a busy year, taken up with European gigs with Captain in
France, Switzerland, Germany and the UK - the linup now
included one Gary Dreadful on drums (who I'd named after a johnny
rock 'n' roll Comic Strip character) and an eccentric keyboard
player called Malcom who frequently took delight in revealing an
even smaller knob than Captain's. The tours produced just enough
money and much laughter, and a sizeable chunk of what we did earn always
ended up being traded in for cases of red wine in the Calais hypermarkets.
Once, being short of space for the bevvy on a return journey, Captain
and I voted we chuck out some of Gary's drumkit to make room but
he started to get upset, so we got rid of the stage set instead.
At 7am one Sunday morning Barrie was driving the van off the ferry after an overnighter to Rotterdam. As we neared the end of the ramp there was a godawful bang - the cambelt had snapped, completely knackering the engine. We silently rolled to a halt and up came the old bill. Out got Bazza, which was a bit of a mistake as he was still pissed from the night before. Within a few minutes not only had we lost the van but £200 - they'd done him for drunk driving, thereby fleecing us of what little cash we had too. We reversed the charges to Leon, our long suffering promotor, to tell him the good news, cancelled the first gig and made an SOS call to Bazza's girlfriend to find a new van and bring it over together with someone to take the old van back. We met her off the ferry the next day, but the replacement van left a little to be desired - it had no seats so she had thoughtfully thrown in 4 plastic garden chairs. For the next three weeks we drove around Holland and Northern France with our lives in our hands, either being bashed in the head byequipment from the rear or thrown forward into the front every time we turned a corner. Never had so many uf us volunteered for driving duties, it was the only seat secured to the floor. Altogether now...Never Again!
Meanwhile I'd been busy songwriting with the Hotrods in mind. Only problem was we had no guitarist, so early in 1995, on the recommendation of our agent Alec Leslie I gave Mick Rogers a call. Mick was the guitarist with Manfred Mann's Earthband and I basically bribed him into recording the album for nothing, bless 'im. I did a deal with a label called Creative Man whereby they agreed to pay studio costs and pay me a bunch of cash upfront for the publishing, and together with Bazza and Steve we booked into The House in the Woods, a lovely studio in Surrey converted from a Victorian school, and set about recording "Gasoline Days". For many reasons it was hard work, not least because the studio manager was panicking due to the lack of cheques forthcoming from our new record company to pay the bills. As the label was in Japan it was a bit hard to call 'em up on the phone, but they coughed up in the end, and the amount of food on our dinner plates increased accordingly! Mick did his best and even did a few gigs with us in the UK and Belgium. However, I personally felt it was all starting to become a bit of a struggle - even with Captain the dubious charm of endless touring was wearing thin, and at the same time I noticed a worsening of the tinnitus I'd developed a few years earlier. Everyday noises were starting to become uncomfortable, so I decided to wind down a bit and branch off into other areas, which lead me into production duties for some great local bands - The Blocked and Spirit of Ecstasy - and various music workshops for an organisation called CMW. All good stuff, but when I got a call from a new agent offering to book a hefty tour for the Hotrods the old bug bit again. In 1996 we headed out with new guitarist Keyo for a massive 60 dates around the UK, followed by tours of Holland and France. Then it was Steve's turn to have had enough, and by the time we set out for northern Germany the following January (see Diary) we had a new drummer, Jess, as well. For me it wasn't quite the same - Steve and I had an innate understanding of each others styles, he was my best mate in the band and we had gone thru' a lot together over the years - but I still loved the idea of the Hotrods and it was hard to let go. The audiences were very appreciative tho', and that was the main thing. A few months later, however, it was time for yet another change! Keyo wasn't pulling his weight - I'd flown back from Sweden where I was doing a series of bass seminars with some Swedish musician friends. We had a couple of very well paid blues-rock weekenders lined up in back home, and I'd arranged for Keyo to pick me up from Heathrow en-route to the first one. But there was no sign of anyone to meet me at the airport - eventually I called his flat in Cardiff and to my suprise he picked the phone up. "Oh", he said airily, "the van had a puncture and I couldn't afford to fix it". Shit for brains, as they say; there was no way we could make the gig, it was the other side of the country, altho' a very pissed-off Bazza had already made his own way there. So - no gig, and after that no Keyo either. At Barrie's suggestion we recruited local boy Gary Loker, and at the same time Steve's nephew Simon came in on drums, as Jess had decided to relocate to Germany to hitch up with a nice young lady he met whilst we were on tour there. We made a good team and once again the band was rejuvenated, and we celebrated by heading out to Sweden for a bunch of midsummer shows, followed by several bikers festivals in the UK and France. We always enjoyed playing them, you got treated well, they ran like clockwork, the audiences were up for it and we always got paid!
It was around this time that the Captain Sensible Band somehow morphed into The Damned mark God Knows What - Vanian, Gary Dreadful, Captain, myself and Monty Moron. There was a particularly unenjoyable Punkfest in Birmingham where gob once again reigned supreme, followed by a show I'd arranged in Cardiff with a promotor friend where Vanian didn't even bother showing up. There were probably more, I can't even remember now, but the next London gig was to be my final show with them. There was much confusion and not a little paranoia surrounding the events - Rat reckoned he legally owned the name and wanted stupid amounts of money for it so I think The Damned was prefaced with - "featuring members of"...in very small print - on the posters to avoid problems. There were all sorts of threats of injunctions flying about, an estate agent mate of Vanians was managing the band so I reckon the whole thing was doomed from the start. Anyway, Vanian turned up at literally the last minute at the Town and Country Club (after Cardiff we were seriously wondering if he was gonna turn up at all) and we hit the stage. For us it was already an unpleasant atmosphere, we felt like we were being held to ransom by Vanians whims, and for me it was about to get a whole lot worse. I'd noticed missiles being aimed at us by certain individuals in the audience, and half way into the set a pint beaker caught me full on the face. It was only plastic but it was forceful enough to knock me several feet backwards, I'd been hit many times before over the years but this was something else. I couldn't play my bass 'cos it was covered with blood, so I walked offstage leaving Captain to get on with his solo, figuring I'd get cleaned up and come back on. When the stage crew went to wipe me down they said it'd gone straight thru' my lip - it wouldn't stop bleeding and needed stitches. Sorry guys, no more hero stuff, if I was 18 again maybe it would have been different, but I was buggered if I was gonna get scarred for a singer who couldn't be bothered to turn up and a small but dangerously moronic section of so - called Damned fans. It underlined the fact that it just wasn't fun any more, at least in this country. I ended up all night in the hospital, got stitched up, and drove back to Cardiff the next day mulling over the future. There was a Japanese tour scheduled the following month, I was up for doing it, but the week before we were to leave I got a brief note from Vanians spokesman saying he'd decided to get his wife Patricia Morrison to play bass instead. It was actually a relief in a way and I guess I was expecting it - the only thing that upset me was that Captain never got in touch during this period, seemingly deferring to a man he had little respect for. I did get a note from him some months later, presumably by way of a peace offering, saying that I was the best bassist he'd ever be likely to work with...God, its a funny old group! I'd met Patricia at a couple of the previous gigs and I really liked her - good luck to her. And to Captain - it was fun while it lasted - most of the time anyway!
It was time
for a change. I continued with the Hotrods for a while longer,
but it was increasingly stressful for me noise wise, even wearing earplugs.
Its hard to describe what its like to have a constant ringing in both
ears 24 hours a day, and it became compounded by a condition called hyperacusis
- an acute sensitivity to certain frequencies - which in my case made
it almost impossible to spend very long in pubs, thereby
effectively sealing my fate as far as playing live went. Instead I got
together on a songwriting project with Alan Lee Shaw, resulting
in the band Mischief and the album Hubble Bubble to be released
very soon. It really was good to do - no backstabbing, no egos, no bullshit
- and I'm especially pleased with my bassplaying on it! It would have
been nice to have had longer to record it but hey, maybe next time. I've
also just embarked upon an acoustic project - I may even play the occasional
gig, unplugged but earplugged, and rest assured there will be NO DRUMS!
3 - the 80's
4 - the 80's
5- the 80's
Part 6- the 90's
Bazza, me, Mick and Steve at The House in the Woods, 1995, recording "Gasoline Days". Bass buffs note the old Burns Bison...
Jess, Paul, Gabi, Bazza and Keyo, Germany 1997
French Hotrods flyer, 1997