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Jody Grind interview with Bernie Holland

December 20, 2012

Jody Grind interview with Bernie Holland


Today at It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine we’re
extremely fortunate to have with us Bernie Holland, guitar and bass player
whose beginnings saw him accompanying blues singer extraordinaire Long John
Baldry, with an appearance on The Bobbie Gentry Show in 1968. He toured with
Baldry’s band Bluesology throughout 1969 before joining Jody Grind and playing
in their second studio album Far Canal, now widely considered as an early ‘70s
rock gem by classic rock devotees. He later struck a great friendship with the
band Patto and in particular the great Ollie Halsall, sitting in for indisposed
bass player Clive Griffiths in 1971 during Patto’s European tour. He can be
seen playing “Time To Die” and “Money Bag” with Patto on French TV show Pop
Deux during that tour. In this interview, we ask Bernie about his
time with Jody Grind.
Welcome to It’s Psychedelic Baby!, Bernie!
First off, all the team would like to thank you for granting us this interview
and sharing your memories of the band with all the fans out there. I’d like to start at the beginning, as one
does, and ask you what bands had a formative influence on you growing up and
when was that crux moment when you decided playing music professionally was
what you wanted to do?
I started out playing drums with a band
from Cheltenham (England) called ‘The Sinners’ but shortly after that I
switched to guitar in a semi-pro band called “Jam”. We basically did material
by ‘John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers’ 
and later ‘Cream’ – I had a Gibson SG Special which I painted up in
‘psychedelic’ colours. I used to go to a local club in Cheltenham called ‘The
Blue Moon’ where saw (and heard) guitarists like Clapton, Hendrix, and Peter
Green. I was also a fan of Long John Baldry who first had a band called ‘Steam
Packet’ with Brian Auger & The Trinity, Julie Driscoll and a very young Rod
Stewart. The guitarist with this line up was a guy called Vic Briggs who was a
great player, in more of a jazz style than the ‘blues’ guitarists. The second
guitarist with ‘Steam Packet’ was Gary Boyle. Baldry then got a new band
together called ‘Bluesology’ which included Caleb Quaye on guitar and Reginald
Dwight on organ. During one of the gigs at the ‘Blue Moon’, Caleb told me that
Reg was quitting the band to pursue a solo career.  Bluesology had a sax player called Elton
Dean, and of course John Baldry was the front-man, so Reg took their first
names and put them together as his new identity – Elton John. At the same time
Caleb told me that he was also going to do his own thing and he said I should
go up to London to audition for ‘Bluesology’. At the audition there were
guitarists who I thought were much better than me, so I was surprised when I
got the phone call offering me the gig. With Bluesology I started off using the
same SG Special (but with the acrylic ‘psychedelic’ patterns removed) however,
during a visit to Londonderry (Northern Ireland) the bandwagon was broken into
during the night and it was stolen. After that I decided to get a Gibson 175D
like the one Vic Briggs had with ‘Steam Packet’. You can see me playing that
guitar on one of the You Tube clips – I was 19 years old at that time !  Baldry had a go at the ‘pop’ market with a
song called ‘Let The Heartaches Begin’ which went to No. 1 in the charts and
that’s when the high life started – All of us were on a retainer so even if we
didn’t have a gig that week, we still got our wages !  However, unknown to Baldry, his management
were siphoning off loads of money – the result of which was that by the end of
1969 he could no longer pay us and so the band split up.
Could you detail your move from your time
with Long John Baldry and Bluesology to playing with Jody Grind?
After ‘Bluesology’ disintegrated, there was
a period of time where I wasn’t in any band, although there were a few jam
sessions going on where you could meet people. During this time I was hanging
out with an eccentric guy from Cornwall called Mike Caple who did ‘light-shows’
for a band called ‘The Pretty Things’ and we rented a flat in South London. The
day we moved in we had a good smoke and decided to repaint the flat. We painted
all the walls black and all the woodwork pink and when the landlord got back
that night he threw us both out and refused to refund our deposit. So Mike and
I  moved to another flat , this time in
West London, near Kew Gardens. One day, early 1970 I think, there was a knock
on the door and it was Viv Prince (drummer with ‘The Pretty Things’) who had
come over for a good smoke-up.  He told
us he was going to cook a  traditional
Sunday Roast Dinner, so Mike and I went out for the afternoon to visit a couple
of girls we knew and let him get on with it. When we got back he served up a
huge tray of roast potatoes – nothing else, just roast potatoes – not exactly
what Mike and I were expecting. However, it wasn’t long before I got another
offer of joining a band. I was living in a flat in St Georges Square, Pimlico –
right by the River Thames, and this guy turned up by the name of Tim Hinkley –
he played me an album ‘One Step On’ by his band which was named ‘Jody Grind’ –
which was the title of a tune by the jazz musician Horace Silver. On this album
there was Tim Hinkley (organ), Ivan Zagni (guitar) and Barry Wilson (drums).
Tim was about to do another album and was looking for a new guitarist and
drummer, so he got me and Pete Gavin, my old mate from Bluesology.
Could you relate any amusing memories you
have of gigging and playing with Jody Grind? What other bands did you share the
bill with and for the musicians reading this, what gear did you use?
It’s so long ago it’s difficult for me to
remember much – in fact I don’t think many people from this era can remember
much bearing in mind what was going on all the time – but I can recall sharing
the bill with Genesis when Peter Gabriel was the front man – the was also a gig
where we played alongside an African band ‘Osibisa’ and there a few occasions
where we shared the bill with Patto and that’s when Ollie and I first became
friends. We also did a gig supporting the ‘Doors’ at the ‘Roundhouse’ which was
an old railway shed in Chalk Farm, North London. When I was with Jody Grind I
played a black Gibson Les Paul Custom through a 200 watt Marshall Stack – the
only effect  pedal I used was a
‘Cry-baby’ wah-wah thing, like Hendrix used.
Far Canal, Jody Grind’s second album and on
which you play acoustic, electric and bass guitar and sing, was released in
1970 on Transatlantic in the UK. Far Canal – a somewhat risqué title! I’ve
heard that United Artists, who had the rights to release the album in the US,
wouldn’t do so without a name change but that the band refused to give in.
Could you enlighten us as to how the band decided on that title and the labels’
reaction?
I didn’t know that United Artistes refused
to release ‘Far Canal’ – that’s the first I’ve heard of that ! I made the name
up originally as a joke, but Tim Hinkley went ahead with it anyway. There were
quite a few people who didn’t get the joke at first, especially our Dutch fans
as we did quite a few gigs in Holland and saw a lot of canals there.
What
memories do you have of recording that album in the studio and could you talk
us through each track, sharing any interesting tidbits for each?

All I can say here was that the album was
recorded at Sound Techniques studio in London and we did the whole thing in
three days. I did overdub bass guitar on some tracks, but later on we got a
bass player called Roger Sutton – we also had another bass player called Alex
Dmchovsky but most of the time it was just the three of us until Pete Gavin
left to join ‘Heads Hands & Feet’. By this time we were not getting much
support from our management and they eventually dropped us – maybe this was
because I had plans for a further album called ‘Far Queue’ but we’ll never
know. With Pete leaving it was more or less the end of ‘Jody Grind’ but we had
a few gigs left to do and so we went out as a duo, without guitar, with just
Tim playing organ (with bass pedals) and singing, and me playing drums.
‘Plastic Shit’ ended up being a half-hour drum solo !
In 2006, Barry Monks from The Ollie Halsall
Archive did an insightful interview with you about your memories of the band
Patto and the time you spent with them. Even though this interview is primarily
focused on your involvement with Jody Grind, our readers would really
appreciate it if you could tell us a little about your adventures with Patto
here too. Are there any great anecdotes you can share?

 Patto with Bernie. Paris 1972 photos 
© Armand Serra

All I can say here is that when Barry Monks
interviewed me a couple of years ago I told him more or less everything that
happened, so I don’t want to repeat all that here. If you are interested in
that, then go to Barry’s web-page “Ollievision’ where you can read all about
it.

The Blue Flames

The line-up is: left to right – Speedy
Acquaye (congas and spliffs) Tony Crombie (drums and moody antiques) and Bernie Holland (guitar & trains) 1978

You still make music today, posting new
material regularly on your YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/bernieholland775) and you teach guitar in
the North-West London area. Could you tell us more?

I’ve got a studio set up in my house where
I use Cubase Advanced Music Production
Software. There is a MIDI workstation which has hundreds of samples and Cubase
also has a load of VST plug-ins. Vocals were previously recorded next door in
the bathroom but the problem there was that you get reverb on the track and
once it’s recorded you can’t get rid of it, so I’ve just converted the attic
into a vocal booth. For many years I wrote loads of tunes and songs but I never
had the facilities to record them. Now I have the studio here I am going
through all my old manuscripts and sorting out stuff to record – that is if
it’s good enough to be worth recording. Had Jody Grind kept going then some of
these pieces might have featured on follow-up albums. Eventually, I will be
producing my own solo album of mainly guitar based instrumentals, but at the
moment I am producing a couple of solo artistes who are singers. As you know I
also have a limited number of private students who I teach guitar, bass guitar
and Music Information Technology.
The last word is yours, Bernie! Thank you
so much for your time. Would you like to say anything to the Jody Grind fans
out there on the web?
To all Jody Grind fans I would say that it
must have been a disappointment that the band broke up before it had really
started to take off, but I would still like to thank you all for supporting us
while we were still going. So my best wishes go out to all of you.
For further reading on Bernie’s musical
career, with a particular emphasis on Patto, I urge everyone to read Barry
Monks’ excellent interview here: http://www.olliehalsall.co.uk/bernie.htm
Interview made by Sébastien Métens / 2012
© Copyright
http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com / 2012
5 Comments
  1. chriscokid

    Great Interview!! as always.. It's my first time of hearing of the band..
    Nothing like a "Good Smoke" and A Traditional Sunday Roast Dinner. It doesn't get any better than that..

  2. Sébastien Métens

    Thanks for reading, chriscokid! Glad you liked it!

  3. Anonymous

    Hi, we welcomed Jody Grind many times at The Eland in Delft, Holland. Great band and we all had a nice time. A friend of mine and I had the privalidge to tour with the band as guests. I remember vividly a gig at the Manchester Polytech around 1969 with Thin Lizzy playing there as well. Nice to read this interview.

    Kees Boelhouwer, Amsterdam

  4. Unknown

    I remember Kees - I always liked doing gigs at the Eland in Delft - Holland is a great country and the people are really cool - thank you

  5. SCALEY SCALES

    Top man Bernie. That Far Canal album is a top ten favourite of mine, and my only regret is that I never saw you guys live and I was out and about in those days. I saw Patto many times and rate Ollie as one of the best, alongside Frank Zappa, Jimi, Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana and your good self. Your playing on Jump Bed Jed was inspirational, reminding me very much of some of frank's free flowing playing on Hot Rats. Keep up the good work.

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