The Weighty Eighties!
So onwards and upwards and into the eighties, Mirage had run its coarse with people moving of in different directions and work situations (Steve Cook to the Soft Machine, George Khan to the People Show) but me and Dave Sheen kept in touch as we still wanted to work together. Dave was doing a gig up north, with whom Im not sure but, on his return to London he gave me a call to tell me about this amazing young bass player hed seen in the Lake District called Steve Lamb. He really wanted to play with the guy and asked me if id be interested( if he could persuade him to come to London), in having a play with him. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I said definitely not! (only joshing!). Dave gave him a call and he was down for the crack and was soon in London with his trusty Edgar hand made fretless bass and, bugger me!, could he play it! Now Steve is a virtuoso by anybodys standards but what stood him head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries was his sense of, pitch, timing and humour(!)
The world of Fusion (not sure if I like that terminology) was festooned with bass players slapping away like they were in a George Formby competition which, I can assure you, was very wearing on all of ones senses (I can remember, many times, wishing theyd all funk off and stop imposing their non musical macho bollocks on everyone). Steve could do all that stuff but never kicked the shit out of it. I mention all this because we were to form a trio which is something Id never seriously considered before that point, but with someone of Steves ability it relieved a lot of the weight from my shoulders as a guitarist / soloist (I could stop playing sometimes and it wouldnt make a blind bit of difference!!) So we formed GLS (Godding Lamb& Sheen) which was another turning point for me in the music and as a guitarist.
I started composing again but this time with the trio in mind and started to enlarge my own collection of gadgets and effects ( well, a couple of Boss pedals and my old echo chamber!) and pretty soon we were doing gigs in and around the same sort of places that Mirage might have done and also in Steves home town of Kendal at a fantastic venue called the Brewery arts centre. Pretty scary to start with but as I got more confident and stopped trying to fill every gap with something deep and meaningful, it became really enjoyable and, dare I say, bloody exiting! Ive never felt comfortable with all that guitar hero stuff so, as Ive already said, having Steve on board allowed me to concentrate on developing a much larger and expansive range of sounds and approaches that would not have worked or been appropriate in the larger formations Id been used to.
Whilst this was bubbling away I was still pretty Busy with Westbrooks Orchestras and recordings so for me, at least, it was a very hectic and interesting period, but by about the beginning of 1980, another important development would occur.
It was towards the end of 1980 that I was approached by a lad called Bob Ward whom I had met previously at various festivals around the country whilst I was playing with Westbrook and he,at the time, was stage managing and doing sound ect. He wanted to know if Id be interested in getting involved in a project with a guy he was managing called Kevin Coyne. Id heard of him but was unfamiliar with his music as our paths had never crossed. At this point the real carrot to me was that one of my all time loony heroes was also involved, him being Zoot Money! Say no more!
Well, anyway, i met up with Kevin and was well impressed with the lad! Fantastic sense of humour and incredible singing voice, a real talent. Well, the music for this project had already been recorded so the plan was to take it on the road and would turn out to be,for me, a crash course in the weird and wonderful world of Kevin Coyne! The actual piece was called Babble, loosely described (by me) as a musical come play come narrative performed by Kevin and Dagmar Krause (Bobs girlfriend) with Zoot and me providing the music. Based on a imaginary relationship between Ian Brady And Myra Hindley (the notorious Moors murderers!!!) it was bloody contentious to say the least and I think even Kevin was a little bit worried about performing it in the UK but performances were unblighted with any personal injuries and when we performed in Europe nobody knew who the bloody hell they were anyway!!
Zoot moved on fairly sharpish and Bob Ward took his place on acoustic gtr for most of the continental gigs with this piece (we actually toured with it quite extensively). It was in retrospect, a bit of a funny and disturbing period because although i was getting on really well with Kevin( getting used to the way he performed, trying to out drink him, which was impossible and just generally enjoying the experience), Kevin and Bob were, as it turned out, getting close to the end of there professional relationship so there was always an uncomfortable vibe which I had to learn to ignore but it was difficult.
Whilst out on the road with Babble, Kevin said hed like to continue the musical relationship at the end of the run of gigs and invited me to contribute to his next Album for Virgin records so of coarse I was well down for that. At this point I had no idea what he had in mind but I knew it would be something totally different to to what Id done before and, it most certainly was! Id long given up the desire to writesongs so I assumed that Id turn up, plug in and learn a few songs hed written but that was not the plan at all! Kevin (well actually Bob) booked some studio time and on arriving and setting up Kevin looked at me and said, got any tunes or cord sequences?-------(!!!!!!) I beg your pardon( I thought!), well, for some reason( probably sheer terror!) I started fiddling around with this little sequence of riffs and cords and Kev said, I like that, play it again.
So, I play it again, Kevin riffles through a pile of poems and lyrics and starts singing this amazing song over the top of it!! Bloody hell!( me thinks) this is going to be good when we sort it out! Got that on tape Bob? Kevin says as we grind to a halt after some time, Bob gives a nod from the control room and we appear to have Learn to swim, learn to drown,the first track for the new album , Bursting Bubbles!!! I said to Kevin that maybe we should do another take at least but he just said why?
He was of coarse right as this was the way he worked and we made the rest of the album in the same way( he did let me do a few overdubs though, just to keep me happy!) A very spontaneous performer and artist with the ability to pull it off and, of great importance, a very selfless and generous gent!!
The studio we used was owned and run by two musicians, Al James and Vic Sweeney who were to relocate a little later to Kensington , Alvic studios, where GLS and Other Routes would record the material used on my album/CD , Slaughter on Shaftsbury Avenue but more of that later.
So , Kevins album was done and dusted in no time at all but I still had these doubts in my head as to whether it was any good as I had never worked like that before in a studio apart from demoing material but Kevin did know what he was doing and he was right, it worked and Im proud of that record.
As I said earlier, Kevin and Bobs relationship was getting more and more terminal by the week but there was still quite a lot of work (gigs) to do in Europe for Kevin that Bob had arranged and although Kevin could easily have done them on his own with Bob, he asked me and Vic and Al if wed like to do them with him (a bit of moral support maybe!) and that's what we did. We had a lot of fun doing festivals and clubs in Belgium and Holland and France and it was great for me to get out and play some rock and roll (Kevin Coyne style that is!) again but Bob was getting ever more morose so it took the shine of it all a bit but it did point the way to the future and to Kevin working with GLS (remember them!)
To those of you who have been following all of this stuff, you may have noticed a rather (even for me!) long pause since my last entry.
As you know our good friend Kevin Westlake died unexpectedly in October 2004 and then in December we learnt that Kevin Coyne had passed away as well which for me was again, a shock and another moment of great sadness within the space of two months.
We are all, of coarse, mortal, and many of us are lucky to still be here but it doesnt dampen the sadness and sense of loss knowing these facts when people that you genuinely love and respect as human beings, friends and associates leave the stage unexpectedly,and Ive got to say that I sort of lost interest in all of this for a while but I feel now is the time to continue with my ramblings so first thing first.
I hope you don't think Im being irreverent but in a lot of ways and especially with regards to performances, this is how I would choose to remember Kevin.
Hell be greatly missed.
Soooooo, back to the tale.
Well, I suppose it was the end of 1980 , beginning 81 (Id better check that or Ill be shot down in flames by Pascal Regis!!)----1980 it was!
Kevin was about to make his last album for Virgin records which turned out to be , Sanity Stomp.
Again he asked me to contribute and he also asked Robert Wyatt to be involved also.
It was good to see Robert again and of coarse play a bit more music with him as the last time we had worked together was in Keith Tippetts Centipede( 1970) and in between hed had his accident and ended up in a wheel chair so it was great to see he was on top of it all and still full of music.
We ended up with a piece of music called Wonderful Wilderness, with again, one of my riffs and Kevin and Robert improvising poetry, percussion and various other keyboard type things over and around it, oh and Bod Ward played some really nice electric gtr chord work in the form of punctuations.
Thats all I remember really about that record apart from the fact that it was the last time Bob and Kevin would work together.
As all of Kevins admirers and fans will know he was a genuine, multi talented fellow and amongst other other things, he would do poetry recitals ( Kevin style that is!) of which I would be asked to accompany him on gtr( improvising) on several occasions.
One of these recitals was at the Battersea arts centre in London, loads of humour from the man and strange noises from me( Ive got a tape of it somewhere).
It would lead the way to Kevin Working with GLS for most of 1981 as we were beginning to socialise between gigging( that's going to the pub on a regular basis!) and it was only a matter of time before Kev would be showing up at GLS gigs and joining in for a bit of fun.
He really took a shine to the band and its jazzy/ rocky way of performing so we were soon talking about putting a show together as he had plenty of work in the pipeline both in the UK, Europe and beyond.
Kevin has this amazing following and fan base especially in Europe and London and I think the most accurate way I can sum up Coyne/GLS shows is they were akin to a party with cabaret and music and story telling!!
As I said before Kevin was always very generous with the stage and GLS would have plenty of time to hoot and in an entirely barmy sort of way it worked really well( there are some great bootlegs passing amongst his fans of live shows from all over the world which nobody sells or buys! Kevin even did artwork for many of them!)
A very busy period was 1981 as we were to make album with Kevin for his new record company, Cherry Red and do an enormous amount of slapping about in a van all over europe( I mean ALL OVER) and visit Canada and the States( NYC).
So to start with we went back into Alan and Vics new studio to make Kevins first album for Cherry Red, aka, Pointing the Finger.
Made in true Kevin tradition, one take will do!! ( I did manage to wangle a few rehearsals with GLS beforehand for the songs/ chords/ timings/ tempo/ keys ect!!) but I have to say it worked and works to this day, remarkable!
Its fairly well documented that Kevin was going through some pretty heavy personal trials at this point in his life, but I have to say that he was always a pleasure to work with and his road sense of humour and irony( not to mention his enormous capacity for beer and ciggys) would keep everybody pissing themselves for most of the time and I have to say his audiences never ceased to amaze me( it was like he knew every damn one of them personally!!)
It was one of those important and happy times in ones career when you think to yourself--
what a wonderful world( bollocks!) no seriously , times when you look forward to the next show in some town youve never been to before and you know something about it will be bloody excellent and you feel glad you did decided all those years ago to ignore all the cynics and become a musician. Good times.
Some wonderfully funny moments like when played a club in Toronto ,Canada and on the very first night there were two young girls in the front giggling their heads off as we were playing. This quite quickly started to get up Kevins nose and at one point he stopped the song and and asked them what the bloody hell they were giggling about to which they replied ( now in a state of hysterics) that our Kev looked like Charly Drake!!
Which at the time was vaguely correct but how the F**k did they know who Charly Drake was in the first place! This was Canada, not hte MIle end road!!
Needless to say there were endless references to this and shouts of Hello my darlins! for the rest of that show( I think GLS were pretty close to the sack on that occasion!) Happydays!
One could of coarse write books on all these periods in ones life but this is not really the object or purpose of this biog( but If anybody out there wants to put a commission together then Im up for it !!).
I learnt a lot and earned a lot with Mr Coyne and like all the greats of their time, he is irreplaceable and deeply missed by all who knew him, worked with him and simply loved him for everything that he was as an artist and performer .
He leaves a huge legacy of music / art/ poetry and performance memories for people in all corners of this planet to enjoy in the future and I have to say that Im proud to have contributed a small amount to it.
So, where was I?, blimey! 1981 and it’s now 2007, to be precise, March the 4th and I’m still 25yrs adrift with this little tale of mine, better get on with it then!
Unfortunately nothing is perfect in this life and by about the end of 1981 I’d just about burnt myself out on the road with Kevin and the lads and (after getting a severe pasting by some irrate Belgiums for trying to burn their guest house down one night) decided,for the sake of all concerned(especially me!) it was time to come back down to earth and leave.
Pretty sad but, it was time to take stock.
Dave and Steve carried on with Kevin for quite a while with firstly John Etheridge on gtr and then Pete Kirtley.
I was back in London with my family living a normal life again which, looking back, was probably one of the smartest moves I’d ever made in this business with regards to my mental and physical well-being. God it’s hard having fun!!
So, a bit of time to recover and regain the plot was needed and I went into ‘sitting on my arse mode for while until I was told to get of it and get on with something by my good wife Angie!
GLS was still an option as nothing had really changed so it was back to long nights with the revox playing around with ideas which might suite the trio.
On top of this, Al’ and Vic’ (remember,Alvic studios) were offering some really cheap rates for off peak use of thier studio and, a young engineer working there named Mike Gregorwich really took a shine to GLS and fancied the challenge of it all, so that was all taking shape.
As I said, Dave and Steve carried on with Kevin for a while but eventually gave it the elbow and returned to to the ranks of the unemployed!
GLS were on their own again, back where they started really so we began to put together again, the band as we origiinally intended to, ie, an instrumental trio.
I managed to get us a BBC Jazz in Britain broadcast which was a great motivation to move on and for this broadcast I booked Steve’s buddy from the lake disrict, another Steve (Bull) who was (is) a wizz Keyboard / synth player as a) he was making extreemly nice noices at the time (if you know what I mean!!) and b), I wasn't totally confident in my own ability to cover the music as I wanted it to sound on my own (chicken bastard!!).
it worked well and Steve Bull really becam the silent ‘B’ in GLS from that point doing the gigs playing on the forthcoming GLS recordings at Alvic studios.
It was in all honesty so nice to get back in the studio again and ‘work’ on the material and sound with a great engineer (Mike Gregowich) happydays ! We recorded quite a lot of stuff, most of which would be used up on my Slaughter on Shaftsbury Avenue’ album quite a few years later (more of this, later,) but we also managed to pay homage to my all time fav’ insrumental group.. the SHADOWS! and record our version of FBI which as yet has not seen the light of day but, it will, it will!
GLS (as a trio/quartet) unfortunately didn’t survive for too long but we did manage a few more BBC broadcasts and a few hair raising trips to Germany and such, a bloody good outfit, great musicians, completely bonkers (just as it should be !!).
Soo, sooo, soo, (brain dead moment) ah, yes!,
That’s about it for 1984 I think?,yep.
Couple of happy snaps.
Well, actually in retrospect, quite a lot of fun (?) was had in the months I was part of the Eric Burdon thing.
I mean, Zoot Money was so on Eric’s case! (talk about a winging old woman! Well, both of them actually !)
These guys were supposed to be mates !! you could have fooled me most of the time! Zoot is the genuine article when it comes to the flipped out, hyper, razor witted, road band trouper . He never stopped! never seemed to go to bed, never relaxed, constantly at it, with the constitution of a Sherman Tank !
Zoot’s mate, Pat Crumely, was also in the line-up, great character and superb horn and flute player, really really powerful,I used to enjoy playing with him a lot, he could really rock even though he was (I guess) primarily a bebop jazz saxophonist. Nice little rock drummer called Mich’ Harwood (?) who was a mate of the bass player.
So it had it’s moments but they usually always ended up in tears like the time we went to tour Canada (ye ha!!). Started in Halifax Nova Scotia and, ended there!!
Eric (TWAT!) decided to himself that he didn’t really fancy shlepping through to Vancouver so, he pissed off one night to the airport and flew to California !!
We (the band) got up the next morning ready to go on the road only to be informed (by Eric’s long suffering tour manager, Tappy’), that Eric had just phoned from LA!!! to say he couldn’t be arsed with the tour !(PILLOCK!) He left everybody concerned in the lurch, us, the promoter, the venues, the road crew, and probably most importantly the fans who had bought tickets !
So, we had to slob all the way back to the UK totally skint and TOTALLY pissed off! I mean Burdon was a good performer but if the truth be known his voice was well and truly shot by the time I was roped in (he had a 4000 watt personal vocal foldback system most of the time!, a bloody lethal weapon and appallingly painful if you got it in the ear hole by accident on stage!)
The things you do for money, I’m fed up writing about this period now so, bollocks! that’s ya lot !
Oh, forgot, got to mention that I had to hang on till the end of 1984 to the Burdon gig for two very important (to me!) reasons.
Number one, there was a five week stint in Australia coming up and as I knew this may be my only chance to visit our cousins (no, not the Kangaroos!) and secondly, to come back(hopefully) with enough spare cash to justify setting myself up with the new love of my life, a guitar synth !!
So the deed was done and when we got back to the UK I was fired by Eric from his little troupe (I love rock& roll!) and set about getting a left handed,synth compatible,gtr made(pic’ in my guitar pages and here). Roland made a few but I didn’t fancy them,a bit nowhere on the actual gtr side.
Exciting times again !
When I finally got my Roland GR 700 synth unit and plugged my new gtr into it, I was in occillator heaven!! I couldn’t believe what was coming out of it! strings, trumpets, organs and noises to make your toes curl!
I was like a kid in a toy shop and almost became a recluse for months on end, fiddle bloody fiddle bloody fiddle !!
My old 66’ Telecaster, yet again brought back to life in 1985 by Graham Noden (great luthier!) complete with a Roland synth’ system installed (which was not only a labour of love but also a work of art! He had to totally reverse all the wiring as there was no left handed systems available then!!)
The neck was refretted after a lengthy loan of the gtr to me’ old mate Ollie Halsall who carzied it !! but I got Graham to leave the wear marks on the maple fingerboard so as I could check out where Ollie had been on it!!
Nice new edge bound mahogany body, Gibson hummingfucker pickups(as the guy who brought them back from NYC for me called them !) and a handmade ‘lefty’ brass wangbar, the KIT!!
So, what to do with all this all this hi’tech’ gizmorarma??Join the, SPACE AGE !, what else!