THE BOXER (Simon & Garfunkel)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 17, 2010 by richardpearson

I was tooling around writing the odd feature for a variety of publications and running my own light removal business (basically Man and a Van) when I unexpectedly got a call from my friend Suzan Davies. She’d worked in TV and Radio for a while and had recently landed a job as a producer in the BBC’s Religious Broadcasting department. As a result of the usual BBC quirks, she’d been asked to produce an evening show for Radio 1 and wanted to know if I fancied working as a researcher on the programme. She said that they were basically looking for someone with an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music and felt that I fitted the bill nicely. I told her I’d have to think about it…….beat…… ok when do I start?

I turned up at BBC Broadcasting House to discuss what was required with Suzan and her senior producer, David Winter. I was hired to research for one day a week at the rate of £30.00. I was left in no doubt that I would be required to work more than one day a week in actuality, but that was how things worked at the mothership of broadcasting. When we finished talking David asked me if I would pop into his office for a chat. He told me that they were also looking for someone who could interview celebrities for soundbyte inserts in the programme and did I think I could do that? He explained that doing this would increase my earning potential considerably, which sounded good so I said I was sure I could do that. He asked me if I’d ever used a Uher and I was mystified as to why he wanted to know if I could use a carpet sweeper (the Ewbank was a very popular brand of carpet sweeper, at the time), but just said that of course I had!

It turned out that a Uher was a BBC standard issue, reporter’s tape machine. Sensing my misplaced bravado, I think, he said it would be best if he sent me on a ‘Uher familiarisation’ course anyway.

He then told me that they’d been trying to organise an interview with Muhammed Ali, who was making an appearance at a benefit show for Welsh boxer Joe Erskine, at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, London. Apparently all their requests had met with a negative response but he asked me if I thought I may be able to get an interview. He handed me two comps to the event and I said I would try my best.

I did the ‘Uher familiarisation’ course, which lasted all of fifteen minutes and plotted how I might be able to wangle an interview with the most famous person who’d ever lived!

I turned up at The Rainbow Theatre on the Saturday morning of the benefit, not knowing my arse from my elbow, but absolutley determined to get my interview. I managed to track down Ali’s PR and they more or less laughed at my request for an interview, saying that the world and his wife wanted an interview with The Greatest. They told me that they would be doing just two interviews, one with ITN and one with BBC TV News, so I’d just have to to arrange to take my sound from them. I was told that the ITN interview would take place at 1300 and the BBC News one at 13.10.

Not sure how to proceed, I hatched a plan! I tracked down BBC News reporter Kate Adie, introduced myself and asked her if it was possible for me to tag onto the end of her interview, as we were both batting for the same team as it were. She looked me straight in the eye and said:

“Fuck off”!

No more, no less and then she went off to talk to one of her cronies.

There was little chance of me doorstepping Ali, ie. getting next to him and presenting him with a microphone, as he was surrounded by ‘minders’. I then hit on another ‘plan’.

I walked out to the lobby where there was a bank of payphones and called a photographer friend of mine. I asked him how he’d fancy taking some pictures of Muhammed Ali and explained I was at the benefit and had a spare pass. He said he’d love to, but wasn’t sure he could get there in time as he lived in Luton. It was about 11.30 so I told him to grab his camera, catch the next train and get a cab from the station, which I’d pay for. He said he was already out the door!

It was about 12.50 before he turned up to find me waiting, in an extremely anxious state, by the entrance doors to the theatre. I quickly explained the logistics of my plan, without filling him on the reasoning behind it. He looked at me as if I was barking, but consented on the basis that any madcap plan was worthwhile if it got him some prime pics of The Greatest Boxer the world has ever known!

At 13.15 precisely, five minutes before I anticipated the BBC News interview ending, I went to the edge of the massive throng surrounding Ali, pushed my photographer friend in front of me and commanded him to ‘walk’. What I haven’t told you so far is that my friend Sylvester was a giant of a black man from Oklahoma. As he walked through the crowd, with gruff ‘excuse me sirs’, it was like the parting of the Red Sea. We ended up, without any perceived objection, at the elbow of Ali, who was being interviewed by the delightful Kate. As I’d hoped, all the minders etc., had just presumed Sylvester was another member of the Ali entourage and so had given way.

The second Kate withdrew her microphone, I slipped mine under Ali’s nose and said “Radio 1, can I have a few words”!

He just said “Yeah sure”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see his PR people waving their arms in the ‘no’ signal, but I had a hunch they wouldn’t interrupt The Greatest in mid-flow. Muhammed talked to me for ten minutes answering all my questions and doing his familiar media routine about being The Greatest and the prettiest boxer the world has ever seen. At the end of his spiel, he put his arm around me and said in an extremely humble manner:

“Is that ok for you, because I can do some more if you like?”

I assured him that was fine and switched off my tape recorder.

I moved away and removed the tape from the machine, putting the prized reel in my bag for safe-keeping. I’m sure I slept with that tape under my pillow for the next two nights!

I watched as Muhammed accepted every request from members of the audience for photographs with him, many of which involved him dandling their babies and small children on his knee. I have rarely seen such humility in a world famous ‘celebrity’.

On the Monday morning I trekked down to Portland Place and walked into David Winter’s office and he motioned me to sit down. He asked me how it had gone. I explained what had happened with the PR people and Kate Adie and assured him I’d tried my best. He said never mind at least you tried. I got up to leave and as I was opening his office door I turned to him and said :


He said “Yes”

“You didn’t ask me if I got the interview”

He looked at me with a stare of disbelief and said:

“You didn’t?”

I told him I did and then sat back down to explain the rest of what had happened. Without even listening to my tape he told me:

“Young man, you’ve just got yourself a job”

He later told me that he would have given me the job anyway, simply based on my efforts, even if I hadn’t got the interview and was completely amazed that I’d actually pulled it off.

I’m convinced that Mohammed Ali realised very quickly that I was a greenhorn, but gave me his time because he recognised another ‘fighter’. I am of the opinion that Mohammed Ali is one of the greatest people who’s ever walked this planet, not so much because of his boxing which is a brutal sport, but because he used his fame in an effective way to fight racism and downtrodden people in general. When he was asked why he refused to fight in Vietnam, resulting in him being stripped of the boxing World Championship crown, he answered:

“Because no Vietnamese ever called me nigger”.

In those few words, he summed up the gross stupidity of racism and moved the cause of Black Americans, in their fight for equality, on in leaps and bounds. Yes racism still exists, but without Ali I don’t think we’d be anywhere near where we are, in terms of not discriminating against people because of their race or the colour of their skin.

The boxing commentator Harry carpenter’s friendship with Ali is well documented. When I had Harry as a guest on a TV programme years later, he was quite offish with me until I mentioned that I’d interviewed Ali and talked about how he’d treated me, whereupon he more or less welcomed me as a member of a very exclusive family and I know exactly why. Interviewing Muhammed Ali was an absolute privilege. To my mind he will always be The Greatest.

The Boxer, written by Paul Simon also fits into The Greatest category as far as I’m concerned. For my money, it is not only The Greatest song ever written by one of The Greatest songwriters of our times, but is one of The Greatest songs ever written in the canon of popular music.


Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2010 by richardpearson

Ian Dury holds a unique place in music history. There was never anybody quite like him and I doubt we’ll ever see his like again. He first came to notice with the pub-rock band, Kilburn and The High Roads, which later morphed into Ian Dury and the Kilburns. Rather serendipitously, the only time I caught them was on Kilburn High Road, North West London!

Ian Dury made his first real impact with the album New Boots and Panties, which also put Stiff Records on the map. The album has a valid claim to being the first successful Punk Rock album, although I’m sure Punk purists would disagree. Ian combined a cockney style of story-telling (even though he wasn’t technically a cockney) with an almost Jazz-Rock backing, but the attitude was pure punk showmanship and if memory serves Ian was the first person I knew of, to wear a razor-blade as jewellery. If Ian wasn’t a bona-fide Punk, then he certainly opened the door for all the Punk acts who followed him. A seam of wry humour permeated every song and the fact that Mr Dury frequently referred to himself as The Raspberry (Cockney Rhyming Slang. Rasberry Ripple=Cripple) gave it even more of a twist. I don’t intend to write an appraisal of Ian’s career here, because that has been well-documented in ‘IAN DURY: THE DEFINITIVE BIOGRAPHY’ written by an old acquaintance of mine, Will Birch (of Kursaal Flyers and The Records fame). Suffice to say, I doubt there’s a person alive in the UK who hasn’t heard Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, whether intentionally or not.

The first time I met Ian Dury was when I did a short interview with him for a UK music paper, during the first Stiff Tour. The time and place escape me and I don’t remember much about the interview either. It was a pretty rushed job, as Ian’s star was rapidly rising and I was just one of a clutch of journalist, eager for his words of ‘wisdom’.

The second time was a different story. I had recently arrived at Radio 1 and had been given carte blanche to interview anybody I thought was worth interviewing. Ian Dury was one of my early targets and I arranged an interview with him through Sonnie Rae at Stiff. The interview took place at some hotel I’ve forgotten. I was greeted by Dury publicist supreme, Kosmo Vinyl, who later went on to manage The Clash. Also present was Ian’s ‘minder’ and helpmate Fred.

The first thing that struck me was just how seriously impeded Dury was by the disability he’d developed through catching polio as a child. When I’d seen him on stage, he was like Mr Bojangles and it was easy to ignore the fact that he had a serious disability. Fred had to help Ian onto the bed, where he manually straightened out the affected leg, before sitting or more accurately lying, in a position where he felt comfortable holding court. Over about an hour Ian pontificated on a myriad subjects, including love, family and the future of the media. He was like a hybrid of Max Miller and Andy Warhol and was certainly one of the most informed and perceptive people I ever interviewed. The hybrid thing went even further in that visually, Dury resembled a metamorphosis of The Artful Dodger and an Elf! When I left, I was aware that I had four fifteen minute tapes of pure gold!

The nature of the programme I worked on was that they would use short clips, usually of one to two minutes, of soundbytes from music/celebrity types and I envisaged that we’d be using more than a few clips from the Ian interview, which meant lots of repeat fees for moi. About three weeks after I did the interview, Ian and The Blockheads released Hit Me With Your Rhythm stick which climbed to the UK singles number one slot in the blink of an eye, making my interview even hotter. On the very day the record hit number one, my phone started ringing. It transpired that Ian was turning down all media requests to do an interview. As to why, my memory is clouded, but in a recent chat with Will Birch he told me that Kosmo Vinyl was very keen that media exposure was limited and that Ian wasn’t heard repeating the same things over and over again, so maybe he was the one turning down the requests, or then again maybe it was just Ian being contrary. It seemed like I was the only reporter sitting on a ‘current’ interview with the artist who held the much-coveted number one slot!

As I was freelance I was at liberty to recut the interview and sell the result to any programme on BBC Radio who wanted it and from memory I did this three or four times, each one generating a new interview fee and making it my best paid interview ever. Thank you Ian, thank you Kosmo.

Over the ensuing years I became quite friendly with quite a few of the Blockhead crew. Guitarist Johnny Turnbull and I became quite close friends for a while and socialised frequently. We’d actually become friendly before I interviewed Ian when Johnny’s girlfriend Claire had the next stall to me at Camden Lock.  When Do-it-Yourself (criminally underrated) was released, I bumped into Kosmo in the West End and he enlisted my help in fly-posting Carnaby Street, following the D-I-Y ethos. I played Sink My Boats, from that album, on the Radio 1 evening show, I worked on and still think it should have been issued as a single to this day. When I left Radio 1 for BBC TV, I lost touch with the posse, but met Ian again when I booked him to do PM@1. During National Year of the Disabled.

I was appalled when editor Peter Hercombe refused to agree to Ian doing Spasticus Autisticus, which was the chosen song to promote the National Year of the Disabled Campaign. He felt that the song was ‘inappropriate’ for the show and was immovable on that. Given that, Ian chose to perform Very Personal and Really Glad You Came, from his forthcoming album Ban the Bomb (my personal favourite from the Dury canon) by Ian Dury and the Music Students. We arranged to record the backing tracks at Townhouse Studios, in Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush, which co-incidentally was where I was living at the time. When we’d finished the tracks we retired to the studio bar and Ian, as was his wont, held court. We started talking about jazz and Ian got on to the subject of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Rather patronisingly Ian said

“You ain’t even heard of Roland Kirk ha ha.” 

I told him that I had and owned quite a large number of his records. Ian started bragging, as was also his wont, that he had twenty-two albums by Roland Kirk. Feeling a bit baited, I told him I had twenty-seven! He expressed disbelief and accused me of making that up. I assured him that I wasn’t and told him that he could come back to my place, just down the road, if he didn’t believe me. The conversation petered out and we reired to a hostelry near Shepherds Bush Green.

Near to closing time, Ian asked me again if I really had all those Roland Kirk albums and I told him I had. He asked if I minded him coming back to have a look through them and I said why not. We got some carry-out and headed down the road. When we got back to my house, he was like a kid in a toyshop. I had a pretty large jazz collection and it contained some gems. We sat up for a few hours playing through Albert Ayler, Anthony Braxton and all sorts of other left-field jazz/ avant-garde stuff. Feeling a bit knackered I announced I was going to bed, expecting him to request a cab. Instead he asked if I minded him staying the night and mounting a further assault on my collection. I showed him the guest room and left him chilling out to Abdul Wadud.

When I rose the following morning, he was already up and into some Cecil Taylor. We chatted whilst I made breakfast. He stayed the whole day listening non-stop to jazz rare grooves and it was only the threat of my girlfriend, whose house it was, returning from a location shoot and taking a dim view of the ‘invasion’ which persuaded him to vacate.

When showday arrived the following week, I attended the 09.00 production meeting where I set out the logistics of Ian’s performance. Nothing groundbreaking; Ian would perform Really Glad You Came, at the top of the show and then walk to an interview set to be interviewed by Donnie MacLeod.

“Stop Right There!” said Editor Peter Hercombe.

We can’t have him WALK to the interview set.

“Why not? Said I, innocently.

“The man’s a cripple! We can’t have him WALK, our viewers will find that distressing. I argued that they OUGHT to find it distressing and I presumed being disabled was far more ‘distressing’ to the person who was disabled, than it was ever likely to be to the bulk of our audience. I also argued that the whole point of National Year of the Disabled was to highlight the plight of disabled people and where better to do that than on national television. To be honest, I can’t remember whether I won that battle or not, but Ian’s performance went down very well and we got loads of complimentary mail over the following week, an awful lot of it coming from elderly and disabled people.

A few weeks later, I went to see Ian and The Music Students at Hammersmith Odeon and sat directly behind Peter Blake, Sgt Pepper’s cover artist and long-time friend of Ian Dury. I found it peculiar when Ian introduced recently recruited MD Michael MacEvoy and backing singers, ex Arrival members Frankie Collins, Paddy McHugh and Dyan Birch as his ‘best friends’, being that he’d only known them a matter of months. I thought it was particularly disrespectful to guitarist Ed Byrne, who’d been with him since Kilburn days, but that was Ian all over. An extremely complex man, who wasn’t always particularly loyal to the people who stood by him and whom I suspect had quite a vindictive side. In an amusing aside, former Blockhead Mickey Gallagher told me some time afterwards, that the real reason Ian had been keen to come back to my house that night, was because his girlfriend had kicked him out that day and he had nowhere to stay.

A bit of a user perhaps, but an extremely talented and original artist who’s sorely missed.

Rasberry Beret was a single from th album Around the World in a Day, by The Arist Formerly Known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. The first time I heard it was in the car of my friend Rachel, who just happened to be wearing a raspberry beret at the time. Happy Days

Voodoo Ray

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2010 by richardpearson

I don’t know why but I never really latched on to the Beatles and Stones thing, like a lot of my contemporaries. Perhaps it was all down to one random event which took place not long after I first heard the Marvellous Moptops and the Scruffy Stones!

My step-father worked in the car-trade and when it came to selling a car, just about anything would be considered in part-exchange. At various times we took ownership of a washing-machine, a professional standard wood modelling toolkit, a cocktail cabinet and a fur-coat (well my mum did!) so that some lucky punter could drive away in a clapped-out Cortina or an iffy Imp! By far the most interesting part-ex to me though, was when we got a massive batch of Long Players, as they were known in those days. These came in as an emergency payment from a hire purchase customer who’d fallen on hard times. In amongst the Black & White Minstrels, Boswell Sisters and Max Bygraves were some real nuggets! I’d never heard of Dee Dee Sharp although I was familiar with Chubby Checker through Let’s Twist Again. Chuck Berry and Little Richard were names I’d heard somewhere along the way, but The Dovells and The Orlons were a complete mystery to me. I quickly appropriated anything which looked remotely interesting and disappeared to my room for some intensive needletime.

What I heard set me off on the path to self-destruction described elsewhere in the chapter ‘Scott Walker or the Man Who Ruined My life’. I loved the Chubby and Dee Dee records, a particular favourite being ‘Gravy For My Mashed Potato’, but the ones that found semi-permanent places on my turntable were ‘More Chuck Berry’ with such gems as ‘Brown-Eyed Handsome Man’ and ‘Thirty Days’ and ‘Here’s Little Richard’ featuring the amazing ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Miss Anne’. It was not long after that I went down to Vallance’s in Leeds and handed over my hard-saved pocket money, together with birthday and Christmas contributions, for a precious copy of Little Richard’s ‘Greatest Hits’ which is one of the few albums with that title to be truly great. Richard became my guru and to this day I think of him as the real King of Rock and Roll.

At this stage my taste didn’t deviate that far from the mainstream but unlike most of my Beatle-loving friends, my favourite Beat Group was those North London wild boys, The Kinks! From the first time I heard the opening thrash chords of ‘You Really Got Me’ I was hooked and I’ve remained hooked ever since. I rushed out and bought every single they released as soon as I had the money and thought the world was going crazy when they slipped from popularity in about 1968. Even my Grandad who was generally the scourge of all-things pop, loved The Kinks and thought that Sunny Afternoon and Autumn Almanac would sit side by side with any of the great songs from ‘his’ era. The beginning of the end seemed to have been set in motion by release of the album ‘The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society’ to give it its full and correct title. I bought that album from Vallance’s too and it was in glorious mono, just like the other album I bought around then, Pink Floyd’s ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’.

I thought ‘Village Green’ was brilliant but the record-buying public didn’t seem to agree and the session gave birth to only one modestly placed ( by Kinks standards) hit single and that was ‘Days’, a beautiful song later revived by the late, great Kirsty MacColl. After that, it all went a bit pear shaped til they arrived back in the charts big time in 1970 with the number one hit about a gender-bender, ‘Lola’. I was lucky enough to catch The Kinks live in the summer of 1970 at Bridlington Spa, whilst I was on holiday. It was the line-up with John Dalton and John Gosling and they were absolutely brilliant. Their rendition of Lola brought the house down and Ray Davies was on great form, entertaining the crowd with his sparkling repartee. The follow-up to Lola, Apeman, was also a top ten hit but after that another blank period ensued singles wise, until a label change from Pye to RCA brought them a hit with the understated, but extremely fine Supersonic Rocket Ship, from the equally fine album Everybody’s in Showbiz, Everybody’s a Star. I’m not sure critics have ever given that album the praise it deserves and they tend to single it out only because it includes the sublime Celluloid Heroes, which was a big hit in the USA but sank without trace here in the UK. For me the album shows the 70’s Kinks at their finest, as a cross between pop social commentators and latter-day Music Hall turn. Songs like ‘Motorway’ and ‘Look a Little on the Sunny Side’ are as good as anything The Kinks have done, but it is Sitting in My Hotel which always stops the show for me, being probably the greatest ‘artiste stripped bare’ song of all time. These pages are not about music critique and I’m not going to attempt to conduct an in-depth appraisal of that song because of that, but do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of the album so you can judge for yourself.

Soon after that album I moved from my home near Leeds to Manchester where I shared a flat with another Kinks fan, Graeme Kay and he was in the flat with me the day I received the dreaded news ‘Kinks to split!’. Even though no further hits had ensued after Rocket Ship, The Kinks were still big enough to warrant a front-page story in the Melody Maker. It transpired that Ray had gotten quite emotional at a gig and had announced it would be the last show The Kinks ever played. He cited diminishing interest from both fans and critics and said he thought it was time to knock the band on the head and concentrate on solo projects. There was also, apparently, even more friction between him and lead-guitarist brother Dave than there had been before and a recent hell-for-leather onstage fight had put one of the final nails in the coffin. I was devastated. The ‘Showbiz’ album had pointed the way to better and different things to come and now it looked like these would never see the light of day.

I put pen to paper and for the first time ever sent a missive to the letters page of a paper, expressing my abject grief over the disbandment and wishing the ‘nearest thing I had to a hero’, Ray Davies, all the best in his future endeavours. To my great surprise the Melody Maker printed the letter and I think it was probably at this point I decided I would become a rock journalist. Wind me up, give me a sniff of fame and glory and let me go!!!!! I began to walk around Chorlton-cum-Hardy wearing shadesand practising my rock journalist poses whilst at night I sent off idea after idea to any mag I thought might be interested. After what seemed like an age, but probably wasn’t that long at all, I got a couple of tiny commissions and moved to London on the strength of them. I staked my claim as a blagger par-excellence by marching into the offices of all the major record companies and announcing my arrival, quoting the names of the publications I was writing for very quickly, in case the people in the various Press Offices hadn’t heard of them. Remarkably and hospitably, most of them opened up their album cupboards to me, which was a major mistake as I set about emptying them (and continued to do so for many a year)!

By a series of random events I had ended up sleeping on the floor of a house which was rented by friends of friends in Highgate and even after I moved to the then downmarket Crouch End, I continued to use Highgate Village as a major part of my ‘stomping ground’.

There were two very distinct sides to my character. One was a beer and wine swilling, rock music loving, party-animal and the other was a quite studious bookworm. Owing to the latter I spent a great deal of time in the Highgate Bookshop discussing literature and ordering obscure works of European fiction. The owner’s son Adrian worked in the shop and he was as earnest as me about all things literary and esoteric and we’d while away many hours talking about the relative talents of such authors as Raymond Radiguet, Anna Kavan and Federico Garcia Lorca, after which I’d head up the road to The Angel to indulge the other side of my character. Adrian and I managed to trace the only known copies of an obscure edition of Lorca’s poetry, which were not generally available at the time, to a warehouse in the Isle of Skye where it transpired there was an entire tea-chest of them. We decided to buy the lot between us. When they arrived at the shop and we opened the shipment we were completely stunned. The books had obviously been sitting in the warehouse a long, long time as they were all actually signed by Lorca, who’d ‘disappeared’ during the Spanish Civil War. We knocked them out to interested parties for an extremely healthy profit on our investment, but which probably amounted to a pittance in terms of their real value. Lorca’s star has risen so high since those days of relative obscurity, that each of those books is now worth a small fortune most likely!

The Angel, just up from Pond Square, had a bar billiard table and one night after playing a game with myself (it wasn’t always that popular a game) I returned to the bar to discover Pond Square’s most famous resident enjoying a pint. Maintaining every element of street-cool, I just ignored him and got stuck into my drink, glancing round every now and then in case I spotted anybody I knew who might give me a game on the baize. After a while Ray (for it was he) piped up and said something along the lines of ‘Funny game Bar Billiards. A bit like life really. You can play recklessly and build up a massive score or end up with hardly any score at all. On the other hand you can play cautiously and build up a healthy score only to see it completely wiped out in the endgame’. I nodded my agreement in a suitably gauche manner and we began to chat. After a while he said

“Fancy a game?”

I could hardly believe my ears. Not only was the ‘nearest thing I had to a hero’ talking to me, but he wanted to challenge me to a game of Bar Billiards! We played a couple of games during which most of our chit-chat was confined to what was going on at the table and then we returned to the bar and this time found a couple of stools. Ray asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a music journalist which wasn’t really true as nothing further had ensued after the first couple of commissions, but I was still trying despite the fact that I spent my days working in a solicitor’s office. He told me he was a ‘songwriter’ and I finally acknowledged that I knew who he was. He in turn thanked me for not making a big deal of it. I mentioned the letter I’d written to Melody Maker a year or so before and he told me he remembered it. The Kinks hadn’t really split in the end and they commenced what would be a relatively successful assault on the US circuit , re-inventing themselves as more of a rock than pop band. Ray told me he remembered the letter but I said I found that difficult to believe, bearing in mind th amount of column inches which had been devoted to The Kinks over the years. He then admitted that he didn’t really remember the letter specifically, but that he’d been overwhelmed by the reaction from Kinks fans after he announced the split and had realised they were far more loved than he’d imagined and this was the catalyst which had prevented them ultimately throwing in the towel. He told me he did remember seeing a letter voicing that very sentiment in the letters page of the MM and so  presuming it must have been mine.

I could hold back no longer, I broke forth into a eulogy, singing the praises of all-things Kinky and left him in no doubt that I was one of their biggest fans. I think he was genuinely touched.

We said our goodbyes but vowed to meet again in the same location. Over the following couple of years we reconvened occasionally and at some point I revealed my great esteem for Sitting in My Hotel, at which he raised an eyebrow, but offered no further comment. The song is a very personal one and I’m surprised he ever let it out, so I wasn’t going to push him on its origins as I suspected they were a tad painful. In 1975 I moved out to Cricklewood for a year to do missionary work (just joking, it was the only place I could afford a decent flat within my budget) and after I returned to Highgate in 1976, I didn’t see Ray around anymore and presumed he’d moved.

Whilst I’d been living in Cricklewood, the person I shared with had introduced me to a girl called Kate, with whom I formed a romantic attachment. I use that term carefully because we were never really ‘going out’ but we used to see each other fairly often and on those occasions we were fairly close. By a stroke of luck and courtesy of her boss at work, she managed to land a nice mansion flat in a prime location, just off Baker St. The flat in Luxborough Street, was purpose built and part-serviced. It was part of a development which had long attracted Bohemian types and we had some great nights out in the local environs, where we met all manner of artistes and eccentrics.

One morning as I was leaving I saw a tall, gaunt figure through the glass in the door, coming towards me and swinging a carton of orange juice. I held the door open and when the figure raised its head I was extremely bemused to note that it was Ray. He seemed just as surprised to see me and explained that he was staying at his girlfriend’s for a couple of days. It turned out that his girlfriend was none other than Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders. Whilst it became common knowledge later on, I’m not sure that this morsel of celebrity gossip was public at the time. We chatted for a while and exchanged phone numbers, vowing to get in touch and go out for a drink and maybe even a game of Bar Billiards. As is often the case, neither of us made the effort. I had just started working at Radio 1 at the time and thought about maybe trying to get Ray to do an interview, but The Kinks had not had a chart hit in this country since ‘Rocket Ship’ and so weren’t that interesting to our audience at the time, in terms of the programmes I worked on. I decided not to broach the matter with him and so we didn’t talk further.

From Radio 1, I moved to work in Birmingham for BBC TV. Whilst I was music producer on Pebble Mill at One The Kinks released Come Dancing as a single in 1983. As soon as I heard it I knew they’d struck gold again. I phoned up Arista Promotions man (yes they’d had yet another label change!) Mike Perry and asked if I could have them perform it on the programme. He came back and said that the band couldn’t do it as not all of them were in the country and they were not really rehearsed on the current stuff. It seemed obvious that Arista weren’t expecting a large amount of action on the single. Mike said Ray may agree to do an interview with the video but he wasn’t holding his breath, as he didn’t think he’d ever done a TV interview before and that he could be a difficult bugger at the best of times.

I called Mike several times over the ensuing days but he told me he was waiting to hear and then paydirt! Ray would do an interview with the video. I decided to push for more so asked Mike if it was possible that Ray could perform Come Dancing with a backing track and we could shoot it tight so people wouldn’t realise the rest of The Kinks weren’t there. He came back after asking Ray but the answer was no. Ray just thought that was a pretty crap idea and it would look weird having just him there when the record was by The Kinks. In reality I was in agreement, I just wanted to get some kind of performance from him so had pitched that more in desperation than in hope. I said ok that was fine, then maybe he could ask him if he would do an interview with the video and also perform a song at the piano, which maybe wasn’t THAT associated with The Kinks. Mike called me back and said that Ray would think about that and did I have a particular song in mind. I answered Sitting in My Hotel.

After a couple of days Mike came back to me and said that after thinking about it Ray had decided against complying with my request. He pointed out that he was not a solo artist and that he felt it would be disrespectful to the rest of the band (presumably he meant Dave!) to go on a programme talking about a Kinks single and their career and then effectively lauch himself as a solo artist. I expressed my disappointment but Mike said he was pretty definite about it and that he felt pushing him anymore might cause him to junk the whole idea. As we were about to end the conversation Mike said there was just one more thing. I asked what it was and he said Ray had been intrigued by the choice of song and wondered who’d requested it.

On the appointed day Ray arrived with Mike Perry and unlike many other pop artistes there was no entourage and no cases of stage clothes etc. His entire ‘luggage’ consisted of the clothes in which he stood and a part-drunk bottle of Evian. When we’d met up at reception Ray just said he wasn’t sure why, but he’d had a strong hunch that it would be me behind the unexpected request, but he’d forgotten my name so it hadn’t really registered when Mike had mentioned it to him. He did the show and everything went smoothly. In the Green Room after the programme still clutching the bottle of Evian which had stayed with him even on set, he asked me why I’d requested that song in particular. I told him because I thought it was the most honest song he’d ever written and was also one of his best. He told me he agreed.

Come Dancing went top ten and was the last single by The Kinks to achieve chart success. I saw them live at The Lyceum in London the following year and they were great. Despite the fact we swapped phone numbers yet again we didn’t get in touch. A few years ago I dropped off a CD of a band I was managing at Konk Studios in North London and enclosed a little note but I got no response. Ray has now established himself as a solo artist, although there are ever-present rumours of a Kinks reunion with the original line-up, but apparently brother Dave isn’t that keen. It’s now twenty-five years since I last met Ray but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if our paths cross again, when we’re least expecting it.

Voodoo Ray was a chart hit for A Guy Called Gerald in the late 80’s. It was part of the House/Acid House movement and some people may be surprised to hear that I was extemely fond of this period of music. Amongst my favourite records are Jack Your Body by Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, House Arrest by Krush, Ride on Time by Black Box, Theme From S’Express, Bango Back To the Batmobile by Todd Terry Project and the sublime Promised Land by Joe Smooth. I was also and still am, a big fan of Jazzy B and Soul II Soul and all their hits from the second Summer of Love!

Ginger Geezer (Vivian Stanshall)

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2009 by richardpearson

When I first went to work at Radio 1, I must confess to having been a little bit startled. Radio 4, where I was working simultaneously was like a hive-full of eccentrics, each going about their own business in their own idiosynchratic way. When I turned up resplendent in my punk-chic garb few of them batted an eyelid and I was simply welcomed to the throng of what had once been the Home Service, as if it was my birthright. As I continued my career in Radio 4, I found that as long as you were good at what you did people would dismiss all but the most appalling indiscretion. Radio 1 was a completely different kettle of fish.

It was like the management were secretly embarrassed that Radio 1 had come into being and that many of them tried their best to adhere to the Light Programme blueprint wherever possible, without openly admitting they hated everything about pop and particularly rock culture. Most of the DJ’s were incredibly bland and their producers ultra-conservative. Needless to say the bulk of them treated my arrival like I was some virulent pesticism sent to spread disease in their happy, good time radio station. I got the impression that many of them were pleasant to my face but just waiting for a chance to stab me in the back and hoping that the opportunity came sooner rather than later. I’ve touched on unfounded allegations against me elsewhere in this journal, but I’m sure these were just part of an underhand campaign to stop the young upstart in his tracks. I’ve always suspected that the main protagonist was a man called Ron Belchier, the producer of one of the daytime shows. He was ex-forces, old school, light programme and not very happy about the way things were going and I feel he saw me very much as the enemy. All this aside, Ron would be in the company at The Yorkshire Grey on Langham Street most days and would always buy me a drink as I would he. As Machiavelli always believed you keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

One day when we were at the pub Ron turned to me and said

 “Richard, you’re a pretty switched-on guy. (his actual words!)  We played that Lou Reed record on the programme today and I was wondering if you knew what ‘giving head’ was?”.

At first I thought he was winding me up, but then I realised he really didn’t know, so blushingly I explained. The record in question, in case you don’t listen to lyrics, was Walk on the Wild Side and I found it amazing that the powers that be would play such a sexually explicit record on a family station, when they had banned Anarchy in the UK by The Sex Pistols, simply because it dissed the establishement; What price rational and reasonable behaviour?

I had expected Radio 1 to be full of radical people who loved music and were united in their efforts to bring a bigger and better slice of the musical pie to an ever-hungry, young audience. In reality they were a bunch of grey men more worried about furthering their own careers than anything else. There seemed a great reluctance to rock the boat under any circumstances which seems a trifle ironic, bearing in mind the fact that the film about Radio Caroline, from where most of the DJ’s originated, was called The Boat That Rocked! There were however a small number of exceptions. On the DJ front there was John Peel (Kenny Everett had gone by this time) and on the production side there was Peel’s producer John Walters and the then producer of The Simon Bates Show, Malcolm Brown. I never really spent any time in Peel’s company but got to know the other two and would imagine they were the only two people in Radio 1 who actually liked me.

John Walters I got to know well and admired very much. He was an ex-musician who’d played bass with The Alan Price Set and I think he sussed very quickly that I had more in common with musicians than my colleagues in Radio 1. I got the impression that he and Peel suffered from the same malaise and Walters confided in me that Derek Chinnery, Controller of Radio 1 was trying his best to get rid of John Peel, moving him farther and farther away from the mainstream in the hope he would get fed-up and jump ship (not literally this time!). Chinnery was an headmasterly type who liked his presenters to be intelligent, but on the understanding that they only used that intelligence to further his own ambitions for the station. All complied apart from Peel! Both Peel and Walters are no longer with us and I for one, feel that the world is a much poorer place without the pair of them.

Where Walters was eloquent and ebullient, Malcolm Brown was the opposite. He was laid-back, dry as sandpaper and would only speak when absolutely necessary (usually to order a pint of Guiness). He was a shortish, wiry man with red-brown (not technically ginger but more of that at the end of this chapter!). He lived in darkest Surrey and played the organ in church at the weekend. In many ways Malcolm was unlike anyone else in Radio 1. He was thoughtful, intelligent and actually knew quite a lot about music.

One day I was standing in the queue at the cash office, where freelances went to get paid, when Malcolm came up to me and said;

“Richard there’s too much dead wood in Radio 1”

I nodded in agreement without having a clue what he was talking about. He went on to tell me that he admired my passion for music and found it refreshing that I knew quite a lot about all different types of music, not just pop and rock. He told me to get a couple of hours of music together and said that he would book a studio and produce a demo of me presenting, with a view to taking it to Chinnery and asking him to give me a show. We went in a studio shortly after that and produced what I thought was a fairly good demo. Malcolm called me up the following day and told me he had arranged for us to see Chinnery with the demo.

My only indirect dealings with Chinnery, up until that point had been through his assistant Deadly Doreen, or Doreen Davies as she was known to her mum! I wanted to include aforementioned ‘Anarchy in the UK’ in a show we were doing about punk music, but when I got a copy from the BBC library it came complete with a sticker saying under no circumstances play it without consulting the Controller’s office. When I rang, Doreen asked me why I wanted to play that ‘awful’ record. I told her that whilst I knew it had been banned, I felt it was an essential ingredient for any credible programme about punk. Doreen chastised me advising that the BBC didn’t ‘ban’ records, they just chose not to play certain discs on grounds of merit. She then told me that she didn’t think it was a very good record and would not be happy if I included it. Driven by a burning ambition to join the top ranks of the Diplomatic Corps, I included it! This did not bode well for my imminent meeting with the fat controller.

When Malcolm Brown and myself entered Derek Chinnery’s office he looked twitchy from the off. He was dressed in a dogtooth check, summer weight suit, with Tattershall checked shirt and woollen tie; hardly cutting edge gear whichever way you cut it! He sat us down and ordered coffees, extremely uncomfortable in his attempts to put us at our ease or more accurately, off-guard. He looked at me through his horn-rimmed spectacles and said; “Well Richard, I’ve listened to your demonstration tape and I must confess I was surprised; it was very good.”

I was on my way!!!!        Or was I? Sounded like he’d hoped it wouldn’t be very good.

“ Having heard quite a lot about you, I was expecting someone who sounded loud and arrogant when in fact you’ve got a very nice, laid-back radio manner.”

Breakfast show here I come!!!    Well maybe some time after eight in the evening.

“In fact, in my opinion you could have a very bright future with Independent Local Radio.”

Independent Local What!!!!

I asked Derek what he was trying to say. He stuttered in an indefinable brogue which came from somewhere on the west side of England, that he’d been asking around and whilst there was nothing specific, he didn’t feel I was a ‘Radio 1 type of person’. Rather than prolong my humiliation I thanked him for his consideration and took my leave. Malcolm followed about five minutes later. I asked Malcolm where he’d been. He told me he’d been having a go at Chinnery over what he’d said. He felt that Chinnery’s problem with giving me a break was that he would be getting ‘another John Peel’ in that I was likely to play stuff that I thought was good, however off the beaten track and with no regard for playlists and the poptastic factor. In other words he too regarded me as an enemy in the camp and wished to shunt me off without even allowing me to get started. Problem was Chinnery was right, but I always wonder did he do what was best for the station; I like to think he didn’t.

I thanked Malcolm for his time and effort and we remained friendly until I left Radio 1 for TV. Since then our paths have never crossed and I often wonder what became of him.

‘Ginger Geezer’ is a track from the wonderful album ‘Teddy Boys Don’t Knit’ which deserves the title minor classic. It was produced by the very Malcolm Brown referred to above.

Dusty (John Martyn)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2009 by richardpearson


In 1978 I managed to wangle an invite to the Nationwide Rock & Pop Awards which were named after the long-running BBC TV evening news magazine and were forerunner to The Brits. The invite hadn’t been sent to direct to me but to my senior producer David Winter, but he thought that I and ultimately the department, would derive more benefit from my attendance than his. Tickets were like gold dust, even for people who worked for the BBC, so I felt pretty fortunate to be attending the do at London’s prestigious Café Royal.


When we arrived at the venue, which is situated at the bottom of Regent’s Street, our black London Taxi dropped us off at the red carpet which had been laid at The Café’s entrance and which was sectioned off with silk-roped crowd barriers designed to keep the smelly hordes away from the blue-blood celebrities like me!!!. Seriously there were a lot of fans there hoping for a glimpse of their idol(s) or at the very worst a Radio 1 DJ and I’m not sure most of them were very impressed to only be ‘glimpsing’ the likes of me, although I was asked for my autograph by at least two people who didn’t know me from Adam, but hoped that I might be someone famous (bad luck!)



When we arrived at the large restaurant we were shown to specific tables, where I think some effort had been made to mix bona-fide pop-stars with equal measures of media presenters, media hacks and music business bigwigs and notsobigwigs. Being pretty new to all this sort of thing none of the names at my table meant anything to me, apart from that of Gerry Rafferty who had recently topped the chart with Baker Street which featured the epic sax-playing of Raphael Ravenscroft, son of obscure British Mystic Trevor Ravenscroft and author of Spear of Destiny a very dark book exploring the myth and legend of the spear of Longinus and it’s place in the lore of the Third Reich. I think Radio 1 DJ Gary Davies may have been at the table too but I honestly can’t remember. I was a longstanding fan of Gerry and had records by him in my collection dating back to the sixties, when he played solo and in The Humblebums with comedian but then singer-songwriter Billy Connolly. The Humblebums made a single Shoeshine Boy which became a cult classic, but made little impression on the charts. Gerry’s next group Stealer’s Wheel, who’s bass player De Lisle Harper I had first met in the early seventies when he played with Graham Bond, fared rather better and produced the perennial classic ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ which has featured on the soundtrack of several well-known films. Baker Street was Gerry Rafferty’s big break as a solo artiste and although he followed it with a couple of minor hits, it remains the song for which he is best remembered, although many people would suggest that Raphael’s sax-playing is far more memorable than Gerry’s singing!



Being a bit of a fan then, I tried to engage Gerry in conversation, but this didn’t prove easy. To be honest it was like trying to get blood from the proverbial stone and after several stilted attempts, I gave up and joined in the general banter which was going on around the table. Although I can’t remember who else was there they must have been reasonably accomplished bon viveurs as I don’t remember there being any deafening silences. When the meal had concluded the waiters brought out the brandy and cigars. Being new to the lifestyle of the idle rich I thought I would celebrate with a Romeo Y Juliet corona, as touted by all self-respecting entrepreneurs, media personalities and impresarios. The waiter came over and opened the humidor so that I could choose one. I was relatively new to the art of smoking fine cigars but being  a willing student of the ‘good life’ I had read up on it a good deal and knew all about clipping them and making sure you lit them with a taper, which was held below but not onto the cigar itself. Picking up my chosen corona I gave it a subtle pinch and discovered it to be very dry. I tried another, then another and found they were all the same. I pointed this out to the waiter who argued most indignantly that the cigars were fine and had been kept in a humidor at the correct temperature, with all the age old guidelines for correct cigar storage having been observed. I removed the lid from the tank in the humidor and surprise, surprise, it was bone-dry. I was more than surprised to discover that a revered establishment like the Café Royal didn’t seem to know one of the fundamental principles of  a seasoned art. I passed on their stale offerings, preferring instead to light up one of my good old Everyman’s Henri Wintermann’s Café Crème, at least knowing it would be reasonably moist, having only been purchased that morning. So much for the good life!. Still there was always the brandy, which was my very favourite Martell five star cognac. Whilst I was swilling this around in a rather ostentatious balloon, I sensed a body hovering to my right. I turned to find a rather animated Dusty Springfield trying to attract my attention.



Dusty was back in this country after a lengthy sojourn in the USA and I had recently caught her shows at London’s Drury Lane Theatre. The first night had presented me with a bit of a dilemma as Kate Bush was appearing at Hammersmith Odeon on the same night. Kate had proven herself to be the brightest young talent to emerge for many a year and this was, I believe, her first major live appearance in the UK. Something told me though that Dusty, of whom I’d been a big fan for many a year, might well just deliver something very special, as this was her first UK live date for a long long time. After much deliberation I plumped for Dusty as I believed the chances to see Kate Bush in the future would be a lot more numerous. I was not disappointed and the show Dusty put on was fantastic. Yes it was real showbiz, rather than credible rock, but I’ve never minded that when the artiste in question is so good at what they do. Dusty was charming, personable and obviously extremely happy to be performing in front of a house full to the rafters with her adoring British public. Her singing was better than ever and she was called back for about five encores by an audience which simply didn’t want to let her go. My then girlfriend Annabel loved the show even though she was only seventeen and was only around four or five years old when Dusty was at the peak of her popularity.


When I got into the office the next day I rang Bix Palmer, one of the promotions men at Phonogram, Dusty’s record company and asked if I could get tickets to the other two shows at Drury Lane. He told me it may prove difficult as the dates had sold out and all press tickets had been allocated, but he’d see what he could do. Bix turned up trumps but with hindsight I bet there was a pair of very disgruntled Phongram minor execs who didn’t get to go to the ball! I met Bix a few days after the third date and thanked him for the tickets, still singing Dusty’s praises. He told me he’d been there and thought she was great too but that she had been a nightmare to work with from their point of view, in that she didn’t seem to acknowledge that she wasn’t the big star she had once been and had run up some eyebrow raising bills on her expense account. He also told me that whilst the shows in London had been a major success in terms of attendance and critical acclaim, the story had been very different in the provinces, where all but her show in Manchester had had to be cancelled as a result of poor ticket sales. Phonogram were not confident that they could get Dusty back anywhere near where she had been in terms of popularity and were extremely worried that even if they did, they probably couldn’t afford her lifestyle.


Anyway back to the Café Royal, where Dusty was still trying to attract my attention, although I hadn’t a clue why. Maybe she’s spotted me in the audience at Drury Lane and wanted to personally award me with a gold star for attending three nights on the trot!. Hedging all bets I responded with a polite “Hello”


“Hiya” was the response and then in a hybrid, mid-Atlantic accent she proceeded to tell me that it was years since we’d last seen each other. I responded in the only way I could by looking completely bemused. She then told me that it must have been at least ten years since we’d last seen each other and that as far as she remembered that was when we had both appeared on the same US TV show. I felt my bemused look turning into one of complete mystification as I turned and said that I couldn’t ever remember meeting her. She hinted jokingly that maybe by memory had been fogged by a combination of recreational herbs and pharmaceuticals but assured me that we had met on many occasions previous to that. She then told me that she had even recorded one of my songs; surely I hadn’t forgotten that!


I asked Dusty whom she thought I was and she replied confidently


“Oh stop being silly I know you are Donovan!”


I discretely informed her that it was definitely a case of mistaken ID and although she looked a bit confused, she embarrassedly accepted her mistake. I told her whom I really was and explained what I did and said that it would be nice to get together at some point for an interview to which she readily agreed. I also told her that I was a fan and that I had witnessed all three nights at Drury Lane, expressing my great admiration for her performance. She seemed genuinely moved and gave me a luvvy kiss before returning to her table. I immediately retired to the lavatory, plonked myself in front of the mirror and examined my Donovan credentials. I realised Dusty had a point, same shaped nose, same colour eyes, similar ‘soft’ appearance and before going radically short I had had brown shoulder length hair, which fell in natural ringlet curls. Shame he wasn’t current or else I could have put myself up as a lookalike.


‘Der Doppleganger’ syndrome was to revisit me on several ensuing occasions, most enduring of which was my likeness to ‘Not the Nine O’clock News’ member Gryff Rhys Jones, who even managed to fool my own sister! Other dead ringers were ex-Nottingham Forest winger John Robertson and more recently and far more worryingly Jeremy Clarkson!


I was always a fan of Dusty but have become an even bigger fan as I’ve grown older and I would now say, without hesitation, that she is the best ever English female popular singer. (I claim her as English even though I know she’s really South African). She eventually made a much deserved return to the charts, in collaboration with Pet Shop Boys with songs like Nothing Has Been Proved and In Private, before dying far too early.





‘Dusty’ is taken from John Martyn’s second Island album, The Tumbler. I have been a fan of John’s since the very early days and whilst he has always been extremely well regarded by his professional peers, he was criminally neglected by the record buying public. Even those who rated him highly seem only to have listened to Solid Air but for me he made several records which were at least as good, if not better, including Tuesday’s Child, Grace and Danger and One World. The Annabel mentioned in the story above lived in a flat with her parents on the edge of Hampstead Heath, in North London. When said parents retired to their country seat in Surrey at the weekends, I would take up temporary residence, fleeing the coup around Sunday teatime having destroyed all the ‘evidence’ of my occupation. The two records we played most there, were Spirits Having Flown by The Bee Gees and One World. Certain Surprise was the track from the latter which we both favoured. I love it to this day and it brings back many happy memories of more innocent days. After a lifetime bedevilled by an excess of alcohol and other things it was then with a Certain Surprise, that John Martyn departed this life aged sixty on 29/01/09, the day upon which I wrote the above.


Gone but never forgotten.

Born to be Wild (Steppenwolf)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 5, 2009 by richardpearson


1975 was the year of the Muswell Hillbilly. In The Kinks album some five years earlier Ray Davies, the true poet of the sixties had forecast the Americanisation of English society with his usual astuteness and sure enough London and its environs were full of dudes dressed in checked shirts, cowboy boots and Stetson hats and few of them had ever been farther west than Ealing. There was even a chain of shops in London and maybe elsewhere (I never really went ‘elsewhere’ in those days) called The Westerner which sold mainly cowboy related clobber. Alongside of this was an explosion of country rock music spearheaded by Eagles, but owing it’s recent tradition to The Byrds and related members of that musical family. One of the members of Eagles Bernie Leadon had been a founding member of The Flying Burrito Brothers, the creation of Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, both ex-members of The Byrds. GP had a dream of creating Cosmic American Music, incorporating all the best elements of rock, psychedelia, folk and of course country. As often happens with dreams, the venture came crashing around his head after two brilliant, but commercially unsuccessful albums and Gram jumped ship to team up with Emmylou Harris and achieve his ideals, again with little commercial success in the albums GP and Grievous Angel. Just when the world was beginning to listen Gram Parsons died of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 27 undoubtedly brought on by an excess of drugs, booze and life itself. It came as no surprise then that in the wake of the country-rock phenomenon, the aforementioned Burrito Brothers decided to reform for a European tour, although the line-up bore little resemblance to the original article in terms of personnel and ambition. Nonetheless any tour by an almost bona-fide country-rock group was interesting to me as an early devotee of the genre and as one of a handful of people who’d been familiar with their work in the late sixties/early seventies. The band had signed to CBS and so I called up my friend John Tobler to see if I could fix up an interview with them. He arranged for me to interview them at their hotel in Notting Hill Gate from where I would travel with them to see a live show in Guildford.


Unusually when I got to the hotel I was presented with the entire band consisting of original member Chris Ethridge and early cohort, pedal-steel guitar legend ‘Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow. The rest of the band was made up of Joel Scott-Hill, ex-Byrd Gene Parsons and Cajun fiddler Gib Gilbeau. Normally you would have one or maybe two band members who did the interview but it seemed like the reformed brothers were an egalitarian unit!


We got down to the task in hand and I realised that things were not quite how they may have seemed. Chris Ethridge was stoned out of his mind which meant that the only person qualified to talk about the more interesting early days was ‘Sneaky’ Pete and he downright refused to answer any questions containing the words Gram or Parsons, excusing his refusal on the basis of that was then, this is now and now is where we’re at man! Joel tried to inject a bit of colour an humour but I quickly realised that a non-interview or one without any real substance was the best I could hope for.  We went through the motions extremely politely but I got nothing that was remotely usable for a freelance, as the sort of piece I could write would be bland and could easily be done by any staff-journalist, so why would an editor buy in a piece from me? I decided I would make the most of things by just hanging out, in the hope that I may be able to pick up enough scandal by the day’s end to make the venture worthwhile. We had a few drinks and smoked a bit of grass before jumping on the band bus and heading for Guildford. En-route I chatted more to Joel who it turned out was an extremely nice guy and also met Gene Parsons’ wife Shirley who was also very friendly and personable. When we got to Guildford I headed off for a local hostelry whilst the band did their sound-check. After an hour or so I was joined by some of the crew and bass player Ethridge who immediately headed for the fruit machine and commenced pumping money into it with seemingly little interest in whether he won or lost. Sometime after this we were joined by someone who was introduced to me as Phil and whom I soon realised was the legendary Gram Parsons road manager Phil ‘Lefty’ Kauffman. Phil had achieved rock infamy when he had snatched the deceased Parsons from an airport and taken his body for a ritual ‘cremation’ at their favourite hang-out, Joshua Tree Inn, in Arizona. It turned out that the two had a pact which stated that whoever died first agreed to that particular end for their mortal remains. Phil had been subsequently arrested and given a substantial fine which he paid by using the proceeds of a paying wake for Gram, where the attendees bought and array of Gram Parsons Wake memorabilia, including such exotica as Old Gram Bourbon and ‘original’ Flying Burritos souvenirs which had been quickly produced a couple of days before the Wake. All of the above events were eventually documented in the film Grand Theft Parsons which was ironically a far bigger commercial success than any of Parsons’ musical outpourings.


Phil was an extremely charismatic character who talked like a machine-gun and was always the centre of attention. Not particularly tall but quite portly, he sported an enormous handlebar moustache which was more than slightly attention grabbing. He told me story after story about anybody who was anyone on the LA music scene and I spent the entire time just wishing I’d had the foresight to bring my tape recorder to the pub instead of leaving it in the dressing-room. It was getting towards showtime so we all went back to the venue and were about to enter the auditorium when one of the road crew enquired if anyone had seen Chris, as he seemed to have gone missing. I told them I had an idea where he might be and raced back to the pub where I found the zombie-like Ethridge still pumping money into the one-armed bandit. I explained the situation and set about dragging him back to the venue, when I noticed a rather large bulge in his jacket pocket. Having heard about these whacko LA types I was worried that he may be packing a rod so I politely asked him what it was. He told me it was nothing man, just a little hash, upon which he pulled out what must have been at least half a kilo of Lebanon’s finest. I told him to put it away quickly and explained that the authorities over here weren’t particularly open-minded about such things and made sure he gave it to a member of the road-crew when we got back to the theatre.


The gig itself was pretty lacklustre and only made bearable by the fact that Shirley Parsons continually fed me on smuggled-in orange juice which had been heavily laced with brandy and Kauffman continued to bedazzle us with colourful tales from his even more colourful past.


When the gig was over I faced the rather daunting prospect  of a trip back to mega-city one on the band bus. Suddenly Kauffman piped up and asked me if I fancied a lift back on his Harley. The reason he was in London was that as an ardent motorcyclist, he had somehow managed to wangle a job doing PR for Harley Davidson motorcycles and part of the deal was that they gave him one of their awesome machines for his personal use. I didn’t need asking twice and enjoyed one of the most exhilarating pillion rides I’ve ever experienced feeling, for the most part like I was an extra in the film Easy Rider. When we got back to Phil’s apartment in Bayswater we had a few drinks and he asked me if  I felt like hitting the town. I said why not but there was, it turned out, a small problem. Phil was temporarily without funds as he waited for the month end and his ship to come in. As we had never met before, he told me that he wouldn’t dream of asking me for a loan but knowing I was a GP fan, would I be interested in purchasing a unique artefact of Parsons memorabilia? He then produced the t shirt ‘which Gram died in’. it was a red t shirt with ‘Flying Burrito Bros’ emblazoned across the chest in sequins. It was a bit faded but I recognised it immediately as I had seen Gram wearing the same t shirt in several press photos. Phil asked for £20.00 and I offered £10.00 as £20.00 was all I had on me. We settled on £10.00, which we then proceeded to spend in various bars around Notting Hill (£10.00 went quite a long way in those days!), before I headed home with my much prized acquisition.


Over then ensuing years I found I was one of at least five people I knew who owned ‘the t shirt which Gram died  in’ but to be honest I’d guessed as much immediately. Although we vowed to stay in touch I’ve never seen Phil Kauffman again but he’s not the sort of guy you ever forget.



Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf was featured in the soundtrack to the film Easy Rider and is one of the most evocative records from the whole of the late sixties rock canon and is one of the reputed sources of the term Heavy Metal.

Girl Don’t Come (Sandie Shaw)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 4, 2009 by richardpearson


Probably the biggest coup of my career in the world of entertainment was persuading Dionne Warwick to appear on



Pebble Mill at One. I had been given an advance copy of the album Heartbreaker and was convinced it was going to



catapult Dionne right back there into the big time. Record company Arista’s regional promotions man Mike Perry had



told me that Dionne was coming into Europe, so I asked him if he could get her for the show. He  



was back within twenty-four hours with an imperative no! I asked him if he would ask again and he said he would but I



didn’t hear back from him for about a week and this time it was still an imperative 





I asked Mike if he could arrange for me to speak to her direct at which point he seemed to get a bit annoyed and asked



if I was of the impression that he hadn’t really tried to get her. I told him that of course I believed him but I just wanted



one last try. He said he would see what he could do. I later got a call from Arista UK chairman David Simone who



assured me that they had tried to get Dionne but she was adamant that she was only doing radio promotion whilst she



was over and would not be doing any performances. He said he would try and arrange for me to speak to her in her



agent’s office but he didn’t see that it would do any good. A couple of days later I got some good news. Well sort of



good news! Dionne would speak to me but was still adamant that she would not be appearing on the show.



I called at the appointed time and when her agent answered, I explained who I was and got passed over to Dionne. We exchanged pleasantries and I asked her if she knew why I was calling. She explained that she did and Arista had asked her twice, but she was just coming into Europe to do some radio promotion and some shopping and wouldn’t have time for any performances. I pleaded with her but she said she would be coming back for a tour if the album was successful and would certainly consider doing the show then. I thanked Dionne and asked her if she thought I’d done my job properly. She seemed rather bemused and asked what I meant. I asked her if she felt that in my role as a music producer, I had conducted myself properly and tried my best to get her on the show. She said yes but was clearly a little puzzled by my behaviour. I then asked her if she had any idea as to why I really wanted her on the show. She said well no! I then explained that as a child of just turned nine, I had been on holiday in Scotland with my parents in 1964. My step-father worked as a salesman at a Mercedes concession and we were touring around in a big black saloon. I was still small enough to be able to stretch out along the entire back seat and frequently did this as I started to get tired after jaunts all over the Cairngorms and the like. After a particularly tiring day I was stretching out when a record came on the radio with which I immediately fell in love. I pestered my step-father the next day until he bought me a copy of the record and couldn’t wait until we got back home so I could wear it out!! I further explained that I had bought every subsequent record that artiste had released (and it was true!) and did Dionne have any idea what the record was. She told me she had a sneaking suspicion it may have been her version of the Bacharach & David song Walk on By. I advised her that she was correct and that quite simply the real reasons why I wanted her on the show were purely selfish. I wanted her on the show because I believed she had the greatest female voice in the history of pop music and it had been  a lifetime’s ambition to work with her. Dionne unusually, seemed lost for words and then gathering herself together said

“Richard you are obviously one of my biggest fans and my fans mean more to me than any TV producer  I’ll do your show”

 She then went on to explain that when she said she would do the show she meant live with an orchestra and no lip-synching!


Lip-synching is the technical phrase for miming and Dionne explained that unlike many artistes she would not entertain the idea of conning her fans in that way. She told me she had been offered £10,000 each by the peak-time shows ‘Wogan’ and ‘The Late Late Breakfast Show’ presented by Noel Edmonds, but she’s turned them down for the same reason she had originally given me and because of the fact they wanted her to lip-synch to a backing-track. I told her the orchestra would be no trouble and the fee would be nothing like £10,000. She laughed and said that didn’t matter. I told her she would definitely be singing live with not a track in sight. It was the policy of the show to be live wherever possible and I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity to hear my favourite singer performing live about ten feet away from me! It was at this point that the enormity of what I’d achieved started to sink in. I went to inform Pebble Mill Editor Peter Hercombe of the good news, but he was sceptical from the word go. Dionne had a fearsome reputation for being ‘difficult’ and it was well-known she would walk out of a recording for any given number of reasons. At that point it was about ten years since she’d appeared on UK TV, although she had NOT appeared on a number of occasions during that time, if you know what I mean. 


As the date of the performance approached I liaised with Dionne through Arista over line-ups and repertoire etc. Dionne would be bringing her own five-piece band which I was augmenting with nine other musicians to make a small studio orchestra. Pebble Mill MD Harold Rich had the job of copying parts for the musicians I was providing. I had decided with Dionne that she would sing Take the Short Way Home, Yours and the title track from the Heartbreaker album together with a special request for me in Walk On By.


During this period I had to constantly reassure Peter Hercombe that the show was still very much on, but he remained convinced that she wouldn’t turn up. At the production meeting the day before the show, he announced that we would have standby music on VT (videotape) to back-up the expected no-show. This was the only time such a measure was taken during my tenure at Pebble Mill. I can’t say I was exactly inspired by his lack of belief in me, but possibly it was a lack of belief in Dionne.



Dionne had requested that I had dinner with her the night before the show, so that we could discuss the mechanics of the her appearance, so after I had finished in the office I headed off for the Holiday Inn, where she was staying. I was met by David Simone and Mike Perry who took me up to Dionne’s suite. David knocked on the door and it was opened by a butler or similar, who was sorting out the dinner. He invited us in and David introduced me to Dionne. Realising that she was open to flattery, I had taken the step of arriving with a massive bunch of roses, which went down a treat. David announced that he and Mike would be leaving. I must have looked startled because he then explained that Dionne had expressly stated that she wanted to meet with me and just me. I turned to the table and sure enough there were just two places laid. It was Deborah Harry all over again (see Up All Night) but this time it was even better, I was going to have dinner with my favourite female artiste of all-time and it was just me and her.


We chatted whilst Dionne finished ‘getting ready’ and then were seated by the butler who proceeded to serve dinner. We chatted about what would happen the next day and enjoyed an extremely good dinner although I can’t remember what we had as I wasn’t really wasn’t concentrating on the food. Although Dionne was technically old enough to be my mother, she was extremely attractive and I’m absolutely sure she knew that I thought so. Once dinner was over, the butler left us with the wine and Dionne became a bit less formal in his absence. She thanked me again for the


 flowers and told me that if she’d not been a married woman then she may have been tempted into asking me to stay


 the night, as she described me as one of the most charming men she’d ever met. I’m sure this was just flattery but you


 never know! I told her about Peter Hercombe’s resignation that she would walk out or even just not turn up. She told


 me she couldn’t give a hoot (well not her exact words) about my editor but she would not be walking out whatever


happened, because she wouldn’t do that to me. Did I feel good?



 We finally said our goodbyes which included a slightly overlong hug and I went back to my flat, but I slept little that



night. Dionne turned up about five minutes late for a ten o’clock call, but she turned up. For most of the rehearsal,



which went ok, Hercombe was pacing up and down the catwalk at the back of the studio area, still convinced she was



 going to do a runner. At one point my heart was in my mouth and I thought he may be right. Dionne had been



rehearsing Take the Short Way Home and not happy with the foldback, she had screamed into her mic



“The sound sucks!”



She was absolutely right, the sound often did suck, but I was not allowed to say things like that because



although I had an excellent pair of ears and knew a lot about sound-mixing, the only way I could complain was by way



of line-mangers and forms in triplicate. Being a live programme, you could safely say the moment would be long gone



before anything was done about it. When I’d worked in radio, some of the sound people who normally worked on talk



programmes would admit their failings on the musical front and let you rig and balance the sound yourself, but this



never happened in television where people were far more conservative and quite frankly precious. When an artiste like


Dionne says something like that though, sound-men tend to listen and within seconds the sound improved dramatically.



Dionne simply turned and smiled in my direction, by way of reassurance. Hercombe was still having doubts to the



level that he actually rehearsed the VT standby music, something I never recall being done when we had anyone else



on the programme. As Dionne promised me though, she did not walk out. She gave an amazing performance of the



four songs and a fifteen minute interview during which she positively sparkled. In the green room after the show,


Peter Hercombe thanked her for doing the show. Without hesitation she told him that he should be thanking me



because had it not been for me, she would not have been there. Aw shucks!






Heartbreaker went on to be a massive success going double platinum and spawning several hit singles. Dionne was



right back there at the top of the tree. She came back a few months later to tour and I went to see her at the Coventry



Apollo. When I went backstage, with the customary bouquet, I was asked to wait at the back of the room as she was



being ‘presented’ to the BBC regional top brass who were there in their droves, monkey suits and wives attached.



 I was extremely low in that particular pecking-order. I must admit to feeling a bit pissed off at being so far down the



line as I felt partly responsible for helping create the whole thing. Suddenly with a whoop  Dionne screamed







completely  ignored the next in line and came running over and flung her arms around me. She turned to the gathered



throng and told them that I was her favourite Englishman and that I was so sweet and always brought her flowers. You



could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. Dionne knows who matters and couldn’t give a fig for the faceless ‘suits’.



Ttheir appreciation of protocol though was deeply ingrained and I got the distinct impression they weren’t impressed


with me.




 This was confirmed when former Editor and now Network TV Editor, Jim Dumighan pulled me aside the next day. He



told me that my ‘little escapade’ hadn’t gone down at all well and he wouldn’t be surprised if there were


‘repercussions’. I told him it was not ‘my little escapade’ and that Dionne had simply preferred to greet someone she



knew and felt had played a part in revitalising her career, rather than  bunch of people she’d never met before nor was



likely to meet again. I told him that he could hardly blame me for that, but I felt he thought that somehow I had stage-



managed the entire event.






I also went to the show at The Apollo, Victoria in London and to the party afterwards at Maunkberry’s club near



Piccadilly, where years earlier I’d had an encounter with Grace Jones! At the party Dionne introduced me to another



hero of mine, Isaac Hayes. I’d always imagined Isaac to be about eight foot thirteen and built like a battleship. I’d also


expected him to be mean, moody and magnificent. When he came over he was maybe a half-inch taller than me and



 was grinning his face off. He turned out to be a really nice guy. We got on extremely well and met up several more


times after he settled in Notting Hill Gate for a while. I was extremely saddened when I heard of his death last year.


Although he will be remembered by a whole generation as the voice of Chef in South ParkI and many others will


always regard him as one of soul music’s major innovators. I can also thank Isaac for helping me get the odd young


lady ‘in the mood’ on dark winter nights! I celebrated our meeting the next day by having a t shirt printed with the


legend ‘I’ve Rapped With Black Moses’ (Hayes aficionados will understand!).


Last time I saw Isaac was when we met in a completely random manner, on the front in Cannes where I think he was a


guest at The Festival for the South Park film.





I worked with Dionne again a couple of years later but I hope for reasons that are obvious, this was the encounter I


remember best. Her appearance that first time cost me just £175.00 as I managed to dig out an old contract for an


‘illustrated talk’ which of course it was after a fashion. The producers of the other two shows who tried to book her


must have wondered where we found the budget to book her, bearing in mind their superior offers plus their having


audiences about ten times the size of ours; well now they know!!!





Girl Don’t Come was one of many top ten hits for another great singer Sandie Shaw. Sandie and I were good friends


for a while (I am still friendly with her ex-husband, designer Jeff Banks). Unfortunately I got horrendously drunk at an

aftershow party for her (there were genuinly mitigating circumstances) and behaved obnoxiously putting the mockers

on our friendship. Any chance of being forgiven Sandie?