21.8.17

DAVID BOWIE: I WAS THERE by Neil Cossar



In June I reviewed on Just Backdated a book called The Who: I Was There, suggesting that it was a tribute to the group that their fans would contribute to a book of this kind and that only The Who inspired such affection from their followers. I was wrong, of course; so did David Bowie as this enjoyable book in the same series by a different author shows. (I contribute the introduction to this book, a slightly amended version of the text I wrote for a songbook that was published by Music Sales shortly after Bowie’s death in 2016, and which you can find elsewhere on this blog.)
This book follows the same format: a chronology of selected concert dates that were attended by fans and, in some cases, associates of Bowie, who offer their reminiscences of the shows, plus additional sightings of Bowie that merit attention. After a few recollections from teenage friends, among them David’s girlfriend Dana Gillespie (who at 14 looks more voluptuous than many women twice her age), we begin with The Konrads in June 1963 and work our way through to May 2006 when David appeared as a guest vocalist at a David Gilmour concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall. As with the book on The Who, it is the stories from the devoted fans that animate its pages, all of them detailed and affectionate, and in many cases simply offering grateful thanks towards a performer whose brilliance on stage is remembered decades after the event. Some even stray into how seeing and hearing the music of David Bowie had a profound effect on their personal relationships. 
Between August 1972 and March 1976 I saw Bowie on six occasions – twice in the UK, thrice in the US and once in Canada – and four of these shows are in the book. Among them is the celebrated July 3, 1973, concert at Hammersmith Odeon when David announced the cessation of The Spiders in terms that could be misinterpreted as if this was his last concert ever and not the last concert by the Mick Ronson-led band that backed him throughout the Ziggy era. An element of mystery has attached itself to this episode ever since, specifically with reference to who knew and who did not know what Bowie was planning. Soundman Robin Mayhew, interviewed for this book, has the last word: “Mick Ronson and [crew member] Peter Hunsley were the only ones who knew it was going to happen. Peter told me that David was going to ‘break up the band’ over the intercom just before the last show began.” Just like the lyric then, except that manager Tony Defries was probably in on it too. 
It is surprising that Neil Cossar couldn’t find a witness to the show at the O’Keefe Centre, Toronto, on June 16, 1974, the third concert in that year’s bold, theatrical and hugely influential Diamond Dogs tour. I was among a party of music writers flown from New York to Canada to report on this and I can still recall my amazement at witnessing a show that paid no lip service whatsoever to traditional rock concert presentation. (I can also remember booking a 4 am wake-up call in my hotel room so as to dictate my quite lengthy report on the show down the phone line to the editor’s secretary at Melody Maker, it being a Monday – press day – and Toronto being six hours behind London.) Still, there is a report on a similar concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden on July 19, which I also attended, but the futuristic staging and props were best seen in a smallish theatre and didn’t really work in a 20,000-seat arena. Not long after this they were abandoned, largely due to the expense of carting them around, and the tour metamorphosed into what came to be known as Bowie’s ‘soul tour’.
Another show missing from the book is the one I saw on March 1, 1976, at the Cobo Hall in Detroit, now immortalised as the first ever rock concert that Madonna, then aged 17, attended. “It was a major event in my life,” she said later. “I was wearing my highest platform shoes and a long black silk cape… I don’t think I breathed for two hours. I came away a changed woman.” Regrettably, a similar quote from Madonna is attributed to a concert at the same venue in April 1978, the only mistake I spotted in an otherwise error-free book (unless, of course, Madonna attended both shows, which is unlikely since she moved to New York in 1977). 
That show was on the Isolar tour, with its dramatic black and white lighting and a besuited Bowie coolly puffing on Gitanes throughout. The ice-blue of the cigarette packet in the pocket of his black waistcoat was the only colour on stage. Though not as visually memorable as the Diamond Dogs show I saw in 1974, from a musical standpoint it was the most enjoyable Bowie concert I ever saw, the Station To Station material translating wonderfully to the stage, along with the same show on March 26 at Madison Square Garden, which is covered in the book.
From then on David Bowie just got bigger and bigger, and all the subsequent tours are covered religiously: Serious Moonlight, Glass Spider, Tin Machine, Sound + Vision, Outside, Hours, Heathen and Reality, which takes me up to the last time I saw Bowie, again at Hammersmith (now the Apollo) in October 2002. Bowie certainly worked hard, as this book testifies, and due attention is also paid to one-off events such as his four-song set at 1985’s Live Aid – still Bowie’s greatest ever big show concert appearance in my book – the Freddie Mercury Memorial Concert in 1992, and his Sunday night headlining appearance at Glastonbury in 2000. Missing, however, is the Concert For New York City at Madison Square Garden in 2001 when Bowie opened the show by sitting cross-legged and singing Paul Simon’s ‘America’, minimally accompanying himself on an Omnichord, a tiny portable keyboard. This prefaced a reading of ‘Heroes’ that, because he was singing for the firemen of 9/11, just about matched the emotional punch of Live Aid. Either way, Bowie – a consummate professional as well as pioneering visionary – always rose to the occasion when part of a multi-artist bill at era-defining events. 
The final Bowie concert covered in the book, as opposed to the David Gilmour show mentioned above, is at Prague on June 23, 2004, from which David Mackuu reports, sadly, that after 15 minutes he left the stage. “Shortly afterwards David came back on and tried to sing ‘Life On Mars’, but then suddenly apologised for being in pain and that was the end of everything.”
It wasn’t quite the end of everything. After a concert at Scheeßel in Germany the following day (not covered here) he was taken to hospital for emergency treatment. He would live on for 10-and-a-half more years and make a handful of guest appearances but his career as a live performer was effectively over from that night. From that point on David Bowie went into virtual hiding, so the book closes with a few random sightings and, appropriately, a series of heartfelt tributes from fellow performers and musical associates.

15.8.17

CAUGHT IN A TRAP: The Kidnapping of ELVIS – Extract 3





This is the third and final extract from my novel CAUGHT IN A TRAP: The Kidnapping Of ELVIS, which is published tomorrow, August 16, the 40th anniversary of Elvis' death.

The Stockholm Syndrome has set in. Elvis Presley has bonded with his kidnappers. A ransom note has been delivered to Graceland. At the cabin in the Kentucky Hills where he is held captive, Elvis and his three captors – Delmore Pandel, his wife Sandra and their friend Roy Kruger – have time to kill. It is time for an experiment.


Before they slept they checked on Elvis in the locked bedroom. He was sleeping soundly. The following day, after breakfast, all four of them, Elvis, Del, Sandra and Roy, squeezed into the truck and drove into the Daniel Boone National Park, stopping at a gas station on the outskirts of Montecello to buy food for a picnic lunch. Elvis was in a buoyant mood and had to be persuaded to stay in the truck with Roy while Del and Sandra went inside to pick up the provisions, and when they returned he pleaded with them to be able to step outside.
        “I just want to be able to be normal in the midst of ordinary people,” he said. “That’s something I never had, not since I was famous anyway. Let me use the bathroom. I won’t try anything.”
        Del and Roy looked at one another. “Should we let him?” asked Del.
        “Yes,” said Sandra. “I trust him.”
        “OK, but you gotta wear this hat,” said Roy, handing Elvis a floppy hat in green camouflage material that he wore while out shooting. Elvis reluctantly placed it on his head. 
        Elvis Presley’s public appearances were almost always pre-planned, tightly choreographed and reported in the press, no matter how brief. On such occasions Elvis made sure he looked the part, dressing up in his capes, buckles and belts, the way he and his fans thought he ought to look. He usually wore outsize sunglasses. Elvis would no sooner slip out of the house in everyday clothes to pick up a quart of milk than the Queen of England would be seen in her nightdress.
During pre-production meetings in Los Angeles for the Singer special in May of 1968 its producer Steve Binder had suggested he and Elvis step out of his office on Sunset Boulevard and mingle with passers-by. Elvis was appalled by the suggestion, fearing that he would be mobbed on the street and some sort of disturbance ensue. He was therefore deeply humbled when no one recognised him. “We were just four guys standing in front of this building,” said Bones Howe, Binder’s audio engineer said afterwards.
It was quite another thing, however, for Elvis to use the bathroom in a roadside gas station without a security detail checking out the building first, making sure no one else was inside and waiting outside while he relieved himself. However, Elvis had been a captive now for five nights and, although he’d been given a change of clothing – the overalls and t-shirt he loathed so much – he hadn’t had a shave in all that time, nor been able to wash properly and re-dye his hair as was his custom. As a result Elvis’ natural brown colour was just starting to show at the roots and, as each day passed, his stubble had continued to grow but it wasn’t black like the dyed hair on his head, more salt and peppery. The camouflage hat only added to the obvious reality that he no longer resembled anything like the Elvis Presley that the world would recognise.
“OK,” said Roy. “But I’m coming with you.”
Elvis stepped down from the truck and walked across the forecourt to the bathroom. The only other customer, a young man dressed in a check shirt and similar overalls to those Elvis wore, was filling up a station wagon, and as they approached the bathroom a middle-aged woman pulled up in a sedan, got out and walked towards the shop. Neither gave Elvis and Roy a second glance. 
Inside the bathroom was another man, splashing water on his face at the basin. He turned and stepped aside as Elvis passed close by him, glancing at Elvis but showing no signs of recognition. When they had finished Elvis and Roy walked back to the truck, passing close to the woman from the sedan who was lingering by a newspaper stand close to the entrance to the shop. She ignored them.
Back in the truck Elvis appeared overjoyed. “You have no idea what that felt like for me,” he said. “That’s the first time in 20 years I’ve been able to walk around outside in public and not be recognised. Now I know what it’s like not to be Elvis Presley.”
Emboldened by the success of their experiment at the gas station, the quartet drove on into the National Park, eventually stopping at a picnic area and eating lunch. Although the area was far from crowded, a handful of other groups of picnickers settled nearby, among them a family of four: father, mother and two boys below the age of 10. After their meal the boys began to throw a football to one another and when one boy failed to catch the ball it rolled to where the group was sat. Elvis glanced at the others. Roy nodded. Elvis picked up the ball, stood up and threw it back to the boy. 
“Thanks mister,” he shouted from about 10 yards away. The father of the boys waved in acknowledgement and Elvis waved back. He smiled and sat down. The King of Rock’n’Roll was beginning to enjoy normality.
In the afternoon the four of them continued their drive through the National Park, stopping now and then and getting out of the truck to admire the scenery. At one particular spot they mingled with a coach party. Elvis again went unrecognised. Driving back to the cabin in the early evening they passed a roadside diner and Elvis suggested they stop to eat. “I can’t remember what it was like to go into a restaurant and be served, just like a normal person, no one making a fuss,” he said. 
There were only three other vehicles parked outside, and it was safe to assume one of them belonged to the staff. Roy parked the truck and sent Sandra inside to check on how crowded it was.
“There’s only two tables occupied,” she reported back. “A young couple on one and an old guy on the other.”
“OK,” said Del. “I’m sick of eating in the cabin anyway.”
“Me, too,” said Elvis. “But that’s not to say I don’t like your cooking Miss Sandra,” he added hurriedly.
Sandra smiled at Elvis, and Elvis grinned back. It seemed like any natural exchange between old friends. 
“You sit facing the wall Elvis,” said Roy. “If anything happens we’re out of here quick.”
The four of them ate burgers and fries washed down with coke. No one paid them the slightest notice. Elvis said little throughout the meal, relishing his anonymity. It never even occurred to him to go up to the counter and identify himself, not that the waitress would have recognised him anyway. As they walked back to the truck he asked, “Do y’all trust me now?”
“I guess so,” said Roy. “But I still had this with me, just in case.” He opened his jacket to reveal the .38 stuffed into his belt. 
Elvis winced. “You didn’t need that,” he said. “I gave you my word.” 
Sandra thought she detected a touch of hurt in his voice. “I believe you,” she said.  
Back at the cabin Elvis joined Roy, Del and Sandra on the porch before they turned in for the night. Roy and Del were drinking beer, Elvis and Sandra coke. “Did you guys serve in the army?” Elvis asked them.
Roy and Del nodded.
“Vietnam?”
“Yea,” said Roy. “But we don’t talk about it.”
“They don’t like to,” said Sandra. “Even I can’t get them to tell me anything about what they did there.”
“Why not?” asked Elvis.
“The way the Americans treated the Vietcong,” said Del. “It wasn’t good.”
They lapsed into silence. Then Roy spoke. “I’ll tell y’all one story. We took a prisoner once, me and Del. A stray Vietcong man we found in the jungle. We ought to have killed him but we didn’t. We couldn’t. Not in cold blood. He wasn’t a soldier, just a simple man, a farmer maybe. So we tied him up and took him with us, back to where we thought our camp was located. But we got lost in the jungle, didn’t know where we were, lost our sense of direction. It was night, there were no lights, nothing, just a torch that I had.”
Elvis nodded. “So what happened?”
“The Vietcong guy sensed that we were lost and he showed us the way,” said Del, picking up the story. “He couldn’t speak no English and we couldn’t understand him but he led us out of the jungle even though he was our prisoner. And when we got near the camp he pleaded with us to let him go because he knew that if we took him into the camp he’d be shot.”
“Did you let him go?” asked Elvis.
“Yea,” said Del. “He’d saved us. We thought maybe he had a wife and kids. He could have led us back to where his people were, and we’d have been captured or killed.”
“He ran off back into the jungle as fast his legs could carry him,” said Roy. “The thing is… we trusted him and he trusted us. We repaid his trust.”
“Just like today,” said Elvis. “You trusted me, and I repaid it. I can’t lead a normal life, and never will, even after you let me go. But you showed me what it was like. Millions of men dream of being Elvis Presley, and I dream sometimes of being one of those millions. Today a little piece of that dream came true for me. Because of the same trust you shared with that Vietcong guy in the jungle.”


13.8.17

BYRDS: Requiem For The Timeless, Volume 2 by Johnny Rogan




Until Mark Lewisohn began his detailed investigations into The Beatles, no music writer had devoted more time, words or commitment to chronicling the history of a group than Johnny Rogan with the Byrds. For Johnny, like Mark, it is an ongoing life work, not a project that is over once the book is published but, instead, a kind of mission – I hesitate to call it an obsession – to set down all the facts in all their wondrous detail as they continue to evolve. No surprise then that Johnny has followed up 2011’s Requiem… Vol 1 (1,200 pages), which concentrated on the group, with Vol 2 (1,248 pages), which tells the individual stories of the six Byrds who have left us: original members Gene Clark and Michael Clarke, together with Kevin Kelley, Gram Parsons, Clarence White and Skip Battin. Rogan has written individual chapters, two of them book-length, about all six that could be construed as separate biographies in themselves, yet has chosen to publish them all within the same volume.
A bit of history: Johnny Rogan and I first became acquainted in 1982 as a result our association with a publisher called Proteus Books, and neither of us today looks back fondly on this alliance. Johnny had written a book for them on Neil Young and I had written one on Pete Townshend. Both of us were invited to their Christmas party which was held that year in a function room on Sale Place in Bayswater, and we somehow ended up talking to one another while drinking as much free booze as we were able to stomach. Both of us had come to the unspoken conclusion that Proteus was not a company whose ethics were whiter than white, and that taking as much advantage of their hospitality as humanly possible was a prudent course of action. Not long afterwards we sat next to one another at a bankruptcy hearing for Proteus Books held in the ballroom of a hotel on The Aldwych at which the Irish rock photographer Finn Costello raised a huge cheer when he reproached the company’s MD in spectacularly colourful language. Johnny and I were amongst those who cheered the loudest and we’ve been friends ever since.



But back to the Byrds. The first edition of Johnny’s Byrds saga, then titled Timeless Flight, was published in 1981 by Scorpion/Dark Star and the second, which I still have, in 1990 by Square One Books. Johnny inscribed this one to me: “No 3 in the charts this week. Beaten out by Omnibus. Fix!” which sounds a bit like a Donald Trump tweet. Neither of these editions boasted the heft of the third edition, Timeless Flight Revisited: The Sequel, which came out in 1997 and, at 720 pages, drew a line in the sand as far as extent was concerned in terms of rock biography. Requiem… Vols 1 and 2 together, of course, make even that look like a mere pamphlet.
In the first volume of Requiem Johnny explained his incentive by recalling how he first heard The Byrds’ ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ in June, 1965: “McGuinn’s strange vocal inflexions, that distinctive Rickenbacker and the sumptuous harmonies all contributed to a record that sounded unlike anything I had ever heard before… Several radio plays later I was completely entranced.” Johnny longed to get his hands on a Byrds album but family finances were tight in those far off days and to avoid parental ire at squandering hard-earned pocket money on something as superfluous to their daily existence as an LP, he bought record tokens which he mailed to himself with a faked note congratulating him on winning a competition sponsored by Radio Luxenbourg. “That’s how I came to purchase the first albums I ever owned,” he writes. “[The Byrds’] Mr Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!



And now here we are 52 years and five books later, and that’s just on the Byrds. Rogan, of course, has also written 19 other books, eight of which I published while running the editorial department at Omnibus Press. One of them was Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, the first significant book on The Smiths which, by rock book standards, became an international best seller. Morrissey disapproved of course, though its title – which implied that the Smiths’ singer and guitarist were the key members of the group – was cited as evidence on Morrissey's behalf in the court case brought by drummer Mike Joyce over what he claimed was an unjust distribution of royalties. 
But back to the Byrds. Because of the way it is structured, there’s no need to begin Requiem… Vol 2 at the beginning, so I didn’t, skipping around at my leisure and relishing Rogan’s absurd attention to detail. In all six cases Rogan has unearthed hitherto unreported facts and stories, most notably on Kevin Kelley, about whom nothing has been published prior to now, and also on the better known Gram Parsons and Clarence White. Nevertheless, whichever way you turn, it’s a rather bleak read, quite the opposite of a fairy tale. Four of the six – Clark, Clarke, Kelley and Parsons – pretty much drank and/or drugged themselves to death, the upshot of the rock’n’roll lifestyle (though in Parsons’ case it ran in the family), while White was tragically killed in a road accident and Battin was a victim of Alzheimer’s. Then there’s the temptations of the flesh that occur around all successful rock bands, and Rogan is especially good at tracing, and telling the stories of the women involved, thus adding a tasty spoonful of human interest that is all too often lacking in rock biographies. Naturally, such overindulgence in just about everything available to them had an injurious effect on their relationships with one another and on those close to the first four, especially their wives, girlfriends and offspring, with the result that recriminations and bitterness persisted for years, legacies were fought over and absolutely no one felt a whole lot better when they were gone. 
At almost 400 pages*, Gene Clark gets far and away the weightiest treatment, and rightly so in view of the fact that he was the first to leave the mothership; the great underachiever whose wonderful album No Other remains a cult favourite for connoisseurs everywhere and to whom an air of otherworldly remoteness clings to this day. No one better deserves the honorary tribute ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. Clark’s tale is perhaps the saddest of the lot, though it’s run a close second by his almost namesake Michael Clarke (135 pages) whose post-Byrds career never really amounted to much and who, like some of the others, later became involved in bogus editions of the group that angered his former colleagues. 
Second in order of coverage, perhaps inevitably, comes Gram Parsons (208 pages) whose riches-to-rags, well not quite, life story has already inspired two substantial biographies and whose adventures with The Flying Burrito Brothers, not to mention The Rolling Stones and Emmylou Harris, make him the ex-Byrd with the highest profile. Born into a fortune founded on orange juice, Parsons was a precociously talented songwriter as well as a gilded prince, arguably the originator of Americana, yet somehow doomed as the Byrd who flew too close to the sun, though if you believe Chris Hillman Parsons was never a Byrd at all. I’m inclined to think that this is sour grapes from the only other Byrd with a rightful claim to being a pioneer of country rock, and who still rankles at the posthumous acclaim that clings to Parsons. Either way, after several pages devoted to legal wrangling over Parsons’ song copyrights, Rogan concludes the chapter by rightly asserting that, “Only David Crosby and Gram Parsons have arguably transcended the group legacy by daring to create, or having thrust upon them, an equally enduring myth based on their own image.”
White (122 pages), Battin (96) and Kelley (82) are less well known but still interesting case studies, and like the first three covered in the kind of detail you would expect from Rogan. It is instructive to be reminded that White appeared on eight Byrds albums and was a full time member of the group for longer than all the originals barring McGuinn. Without doubt the finest instrumentalist to have flown as a Byrd – in the same class as James Burton and our own Albert Lee in my opinion – he was modest, unassuming and, by Byrds standards, relatively abstemious. One night at the Whisky in Los Angeles a flamboyantly dressed well-wisher told him: “I just want to tell you how much I love your guitar playing.” As Rogan relates, “White accepted the praise with characteristic good grace and later enquired of his fellow Byrds, ‘Hey, who was that guy who came in to talk to me?’ ‘That was Jimi Hendrix,’ they told him.”
Bass player Skip Battin, the oldest Byrd by some distance, is a relatively minor figure, another who became involved in later, ersatz, editions of several bands with whom he was associated, including the Byrds. Kevin Kelley, a cousin of Chris Hillman, was enlisted as drummer in 1967, lasted less than a year and worked as a session player between failed attempts to launch an independent career. Rather like the surviving John York, Kelley is a forgotten Byrd who, for much of his post-Byrd life, delivered flowers for a living. 


Left to right: Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Kevin Kelley,
Gram Parsons, Clarence White and Skip Battin

In the chapter devoted to Kelley, Rogan writes despairingly: “The Eighties was a decade of reckoning for every one of the surviving Byrds. All were forced to readjust their lives and find meaning in a world that no longer considered them gods or even fallen princes. Some sought salvation in the Lord, others in the bottle or the free-base pipe. Few seemed destined ever to record for a major label again. It was a time when the phrase ‘the good old days’ was no mere cliché but a brutal reality.”
The reality of a post-fame life for those who fell from grace, those who once sat alongside The Beatles in the pop charts, who were once screamed at on stages from London to Los Angeles, and who might once have appeared on the front pages of the music press, is an overriding theme of Johnny Rogan’s biographies of the Byrds, and no more so than in this latest book. Only a relatively small number of the great rock performers from the past find themselves living in the lap of luxury several decades on from their glory years; the remainder, the vast majority, scratch a living from a past that is recycled like the endless sub-par sequels to hit movies. Johnny Rogan’s telling of the Byrds’ story is therefore a salutary lesson that the joys of being ‘toppermost of the poppermost’ are more often than not short-lived. Nevertheless, the surviving Byrds and those who left us are fortunate to have attracted such a conscientious biographer, and those of us who love reading about the world of rock in all its ungainly, bloody and often mind-blowing detail are fortunate to have him too. For those who relish such authenticity, Rogan’s the man


* This includes copious credits, references and notes, over 60 pages following the Gene Clark chapter alone, and there are similar notes, relative in length to the chapters themselves, after the rest. The discography (of solo recordings by all the members of the Byrds, not just the six covered in this book) occupies a further 171 pages at the end of the book.

23.7.17

CAN'T STAND UP FOR FALLING DOWN: Rock’Roll War Stories by Allan Jones



The Age Of Deference had yet to lapse when I joined Melody Maker in 1970. Four years later, when Allan Jones joined the paper, that era was withering on the vine, rendered obsolete by the New Musical Express writers Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray. MM, its circulation in decline and about to be surpassed by NME, needed to counter attack and Jones gamely volunteered to go into battle or, as he put it in a letter to editor Ray Coleman, be the gun whose trigger needed to be pulled. Much to his surprise, considering his lack of experience in our trade, Coleman gave him a job.
Aged 21, highly opinionated and disinclined towards MM’s staple diet of sound musicianship coupled with reverence towards those who displayed it, Jones was a square peg in a round hole when he arrived, viewed with deep suspicion by his immediate superiors, features editor Chris Welch and assistant editor Michael Watts, then and now both close friends of mine. But Watts, though a tad imperious in his dealings with junior staff, knew a good thing when he saw it and recognised in Jones a rebellious spirit that might just counter NME’s offensive. Watts and Coleman were right and in time Jones would rise above us all*, becoming MM’s editor in 1984, a position he held until 1997 when he became the founding editor of Uncut. None of these career advancements, however, would alter his innate lack of respect for the high and mighty of the rock world, and while at Uncut he wrote a shoot-from-the-hip monthly column called Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before which, in revised form, is the basis of this book.
That Jones survived his 40-year stretch on the front line of UK rock journalism is something of a miracle; not just the fierce and sometimes violent reprisals of those he mocked but the colossal intake of drugs and alcohol that was necessary to numb him against the slings and arrows launched by stars like Tony Iommi, Roger Waters and Lou Reed. It was also, of course, an era when the largesse – booze, slap-up meals, travel, freebies galore – doled out by record companies reached herculean proportions, as I know from first-hand experience. Either way, we are fortunate that Jones did survive, living to tell the tales between these pages, his recollections of more than 70 encounters with rock musicians from his MM years, each one four or five pages long which makes it an ideal book for dipping into. The vast majority of these encounters, of course, did not pan out in the way that the artists or the music industry machine intended, many of them ending in confrontations of some sort, hence the subtitle Rock’n’Roll War Stories.

Allan with Lou Reed in Philadelphia in 1978
(Pic by Waring Abbott)

First and foremost, it’s bloody hilarious. I was laughing out loud as I turned the pages, skipping through stories about Alex Harvey’s threat to knife The Doobie Brothers, Bryan Ferry’s pretentious gaucho outfit, Patti Smith’s disrupted press conference and Gregg Allman and Cher’s marital discord. Jones had a knack for getting into scrapes, for finding himself in situations that required delicate handling which he was unable to execute because he was undiplomatic by nature and almost always far too intoxicated. Like Keith Moon, he didn’t seem to know the meaning of the word embarrassment. (There are no Who stories, by the way.) But getting in and out of tight spots is only half the fun: he’s a great comic writer, perhaps the funniest of us all, a dab hand at a droll turn of phrase: Van Morrison, for example, looks at Jones “like I’ve just sold his children into slavery”, Lemmy “looks like someone who hasn’t slept since the earth cooled”, while in Lake Tahoe on an assignment to interview Olivia Newton-John, hardly his specialist subject, Jones finds himself in a hotel suite “as big as a housing estate” where he orders a Neptune salad, “and end(s) up with Kew Gardens on a plate the size of an ice-rink”.
Back in the real world, Jones was drawn towards pub rock and its aftermath, punk, but always seemed at his happiest in the post-Pistols new wave that created artists like those signed to his beloved Stiff Records, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, and groups like The Pretenders, XTC and Squeeze. An early introduction at art school in Newport to Joe Strummer, then John Mellor but known to one and all as Woody, grants him an entrée into all matters Clash, about whom Jones writes with great authority. His girlfriend at the time gave Joe his first rockabilly haircut but this and encounters with The 101’ers fail to impress Bernie Rhodes, their manager, who insists, Trump-like, that anything pre-Clash is fake news. Rhodes is just one of many rather unpleasant characters from the rock world, not necessarily musicians, that suffer at the hand of Jones’ penmanship.  
In many ways Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down has a touch of the Hunter S. Thompson about it. Like Thompson, Jones tells it how it is and not how the PRs would prefer it to be told. The rock stars and other characters that people his stories, however, are individuals, not creations of a marketing meeting, and all, bar perhaps Tony Iommi, are the better for it. It’s long been my contention that most rock stars would look better in print if they ditched the spin and came across as they really are and not how some PR thinks is best for their public image. In Jones’ book all their faults and flaws, their egos and angst, their failures and sometimes their triumphs, are exposed for all to see – and most of the time it does them no disservice at all, meaning we laugh with them and not at them. There’s a lesson here, as well as a damn good read.


* At the time I was MM’s US Editor, stationed in New York, and although I came back to London from time to time Allan and I never worked together in the same office.

18.7.17

PINK FLOYD – THEIR MORTAL REMAINS



At the start of the V&A’s Pink Floyd exhibition there is a photograph of the first ever van that transported the four-man group and their equipment from gig to gig. It’s a fairly ordinary black Bedford van that Syd Barrett chose to decorate with a white stripe. It cost them £20 and Nick Mason, seen in the picture unloading his own drums, describes it as ‘unreliable’.
With this in mind you can be forgiven a sharp intake of breath when, towards the end of the exhibition, in a room dedicated to the Division Bell tour of 1994, we are informed that for this undertaking the now three-man Floyd required one Antonov military freight plane, two Boeing 747 cargo planes, eight tour buses, 18 production trucks and 53 additional articulated lorries. Such was the scale of this final Pink Floyd tour that three separate but identical stages were required. While one was in use another was being set up and the third taken down, all three leapfrogging one another along the way because of the time required to construct and dismantle them.
I suppose this is as good a way as any of measuring the extraordinary career progress of this most inscrutable of groups, a bit of a national treasure in many ways, whose shows became increasingly gargantuan in scale while its individual members chose to disappear into relative obscurity, at least while Roger Waters was at the helm. With all manner of distractions going on around them, Pink Floyd sang about alienation, British reserve, space travel, the futility of war, madness and death, the combination of which set them apart from their peers yet earned them a devoted following worldwide. The session singer Clare Torry certainly sounded as if she was in mid-orgasm during ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ on Dark Side Of The Moon, but – unlike every other artist you care to name – courtly romance was absent from the music of Pink Floyd.
Neither did they dress up. Jeans and t-shirts, usually black, was their preferred kit, nothing remotely ostentatious that might distract from the music, films and props, and this was another distinctive Floydian trait. The David Bowie Is and Revolution 1966-1970 exhibitions at the V&A were chock full of clothes, the Ziggy outfits and more for DB, the Sgt Pepper Beatle uniforms and Roger Daltrey’s fringed Tommy coat in the latter. But as far as Pink Floyd are concerned, they might just as well have performed naked on stage for all that this exhibition reveals. In many ways, however, this was part of their charm. As John Peel is famously quoted early on in the exhibition, “They could have joined the audience at one of their own gigs without being recognised.”
So unlike those other exhibitions we get no stage clothes on showroom dummies. Instead we get Fender guitars, enough to stock a high end music shop, and amps, and gadgets, stage props galore, some of them gigantic, posters and flyers, photos, some handwritten lyrics and lots of that magically surreal Hipgnosis artwork, most notably the famous refracting prism from the cover of Dark Side, the burning man of Wish You Were Here and the flying pig that slipped its moorings and caused such a fuss in the skies above Battersea Power Station.
It’s a shame, then, that my old pal Storm Thorgerson is no longer around to admire so much of his handiwork. Knowing Storm as I did, however, I have no doubt that had he not left us in 2013 he would have demanded a key role in staging this show, and in the process made life hell for everyone involved. I published his books at Omnibus Press and as a result happen to know that this exhibition ought to have been staged a good deal sooner than now. Countless delays occurred because Waters and David Gilmour don’t often see eye to eye and to get them to agree on anything is as vexed an issue as sorting out the endless squabbles in the Middle East.
No matter. An accord was reached and the exhibition subtly avoids any mention of the internal struggles that rent the Floyd apart after The Final Cut in 1983. Waters was livid when after a four-year hiatus the other three opted to continue without him, not least because the fans didn’t seem to miss him either, so he would have had to swallow a bit of pride to accede to this exhibition’s latter rooms, when Gilmour led a Pink Floyd with Mason on drums and Richard Wright on keyboards, augmented by session musicians.
Quite rightly, due space is given to the group’s founding mastermind Syd Barrett whose blue Telecaster with small round mirrors attached can be seen in a display dedicated to this most famous of acid rock casualties. This early tableaux serves to remind visitors of the time when Pink Floyd was a pop group just like any other, appearing on Top Of The Pops and having their photographs taken kicking their legs in the air dressed in Carnaby Street finery; floral shirts, stripy trousers and Edwardian jackets long ago consigned to the trash.
Once Syd was out of the picture the group’s main pre-occupation was to distance themselves from all that, simultaneously drawing attention away from themselves as people or, heaven forbid, personalities. This served to establish Pink Floyd as a brand, as distinctive as it was enigmatic, recognisable only by their props, the weird artwork and Gilmour’s sustained guitar lines. This modus operandi reached its logical conclusion during The Wall concerts in 1980 and ’81 when four lookalikes briefly took Floyd’s place on stage, a neat sleight of hand represented in the exhibition by the four face masks worn by the imposters. ‘We are not really here,’ was the prevailing message from a group whose members quite literally turned their backs to the camera.
Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols famously wore a Pink Floyd t-shirt on which he had scrawled ‘I hate’ before the band’s name, a dig at the group’s perceived pretentiousness, and this too makes an appearance, though it is made clear that Lydon, as he became, later admitted to liking Pink Floyd after all.
So did I and millions of others, and I was pleased that the final room showed footage from the last (and, subsequent to 1981, only) occasion when Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright performed together, the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in the summer of 2005. Somehow that day the hatchets were buried and Pink Floyd’s final performance was as emotional as it was out of character for them. As I wrote at the time: “Bereft of their usual crowd-pleasing props and light show, Floyd’s music, clearly well-rehearsed, seemed to take on an added warmth as the night drew in. The moving sight of this much-loved British band together again for the first time in 24 years was made all the more poignant when Waters dedicated ‘Wish You Were Here’ to Syd Barrett, their founding genius.”
In that final room they perform ‘Comfortably Numb’ behind a brick wall that falls away, and at the close, hesitantly, they put their arms around each other in an uncharacteristic display of brotherly affection. Perhaps behind their moody music and magnificent stage props Pink Floyd had a soft centre after all.





16.7.17

ROLLERCOASTER – Surrey’s Top Wedding Band




A couple of Saturdays ago I gate-crashed a wedding. Well, perhaps gate-crashed is too strong a word. Like Miss Pamela, I was With The Band, and I took my assigned role of 'front of house mixing engineer' seriously, standing at the back with a contemplative look on my face as if gauging the quality of the sound mix, then making a gesture that was intended to convey that the drummer’s vocal mike was too low or the violin was inaudible. It was fun, especially as fulfilling this task enabled me to observe Rollercoaster, Surrey’s finest ‘function’ band, at work, and then write about them on my blog. 
Time for a disclaimer. As a general rule Just Backdated concerns itself with the music and careers of artists that headline Glastonbury, Wembley or the O2. However, just to ring the changes, I am stepping out of that rarefied zone and into a different – but not necessarily inferior – one, and all because one member of Rollercoaster, the guitarist, happens to be a friend of mine. It’s also an interesting story.
Imagine, if you will, that one of our most popular and successful groups, anyone from The Who to Coldplay via The Smiths, fell by the wayside after their second album, and instead of scaling the heights became just another also-ran, left with a few press cuttings, a few cult fans and fond memories of a time when the future seemed bright and blazing. Nevertheless this group is equipped with the same vocal and instrumental skills of those that did become rich and famous, of those who have headlined Glastonbury, Wembley or the O2. What to do, they ask themselves. They have no interest in becoming plumbers, middle-managers or even working in guitar shops. They are, after all, musicians, and good ones too.
So they grit their teeth, cut their hair, put on suits, change their name and become a function band, one of the best in the business and, when they ply their trade, performing immaculate covers of ‘Twist And Shout’ or ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ or ‘500 Miles’, the wedding guests or corporate clients on the receiving end have the time of their lives, little knowing that the group on stage has another identity and could, if they were so minded, abandon the covers and become a different group entirely, and play original material that to my mind sounds a bit like Nirvana crossed with Radiohead, not that it would go down anywhere near as well as ‘I’m A Believer’ or ‘Pretty Woman’.
That Saturday night, as Rollercoaster, they could be found in the barn adjacent to a 16th Century stately home near Guildford, playing one of the 70 or more weddings and corporate events they do each year. Depending on requirements they can appear as a trio, quartet, quintet, sextet and more besides, and can even provide music during the ceremony, maybe a Bach cantata, as well as rock up a storm after the reception. On Saturday they were a quintet: guitar, bass, drums, violin and girl singer, who happens to be the wife of the bass player, though the fact that everyone sings at one time or another gives them a choral reach any band would envy.
Their repertoire is as broad as it is eclectic. It can veer from fairly conservative country music – ‘Nine To Five’ – to the carnal delights of Kings of Leon – ‘Sex On Fire’ – and takes in fifties rock’n’roll – Chuck, Elvis – and ‘classic’ rock – Beatles, Stones, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ – and ballads, first waltzes being a specialty, at this particular wedding Elton John’s ‘Your Song’. Since everyone dances when wine is flowing freely, modern R&B is another specialty, so Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ and Amy’s ‘Valerie’ go down a treat, as does anything with an Irish or Scottish flavour, being as how Rollercoaster’s violinist isn’t the only man in the room wearing a kilt tonight. The other one offers us a swig from a hip flask containing malt whisky that’s older than himself – or so he says – and a lady of advanced years who looks like she’d be more at home in a pew at tomorrow’s Matins seems to know all the words to a Killer’s song. Old folks these days, tut tut.
So what’s the story here? How come musicians as technically accomplished as this lot are grinding out covers on a Saturday night for an upmarket wedding knees-up. How come a band as tight as this isn’t performing their own songs in front of 10,000 fans somewhere? How come, how come, as the guitarist used to sing when he covered that Ronnie Lane song in The Hurricanes, a duo that performed in my local when I first settled in these parts and where we first encountered one another.
The Rollercoaster story begins 30 years ago when two teenage boys, Alistair Cowan and Rob Blackham, met at Bishop Vesey Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield. Both were hooked on rock to the exclusion of everything else, so Alistair took up the bass and Rob the guitar. By the early nineties they had teamed up with Alistair’s guitarist brother Angus and Guildford-born drummer Chris Hughes in an alt-rock group called Redwood that was active for the rest of the decade. Alistair sang lead and, with Rob and Chris on back-up vocals, they released an album called Colourblind in 1997 and a second, Redwood, in 2000 before splitting up amidst the usual mountain of debts that bands without fortunes accumulate. After briefly changing their name to Lazydog, they stopped working together and did their own thing, a bit of production here, a bit of session work there and a solo album from Alistair. Then Alistair and Chris saw the financial wisdom of aligning themselves in a function band and, eventually, Rob – who’d been playing in a CSN&Y tribute band called Goldrush – came on board as well, thus effectively bringing Redwood back together under another name.

Al

“Redwood has always been there and never disappeared,” says Alistair, known to his mates as Al. “The problem is that Rollcoaster gigs come up all the time and they pay the bills.”
Al has a businesslike demeanour that befits his status as the group’s de facto leader, the lead singer and the one who takes care of business. With his neatly trimmed beard and dapper blue suit he reminds me a bit of Gary Lineker. He does the deals – charging clients between £2,000 and £5,000 a night, depending on the type of show they want – and he runs a tight, professional ship.
It is the hiatus between the set-up, a complex two-hour operation that involves connecting dozens of cables, amps, speakers and coloured lights, and the show; the time when speeches are made, and the band has nothing much to do. Holly and violinist Jason Dickenson, he in the kilt, disappear to drive to the nearest petrol station to get food, a communication breakdown between client and caterer having somehow left Rollercoaster off the meal rota. Al, mindful that maintaining cordial relations with the clients is only marginally less important than singing in the right key, is loathe to complain.

Rob

Rob strums idly on his acoustic guitar. “Every wedding is unique but essentially exactly the same,” he says enigmatically, and Chris the drummer nods. In his pork pie hat, dark suit, white shirt and shades, Rob looks a bit like one of the Blues Brothers, and it’s fitting that on stage he plays a Cropper-like cream Telecaster. Chris, a wiry fellow, doesn’t say much but like Al and Rob he is very techno-savvy and as well as playing the drums, a hybrid kit with electronic cymbals, and singing, he triggers pre-recorded keyboard parts or synth washes into songs. The result is that Rollercoaster’s instrumental backdrop sounds virtually indistinguishable from that on the records of the hit songs they play, only much louder and with a live feel. The vocals and guitar solos vary a bit, of course, but not much. Wedding guests don’t want too many surprises.
“That’s the truth of it,” says Al, agreeing with Rob’s inscrutable logic. “We’re lucky to be able to do this. We know that what we do in Redwood is good because it’s taken us 30 years to get that sound, but it’s Rollercoaster that pays the bills. It’s like any job this. I mean, it is work but there are some moments in the gig when, well, it really is worthwhile and not just for the money. How can you not enjoy watching the fun people have when we are playing?"
          Rollercoaster have pre-sequenced set lists that can be viewed (and heard) on their website, “really rocking versions of sixties and seventies tunes,” as Al puts it. “In the history of the band we have played hundreds and hundreds of different songs but it all boils down to certain songs that just work. They’re gonna want ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. Once you’ve played the 40 hits there’s really not much room for anything else. We have to do things like ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ which I would happily never ever play again but people really do like it.”

Chris

He’s not wrong there. The old Foundations chestnut, a number two hit back in 1968, seemed as popular with most of the twenty-something guests as anything Rollercoaster serve up from the past five years. Maybe it’s because it was on the soundtrack of There’s Something About Mary.
“Sometimes you end up learning something and it’s a waste of time,” continues Al. He thinks for a minute. “What was that song we did?”
Rob: “‘Lightning Bolt’?”
Al: “Yes, ‘Lightning Bolt’ by Jake Bugg, a massive, massive song. We put a lot of effort into learning that and you think it’s going to be really good but no, didn’t work.”
This is the reason why they discourage requests, cunningly – and cleverly – segueing several songs together so that guests can’t get a word in edgeways between songs. In the unlikely event that someone does request a song they feel unable to perform off the cuff to their usual standard, Chris, who can act as a DJ if called upon to do so, has access to a computer, one of many on stage, from which he can select just about anything to play in the break between sets.
“The thing is,” says Al, “we know what works and sometimes a request doesn’t work.”
“When you book the band you get our expertise in knowing how to do it properly,” says Rob. “The core of the band is the three of us that were in Redwood together and we’ve been doing it for years. We know how each other plays, how we work, and now there are bolt-on options. Ideally we’d do all 70 gigs a year as the seven piece… that’s the aim because we have to progress or it gets stale, and it’s more fun with more of us on stage.”
Holly Cowan might not appreciate being described as a bolt-on option but there can be no question that she’s a huge asset to Rollercoaster, sometimes singing lead, more often back-up, always with sass and style. A session singer and MTV model, she looks great in her short black dress, arms waving away like a Supreme, a match for any girl band member you care to name. Still, she’s careful not to outshine the bride, a terrible faux-pas for any wedding band.

Rob, Holly & Al

            Al is keen to stress that Rollercoaster isn’t all he does. “I manage the band as well. I run open mic nights, I work with Holly and I write library music, which is really creative, music used in films and TV. Still the main thing is Rollercoaster but we never intended it to be.
“As an original band we used to sneer a little bit at covers bands but when you look at it realistically, how many people in a band that’s touring actually write the songs? If you don’t write the songs you’re just playing covers anyway. We didn’t write the songs we’re playing tonight but when we do an Elbow song we’re doing the same job as Elbow, and if you think about it, in that respect there actually isn’t much difference between us – just that we’re playing everyone’s songs and not songs by one act, like a tribute band.
“At times it’s work but then you have to remember that some people get up at five in the morning and catch a train into London. It’s not a bad life, well sometimes you don’t get the meals you’re promised…”
He looks around. Holly and Jason still haven’t returned with the food. Al grins sheepishly.
It’s no secret that rock and roll bands, some of them anyway, have a reputation for hedonism and Al is keen to stress that whatever the long-haired, grunge-like Redwood might have got up to in their youth, Rollercoaster are now mature adults. “People want a rock’n’roll band, not a band that behaves like rock and rollers. We conduct ourselves properly. The clients like us. We’re, I guess you could say, a high end function band but there are levels that are even higher. We’ve played at Old Trafford, Sandown, even Gleneagles. We know that function bands are not cool so the art of marketing it is to associate it with Redwood. The thing is that one thing allows you to do the other and although sometimes we feel Rollercoaster is a bit of a pain you have to remind yourself that it’s better than catching that train to London every day.”
We are outside behind the barn on a warm, sunny evening and when Holly and Jason arrive back with sandwiches everyone munches away. Then Rob picks up his acoustic again and for no apparent reason plays the chords to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, and Holly, much happier now that her appetite is settled, sings along until she forgets the words. There is a bit of a delay as the speeches take longer than anticipated but the clients want to synchronise the cutting of the cake with the first waltz, so after a sound check that takes slightly longer than usual because they’re using a new, computerised monitor set-up, Rollercoaster take up their positions, as do I, standing at the back with a hand-held device, effectively faders on a tablet. The chords of Elton’s first hit ring out sonorously and the bride and groom take the floor. “It’s a little bit funny,” sings Al, and the coaster is rolling.
“It’s a warm night so they’ll be outside for most of the first set, but they’ll come inside later,” Al had told me earlier. He was only half right. The older guests do head outside, probably to escape from the noise, but the younger ones dance away in between trips to the bar. At one point, though, he is 100% right, and I’m the only one listening. Jason, who isn't required for every number, joins me to assess the sound balance and we agree that Chris and Holly's vocal mikes are a bit too low. We adjust their levels accordingly. I'm getting the hang of this but it's a bit late for a career change now. Then the guests all come back in a rush, probably because they recognise a song they all like – I think it was ‘You Really Got Me’ or maybe ‘Summer Of ‘69’ – and when the group takes a break there’s a collective groan because no one wants them to go.
During the half hour break between sets Rollercoaster do get fed, bacon baps as it happens, so everyone’s smiling again and so are the clients and their friends who by now are gagging for the band to return. Before the second set Jason of the kilt demonstrates how to do some Scottish reeling which gets absolutely everyone, young and old, onto the floor while Al, Rob and Chris vamp away in 4/4 time. Jason acts as a caller – ‘gentleman turn your partners’ – but it doesn’t really work because the floor is far too crowded, so it’s back to rock and pop, this time around a bit more extreme than before.

Jason

‘Mak show,’ Bruno Koschmider used to yell at the apprentice Beatles on stage in Hamburg, and Rollercoaster do precisely the same as the night draws on; Al bopping away in the centre with his Fender Precision, looking as though he’s starting to enjoy himself; Rob stretching out here and there on his Tele, a touch of the guitar hero that inspires some air guitar histrionics from at least one wedding guest; Chris snapping at his kit in perfect time, unfussy like Charlie in the Stones, and taking a measured vocal as required; Jason fiddling away in his kilt, his tall stature adding a touch of the absurd as he swoops down from time to time; and Holly, smiling like a sunbeam, dancing on the spot, heels tight together, cool as hell, like all the best girls on big stages everywhere.
About halfway through their second session, perhaps sensing that romance was in the air, Rollercoaster take the tempo down slightly and play a simply gorgeous arrangement of ‘My Girl’. Listening closely to a song I’ve always loved, I would defy any group, and that probably includes whoever nowadays comprises The Temptations, to perform as harmonically satisfying an interpretation of this spectacularly beautiful Motown song as Rollercoaster do tonight. The subtlety of their four-part harmony was probably lost on the wedding guests, but for me it was the highlight of the evening. Chris, the drummer, sang a high lead, joined on the chorus by Al and Holly, all three interweaving with Rob who added a bass harmonic – ‘talking ‘bout’ – before playing that tidy little octave riff, and to cap it all Jason added a touch of the orchestral strings that grace the Tempts’ 1965 original.
            And then it was back to Kings Of Leon and The Killers and, finally, ‘500 Miles’, the perfect closer, which accelerated wildly until it reached a break-neck climax. This inspired the wedding guests to form a circle, dashing around the bride and groom, quite dangerously so, all of them singing along at the tops of their voices. Watching from the back I couldn’t help but think that these deliriously happy men and women in their wedding suits and designer dresses don’t look like the kind of people who go to many rock gigs, so the fact that it’s Rollercoaster and not The Proclaimers who are ‘coming home to you’ doesn’t matter one iota to them. It sounds like The Proclaimers so it might just as well be – and that’s the whole point of it. It’s a gig they’ll all remember for a long time; the bride and groom for the rest of their lives.

Rob & Al

You can visit Rollercoaster's website here: http://www.rollercoasterband.co.uk/



12.7.17

ROGER DALTREY, Melody Maker Interview from April, 1973


Towards the end of March 1973 I was driven by Who PR Keith Altham to the village of Burwash on the Kent-Sussex border where Roger Daltrey occupied The Manor House. My interview with Roger was part of the promotional exercise for Roger’s first solo album, Daltrey, released that April, and in many of the interviews surrounding its release Roger was referred to as ‘Squire Daltrey’, which evidently displeased him. Keith asked me not to do this, nor to write about the estate that Roger owned and I was happy to go along with this.
Nevertheless, I remember looking around the estate, the land, the lakes, the outhouses and, of course, the Manor House itself. Above the fireplace in the spacious living room was a huge oil painting of Roger’s head and shoulders, the Roger of the Tommy years, all golden curls, bare chest and suede coat with long tassels. Unlike the other three members of The Who he was a picture of health, tough-looking, without an ounce of fat, his skin healthily aglow, clearly a man who preferred the outdoors to the smoky clubs favoured by his bandmates. In this regard I remember thinking that Roger was the odd man out in The Who, slightly apart from the other three, but it was his drive and ambition that kept the wheels turning, a bit like McCartney in The Beatles and Jagger in the Stones. If Pete was the brains in The Who, John its musical muscle and Keith the engine room, Roger was its pilot. Someone had to keep a clear head up there on the bridge to steer the ship.
This is what subsequently appeared in Melody Maker, dated April 7, 1973 under the headline: GIVING IT ALL AWAY.


Next week Roger Daltrey follows in the footsteps of his Who colleagues Pete Townshend and John Entwistle by releasing his first solo album.
Most of the material on the set is written by David Courtney and Leo Sayer, and there’s little resemblance to The Who in any of the songs. It’s a quieter, relaxed Roger singing over strings and acoustic guitar. The album is called Daltrey, and there’s also a single, ‘Giving It All Away’.
“It was the Tommy opera we did with Lou Reisner that made me think seriously about a solo album,” said Roger. “It was just nice to get out of the group environment for a change and learn more about singing. I wanted to sing other people’s songs and this gave me, as a singer, a lot more scope and when I get back to signing with The Who it can only help the group.
“I definitely wanted it to be different from The Who, and I don’t think The Who would touch anything that’s on the record so therefore it doesn’t take away from The Who. I couldn’t touch any  rock and roll on the record because I can’t do that any better than I can do it with The Who, or if I could then it should be done with The Who.”
Adam Faith has produced the album – a partnership that stemmed from Faith visiting the Daltrey homestead to take advantage of the studio Roger has built in his barn. “He comes from the same area of London that I came from and you could say we’re old mates. We really got on well.
“I haven’t written any material for the album myself because I wanted to see what it was like singing other people’s stuff. Hopefully I might write some for my next album, but I will really have to force myself because it doesn’t come naturally to me. Through learning things from this album, I hope it will come a lot easier.  I’ve tried writing and come up with some ideas, but usually with me they never get any further.”
It’s doubtful whether the songs will ever get a live airing unless The Who try them out. Roger doubt that they will. “I feel if I did a live show with them I would be betraying The Who. The stage part of me belongs to The Who and I feel strongly about that because the main thing I care about is The Who. The songs don’t really suit chucking the mike around my head, do they?”
Roger is confident the album will sell, even though John Entwistle’s albums haven’t broken any records in this country. “I think it will do the Who some good if it’s a hit, and I think there’s a market for my album. There’s a very narrow market for John’s kind if stuff, but if mine gets airplay then I think it will do well.”
Conversation turned to The Who’s current activities – or inactivity – and Roger explained the silence we’ve experienced from this one mighty power of rock. “We’re waiting to finish the studio we’re building and then we’ll do our new album. Then we’ll be back on the road but not until we finish the new material.
“We’ve really got to change because the last few gigs we’ve done have felt meaningless to us. We’ve enjoyed them but we’ve milked all the material so much now there’s nothing more to come out of it. We’ve been criticised for playing the same stuff over and over again, but I know that whenever we do play it we do it bloody well. The other week in the Hague when we played with various other top bands I know that we showed them we were the governors.
“And you’ve got to remember that journalists who criticise see us, maybe, three times a year. The kids see us probably once in two years and that’s hard for us to understand as well.
“We needed a year off to follow our noses and we took it to do things we wanted to do on our own. We’ve been on the road for seven years now and because you are so tightly knit within the group, you lose track of things happening outside of it. It’s probably going to be difficult to get back together but I’m sure the break will have done us good.
“Whatever people say, there’s no possibility of The Who ever breaking up. We’re probably tighter now than we have ever been and more determined to do things as a band. I don’t think the kids will forget about us because we haven’t worked because we’re not that type of band.
“Even if they have forgotten I think we’ll grab them back gain. It hasn’t been that long really. Zeppelin didn’t work for 18 months once upon a time, and there’s a few others who haven’t worked for a while.
“We’ve done a bit of recording in the past year but we weren’t getting the sort of thing we were after. That’s why we built our own studio. We weren’t really happy in most of the studios we’ve worked in in London. Hopefully our own will work… we’ll have to make it work because it’s our last chance.
“I think maybe we’re a bit choosy but that’s Pete for you. I don’t give a toss where we work but I’m sure we’d be happier in our own place. We were getting an ‘Olympic’ sound with using their studio before, and I think for The Who to have an ‘Olympic’ sound is a bad thing to happen. Most bands aren’t as fussy as The Who when it comes to making records.”
The Who’s actual output over the years has been pretty small compared with some bands, but Roger maintains that everything they have recorded has been worthwhile. “That’s more than you could say for a lot of bands. We don’t believe in churning them out as quick as we can.”
Of all the artists who took part in [Lou Reisner orchestral version of] the [Tommy] opera, Roger seems to have come out the  best, probably because it presented more of a challenge to him than any of the others and because he played the title role. He still talks about it with genuine enthusiasm.
“I really loved doing the opera and had a good time making it and singing it live. It was great to work with that many people. The only bad thing about it was having to do it in the Rainbow.
“I’ve always liked orchestras and this was the first time I’ve worked with one. I’ve got an offer to go to do Tommy in Australia but I don’t want to go there because I don’t like Australia. There’s a charity performance of it in New York at the end of April and I’ll do that one. The whole cast is going, I think, even Pete. I think the whole affair did an awful lot for people’s careers.
“I suppose Tommy is dragging on a bit at the moment, even though I still like it. I’d still be happy to play it on stage with The Who because for a singer it’s the most perfect piece of music to sing, but I can understand why the group got bored with it.
“It’s been dragged out by our management which isn’t our fault, but it’s supposedly for our own good, our own financial good, but is that everything?”
Lastly, I asked Roger whether he had any views on the current teenybop revolution – and whether it would overthrow groups like his own.
“Good luck to them. It’s very healthy for the business. A kid has to start somewhere and this guarantees that rock and roll is going on for another ten years. Even if they’re not singing rock and roll, it will go to rock and roll.
“Slade are rock and roll, and I think kids will move along to a gradual process, along with people like [David] Cassidy, moving to Slade and ending up at groups like the Floyd and The Who. Slade are a good band.”