Archive Sing A Song of Sixpence

Biog Notes of 1963-72 ©2008 KING ROLLO
  Jump to Hamilton King and IPOH

My first ever public performance was in 1963 with a school band in Bungay, Suffolk. The performance was ostensibly as a contribution to the inevitable end-of-year Parents Day, but I envisioned the band as a potential opportunity to entrap girls into our all-male school for steamy fantasy sessions. Reality prevailed. It was a boarding school for the impoverished, and a popular depository for diplomats' sons when doing a stint in the UK

Hence in the band we have Henry from Nigeria and dear little Kumalzwat Kumelzwera from Cambodia. With the awful conflicts both those countries have suffered since then, I often won­der whether they survived. Our enthusiasm for playing pop music was not shared by the staff or authority at this grubby little establishment where they were making hay while the sun sets, but fortunately we played mainly Shadow's tunes while 'they' were within earshot so it must have been just acceptable. It was around this time I discovered a healthy contempt for bum­bling authority, a doctrine I have maintained ever since. And it was there I acquired the nick­name of Rollo. True value in return for all those school fees.

Even on leaving school my parents seemed helpless to prevent me from indulging my des­picable guitar habit and eventually gave in com­pletely, allowing me to entertain them when their friends came round for boozy evenings. I can remember shortly after one of these ses­sions I sang in public for the first time with a local group called The Farinoes, whose bass player, Peter Huckstep, hereinafter known as Huck, turned into my early song writing partner, and who I now find has a remarkable memory for detail of those days.

I sang Chuck Berry's 'Carol', one of my favourite R&B numbers to this day. It was at one of those apocryphal Co-op weddings that ended with a proper punch-up with blood all over the floor and kids sliding about in it, I'm sure you know the kind of thing. It was in Wealdstone, just up the road from the Station Tavern where a local group called The Who belted it out on a fairly regular basis.

Huck and I shared an acquaintance with a useful fellow, Mick Billington, who had a mini-van and was one of those born roadie types. He also drove for Reg Dwight (later Elton John) who lived a mile away at a time when Bluesology was in its formative stage.

Roger Glover lived literally round the corner from me and I remember call­ing at his house one day to see if he fancied try­ing to get a band together, or something of the sort, and his mother said "no, I'm sorry he's gone to rehearse with some people and I know he's very busy right now." The people turned out to be Deep Purple.

Somehow Huck and I just didn't fit in with these 'progressive' types, and I've put it all down to one thing. We didn't have the right kind of hair. I can remember going to auditions and whilst the playing went ok, I could see their eyes glaze over on looking me up an down from the corner of their eyes and saying "well, we'll have to let you know, you see - we've got a lot of other hair to audition." It's hard to believe today just how important, no - vital - the inten­sity of your hair was to one's advancement in the embryo rock business. At that time I was a regular Melody Maker reader and on scanning the small ads for musicians wanted, it was com­monplace to see "Prog Rock Guitarist - must have hair."

Having managed to fail to acquire my assumed role in society, even in this slurry of soon-to-be world famous megastars, I set out to do the next best thing and talked my way into a residency at the Master Robert Hotel, on the Great West Road in Hounslow. This I did with Huck - We called ourselves 'Huck and Graham' I can't quite think why I hadn't twigged the advantages of using 'Rollo' at that time, but I wasn't a marketing man in those days and had­n't realised the validity of concepts such as 'Perception is more important than reality' or 'More of the sizzle and less of the sausage'.

Following a surrealist holiday with Huck and his parents in Winchelsea where bizarre things happened all around us, like nearly getting arrested when walking back at 2am in the morn­ing from Hastings with a girl who lied that she was a sister to one of us and we later found had absconded from Borstal, and spending nights up talking with beat poets and I think trying some cannabis for the first time... following that we decided we'd write some songs together, and we kept our residency at the Master Robert for around two and a half years, making it into our own personal social centre, meeting all kinds of interesting ladies until they got paired off and married. The beautiful Zeta, when asked how she was finding married life said that it was pretty good but there's not much point putting any knickers on.

I recall on giving a lift one night (I always seemed to be the one with the car) to Huck's current conquest, a drop-dead-gorgeous American girl by the name of Brandy, back to her home in Stanmore Hill. Got there - huge house - and she asked me in. Actually lived in her own annex. Cool. And we talked and she got us both a drink and sort of settled down, put some soft music on. Of the conversation I recall zilch except she came to a point of focus and looked into my eyes and said "you know, I just can't say 'no' to anything" and then she left the conversation hang in the air but speaking loud and clear with her eyes. And inside I was in a complete and utter jelly state, because I knew that the statement was unconditional. The invi­tation was there on a plate. In these circum­stances there is only one word that rhymes with Brandy. And it was printed inbold text across her forehead.

I have had to weigh in the balance the right-ness of the many actions I have taken in life and also consider some actions I have neglected. Yes, this word 'regret' floats to the surface of the vocabularic heap of the human psyche. It may be, because of this aspect, that I have remem­bered this particular incident at all. Notwithstanding, I have come to the conclusion that I regret nothing that I have ever done.

However, just a few of the things I have not done in my life have hung heavily around my conscience, even haunted me until the appropri­ate mantra exorcises them. The most onerous of these is in not spending sufficient time with my children at that precious time of early child­hood. But I was out there earning a living and, as you know it can sort of take you over. It becomes a parallel universe to one's domestic arrangements.

Cut to the chase. I was so con­scious of the fact that she was 'Huck's woman' that I declined that delicious, dreamy, eruptive, sumptuous, liberal, bounteous, profuse, plen­teous, generous and lavishly tactile opportunity, and I made the weakest, namby-pamby middle class exit that I have ever made in my whole life. And I have been haunted by it ever since. And when you think how hard it was to get hold of a decent woman around then (or do I mean indecent). Always has been now I come to think of it.

In our very active cluster of Pinner and Harrow we once went to Bruce Welch's house The Wonderful Land' in North Harrow and he put us onto Shadow Music. We collected a nice range of rejections slips from them and other pet publishers and after that we got a bit silly. Me writing stuff called things like 'I Dig My Baby Best When The Wind Blows On Salisbury Plains Blues' fancy! Huck responded with one called 'Porridge' which we performed at the Master Robert quite regularly.

We used to hang out in the coffee bar there at breaks (think we got free coffee and burgers) and Huck recently reminded me that I once went through the menu telling him how the high prices on the menu were justified. For example, I pointed out that merely calling the sausages 'succulent' meant that they could charge more. Apparently I was a cynic and Huck still uses some of my sayings now. "If you can't conceal," I'd once said "then advertise, it's the next best thing". I'd read that in a Dornford Yates novel. When he asked me how to avoid being conned when he bought a car I replied "oh you'll get conned. The secret is not to get conned too much."

The Master Robert residency ended, Peter and I were getting worn down with a feeling of failure in our song writing enterprise and while we drifted own separate ways in discovery other avenues of life, others with more staying power absorbed their failure somehow until success hit them full in the face a year or two later. Sheer dogged staying power and a genuine feeling that there is nothing else you can do is a wonderful recipe for success in art. As Paul Gaugin declared. “The life of an artist is a gamble it is all or nothing.”

Andy Black was an A&R man at Polydor International in Stanhope Place. Andy was a gentleman, and spoke and acted accordingly. He had time and resources for us, he loved our stuff and arranged demo sessions in a little studio they had there. One curiosity was that it was a three track Studer machine, an overhang from the days of recording orchestral material. Two tracks for a stereo pair plus one track for the soloists. I only mention this because it was rather rare and, as a historical note of interest, otherwise lost forever.

This would have been in 1968 and as a frequent visitor I got to be chummy with the delightful crowd who gath­ered there but never actually seemed to achieve anything. Or do very much. Much was talked about. Indeed so much was talked about that it hardly ever seemed to fit into the working day of 10am-4pm and had to be continued within the many and various hostelries to be found in the area out of business hours. One of the staff writers we get to be friendly with mentions that he's written thirty songs that day. Dazzled with such productivity I ask him to run one through for me. He can't think of one. "The best one" I prompt. It is inco­herent and total gibberish. I've sometimes wondered what the others were like.

News of promotion for Andy Black made us feel we're all going in the right direction, especially as he had at last been granted his own office rather than perching in any convenient space that presented itself from time to time. His new office is a bland cubicle with just enough space for the three of us to sit without actually touching, but it has the hallowed Revox reel-to-reel tape machine that marks you out as a true music pro­fessional couched provocatively in view. Now these 'meetings', if you wish to call them such must be described to be understood. The usual form was for Huck and I to rush up to town at the earliest convenient moment when we had completed recording demos of our three most recent offspring. I use the word 'offspring', because these were our little babies we had cre­ated out of nothing and had probably spent six or eight weeks working on, revising, honing to the best of our abilities.

I had re-organised my bedroom to accommodate the various machinery necessary to accomplish this task, which in those days consisted of two two-track Brennel tape decks. I can still remember the price of £38 per deck for this state-of-the-art machinery which was built with the type of engineering that would last a couple of lifetimes, but would actually be obsolete in five years. With these two machines I could layer sounds to build up a complete production good enough to demonstrate our ideas. The only wasted space in my bedroom was the bed.

Drums and guitars and racks of rather primitive boxes full of glowing valves occupied the space normally sought by clothes and bedside tables in more conventional homes. Now back to our meeting at Polydor International.

"Aaah you got some new stuff, lads. That's excellent!" would be Andy's typically enthusias­tic and positive greeting. "Yes, we've got three tracks for you" handing him the crisp looking box with our offering." Pleasantries are made as the ritual of spooling up the Revox are complet­ed and we all sit down in an air of expectation of some important endeavour just about to materialise. As he pushes the button to engage the spinning of the wheels of the machine that is about to reveal the mystical revelations that are about to make the fortunes of us all... the door opens.

It's Peter Knight, musical director of Polydor and Andy's boss, looking almost embarrassed to have interrupted a moment of time that could be the definitive point where he also could benefit out of the fortune to be made from this acoustic gem, or at the very least, pos­sibly save his job at the next desperate board­room shuffle. "Sorry to interrupt Andy, could we have a word?" And so Andy pushes the stop but­ton just as the intro swirls into our ears and he exits in fever and dread lest it be this moment chosen for the fraud in his expenses to be revealed.

And so we wait... and wait
"Oh... Fuck!" announces Andy as he shambles back through the door fifteen minutes later. "Sorry about this, gentlemen. "I. Am. So. Sorry".
"What's up?" asks one of us thinking that some sudden change in company policy has excluded us from participating in our now, almost-won glory.
"Sorry. I'd parked on a double yellow and had to move the car miles away." And so the ritual recommences. Shuttling the tape back and that indeterminate wait while the silence eventually falls away to reveal our outrageous vision.

And his head is nodding. He is feeling the beat. This is the crucial moment. Where are the eyes going to go? If they look at you and he nods the head at the same time then there's a good chance. But no, his eyes are down. What! He's looking at his diary for God's sake. That's really bad. I mean if he were looking at the cal­endar on the wall, even if it is last year's, we'd be in with a chance... but no he's studying the next day's appointments in his diary. But he is still nodding.

The phone rings. Andy immediately turns the music volume down to a whisper and picks the phone up. "Yes...Yes? No!!!... Re-er-ally? Well that is inter­esting." Huck and I exchange glances. I wander over to the Revox, and fortunately with my superior technological advantage am able to push the right button straight off to stop it with­out tape spilling out all over the room. It doesn't always happen like that. "Well we'll have to meet" Andy declares to the interrupter whilst simultaneously giving the two of us full-on eye contact, smiles and raised eye­brows. "Right then. Bye chum...bye chum" he repeats and repeats as he slowly lowers the handset down to the telephone "bye chum" still with his mouth to it until his face becomes hor­izontal to the telephone on his desk. "Bye chum" he says once more to no-one in particu­lar on replacing the handset.

"Thing is, guys." Andy drops confidentially to a lower octave. "Thing is, and this really is interesting." We are rivetted. Andy was a Guardsmen and has a deep baritone voice. "This IS... interesting... it really is." We are convinced that our fortunes have now miracu­lously merged with destiny to change the world. "Thing is, you see all those tapes up there?" indicating a shelf the runs most of the length of the room filled and bulging with 15-inch spools of audio tape. "Well, the thing is, I've had to take over from the guy that was here last. And you see, all these tapes, indicating a batch of about thirty reels, they're the master tapes of albums from his recording sessions from the last year."

"Yes…. ?" I venture not quite grasping the connection between the tapes and our eternal salvation.
"Well, Roger, the guy that was here before, recorded these rock groups and spent about £5,000 on each album doing it and they haven't been released or anything as yet." He paused to let that sink in a bit. "And I've got to plough through them and find a way of getting some of the money back."

It seemed a fairly simple operation to me. After all they are one of the major record companies of their time. I mean that's what they do. Record people, issue albums and every now and then one of them makes a fortune that easily covers the cost of the rest. The concept is, throw enough mud at the door and some of it sticks.

"Trouble is... every one of them is complete and utter crap."
"But surely..." I interject.
"No no no... every one. Garbage."

The tapping of his gold pen on the teak desktop drives home the significance of this fact.

It transpires that in the wind of change, instead of record companies making their own record­ings, and thereby keeping control of what goes down, now they buy-in complete commissioned master tapes for pressing and distribution. It is commonplace now, but up until that time there were songwriters and there were artists. Two separate functions in the team, coming together under the control of the Artists and Repertoire Manager.

So here we have one of the early examples of the smooth operator, probably with the right kind of hair, who records whoever he can get his hands on that'll work for next to nothing and a chance of glory, in a cheap studio round the corner probably run by one of his mates and costing him £2,000 tops. He gets it signed off in the company, where the executives know absolutely nothing about cur­rent trends in music and are still staggering under the surprise of making so much money from the last batch of mud that did actually stick. An intermediary company, which Mr Right Hair happens to own gets paid all the money allocated in the budget. And in the case of Roger, who managed so well to keep his head down for a whole year busily recording any­thing that moved, when the shit hit the fan he disappeared with the difference. In this case £45,000, in 1968. That’s nearer £1 million in 21st Century money. Cool. These days you only get the chance to rip off one album at a time. Times change.

Andy reaches back to play our tape again. Somehow the atmosphere's taken on a quite dif­ferent turn. Our beloved babies just don't sound right any more. Andy distractedly swivels in his chair, tapping his pen but not in time with the music and his eyes are nowhere. Just sort of glazed, or are those tears forming at the corners? He shuttles on to the next track. This is why you always take three tracks. If he doesn't like the first one, no problem. It is not all or nothing in one strike.

Half way through the second one he starts doodling in his diary and worse still looks at his watch. Damn. Those tears are definitely not a reaction from the loving emotion from our song. It is fear. Non-commitantly we move on to the third and final track. Something in the atmosphere light­ens as the stirring chords accompany one of our best hook lines:

"Forgive and forget but show you're upset. Bring her back inside and then
Forgive all her lying now that she she's crying you could be best of friends."

Andy has swivelled back to face us both. And he is looking at me, and then at Huck straight in the eyes. "Hey this is nice... really strong melody and lyrics, can see a string section com­ing in there to swell it all out. I like it." We beam inwardly with anticipation. You need a strong sense of that in our business. Anticipation. Most times it's the only thing you get.

"Come on chaps" Andy announces "it's gone four. Time for a drink." We all swoop out of the building, across Oxford Street and into one of Mayfair's little private drinking clubs until the pubs open. Much talking ensues until stu­pidity forces a closure to the meeting, after which very little is ever heard of the project again.

In October 1968 we both went to the Radio Luxemburg studios in Mayfair where their publishing company Shaftesbury Music had taken a fancy to four of our songs and wanted to produce some better demos to play around some of the artists that they were close to. They used to record the Radio Luxembourg programmes there and fly the tapes over to Luxembourg for transmission. Up until a few years  before this station was the only alternative to the BBC Light Programme and the recent pirate radio ships. Luxembourg had been listened to by most serious music loving teenagers since the days of  huddling beneath the bedclothes trying to tune the station in with a ‘cat’s whisker’.

The head honcho was Geoffrey Everett. A charming and avuncular fellow of fiftyish then, he knew the business inside out and had a lady assistant Gloria Nichols. We forgathered that evening supposedly to watch the session being recorded. There was a keen young arranger who had written out proper parts for a band of anonymous session musicians, two singers (and a drummer). The engineer twiddled his knobs in the normal impressive manner and we waited patiently in the background hoping for the trumpets of heaven to start and uplift us all into pure delight. Of course, it didn't happen. The singers would have been great at BBC Light Prog, or better suited to a tea dance at the Waldorf, but they couldn't quite get the hang of this pop music stuff of 1967, which was by then becoming heavily leant on by prog rock influences (you know, the one's who have all the hair).

Anyway, these guys ended up on three of the four numbers. They were told they'd been recorded on the last one but we only laid down the backing track without the vocals. This was because due to MU rules of the time, the session  fees were 'so much' for a session recorded As Live but 'so much more' if the recording was going to be produced by using Overdubs. That's how relatively new multi-tracking was at that time. The singers and band were released and Huck and I took their place and overdubbed the vocals in their place under the direction of the arranger.

I felt that the tracks hadn't set anything alight for us. But I had a great time cos I learnt so much more about how to get certain kinds of reverb that were prevalent. That was in putting a long tape predelay - literally with a Revox A77 at 7½ips delay before it went to the reverb send, which in those days would either have been a hugely expensive plate reverb, or I have seen in the Polydor Studio off Oxford Street with a large basement periodically scattered with up-ended ceramic drain pipes to form a delicious and unique reverb sound. Knowledge like this was put to use in my own little den which had grown up into the Heath Robinson brand of recording. Gosh I wish I had a photo of that, now.

My older brother was an Electical Engineer and had made my path smooth into experimenting with boxes of glowing tubes and the spinning hubs of Tape Decks and other mysterious equipment summoned up at will. Drums. No problem. The wardrobe was ideal to keep those in. A Zither? Now where did I last put that? That stuff and a couple of guitars was my life for a few years. But the tracks recorded at Luxembourg were all too polite. I think that was the mystifying thing for these record folk. We were put in front of some of the right people to choose songs but they had absolutely no idea how to produce a hit sound. A sound in spirit. The sound of passion.

Some notes here about technical issues for posterity about my recording set up in 1968.
Unlike today's digital devices, analogue tape recorders are not and never had been linear devices. Expensive machines had all kinds of clever technology to compensate for inconsistencies so that output values matched input values. One of the main problems is of a peak un-linearity at about 120Hz due to, I believe, an inductance in the recording head coil. This was rarely ever accurately compensated-for in the lesser machines of the time. The recordings we made were creative assemblies involving up to maybe six generations of overdubbing and any inaccuracies were multiplied with each generation.

Another problem was of signal to noise ratio, which meant keeping the tape signal at much higher levels than would be necessary a few years later. this produced that over-saturated tape compression sound - which was, of course, used to good effect by Chess Records studios where they knew, by experience, just how much to push the levels into the red to get that famous sound (unachievable in British studios because the men in white coats wouldn't allow ANY over-saturation/compression.) Bass was usually one of the first instruments we recorded and therefore suffered the most in subsequent generations. The record VU meters on the machine were very slow and it was not possible to see the peaks you were reaching.

My set-up which used two Brenell two-track tape decks (Wier & Wright?) was before the general capability for multi-tracking using self-sync (record heads that were temporarily switched to playback for monitoring while recording on another track). But cunningly I installed an extra playback head in 1968 so that after recording on the top track we could monitor off the playback head of that track and record on the bottom track. Then I would play the two tracks (from the two staggered playback heads to re-synchronize it) mixed those outputs with overdubbed live performance onto a second tape deck. Then I would put that tape onto the first deck (that had the two playback heads) and repeat the process. I remember I had a grey box with five knobs and lots of valves (tubes) that was the mixer with four knobs to control the input levels to balance four channels and one to set the output level. There was no EQ adjustment, only what could be achieved by utilizing  the "pre-emphasis compensation" setting on the playback machine. In those days you had manual adjustment to boost the high frequencies at different tape speeds - 1 7/8, 3 3/4, 7 1/2 & 15 ips (inches per second) on playback.

We could sometimes be putting on 3 vocal tracks (double tracking lead and harmonies). The result sometimes was clean and sometimes dirty. It was all rather unpredictable. But it little mattered to us as it was all part of the creative writing/producing process as a sketch pad is to a painter. We sometimes made changes and went back to an earlier generation to re-overdub new ideas after reviewing the first cut. They only had to be good enough to demonstrate to a publisher or A&R man an idea which could be developed in a later session. They were never intended to be admired as master tracks 40 years later!!!

However, we often found that subsequent sessions in "proper studios" of a song, though better in technical quality or performance accuracy, rarely managed to capture the charm and essence of our original creative track. Sometimes these may have taken a week or two to complete. The original of "Thinking Pictures" features a bell tolling during the middle eight section. This was not particularly liked by publishers and anyway, a record by The Herd came out shortly after with a tolling bell so we had to start all over and write a completely different middle eight and cut the bell idea.

Then one of our songs was signed-up by Apple Corps, Beatles music organisation, although ‘chaos’ would make a better description. We had been in the West End dropping off  packs of our latest output and whilst driving up Baker Street we passed by the Apple Boutique, which had recently launched amid massive publicity surrounding its aims of artistic opportunities for the common man. So we stopped-off to find out how we get our song pack to the right person. At the shop counter a gently spoken hippy-type said we can leave it with him and assured us that he’d send it through to the Publishing department.

True to his word, he did and a few weeks later we got a letter from Apple saying they liked the song and asking us to come to a meeting, which was to be at their new Savile Row building. Whilst we were waiting in the lush reception area Mary Hopkin walked in weighed down with glitzy-looking shopping bags. She had just had her hit "Those Were The Days" (September 1968) and was treated with deepest respect from all the staff there because it was the first non-Beatles record that had achieved any success.

But the most important thing for us was that the receptionist was complaining that George Harrison had gone absent without leave and apparently the other Beatles were fretting about it. She left the room and Peter and I were left on our own. Suddenly, the doors opened and George Harrison walked in. He had red trousers and was much thinner than expected. Our inward response was to blurt out to him that he was in the wrong place but we were so in awe of him that we kept our heads down. He disappeared through a large wooden door and when the receptionist came back we were able to tell her, rather nervously, that George had just gone through that door. I remember her leaping up just as George returned and her telling him that everyone was looking for him. He grumpily said something like "I wish that they'd tell me where I was supposed to go" and promptly left. We assumed it must have been to Abbey Road. Chaos. Not Organisation, as we were soon to find out.

It was Wayne Bardell, Apple’s top song plugger, who took on our title “Forgive And Forget” for their catalogue. He said later that it was their favourite unplaced song. Despite the enthusiasm and wishful thinking on the part of charming A&R men, nothing actually hap­pened. Within a few months the whole Apple organisation started creaking towards it’s terminal decline and the TV gave out dispiriting newsflashes on a weekly basis of the crumbling relations between all the parties following Allan Klein’s arrival.

It’s hard to appreciate now the speed of events that followed. They say a week in politics is along time. The same is true in Chartland. We seem to have captured something of the stylistic originality and atmosphere of what was the Brit Pop of it's time. But within a few months the moving finger had moved on into a new era where we felt we no longer fitted as snuggly.

Artists recorded their own material. Record companies had started buying in complete master tapes. Songwriters as an institution were on the wane, self-penned artists were on the way up. The Apple acetates of our track survived and there is at least one in collectors hands in America. Almost exactly forty years later, it has been released on a CD album ( 'Treacle Toffee World' along with three other of our tracks on a compilation of previously unreleased material from that creative era of 1967-1969.


Hamilton King and IPOH
In 1970 met Hamilton King who allowed me to help hump his Hammond organ and Leslie tone cabinet around London to all manner of gigs with a six-piece band we put together called I.P.O.H (In Pursuit Of Happiness). Hamilton was from the Island of St Kitts in the Caribbean. I spent two very happy and formative years playing bass with him. There were three drummers on stage. A standard kit, played by who ever could stand the pace at the time, the first year was with a great reggae drummer, Ken Reynolds. After he left, to earn proper money in a Reggae band, we seemed to be forever auditioning and rehearsing new drummers.Then there was Ralpho on steel pan, timbales and whatever else he could hit. He was a real cool dude of the West Indian type. Slim and charismatic - would shag anything in sight. Even I had to keep out of his way once or twice. But the man had real rhythm. And he looked good on stage. He and Hamilton had this music thing together that could make the world fly.

We were along lines not dissimilar to Santana and Ossibisa, but with a more Caribbean twist. And sometimes we'd do a Reggae and Calypso gig at Harleston Town Hall, with a whole steel pan section. Then, instead of play­ing bass they'd invite me along to play the very bass steel pan with just two divisions. Doomp and dooooomp. In fact it was actually called 'De doomp dedooomp' and I'd just groove away with them all night peering out over a dance floor with about six hundred very dark-skinned peo­ple gyrating and cavorting and doing their thing in the most sensual and evocative way. Must have been quite a culture shock for a middle class marketing man from Pinner, but I don't recall it as such.

Those nights instilled in me a sense of rhythm that forms the pulse that works within me today. It also imbued deep within me a deep sense of joy being in the same room with those dusky ladies, their gyrating hips and dark eyes full of promise, cavorting ever-so precariously but beautifully under a limbo pole not ten inches off the floor.

And so during that period I lived most of my life around Fulham where we all hung out. Now Fulham in the early 70s is not the same place as Fulham became during the nineteen-nineties. Then it was really not safe to go out at night in the wrong places and nobody decent would want to live there. You had to know your way about because the whole Fulham area was helping the police with their inquiries. But it had a terrific atmos­phere with people doing all types of craft things, making strings of beads and doing strange things with leather. Ralpho could knock you up some bespoke trousers in soft calf leather in a day or two so I did start getting adventurous and wearing more interesting stuff.

I remember making, yes making!, a soft velvet brimmed hat a bit like Hendrix wore and I took to wearing black velvet trousers with knee length boots and fur-trimmed jackets with flowing sleeves. I don't remember doing too many gigs, but the rehearsals were interminable.

There were some pub gigs, which we saw as paid rehearsals and we would blow their minds. No-one had seen anything like it before. We did Ronnie Scott's Upstairs a couple of times and the Penthouse Club occasionally. There was a recording ses­sion for BBC Radio 2 for Barry Class, and I have blurry recol­lections of a big gig that filled the Horticultural Hall in Vincent Square.

I'd bought a van at an auction for us. It was a two-and-a-half ton Comma and I suppose it helped to make up for the wrong kind of hair. Sometimes we'd swan off to some outlying venue with the van loaded to the gunwales with equipment and whoever we could squeeze in, and if we found we'd gone right over the heads of the locals we'd sometimes finish off with a blast of good ol’ Rock 'n Roll with an unexpected Caribbean flavour.

The one and only time in my whole musical career I 'got off’ in a truly rock and roll fashion was at a gig at a place that could have been called Sleepyville in the County of Nowhere. It was somewhere in the vicinity of Camarthen. Ralpho was in charge of drugs and we'd laid down a good vapour trail all along the M4. The last few miles of the inter­minable journey - we could only get a top speed of 45 miles an hour - was up a long, steep and extremely winding lane and several times I wondered whether the engine would blow or the weight of equipment would burst the rear shutter and all our equipment would tumble out back down the road. But somehow we made it.

When we found the venue it turned out to be a sleepy and isolated hotel and somehow I could­n't imagine many people finding their way there. We had been booked to appear on two nights so had arrived the day before we were to perform. The traditional welcome in the hillsides proved to be a great day chilling out in the relaxing atmosphere we found there.Then, at the appointed hour, from out of nowhere a few hundred revellers poured in to be entertained, impressed and slaughtered on everything they could force down their throats in the three or four hours allotted to the, obvi­ously much needed, break in cultural monotony.

I'd just popped to the loo at half time and bumped into something rather gorgeous on my way out. In accordance with some strange ener­gies at play in the cosmos that day within a cou­ple minutes she had swept me into my bedroom, which happened to be quite close to hand, and got stuck into it. "And where are you from then" she gulped in the most beautiful Welsh lilt dur­ing various exercises. "From London, you know" I replied suitably breathlessly. "Ah, yes. London. Good. You see, they just don't know what to do with it from around here you know. Aargh! Oooh, yes." You know the sort of thing.

Inevitably, time came for the second half per­formance, and I recall with pride and dignity to my profession that two of the band had to hammer on my door for some minutes to remind me that they really can't start without a bass player. Now if I'd played timbales things might have been different. It was the same the following night. Same lady, just couldn't shake her off all weekend. Life's never been quite the same since.

Our guitarist, was a beautiful player on a Fender Jaguar and knew everything about valve ampli­fiers. He went by the name of Don Gillies. Yes, a great player with much Scottish tradition within him. His greatest performances were at the bar. It was the first time I'd had a close relationship with a proper alcoholic. And curiously he lived in Kensington Palace where his missus was on the staff. I can still see him slithering out of the van and me unloading bits of kit in the middle of the night and not sight or sound of any secu­rity staff fussing around. But, hard to believe, things were like that in 1970.

The last member of our little troop was an ex-con from Fulham. On congas. Jim. Don't think I ever knew his other name as he rarely rehearsed with us, just turning up for gigs. He was a tough little no-nonsense rock and I always felt safe when he was around. "Fing is, Rollo... fing is if d'eres ever any trouble like... never let 'em know what's gonna hit em. Naa what I mean?... frxample. If that geezer had come on once more, I'd already sussed the fire extinguisher over there, an naa arguments or nuffin' it'd be right on his head before he got anuvver step." You see, I felt safe when surrounded by experts like this.

And he was a real expert. In the fifties he had a little 'firm' as it was called. And nothing suited them better than going out on a Saturday night in the Mk II Jaguar, like Morse used to drive. "You know, I used to look after that car like it was my own. Polish it an everyfink, I did." The Jag was chosen - or should I say nicked - not for the strength of its prestige or pulling power. More for it's pushing power. Or more correctly on the strength of its heavy-gauge, solid steel bumpers.

They back it up to an off-licence door, jamming a scaffolding pole between the bumper and the door and in a flash they're in. Two blankets sewn together along three edges form a gigantic bag. Two of them hold this out while a third runs along a shelf scooping all the bottles of spirits, in one sweep, directly into the outstretched bag. And then straight out and drive off. Some bottles broke, but not many. Total time two minutes. They'd probably do this three times in a night in quite different areas of London, and never got pulled in years. "Course, it was never the same once the fuzz got them radios. That's how I got done and I realised that was the end of the firm. Shame 'cos I really missed that car." My God, how he could hit those congas.

The leader of our enterprise, Hamilton King (aka Ken Jeffers) was a gentle giant. He'd arrived in Britain during the sixties and had made something of a name for himself as a singer (to die for), a Hammond player (move over Jimmy) an accomplished harmonica player (We'll let you know, Sonny) and, as a very tal­ented songwriter. Everything he did was tinged with sunshine or plunged in darkness. And all very pungent.

He has told me of a regular haunt in Notting Hill called The Witches Cauldron, where he got reputation for producing some very bluesy atmospheres for that time, though I've never found anyone else that's ever heard of the place. Ray Davies (Kinks) had worked with him for a while and walked away with some of his mate­rial. Hamilton claims 'You Really Got Me' came from his original idea, which makes sense because we did do one like it but with far more subtle feel and meaningful lyrics.

Rod Stewart hung out with him for a while, and Labbi Siffre worked with him for about a year, before decamping with some more of Hamilton's repertoire. I know he was very hurt by all this intellectual shoplifting. I can also recall he was a difficult man to work with at times. Now, whilst songs can be copyrighted, ideas can't. It's frustrating to see people exploiting your ideas without any recognition, either artistically or financially - I've experienced that myself in other business situations. But Hamilton's ideas were so original and enchanting it must have been heartbreaking. That is the blues. Maybe he should have been a better PR man, or better still - white.

My memories are of an intense warmth that underpinned everything we did together. I have nothing but admiration for him both artis­tically and personally. We lost contact at some point. He ran off, disillusioned with anything musical and the last I'd heard had concentrated on a new career as a night watchman somewhere around Paddington. I have tried to find him again on the internet. But keep coming up with blanks. And worse, the few recordings we did make got lost when I put my archive into storage where it was mistakenly, but I suppose inevitably, destroyed. Not that we really got anything down that was particularly memo­rable. What we did was a live thing - as most good music is.

One of the last songs we worked on together was with Eddie Grant in his base­ment studio on Fulham Palace Road. It was not completed due to lack of funds at the time, but remnants of it remain today in a song called 'Why' and I have since reconstructed much of it in a song called ‘Summer Is Gone’.

The most exciting thing we did was in meet­ing up with Tony Wilson, the original bass play­er with Hot Chocolate, and Mickie Most. The first time I met Mickie he was seated at a piano in some studio which I can't recall the name of, and I found him the most likeable person I've ever met in the music business. Natural, affable, no side to him at all. I think I'd met Tom Springfield before during my early song writing days and it was one of the characteristics of British life that a mutual acquaintance can break down all kinds of barriers so easily. Mickie worked with us on a session of our own stuff at Tangerine Studios, but after a number of frustrating hours we couldn't get a sound anyone was happy with either in the studio or over the monitors. It was a harsh, rock atmosphere designed more for the newer kinds of groups emerging that played at the kind of volume you get when all the amps are turned up to eleven.

We had to abandon it, but Mickie organised another session at the ATV studios, Marble Arch where it turned out much better. Although, the studio was rather bright, clean and antiseptic. And you can hear that in the music as it sounded like an afternoon session if you know what I mean; a 'tea and biscuits' sort of sound rather than the 'beer and pizza' sound we all came to prefer.

I usually find the best sessions come out of dark and musky atmospheric surroundings, and preferably in the middle of the night, when you can also get it at a cheaper rate. We did one session at Arthur Brown's studio down Islington way. It was painted black throughout with interesting blankets draped all around. That was cool and we got some of our more pleasing results there.

By mid 1972 we were all getting tired and broke and the guys in the band found better things to do, as indeed did I, for I seem to remember getting married at about that time. We'd all put our heart and soul into it for a cou­ple of years, and now we drifted apart. Nothing was specifically said, but nothing happened any more. Time for a change. Shuffle the pack.

But just before the croupier of destiny stretched his hand out over the table of fate, Tony Wilson offered us a song to record that he and Errol had written but was not suitable for Hot Chocolate. We recorded this and the flipside - one of Hamilton's tunes - at a very rushed four hour session on fairly primitive 4-track equipment at Regent Sounds in Denmark Street in October of 1972.1 remember I had to drive down for it from Derby where I was freelancing for a while as a graph­ic designer in an advertising agency. After the session we went over to Wembley where Errol Brown was finishing a vocal track, think it was 'I Believe (In Love)'. He was just doing a few punch-ins and we went up to the control room and listened a while as Mickie Most worked on the final mix.

Our single 'Caveman Billy' was released, or I should say, escaped in spring 1973 on the Pye label rather than RAK and after a few radio plays it slithered down the door of destiny with­out the slightest attempt to stick. It's the only thing I have in my archive left from that era. The balance is appalling. The flip side's got something. Probably just nostalgia... or is it neu­ralgia.

I remember popping in to see Mickie again about ten years later in his new Berkeley Square offices. Just as friendly and considerate as before, he asked me if I minded waiting a bit as he wanted to try out some expensive-looking leather motorcycle suits. So I hung out in his office carefully scrutinising all the recently acquired gold records plastered round the walls and he'd roar round the square a few times on a huge BMW bike, and come in muttering and ripping off one suit, donning another, pouring me a coffee and then off for another circuit, and I'd see him zooming past Satchi & Satchi, this time in cobalt blue rather than ice white.

When I'd finally got his attention I pulled out the 'Caveman Billy' single, "I think the time might right to have another look at this". He played it for about thirty seconds. "I think not" is all he said handing it back to me.

Since we'd last met he'd become the most successful pop producer in Britain, and he'd managed it rather well without me. With his usual courtesy he didn't let it show. Bless him. Or maybe he'd noticed I didn't have the right kind of hair again.



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