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
h. THE FAIRIES
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.
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.
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.
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"
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 so...you 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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