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Colosseum & Mogul Thrash interview with James Litherland

Another day, another interview here at It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine. We have a real treat for you today as James Litherland has agreed to be our hostage while we ask him a couple of questions. James really needs no introduction; guitarist and vocalist for progressive jazz-rock band Colosseum since the band’s beginnings until Valentyne Suite, he appeared on Supershow, a music film made in 1969, where Colosseum played “Debut” and “Those About to Die” from their first album. He then went on to form Mogul Thrash - the main focus of this interview - featuring, among others, the exceptional talents of bass player John Wetton, later of King Crimson and Asia fame. 

We’re really delighted to have you with us James and thank you for agreeing to answer our questions. 
I’d like to take you back to your teenage years; did you grow up in a very musical household? Which bands turned you on to music and made you want to learn the guitar?

I was listening to music from a very early age. My mother and father both loved music and had a record player and would play songs like “20 Tiny Fingers, 20 Tiny Toes” and “Close The Door They’re Coming Through The Window”, that kind of thing and my dad used to whistle around the house. When I was about 2 or 3 my mum would leave me with a friend (child minder) while she went out to work and her husband (Les) ran a Kazoo band and the girls in the family would dress in white shirts, short flaired dresses and white plimsoles and shake these cardboard tubes with paper “tassles” and they were the “Ra Ra Girls”, they would play and parade at the Oldham town carnival during bank holidays (a very English tradition) and they would rehearse in the kitchen. I would watch while waiting for my mum to pick me up after she finished work. Not long after, my “Uncle Les” formed a harmonica gang and had an act very like “The Three Monarchs” and the “Morton Frazer Harmonica Gang”. His son Brian was in the band and I still see him. The format was a Lead harmonica player, rhythm (chords) section and a bass, all harmonicas, and there was a dwarf who was always jumping up to try to get to the microphone and they would ignore him or slap him down, (part of the act a la Morton Frazer) however, when he finally made the mic, of course he was a great player. I used to sit and watch the rehearsals and one day, Uncle Les gave me a Hohner Chromatic on which the slide button had broken off. So that was my first instrument at about 5 yrs old. A little later my mum bought me a cardboard clarinet and I went to the Oldham Music College and asked for lessons but they turned me away because it wasn’t a proper clarinet. Not long after I asked for a guitar for Christmas, which I got when I was 8. By this time I’d heard Lonnie Donegan doing “Rock Island Line (Leadbelly) and “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley” which was the first tune I learned to play (only the melody) It’s important to understand that at this point I’d never seen anybody actually play a guitar.
I got bored with playing tunes quite quickly and the guitar sat in a corner for a couple of years. Then one day I was watching the television (quite a new thing as my parents had only recently hired one yes, HIRED, in those days nobody could afford to buy one) and I saw a play with someone sitting on some stairs playing CHORDS and I thought “Wow I want to do that” so I went to the the local music shop and bought a book on how to play guitar (Play In A Day by Bert Weedon, which I still have) and the next day I was playing 2 or 3 chords and writing songs.

What early bands did you play in prior to joining Colosseum and could you detail how you ended up getting involved with Jon Hiseman’s outfit?

I played my acc guitar and sang all the time and the next Christmas my mum and dad knew someone who was selling an Electric guitar (a Broadway) and they bought it for me, along with a Fal amp. I’ll never forget that Christmas, I played the whole day until late evening, I loved it. Soon I got to know some other people who played and began to play with them. The first real band was called “The R & B Sect” and we played “Baby Please Don’t Go” (before “Them”)  “ Too Much Monkey Business” and other R & B numbers and started doing Gigs (Weddings etc.) I was 11 by then. Next I joined a band who were quite big locally. They were called “The Puzzle” and it was because I went to school with one of them and we got on both musically and as friends. 

He is called Steve Bolton and has since played with “Atomic Rooster”, “Paul Young” and I think he played with “The Who” at one point after Keith Moon and John Entwistle died. We are still friends.
We were playing Soul numbers (Stax etc.) and were playing Wilson Picket, Lee Dorsey etc. The line up was 2 Guitars,Sax, Bass and Drums and I was playing lead guitar and Steve on rhythm. We did a lot of gigs and came to London to make a demo, which is when I first fell in love with London.
Next, again at school, I met a guy who sang in a band and their lead guitarist was brilliant. They had just lost their rhythm guitarist and asked me to join and, seeing it as a further opportunity to improve, I jumped at the chance. They were called “The Go Go” and did lots of Motown stuff and we (as did “The Puzzle’) sang harmony as well. We did lots of gigs.

A while later Hendrix came out and we did some of his songs (Purple Haze, Stone free etc) as the guitarist could play anything. We rehearsed at the singer’s house (Jack) in the basement. He was quite a genius and could fix the amps, the van, anything that needed fixing and he went on to become a nuclear scientist.
Next I formed a blues band (The Ghobi Dessert Canoe Club) and by this time I had been going to clubs (and playing at them) in Manchester and was seeing people like Howling Wolf, T Bone Walker, Buddy Guy, Sonny Boy Wiliamson etc Also John Mayall, Steam Packet, Cyril Davis etc. I also, very importantly, had seen The Graham Bond Organisation with Dick Heckstall-Smith and was very impressed.
By this time I was working in a normal day job and was doing gigs at night.
One day there was an accident at work and I was half an inch from getting very badly hurt. The guy I was helping WAS hurt very badly. It was the fault of the managers / directors of the company and they blamed us. I was extremely angry and it showed. They harassed me for 2 weeks during which my anger grew to such an extent that I just walked out and knew that I never, ever, wanted to do another “proper” job. I walked straight into the newsagents across the road and bought a Melody Maker music paper and looked in the ads at the back. I saw the ad for Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum featuring Dick Heckstall-Smith. I didn’t know of Jon but I’d seen Dick and thought it would be great to audition as, even if I didn’t get the job I would have learned a lot and played with some top musicians. With the only money I had I immediately phoned the number on the advert.
One week later I was living in London and was a professional musician working as a member of Colosseum. I never did another “proper” Job.

Could you share any great memories you have of your time gigging and playing with Colosseum? Any funny stories or near-disasters on stage, that sort of thing!

About a week after joining Colosseum I was asked to play, with Jon, on a track that was being produced by Mike Hugg from Manfred Mann. I was really excited as, only one week before, I had been working in a job in Manchester and here I was doing a session (paid) for a guy off the television. After a few hours, whilst listening to the playback in the studio, I began to get a pain in my stomach, I’d had it before a couple of times but thought nothing of it. This time however it started to get really bad and I was sitting on the floor against the wall writhing in agony.
Jon was not happy with what he saw and drove me to the hospital. I was diagnosed with appendicitis and, although not life threatening at that time, it needed to be sorted out and so I was booked in for an operation to have my appendix removed. The debut gig for the band was in Scarborough in a few weeks time and I was given 2 weeks in which to have the operation and recover in time for the gig. I had the operation in London and got the train to Manchester where I stayed for a week and then got the train to Scarborough to do the gig. The wound from the operation had not really healed by this time, I still had stitches in and the cut was exactly where my trousers went round my waist so I had to stuff loads of cotton wool down my trousers to stop the waistband rubbing on my wound. My biggest fear was that I would burst the wound open as I was singing. However everything turned out well and the gig was a great success to a very packed room and critical acclaim. “The Show Must Go On”.

Do you remember how you got signed to the Fontana label to record Colosseum’s first album, Those Who Are About To Die Salute You? What memories do you have of those recording sessions?

I wasn’t involved in any of the business decisions. I was happy to have got the job and basically did as I was asked. Jon was the leader and he had everything sorted out with Gerry Bron, the manager, before I ever came on the scene. I arrived at the studio at the time I was told, and went with the flow until we finished for the day. I was really happy to be in that situation and felt very lucky. I had recorded in studios a few times before but never at this level and to realize that this was my job was just fantastic. One thing that I do remember very well is that we changed studios 3 or 4 times because Jon was not happy with the drum sounds and so a lot of the tracks were recorded 3 or 4 times in different studios.

Valentyne Suite is undoubtably Colosseum’s most well-known album and is widely considered the band’s magnum opus. “Elegy” and “Butty’s Blues” are both your compositions; could you tell us about each of those songs and a bit about each of the other tracks on the LP? What were some of your favourite moments recording that album?

Although I had been involved in writing on “Those About To Die” by the time it came to the second album I was finding my feet much more and was writing much more and was getting more confident as I was having my songs accepted.
“Butty’s Blues” was really just a 12 bar “Butty” being the nickname that Colosseum had given me (It is what they call a sandwich in Manchester). The best part of that song, and I feel the reason for it’s success, was Neil Ardley’s arrangement which was really superb. It was fantastic hearing my song given that treatment. Interestingly I have never played Butty’s Blues since the day I left Colosseum, I wouldn’t even know the words unless I listened to the album again.
“Elegy” however was a completely different situation and I felt that it stood on it’s own merit as a song, no matter what the arrangement, in fact, when I play live even now, if it’s an acoustic gig I play it on an acoustic guitar.
It came about one night, I was now completely in the Writing “Zone” and thought of stuff continually. I woke up one morning at about 4.00 am and had the whole thing in my head. I got up, wrote down the words, played the chords on my guitar which was by the bed and went back to sleep. It must have taken less than 5 minutes. The rest, as they say, is history.

You played many festivals and concerts with Colosseum - too many to list, I’m sure! If you could only pick a couple of memorable gigs, which would you choose?

I’ll never forget the first gig in Scarborough as it was my very first professional gig.
Other than that, a few gigs really stick in my mind.
The Supershow was very special, it was full of people that I’d looked up to not long before I was in that position. Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Buddy Guy, Roland Kirk to name just a few of the greats that were there that day.
Another gig we did was the Bath Festival, which was the first time I’d ever done a gig where there were people as far as the eye could see (I think about 50,000).

© Al Bye
But THE most memorable gig without a doubt was when we played at the Filmore West in San Francisco (It may be of interest to your readers that this was at the exact time that Woodstock was happening and we were booked to play The Filmore and then The Whiskey A Go-Go in L.A. Had we been on the East coast at that time we would have been on Woodstock. Of course no one knew then how big that was going to turn out).
The Filmore was featured on albums like “The Rock Machine Turns You On” etc which were huge influences on me, Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield etc so just to be there was fantastic. We played there for 3 nights and were bottom of the bill to The Youngbloods, and a band called CTA (Chicago Transit Authority, later to change there name to Chicago) and I thought they were just fantastic.
By this time I was really into writing and SONGS and I felt that Colosseum were mostly not on the same wavelength. They were much more into solo’s and that kind of thing and I was beginning to feel that Jon especially was not “laying down the groove” enough. I was beginning to struggle with the feel of the material we were doing. When I stopped playing rhythm (to do a solo) I felt that the rhythm section fell apart and although it was very “clever” I was beginning not to feel it any more.
Seeing Chicago play was like lifting the curtain on all the things I was feeling.
They had a great Singer playing great songs but they were “jazzy” in a very “rocky” way. I knew at that moment that the feelings that had been creeping up on me for a while were totally valid and this put substance to them. I knew now why I had been feeling the way I was.
Another thing they did that I’d never seen before was that they had small amps and were miking everything up, which meant the Brass could hear themselves and because they had a guy on the desk, the balance out front was fantastic. Most guitarists at that point (me included) had Stacks taller than themselves pumping out so much volume that the balance on stage (and off) was terrible.

Why did you end up leaving Colosseum and could you tell us how Mogul Thrash came together? I understand you’d formed James Litherland’s Brotherhood and that with the addition of John Wetton, the band changed its name to “Mogul Thrash”. How did John Wetton come on board?

Just before we left for the States I found out by accident that everybody in the band was getting more money than I was and although I certainly wasn’t there for the bread I felt insulted and hurt. I was, after all, doing three jobs, writing, singing and playing and I certainly felt that I was pulling my weight. I think my attitude changed at that point and it must have come across. After the Fillmore and a few problems we had on the tour it was probably apparent that things were changing and me not being known for my diplomacy, I probably didn’t do myself any favours.
On the next tour of Europe I was asked to leave. Although I was a bit shell shocked, I also felt that I hadn’t been treated particularly well and so I thought it was opening the door to my next project and I made my mind up to form a band. The best band that put into perspective what I needed I had recently seen in San Francisco and that’s what I wanted.
I had done some sessions with Mike Rosen on the “Jade” album and he played trumpet as well as guitar. I met Malcolm Duncan via Pete Brown, a good friend of Dick’s and he knew Roger Ball from Scotland. I’d heard of a drummer and bass player playing with a guy called Jess Conrad (sorry John) who was a bit of a musical joke albeit very likeable. So we went to see them and asked them to join. It was John Wetton  and Ed Bicknell. It wasn’t long before it was apparent that Ed was not going to work out. Although we all liked him, his drumming wasn’t up to it.
I had to tell him he had to go but he was great about it, he totally understood. I think I did him a massive favour as he went on to manage Dire Straights and to the best of my knowledge still manages Mark Knopfler.
At this point we had signed to a management company and it was then that we found Bill Harrison for the drumming position. He came to an audition and all the other drummers thought I was looking for a budding Jon Hiseman. Bill sat down on someone else’s kit (his was coming from Germany where he’d been gigging with Glass Menagerie) and as soon as he’d tuned it to his liking started playing a (Loud) groove. Everybody in the band looked at each other and John and I jumped up and started jamming. There was no need to discuss anything, he was IN.
It was a while after that we changed the name to Mogul Thrash.

Who came up with the name “Mogul Thrash”?

There was a TV programme that everybody used to watch on a Saturday night called the Michael Miles Show and he had on it a game called the “Yes No Interlude” where he would ask contestants questions very quickly, and they would have to answer without using either Yes or No. If they did, a man standing next to them would hit a gong and the contestant was out.
The late great Spike Milligan had his own show and it was hilarious and the band would watch it every week without fail, sometimes we would be in tears of laughter.
He did a sketch of the Michael Miles Show wearing a false nose and called him Mogul Thrash.
We loved it and the rest as they say………..

The band debuted with a single “Sleeping In The Kitchen”, followed by a full-length, self-titled album on RCA in 1971. What can you remember about the recording of that album and what gear did you use personally?

The album actually came out first (which is why it isn’t on it). ‘Sleeping In The Kitchen’ was written by myself and Pete Brown and came out really as a taster for the next album which obviously didn’t happen.
Recording the album was a very happy time and was produced by Brian Auger who was also managed by our manager. He was a very genuine and good man and an excellent musician who really let us have our head. We all got along very well and had a great time.
I used a Les Paul Junior, which I’m looking at as I write this, and a Vox AC 30 amp.
John used a Fender Precision and a 50 watt bass amp that was made by his friend in Bournemouth.
My most vivid memory is of Eddie Offord, the engineer, doing an edit on the 16 track tape.
We’d been really having a party in the studio all day and he was pretty gone and he took the 2 inch tape into a small room with a razor blade. We looked in and there he was, glassy eyed, tape all round his ankles and little bits of16 track tape everywhere, we were horrified. A few minutes later he came into the studio, put the tape on the mutitrack machine and pressed play…..PERFECT. We gave him a standing ovation.

You decided to rework a song you had penned for Colosseum’s Valentyne Suite - “Elegy” - a personal favourite of mine. Could you comment on this and any or all of the other tracks off the Mogul Thrash album (anything that comes to mind, be it how each song was built up or any interesting bit of information).

I was happy that Colosseum had recorded Elegy but by now I looked at it in a very different way and felt that although the song was strong, it certainly didn’t reflect the way I had heard it when I wrote it and by now I was much more confident in my direction.
I felt that it would be done justice with Mogul Thrash and I wanted to put the record straight.
As for other tracks I think that generally we were moving in the right direction and we were all now getting involved in the writing process and songs and the feel were far more prominent. Johns voice was coming through and he and I had a good vocal blend. He too was gaining in confidence and started coming up with some really good stuff (e.g. St Peter).

The band did some sessions at the BBC in 1971, the tracks from which can be found on a recent CD reissue. Among them, “Fuzzbox”, “Conscience” and “I Can’t Live Without You” are not from the LP or single. Would I be right in thinking the last is another number you
used to perform with Colosseum? Were these tracks to feature on a subsequent album, had there been one?

I can’t in all honesty remember those songs and I was actually reminded of them when someone recently sent me a link to something on Youtube.
I don’t remember re doing “Can’t Live Without You” but when I heard the other 2 songs I vaguely recalled them and we were probably going to record them for the next album had they been approved but that was the time when things started falling apart and so were a bit of a blur.
See “the reasons for Mogul Thrash disbanding” for a more in depth analysis.

Can you recall some of the venues Mogul Thrash played at and again, our readers would love to hear any great stories from ‘on the road’!

We were sent by our management to play in a club in Palermo, Sicily, for a week or so, to warm the band up before we did any gigs in England. At that time they had never seen anyone with long hair and we all had really long hair. Everywhere we went we would be followed by dozens of children and as we passed a barbers shop an old guy with a beard came running out to see, one side of his face was shaved and the other side had a full white beard and he had the towel still round his neck, it was like a cartoon. The day after we arrived we had to go and meet the guy who had booked us at the Palermo Travel Agency, he was called Joe Napoli and he was from Chicago, I think that should just about tell everything. Because we couldn’t get around even to eat, we were transferred to a house near the beach. Mike Rosen was Jewish and was 6 feet 6 inches (about 2 metres) tall with a black beard and long black hair. Anyone having seen the MT album cover will know. We went swimming one day and when Mike came out of the sea the beach cleared, they thought it was the 2nd coming.
We were then sent to do some gigs in Italy and we did a club in Milan for a week. We should have gone onto another city but the people who had brought us out thought we were much too loud and so we were thrown out without getting paid.
We set off for home with very little money. We had 2 vans, one for the gear and one for the people (it was a six piece band most of whom were over 6 ft tall). On the way, as we were going over the Alps into Germany, the people van broke down. We called the ADAC to see if we could get sorted out but it was late on Thursday evening and, as it was the beginning of the holiday, they couldn’t help until the next Tuesday morning. As we had no money the thought of 4 or 5 days sleeping in a van with no food was very unappealing so although some were prepared to do it, I said I was going to hitch hike back to London. At that point they all had second thoughts and so we took out two seatbelts, tied them together and towed the van on the seatbelts all the way back to London. As the seatbelts kept snapping, by the time we got home it was about 1 metre long and full of knots.
My favourite gig of the time was the Roundhouse in London which we played at a number of times on Sunday afternoons. We were very popular there and the sound was really good so we usually played very well.

What were the reasons behind Mogul Thrash disbanding?

When we were looking for a record company we auditioned for Atlantic Records. Nesuhi Ertegun (Ahmet’s brother, who owned Atlantic) came to London to listen to us at a pub in Kings Cross. He loved it, and we really liked him a lot and, as he had recorded John Coltrane, the brass section got on great with him. He wanted us and we wanted him. Atlantic was a great company who really got behind their artists and we were very excited.
He offered us a fantastic deal and we were thrilled. Then when we had a meeting with our manager, she told us that she had turned him down, we couldn’t believe it .It was the best company in the world and she turned it down. She signed us to RCA who turned out to be a complete disaster.
The big radio show at that time was on Sunday evenings on Radio Luxenburg. The DJ was David “Kid” Jenson and his show consisted of a “Chart” that was made up from requests from all over Europe. Over a few weeks Mogul Thrash was No 3 in the charts, everybody wanted it.
Unfortunately RCA had not distributed the album into the shops and nobody could buy it. It was a catastrophe. We were extremely annoyed at having been put in that ridiculous position by our management. Then we got wind of a few things going on behind the scenes and people in the band wanted to leave the manager, who, up to this point, had done a good job. So we left, she sued us for the money that she had put in and eventually lost. However, meanwhile, as we were looking for new management other things happened.
Both the vans broke down in the middle of the longest Ford strike in history and we couldn’t get parts and therefore couldn’t do gigs and so were broke. At that point Malcolm and Roger wanted to work with Alan Gorrie from Forever More, a  band in the same management company, and good friends of us all. Alan was a great singer,  writer and bass player and they asked me to go with them. I didn’t feel that I wanted to go in that direction, and felt that the type of stuff they wanted to play had no room for my kind of approach to the guitar, and so I said no. They became The Average White Band and although I think they’re great, I don’t regret that decision. Meanwhile John had been asked to join King Crimson and I had met a bass player and drummer that really excited me.
They were Bill Smith from Manchester on bass and Theadore Thunder, a 17 year old American drummer, both sang well and so we formed a 3 piece where we all sang. It was a great band, we called it Million.

Could you say a couple of words about the albums Bandit (1976) and Everything Stops for Tea (1972), by Bandit and Long John Baldry respectively and on which you played?

Million played some gigs with The Faces and, although I didn’t know it at the time, Rod Stewart and Elton John, who were very good friends of John Baldry wanted to put him back on the “blues map” John had lost his way by singing “Mexico” and “Let The Heartaches Begin” but his thing was the blues, and I have to say he was fantastic. We were asked to join and we did the “Everything Stops For Tea” album, produced by Rod Stewart, and quite a few gigs.

It all came to a halt when John’s boyfriend got jealous of Theadore who, although wasn’t gay to the best of my knowledge, was sometimes mistaken for being so. John’s boyfriend started rows and fights with Theodore so we left. Long John Baldry was a really good guy and an absolutely brilliant singer and it was a shame but it was time to move on.
Myself, Bill and Theodore then added Dave Rose on keyboard and did an American and European Tour with Dick Heckstall-Smith playing his “Pirates Dream” concept, supporting Deep Purple.
After that the same line up joined Leo Sayer and did his “Just A Boy” album and toured with him, both America and Europe.
Then I met Cliff Williams. He was the bass player with a band called “Home” with Laurie Wisefield (who has since been with Wishbone Ash and Tina Turner). I became good friends with Cliff and thought it would be good one day to work together.
I got a call one day, out of the blue, from a girl I knew in San Francisco, asking would I be interested in playing with her band doing the Bay Area. I jumped at the chance and flew over and had a great time for about a year. I played with some great people, Gaylord Birch (Pointer Sisters) Greg Erico and Bobby Vega (Sly And The Family Stone) Billy Roberts (writer of Hey Joe) just loads of good players. Then just as I was ready to come home I got a call from Cliff. He wanted me to join Bandit. It seemed perfect so I came home to London and joined them. Their drummer wasn’t happening for me and so I suggested Graham Broad. I’d played with him some time before in Dave Rose’s band. They loved him and he joined.

We were signed to Arista, by Clive Davis, on the same day that he signed Whitney Houston.
We had the business set up, and we toured and did the Bandit Album. We also did a European tour with Alexis Korner. We played as the support act and then came on as his band. He was another great guy. I loved his singing and he was a pleasure to work with.
We had a fantastic record deal and a fantastic publishing deal.
However the album was a nightmare and the politics became unbearable, so many bad things went on.
Eventually we did The Old Gray Whistle Test  (another nightmare) and the following day a meeting was called and Cliff and I parted company with Bandit. The lawsuits went on for 20 years, fortunately I wasn’t involved in any of that.
Cliff Williams was asked to join AC/DC and is still with them to this day. Graham plays with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and Roger Waters. Danny McIntosh is with Kate Bush.

You still play and tour today, with your most recent album, Real Men Cry, being all-acoustic. Could you tell us more?

After Bandit I’d seriously had enough of bands and decided to make a living playing music without all the managers / lawyers / record companies etc as up to that point I had never made any money. I did sessions and gigs, independently so I went off the radar but I’ve always loved playing and have always been playing. I was also at the forefront of home recording technology and as soon as serious recording quality became affordable I jumped on it and have never recorded any of my stuff in a commercial recording environment since. I’ve had a studio at home for over 20 years. When I brought out 4th Estate (named before the book by Jeffrey Archer) I formed a great band but could not get the gigs to pay for it and I felt that if it didn’t pay for itself I wasn’t going to do it. I’m definitely not going to do the “Pay To Play” thing, I’m not a “bread head” but there is a limit, so the next album I did was all acoustic which
a)           Showcased the songs as there is nowhere to hide on acoustic guitar, if the song doesn’t work that’s tough.
b)           I could work without a band when necessary and still make a living.
 I have done quite a few gigs with Tony Reeves of Colosseum recently, and did The Edinburgh Jazz And Blues Festival amongst other things, so I like to keep active musically.

I’d like to finish off by thanking you again for granting us this interview and ask you what your thoughts are on Mogul Thrash looking back all those years? What would you like to say to all the Mogul Thrash fans out there?

It’s been very interesting looking back as it’s not something I usually do, I’ve usually got something going to concentrate on. Looking back on Mogul Thrash now, there are some great memories, we had some great times and made some music that I’m really proud to have been involved with. One great buzz is that one of my son’s favourite tracks of all time  is “What’s This I Hear” My son has turned out to be a great and innovative musician in his own right. I turned down a lot of opportunities because I wasn’t prepared to compromise on certain things. One thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t have everything but I’ve had most of the things that mean a lot to me.
To all the Mogul Thrash fans out there I’d like to say a big thank you and I’m sorry there wasn’t more.

Interview made by Sébastien Métens / 2012
© Copyright / 2012

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Interview with writer and researcher on psychedelic pop culture

Rags to Rags: The Lost Tale of Detroit’s Sugar Man aka Sixto Rodriguez

Writing isn't necessarily an option for me. In this case, it is a matter of bounden duty. To find something remarkable and make no remark is to completely defy human constitution. This is my remark. It must be as complete and thorough as can be managed so that you might understand its importance. It concerns a particular era in time and a man of that time, both of which I am very passionate for many reasons. But most importantly, it concerns us all as human beings living, breathing, and sharing this planet as well as the responsibility we hold for one another.
               It was the early 1960’s and America was in an uproar; steeped in communist terror and the threat of nuclear war abroad, while facing racial tensions and the fight of equality-for-all at home (1). The common folk found their voice in 1962 with a freewheeling young man and his meek guitar. Bob Dylan’s vociferant voice and observant eye took The Song further than could possibly have been imagined. It sparked a movement that swept the nation into a realization that they were free to let their voices be heard and change things for the better or lie on the tracks and die trying (2).
               Yet somewhere, with all the focus on war, politics, and equality the people seemed to lose sight of themselves, and a deeper problem was brewing. Their own standard of living; the measures of their so-called virtuous way of life was being lost to the excesses that their great rise above reprieve had worked to relieve them from. The great urban centers of America were sinking more and more into drug ridden, promiscuous slums and the great Folk voices from which the people had relied on were already on a slow decline. It was becoming a Dorian Gray (3) scenario—this grotesque thing was growing with a false sense of beauty and grandeur; a malformity that no politician or march can change, only self-recognition and action on an individual basis (4).
In 2006 I was working a record shop in Beaverton, Oregon. I was sorting rubbish vinyl from the gems; all the Barbra Streisands and Jimmy Buffetts from the Beatles and so on. My co-worker walked through the front door and approached me with his CD player and eager anticipation written on his face. He knew and appreciated my hunger for precious artifacts and he was full of them. His headphones were buzzing with fresh new sounds as he handed them to me. I pulled them over my ears and what I heard sonically sculpted my renascence. Now, if I may digress; working in a record shop was an intimidating concept because I was presented with so much music it was positively dizzying. I was expected to know my stuff. If I confused Howlin’ Wolf with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, I was absolutely done for. But this was different from all of that—here was something truly imperative and utterly essential for any so-called "music aficionado". “What is this…Who is this?” I stuttered. “Where did it come from!?” I stammered and stumbled. My words were gushing out as he shushed me sharply and whispered, “Just listen”:

Garbage ain't collected, women ain't protected.
Politicians using, people they've been abusing.
The mafia's getting bigger, like pollution in the river,
And you tell me that this is where it's at.

Woke up this morning with an ache in my head,
Splashed on my clothes as I spilled out of bed,
Opened the window to listen to the news,
But all I heard was the Establishment's Blues.

Gun sales are soaring, housewives find life boring,
Divorce the only answer, smoking causes cancer.
This system's gonna fall soon, to an angry young tune,
And that's a concrete cold fact.

The pope digs population, freedom from taxation.
Teeny Bops are up tight, drinking at a stoplight.
Miniskirt is flirting, I can't stop so I'm hurting.
Spinster sells her hopeless chest.

Adultery plays the kitchen, bigot cops non-fiction.
The little man gets shafted, sons and monies drafted.
Living by a time piece, new war in the far-east.
Can you pass the Rorschach test?

It's a hassle, it’s an educated guess.
Well, frankly I couldn't care less. (5)

Such an incredible amount was said in such a short span of time. My soul was set ablaze. Here was a man that spoke the words that the great musical minds of the time wouldn’t dare. George Harrison saw this very same decline in humanity but chose to distance himself from it all rather than speak his mind (6). I was lost at sea, dying of thirst; I couldn’t go on without answers. I demanded to know who this great Redeemer was. He responded with one very simple name that I wouldn’t soon forget.
               This prodigy was Rodriguez (7). He grew into the turbulent scenery of the sixties and witnessed the worst that his community, Detroit, Michigan had endured. His father was among the hard working lower-class, but he didn’t neglect to pass along his very intimate fondness for music. Rodriguez held an ecstatic love for the English language. With that, he acquired a strong, clear, independent mind with an ear for music, and true vision. He felt compelled to speak to the people and bring to light all the ugliness, but he needed a canvas by which to convey his words and ideas. He took up everything his father had imparted unto him and found the dim spotlight in 1970 with words that suited his manner of pity and contempt for the status quo in his city (8).
               What he produced was a twelve-track commentary on the state of the country; Cold Fact hit the shelves under the Sussex label. Everyone and everything of everyday life was sonically sculpted into the vinyl, exactly as he saw it. None were spared from his no-nonsense lyrical gunfire in pieces such as “This Is Not a Song, It's An Outburst (The Establishment Blues)” where shots echoed in every direction. The scathing “Rich Folks Hoax” displayed Rodriguez’s verbal breath of fire:

               The priest is preaching from a shallow grave,
               He counts his money, then he paints you saved.
               Talking to the young folks.
               Young folks share the same jokes,
               But they meet in older places.

               The sun is shining, as it's always done.
               Coffin dust is the fate of everyone.
               Talking 'bout the rich folks,
               The poor create the rich hoax,
               And only late breast-fed fools believe it.

               So don't tell me about your success,
               Nor your recipes for my happiness.
               Smoke in bed,
               I never could digest,
               Those illusions you claim to have going. (9)

He sought not to make friends or kiss anybody’s ass, but to open eyes and make a difference in the mentality of his beloved country. The rich, the poor, the middle-class; they all succumbed to the same sins and contributed to their inefficiencies.
               The words behind Cold Fact are like poetic daggers. Perhaps the deepest penetrating of all is the very first track, “Sugar Man”. Behind the narrative of a junky begging for his fix is a swirl of colorful psychedelic texture weaving through the song that makes it very alluring, almost like a lullaby. The use of panoramic stereo, which was very innovative for its time, is put to full use and creates dissonance with the subject. The lyrics create lustrous images, sculpting a mold for them to rest in but once viewed in hindsight, it warrants discomfort and the subject will want to pass it off as pure unsettling fiction. The song has a beautifully mellow composition; Rodriguez’s acoustic guitar crawls across the moog synthesizer, whipping around the head and whistling straight through the eardrums; the subject is rocked into a euphoric complacency. Reminiscent of the all-consuming addiction, it’s the cold fact of drug-use.

               Rodriguez borrowed none whatsoever from his Hispanic roots. Instead he waded into the psychedelic all-embracing folk-rock stylings of the sixties which were precisely what suited his delivery. With so much inspiration from musicians of that period stemming from psychedelic drugs, it would seem hypocritical if Rodriguez achieved this nearly perfect album under the influence of mind altering psychedelics. He maintained, however, that he had “never done hard drugs. [He] always preferred wine [him]self” (8). He didn’t owe any guitar melody or musical revelation to the ashes of a joint or the peak of an LSD trip.
His rapid fire rapping leaves the impression of a well-bred Bob Dylan crossed with the wild and spontaneous wordplay of a Nighthawks at the Diner (10) era Tom Waits. It all leaves a deep impression of the beat (11) spirit, not what so ever an impoverished Hispanic immigrant from the slums of Detroit. The real surprise though is the scope of his album considering it was his first real offering. The appreciation Rodriguez has for the art of a skillfully written, hard hitting folk song is obvious and yet, here are firm nods to both Jazz and Hard Rock, acoustic and electric guitar, horn sections, string arrangements and keyboards. Had this man been given more canvas, there is absolutely no telling what he could have done with it.
               Yet, as is the story with any musician in the budding of their career, Rodriguez walked away from Cold Fact with only lukewarm reception and moderate sales. He pushed on and recorded his second album, Coming From Reality in 1971 with an even broader scope but it failed to make a splash. The Sussex label folded in 1975 and Blue Goose Music in Australia bought the rights to his unsold albums. Slowly but surely, his songs began to gain radio airplay in Australia as well as various neighboring countries like New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and to a massive degree, South Africa where Cold Fact went platinum numerous times over. In light of this unexpected success, Rodriguez toured Australia but succumbed, again, to the hard times. His family needed him and he was in no place to leave them on their own. His music, however, continued to spread with furious pungency.
He unashamedly embraced a life of modesty in Detroit. When the time seemed right, he ran for a small public office position—only fitting for a man that wanted to make a legitimate difference in whatever small way he could. He gave it his best shot, but alas, politics are another game best left to the angry big-dogs (8).

Meanwhile, completely unbeknownst to him, his albums were gaining cult status in South Africa. The whole of Cold Fact had become the symbol of anti-apartheid revolution and as unspoken a part of anyone’s musical collection as Abbey Road and Bridge Over Troubled Water through illegal trading. He assumed a mortal shade of Christ—he was the people's promise of absolution. His words spoke to the masses with a matter-of-factness that was unheard of, and so upsetting to the status quo that they were outlawed, which made his music all-the-more enticing (12). “His working-class vitriol emerge[d] on ‘Rich Folks Hoax’ and ‘The Establishment Blues’ where he state[d] matter-of-factly that ‘The Mayor hides the crime rate, council woman hesitates’ and ‘little man gets shafted, sons and moneys drafted’” (13).
His two albums were released on CD for the first time in 1991 in South Africa and needless to say, they dominated the market. It wasn’t until 1998 that his daughter accidentally stumbled upon a website dedicated to her father that he had learned about any of his fame (his music now having gone five-times platinum in Australia). He had yet to see any profits or royalties from any of his music (14).
               The website his daughter stumbled upon was run by two South Africans that were hard and determined to separate fact from fiction. Rumor was floating around the Southern hemisphere that he’d committed suicide after the final show of his last tour in the seventies by lighting himself on fire before his fans, among other stranger tales. But “after several months chasing false leads, [Craig Bartholomew and Stephen Segerman] received a startled email from his daughter: ‘Do you really want to know about my father?’” (12). What followed from that point on was a whirlwind of shock and awe for Rodriguez. To find that his music had not only survived, but had been the inspiration behind radical positive social change for nearly four decades was more than he could have ever hoped for. He played his first-ever South African tour in 1998 for sold out stadiums and a documentary Dead Men Don't Tour: Rodriguez in South Africa was later assembled to document the epic scope of the event.
               Is the music still alive in Rodriguez, forty years later? While his untapped fame was wondrous, life as a musician is a ship he let sail long ago, but his love for it hadn’t dissipated one bit. His ultimate goal at this stage in his life was to live quietly and happily amongst his children and downtrodden Detroit brethren. “’My story [wasn't] a rags to riches story,’ Rodriguez [said], ‘it [was] rags to rags and I’m glad about that. Where other people [have lived] in an artificial world, I feel [I've lived] in the real world. And nothing beats reality’” (8). He hadn’t discounted the possibility of playing shows here and there, which is very fortunate for the world because Malik Bendjelloul hadn't given up hope that the world might recognize his significance. He had compiled forty-year’s worth of video and history for the world in his documentary Searching for Sugar Man released worldwide throughout 2012. It received rave reviews across the board and Rodriguez felt the tremors when he attended the Sundance film festival. He took to the stage after the screening and the crowd was in a fury.  "’You're one of the most beautiful songwriters I've ever heard, on par with Dylan,’ said a man [in the crowd], imploring him to play, as others around [him] shouted out, ‘No, better!’”. He couldn't ignore the demand any longer; it was time to play some music (15).

               He scheduled a very comprehensive tour for a then-seventy year old man. With the tour came plenty of media coverage including 20/20, an American primetime expose program (16). Shows were selling out quickly—it seemed that all of a sudden, everyone wanted a taste of “The Sugar Man”, but could he handle all of this at once? I was soon to find out.
               An experience I never fathomed possible was on the brink. Rodriguez scheduled a stop in Portland, Oregon. This man who I placed so far above the "legends" was playing a modest venue in my native Pacific northwest. It didn't end there. Before the October show, he surprised us all with an incredibly humble gesture—a private acoustic set at Music Millennium. It was there that the sheer scope of his newfound fame was revealed. It started as a modest line of five—grew to twenty—soon the line wrapped around two corners of the building. Every single person was there for one man—every single person utterly shocked by the turnout, as if their precious secret was a secret no-more. Nobody was surprised more than I. Six years ago this would doubtlessly have been an extremely slight turnout...or so I figured. Perhaps the world was more in tune than I gave it credit for. Most intriguing was the vast assortment of people; upper-class, middle-class, lower-class, punks, hippies, metal-heads, hipsters, jocks, grandmothers and grandfathers—it was baffling. There was an understanding shared by everyone there. This was special.
As the hour struck three the crowd filed in; a very tight fit. After what seemed like another half-hour of restlessness and suffocation, the lights dimmed and there he was; like a reincarnation of The Man in Black (17), he slowly shuffled through the valley of cd, shaking hands and graciously thanking his fans. His long and sable-black hair masked what wasn't already hidden by his impenetrable sunglasses. He was a walking silhouette; the crooked shadow of a man; a leader of the people.
               He grabbed the small hand of a child and led him up a flight of stairs to the studio, his father followed suit with a smile. They were given the VIP treatment that all giddy youngsters longed for. If I were any less rational, I would have been jealous but this event in itself was a gift that not many artists would trouble themselves with. He grabbed his guitar and tuned it quietly. His hand was worn, cracked and crinkled, looking as if it had lifted a thousand cinder blocks while it strummed chords that were familiar to everyone—these quiet reverberations brought the building to its knees with anticipation. He grinned nervously and began his set. It was here that any doubts lingering in my mind about his abilities were turned to dust. The music is still very much within him and it is every bit as poignant today as it was forty years ago, if not more so. We need his words and his music, now more than ever.
Society walks a ceaseless line bordering on self-destruction; therefore it is in a constant need of recalibration and reconsideration. Artistic expression is our most invaluable tool in self-reflection and some of the world’s greatest minds hold an affinity to the arts, so it is there that mankind would naturally look to for direction. Rodriguez harkens from a cold but factual place that nobody can turn away from. He comes from reality and he hopes to help everybody live there more soundly and rationally.

Annotated Bibliography

1. A detailed account of the trials and tribulations of the sixties decade.
"The Turbulent Sixties." The Turbulent Sixties. Pearson, 1995-2010. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

2. A detailed history of the importance of the Folk Revival.
Ruehl, Kim. "All About the Folk Revival." History of the Folk Revival., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

3. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a novel written by Oscar Wilde. It details a young man, Dorian Gray, that is admired for his beauty. He sells his soul by which terms, he will remain forever young while a portrait of himself ages with the passing of years. He pursues a life of debauchery and with each sin, the portrait grows more grotesque.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Modern Library, 1992. Print.

4. A detailed account of the sixties drug culture.
Karatoprak, Emre. "All about the Sixties: Psychedelic Pop Culture of the 60's / Sex, Drugs and Rock'n Roll." All about the Sixties: Psychedelic Pop Culture of the 60's / Sex, Drugs and Rock'n Roll. Blogspot, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

5. “This Is Not A Song, It's An Outburst (The Establishment Blues)”
Rodriguez, Sixto, perf. "This Is Not A Song, It's An Outburst (The Establishment Blues)."Cold Fact. Rodriguez. Sussex, 1970. Vinyl recording.

6. George Harrison was disenchanted by his fans and followers in San Francisco and from there on distanced himself from drug culture and began a period of self-improvement.
The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2000. Print.

7. Rodriguez was named Sixto being the sixth child in the family.
"Sixto Rodriguez - Searching For Sugar Man." Voices of East Anglia. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

8. An interview with Sixto Rodriguez detailing his life and music.
Delingpole, James. "Sixto Rodriguez interview: The Rock 'n' Roll Lord Lucan." The Telegraph 11Aug. 2009. 23 Nov. 2012 .

9. “Rich Folks Hoax”
Rodriguez, Sixto, perf. "Rich Folks Hoax." Cold Fact. Rodriguez. Sussex, 1970. Vinyl recording.

10. Nighthawks at the Diner is one of Tom Waits’ first albums, comprised of mellow jazz and spoken-word vocals concerning inner-city life, booze and heartache.
Waits, Tom. Nighthawks at the Diner. Elektra/Asylum, 1975. Vinyl recording.

11. The Beat generation was primarily concerned with fighting social conformity and embracing the impoverished with poetry. They are said to be the pioneers of hallucinogens as a writing tool.
"A Brief Guide to the Beat Poets." Academy of American Poets, 1997. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. .

12. An article focused on Rodriguez’s legend and supposed “return from the dead”.
Petridis, Alexis. "The singer who came back from the dead." The Guardian. 06 Oct. 2005. Guardian News and Media. 25 Nov. 2012 .

13. Rodriguez’ homepage and central hub for interviews and reviews.
Bond, Andrew. "" - All the Facts. Sixto Rodriguez, Apr. 1998. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

14. An in-depth overview of Rodriguez’s success in South Africa and other countries.
Rubin, Mike. "Singer-Songwriter Rodriguez on New Documentary About His Secret Success." Rolling Stone Magazine, 26 July 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

15. A recount of the Sundance Film Festival and the massive success behind the Searching for Sugar Man screening.
Yuan, Jada. "Sundance: The Electrifying Search for Sugar Man." 21 Jan. 2012. 25 May 2012 .

16. ABC News’ interview and recount of Rodriguez and his story.
Morales, Ed. "The Story of Rodriguez, the Greatest Mexican American Rock Legend You Never Heard of." ABC News. ABC News Network, 26 July 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. .

17. The Man in Black was one of the late Johnny Cash’s pseudonyms.
Graham, Billy. "Johnny Cash Biography." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. .

Article made by Hunter Gatherer/2012
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Tomorrow, The Pretty Things, The Pink Fairies interview with John Alder (Twink)

The Pretty Things from left to right John TWINK Alder, Phil May & Dick Taylor PARIS 1969 performing LONELIEST PERSON from the rock opera SF SORROW on French TV. © Cameron Watson

There is not many drummers as John Alder, often called just "Twink". He was part of many absolutely groundbreaking bands and met and played with so many amazing musicians. His carrier started with Tomorrow, that recorded a psych monster LP. Later he joined forces with The Pretty Things and with them he recorded S.F.Sorrow, that is one of the pinnacle albums in the psychedelia and an early example of conceptual albums. In July 1969, John took the opportunity to record his own album with members of The Deviants (Paul Randolph), The Pretty Things (Wally Allen, John Povey), Tyrannosaurus Rex (Steve Peregrin Took) and Tomorrow (John "Junior" Wood). The album was produced by The Deviant's Mick Farren. Twink would later play on Mick Farren's solo debut, Mona the Carnivorous Circus, with Steve Peregrin Took. After this he was a big part of Pink Fairies. His carrier moved on and he experimented a lot with Nik Turner (Hawkwind). We also must mention The Rings and Plasticland among others. Here is a brand new interview with John. 


You music carrier began in a band called Dane Stephens and the Deep Beats. After a year, the band evolved into The Fairies. You recorded some singles for Decca Records, right?

My musical career began with:

 a.The Airliners Skiffle Group - guitar and washboard

 b The Black Zillians Skiffle Group - drums

 c. The Angels Skiffle Group - guitar & lead vocals

 d. The Planets  (Rock group) - drums

 e. Eddie Lee Cooper & The Trappers (Rock group) - drums

  f. Jimmy Pilgrim & The Strangers (Shadows group) - drums

  g. Dane Stevens & The Deepbeats (Rock & Blues) - drums


       Only one single with DECCA "Don't Think Twice Its Allright" b/w "ANYTIME AT ALL"
       Two singles with EMI 1. "Get Yourself Home" b/w "I'll Dance"
                                          2. "Don't Mind" b/w "Baby Don't"

Steve Howe, Keith West, John 'Junior' Wood and you then formed The In-Crowd. You released three singles on Parlaphone Records. How was the group formed?

I was not part of the formation if The In Crowd. I joined in 1966 after their drummer Ken Lawrence had left and I did not play on any of The In Crowd singles.

You worked with legendary Mark Wirtz who decided to work with a band that he enjoyed The In Crowd. During these time your changed your name to Tomorrow. Why?

The In Crowd was basically a soul band and a more exciting scene was emerging, FLOWER POWER, HAPPENINGS & FESTIVALS which we decided that we would be a part of. We changed our music, visual image & name. I said NOW & "Junior" said TOMORROW and that was it. TOMORROW had arrived.

What can you say about the involvement with Mark Wirtz?

Mark Wirtz was the EMI producer that produced the Tomorrow album & the Aquarian Age single Ten Thousand Words In A Cardboard Box b/w Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard.
It was great fun working and hanging out with Mark Wirtz. He came to see The In Crowd play at a club called Blaises in South Kensinton, London. He decided there and then to produce us for EMI Records. He produced 2 singles for Tomorrow  "MY WHITE BICYCLE" & REVOLUTION" (we changed our name by the time we started recording), one LP entitled TOMORROW & a single for The Aquarian Age "10,000  Words In A Cardboard Box" b/w "Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard". He also produced a number of singles which were EXCERPTS FROM A TEENAGE OPERA. I have many happy memories of recording with Mark at Abbey Rd Studios and also on a personal level he was always very entertaining.

In 1968 you released an amazing self titled LP. What do you remember of recording the LP?

What I remember about recording the Tomorrow LP  is being excited about recording it at Abbey Rd, St. Johns Wood, London and being there at the same time as The Beatles were recording Sgt Pepper.........! The engineers were amazing in particular Geoff Emmerick. We had some great times at Abbey Rd. with The Beatles, The Shadows, The Monkees popping in from time to time to see how we were doing. We freaked the studio out with a psychedelic light show and plants for ambiance.

Did you have any special concept in your mind?

The only concept we had for the album to make a psychedelic album.

What gear did you guys use?

We used our own live show equipment and the studio equipment was the same as The Beatles used. Melletron,piano, tape machines, mikes & percussion etc.

How about the cover artwork?

The cover was done by a friend of Mark Wirtz and when we saw it we were all very disappointed.

I know this might be a bit weird question, but since I ask most of the artists I would like to write down songs from the debut and would really like if you could comment each song a bit. I will also ask you the same for your solo album. I hope you don't mind.

A1          My White Bicycle   

A classic psychedelic time piece for 1967. Inspired by the activities of the Provo Movement in Amsterdam. First pass recording was too fast & we re-recorded it with Mark Wirtz and we worked wonders on it!       

A2          Colonel Brown         

A kind of Sgt. Pepper...... type character, I can imagine Macca singing this. I always enjoyed playing this at rehersals, recording it & live.

A3          Real Life Permanent Dream                    

I remember when Steve bought his sitar and he picked up playing it very quickly. He brought it to the studio and we put it on this track.

A4          Shy Boy      

Very commercial song covered another group.

A5          Revolution        

The ultimate Tomorrow song & recording. Great arrangements by the band & Mark Wirtz. Inspired by improvised ad-lib & acting performance by me at the UFO Club, Tottenham Crt Rd, London.  

B1          The Incredible Journey of Timothy Chase 

This could have been much better, the flame was dying and we were losing heart. It is a story about Keith's experiences with Bryan Morrison.               

B2          Auntie Mary's Dress Shop                        

Quite a nice little psychedelic ditty, not really Tomorrow but great imagery from Keith lyrics.

B3          Strawberry Fields Forever     

Steve's guitar work is outstanding on this Beatles cover.                 

B4          Three Jolly Little Dwarfs             

Children love this song and so do I.

B5          Now Your Time Has Come                      

Another track that could have been a whole lot better.

B6          Hallucinations

Very commercial song that has been covered a few times. Very trippy.

Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and you were among the most groundbreaking British psych bands. How do you remember playing live. I would love if you could tell us where all did you play and how the concerts looked like back in the days. Was it very lysergic?

Yes in 1967 we played along side Pink Floyd & The Soft Machine to name a few. We also played with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and many other great bands of the time. Things were changing fast and shows were becoming more & more like events with liquid lights and joss sticks burning and people dancing the FREAK OUT. However, there were still very straight gigs and they always got a surprise when Tomorrow came. We played The UFO Club, The Saville Theatre, The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, Christmas On Earth, we also played a number of open air festivals and traveled to Europe for gigs, mainly France & Holland. It was a very exciting time and I always looked forward to gigs. We had a great time for the short time that the band lasted. We appeared in a film called SMASHING TIME with Rita Tushingham, Lynn Redgrave & Michael York & also worked on the film BLOW UP.

After Tomorrow there were The Pretty Things for you and you recorded with them probably their best LP called "S.F.Sorrow". "S.F.Sorrow" is the first rock opera, recorded and released before The Who's "Tommy". How do you remember recording, producing and writing it with other members of the band?

Three tracks for SF Sorrow had already been recorded and there was no need for me to re-do Skip's drum parts as they were perfect. I worked on all the other tracks remaining including "Lonliest Person". Some tracks had already been written but not recorded, and others not yet written, & some were written together on location for WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE the film we did with Norman Wisdom, "Old Man Going" & "The Journey". Working with Norman Smith was a particular pleasure who I found to be very open to everyones ideas. I put forward a number of ideas which were used in the production, the link with the roll call between "Private Sorrow" & "Balloon Burning", the out-tro with ad-lib vocal conversation to "She Says Good Morning" & the rising oscilator sound leading into the solo of "Old Man Going" plus other bits & bobs. "Well Of Destiny" was a joint ad-lib creation recorded in studio 2 (Abbey Rd). I enjoyed, as always, working at Abbey Rd, great engineers, electronic equipment & producers. Phil, Dick, Jon & Wally were great to work with & their performances are outstanding.

You did a great performance in Hyde Park…

The Pretty Things performed a show in Hyde Park on July 27 1968. Our set  began with
The Byrds song "WHY?" and continued with the following songs "TALKING ABOUT THE GOOD TIMES", "ALEXANDER", & the into a psychedelic jam starting with "MR EVASION" going into "I SEE YOU" & finishing with "MY WHITE BICYCLE". At one point I climbed on top of the PA speakers & jumped into the audience who were amazed and they gave us a huge applause for the excitement  we gave them. Phil, Dick, Jon & Wally were outstanding as usual the Hyde Park audience loved us especially when I started to throw my drums around the stage and it was after that I jumped into the audience. We lifted the park vibe to psychedelic heights unknown before. LONG LIVE ROCK AND ROLL.

In July 1969, you took the opportunity to record your own album with members of The Deviants (Paul Randolph), The Pretty Things (Wally Allen, John Povey), Tyrannosaurus Rex (Steve Peregrin Took) and Tomorrow (John "Junior" Wood). The album was produced by The Deviant's Mick Farren. So tell me what was the concept behind the album and what do you remember from writing it and recording it?

The original concept for THINK PINK was to create a very psychedelic series of sound portraits that would transport the mind of the listener to other places. The original idea for the title was KEYS that idea was dropped as the album developed.
Some of the songs had demo sketches already recorded  and final guitar parts, vocals parts and other instruments were worked out in the studio. 10,000 WORDS IN A CARDBOARD BOX was originally written recorded by THE AQUARIAN AGE as was TIPTOE ON THE HIGHEST HILL ( demo recorded at EMI, Manchester Sq, London produced by Mark Wirtz with other titles).  THREE LITTLE PIGGIES & THE SPARROW IS A SIGN were put together in the studio.
I spent quite a bit of time in advance with Paul Rudolph going over his guitar parts in his flat in the West End of London. All other musicians & friends guesting were directed by me in the studio.

As I asked before please comment each song from your LP.

A1          The Coming of the Other One  

This song uses a poem of Nostradamus to a psychedelic soundscape of sounds to tell the listener about The Day Of Judgement. Jesus (The Other One), peace be upon him, will return and all those who have been buried shall rise again from their graves to meet their Maker.
A2          Ten Thousand Words In a Cardboard Box                         

The title for this song was the idea of John "Junior" Wood which described the way he was feeling about Keith West at that time (1968) and I agreed with him then, which  also includes the part in the song "There he goes on another voyage of his own delusion never knowing where the next thought will take him". Paul Rudolph's guitar performance is outstanding on the recording and cannot be faulted. As is John Jnr Wood's bass guitar performance.

A3          Dawn of Magic     

This is a portrait of Earth just before Adam, may peace be upon him, and Eve, peace be upon her, arrived on Earth from Paradise closely followed by Shaitan (The Devil).

A4          Tiptoe on the Highest Hill         

Another song written by The Aquarian Age which also featured John Jnr Wood on bass guitar for this recording. A song full of pychedelic & surreal imagery. The backward guitar effects during the solo are mind-blowing.     

A5          Fluid        

Very Sexy!!! Gnarles Barkley recently sampled parts of FLUID for a new song creation called WOULD BE KILLER and this new version was featured on their 4 times Grammy nominated album THE ODD COUPLE.

B1          Mexican Grass War   

This was free form in the studio with all the musicians playing ad-lib parts as the work developed. Nothing has changed much in Mexico, then we had the GRASS WARS and now we have COCAINE WARS. This track features my old mate Viv Prince.        

B2          Rock an' Roll the Joint  

A good bit of rock n roll. If you listen carefully to one of the breaks you can hear someone saying "come baby let's be quick, pass the joint & suck my dick"   

B3          Suicide             

The very first song that I wrote 1966. I never contemplated suicide but it seemed an interesting subject. I enjoyed playing acoustic guitar along with Paul Rudolph on this track, great feel !

B4          Three Little Piggies         

Big respect for Steve Peregrin Took for this and the next track.            

B5          The Sparrow Is a Sign

Big guitar from Paul Rudolph & great lyrics from TOOKY.

How was working with these guys?

It was amazing and very creative.

This followed by forming The Pink Fairies. There were two formations of the band. Please tell us who was in what formation.

Version 1) johnTWINKalder & Steve Peregrin Took
Version 2) johnTWINK, Steve Pergrin Took & Mick Farren for a disastrous gig in Manchester. I fell out with Steve & Mick over this !
Version 3) johnTWINKalder, Paul Rudolph, Duncan Sanderson & Russell Hunter.

Photo of THE PINK FAIRIES. © Paul Welch

You were in the band until 1971. What did you record with them?

I recorded the single The Snake b/w Do It , Never Neverland LP, Glastonbury Fayre LP & John Peel radio shows.

The Pink Fairies play Bath 1970. © Terry Farebrother

You also played some concerts, right? What do you remember from standing on the stage as The Pink Fairies?

It was very exciting and all the shows very different.

You  would later play on Mick Farren's solo debut, Mona the Carnivorous Circus, with Steve Peregrin Took. I'm currently also working with Mick. I'm really glad both of interviews will be on It's Psychedelic Baby. Would you like to comment Mona the Carnivorous Circus?

Mick Farren was unwell at that time & I would rather not comment. However I would like to say it was a pleasure to meet all the session musicians who worked on the album.

Out of this The Stars were born and you started working with Syd Barrett among others. What can you tell me about this projects. You also played with Fred Firth?

STARS was born on my return from Maroc and my move from London to Cambridge. I played with The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band and Roger SYD Barrett came to jam with us a couple of times as did Fred Frith. Syd, Jack & me decided to put a band together & we called the band STARS.

What happened after that? I know you formed 'The Fallen Angels' in August 1976 with former 'Steve Marriott Allstars' Greg Ridley and Mickey Finn. On the way to your first gig, an injury sustained in a car accident left you hospitalized, following this line-up disintegrated - The Fallen Angels eventually wound up backing Phil May on a solo album. You then worked as a vocalist with 'The Rings' in early 1977, releasing one of the first Punk rock singles, "I Wanna Be Free", produced by former Sparks member Martin Gordon. This single is highly important and an influence for the scene later. How do you see it now? I mean you were an amazing drummer and decided to play punk music. I would love if you could share more about this recording?

I was rehearsing with The Fallen Angels at Steve Marriott's cottage in Essex and the night of the first day there we all went to Steve's local pub. I got very drunk and so did my driver. On the way back into London the car went off the road and ended upside down in a ditch and I sustained a fractured mandible which kept me hospitalised for about 2 weeks & out patient visits for a few months. Alan Lee Shaw & Rod Latter from Cambridge visited me in hospital a few times and we had played together in Cambridge therefore we talked about putting a band together when I got out of hospital. Eventually THE RINGS emerged and we recorded a single for Chiswick Records entitled I WANNA BE FREE b/w AUTOMOBILE. Next week a live CD by THE RINGS, THE RINGS LIVE AT THE 100 CLUB  1977 is being released on Whiplash Records USA.

Another recording from that time is Do It '77. If I may say invented the  word acid punk…

"Psychedelic Punkeroo" was originally called ACID PUNK but then I met and old friend Peter Meaden R.I.P. one day and I told him about the song I was working on in the studio. He suggested Pychedelic Punkeroo instead of Acid Punk. That evening I went to a rehearsal studiow Kid Rogers R.I.P. and ran through the song with the new title, Paul Cook on drums,
Steve Jones on guitar & Kid Rogers on bass guitar; me vocals. It sounded kool, better than the recorded version !  DO IT 77 was a one take recording with me on vocals & drums, Little John Hodge R.I.P. on lead guitar, Duncan Sanderson on bass guitar & Kid Rogers 2nd guitar.

Later in the '80s you were a part of Plasticland and later you joined with another musician I interviewed; Nik Turnen on PinkWind.

In 1988 I went to the States and recorded a single and a live album with Plasticland.  The single was "Seize The Time" b/w "Iris Of The Waterfall" (with an extra track Hey Momma Keep You Big Mouth Shut" for a german label  & the album was called "You Need A Fairy Godmother" for Midnight Records. We did some shows in Milwaukee, Chicago & ?. A real good time!
I toured with Nik Turner & recorded 2 live CD's in PINKWIND during the 90's. "Festival Of The Sun" & "Purple Haze" both released on my label Twink Records.

What are you currently up to?

I am living in Marrakech with my Maroccan wife & our 3 month old daughter Sara.

I am writing my autobiography which is a lot of work but it is coming together nicely.

I have finished writing the words & music to what is the follow up to THINK PINK. The working title is "THANK TWANK". I am currently looking for a record company &/or finance to record the album in LA & NY with some really kool musicians.

Here in Marrakech I am recording with Sheikh Mohammed some songs I have written for voice & drums only, any instruments required will be imitated by voice. We are also working on translations of the Quran & Hadith & we are in the studio 3 times a week.

In January I am going to Rome, Italy to record and album with Technicolour Dream. The album opens with a new version of "You Reached For The Stars" & closes with a new  "The Dream I Just Beginning". I have written 5 new songs for this project with joint composition of the music.

I am arranging to do some shows in 2013 inshAllah.

If we go back again a bit. In Joe Boyd's book White Bicycles - Making Music in the 1960s he asserts that the band's performance of the song "Revolution" one night at the UFO Club as the apotheosis of the 60s UK underground. What is your opinion on this and do you perhaps remember that night?

Joe Boyd is entitled to his opinion and I am very honoured that he should feel that way as the performance that night, which I remember very well, was completely free-form and ad-lib, also very exciting.

What is the story behind Twink nickname?

When I was with THE FAIRIES in 1964/65 our Scottish fans used to send me TWINK HOME PERM (Eric Clapton's favourite) because I had very curly hair. It was a little funny joke. My mates in the band started to call me TWINK & it stuck !
Oh well what can I do now ?

Before we end this interview I'd just like to ask you if you have any regrets when you look back?

None! What has gone before has led me to who I am to-day.

Thank you very much for your time and effort. I'm very grateful to have you on It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine. Would you like to send a message to our readers?

Love Peace & Happiness to you all :))) & if you have any questions please contact Psychedelic Baby Magazine.

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2012
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