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ARCHIVES & STORIES part 1


1st promo shot; Dave, Lew, Bazza, Steve, PaulGod knows why I answered the ad in the Southend Evening Echo but I did. "Bassist Wanted" it said. My long sufferering father had bought me a £10 Rosetti bass for my 13th birthday. Like a million other teenagers every thursday evening I tuned in to Top of the Pops for my weekly fix of T.Rex, Sweet and Slade. It was Steve Took that started it, playing "Get it On" - Fender bass pointed at a rakish angle skywards, fingers flashing over the basstrings, looking every inch the cool rocker. I wanted to be him, I wanted a bass, and I wanted to meet Pans People! Up until then I had wanted to be a pilot, but dodgy eyesight and an innate inability to comprehend the purposes of x=y+z did not auger well. But no longer..
Various friends had guitars, and we would happily jam away with scant regard to tuning. For the first year my Rosetti was tuned around an octave too low, and I naievley thought to make it louder you plugged it straight into the mains (don't try this at home kiddies!). My discovery of the correct tuning coincided with seeing Hawkwind live. The bassist was a guy called Lemmy, and he unwittingly changed my life too. Stacks of amps, the smell of joss sticks, the faint air of danger, the wild shape of the Rickenbacker (as he told me some years later "whoever designed that must have been out of their head!"), the incessant driving rythmns were all too intoxicating. From that moment on I had one goal - to be in a band!


Every spare moment was spent sussing out basslines with The Who, Free, Zep, Purple and Hawkwind being particular faves. I had no idea if I was any good until I answered the ad that fateful day - July 13, 1975. "Can you play fast?" I was asked by guitarist Dave Higgs on the phone. "Yes" I said, without having a clue
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promo pic 1976

L-R:Dave, Bazza, Steve & Paul



I was summonsed to Canvey Island the next day where local heroes Dr Feelgood had their studio. They were at the sharp end of the burgeoning London Pubrock scene and were fast building up a following. A year earlier I had bought a 4x12 speaker cabinet from the local music store, all the speakers were blown but I didn't care 'cos it had Dr Feelgood stencilled on the back! All the other bassists at the audition seemed so much better than me, and my hands were shaking so much I spilt most of the contents of a cup of coffee into the saucer. I was the last in. The group was called Eddie and the Hot Rods and the music was raw r'n'b played at 100mph thru' battered amps, and it was exhilarating. Dave Higgs on machine gun guitar, Steve Nicol on rat-a-tat drums, brilliant harpist Lew Lewis and Barrie Masters as the irrepressible singer. I was in...

A month later manager Ed Hollis (RIP) - still the biggest music fan I have ever met and the band's "5th member" - had got us our first London gig, at The Kensington, a pub in Earls Court run by an eccentric Irish landlord called Matt. I was paid £15 and thought I'd made it. The next week on my 17th birthday, August 1, we played there again. More people! I couldn't believe it. The day after, Newlands Tavern, Peckham, and the following week back to "The Kenno". Sparko and Brilleux from the Feelgoods turned up, along with even more people. We were given a residency there, and from then on there was no looking back...getting the image!  London,'76

Incredibly, within 3 short months, we were offered a 5 year contract by Island Records. I was just 17. My Dad had to sign it on my behalf as I was a junior. He was immensly proud, as was my Mother, who in the 1950's had enjoyed a successful career as an opera singer. If they harboured doubts they kept them well hidden. We were getting rave reviews and gigs further afield - it was not unusual to drive to Bradford or even Scarborough, do the gig, then drive back thru' the night, returning to Canvey Island at 5 am just in time for Steve Nicol, the drummer, to go to his day job as a dustman! I didn't drive but could never sleep on those long journeys in our ex Post Office vans, the "Blue Max" or the "Red Baron"- too excited! Barry worked the pumps at a gas station, Dave was, well, Dave, and Ed and I both had short term dead end jobs in the Civil Service that we were all soon to give up. Drink driving? I guess it didn't seem to be an issue back then, and luckily (and unbelievably) we never once had an accident. In those days there were so many more gigs around, and we played them all. The London pub rock scene was thriving - we took it in turns to play the Red Cow in Hammersmith every week with a bunch of upstarts called AC/DC - now whatever happened to them? We were fast building a following and the buzz was staring to build. 1975 ended with us bizzarely supporting old hippies Gong at The Roundhouse Xmas Party, and on 23rd December we recorded our first tracks at Jacksons Studio, Rickmansworth. Not bad for 5 short months...


France 76Fast forward a year and we'd recorded 2 singles - "Writing on the Wall" with Vic Maile ( he'd produced Hawkwind's "Space Ritual!") and "Wooly Bully" with Roxy Music sax player Andy Mckay. I'd bought records by these people and here they were working with us! Our debut album "Teenage Depression" was recorded and mixed over 4 days in October with Vic at the helm. We'd actually written to John Cale, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Keith Richards and Pete Townsend asking them to produce - only Pete replied saying he was too busy buying Rolls Royce's to appease his accountants ("the kids always have been alright, but don't let on" he wrote).

 

We'd sold out The Marquee and recorded a live EP, aptly titled "Live at The Marquee" with stage faves "Get out of Denver", "96 Tears", "Gloria" and "Satisfaction". It had reached the charts and, on September 7 1976 achieved something that just a year previously we'd have thought impossible - we appeared on Top of the Pops! We'd completed our first UK tour supporting The Kursaal Flyers, ventured (and adventured!) abroad, and our following and reputation was rapidly multiplying. (Story:At the Land of the Midnight Sun festival in Oulu, Finland, Ed and I ended up in jail. After a crazy gig with the Ian Gillan Band we arrived back at the hotel with some rather attractive girls in tow. As we were only a few miles from the Russian border the hotel staff took exception to the possibility of decadent westerners corrupting their females and refused to let us in. Attempting to gain entry with my flight case, the plate glass doors suddenly smashed and Recording Liveat The Marqueethe next thing I know I was blinded. We'd been tear gassed - they actually had police inside waiting to bust us! I swiped one over the head with my gig bag and that was it - hands behind the back Starsky & Hutch style and a quick kick in the goolies rendered me helpless and I was bundled, protesting vociferously, into the back of a police car. I was thrown into jail, and as my eyes started to clear who should I see but manager Ed. A drunken, puking Finn in the corner made up our happy family. "Let us out you bastards" we cried "you can't do this to us, we're English!" At that moment Mr Gillans lawyer appeared. "I advise you to shut up otherwise it may be a little difficult to extricate you from this unfortunate incident" he said, so we did, and several hours and much bribery later we were released, escorted straight to the airport and banned from Finland for ever! But I digress...) We'd also headlined the now infamous 1st European Punk Rock Festival in a bullring in the deepest southwest France and blimey, we'd even shared a private plane to a Belgian TV show with Mud!!! By the tail end of 1976 we'd completed our first major jaunt around the UK, the "Freeze Out Tour". Aswad and Ultravox were the supports. On December 5 we headlined the Roundhouse in London's Chalk Farm and it was the lig, if not the gig of the year. The Hot Rods had truly arrived...

A precursor of things to come! At The Nashville, with Rat and Captain joining us onstage.


1977 was quite a year. The music scene had changed forever. Punk rock made it possible for any bunch of herberts to learn 3 chords and form a band. Often the same 3 chords! The Damned, The Clash (Joe Strummer had supported us at the Nashville the previous year with his r'n'b band the 101ers), The Stranglers were all contempories of ours and we'd frequently lig at each others gigs. We gave the Sex Pistols their first support slot at The Marquee and they repaid us by smashing our brand new monitor system. The press loved it - Rods v Pistols! screamed the headlines - but they were very apologetic about it. It was a year of non - stop touring, recording, TV shows and travelling. Graeme Douglas joined as lead guitarist. Ever since we'd parted company with Lew the previous year we felt there was something missing. Graeme had been in the Kursaal Flyers, he was from our home town, was a great guitarist and songwriter and liked to party!

Live at the Rainbow

He jammed with us at our first headliner at The Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park on February 13. It was brilliant, a true night of rock 'n'roll mayhem. Hundreds of seats were ripped up by crazy fans - it made the 6 o'clock news! We partied on after at the Hope and Anchor with a bunch of liggers who drank our drink and eat our food but wouldn't have known us from adam, carried on into the next day, and a week later he bravely joined the band! A live ep was released, "At the Sound of Speed", which just about said it all!

We were also getting popular abroad, France in particular. We made many friends there and in May headlined the Abbatoir in Paris where bands like the Stones played. In spite of all this we never seemed to have much money. French tours were conducted on a diet of cheese or ham rolls, hot chocolate, pernod, beer and. likely as not, dodgy amphetamines. We loved it and we lived it to the full, we'd read the stories of rock 'n' roll excess, and now we were part of it too. We were also acutely aware that it might all end tommorrow, which drove us to even more extremes both on and off stage. The whole thing was treated as a paid hobby and a continuous party, which in a way it was. We toured Germany supporting Chuck Berry, who never once spoke to his backing band, demanded an extra few thousand bucks in dollars just before showtime, spent large amounts of the gig slugging from a bottle of Jack Daniels behind the PA, played for exactly 59 minutes and promply buggered off. He was the first real disappointment to us. I ventured into his dressing room on the last date and asked him to sign the tour poster. "Fuck off limey" he said. Charming.


Back in Blighty we embarked upon our "Summa Madness" tour, and in August sold out 5 nights at The Marquee for which we hold the all time house record. I spent 3 nights partying and on the 4th collapsed behind my bass stack. The temperature in the club was 102 degrees! On the 6th day there was no rest, instead we headlined the Reading Festival to 30,000 people! Two days later we commenced recording our second album, "Life on the Line" with producer Steve Lillywhite (later to use our drum sound to great effect with U2) at Regent Sound in Hampstead, London. Down to Island in the afternoon, write the music, over to the Red Lion in Hammersmith where lyrics would be honed over a few beers then all over to the recording studio. By 5am the track would be recorded and we'd stagger out into the dawn. Sometimes we even got to go to bed! We were constantly in the press, and topped the "Best New Band" and "Most likely to Succeed" polls in Record Mirror, Sounds, NME and the MM. Way below us were no hopers such as Heart and AC/DC...

"Do Anything You Wanna Do" was the summer hit. and you could barely turn a radio on without it blasting out, but when Graeme first played it to us I hated it, it was like some limp country and western song. I tried to scupper its chances by playing the most banal c+w bassline over it, but I was outmaneuvered. "Great!" said Lillywhite. "Thats the one!" the others chorused. "Bugger that" I thought, asked to do another take, and played the exact opposite, thinking, that'll shut 'em up. It did, and its the take that ended up being used. Hey ho...
It was also suggested - by some bright spark at Island I think - that we should shorten our name to The Rods for the single - "more poppy". I seem to remember some of us being a little dubious about this, and whilst the single reached the top 5, it wasn't long afterwards that what was to be known as the Curse of the Hotrods struck. In retrospect it wasn't the best of ideas to mess about with Alistair Crowley. The single cover featured the image above featuring Crowley's face with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, a play on Crowley's mantra - "Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law" . It wasn't long before the letters started coming from his followers, saying we were playing with fire and threatening dire retributions on us all. At the time it was unnetrving and we tried to laugh it off, but uncannily enough we suffered more than our fair share of tragedies soon after. In no particular order one of the guys responsible for the cover commited suicide, our manager died of a drugs overdose and all sorts of other troubles befell band members that I won't go into here.

Many years later, around 1996, we did a benefit for Bowie's guitar maestro Mick Ronson in Hull. On the same bill were Big Audio Dynamite, featuring ex - Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Mick and I had always got on well when our paths had crossed but we hadn't seen each other in 15 years. The first thing he asked me was if we'd had any trouble as a result of the "Do Anything" cover. He then told me that he'd just finished reading a book about Crowley - the Luftwaffe had bombed an entire London street and the only house left intact had belonged to him...

We recorded a Dave Lee Travis session and next day flew to Mont-de-Marsen with the Feelgoods for the 2nd punk rock festival in a private plane. It was chock full of bevvy and god knows what else, and it didn't take long before things got crazy. I have a vivid memory of huge moustachio'd tour manager Fred Munt quite out of his tree, stark bollock naked and covered in shaving foam, with bassist Sparko at the controls, spliff in mouth and large scotch in hand. " Nothing to it dear boy!" he said, as the plane started to dip alarmingly groundwards. Somehow we made it, the festival was shambolic but a good excuse for two days of partying with the other bands!
Back home, Steve and I linked up with Larry Wallis of Motorhead and Pink Fairies fame for a session at Pathway Studios to record a single, "Police Car" and "On Parole". We learnt it in the morning, recorded it the same afternoon, Nick Lowe mixed it in the evening and we all made it round the pub for last orders! I was using a Jazz bass straight into the desk -ugh- but the end result was terrific and its still one of my favourite recordings.

September 6th saw us up at the crack of dawn to record "Marc", Mr Bolans TV show for Granada in Manchester. Exept we didn't actually record anything. Also appearing were David Bowie (Herbie Flowers on bass) and Gen X. Marc spent so long jamming with Bowie that we ran out of time. "Sorry boys" said Marc, pinching my bum, "have to come back another day", and off he skipped. The train ride back to London was a glum affair until who should walk down the corridor but Mr Bowie. "Hey guys, sorry about that. Hungry? Ok, I'm just gonna have a pee and I'll be back". The flash sod had his own carriage at the back but obviously no bog! He returned with a couple of females in tow lugging hampers full of bottles of wine and salmon sandwiches, parked himself next to us and told us his life story. What a geezer! He's the only person I've ever asked for an autograph from (on a British Rail paper plate!). I still have it to this day. We returned a week later to record "Do Anything" but it was awful. Marc had been killed in a car crash 2 days earlier...

click here - there's more!

 

 

www.paulgraybass.co.uk

 

Zig Zag Magazine, May 1976

 

click links below for more stories...

 

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

 

Lew sticker

the origional Hotrods sticker circa 1975 by Lew Lewis

 

 

Live in Peckham! 1975

Live at Newlands Tavern, peckham, 1975

 

 

Paul 1976

Moi in '76 looking unfeasably healthy

 

 

Marquee soundcheck, 1976

 

 

 

 

Roundhouse ad

 

 

The Torrington, 1976

Onstage at The Torrington, Finchley, 1976

 

 

Melody Maker ads, 1976

 

76 promo

Promo shot, 1976

 

 

 

Mont de Marsen flyer

French Punk Rock festival flyer.
Note the line up!!!

 

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Marquee ad

Five nights at the Marquee

 

 

The Rainbow Theatre flyer, 1977

 

 

work it out!

Me 'n' Steve livin' the life..!
Album photo session, 1977

 

Diary extracts, US Tour, 1977

Nov 10 New York, Maxs Kansas City. Stay at the marvellous Mayflower Hotel on Central Park. The kahluha and vodka tour! Sounds hack Giovanni Dadomo flies over, and I hang out with him and Ed at the Essex House hotel getting hideously out of it. NBC News film us rolling up at the club! Small but infamous club where Lou Reed and Patti Smith started out, who both turn up to see us along with David Bowie and Debbie Harry.The creme of the NY stars are all here as we're the first UK New Wave band to tour the States. Graeme freaks and trashes his amp. Great show, sold out, and stay up all night.

Nov 11 Maxs, NYC. Snow today so head to the top of the Empire State Building, 102 floors up! Another incredible gig.

Nov 12 Maxs, NYC. Grande finale. Arise early and check out Greenwich village. Buy cassette player down 5th Avenue. A mental gig, 3 sets, with a night of complete excess. Driven around by 2 nutty cabbies in black London cabs with Nixon masks on. Attract more than a little attention. I love this place!

Nov 14 Annapolis, Maryland, Pier 7. Support to Tom Petty, who hogs all the dressing rooms for his guitars - we have nowhere to hang out except the backstage toilets! Bloody rock stars...
get him back by breaking into his dressing room during his gig and nicking all his booze!

Nov 15 Washington DC, The Bayou. Fantastic place Supporting Talking Heads, whom we throw spam and peanuts at from the balcony above the stage having taken mescaline under the impression that it was something else! Chris Franz, their drummer, had also partaken and the Heads are wondering why his drumming becomes increasingly bizzare during the set! Great gig tho', and we're forgiven!

Nov 18 Boston, Orpheum. Huge theatre supporting The Ramones and Talking Heads. Joey (RIP) has a cold, we can hear him spluttering away in the next dressing room. Bazza, ever helpful, tells him, "put a towel over your head, boil a kettle and inhale the steam to clear your head". A little later we hear screams of pain emanating from next door. Closer examination reveals the silly sod with his head still over a boiling kettle, his face covered in red welts. "You dozy bastard" says Barry, "I meant a few breaths, not 20 bleedin' minutes!". When they hit the stage Dee Dee screams 1-2-3-4, misses his bass strings and hurtles head first towards the photo pit. Great band!


Steve havinga fiendly chat with LA's finest...

November 29 Las Vegas, Ceasars Palace
Supporting Robin Trower & Wishbone Ash. Stand in the wings watching Trower's set. Halfway thru' his band walk offstage so he can hog the limelight for a lengthy guitar solo. Jimmy Dewar, his vocalist, says "D'ye fancy a wee dram upstairs Paul, I've just got time!" and off we trot to the backstage bar. Swop on the road stories and 3 whiskies later there's suddenly silence from below. "Jesus!" he exclaims "totally forgot, and the bastards finished!" and off he runs! Think Mr Dewar will have a little explaining to do after the show...


December 3 LA, Whisky a Go Go
Feeling shit! In the Miyako Hotel, San Francisco last night we blagged our way in to a party in Joe Perry's suite (Aerosmith's guitarist) with a couple of Robin Trower's band. God, how the other half live! Scarves draped over the lights and assorted rock n'roll stars draped around the room. "Bright Light Fright" from "Done with Mirrors" plays constantly on the ghetto blaster. "Joe wrote this" his other half kept saying, "ain't it so cool?". Mr Perry kept nodding modestly. At his insistence, we liberally partake of his bounteous hospitality. At 3am there was a knock on the door, and 3 rails of clothes were wheeled in. Mrs Perry, out of her tree, took her pick and threw them into a pile. "Thats the thing with this band" she said
" the fuckin' shops have to come to you!". Jesus wept! The rising sun outside reminds us we have a plane to catch to LA, and its back to reality of sorts...

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