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ARCHIVES & STORIES part 2


Rods promo, 1978 The day after Marcs TV show, we headlined the Chelmsford "City Rocks" Festival. It was a monumental cock-up, minimal advertising leading to a minimal audience, many bands gave up, drank the minimal rider and went home. During our set, the crew decided to start stripping down the minimal PA as they hadn't been paid. We'd never pulled a gig in our life and weren't about to start now. The fact that Rob Tyner was present may have had something to do with it. He'd been the singer in the MC5, one of the most awesome bands ever and a huge influence on the Rods, and he was over here as a journalist writing about the punk scene for a Detroit mag. He came onstage and jammed with us - "Back in the USA" and "Gloria" I think. He'd put on a few pounds but jeez, what a voice! As the monitors blew up and the PA disappeared he could still be heard soaring above our backline. We decided to collaborate and on September 20 were back in Regent Sound to record two of his tracks, "Till the Night is Gone" and "Lets Rock". Although not the best songs ever written the tracks sounded good. Steve and I had developed into, and I quote from the NME, "a rhythm section with blind understanding and maximum power". We could second guess what each other were going to play next and instinctively slot in (this would remarkably happen with Rat Scabies a few years later too). Graeme's guitar playing was at its peak and no one could argue with That Voice. It didn't sell but we didn't care, we'd met and recorded with a hero.

On top of K-Rock radio, LA, with Sunset Boulevard behind...

A brief whizz round the UK for yet more dates - days off were boring! - was followed by our first visit to North America where we managed to play 57 gigs in 52 days (see previous page for selected diary extracts). God knows how we managed, altho' the old beakfood was a growing fallback. Unusually, we flew between most cities, hiring cars for the shorter drives, and bribing the feds when we were pulled over for speeding, which we frequently were. We returned, tired and frazzled on December 22. We had established ourselves both sides of the Atlantic, but at what cost? We were doing what we loved, living our lives well and truly on the line, but the cracks were beginning to show. The very next day we were offered a US tour with Elvis Costello commencing January and were given just 2 days to decide. It was our first chance to have a month off since mid '75, and it was the first major rift within the band. Whilst most of us wanted to do it as it would have given us a chance to build our following more, but Dave especially was growing tired of the constant touring and particularly disliked America. He refused to go.


But some of us had forgotten how to rest. Steve and I, faced with the prospect of an inactive month, started hanging out at places like the Speakeasy, a late night drinking den for musicians. (The first time I went there was with Lemmy after we'd played Dingwalls one night. "You get the cab and the drinks and I'll get us in" he had said. Fair deal, I thought. On arrival we pushed to the front of the queue, Lemmy winked at the girl on the till and we were ushered in without paying. "Am I still getting the drinks?" I asked. "Damn right" spake my hero, "I'll have a triple Jack and a Special Brew". Cleaned me right out...)
We had become friendly with The Heartbreakers down there and would jam onstage with Walter Lure and Johnny Thunders, ex New York Dolls guitarist and yet another hero. This was varyingly successful, depending on what substances Johnny had been dabbling with, and would eventually lead to me playing bass on his excellent "So Alone" album. Click here for the full lowdown.

On 15 February we embarked upon our "Life on the Line" tour, our biggest yet, with Radio Stars and Squeeze supporting. It was a fantastic tour, and for nearly 3 months bands and crew became one big happy family partying the length and breadth of Britain. The gigs were sold out, there was a huge buzz around and we got excellent reviews. Our theme music was "Land of Hope and Glory", and I can still remember the tension building before we hit the stage, band and punters alike, and for a while we could do no wrong. Our audiences were young, predominantly middle class
(the punk groups had a more working class audience but there was obviously a crossover) and out for a bloody good time, and we made sure they got one! All three bands were firing on all cylinders and it was a glorious time. It didn't stop offstage either; back at the umbiquitous Centre Hotel or Holiday Inn a piano would miraculously appear (due in no small part to our road crew's powers of persuation), Jools Holland would get a knees up going and the drinks would flow until the wee small hours. Thing is, once you're up there's only one way to go...


Our relationship with manager Ed Hollis was starting to deteriorate. He was an essential part of our success, but from being the major driving force behind the band we started to loose faith. For a band that had constantly toured and sold tons of records we had little to show for it, and later we realised that we were effectively broke. Tax etc had been deducted from our wages - at the height of our success I can't remember earning much more than £75 a week - but had not actually reached the Inland Revenue. He was also spending more time on other projects, with some Very Dodgy People, and had succumbed to the excesses of practically everything. Enter one Robert Harding (Meaty to his friends), all round good bloke and long term road manager to us and the Kursaals. Rashly, he offered to manage us, but inherited something of a nightmare financially. Island Records were demanding a follow up album, they wanted a name producer, and later in the year we checked in to Abbey Road Studios with Motors producer Peter Ker. It was our experimental album, chock full of great songs but with classy production values, and it was called "Thriller". Various guests dropped in to add their bit including Jools Holland, Lee Brilleaux and Linda McCartney. Her old man (some geezer called Paul - used to be in the some combo called The Beatles?) used to pop is head around the door every so often and give us the famous "thumbs up", also I suspect to check up on his missus who spent large amounts of time partying with us. We even got her stoned enough to sing backing vocals on some tracks! Lovely girl and all that, but she probably didn't get the gig in Wings on her vocal prowess!

After I completed the Johnny Thunders album it was over to Europe with the Rods, with France, Holland, Germany and Switzerland on the agenda. However, although Meaty tried his best we started to lose direction and the old "artistic differences" started to make themselves evident.To add to the problem Island and seemed unsure as to how to promote us. "Power and the Glory", actually a bloody great pop song, was duly released as a single and got into the lower reaches of the charts but the critical backlash had started. The album got pretty good reviews but wasn't the big money maker band and label alike were hoping for.

In the spring of 1979 we set off on yet another long UK tour supported by The Members. They were actually getting more airplay than us for their single "Offshore Banking Business". Where we were starting to sound tired and, dare I say it, jaded, they were fresh and enthusiastic. Looking back on it now we were knackered, we'd been worked to the bone, and there was no fooling the punters. We were drinking loads - a bottle of Jim Beam for me, Southern Comfort for Bazza, Vodka for Dave - it would all be In the spotlight, late 78gone before we left the dressing room, and on top of that we were almost singlehandedly supporting thr Colombian economy! What had once been a great adventure had ceased to be fun and, although we wouldn't have admitted it we were going thru' the motions. A few dates before the tour finished The Members' bassist partook of some exceptionally hallucogenic mushrooms. As they pulled into the Watford Gap services that night he legged it across the forecourt, jumped over the fence and disappeared across the fields into the distance. This posed something of a problem to them as they were about to embark upon their own headline tour straight after - enter yours truly! It was back to little clubs and I really enjoyed it, even the heckles of "get yer hair cut yer bleedin' hippy" and - gulp - playing reggae!

It was at this time we parted company with Island Records. In the past they had been great but both them and us had changed. We booked Freerange Studios in Covent Garden and demo'd an albums worth of tracks to shop around (these would eventually appear as "Curse of the Hot Rods"). A new manager was also appointed, much against my wishes, a guy called Harry Maloney who also managed Manfred Mann. I had him down as a slimebag from the start - later I was proved right. We signed to EMI who immediately tried to reinvent us as an r'n'b band again, and Harry booked us a low budget tour of college and club gigs. It was then back to America (see panel opposite), but it was to be very different than before. Far too much time had elapsed since our first triumphant tour, and we had effectively had to start over again. This time however there was no record company support and it was very much done on a budget, and often we had to phone up the agent in New York to find out where we were meant to be playing that evening. The drives were horrendous, sometimes 800 kms a day, we had no money, and things got so bad that we ended up going home after a month when we heard that the California gigs had been pulled. "Just think" Barrie said when we finally arrived back home "we could be on the West Coast and instead we're in flamin' West Kensington!"

Not long after, at The Lyceum, scene of so many Hotrods triumphs in the past, Graeme finally lost the plot. Well, someone had to. Halfway thru' the show he handed his guitar to the puzzled photographers in the pit at the front and started crawling about the stage on all fours, up on the drum riser and tried to bite Steves ankles. The memory of Steve valiantly trying to keep time whilst simultaneously bashing Graeme on the head with his sticks is one that will live with me forever. That very night he was sacked. We limped on for a few more gigs without him but I had lost heart. The fun had gone, we had no dosh and I had no faith in the manager or the direction EMI wanted us to go.

I had a descision to make. For a while I had been recieving telegrams from Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies from The Damned. "Join our band you bastard! The Rods are finished! We'll double your wages!" they read.

Well, what would you have done!

click here for salacious Damned stories!

www.paulgraybass.co.uk

 

 

Parts 1 & 2
- the 70's
Eddie & the Hot Rods

Johnny Thunders

Part 3
the 80's
The Damned

Part 4
The 80's - UFO

Part 5
the 80's - UFO & after

Parts 6 & 7
- the 90's

Captain Sensible, The Damned & The Hot Rods

 

 

 

I did own more than 1 stripey t-shirt...

 

 

 

Diary extracts, US Tour, 1979

September 18 New York
On arrival at La Guardia airport there's no one to meet us. After a few frantic phone calls we find that agent Ian Copeland (brother of Police drummer Miles) has promised the same van to Squeeze, 999, The Police and ourselves. Simple mathematics tells me this isn't going to be much like the last tour! Not a very auspicious start and eventually pool our dollars and cram ourselves into 2 yellow cabs amidst much muttering.

September 23 Rochester, The Showcase
We have inherited a van with bald tyres and no license plate, which means we keep getting stopped by the Feds. Decide to invest in a CB to avoid them, but far more fun is to be had insulting burly truckers, who soon catch on that the bunch of longhaired limey faggots in the blue van are the perpetrators, and attempt to run us off the road. In an effort to avoid them Graeme puts his foot down and promptly blows up the engine as it doesn't like going over 50. For once the Feds are welcome as they probably save us from having the shit kicked out of us by the truckers. Manage to crawl to the gig and play to a grand total of 19 people as the gig was only added at the last moment. We tried out a few new songs then things became a little silly with everybody swapping instruments. After the set we stayed behind and got drunk with the whole audience.

October 3 Chicago, Mothers
At a rare launderette stop today an old guy asked if we were The Beatles as he'd heard that they were back together. All older Americans seem to think if you're in a band and you're English that you're The Beatles. Its the only group they know.

October 6 Cary, Illinois
Only a short drive today so for once we're on time, which is just as well as beakfood kept us up all night and we're feeling slightly rough - I left Dave's room at 9am this morning when he started dancing around the room with a television set, which he then apparently chucked in the shower. Indifferent punters so we were forced into some manic behaviour. Steve threw some of his drums of the back of the stage - he later claimed they were in the way - and Graeme jumped into the punters and gave a rather attractive girl his guitar and told her to keep it. Later on when he found out that the roadies had got it back he got annoyed and said he didn't want it anyway. I think he was a bit drunk...



er...use your imagination!


October 13 Tuscaloosa, Bama Theater

Upon arrival request the rider and directions to the nearest bar as per usual. Horrified to find out that on Sundays Alabama is a dry state and therefore there is no alcohol to be had. This is an unnacceptable state of affairs for the Hotrods, and Meaty the roadie is promptly dispatched to drive over the nearest border point to stock up on Jim Beam etc. Manages to make it back literally minutes before showtime much to our relief. Took him 5 hours...

October 15 Nashville, Exit-Inn
Tiny little club supporting The Police. The dressing room was a hut in the backyard which contained several desks, filing cabinets, a bicycle and a cat with 4 kittens. The Police seem a particularly miserable bunch, altho' at this moment are at the top of the charts in England. They seem slightly miffed at their current surroundings, and spend the entire night moaning about touring America. They'll probably be playing arenas next year if they don't split up...

*thanks to Keith Coton for using his tour diary to fill in the blanks!

 

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These faded but priceless clippings are from a 1979 Daily Mail article in entitled "Does a rock group like a girl in a frock?" whilst I was filling in on bass for The Members, featuring L-R: Nigel Bennet, Nicky Tesco, Adrian Lillywhite, me and JC.
The answer, by the way, was yes, at least as far as this luscious popsie was concerned...

 

Rotosound ad

I know, I know, but it got me free strings for 10 years!

 

 

a ticket...

 

 

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