre-Genesis is that I first met Rivers Job and there was a band at school called The Wombats and they were practising in the Great Hall on a Saturday afternoon. (in the background a disembodied voice can be heard saying - The Wombats? I never heard of them…it is Mr Phillips) you know, the Scarlet & The Black (Oh were they called The Wombats? - AP again). By the way, what we have stage left, pursued by a bear is Anthony Phillips questioning my memory which is probably a VERY sensible thing to do! (laughs). They were having a break and I had always wanted to be a drummer so I got on the drums for the first time ever and I don’t know what I was doing but Rivers was in the room as well and he got the hopelessly mistaken idea, bless him, hat I was a drummer! So he came up to me and said I’ve got this mate who I was at prep school with who’s coming to Charterhouse, he’s a little younger than the rest of us and he was coming to Charterhouse the next term and he said, we need a drummer we’ve got a band, Ant is the guitarist and I am the bass player and so we got together in our holidays which was fairly unusual for me with school friends as we usually only saw each other during term time but Rivers and I were contemporaries, we sat next to each other in class. He had the most unbelievable writing, a sort of natural copperplate. His full name was Rivers Maitland Alexander Job and he has a daughter who lives in America but who I am in touch with, who he called Rowan Maitland Alexander Job so she has his initials and she is so proud of them!
Anyway, Rivers lived in Marble Arch, Mayfair, Mayfair 4209 (in best posh accent) that’s how his father used to answer the telephone. So I got to Marble Arch and I got on the number 30 bus to Putney, where Ant lived in a bloody big detached house in Putney and I had never seen anything like it and funnily enough, when they sold it they sold it to Tony Hatch and Jacqui Trent, they wrote Down Town and all that stuff. They probably bought that house simply out of the proceeds of the Crossroads theme (A UK soap opera) which got played twice every day! (laughs). We got to the house and the dining room they had moved the dining table, rolled up the carpet and it was set up as a rehearsal studio. I had never seen anything like it.
The background to all of this is that I fought with my parents all the way through my teenage years for me to do this. They were paying all this money for me to have the best education that you could buy and they didn’t want me pretending to be Mick Jagger! Which my mother was definitely, absolutely convinced was the devil incarnate that the devil had come to earth in the form of Mick Jagger.
TWR: (Laughing) I can understand that!
RM: It was completely understandable! (laughs) but it was actually Brian Jones who was much more of a devil all he had to do was look at a woman and she got pregnant! (laughs), the number of children that were running around with him as their dad is legendary. Anyway, we started playing and it soon emerged that Ant could tell straight away and he was thinking what the hell is Rivers going on about, this guy being a good drummer? You know it was rubbish! But we were doing Stones covers and The Stones had a B Side called Little By Little and I had listened to this endlessly. I had two older sisters and it is funny because I was listening to the guy from Elbow and he is a huge Genesis fan and he was the youngest of five or six children and all the elder ones were girls and they were all mad, amongst others, Genesis fans so literally Nursery Cryme was his nursery rhyme! That’s what they played him from the year dot and it was the same for me in a way. All of my family are very musical and enjoyed music and used to go to musicals, Oklahoma and things like that and whatever they went to they would always buy the album and bring it home and in the corner of the living room we would have one of those massive radiograms. I will never forget once when somebody opened the back of it and I was absolutely horrified to find that there wasn’t anything in it! (laughs) there was just the amp at the top at the bottom of the deck and then this huge open space you could have kept gerbils in it! (laughs)
So I would sit or crouch in the corner of the living room just absorbing all of this stuff. My middle sister who is four years older and the older one who is eight years older, she went out as a fifteen year old so I would have probably been eleven and she went out with an eighteen year old boy who funnily enough his father was a German and in typical public school fashion he was called Captain Hanaue and we called him “The Hun” (laughs) with great subtlety, unbelievable! (laughs). Ant and I always laughed about this because he was taking us for some PE and I was obviously slobbing out on the back and not doing whatever I was supposed to be doing and he couldn’t remember my name but he knew my sister’s name so he called me “Cathy” and Ant and I laughed about this for years that he called me by my sister’s name. But this boy who was a little bit older than my sister took her to see The Stones in Kingston and they played all around Richmond, Kingston and all that south west part of London. So she started bringing back and so forget f*cking Oklahoma, we were listening to Come On and the B side of that was Little By Little. And so we were mad about The Stones and most of what we did was Stones covers. So I played drums and sang and then Ant said why don’t you just sing? (laughs) and anyway there was this guy round the corner called Rob Tyrrell who really is a good drummer so he joined us and then we got Mike.
Mike’s problems were with his housemaster who and I know we all say this, but he really was a nasty man, he was a sadist. Hacker Chare we called him and we were in these three houses in a row up the hill at Charterhouse. There was Weekites, Lockites, which was Mike’s house and Duckites and the proper name for Duckites was Girdlestonites and they were named after the men that started them and so my house was the reverend Weeks and Girdlestonites being such a mouthful and apparently he walked like a duck and so it was called Duckites. That was Ant, Peter and Tony’s house of course and that is where Peter and Tony would race to the piano when there was break time to get there first and play forever competing from the word go! (laughs).
So I became the singer and I suggested the name Anon and it never really worked because nobody could cope with there being no article so we were always called THE Anon which was very annoying (laughs). Rob Tyrrell’s sister called Marcia who we all fancied like hell she wrote on his bass drum The Anon which didn’t bloody help because there it is in perpetuity in all those pictures! So that is really how it all started and we then put on this show at the end of the summer term of 1966. At Charterhouse we called a term a “quarter” which is not unreasonable because it was about three months and at Eton they called them “halves” and there were three of them! I mean, how nuts is that? (laughs). No wonder we are in such a mess with all the f*cking old Etonians in charge in the Government and they don’t know the difference between a half and a quarter (laughs) and the summer term was called the “Cricket Quarter” and so it was the end of CQ in 1966 and we got the music master, a man called Geoffrey Ford to agree to let us put on this show. It must have been what everybody did because the whole school was there and the whole thing was full. Basically it was us and Peter and Tony who put together a band called The Garden Wall and Ant played with both bands. Tony was playing a piano that wouldn’t fit on the stage so it was down on the floor in front of the stage so he was already invisible! (laughs) and why change the habit of a lifetime.
Mike wasn’t allowed to play with us so Mick Colman played and he was one of those guys who sounded wonderful but looked awful which is a terrible thing to say and The Stones had one of those, they had a piano player called Ian Stuart and he really was a member of the band, he travelled with them, he played the piano but Andrew Oldham said he didn’t look cool he didn’t have long hair and he was a bit fat and I have to say that Mick Colman was a bit like that but he was a very good player. So, the one thing that Geoffrey said is .. We did a sort of rehearsal and I introduced a song and I only did it because by now we were going to the Marquee to see bands and that is what everybody did but he said no announcements and as per usual, there were very long gaps and this was a tradition set in train very early on even before Genesis started! (laughs) and there was alit of tuning and messing about between songs, plus we were about to do Pennsylvania Flickhouse which Ant had written and as you said, he looked about ten and he wasn’t much older! (laughs) and it was a bloody good song. Not only was it a very good song it was also a fantastic pastiche of a Stones song and the Germans (the German fanzine IT) put it on You Tube and there it is in all its glory. So, I announced it and said Ant wrote this and we did the song and then Geoffrey Ford came and pulled the plug and little did he know that the last song we were going to do was a cover of a Small Faces cover of an Otis Redding song called Shake and it was a really good song and all we had done is gone to the record shop in Godalming, Record Corner and got them to play it three or four times and Ant worked out the chords because he is brilliant at that and we hardly rehearsed it. We didn’t know about building a set and we should have finished on either Pennsylvania Flickhouse or a brilliant cover of a Yardbirds song called Mister You’re A Better Man Than I. This was going to be our last song and it would have been the most terrible damp squib (laughs) and so in a funny sort of way he did us a favour. He said, that’s it, you broke the rule and you’re off! So that was the end of that.
Little did we know at that stage that Rivers’ parents had already decided to send him somewhere else and we had just done O Levels and in fact I was due to go back to Charterhouse the following term, the autumn term believe it or not was called the Oration Quarter, these public schools are far madder than you would ever believe! (laughs) and I have to complete this, the last term the one between Christmas and Easter, the shortest term was called the Long Quarter! Anyway, CQ, OQ and LQ and so I was in the book, I was going to go back but at the last minute the headmaster and my parents had a little chat… I wasn’t kicked out technically, obviously I wasn’t because we had this list of everybody which was called the White List. So he …I think it was mutually agreed that I might do better and I went to a crammer for three months to catch up on some O Levels and this was a place where you just studied for exams, there was no sports or any other anything, you just showed up for your lessons and did that. It was in Gloucester Road and it was called Carlisle & Gregson so for some reason it was known as Jimmy’s and it was opposite the tube station and the miraculous thing about Jimmy’s back then is that Brian f*cking Jones lived round the corner! (laughs) and I would see him all the time. It was one of the most famous busts happened when the police arrived and did a kind of swat team raid on the poor old bugger. And I would often see Keith and Mick showing up in a Bentley and he would jump in and off they would go. Brian Jones was…. Ant I and I worshipped him and he actually sounds like quite a nasty guy and made a lot nastier through all the drugs he took. He was a seriously damaged person so whatever happened with him nobody will ever know did he drown or was he drowned? Then two weeks later the Stones played Hyde park and King Crimson were on that bill as well and that was the start of a lot of trouble as I bought their album and played it at the cottage. Because like a lot of musicians, once you get into being a musician you often don’t listen to music. Some do, bit the really serious ones they just don’t and they are into their own music but I was the one who was keeping up with all the albums and buying the Melody Maker and absorbing it and all of that stuff.
So Rivers and I both left Charterhouse so Ant and Rob and Mike were up the creek without a paddle and because Ant had been in The Garden Wall as well the natural thing to do was to put those two together and Chris Stewart who was the drummer for The Garden wall got the gig rather than Rob Tyrrell and Rob was a much better drummer. Rob actually went on to become a professional drummer and he played at the BBC and stuff he would do the like of the Jimmy Tarbuck Show…
TWR: I am sure he was with Freddie Mercury’s pre-Queen band, Sour Milk Sea…
RM: Was he? When Genesis played Twickenham, their last ever English gig Brian May was there and we were backstage afterwards and I said to him do you remember Ewell Tech? Because that was Keith Hartley, Queen and Genesis and he said yes, isn’t that where we met our bass player? Brian didn’t remember that gig … (at this juncture we are interrupted again by waiter service coffee by A Phillips esquire). Phil (Collins) didn’t drive at the time he had the flat in Ewell but his mother gave him an automatic mini and he learned to drive. I remember that. So, I was just packing up the gear after this gig at Ewell Tech and I obviously didn’t take a lot of notice of this band called Queen but Freddie was not the Freddie Mercury we came to know and love but he was just playing the keyboards and singing and what I remember was Brian May and thinking, blimey, that’s a good guitarist! So, naturally I told him that (laughs).
Anyway, the band got together and made a tape with Brian Roberts, blah, blah and it found its way to Jonathan King and all that stuff happened and fortunately they were too young to sign a contract otherwise he would have had them stitched up to this day! (laughs) Back them more bands than not got stitched up and there were a lot of famous managers like Don Arden … So, Genesis To Revelation happened and meanwhile I went to this other place in Somerset called Millfield and there I met the son of a man who had written a book about an otter called Tarka the Otter and he was called Henry Williamson and his son was called Harry Williamson and he was a guitarist and he and I formed a band and we were called the Austin Hippy Blues Band and we entered a competition run by the Bishop of Bath & Wells …
TWR: Not the baby eating bishop of Bath & Wells?
RM: No. And we won the competition. Then I got half way through A Levels and my poor parents had to admit that I was never going to have an academic career. I was not going to be the doctor or the lawyer that they wanted me to be (laughs) I was never going to go to university which I was busy avoiding so they pulled me from Millfield about half way through A Levels and sent me to a kibbutz in Israel as you do. A friend of mine’s sister had been to a kibbutz and had a really good time and they set about finding me one and they found one on the coast south of Ashkelon. It would now be a settlement that is constantly getting those rockets fired at it. It is called Zikim and in those days I went by train to Marseilles, via Paris and then got on a boat that sailed to Haifa so the whole trip started effectively with a Mediterranean cruise as we went from Marseilles to Genoa, Genoa to Naples, Naples to Athens, Athens to Cyprus and then to Haifa…
TWR: its strange because that sounds exactly like the journey that my late father did when he was in Palestine just before Israel was created that was the journey he made to get there.
RM: That was in the Forties? Well I was there for the twentieth anniversary (14th May 1948 and NOT 1968 as reported in a certain Progressive Rock Magazine recently ) of the foundation of the state of Israel in 1968 and you dad would have been there when the terrorists were Jewish blowing up the King David Hotel and things like that. So this was ‘68 and it was a year after the Six Day War so everything was changing and in the early days, the first twenty or thirty years, the kibbutz movement was huge mostly because you had people arriving who had nothing from the Holocaust and the fall out from that and they all needed somewhere to live and work and so they set up these kibbutzim. But while I was there… before I went I had a job as a messenger for a firm of stockbrokers in the City and I would just walk around picking up packets and delivering these huge cheques to the bank and all this stuff and there was a record shop just near where the office was and I knew that the Silent Sun single was coming out and I can’t prove this, but I must have been the first person to buy it! In fact I am pretty sure I was the only person who bought it! (laughs). But I knew it was coming out and the release day was a Thursday and I went in and said have you got a single called The Silent Sun by Genesis? And he went, yeah, here it is and I wish I still had that with the sleeve as it would be worth a lot of money. Then I went to Israel and they issued the second single, A Winter’s Tale with One -Eyed Hound on the B side and the amazing thing was, the way these things work I could just about pick up the British Forces Radio Network from Cyprus in Israel and they played A Winter’s Tale! And I remember hearing it on a kibbutz and nowadays you go to an airport and you are four hours from Israel but then it was like the other end of the Earth you know and it was like a week’s journey to get there and so to hear them was bizarre.
Then I came back and one thing led to another and the cottage happened and that happened because my parents had a flat just off Fleet Street which they rented and then at the weekends, because my father could walk to work, his doctor told him he needed to walk to work so they got a flat where he could do that. He worked for Rank Hovis MacDougal, the bakers and Mothers Pride was my dad’s big thing because he managed this country wide team of van salesmen and they would go out to all the housing estates selling Mothers Pride bread and other bits and pieces and that was how they distributed it and they invented this method of baking bread called the Chesham Method which basically didn’t involve any kneading and it was sort of steamed and it was just put through this machine and there you go, a loaf of white bread sliced, wrapped and off it goes, that was it.
The cottage was burgled in the summer of ‘69 and it was quite remote and my mother not unreasonably got a bit nervous which you do sometimes if your place is burgled so they were going to sell it but they wanted to wait until the spring. It was just trees and it was gorgeous place so it was basically going to be empty for the winter. So around that time at the end of the summer of ‘69, everybody decided to take what we would now call a gap year . Banks was already at Sussex University, Peter was going to go to the London Film School and how different would that have been if he had turned into a film director? You can imagine the kind of movies he would have made! (laughs).They probably would have had a large cult following but wouldn’t have done great box office, who knows?! It wasn’t to be. John Mayhew was the drummer then and already the third drummer. There had been Chris Stewart, John Silver and then John Mayhew.
One thing led to another and probably come October we all moved into the cottage and there you had these five… well leave John Mayhew on one side, these four very passionate, very moody strong characters (laughs). Ant was the top dog. Everybody forgets this but back then he was way ahead in terms of writing. I mean Banks acknowledged this in the documentary and he was a giant character and he and Mike used to do these crazy tunings on the guitars and the twelve strings and all that stuff. As Ant said in the documentary, there was a very nice pub at the end of the road and we never set foot in the place! (laughs). Everybody else was, let’s go up the road for a pint. I would make supper and I used to make yoghurt and bake bread and then every other weekend everyone would go home and Ant and Mike particularly and Peter to a certain extent, it was just like school they would bring back boxes full of food that their mothers had pressed upon them and which I had no idea how to cook a lot of this stuff (laughs) so I learnt. That was fine and quite often Peter would be on the ’phone and he would persuade people to come down and hear us from management and record companies and all that stuff. Nothing ever came of it.
I remember one thing that happened. We started to get gigs and this cottage was up a whole flight of steps and I went back there with Mino (Profumo) funnily enough a couple of years ago and they had built a drive and ruined it! (laughs) but we used to have to hump all the gear up and down these bloody steps - madness! We had home made Lesleys, Tony only had an organ , he didn’t have any synthesisers or anything else . So we got a gig in Sunderland and driving to Sunderland and the van we had was an old bread van that dad got for us and John Mayhew who was a very good carpenter, and I am on record as saying that he was a much better carpenter than he was a drummer and he had made a wonderful back seat so that basically we could all fit in the van. The gear would go in the back and things kept falling on the organ keys and they were unprotected so John Mayhew made a cover for the organ and that was terrific. So we went up to Sunderland and it just took forever to get there and we played in the Locarno Ballroom and we were on the bill with Mott The Hoople, opening and I was at the desk, mixing and Ian Hunter came and sat next to me, hi, and these kids kept on coming and asking him hi Ian, what are you doing? And he would say; I’m listening to Genesis (laughs) in other words sod off and let me listen! (laughs).
Now unbeknownst to me they go and play Friars in Aylesbury and he says to David Stopps, there’s this great band you should book them and he said to me, I’ll mention you to David Stopps and give him a ring, so I did and he said, yeah, Mott the Hoople said you are really good so he gave us a gig and that started a great tradition because in those days the Friars gigs were a big event and that was where Peter did his thing of famously jumping off the stage. You see, what you learned from that, and I have to admire him, is that when you fall off the stage you fall flat and they will catch you and later he would fall backwards and that really took some guts to do that, just let yourself fall and hope that they’ll catch you. Especially having jumped off the stage at Friars and what he didn’t realise was that they were all this huge crowd of people at the front and what did he do? Jump off feet first and what did they do? Aaah get out of the way! (Laughs) and he broke his ankle as you would as no one would want his great clodhoppers in your face.
The Friars gigs were really something and the first gig after that was in Lincoln at the Arts School and it was while the first Glastonbury festival was on and the stage was a theatre stage and it had a rake and Peter was in a wheelchair and so I thought its not his ankle he is going to break this time and he was as wild in a wheelchair as he was on his feet!
There was a massive amount of tension as you can imagine and the big problem was that Peter had a girlfriend in Jill and she was at the Guildhall drama school having a great time as you do at drama school and he wasn’t there to protect his patch and he thought he was going to lose her and it created a lot of tension. Thankfully it all worked out and they got married and had the two girls who are both now mothers themselves. I did my best to keep friends with both of them during the break up which is not easy when friends break up as you tend to fall into one camp or the other.
The other thing that happened while we were in the cottage was the residency at Ronnie Scott’s so the Marquee was in Wardour Street and Ronnie Scott’s was on Frith Street and they had this room upstairs and they thought, OK we do jazz downstairs, the marquee round the corner is doing unbelievable business with all these rock bands so we’ll set up in competition. So “Upstairs At Ronnie Scott’s” was born and they gave us a residency on Monday nights. No one goes to gigs on Monday nights! Especially in a venue that no one has ever heard of and which was totally unestablished to a band that nobody has heard off and duly every Monday night we would schlep the gear up the stairs, set up and nobody came. One night Peter who also went to a crammer, a place called Davis Laing and Dick in Notting Hill, which was the groovy version of the one I went to, DLD I was called and one of the people he met there was David Vaughan Thomas and he was a keen musician and another guy called Chris Langham who became a comedy writer. But literally one night at Ronnie’s there was Jill, Chris and David in the audience and that was it. So, they played the set, packed up ..but very important a very big part of the gig business in those days was colleges. Colleges used to have a “hop” probably once a month so there was on a Saturday night quite a reasonable, like Ewell Tech and we would get £50 for one of those and that was a good night’s work.
There was somebody who was building up an agency for the colleges to provide them with the bands and he set up a sort of showcase at this college in Kensington and he got about twelve bands to play a short set and all the social secretaries, it was usually the Student Union secretary at the college and they would come and see the showcase and we got gigs. And for some reason, John Anthony who was the sort of house producer at Charisma saw the band that night and he was impressed. And he said to Strat (Tony Stratton-Smith) and Strat mostly only left Soho to go horse racing because that was his other passion he was nuts about horseracing. So the fact that John Anthony said to him you have got no excuses this is a three minute walk from your flat in Dean Street on Monday night so there is no reason why no to go. So he came and it wasn’t the night when there were three people there it might have been twelve, I think we were building up! (laughs). He came and signed us up and that was it. He signed us up for management AND record company and that was something that I was never really that comfortable with because I think it works best if you have got the band and a manager and the record company. The manager is basically in there fighting for you and if your manager is also the boss of the record company and has the interests of Lindisfarne, Van Der Graaf Generator, Clifford T Ward etc and he was an incredible visionary. I have to say it was Lindisfarne who saved our arse because they made a fortune which Strat put into Genesis. In today’s world, Trespass… that would have been it and they would have had in their side of the contract “we can dump you any time we like” and they would have done. Nursery Cryme, didn’t make much in spite of the advertisement because Strat used to manage The Nice and so he was friends with Keith Emerson and got him to write this thing saying one day Genesis are going to be very big … and that was for Nursery Cryme. Foxtrot… a bit better but it was a very slow build but Strat stuck with it in a way that people didn’t. he was … the thing about the business in those days was full of amateurs and I mean that in the PURE sense of the word; they did it because they loved the music , and it doesn’t mean that they were incompetent. We all had a LOT to learn and one of the reasons I eventually quit the business was it got filled up with accountants and grey suits because there was so much money to be made and it killed the soul of the business, it really did. These were the glory days of the early Seventies when English Prog Rock ruled the world and we just surfed that wave on the back of Lindisfarne’s money! (laughs).
It was so funny gigging with them because it was chalk and cheese you know and already they were sponsored by Newcastle Brown Ale predictably enough and there were just crates of the stuff wherever they could fit it in the van with the gear and they would be totally out of it by the time they got on stage. Can you imagine, Tony, Pete, Steve, any of them I mean occasionally they might have a glass of Blue Nun or something after the show but we couldn’t believe how they could go on and do it but that was just their thing. The crowd would go bonkers and they were very successful for a short period. They were good, Meet Me On The Corner was a very good song.
TWR: When you look at it, if you tried to put on a bill with Lindisfarne, Van Der Graaf Generator and Genesis now you would get laughed at.
RM: I know! On that funnily enough, Tony Smith came into the business as a promoter and he worked with his father; John and Tony Smith and they would put on these tours that would go round all the Odeons and all the towns, cinemas mostly. One absolute classic that Ant actually went to at the Finsbury Park Astoria that became The Rainbow was top of the bill was Engelbert Humperdinck, The Walker Brothers and Jimi Hendrix. How’s that for a bill? Surreal it was and Hendrix was on first but those in the know already knew about Hendrix and he was just sort of emerging out of the clubs. You wouldn’t get away with a bill like that now but that was the advantage of being with Charisma, they had three bands who had albums out and this was the famous Six Shilling Tour and that would be 30p in today’s money and these gigs were always full and mostly people were there to see Lindisfarne and they would have to sit through Genesis and Van Der Graaf (laughs) and van Der Graaf were a weird outfit. I subsequently went on tour with Peter Hammill and I did a huge tour of America with him with him and a violinist called Graeme Smith who was the violinist with another Charisma band, String Driven Thing with the girl singer and Dale Newman, who you know.
So there was four of us and we started up in the North East in the snow. It was funny I was in Boston and new York about three weeks ago but I remember we were in Boston with this tour this was in the late Seventies and we had a van and a bit of gear and it was a tour of these clubs in America where they had their own PA and they had tables and chairs and they served basic food, you know and it was almost like a cabaret and a little stage and Peter had one of those Yamaha grand pianos and it folds into two pieces . Dale did all the gear and Graeme just plugged his violin into the PA and I mixed the sound.
We had a gig in Boston and then there was this hell of a snow storm and the next gig was in Philadelphia and we just thought, ok we’ll take it carefully and they plough the highways so whatever happens they keep the roads open so we drove from Boston to Philadelphia and we got there and they cancelled the gig! We had just come from Boston what’s their excuse?! Actually the truth is, it’s the back streets, you can’t get out of, the main roads are fine and so it is often the first few yards to get out of your parking space and then you can go. We made our way right down through America and we finished in LA and San Francisco and as we got down there it got sunnier and warmer an we were in Phoenix and in the swimming pool and it was a wonderful tour. Then the tour finished in San Francisco, and Peter and Graeme flew home and the van that we had rented in New York had to get back to New York so Dale and I drove back across in record time we set off on a Saturday morning and we got to New York on the Tuesday night. And he is from Fort Wayne Indiana so we actually stopped at his house (laughs). And we had a CB radio and we would listen to all the truckers and they would warn you where all the smokies (police cars with radar) were.
Anyway, I am digressing a bit. We got the gig with Charisma and came out of the cottage in 1970 and then of course, Ant got glandular fever and stage fright . I remember playing in Hackney and there couldn’t have been more than 25 people there and he was petrified out of his mind. So much so that as he said in the documentary he got to the point where he didn’t know what to play next. He has never played live since.
That’s summer (1970) we had a gig at the Marquee and Ant had announced that he was leaving and at the back of the Marquee, the old Marquee in Wardour Street there’s a mews and you get into it from Dean Street funnily enough right opposite where Strat used to live, and where the first Charisma offices were and of course the gear was all on stage and the van was empty and there was never much of a dressing room at the Marquee. So, Tony, Peter Mike and I between the sets sat in the van and they were basically because of who Ant was, they were all for quitting. They felt like they had done a year, made an album and they didn’t know how they were going to go on and I just put my foot down and said “you have to go on, it’s too good and you have got too much going. We can get another guitarist”. So, basically I persuaded them and I am not blowing my own trumpet here. Mike would certainly bear this out. I don’t trust Peter and Tony’s version of history. Mike’s a Libra and he is the guy who very much used to hold it all together but bless him , he gives me a lot of credit for doing the same in his book.
Tony said, thank God, OK we’re going to go on but we have got to get a better drummer so it was like, oh shit, you know that’s not just Ant but John Mayhew gone and anyway he was right of course, because we got Phil. Phil was around and he was a professional drummer making a living as a drummer in Flaming Youth. They had been a band with a lot of promise and they were going to make it big but they didn’t. he saw the advert in the Melody Maker and he knew Strat and he said, “should I go for this?” and Strat said “yes” and Phil typically got there two hours early for the audition which was at Peter’s parents’ farm and that is what he is like, keen as mustard, and so they said there are a couple of guys we are going to see before you so go and hang out by the pool and so by the time he came to set up left handed, that’s why I could never play his drums because they were always the wrong f*cking way round! (laughs). And he just sat down and played and so he got the gig and we couldn’t find a guitarist, and we actually tried out with Phil’s friend Ronnie Caryl but he wasn’t right and to be honest Phil made such a difference that it could actually work as a four piece and we left Ant’s amp on the stage next to Mike stage right where it was and it had along lead and Tony got a Hohner electric piano, put it on top of the organ and played the guitar solos on the piano with a lead going across and it was coming out of Ant’s amp. So we played as a four piece because as you know, gigs were coming and the album was coming out and all the rest of it. That was probably from about August to November as a four piece and then they found Steve and he joined and that was it, you know. That was the five who then proceeded to make Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, the four best albums (not necessarily in everyone’s opinion, Richard - ED) in some people’s opinion! (laughs).
I was not a big fan of John Anthony as a producer because compared to how they sounded live he did not capture …and I don’t think it was until John Burns came along and did Foxtrot that he really captured and that was part of the reason why I left because I heard Foxtrot and thought OK, they are on their way and this is what they should sound like. All that was ’72 and we did two Italian tours which were unbelievable. Of course I don’t need to tell you this but it was utterly mindblowing for me. There we were playing in basement clubs in Tewkesbury and whatever to 25 people and suddenly we arrive in Italy and it was stardom you know. Huge Palasports; palas de sprots as someone once mis-typed on an itinerary (laughs). These huge basketball places and with an echo that you could still hear twelve seconds later. I would be mixing and quite honestly whatever I did on the mixing desk made no difference and I would go… mmm no difference but the Italians loved it, they were just so incredible. At the end of the second tour there were 20,000 people there and the next week we were playing in a club in Peterborough to 20 people! It is too bizarre. It is quite natural when you think about it, you don’t necessarily make it big everywhere at the same time.
Then there was the first trip to America which was unbelievable and we had no flight cases so the equipment we just took it to the airport and loaded it on to this plane and they did drop the mellotron from the plane and it was a mighty heavy thing. We bought King Crimson’s first mellotron so the airline dropped that and the gig was at the Lincoln Center, the Philharmonic Hall as it was then. Avery Fisher Hall as it is now, and it was a charity gig and we had a try out at Brandeis University in Boston and Fred Munt who was Gail Colson’s husband who had been the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s roadie immortalised as the Wild Man of Borneo (on the Intro and Outro album) he came with us and a lot of what I had learned as a roadie he taught me. Like for instance, and I do this to this day; when you rent a car you get the documentation and the first thing you do is put it in the glove compartment of the car because otherwise you WILL lose it. And then you get stopped and they ask you for your documentation and you don’t know where the f*cking hell they are! (laughs). So we drove up to Boston, we set up and in America the electrical cycle is 50 herz and over here it is different and the mellotron not only had it been dropped and we hadn’t managed to fix it but Brandeis is a SCIENCE university and the chances of that happening and so these guys who were fans poring over and fixing everything and they just came up with some gizmo to get round the electrical cycle problem and they let us take it to New York so that we could do the gig there.
The Lincoln Center gig, first of all it was my first time in New York and I hadn’t quite got the lie of the geography and we were staying on 55th Street and I was driving and I don’t know what the others were doing but I was driving Mike and Tony to the gig and I came out of 55th Street and on to 7th Avenue and turned left which you have to, going south because it is one way and I was going in the wrong direction and I should have just gone round the next street ad back up 8th Avenue but I went 25 blocks south before I realised I was going the wrong way and the streets were getting smaller and not bigger. So we arrived a bit late and I didn’t know where to park so I literally just parked the car on the street outside the stage door and the only mistake I made was I put the hazard lights on so the car was still there hours later after this gig that turned out to be thus great triumph but the only problem was the battery was flat! (laughs). And there was a part at some place in the park and I couldn’t get the car going because it was an automatic and you cant jump start… well you CAN as it turns out, but you have to get a cab to push you and to get up to about 30 mph and eventually he pushed me to a gas station where they charged up the car but I spent most of the night getting the car going! (laughs).
When we got into the hall it was all heavily unionised and I don’t know if it still is but we weren’t allowed to touch the equipment so you had to tell these guys, these great big hulking American teamsters, this amp goes there, that goes on top of there and it was mad and so it made everything take much longer. The sound system was horrible and I really struggled to make it sound nice and a lot went wrong and it was really unpleasant and I remember we came off stage at the side afterwards and Mike had a Rickenbacker bass and we got into the lift and he threw it on the floor and he’s not Pete Townshend for God’s sake! (laughs) anyway it survived and then we flew home and there were these incredible reviews. Cashbox did an amazing review and that sort of started the whole American thing and there was Ed Goodgold who was an extraordinary character and he had managed Sha Na Na and Regis Boff and that was just before Christmas and the whole thing blew my mind and I lived in Stratford in East London and you started the day on the tube early in the morning and later that day you were in Manhattan and it is the winter and the tops of the towers are in the clouds! It was like another planet and of course you stayed up as long as you can and it is 4 in the morning for you but it is all too exciting and Ed took us to this Chef & Brewer pub because he thought we’d like it because it was meant to be like an English pub and of course, it was NOTHING like an English pub!
And there you have it folks a fascinating, and I am sure you will agree highly amusing look back at the formative period in our heroes’ story! My thanks to Richard for being such an entertaining raconteur. I honestly doubt if I have ever laughed so much whilst conducting and transcribing an interview! My thanks also to Messrs Phillips and Barnes for their help in making this one possible.