& STORIES part 1
knows why I answered the ad in the Southend Evening Echo but I
did. "Bassist Wanted" it said. My long sufferering father had
bought me a £10 Rosetti bass for my 13th birthday. Like a million
other teenagers every thursday evening I tuned in to Top of the Pops for
my weekly fix of T.Rex, Sweet and Slade. It was Steve
Took that started it, playing "Get it On" - Fender bass pointed
at a rakish angle skywards, fingers flashing over the basstrings, looking
every inch the cool rocker. I wanted to be him, I wanted a bass, and I
wanted to meet Pans People! Up until then I had wanted to be a pilot,
but dodgy eyesight and an innate inability to comprehend the purposes
of x=y+z did not auger well. But no longer..
A month later manager Ed Hollis (RIP) - still the biggest music fan I have ever met and the band's "5th member" - had got us our first London gig, at The Kensington, a pub in Earls Court run by an eccentric Irish landlord called Matt. I was paid £15 and thought I'd made it. The next week on my 17th birthday, August 1, we played there again. More people! I couldn't believe it. The day after, Newlands Tavern, Peckham, and the following week back to "The Kenno". Sparko and Brilleux from the Feelgoods turned up, along with even more people. We were given a residency there, and from then on there was no looking back...
Incredibly, within 3 short months, we were offered a 5 year contract by Island Records. A young A&R whizzkid by the name of Howard Thompson had become a familiar face at our gigs, and it was his enthusiasm and belief in us that drove the deal through. I think we were his first signing - he shared our love of the razzy rock'n'roll life and was right into the same bands and music as us. He was one of the few record company people to become a real friend of the band. I was just 17, and my Dad had to sign the contract on my behalf as I was a junior. He was immensly proud, as was my Mother, who in the 1950's had enjoyed a successful career as an opera singer. If they harboured doubts they kept them well hidden. We were getting rave reviews and gigs further afield - it was not unusual to drive to Bradford or even Scarborough, do the gig, then drive back thru' the night, returning to Canvey Island at 5 am just in time for Steve Nicol, the drummer, to go to his day job as a dustman! I didn't drive but could never sleep on those long journeys in our ex Post Office vans, the "Blue Max" or the "Red Baron"- too excited! Barry worked the pumps at a gas station, Dave was, well, Dave, and Ed and I both had short term dead end jobs in the Civil Service that we were all soon to give up. Drink driving? I guess it didn't seem to be an issue back then, and luckily (and unbelievably) we never once had an accident. In those days there were so many more gigs around, and we played them all. The London pub rock scene was thriving - we took it in turns to play the Red Cow in Hammersmith every week with a bunch of upstarts called AC/DC - now whatever happened to them? We were fast building a following and the buzz was staring to build. 1975 ended with us bizzarely supporting old hippies Gong at The Roundhouse Xmas Party, and on 23rd December we recorded our first tracks at Jacksons Studio, Rickmansworth. Not bad for 5 short months...
Fast forward a year and we'd recorded 2 singles - "Writing on the Wall" with Vic Maile ( he'd produced Hawkwind's "Space Ritual!") and "Wooly Bully" with Roxy Music sax player Andy Mckay. I'd bought records by these people and here they were working with us! Our debut album "Teenage Depression" was recorded and mixed over 4 days in October with Vic at the helm. We'd actually written to John Cale, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Keith Richards and Pete Townsend asking them to produce - only Pete replied saying he was too busy buying Rolls Royce's to appease his accountants ("the kids always have been alright, but don't let on" he wrote).
sold out The Marquee and recorded a live EP, aptly titled "Live
at The Marquee" with stage faves "Get out of Denver",
"96 Tears", "Gloria" and "Satisfaction".
It had reached the charts and, on September 7 1976 achieved something
that just a year previously we'd have thought impossible - we appeared
on Top of the Pops! We'd completed our first UK tour supporting
The Kursaal Flyers, ventured (and adventured!) abroad, and our following
and reputation was rapidly multiplying. (Story:At the Land of the Midnight
Sun festival in Oulu, Finland, Ed and I ended up in
jail. After a crazy gig with the Ian Gillan Band we arrived back
at the hotel with some rather attractive girls in tow. As we were only
a few miles from the Russian border the hotel staff took
exception to the possibility of decadent westerners corrupting their females
and refused to let us in. Attempting to gain entry with my flight case,
the plate glass doors suddenly smashed and the
next thing I know I was blinded. We'd been tear gassed - they actually
had police inside waiting to bust us! I swiped one over the head with
my gig bag and that was it - hands behind the back Starsky & Hutch
style and a quick kick in the goolies rendered me helpless and I was bundled,
protesting vociferously, into the back of a police car. I was thrown into
jail, and as my eyes started to clear who should I see but manager Ed.
A drunken, puking Finn in the corner made up our happy family. "Let
us out you bastards" we cried "you can't do this to us, we're
English!" At that moment Mr Gillans lawyer appeared. "I
advise you to shut up otherwise it may be a little difficult to extricate
you from this unfortunate incident" he said, so we did, and several
hours and much bribery later we were released, escorted straight to the
airport and banned from Finland for ever! But I digress...) We'd also
headlined the now infamous 1st European Punk Rock
in a bullring in the deepest southwest France and blimey, we'd even shared
a private plane to a Belgian TV show with Mud!!! By the tail end
of 1976 we'd completed our first major jaunt around the UK, the "Freeze
Out Tour". Aswad and Ultravox were the supports.
On December 5 we headlined the Roundhouse in London's Chalk Farm
and it was the lig, if not the gig of the year. The Hot Rods had
A precursor of things to come! At The Nashville, with Rat and Captain joining us onstage.
1977 was quite a year. The music scene had changed forever. Punk rock made it possible for any bunch of herberts to learn 3 chords and form a band. Often the same 3 chords! The Damned, The Clash (Joe Strummer had supported us at the Nashville the previous year with his r'n'b band the 101ers), The Stranglers were all contempories of ours and we'd frequently lig at each others gigs. We gave the Sex Pistols their first support slot at The Marquee and they repaid us by smashing our brand new monitor system. The press loved it - Rods v Pistols! screamed the headlines - but they were very apologetic about it. It was a year of non - stop touring, recording, TV shows and travelling. Graeme Douglas joined as lead guitarist. Ever since we'd parted company with Lew the previous year we felt there was something missing. Graeme had been in the Kursaal Flyers, he was from our home town, was a great guitarist and songwriter and liked to party!
He jammed with us at our first headliner at The Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park on February 13. It was brilliant, a true night of rock 'n'roll mayhem. Hundreds of seats were ripped up by crazy fans - it made the 6 o'clock news! We partied on after at the Hope and Anchor with a bunch of liggers who drank our drink and eat our food but wouldn't have known us from adam, carried on into the next day, and a week later he bravely joined the band! A live ep was released, "At the Sound of Speed", which just about said it all!
We were also getting popular abroad, France in particular. We made many friends there and in May headlined the Abbatoir in Paris where bands like the Stones played. In spite of all this we never seemed to have much money. French tours were conducted on a diet of cheese or ham rolls, hot chocolate, pernod, beer and. likely as not, dodgy amphetamines. We loved it and we lived it to the full, we'd read the stories of rock 'n' roll excess, and now we were part of it too. We were also acutely aware that it might all end tommorrow, which drove us to even more extremes both on and off stage. The whole thing was treated as a paid hobby and a continuous party, which in a way it was. We toured Germany supporting Chuck Berry, who never once spoke to his backing band, demanded an extra few thousand bucks in dollars just before showtime, spent large amounts of the gig slugging from a bottle of Jack Daniels behind the PA, played for exactly 59 minutes and promply buggered off. He was the first real disappointment to us. I ventured into his dressing room on the last date and asked him to sign the tour poster. "Fuck off limey" he said. Charming.
Anything You Wanna Do" was the summer hit. and you could
barely turn a radio on without it blasting out, but when Graeme first
played it to us I hated it, it was like some limp country and western
song. I tried to scupper its chances by playing the most banal c+w bassline
over it, but I was outmaneuvered. "Great!" said Lillywhite.
"Thats the one!" the others chorused. "Bugger that"
I thought, asked to do another take, and played the exact opposite, thinking,
that'll shut 'em up. It did, and its the take that ended up being used.
recorded a Dave Lee Travis session and next day flew to Mont-de-Marsen
with the Feelgoods for the 2nd punk rock festival in a private
plane. It was chock full of bevvy and god knows what else, and it didn't
take long before things got crazy. I have a vivid memory of huge moustachio'd
tour manager Fred Munt quite out of his tree, stark bollock naked and
covered in shaving foam, with bassist Sparko at the controls, spliff
in mouth and large scotch in hand. " Nothing to it dear boy!"
he said, as the plane started to dip alarmingly groundwards. Somehow we
made it, the festival was shambolic but a good excuse for two days of
partying with the other bands!
September 6th saw us up at the crack of dawn to record "Marc", Mr Bolans TV show for Granada in Manchester. Exept we didn't actually record anything. Also appearing were David Bowie (Herbie Flowers on bass) and Gen X. Marc spent so long jamming with Bowie that we ran out of time. "Sorry boys" said Marc, pinching my bum, "have to come back another day", and off he skipped. The train ride back to London was a glum affair until who should walk down the corridor but Mr Bowie. "Hey guys, sorry about that. Hungry? Ok, I'm just gonna have a pee and I'll be back". The flash sod had his own carriage at the back but obviously no bog! He returned with a couple of females in tow lugging hampers full of bottles of wine and salmon sandwiches, parked himself next to us and told us his life story. What a geezer! He's the only person I've ever asked for an autograph from (on a British Rail paper plate!). I still have it to this day. We returned a week later to record "Do Anything" but it was awful. Marc had been killed in a car crash 2 days earlier...
Zig Zag Magazine, May 1976
click links below for more stories...
the origional Hotrods sticker circa 1975 by Lew Lewis
Live at Newlands Tavern, peckham, 1975
Moi in '76 looking unfeasably healthy
Marquee soundcheck, 1976
Onstage at The Torrington, Finchley, 1976
Melody Maker ads, 1976
Promo shot, 1976
Punk Rock festival flyer.
Five nights at the Marquee
The Rainbow Theatre flyer, 1977
'n' Steve livin' the life..!
Diary extracts, US Tour, 1977