Interview with Shindig Magazine (May 2001)

  Originally published on Sunday 15th August 2004

(Twenty questions from Andy & Liz)

1. Where and when where you born (if you don't mind me asking)?

I was born February 15th 1949 on the White City Estate at home, Creighton Close, Bloemfontein Road, Shepherds Bush, London.

2. How did you first become interested in music? When was this? Did you buy records regularly?

My father was in the RAF band called 'The Squadronairs' during the war and when I was very young he taught me how to play some simple chords on the ukulele banjo. As a family we used to sing many songs in the evening, each one taking different harmonies. 'I'll See You In My Dreams" and "When Day Is Done" were sang very often . I bought my first record with my sister Sue in Shepherds Bush Market. It was 'When Will I Be Loved' by the Everly Brothers.

3. Did you start off as a singer/guitarist? Who were your early influences?

I was thirteen years old and attending Christopher Wren school in Shepherds Bush. I found an old broken acoustic guitar in the music rooms, stuck it together and bought some strings. I was working in a Wimpy bar at weekends, which was how I could afford to buy them. I remembered the ukulele tuning for the first four string and guessed the tuning for the other two. I wrote a song immediately. My early influences were the Everly Brothers and the Beatles, but Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and swing bands were always played in our house while I was growing up.

4. When did you begin writing your own songs? Can you remember your early attempts? What was the earliest song you wrote which you subsequently recorded?

The family moved to Roehampton, When I was eleven. My auntie Ethel bought the family a Grundig tape recorder that could record onto four different parts of the tape. I took a tape of the first songs I wrote to George Harrison when he was living in Esher. It was a no. 72 bus-ride away. He was very kind and asked me to come back in a week s time for his opinion. Unfortunately my sister Sue had recorded "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" by Tony Bennett over one of the tracks. You can imagine George's reaction and sense of humour. After many meetings and happy times, George sent my songs to Dick James Music. They were "Hayfever", "I Know My Mind", "London Boy" and "Friends".

5. How did you become involved with Dick James Music? Were you initially employed as a songwriter?

After I played my demo tapes to George Harrison, George sent them to Dick James. Dick subsequently lost them and asked me if I would like to record them again at his studio in New Oxford Street. I agreed and that is where I first met Caleb Quaye who was engineering there. The acetates were then played to Andrew Oldham via Ray Tolliday. Andrew liked what he heard and employed me as resident songwriter for Immediate Records. I was payed twenty pounds a week, had my own office which contained a Revox G36, a Mellotron, and many guitars, most of which belonged to the Stones.

6. Which of your compositions were recorded around this time? (I have Del Shannon's version of "Led Along" which sounds like it dates from the mid-60s)

The songs recorded around this time (1967/8) are on the 'Would You Believe' album and 'Snapshot' Albums. I also wrote some songs for Del Shannon: "Led Along", "Come Again" and "Friendly With You".

7. When did you begin singing your own songs? Were you confident as a singer?

I began singing my own songs at Christopher Wren School. I was sixteen years old. I then sang at a folk club in Ealing called 'Stude's Drum'.

8. The demos which have recently been released on the 'Snapshot' LP sound very accomplished. Where did you record them?

This info is credited in the the 'Snapshot' booklet. The demos were recorded at Regent Sound Studio in Denmark Street, Olympic Studio in Barnes or Dick James Studio in New Oxford Street.

9. The list of musicians who contributed to the demos reads like a who's who of 60s rock session greats: Caleb Quaye, Nicky Hopkins, John Paul Jones, Jim Sullivan, not to mention all four Small Faces! How did they get involved?

The Small Faces and Caleb Quaye were my friends. We would see each other all the time and help each other on various projects. The other musicians were booked.

10. Judging by the 'Snapshot' CD you had a huge stockpile of material at this point. How did you select which tracks to record for 'Would You Believe'? Were the selections made by you, Oldham or both?

The selection of songs was made both by me and Andrew Oldham. It was definitely a joint effort. There were a lot of songs to choose from. I think the selection on 'Would You Believe' were the best songs at that time.

11. How long did the recordings take? Did the other musicians learn the songs at the sessions as the tape was rolling? Which studio did you use? Was Oldham present at any of the sessions?

We recorded two, maybe three songs a day at Olympic Studios. 'Girl From New York' was done at the tail end of a 'Small Faces' session at IBC Studios. The musicians learnt the songs on the day of recording and Andrew was present at all the sessions apart from 'Girl From New York.'

12. What are your memories of recording the album? Which songs did you particularly enjoy recording?

Unfortunately the only memories I have of the sessions are now a bit faded, but I do remember them being exciting and happy. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. There was such a vast spectrum of sound, with so much going on. I suppose my favourite session would have been 'It Brings Me Down'. It sums up what I have just tried to explain.

13. What was your relationship with Oldham and the other musicians during the making of the album?

Andrew and I were seeing each other at work almost every day for the two years I spent at Immediate Records. Although many sad things happened after Immediate folded, I have only good memories of the 'Would You Believe ' sessions. The only other close relationships I had with the musicians that played on the sessions were with the Small Faces, Caleb Quaye, Glyn Johns (the engineer) and Nicky Hopkins.

14. "Would You Believe" was the first single to appear from the sessions. Do you remember the press reaction/reviews?

"Would You Believe" was the only single from the album and the reviews were good. I think everyone thought it was the most over-produced single of the 60s.

15. Oldham reportedly added the orchestral arrangement to the song without your knowledge. Is this true and if so, what did you think of his work?

Andrew was his own boss and he added the orchestral arrangement to "Would You Believe" after I had cut the song with the Small Faces. It was a bit over the top to say the least, but then he had more balls than most of the producers had in those days.

16. What, in your opinion, were the reasons for the album's eventual non-appearance?

The album was never released because Immediate Records were in trouble due to Tony Calder's and Andrew's business relationship. I also think that Tony felt I was a songwriter rather than a performer or recording artist. I never signed a recording contract with Immediate.

17. Did you play live much at this point and if so, who was in your band? What other work were you doing (i.e. your uncredited vocals on 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake')?

I never played live at that stage of my career but sang back up on many Immediate recordings. 'The Nice', The Small Faces, Del Shannon, Shannon, etc.

18. What did you do in the time immediately after the album's non-appearance?

After the album I became very disillusioned with the music business and spent 6 months in Wilton, Connecticut on my own, writing and learning how to play the piano.

19. What are your feelings about the belated release, re-discovery and critical success of 'Would You Believe' after all these years?

It is almost like going back to a past life now when I listen to the album. They were the first songs that I wrote and are so naive, especially the lyrics; a teenager learning how to keep up with his peers, his loves and fears, drugs and emotions. I can understand why it is such a success now because it gives another glimpse as to what was happening at the time. A missing piece of the "sixties jigsaw Honeymoon Puzzle"

20. Favourite track on the album?

I don't have one.