Friday, 4 March 2011

1978 Snips, The Ramones and Chris Spedding

The Mothers Superior have gone their separate ways. Jackie Crew joins Tour de Force, an all female band. Simon has been with Blood Donor for a while now, Pete joins Colin Lloyd Tucker's Plain Characters, have no idea what happens to Kate. A couple of guys who had managed Toyah ask me to put a band together with me fronting it. I am not convinced about this. At the same time John Bentley who had been playing bass with Blood Donor, but is leaving to be the rhythm guitarist in a band being put together by a singer called Snips, tells me they are looking for a bass player and would I like to audition. I say yes, mainly because I loved Sharks, the band Snips used to sing with. On 23rd January I get a call from him to say we start rehearsing on the 30th. I guess I've got the job and although pleased I don't really know what to do. Except that I do, I am too shattered to even consider putting a band together, write a whole bunch of songs and try to be a lead singer, not that joining Snips is going to be a piece of cake. Graham Deakin who I auditioned with is hired as the drummer, Mick Dyche, lead guitarist and John Bentley are already in the band. 

The Video Kings Mick Dyche, Graham Deakin
 John Bentley and Jackie Badger
February 1978
We rehearse like crazy to be ready to record an album, mostly in Mill Street and Hollywood, the home of the robot Metal Mickey that is usually parked in a corner but sometimes roams the corridors and on occasion traps me and attempts to get up close and personal - everyone be honest it was more weird than amusing...

The end of March and we're in RAK studios, Mickie Most's place in St. John's Wood, with Steve Lillywhite producing. We start with 'Love Is Blind' and 'Dracula'. Mickie Most, Chris Spedding and Suzie Quatro are there - so that's not intimidating at all! I'm handed Spedding's Precision bass (with an extra Guild Humbucker pickup fitted to it. I presume the Rickenbacker is not popular. Nobody says anything - I play the Fender and on we go (sounds great btw).

I'm finding it really stressful and am under a lot of pressure, mostly from myself, to prove I can do it. Being the only female in the band is not something I'm used to and  probably the reverse is true too. Lot of testing going on, how will it be when we're all on the road. Am I the spy in the camp? I don't think I was hired to be the band's conscience. Only time will tell.

The songs are all written by Snips, I love his writing he has a way with words that most rock lyricists don't get close to.  The album is called Snips and the Video Kings as is the band, we all have to wear black trousers and shirts with 'Video Kings' printed on them. I can't say I care to be branded, but it's a good gig and I'm not going to walk away from it for the sake of a shirt and at least I'm not asked to wear a frock, although I do get pink boots - sadly the guys don't. The group is Snips's and we are hired musicians, it's not a democracy, I don't react well in that kind of set up, mostly I keep my mouth shut, although we do have a few flare ups along the way.

Me and Pete are doing PAs for various bands, UK Subs, Adam and the Ants - 14th June we're doing sound for Angelo Paladino at The Bridge House and the legendary Steve Marriott got up and did three numbers with them - brilliant.

Graham Deakin, Jackie Badger, John Bentley, Snips
Back to Snips - we get paid a wage in this band and before too long I have saved enough to get my new heart's desire, a Gibson Thunderbird anniversary edition bass guitar. I am very thrilled to be the owner. It's somewhat larger than I expected and I have to stretch right out to tune the G string. 
It weighs a ton and begins to give me shoulder pains and cramp in my fingers, eventually I have to admit defeat and sell it - but not yet.

The recording goes fairly swiftly. The album is all recorded at RAK except for some overdubs at De Lane Lea, we also throw in a few promotional gigs - The King's Road Theatre and The Point in Victoria. We also play at Holy Innocents in Hornsey - something to do with a footbal team some of them play with, Casa Sports.  Here's one of the tracks - Love is Blind. Essentially Snips is a very fair boss to work for and the music is good. The album is Snips and the Video Kings

We make a video for the first single 'Waiting for Tonight' at one point, they want to dress me up as Snips to be the tiny version of him on the back of the album cover - thankfully they give up on that one.

Went to a photographers in Canonbury Square -The Video Kings are being photographed for the
back of the album cover, when it's finished I'll be holding the hand of the mini Snips.

Simon Etchell invites me to a Blood Donor rehearsal at Toyah's place in Battersea - John Cale was 'instructing' and Chris Spedding was playing guitar - wonderfully manic.

15th July 1978
Bob Dylan at Blackbushe Aerodrome, Eric Clapton is on, has Marcy Levy with him who plays some impressive blues harp. Joan Armatrading appears too. The show was OK, but involved an awful lot of dead time and I watch much of the show through binoculars, standing on two cans of beer. The chances to see Bob are few and far between, I would never turn it down. There's few performers with a catalogue like his. He's dressed all in black with a top hat, the Fred Astaire approach, no dancing though.

Went to the Bridge House to see Steve Marriott (Blind Drunk), Joe Brown did a few numbers with them. Wasn't fabulous musically but entertaining none the less.

We rehearse at Little Bit Ritzy in Brixton for a few gigs before we start the tour with the Ramones playing at the Limit Club in Sheffield, Kirk Leavington Country Club in Middlesbrough and the Music Machine in London .

The start of the Ramones UK tour is in Northern Ireland, we fly to Belfast along with the publicist BP Fallon where we were all rigorously searched on landing because they thought we were the Ramones. Supposedly found some hash in BP's luggage. We didn't see him for a while, he caught up with us later on the tour. The IRA are big at this time, we are not allowed any cabin luggage - my shoulder bag doesn't appear on the carousel. There is one that looks like mine - I look inside and see a pair of pink fluffy slippers. I go to the desk to tell them, Security are called, I'm about to walk over to it explaining it's the same type of bag, when the guard shouts 'Don't go near the item, don't touch it.' The slippers wouldn't have been my choice but they weren't that bad. This could of course be an 'explosive' situation, not just the wrong bag. The airline finds the owner through the baggage claim ident. They live at the army base in Newry, so I have to wait till the next day to get all my belongings back. No make up, nothing.

We pick up 2 cars I drive one, John the other and get lost on the way to the Belfast gig, we're in the middle of town, Snips tells me to pull over so we can ask for directions.  A soldier walks towards us with a machine gun, shouting at us to move on, Snips ignores him winds down the window and asks him where the Ulster Hall is. He can't believe it and neither can I, but we get the information and don't get shot, result. The gig goes well and everything we own is left dripping in spit.

Our hotel is in Holywood (pronounced Hollywood and there the similarity ends), on the outskirts of the city. A big old country house in its own grounds, which I imagine in another era looked pretty impressive, at the moment it has a perimeter fence topped with barbed wire and wooden hut that all visitors have to go through to be searched for weapons and explosives. Because I'm the only female in the band I get my own room, I would have gladly shared with anyone that night, I didn't get too much sleep.

Before they go on stage the Ramones play through their entire set, acoustically, in the dressing room,  and then went straight out to do it all again. I guess they want to hit the ground running, it was a strange sight.

Some nights in the hotel we'd come across Joey wandering the corridors looking for Cadbury's chocolate, he especially loved those really humungous bars. We'd help him find some when we can and return him safely to his room.

We are booked to do the Pressefest Festival in Berlin in the middle of this tour, we play Birmingham the night before, fly to Berlin the next day, do the festival, which I have little memory of actually playing, I remember a revolving stage so you could be getting ready while another band was playing and then be whizzed round for your set. Didn't go quite that smoothly, the mechanism was a bit jerky and things kept falling over. The dressing room upstairs was full of strange mechanical puppets and a table with lots of weird food that nobody wanted and kept complaining that it was impossible to make a sandwich with the bread. A few chairs were arranged along the walls and draped on two of them was a mother and her young teenage daughter who had come to offer themselves for sex with the band, don't know if it included me, possibly.  None of us went for it. One of those Spinal Tap moments, before Spinal Tap. We were all bundled in cars and taken to see the Brandenberg Gate, drank some very strong alcohol, ate some fries (at last food you could eat), got back to the hotel about 2am and up about 5am to fly back to London.

A couple of us stayed at Snips's place, he lived in west London and we were at the Hammersmith Odeon that night. We didn't get too much sleep. We need something to liven us up and by the time we hit the stage we're pretty wired. We play the most manic set we've done so far and stride about the place like we own it. Goes really well and we get this minuscule review. The tour ends on 7th October in Glasgow at Queen Margaret's Union. We had more than a few laughs, if you discount the amount of gob everyone and everything was covered in The downside is that although we've  been getting good audience reaction the album and single sales are not great.

Jackie Badger, Graham Deakin,
Snips, Spedding. John Bentley
More rehearsing, this time at Tandem, play at Harlow Tech and with Gordon Giltrap at Bath Uni. Spedding joins us at the Music Machine on 10th November and the Marquee on 15th.

On 22nd we record a BBC In Concert at the Paris Theatre

After an end of tour party at Snips' flat in November me and Snips think we might like to go out together, no one more surprised than me. Our first date is to see Werner Herzog's 'The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.'  Good film - good choice.

On the 27th we begin rehearsals, back at an old favourite Hollywood (Metal Mickey is better behaved) with our new guitar player Brian Holloway for some December gigs - Barbarella's, Birmingham on the 5th and Lyceum, with Ultravox on the 10th.

Me and Snips went to the Jet (Don Arden's record label) Christmas Party. There were gold dolphins holding the toilet roll - weird - my parents had the same thing in their council flat.

The last year has gone by in a flash, so much is going on it's like being on full spin. Lots of good stuff is happening, but my direction seems to be out of my hands, I could end up anywhere.


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