The Blossom Toes Years,
Well all good things must come to an end and we came back to the UK to
face and make the music if you'll pardon the pun.
Giorgio had managed to set up a recording company and record label called Marmalade Music and we were earmarked to become some of the emerging 'beautiful people'.
The plan was to stop performing for a while and get down to writing a new repotoire for ourselves and then take over the world ( which was at the time still very much the property of the Beatles).
Colin Martin our drummer wasn't ready for the responsibilities that came
with such power and abdicated (I think he left because he missed his girlfriend
and was bored silly with us bunch of Herberts!) so, first things first,
new pots and pans!
You know, it's not until you start looking that you realise what a rare breed of person a good drummer is, but we were to find out through a dismal period of auditioning how true that was at the time!
A bad drummer can make everything sound and feel crap and boy, did we sound and feel crap for a week or two until Kevin Westlake showed up at the studio and thank god, problem solved.
Giorgio hired a house in Fulham for the band, gave us a retainer of £10 a week each to live on and said go write and perfect those classics of tomorrow! which was, of course , what we did(NOT!).
Lets get serious, this was our BIG opportunity to make it in the UK so why should' n't we forget the past and look to a flowery, famous future? Well. to start with, wed already seen it all before in Paris and quiet honestly, for me, the whole facade of Flower Power was both distracting and embarrassing but, a jobs a job so keep the boss happy!.
Giorgio had a wonderful conception with the Marmalade Label, a family of musicians from all walks, making music together . I would have given my nuts to have played with Brian Augers band but, you know what families are like !
Back to the Blossies, the name, where did it come from?
Giorgio(bless him!) employed a very clever person to sit on his arse all day and think up bloody clever things ( I think its called marketing now) for the label and he gave birth to the Blossom Toes, for no good reason or no bad one either.
Up until this point we had been a gigging band but armed with the new name and identity, we went into semi' retirement to write and rehearse a completely new repertoire. Good fun(we thought) at the time but a bloody nightmare in the end as, a), we almost forgot how to perform live and b), by the time wed made the first album, We are Ever so clean, we couldnt perform it anyway!! Why not?
At the risk of raining on Blossies fans parades, who see the first album as a quirky look at British life in the late 60s with garden parties, tea and cakes on the lawn in the summer, budgerigars and balloons wafting in a warm breeze, Im sorry to say it was not like that at all.
Im not saying that I dont like the record as I actually am quite proud of it now but at the time, we were getting constant grief from the mother company Polydor UK who thought we were shit and a waste of space, having to play with complete strangers ( session musicians), having to accept other peoples versions of moonlight, (arrangers) and generally being pushed around. We were not used to this and I for one, found it very confusing and stressful.
You know, Big B didnt even play the bass on Frozen Dog! Why?
Giorgio (remember him) thought in his infinite wisdom, that a certain Vic Briggs, (a pretty naff guitarist playing with Brian Auger at the time) would do a better job!
Did we say Foff!? no we didnt and the result speaks for itself.
Brians unique bass playing is, in my opinion, a musical cornerstone of that album, not even Maca was playing with that clarity at the time and we allowed this prick to fuck up the bass end of Dog on Giorgios say so!
So,,,,, why couldnt we perform the album?
Ill leave you to work that one out for yourselves.
Anyway, enough of that, suffice to say that by the time wed finished Ever so Clean, we were all a little bit confused and at a loss as to what the fuck we were supposed to be about! (don't forget, we used to be a gigging rock band and all of a sudden we were poncing round in extremely odd clothing stinking of incense!)
We did a few disastrous gigs including the, Ally Pally Love in, Reading Jazz Festival, and a collection of TV appearances in Europe with the likes of Herman's Hermits!
God they were shit in every conceivable way and we appeared to be on a slippery slope to bullshit land, what next, the Des OConnor show!?
This had to stop, and it did, in a peculiar sort of way to say the least!
Oh, just to put a cap on the Ever so Clean episode for the moment, we did do a couple of fun Marmalade presentation concerts with the other artists, one at the Shaftsbury theatre in London and the other at the Olympia in Paris which was, if my memory serves me well, BLOODY HILARIOUS!!!!
Back to the plot.
We, as a band were developing a sort of parallel universe existence ie, flobbing round the trendy clubs in London, dressed like male Barbie dolls and acting like we were some of the beautiful people man! ( even though we didnt have two pennies to rub together!), and at the same time, becoming more and more aware and frustrated with the reality that nothing was actually happening at all!
So we started jamming (for want of a better word) with a few new ideas
and, armed with these few new ideas, got a gig in Sweden for a week or
so at a club in Stockholm called the Merry Hassen.
We had no songs as such and couldnt (or wouldnt) play anything from Ever so Clean so, back to square one!
There is a bootleg of this adventure which is now in its own little way, quite famous and it demonstrates clearly our total lack of repertoire and direction fired by our desire and need to, as a band, start making some serious bloody noise again! A very disturbing but understandable snapshot of our little gang at the time!
Armed with sore fingers and ringing ears, we returned to the Motherland to fire up the new, Blossom(cop this mush!) Toes, Mk two!!
Jim was beginning to allow me to play a few licks by now and in turn I was allowing him to play a few rhythm bits, what am I talking about? Well, in the old days we had rhythm guitarists and lead guitarists ie, I went, jangy jangy jangle and Jim went twiddly twiddly diddle ! Very boring ! I wanted to twiddle and Jim wanted to jangle so in a moment of shear inspiration and desperation we both said,sod it, do what you like! and from that point on we became, to the best of my knowledge, the first twin lead and rhythm guitar combo in the universe! ( well, maybe in the uk).
This was to be a crucial development for the Blossies in two ways, firstly it would influence dramatically the way we would approach composing for the band and secondly( and possibly more importantly), would give us a unique and identifiable live sound that stood us apart from others.
Kevin was to leave the band shortly after the Swedish trip to concentrate on his own singing/songwriting aspirations with Gary Farr (the Lion and the Fish) but would remain with Marmalade and also remain a good mate (which he still is).
So now we were ready to go but once again panless. ie, no drummer! but, this time we were to find the right guy almost immediately in the guise of Poli Palmer. And as a bonus, Poli was also a good vibes player, fluatist an pianist! - bloody helll!
Poli wasn't to stay with the band for very long, as playing the drums 90% of the time began to tie him down to much, but in that short period, we put a lot of new stuff together both as a live band and in the studio( mainly demos but Poli contributed the drums to the first track of If only for a Moment Peace loving Man).
Funnily enough, it was with Poli that we performed our only performances from Ever so clean (apart from the presentation gigs) in the form of BBC1 radio broadcasts - (we did Love Is with Pol playing vibes and flute, very posh!).
Anyway we were back gigging in England and France, the English gigs
being a bit of a lottery in as much as when one left the bubble
of London, youd never know where one would end up.
At that time, it was usually workingmens clubs up north who thought theyd give thisphsycadelic stuff from London a go. BAD MOVE!!!
But on the positive side, we did learn how to, duck flying objects, ignore incomprehensible threats and pack up and fuck off -very - very quickly!!
It was always great to return to France as we still had our street
cred from the Ingoes days so there was fun still to be had, and
of course we could disappear and go skiing! (we used to play the ski resorts
back in the Ingoes days and still had the urge to break a leg or two!)
Wed just go AWOL which really pissed the office in London off big time!
But back in the real world (UK) it was much of the same old thing- the phsycadelic flea pits in London and the south and the hell holes up north and it was on one particularly gruesome out-of- towners that Poli resigned and I remember (very clearly) thinking- too right mate!
But- having said all this, it was on one of these gigs up north that
we were supporting a band called the Ferris Wheel who were
to all intents and purposes, a soul band with a Brummy
drummer named Barry Reeves who took a shine to what we were up to and
would become the drummer for the final phase of the Blossom Toes saga.
Salt of the earth guy with great experience and an un-phaseable nature and idiotic sense of humour (bloody good drummer too!). Just what the doctor ordered!
Wed also picked up on our travels a roadie named David
Jacobson, (Jake) who was to become, to all intents and purposes, the fifth
member of the band as he really took over the live sound presentation
of Blossies in an innovative and constructive way.
He was totally into improving what it sounded like live and developed hi-fi type PA equipment and quality backline amplification and long after the Blossoms had withered, he would go on to being Genesiss live sound guru! Great guy!
So-- as I said wed already completed one track with Poli and were given the opportunity to make our second album "If only for a moment".
Wed already made it clear to the company that there was no way we would be repeating the process employed in the making of 'Clean Ie, no orchestrations, no arrangers, if we couldnt play it. we wouldnt do it.
We were a working band again and as such were composing for the stage
as well as the record so it was inevitable that we would end up with a
completely different kind of album.
Both me and Jim were composing material that would give our new found freedoms on the gtrs an airing and of course lyrically and consciously wed done a bit of growing up, and as such, we ended up with a record of us as we were, for better or worse, warts and all!
Now, Im fully aware that to many Blossies fans, the fantasy land created in the first album is how they would care to remember us but, to me, If only for a Moment was the band as I wish to remember it.
We would play this material until the groups demise. A good band that with a little bit more luck, possibly, may have gone on to gain more success than it did, but this was not to be.
A pretty nasty crash on the homeward journey from Bristol University in late 1969 stopped the band in its tracks.
Nobody was seriously hurt, thank God, but we would never work as a band called the, Blossom Toes again.