KING MOD: The Story of Peter Meaden, The Who and the Birth of a British Subculture by Steve Turner

In July of 1963 Peter Meaden returned to the UK from a sojourn in Spain to discover that his erstwhile friend and sometimes business partner Andrew Oldham had become the manager of The Rolling Stones, a group rapidly in the ascendant in the wake of The Beatles. He wasn’t pleased. Although nothing had been formally agreed, Peter believed that any enterprise in which Oldham was involved would involve him too, but there was no role for him in the management of the Stones. 

“Peter took his revenge by having 2,000 stickers made up offering the sexual services of an experienced madam,” writes Steve Turner in King Mod, his biography/appreciation of the man who turned The Who into High Numbers, “with Andrew’s business phone as the contact number, and posting them in central London public conveniences. This successfully tied up the office phone for three weeks.”

This is but one of many entertaining yarns in this unusual book. The first 133 pages of King Mod comprise a well-researched, eminently readable and heavily illustrated biography of Meaden, opening with his birth in 1941 and covering his entire life, with and without The Who, up to his death by his own hand in 1978. The next 80 pages are given over to an unabridged transcription of the series of notable interviews that Turner conducted with Meaden, beginning in May, 1975, initially for A Decade Of The Who, a songbook with additional editorial features published in 1977, though the interviews that appeared therein were drastically reduced. Further extracts from it were subsequently published in NME, then in A Sharper Word, an anthology of Mod writing that came out in 1999, and six years later in an NME Originals magazine on Mod. 

        The heart of the book, the interviews with Meaden, reveal him to be as garrulous as he was fascinating, and in King Mod they are published in their wild and wonderful entirety for the first time. They emphasise not just Meaden’s utter dedication to the Mod cause – and impeccable taste in all things Mod – but his chaotic nature, his inability to focus, how his enthusiasm invariably trumps reality. Extensive footnotes help make sense of it all, not least because some of what Meaden says seems well OTT to me – like 50,000 fans trying to get into a Who gig in Brighton in 1964?  

Of all the characters that fell under The Who’s spell in the early sixties, none paid a higher price for their devotion than Meaden, King Mod to his admirers. You can read about him in the early pages of Who biographies, that period when under his influence they called themselves The High Numbers and recorded ‘I’m The Face’, their very first single, but after that he more or less disappears from the picture, ousted by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp who gave him £500 to go away. The truth is he probably never had a written agreement to manage them anyway. He simply ‘advised’ them after an introduction via his hairdresser. He certainly wasn’t a businessman, as the book makes clear. But The Who, and Pete Townshend in particular, never forgot Meaden’s early contribution to their image and, along with later manager Bill Curbishley, did their best to help him in the mid-seventies, by which time drugs, notably LSD, had taken their toll on his already fragile psyche. 

It’s an Icarus-like tale. Like a few other enlightened pioneers of the post-war generation, Meaden escaped his provincial, deathly colourless, family life but flew too close to the sun in his quest to discover its converse, influencing the zeitgeist as he travelled yet somehow losing the plot when confronted with everyday life. 

        The book closes with a heartfelt postscript that places Meaden’s accomplishments, such as they were, in context, not just in his lifetime but how Mod continues to influence popular music. The interview, Turner believes – and I agree with him – is a significant cultural document. “It gives an unprecedented look into the mind of a man who was the most influential mod in the early-to-mid Sixties,” he writes, “and who managed for the first time to forge a link between important British youth subculture and what was to become a major rock band.” 

        Essential reading if you really want to understand where The Who came from. And, by the way, Oldham must have forgiven him for that telephone number prank as he’s contributed a foreword to King Mod



As I wrote in my introduction to the Melody Maker singles reviews of mine that I posted a few days ago, it wasn’t often that this job fell on my plate but it happened again in late 1975 while I was in London between stints in the US, and for a few weeks too. So, since that post seemed to go down well, here’s another of my singles reviews, from the issue dated September 27 that year, with a few big names. 

        I seem to remember that my merciless dissing of Peters & Lee inspired a few angry letters to MM because one half of the duo, Lennie Peters, was blind. The tone of the letters suggested that because of this he and Dianne Lee were beyond criticism and that I was a heartless bastard destined for eternal damnation. I disagreed. Physical disadvantage is unfortunate but did not confer an obligation for positive reviews in MM, or anywhere else for that matter.

Although there was no compulsion on the part of MM’s singles reviewer to predict whether a record would be a hit or a miss, for interest’s sake in this post I’ve added some hindsight facts and figures culled from The Complete Book of the British Charts that reveal whether I was right or wrong in my predictions. 

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: ‘Born To Run’ (CBS). I joined the ranks of converted Springsteen writers in Norfolk, Virginia, two years ago after seeing a stunning concert full of energy and enthusiasm that had been sadly lacking of many acts I’d seen. Like many, it took a live show to become fully aware of his talents as the first two albums, though good, never lived up to the promise of the man himself. This is the title track from his third album and it’s a knockout, an unbelievable riff leading into Bruce’s hoarse vocals that speak with all the urgency of the committed artist. Listen to that break after the solo about two-thirds of the way through: perfect use of dynamics, a key change and a rocket-propelled take-off back into the song. This must be a hit; it’s already one in the US. 

[‘Born To Run’ wasn’t a hit until a live version reached number 20 in the UK charts in 1987, by which time Bruce could sell out Wembley Stadium three nights in a row.]

ELTON JOHN: ‘Island Girl’ (DJM). A thudding bass riff opens this new single from Elton which, like many of his songs, seems fairly innocuous at first but grows on the listener after a few plays. It’s a jumpy soul rocker in the tradition of ‘The Bitch Is Back’ with gutsy lines: “She’s black as coal but burns like a fire, she wraps herself around you like a well-worn tyre.” There’s a rather curious steel drum solo towards the end which seems to have been mixed down rather low, but the overall effect is a vast change of mood from Elton’s last single, ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’. The B-side is on interest to Eltonmaniacs: his version of ‘Sugar On The Floor’, a slow and quiet Kiki Dee song which has Elt as his most expressive. The A-side is from EJ’s forthcoming Rock Of The Westies album. Good or bad, it’ll still be a hit, but this one deserves to be.

[Number 14 in October ’75, disappointing by Elton’s standards.]

SPARKS: ‘Looks, Looks, Looks’ (Island). Sounds more like Manhattan Transfer than Sparks who adopt a big band approach to this dated sounding single that fits snugly into the novelty bracket. One could imagine Fred Astaire tripping along to the horn solo, and Ginger Rogers encouraging the Mael brothers from the gallery. A bit too gimmicky for my taste but probably a hit since their following seems among the most loyal around. 

[Reached number 26, low for them at the time.]

FRED ASTAIRE: ‘The Wailing Of The Willow’ (UA). And talking of Fred Astaire, here he is, with a new single in the Perry Como/Bing Crosby mould. He hasn’t the voice of his contemporaries but I’ve been impressed by his casual acting style in recent movies. Strictly for the over fifties I’m afraid. A miss.

[Failed to chart. As for movies, I was probably thinking of The Towering Inferno.]

MELANIE: ‘You Can’t Hurry Love/Mama Said’ (Neighbourhood). A curious single from Melanie, blending the Holland-Dozier-Holland hit with a song I haven’t heard before that segues very conveniently. Despite the odd choice of material, the Melanie vocal cords ring out unmistakably but I fear that her following in this country has waned of late and there aren’t enough fans desperate to pick up this record. A miss.

[Failed to chart. The original, by The Supremes, reached number 3 in 1966.]

JACKSON FIVE: ‘Forever Came Today’ (Tamla Motown). Internal squabbles, record company problems and the group’s decision to abandon a British tour to avoid any recurrence of the Cassidy-crush situation have all contributed to a certain loss of favour for the Jackson Five whose musical ability always overshadowed their rivals, the Osmonds. In the US their popularity is still high but here new heroes seem to have snatched their crown. Unfortunately, I can’t predict a comeback on the strength of this single which has none of the immediacy of their earlier efforts. A reasonable toe-tapper, orchestrated and adequately produced, but Michael Jackson’s voice is sadly missing due, presumably, to nature, and with it has gone the J5’s essential trademark. With competition at its height, I must be pessimistic. A miss.

[Failed to chart, a disappointment no doubt.]

RAY STEVENS: ‘Indian Love Call’ (Janus). Stevens drops his novelty bag for a lush ballad which, I suppose, is meant to be taken seriously. Alternating between falsetto and tenor and swamped with back-up vocals, he plummets to new depths. A waltz schmaltz of no distinctions whatsoever and a huge miss to boot.

[Reached number 34.]

PETERS & LEE: ‘The Crying Game’ (Philips). This pair, with whom I have little patience, have contributed not one jot to the progression of British music but have nevertheless chalked up a few hits with their Butlins Holiday Camp act and music. This, like their others, is a sentimental weepie taken at snail’s pace and is thoroughly disposable for its typical blandness and general lowest common denominator appeal. Enough… and probably a hit as these things, regrettably, are out of my hands.

[Failed to chart. How disappointing! The original, by Dave Berry, reached number 5 in 1964.]

MFSB: ‘Let’s Go Disco’ (Philadelphia International). It doesn’t take a degree in contemporary music to work out that this is an instrumental aimed directly at the disco market where it will probably score as a dancing number. In the cold light of day, however, it’s rather tame listening, a forgettable tune played at a monotonous pace, with a repeated chant of ‘Let’s go disco’ at irregular intervals. A miss.

[Failed to chart, though a number with the same title, by Real Thing, reached number 39 in 1978. Trivia note: The bass player in the Real Things touring band, John Tilley, was an old schoolfriend of mine.]

BILLY JOEL: ‘If I Only Had Words To Tell You’ (CBS). It is not only consumers who receive poor quality records, but reviewers too, so I’ll take this opportunity to slag off the CBS quality control department for allowing this lump of vinyl to find its way out of the factory. Not only is it seriously warped but the hole in the centre is so big the record spins on an irregular axis. Discordant piano chords abound and the unfortunate Joel sounds like he’s imbibed a potent Indian curry on top of several pints of strong draught beer. Any intelligent comments on his new single are therefore out of the question but I might add that I liked ‘Mr Piano Man’. No excuses CBS, you’re caught red-handed. For Billy’s sake I can only hope this is an isolated pressing and thousands haven’t rattled off the production line in this condition.

[Failed to chart. Billy’s chart career in the UK didn’t get going until 1978.]

ALLEN TOUSSAINT: ‘Soul Sister’ (Reprise). Allen Toussaint’s recent contributions to the music business have been justly lauded in often glowing terms and it’d be nice to see him in the British chart with this medium paced, immaculately produced piece of soul. Very smooth and silky, though a little more urgency would drive the song along better. Unfortunately, I can’t be optimistic. A miss.

[Allen Toussaint never reached the UK charts.]

BARRY MANILOW: ‘Could It Be Magic’ (Arista). Manilow, a pianist, singer, arranger and composer of jingles for American television, was Bette Midler’s musical director until Clive Davis signed him to Arista and notched up the company’s first big hit with his version of the old ‘Brandy’ hit which was retitled ‘Mandy’ for no apparent reason. I can’t see him repeating his success here, especially with this very slow tune which seems to get slower the longer it spins. Straight ballad over piano with built-up production reaching dramatic crescendo in the usual MOR fashion. Miss. 

[A miss on release but reached number 15 when it was reissued in 1978.]

MELISSA MANCHESTER: ‘Midnight Blue’ (Artista). Another Clive Davis prodigy and there’s more hope here, although Ms Manchester ought to be seen live to be fully appreciated. At the piano, her red hair flying, she’s dynamite, but on record much of her charisma is lost. This is a pleasantly attractive song with a repetitive sing-along chorus that could catch with the right airplay. Perhaps a hit. 

[Perhaps not. Never reached the charts.]

THE PLATTERS: ‘Only You’ (Contemporaries). The Platters are another Fifties group whose many personnel changes have resulted in several acts calling themselves The Platters appearing in various parts of the world at different times. Their original hit was the lovely ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ in the late Fifties but this one appeared with some success almost two years later, and represents a fine vocal performance and flawless production on a standard song. With oldies of doubtful distinction hitting the charts these days, one can only hope that a distinguished recording like this will follow the same path. It is, incidentally, the same song recorded recently by Ringo Starr. 

[No chart action on this reissue but it reached number 5 in 1956 as a double A-side with ‘The Great Pretender’ and then again – as I state – in 1957 when it reached number 18 in its own right. Covered by loads of acts.] 

SAM & DAVE. ‘Under The Boardwalk’ (UA). My favourite Drifters hit that was actually covered by the Stones on their second album and turns up here by the legendary Sam & Dave whose identity has been a matter of debate before now. Not a bad stab at this venerable classic but I’d prefer the Drifters’ original which evokes all the atmosphere of the seaside in two minutes of absolutely masterful technique and atmosphere that inspired Guy Paelheart and Nik Cohn to create their Rock Dreams book last year. Perhaps Atlantic will oblige with the original if chart action is imminent. 

[Failed to chart. I still have my original copy of Rock Dreams, acquired in 1974. Wonderful book.] 

BUDDY MILES: ‘Rockin’ And Rollin’ On the Streets Of Hollywood’ (Casablanca). Not, as might be imagined, a rock and roll song at all but a straightforward lump of funk from the lumbering drummer of dubious reputation. Plain and direct, but too samey to get anywhere in the market for which it was produced, or anywhere else for that matter. A Miss.

[Failed to chart.]

BILLY SWAN: ‘Everything’s The Same’ (Monument). A re-write of ‘I Can Help’ from Billy Swan whose album earlier this year was one of my favourite plays at the time. An apt title, indeed, for the backing track is in the same rockabilly style as his previous hit and the singing style is far too familiar. The girly backing vocals remove the crisp edge of his earlier hit and introduce a disappointing element of MOR commercialism towards the end. A miss. 

[Failed to chart]

JOHNNY NASH: ‘Let’s Be Friends’ (CBS). Not as strong as ‘Tears On My Pillow’ but the same commercially orientated reggae formula, spoilt a little by the whistling chorus line. Easy-going, understated and laid back in the extreme. Nash has hit on a style that the public obviously likes. Another hit methinks. 

[Reached only as far as number 42, a bit of a set-back after his number 1 with ‘Tears…’]


NEW POP SINGLES - Reviewed by Chris Charlesworth


I wasn’t often called upon to do the singles reviews for Melody Maker. It was Chris Welch’s job and he had an idiosyncratic style that seemed as if he didn't take the job too seriously. However, he must have been on holiday 51 years ago this week as my by-line appears above them in MM dated April 14, 1973. There was a small room adjacent to the main office that was set aside for listening, and I would have sat in there one afternoon that week alongside the office record player, a pile of 7” singles and an old manual typewriter, playing the records and thinking up what to say about them. 

Here’s what I wrote:

FREE: ‘Travelling In Style’ (Island). A track from Free’s last album Heartbreaker, and a rather low-key song for Free to release as a single, though the group probably had nothing to do with its release. Paul Rodgers’ inimitable voice sings rather lazily over acoustic and slide guitars with a honky-tonk piano in the background. I can’t see it doing too well as most Free fans will have the album by now.

THE SURFARIS: ‘Wipe Out’ (Paramount). Re-release of a golden (?) oldie instrumental which every budding guitarist in the world flexed his fingers to around 1963. A ridiculously simple number with a break every other bar for a drum roll between the straight 12-bar melody line. A hit in 1963 but today? I doubt it. Of interest to collectors only. 

WIZZARD: ‘See My Baby Jive’ (Harvest). Roy Wood comes up with a mock Spector production that will doubtless sweep the country within days. It deserves to. If Dave Edmunds can get away with it on a total rip-off basis, then Roy Wood’s original composition, with the Suedettes on backing vocals, should clock up plenty of sales. A good catchy pop song which is good value as it lasts one hell of a long time. Roy Hollingworth tells me he was at the session when it was mixed. B-side is ‘Bend Over Beethoven’, Wood’s answer to ELO, a turgid instrumental and not much of an answer.

JOHNNY JOHNSON AND HIS BANDWAGON: ‘Give Me Your Love Again’ (EMI). The usual formula of brassy soul from Johnny Johnson who seems to have a hit every six months and then vanish into thin air until his next record is released. It’s a Mitch Murray/Peter Callander pop song with all the ingredients to warrant a series of plugs on Radio One, at least two appearances on Top Of The Pops and, if lucky, a Tony Blackburn record of the week. A hit.

MATT MONRO: ‘I Am In Life’ (Columbia): The one-time bus driver with the pint-sized frame warbles through a nice straight ballad with all the charm of Frank Sinatra. Come to think of it, he sounds remarkably like Frank Sinatra too. Too old fashioned to make it in the current hectic hit parade race.

LOGGINS AND MESSINA: ‘Thinking Of You’ (CBS): Here’s a touch of class. Loggins and Messina harmonise beautifully over slide guitars and country rock. Their two voices have an early Everly Brothers air about them, and the song rips along in fine style. A hit single would bring Loggins and Messina to a whole lot of people so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. 

CLODAGH RODGERS: ‘Carolina Days’ (RCA): This song was written by Marmalade’s Junior Campbell and marks a departure from the sing-along type of Eurovision material that Clodagh has been saddled with for most of her career. Pretty, catchy and could be a hit.

BLOODSTONE: ‘Natural High’ (Decca): I always thought Bloodstone were a bunch of loud rock and rollers and with a title like this I expected an ear-shattering experience. However, it turns out to be a quiet, tasteful song in the Curtis Mayfield vein. It’s a track from their album of the same name which hasn’t been released yet so it acts as a good trailer. Lovely singing and a great arrangement. 

ARSENAL FC: ‘Good Old Arsenal’ (Pye). The Arsenal footballers yell along to Rule Britannia, substituting loyal slogans about Charlie George for the bits about ruling the waves and never being slaves. As a confirmed Leeds United supporter, I really cannot bring myself to comment favourably on this offering. Seriously though, I am of the opinion that footballers should stick to playing football and leave records to musicans.

FLO AND EDDIE: “Flo And Eddie Meet The Wolfman’ (Reprise): I’m not too sure whether this has been sent into the MM office for a serious review or to give us a giggle. The record – both sides – consists primarily of an interview between those loveable cuddly turtle Mothers, Marc Volman and Howard Kaylan, and whether it’ll be on sale to the public is debateable. However, it’s a bundle of fun and is packaged in the best singles sleeve I’ve ever come across. There’s also a little music included but it’s so short it’s hardly worth a mention. 

ISAAC HAYES: ‘I Don’t Want To Be Right’ (Stax). With his size and bulk, it never ceases to amaze me that Isaac Hayes hasn’t a more powerful voice. This record disappointed me – there’s none of the funky guitar that took ‘Shaft’ into the charts; instead there’s a rather limp Isaac singing a ballad over brass backing. Rather disjointed, too.

STEELY DAN: ‘Reelin’ In The Years’ (Probe): There’s hope yet. Steely Dan comes up with the best single I’ve heard this week. Good, intricate vocal harmonies, clear, precise guitar work and a commercial enough song to break the charts. Probably not commercial enough for Radio One, though, which will doubtless halt its progress but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. 

BARRY BLUE: ‘Dancing (On A Saturday Night)’ (Bell). Barry Bell collaborated into the writing of ‘Sugar Me’ for Lynsey de Paul, co-wrote most of the songs on her album and now comes up, surprisingly enough, with a song written by the same young lady. It’s a catchy, poppy offering that stands a good chance of reaching the dizzy heights of the top ten. 

THE PIONEERS: ‘At The Discotheque’ (Trojan): Perhaps Led Zeppelin doing reggae has finally put the seal of approval on this style of music. This is a pretty standard reggae offering extolling the local discotheque and expressing the hope that a certain young lady will be there at the necessary time. 

CLIMAX CHICAGO: ‘Shake Your Love’ (Harvest). Bo Diddley rhythms from Climax Chicago and not too hot either. Monotonous, messy and I’d have expected better from a band that has been around as long as they have. Try substituting the words ‘Shake Your Love’ for ‘Not Fade Away’ and you’ve got the general idea.

A FOOT IN COLDWATER: ‘In My Life’ (Island). This week’s winners of the unusual group competition are a Canadian band which is unusual for Island who specialise in British acts. This is an acoustic ballad that builds up for five minutes until a whole orchestra join in for the last verse. Average to good. 

TREMELOES: ‘Ride On’ (Epic). Rock and roll in the Status Quo style from the Trems who have obviously abandoned their instantly commercial sound. But there isn’t half the guts that Quo inject into their stormers. There’s an unusual guitar break in the middle but the track would be so much better if played faster. 

HOT BUTTER: ‘Percolator’ (Pye). It never ceases to amaze me how some acts can just repeat a record as their follow-up in the hope that it will achieve the same success as its predecessor. Here, Hot Butter serve up another Moog offering which sounds pretty much the same as ‘Popcorn’ but with the addition of an orchestra. While the melody changes slightly, the backing riff is identical. 

LITTLE RICHARD: ‘Tutti Frutti’ (Specialty). Talk about a blast from the past – I can remember purchasing this record at the ripe old age of 11 and playing it on a wind-up record player. It was a 78 in those days and the record was on the brown and silver London label. Now it’s on Specialty, the original American label, and it’s one of a batch of oldies released as single that are now collectors’ items – or were until this lot arrived in the shops. In the same series we have ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ by Lloyd Price, ‘Justine’ by Don and Dewey, ‘I’ll Come Running Back To You’ by Sam Cooke (what a great singer he was), ‘Bonie Maronie’ by Larry Williams and a host of others. They’re all released through the Sonet company. I can’t see today’s record buyers lashing out their money on these singles, but they might serve a purpose in showing where it all came from in the first place. 


ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE: THE END OF THE BEATLES – An Oral History By Those Who Were There by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines

NDAs – non disclosure agreements – were invented during the 1980s to protect trade secrets, principally in the mushrooming tech industry, but it wasn’t until quite a bit later that celebrities from all walks of life saw them as a means of preventing dirty laundry from being washed in public. Nowadays, if you get a job working for a family like, say, the Beckhams or the Osbournes, it’s a pound to penny you’ll be asked to sign one for neither David nor Victoria nor Ozzy nor Sharon want anyone to know what really goes on behind closed doors. 

        They certainly weren’t an issue when Apple insider Peter Brown got together with author Steven Gaines to write The Love You Make, their best-selling 1983 biography of The Beatles. It followed close on the heels of Shout!, Philip Norman’s breakthrough book on the group, thus losing some of its shock value, at least in the UK, and while Norman’s book was marginally more literate, Brown and Gaines’ book was more eye-opening. Both books opened the floodgates to other revealing biographies of rock stars and probably motivated some to consult their lawyers about NDAs. 

This new book by Gaines and Brown is a selection of faithfully transcribed interviews with three of the Beatles and over thirty others who were close to them, from the beginning to the end, and while the lion’s share of the questions and answers deal with the group’s demise, herein lie many tales not told before, almost all of them revealing, though some are questionable and others conflicting. Recollections of events vary and memories fade but many interviewees confirm the generally accepted notion that The Beatles lost their way after the death of manager Brian Epstein. Reading between the lines, however, the book goes further, suggesting that this event was crucial to everything that followed, as responsible for their ceasing collective endeavour as the arrival of Yoko or Linda or Allen Klein, or Paul’s need to dominate, or John’s lethargy, or George’s frustration, or any other of the innumerable factors that observers have claimed laid them to rest. Who knows how history might have been reversed had Epstein survived the accidental overdose that killed in him in August 1967?

Gaines and Brown were certainly industrious in their research for The Love You Make, and they somehow managed to snag Paul, George and Ringo, all of whom knew the interviews were to form part of a book. It seems from the transcripts that they conducted many of the interviews together, with Gaines asking most of the questions and Brown nudging things along with a comment here and there that could only have come from an insider. 

        There are heroes and villains among the interviewees, and more fun is to be had with the latter. Alexis ‘Magic Alex’ Mardas, a conman who snared John, comes across as not just dislikeable but dishonest to boot, Klein was “a bully and all-round shifty character… he even looked like a crook, sloppy and fat,” according to Brown – and a lengthy interview with him does little to dispel this portrait – while Vic Lewis, who promoted Beatles tours abroad, was more concerned about getting his share of the box-office than the hostility The Beatles faced on their calamitous visit to Manila. “Did you get the money?” Lewis repeatedly asked a clearly traumatised Epstein as their plane took off. “Vic Lewis leaned over me and tried to slap Brian in the face,” writes Brown. “I grabbed him away and forced him down the aisle.” 

There are some unlikely heroes, Epstein’s long serving and ill-served assistant Alistair Taylor, Apple records boss Ron Kass and poor, innocent Cynthia Powell, among them. As for the other wives, Maureen Starkey, Mrs Ringo, seems bemused by everything that happened while Pattie, sweet as she is, comes over as rather naïve. Linda is absent, as is Jane Asher, Paul’s sweetheart during the frantic years, nowadays the only Beatle insider never to have uttered a word about what it was like or how she felt to be at the centre of the tornado. 

        Those willing to comment suggest Epstein’s troubled sexuality was at the heart of his neurosis, not to mention his lingering guilt at allowing millions of dollars in merchandising income to slip through his fingers. There are several illuminating accounts of the trouble in Manila, George’s being the best, but his interview dwells a bit too much on his inner light. Paul is lucid, if a trifle calculating, while Ringo comes over as the matter-of-fact, cuddly Beatle that we always knew him to be. “[We were] still the best band there ever was,” he concludes. 

Nevertheless, we can be thankful that NDAs weren’t commonplace at the time Gaines and Brown embarked on The Love You Make. If they had it wouldn’t have been written, and neither would this illuminating follow-up. The 340-page book is an easy read, illustrated with eight pages of pictures from Browns archives but is not without the odd error. 



It’s a Saturday and the weather is friendly in St John’s Wood today which means that plenty of people are walking in the footsteps of The Beatles at the Abbey Road zebra crossing, the most popular pedestrian road crossing in the world. It was raining a couple of days ago so there weren’t that many but when the sun is out – here it comes, little darling – the tourists gather together in groups before walking across, often four at a time, lingering in the in the middle, their hands outstretched, while a friend or relation takes their picture, just as photographer Iain Macmillan did on August 8, 1969, as John, Ringo, Paul and George – in that order – crossed over from west to east at 11.35am in the morning.

        Since 2010 we’ve been able to watch them, and every so often, when I’m a tad bored, I click on to the website to watch them. “The Beatles crossed the road several times,” reports Mark Lewisohn is his Beatles Chronicle, “while [Macmillan] took several shots, a friendly policeman obligingly holding up traffic. Paul chose the best of the six later that day.”

A glance at the website tells me that since 2010, when the EarthCam was installed just north of the crossing, almost adjacent to the entrance gate to the studios, 53 million viewers have observed what I was watching a few moments ago. There’s no tally of the number of Beatle tourists who’ve crossed over, of course, but this YouTube link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwXKJHgRM50 – reveals that among them fairly recently was Paul himself. Dressed in black trousers and a white shirt, his jacket carried casually over his right shoulder, he arrived from the Grove End Road side, failed to observe his kerb drill and paused midway across the oblige someone with a camera. When he reached the other side, his presence had been noted and by the time he reached the Abbey Road studio gate a decent sized crowd was in pursuit, rather like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, all of them cheering him – and a few screaming – as he made his way into his place of business.

The fortuitously located traffic island at the end of Grove End Road offers the perfect spot for those with mobile phones to snap their friends following in the Beatles footsteps. I find it quite addictive to watch it and heres the link:  https://www.earthcam.com/world/england/london/abbeyroad/?cam=abbeyroad_uk 

Maybe you will too. 



Only those who scrutinise Mojo magazine rigorously would have spotted my name in issue 365, which had John Squire and Liam Gallagher on the cover. It appeared on page 113, below the answers to the crossword in issue 363. “Winner: Reader Chris Charlesworth wins a pair of Audio Pro A48 speakers [above],” it said. Yes, it was me, though in reality I solved an anagram from letters that were highlighted in the crossword grid, specifically those that when rearranged spelled “Shane O’Hooligan”, probably not the easiest anagram to solve but pretty easy if, like me, you’ve been cracking cryptic crosswords for years as a means of exercising the old grey matter.

        The speakers, which retail at a whopping £960, were delivered to chez CC at the beginning of this week and after a bit of fiddling about with cables that weren’t part of the package, they were up and running yesterday. They’re now wired up for use on our hi-fi and TV, and, of course, they’re Bluetooth compatible, which means that music from my phone comes through them too. 

        Despite my fondness for music of pretty much all types and a pretty large record collection, at least by most people’s standards, I have never really been a hi-fi buff, one of those folks who can discuss tweeters, woofers and frequency balance with any semblance of authority. Truth to tell, the speakers in use chez CC until now were bought in 1980, in New York, a pair of silver Onkyo HS-20s, which have served me remarkably well ever since. They cost about $80 and I had to pay £35 customs duty on them at Heathrow, which translates as around £400 in today’s money, a substantial investment but a good buy all the same. 

My old speakers

        I was on my way back from Chicago where, as PR at RCA Records, I’d taken a couple of writers to see David Bowie in The Elephant Man and I stopped off in NYC to meet up with a friend who didn’t show. To ease my disappointment, I browsed in a hi-fi shop and bought the Onkyos because the man in the shop recommended them, I had some unused dollars and they looked nice. A glance on eBay tells me they’ve held their value, which doesn’t surprise me as I’ve always thought they sounded terrific.

        Well, bugger me with a dead badger, as my old mate Allan Jones used to say. These new motherfuckers blow the living daylights out of them. The bass sounds turns our living room into one of those clubs in the Balearic islands, booming out like a sound system at the Notting Hill Carnival. But it’s not just the bass, it’s the overall clarity of the different instruments and the vocals, almost as if the singers and guitarists are in the room with you, sitting somewhere between each speaker, playing for your entertainment only. They have built-in amplifiers – Digital Class D 2x130watt + 2x30 watt, according to the specs – which is on the hot side to say the least. It means I no longer need a hi-fi amp and can stick them in the garden and entertain the whole village if I want. Before long I will need to sign a peace treaty with my neighbours. 

        I haven’t had them long enough to try out many records yet, but just for the record, in the last 24 hours I’ve played some War On Drugs (Lost In The Dream, Live Drugs), The Last Dinner Party (from my phone, proving Bluetooth and records are indistinguishable), Miles Davis (Kind Of Blue), Elgar (adagio from cello concerto), Beatles (second side of Abbey Road, ‘Strawberry Field Forever’ from Love, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ from remastered Let It Be), Jeff Beck (‘Elegy For Dunkirk’ from Emotion & Commotion), Who (‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and live ‘Bargain’), Cat Stevens (‘How Can I Tell You’ from remastered Teaser And The Firecat), Abba (‘The Day Before You Came’), Gillian Welch (Revival) and Everly Brothers (‘Kentucky’). I’m saving Floyd and S Dan for the weekend. I’ve also watched on TV Jeff Beck Live At The Hollywood Bowl (from 2017), Springsteen Live In Barcelona (2002) and bits of The Beatles’ Eight Days A Week documentary, all which I’d recorded and saved on the planner long before the new speakers arrived. 

        The TV sound through the new speakers is amazing, giving an added dimension to the music, as good as the hi-fi sound from CDs or vinyl. I’m gobsmacked at the sound I now hear from Beck’s white Strat, always a source of wonder to me, not to mention the bass playing of Rhonda Smith and crackling drums of Jonathan Joseph. On The Beatles’ doc Paul’s bass sounds terrific, putting to the sword any suggestion that the Fabs weren’t that good on stage when the screaming got out of hand. 

        Indeed, all this music sounds far better than I’ve ever heard it before. Also, I’m hearing things in the background that I never realised were there, perhaps the scrape of a pick against guitar strings, a singer catching their breath, a synth line buried deep in the mix. And for this reason, unusually, I’m sitting between the speakers without doing anything else, just hoovering it all up without distraction, simply listening. 

        I can’t quite believe my luck. 


TEENAGE WASTELAND: The Who at Winterland 1968 & 1976 by Edoardo Genzolini

The impact of The Who in their glory years continues to inspire books about the period of their long career when their contribution to the evolution of rock music is now etched in stone, fondly remembered, never bettered, a criterion to which others might aspire but very few attain. The Who’s seat at this exclusive table of excellence stems largely from the concerts they performed between the years demarcated by this books title – in 1968 they assumed the title of ‘most exciting rock band in the world’, a position they retained, by and large, until the closing months of 1976 when they played their final shows with Keith Moon on drums.

It is fitting, then, that uberfan Edoardo Genzolini’s second Who book – the first was his Concert Memories From The Classic Years 1964-1976* – should focus not just on this period but also on the city of San Francisco where, for better or worse, The Who played some of their greatest and most memorable concerts. 

There were three San Francisco shows in February, 1968, the first on the 22nd at the Fillmore West, the other two at Winterland on the 23rd  & 24th, and almost 250 pictures from all three shows, on stage and off, together with detailed analysis of each individual show, with comments from many of those present, take up just over half this book’s 256 pages. “The Who embodied the quintessence of the rock and roll ethos,” writes Genzolini of the group in 1968, “caught in the middle of a visible transformation, divided between the pop icons that used to be and the band they were becoming, The Who were bringing out an essence that could not be found elsewhere, not even of their latest release The Who Sell Out, but right here on stage, live. The Who embodied the rock and roll essence and glorified their frustrations, playing and singing their hearts and guts out, as if there were no tomorrow.”

The pictures bear this out. No group was ever as photogenic as The Who but and didn’t even have to try. It was simply down to the palpable sense of urgency in the way they presented themselves on stage, which is where they knew their future lay. In just about every picture from 1968 they look like they mean business, as if their future depends on what they’re doing right now, in the moment. They knew they were damn good too, and as their confidence grew, so did their audiences, and a bond was created between the two as they honed their skills on stage and the fans looked on in amazement, ever more secure in the knowledge that The Who were unique, special, something they would hold on to for years to come. 

        “The Who came on with total flash!” says Michael Lazarus Scott, one of many fans who recall their experiences of these shows. Pete windmilling his Fender, wearing a gold-spangled coat and ruffled shirt. Moon the Loon all over his circus-painted drum kit, mugging it up and going from perfect cadence, twirling, throwing, and catching sticks, into complete utter chaos and back again. The most astounding and entertaining drummer I have ever seen. The Ox, stalwart like a rock, playing lead bass in his black suit. Roger was before his masculine, curly-haired Tommy look. Tonight, he was resplendent with piled-high bouffant curls and what looked like a gold matador outfit. … This concert made me a Who fan for life.”

        There is an interval between the photo-led coverage of 1968 and 1976, and in it are discussed the West Coast premiere of Tommy, at the Fillmore West in June 1969, shows at the Civic Auditorium in December, 1971, from which several recordings have been released, and the now infamous show at the Cow Palace in November, 1973, when Moon collapsed and was replaced at Townshend’s invitation by a member of the audience.

        Moving on to Winterland 1976, we find another 160 or more photos of the band on stage at shows on March 27 and 28, some of the best being what I would call ‘aerial’ shots of Pete, his legs tucked up and bent at the knee, defying gravity for a few seconds after hammering home an open chord. This was a more mature Who with a wider breadth of material from which to programme their set but they were as focused as ever, effortlessly drilled, still energetic, still the most exciting rock experience on the planet. No wonder there were 43,000 ticket applications for just two shows at the 5,400 seat venue. “They could have sold eight times as many,” reported the San Francisco Examiner.

        “[When I listen to The Who]…. I am hurtling through the universe… soaring through musical space and travelling like a rocket through time, immersed in the Who experience that is like no other…” writes Sansara-Nirvana Murphey, a photographer, many of whose pictures appear in this final section of the book, “… blending into and around the notes and crashing forward recklessly like a train smashing through barriers, dancing with abandonment, losing myself in a great overwhelming wave of sound and sensation, and remembering how great it was to be a part of something bigger then ourselves.”

        Which is as good a description I’ve ever read anywhere of what it must have felt like to have actually been Pete, Roger, John or Keith performing the concerts so compellingly described and photographed in Edoardo Genzolini’s book. Another treat for Who fans and another reminder for those, like me, who were lucky enough to see this extraordinary group in their prime. 




Newspaper reporters have good memories, not least because they write things down. Still, I needed a bit of help while researching for my upcoming book of Melody Maker memoirs due out later this year and to this end managed to obtain scans of every MM published during the 1970s, which includes the period I worked on the paper, from June of 1970 to February of 1977. We’re working on a design for the cover that uses the same typeface as MM’s 1970s logo, something like you see here. 

Looking through them was like reading the diary I never kept. I’d completely forgotten about 50% of the interviews and show reviews I wrote, but when I re-read them they unlocked memories and most, if not all, came flooding back. You don’t forget your encounters with Beatles, members of The Who and Led Zep, or Bowie and Springsteen and, in any case, I’ve already revisited some of them on this blog, but you do forget the bread and butter stuff. I wrote hundreds of pieces, big and small, for MM, some of them dashed off quickly I’m forced to admit, others – generally the lengthier ones – written with more care. I felt there was a constant need to sustain my output in order to justify my role as MM’s man in America where, on Thursday mornings, I compiled a weekly New York news column, always the last job of the working week which began the previous Friday. 

I compiled these weekly news columns from press releases, anything I could crib from the Village Voice or other NY culture mags and my own wanderings around the city’s music spots. I always tried to cram as many big names  always printed in bold  as I could into them and below is one that appeared in MM just over 50 years ago this week, in the March 2, 1974 issue. I somehow managed to squeeze Sly, Jagger, Dudley Moore, Dusty, Alice, Led Zep, Arlo and Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Purple, Elton, Elvis, Bowie, Leonard Bernstein and Andy Williams and more all into the name column. Shame I couldn’t manage to fit in a Beatle or two! 

Sly & The Family Stone have completed a new album but a release date hasn’t been scheduled yet. Blue Öyster Cult, too, have finished their third album which will be called Secret Treaties. This will be out in about a month.

    Mick Jagger, who went to see Dr John at least twice at the new Bottom Line Club last week, has now left New York for Munich with Keith Richards’ ace guitar maker Elmo Newman Jones III – or Ted to his friends. Ted has made a five string guitar which Richards will be using on sessions in Munich.

    Isis, the eight piece New York girl band, go into the recording studio next month to make an album with Shadow Morton, the New York Dolls’ producer. The band, which includes Ginger Bianca and Carol McDonald from Goldie & The Gingerbreads, have just signed with Buddah.

    Dudley Moore who with Peter Cook is appearing in a revue at the Plymouth Theatre off Broadways, begins an additional engagement in New York next week. He’s appearing in his musical capacity playing jazz at Michael’s Place from February 26. 

    Sha Na Na are recording a new album in New York with Bob Ezrin who produces Alice Cooper and Lou Reed. Like other Sha Na Na albums, it’ll be a mixture of old songs sprinkled with their own compositions.

    Next week Dusty Springfield is expected in town to make her first new album for almost two years for ABC Dunhill.  

    The new Bottom Line Club is to present a mixture of rock and theatre in the future. During the early part of the evening they will present a non-musical type Broadway show and follow with music from around midnight onwards. Also on the club scene, Paul Coleby, who was a partner in the famed Bitter End Club in Greenwich Village, has opened a new club called The Other End. It’s right next door to the Bitter End and, because of its small size, will concentrate on showcasing unknown talent.

    Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger are to play four concerts together next month, including a show at New Yok’s Carnegie Hall on March 8 which has already sold out. Seeger used to sing with Arlo’s father Woody Guthrie in the Almanac Singers in the 1940s. The other shows are at Chicago (March 9), Montreal (17) and Boston (30), and Reprise are to record three of the performances for a live album. Meanwhile, Arlo has a new album I’ll Take That Pickle Now out in April or May.

    Deep Purple are the latest band to join the list of élite who have – or will be – using Starship 1, the super-plane that jets rock bands around the USA. The plane has been used by Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and Elton John up until now and at present Col Tom Parker is jetting his way around the south on Starship 1 fixing up some dates for his only client, Elvis Presley.

Maggie Bell will play three or four nights at the Bottom Line, leading up to her show at Howard Stein’s Academy of Music on March 16. Patti Labelle opens at the Bottom Line this week and others lined up in the coming weeks include Rick Nelson and The Strawbs

March is shaping up to be a busy month at the Academy with appearances by Joe Walsh & Barnstorm (March 8), Rory Gallagher and 10 c.c. (9), Argent and Nazareth (23), Renaissance, Soft Machine and Larry Coryell (23, following the Argent show). West Coast music takes over at the venue during the first week of April with Jefferson Starship and Quicksilver Messenger Service (April 2) and the Starship and Poco (April 3 & 5 respectively).

    Climax Chicago begin recoding in New York this week with Richie Gottherer (correct!) producing. Gottherer, incidentally, produced ‘Hang On Sloopy’ for The McCoys and was also a co-write of ‘Sorrow’, as originally recorded by The McCoys and, more recently, by David Bowie. The band have spent the last two weeks rehearsing in Miami. 

    Jo Jo Gunne have replaced guitar player Matt Andes with a new guitarist who goes by the name of Star.

    Shorts: Wishbone Ash expected to be recording in New York in April… Chicago preparing a one-hour TV special for screening this summer… Leonard Bernstein and Andy Williams to appear at a special dinner honouring CBS boss Goddard Leiberson on March 7… Rick Derringer currently working on final mixing of Edgar Winter’s next album… Loudon Wainwright recorded four new songs at a recent appearance at the New York Philharmonic Hall which will probably be included on his next album… Liza Minelli and Charles Aznavour doing a 60-minute TV special together. 

That’s exactly as printed. I suspect that the ‘correct!’ in brackets after the name Gottherer was an indication from me to the subs desk at MM that the spelling was correct, and someone forget to delete it before it reached the paper.

Details of my book Just Backdated: Melody Maker Seven Years In The Seventies can be obtained from https://spenwoodbooks.com/product/justbackdated/



I live in a library. There are bookshelves in our front room, dining room, my wife’s study, my daughter’s old bedroom that is now my study and, most notably, the spare bedroom currently occupied by a lodger. Some of these bookshelves are overflowing, with books piled high on top of other books. I have no idea how many books there are in our house in total and, in any case, the number increases on a weekly basis. The last time I counted I had 65 books on The Who alone, and over 50 on The Beatles, but we have lots of art books and fiction too, everything from the Brontës, inherited from my mum, to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Graham Greene, to Ian McEwan and contemporaries; there’s also a shelf full of Sherlock Holmes, another of humour and another of cricket books, among them Beyond A Boundary by CLR James, a 1966 edition that belonged to my dad. 

It will come as no surprise, however, that well over half the books on my shelves deal with the subject of rock music, be they biographies, reference books, encyclopaedias, genre books or picture books. The reason for this, of course, is that for 33 years I was the managing editor of Omnibus Press, a publishing company that specialised in music books, so I didn’t have to buy them and, as was the way in this trade, music books published elsewhere came my way for free too. About 25 years ago, when a cull was necessitated by a house move, I sold about 500 music books through Helter Skelter, the shop on Denmark Street that specialised in rock books whose proprietor was a pal of mine. To some degree I regret this now, or at least regret letting go of some amongst that 500 that I miss and would like to re-read.

        Which brings me to one reason for this post – re-reading. This week I’m re-reading The Restless Generation, Pete’s Frame masterful account of what happened when rock’n’roll first reached the UK in the 1950s. This came about through a conversation I was having with Val Wilmer, the jazz writer and photographer, who to mark her appearance on Desert Island Discs was the guest of honour at last week’s Melody Maker luncheon for old staff members that I and four of my former colleagues organise about twice a year. Val was a regular freelancer on MM. Somehow or other The Restless Generation was mentioned during a conversation I was having with her and this prompted me to get it down off the shelf and give it a second, or maybe a third, read. It’s still as good as it was when I read it for the first time when it was published in 2007. 


        The desire to re-read a book is surely the best possible commendation. I’ve read No Surrender, Johnny Rogan’s biog of Van Morrison, at least twice, ditto Ian MacDonald’s Revolution In The Head, his outstanding analysis of The Beatles’ music, and from time to time I still pick it up to check on what he says about this or that Beatles song. Another book of which I never tire is The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll which contains essays on all the genre’s principal performers (up to around 1975) by America’s best music writers. A very big book (37x27cm, 382 pages) with superb pictures, someone at RS sent me a copy in early 1976, when it was first published, and I’ve held on to it ever since. 

        The first rock biog I ever read, in 1969, was Hunter Davies’ authorised biography of The Beatles but this was supplanted in 1981 by Philip Norman’s Shout!: The True Story Of The Beatles which I’ve also read more than once. This, in turn, has been supplanted to an extent by Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In, the first in his anticipated trilogy of definitive Beatles biographies. I say ‘to an ‘extent’ because the first of Marks books ends as 1962 becomes 1963, and I’ve read the extended two-volume edition of this a couple of times too, all 1,700 pages, a bit of a challenge but worth the effort. 

Amongst the earliest and most read books on my shelves are Nik Cohn’s confrontational Rock From The Beginning, Elvis by Jerry Hopkins, the first serious Presley biog, and Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story by Nick Tosches, widely acclaimed as among the finest ever written about a rock’n’roller. Talking of Elvis, I’ve also read Peter Guralnick’s Last Train To Memphis and Careless Love, his two-volume thesis on the life of Elvis, a couple of times too. 

Of all those Who books, the one I consult the most is Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of The Who 1958-1978 by Andy Neill & Matt Kent, 300 LP-sized pages of 100% accurate information, and when it comes to The Beatles you can’t beat Mark Lewisohn’s Complete Beatles Chronicle which is equally comprehensive and precise. I use both these books for reference whenever I post about the acts they cover, as I do with Dave Lewis and Mike Tremaglio’s Evenings With Led Zeppelin: The Complete Concert Chronicle (2021 edition) when I need to ensure my Zep facts are correct. For charts I consult the third edition of The Complete Book of the British Charts by Neil Warwick, Jon Kutner and Tony Brown, and for everything else I’m lucky to have copped the 10-volume Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th Edition), which editor Colin Larkin kindly delivered to me at Omnibus and which I bundled into the boot of my car when I retired. 

        Talking of which, apart from the chart book, I’ve deliberately left out any of those Omnibus books of which I’m particularly proud, but back in 2016 I made up a list of 25 that can be found here: https://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2016/01/omnibus-press-personal-choice.html

And, of course, the books I mention here barely scratch the surface of the true extent of our library, rock or otherwise. I dont often visit houses where there are next to no books on shelves, aside from, maybe, a cookery book or two, but whenever I do I feel desperately sorry for the occupants, and even more so for their children. 


Lou Reed in 1974

Fifty years ago this week I interviewed Lou Reed which wasn’t as onerous a task as I had been led to believe it might be. Lou could be a bit of a curmudgeon at the best of times but apart from when I asked him if he’d been to see Bob Dylan during his recent shows at Madison Square Garden, he was reasonably civil towards me. His response to the Dylan question comes towards the end of the piece I wrote for Melody Maker which I’ve now posted on Just Backdated, link below. 

As it happened I became reasonably friendly with Lou in 1976, as my stint as MM’s man in New York was coming to an end. He was a regular at Ashley's bar & restaurant on Fifth Avenue at 13th Street, often in the company of Jonny Podell, his manager at the time, and Rachel, his girlfriend whose gender was always in doubt. One night, my friend Glen Colson – who was sleeping on my couch at the time – and I got talking to Lou at Ashley’s and I mentioned that I’d reviewed his show at the Palladium, and Glen offered to drop off a copy of that week’s MM at his apartment. 

At Lou’s place on the East Side he was greeted by Rachel. She roused Lou from the bedroom and the MM was handed over. Their living room full to the brim with old black and white RCA TV sets that he’d used as the backdrop to the Palladium show and Lou offered Glen some. Glen called me and when I gave him the thumbs up he relieved Lou of three TVs which he loaded into a cab and brought round to my flat on East 78th Street. I think Lou had got them from a hospital where they were surplus to requirements. They didn’t work that well, probably because we had to use coat hangers from a dry-cleaners as aerials. I wasn’t that bothered. In the four years I spent in New York I never felt the need to watch TV. I liked Robert Stack as Elliot Ness and a news show called 60 Minutes but most US TV was crap and, in any case, I was out and about pretty much every night. 

Over to you Lou. 

Lou Reed: Man Of Few Words

We’re up on the 37th floor of a Park Avenue office block that faces north and thus commands an extensive view of New York’s Central Park and Harlem way out in the distance. Lou Reed sits in a director’s swivel chair and looks uncomfortable.

    It’s not that he doesn’t like doing interviews, it’s just that it usually helps if he has a friend with him to smooth out the atmosphere and encourage conversation. Today no such friend is available and Lou seems a little lost for words, and rather than say something he doesn’t want to say, he doesn’t say anything at all.

    The continuing story of Lou Reed reached another chapter last month with the release of a live album titled Rock And Roll Animal, recorded at New York’s Academy of Music around Christmas It contains familiar Reed material, ‘Heroin’, ‘Sweet Jane’ and ‘Rock And Roll’ and the sound quality is really excellent for a live show.

    And, in keeping with Reed’s persistently changing image, his appearance has changed yet again. Today, and for at least the next few weeks, he has very short hair, almost a crew-cut, dyed black, and without any growth at all descending below the height of his ears. Last week he had Iron Crosses dyed into the black, but they’ve gone today.

    He looks, in fact, rather like a convict or a soldier. He is very thin. His blue denim jacket tends to drop off his shoulders and his jeans would be tight on others if not on him. He talks very quietly. Also very little.

    Thus when I inquired what motivated him to put out a live album of old material at this stage in his career, he replied quite simply that a mobile recording studio was available and he thought he might as well use it. And he was equally vague about the musicians who played with him on the concert and record.

    “There was Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner on guitars, Prakash John on bass, Whitey Glan on drums, Ray Colcord on bass and me on vocals. I don’t know whether I’ll be playing with them again, though. They all have private ambitions of their own.

    “I’ve almost got a band together of my own at the moment, but we haven’t rehearsed yet. It includes Doug Yule, who was in the Velvet Underground, and Steve Katz and I may play acoustic guitars or we may not depending on what happens.”

    It seems that Lou had plans to go over to England to record with this new band during early May, but the power problems have put him off. “I think the English work harder in the studio,” he says, “but I can’t go there if there’s no power. The engineers seem to care more and they do more with less than the Americans do.

    “I’ve written plenty of material recently, more than enough for an album and I like it. I think it’s rock and roll. It has a drum,” he grins.

    I asked whether he preferred to work in the studio or onstage. Again his answer was vague. “I haven’t done either in such a long time that I really don’t know.” So why is it he doesn’t work too often? “My condition.” He was reluctant to amplify.

    I changed direction and mentioned David Bowie. “He’s very clever. We found we had a lot of things in common.”

    I suggested his career took an uplift as a result of this flirtation but he wasnt about to give Bowie any more credit than he felt was due. “David learned how to be hip,” he replied with a glint in his eye. “Associating with me brought his name out to a lot more people, too. He’s very good in the studio. In a manner of speaking he produced an album for me.”

    But certain observers thought it was a step in the wrong direction for Reed. “People think a lot of things,” he replied.

    “I enjoyed those shows I did in London at the Rainbow, but I kept thinking, Frank Zappa fell 17 feet down into that pit. I hate Frank Zappa, and it made me so happy to think about that.

    “I like the direction my career is going right now. It has more direction and cohesiveness. I don’t think I’m a singer, with or without a guitar. I give dramatic readings that are almost my tunes. Did you know that my real voice has never been heard? What they usually do in the studio is to speed up the vocal track and make my voice higher. I scream, when I play live because when you scream your voice goes up...like this – Sweet Jane,” he yelled.

    He paused: “I liked Mott The Hoople’s version of that song,” he went on. “I did a reference vocal for them. The one I really liked was Brownsville Station’s version of that song. I loved that. I hope they release it as a single.

    “I liked ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, too. I found the secret with that one. I was supposed to write a play called The Walk On The Wild Side and I read the book and wrote the song. Nothing came of the play but I wasn’t going to waste the time and energy I put into the song so I put it out.

    “People don’t deserve good lyrics because they never listen to them these days. That’s why the melody has to be good, When I have a lyric that I think everybody will like, I won’t drown it out, though. If it’s a secret lyric I’ll bury it. I don’t print lyrics on record sleeves, except with Berlin and then they wrote them with a quill pen, the stupid fuckers. They wrote them out in longhand because they thought that was chic. I could have killed them.”

    Reed says he listens to very little music other than his own and The Kinks. He is a great admirer of Ray Davies. “I liked the Great Lost Kinks album where Ray stands revealed. I’d love to see them in a nice little cabaret setting singing their nice little songs.”

    Reed says he is continually changing his appearance through boredom. “I found I couldn’t really solve the boredom by changing my appearance but at least I could stop some of the hassle. I don’t have to comb my hair now because there isn’t enough.

    At this stage in the interview, Steve Katz walked into the room. Katz, the former guitarist with Blood, Sweat & Tears, produced Reed’s live album, so I asked how he came to be involved with Reed.

    “I admire him as a person, musician and organiser,” said Reed. “I can’t organise anything. I have a lot of problems when it comes to organisation.”

    For no apparent reason, Reed then launched into a seething criticism of Jefferson Airplane, expressing the view that they represented the worst in everything, both musical and ideally. “I hate everything about them, the way they dress, the way they look, the way they play, the cute name. I despise every San Francisco group except Moby Grape and they broke up.”

    So I asked whether Lou had been to see Bob Dylan on the recent tour. “Are you kidding?” he replied. “I know what Bob Dylan looks like and he’s too short to see anyway. I saw the back of his head once. I didn’t want to go to see him, especially if he is giving his money to Israel. If he gave some to Israel and some to the Arabs it would be different.”

    I mentioned the New York Dolls a band I thought Lou would like. 

    “You know, I tried so hard to like the New York Dolls but I couldn’t. I like the titles of their songs. It’s such a shame. They’re just another glitter trash band.

    “I’m still mad that Fats Domino never made it properly. He could have been a blues artist in the tradition of Bessie Smith.”

    And with that last comment, Reed offered a limp handshake and disappeared into the afternoon.