Monday, 24 May 2010

1974/75 Mother Superior

The summer of 74 was hot, I was bored, Cosmetix are playing at the Lord Nelson on Holloway Road, I went to say hello.  They tell me the bass player was leaving to become a nurse and ask if I would like to join.  I said sure and we arrange to meet up the following week at a rehearsal room in Blackheath.

I arrive with my gear and walk straight into an almighty row between the two singer guitarists, Gaynor and Audrey, who decide they can't resolve their differences and are going to split up. What now?  Gaynor leaves, Jackie, me and Audrey stay together.  We choose to add a keyboard player and put an ad in Melody Maker.  Lesley Sly, a New Zealander, who is here to further here career as a journalist, finds the ad intruiging and gives us a call.  A meeting with Jackie and Audrey at Pizza Hut in Croydon is arranged, they get on well but are dubious as to whether she plays the keyboards or not because of her long finger nails.

We audition each other at the rehearsal room at Greenwich Swimming Baths, although our tastes are very different we enjoy playing together, so now we are a four piece.   Rehearsals begin immediately as there are some Cosmetix gigs to fulfil and we are starting from scratch.  We manage to write some instrumentals, do a song I wrote when I was with Janis and Holly 'No Time Toulouse' and then the choice of covers begins, 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number' Steeley Dan, 'Long Train Running' The Doobie Brothers, Elton John's 'All the Young Girls Love Alice', 'Love the One You're With' Crosby Stills and Nash, I went along with all of these but almost ignited when Lesley suggested Gilbert O'Sullivan's 'Get Down'.  We all sang and could put together some pretty impressive harmonies.  Jackie Crew was very good at this and could reach notes only dogs could hear.

There is a lot of musical freedom in this band, which probably lead to its downfall but we worked well as a unit.  I love playing with Jackie (drummer) she has great attack and I think we had a strong natural connection.  Audrey is a great guitarist, wonderful tone, impressive technique, a powerful feel for melody, and a big voice too.  Lesley was red hot on the keyboards and along with Audrey gave us nice wide ranging lead vocal possibilities.

I particularly enjoy composing with Lesley, music theory was largely a mystery to me, Lesley with her keyboard way of thinking could take me in a direction I would never have been heading, I liked that a lot.

Some discussion about a name had gone on, but nothing came up, so one evening after rehearsal at Audrey's Nan's house, we decided to not leave until we had found one.  The hours passed, some of us were drunk, still nothing.  About to give up and go home I say as a joke 'we should call it Mother Superior'.  The others loved it and that's what we were called.

Some gigs ate up a huge amount of songs, occasionally we had to do 3 x 45 minute sets and in these cases did get a bit desperate for material, at one point we included the theme to the Pink Panther.  We added Stevie Wonder's 'Living for the City' and 'Gimme Shelter' by the Rolling Stones, I particularly enjoyed these two.  Crosby Stills and Nash's 'Love the One You're With' always went down well.  One time we were playing at Wandsworth Prison, Lesley was half way through the introduction to Santana's 'Evil Ways' when we all realised the significance, especially the opening line 'You gotta stop your evil ways...' The inmates found it hilarious.


Our first gig was an American Airbase in Huntingdon, bourbon, men with guns and we manage to get through it without too many duff moments, result.

2nd November we play the Marquee, love to be in that tiny dressing room and walk out onto the stage with the green and white striped canopy where I'd seen so many of my favourite bands play.  We went down well and they say they'll have us back.  What a thrill.

26th December, Boxing Day in a transit van with two roadies we leave by ferry for Ostende, heading for Germany to play American Airbases in Ashaffenburg.  As we are coming ashore we find that we should have completed carnet forms, that list all the equipment we are carrying, previously we had told by the promoter we did not need to do this.  This turns out to be a scam, that many bands are stung by, we have to pay money to the customs before they'll let us in, the tour operator gets his cut.  Welcome to the music biz.  We have to wait all night on the harbour waiting for the office to open, before we can pay and leave, this makes us really late and broke, we have to drive llike crazy, no chance to eat and have to go straight to the gig, we are so tired by the end we fall asleep on the stage while the roadies take the gear out. This is pretty much how the tour went.  There was a distinct lack of food and sleep and being vegetarian in Germany was laughable, sometimes I shared a meal with Lesley, she'd eat the meat and I'd get most of the vegetables.

On the night off, we hitch into town and start drinking with the locals, lager with spirit chasers that are described as being made from wheat, maybe, it was tricky conversing, none of could really speak each others language.  We were all drunk, except for Lesley, who recently reminded me that she was tea total at the time, so we drank hers too and bought her fruit juice.  Anyway, drunk or not we all get into a car with the local madman who is meant to be taking us back to our BandB, he doesn't, instead he drives really fast out of town into the forest.  We're all yelling and shouting at him till he agrees to take us back,  when we are somewhere near our destination, we make him stop and we all jump out.  What his plans for all four of us were we could only guess.

Our last night of the tour is New Year's Eve at the Playboy Club on the Airbase, we were extremely popular, especially around midnight.

The drive back to London  in the back of the transit, sat on the floor amongst the equipment.is long and cold.  We are wrecked.

January 22nd 1975 and our first gig after the tour is at the Royal Oak, nearing the end of the second set, I realise that Audrey's solo is getting slower and slower, I turn round to see her slumped against a piano at the back of the stage.  Friends in the audience jump up on stage, remove the guitar she is still gripping and take her to A&E, clearly she is unconscious and we are all really worried.  It's a sad sight to see her attached to drips in her hospital bed.  Probably exhaustion from the German tour and luckily she recovers quite quickly.  We cancel some gigs, then Pete deps for her till she makes it back in February.

We have an agent, but we feel the need for management and after much indecision we decide on a Mr. Campfield rather than Bunny Lewis who is also interested.  Campfield has some music biz connections including the DJ Alan Freeman.  We sign a deal with him, which includes his right to sign for 'minor' things on our behalf, how naive we are is almost beyond belief, of course the word minor is the important thing, what it actually meant was that he could sign anything on our behalf including passing us on to whoever he felt like, which is what he does a little bit later on.  He is also responsible for this piece of advertising and a publishing deal with Panache.  On the 2nd April we begin recording an album at IBC studios on Great Portland Street, a place used by many groups, the Rolling Stones, the Who, etc.  We are given down time, usually late at night, and I get to hear the famous phrase 'it'll be all right in the mix' for the first time.  It will be the last time I actually believe it.  This is Hugh Jones first job as producer, the engineer is Keith Bessey.  Many hours spent, some happy some very frustrating.  Fascinating keyboards for Lesley to play with, Steinway, Mellotron, Moog and Oberheim.  The album is finished and called 'Lady Madonna' a management choice and comes out on a Swedish subsidiary of Polydor, no British record company have the slightest interest in us.   One night at the Golden Lion, the place is rammed with an audience of men and women, Sony have sent an Aand R man down who says to us after two encores, that he can't see who our market is, women would be jealous of us and men wouldn't buy our records because their girlfriends wouldn't like it.  Luckily this dreadful outcome is adverted as our album can only be purchased in Scandinavia, where they can deal with such things.

We gig endlessly pubs bring in about £20, Unis more, clearly we are not in it for the money, although we must have earned something because in April I was able to buy the black Rickenbacker 4001 stereo bass I had been longing for, I love it's metallic sound.

Can't remember what started it but I have been learning to juggle, nothing extravagant, just the three balls, and it sounds like fun when someone suggests I do some if Audrey breaks a string.  Surprisingly at the next gig she does just that.  I put my bass down and start juggling, I am utterly dreadful, balls are bouncing all over the stage and the audience is hysterical.  I have the feeling we won't be repeating this.

Being vegetarian on the road in 1975 is not easy, the best place to eat is on UK motorways where you can be guaranteed egg, chips and beans, in Germany nothing came without meat.  As I said Lesley and I sometimes shared meals, she ate the schnitzel and I'd eat most of the potatoes and sauerkraut.  The French wouldn't even entertain the idea of non meat eating.  One place we stayed, the owners offered to make dinner for us - they gave me a large bowl of lettuce.  In Scadinavia all meals, even bread and cheese came with fish on top.  Few people understood the word vegetarian and if they did they couldn't understand why you would choose do such a thing.  I was so flipping hungry, if I did find food it was usually at breakfast where you might come across the component parts of a cheese roll.

Love at the Lyceum, Arthur Lee was his delightfully crazy self, I think this gig is recorded and released.

The Golden Lion in Fulham is a regular for us, with a great audience of enthusiastic Aussies, who build pyramids of empty lager cans on the stage.  I like them.

September we are back in IBC recording our first and only single 'Back Track', this is never released.



In November we play our second Marquee gig, a year after the first one and not headlining, but supporting the Scorpions - oh well at least they kept their promise to have us back.

A week later we're on a ferry - touring France, Luxmebourg and Belgium, supporting the Scorpions in Leige (we'll have to stop meeting like this). More strange places to stay and motorways to drive down.



 I have a Hi Watt 100 amp and want to change my 4x12 for a Zoot Horn, which is a serious piece of equipment the size of a small wardrobe with 1x18" speaker.  One is for sale in Paddington, I arrange to try it out and Mick our roadie agrees to come with me.  We are quite close to the address when I screw up the directions and we turn into the wrong street, that leads to the square behind Paddington Green police station.  Mick is turning the van round when he accidently reverses into a car, which very unfortunately belongs to a detective who is sitting in it.  You may know that this particular police station is the one they use to take terrorists, which at this time would be from the IRA.  The detective is hysterical and is out on the pavement screaming at us, perhaps he thought he was being targeted, probably lucky he didn't shoot us.  I have to run off to get to the guy with the zoot horn because he won't stay much longer.  Mick has to leave his details with the police and then follow me to the squat where I'm trying the cabinet out.  I love it, pay for it, we carry it down many stairs and put it in the van.  Mick understandably is not happy, but the detective's reaction gives us a few laughs on the drive home.

5 comments:

  1. Hello, Jackie! I'm a brazilian guy (sorry for my broken English) and I came across your blog on the net after searching anything related to Elio Karfenetti band (I was intrigued with the review of this band on "Tapestry Of Delights" site (http://alextsu.narod.ru/borderlinebooks/uk6070s/index.html), and I've read you were girlfriend of one of the musicians (Pete). I always loved everything related to Swinging London (though I was born in 1973), and your blog is fantastic! It's always great to read opinions and quotes from who was there, in the right time, in the right place. I visited London two times (April 2001 and August 2007), and I think it's the best place on Earth!
    Sincerely,

    Marcos.

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  2. Thanks for your comments Marcos, I'm pleased someone is enjoying the blog. It's good to know that the band is still in peoples minds, I'll let Pete know. Jackie

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  3. Hi Jackie, it's Marcos again. I've found a video of Mother Superior on Youtube, performing "Love The One You're With", have you seen it? You were really awesome! Lesley had a great voice, and you were playing a Rickenbacker bass guitar, my favourite bass ever! If you haven't seen the video, this is the link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyL8WUWv6EU

    Best, Marcos.

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  4. Thanks Marcos. Yes I've seen the youtube clip, and you're right Lesley did have a great voice as did Audrey. They shared the lead vocals. I really liked the Rickenbacker's distinctive sound and it has a nice flat neck, which is easier to play if you don't have big hands. All the best, Jackie.

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  5. http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=7962

    ReplyDelete