"One, Two, Three, Four!"
This is my first gig since… Well, it feels like forever, although it hasn’t been. Of course it hasn’t. But it’s been years. A decade, more or less. It was always going to be low key. Brian wasn’t up for a stadium gig, just yet. Between us, I didn’t think he ever would be. Not really ideal when the lead singer is afraid of crowds, but hey. It would do him good. It was only the Kirklevington Country Club. Sigmund’s son is the backbeat, he isn’t as good as his dad. But “Dad” is probably playing the skins in Satan’s backing band. Siggy Jr. is clean, never touches anything; girls, drugs or booze. I’ll never tell him I preferred playing with his dad. I play the bass and the keyboards on the later stuff, I’m the one whose name you can’t remember.
Brian needs the money. The treatments have been expensive… And a waste of money. I’m OK, comfortably off compared to some, thanks. Leaf is loaded. Jimi Leaf, guitar god. Blues thief and full-time arsehole. I didn’t think he’d agree, but I gave him the sob-story. “Brian’s skint, man. The latest witch doctor thinks gigging will help.” It might, but to be honest I don’t know what Brian’s latest guy thinks. Brian can’t tell me.
We were good. The best live. Better than Iommi’s gang and all of the Purps myriad combinations. Especially at the start. Some of the later drugged-up stuff was weird, sure, but everyone got weird on the drugs, look at Marriott.
It was ‘68.
(Yeah, I know right. Siggy Jr, gets the band’s average age down to 48. Who are those old codgers up there on the stage?)
The Summer of Love was just around the corner. Jimi was looking for a group he could call his, after leaving the band every lead guitarist left en-route to superstardom, whether “as a solo artiste” or in a heavier group. You know the one. I’d been doing session-work, Lots of it. Anything at all. If it was recorded at Abbey Road I’d played on it. Zappa phoned the studio one day and George answered the phone: said I was busy trying to get some keyboards right for Mr Kite. You never got a second chance from Frank, as everyone knows. Sigmund had been playing small venues with small bands round Wolverhampton. Jimi— it was still Jimmy then—, had wanted the drummer from Mythology, but looked elsewhere when they all got busted for possession of a bit of rezz. Ironic, really, when you considered how Sigmund went.
The first album went gold in the States. Fuzz-box tinged blues tunes slightly rearranged with the words changed and not a single reference to the guys whose names were on the labels of the records in our collections. We were selling black music made by white English guys to American white guys. Just like the Beatles and the Stones had been doing for five years.
The nice kept coming for Sigmund all the way through the ‘68 tour. Three months worth of an itinerary written out and then used as a dada-ist cut-ups project. One night in Delaware City, followed by two in Dallas, then a night in Des Moines. Even without the drugs I wouldn’t have known Tupelo from Tuesday. Sigmund had his stomach pumped after the last gig on that tour. Then it was straight back to the studio. ‘Two’ was the same as ‘One’. Classic label’s insistence that if weren’t broke, nobody needed to fix it. You get one fluke hit, you make it again. Or else.
So we did. Trad Ishenall got a couple of writing credits, but mostly the music on “Two” had our names in brackets on the label. Even Sigmund’s, although he mostly just played what I suggested, whether he was drunk or high or both. The fans lapped it up. We toured the UK and then the States again. Still Jimmy, our creative force dodged a night in jail after a weird night at the Wateredge Motel when some fixer stepped in with a bribe. I wish he hadn’t, sometimes.
Our second worldwide – yeah, Europe and the USA – tour finished. We were exhausted, or at least I was. Dave Edmunds invited me and the newly-minted “Jimi” down to Rockfield in late September ‘70. It was a great set up. Two farmers had converted an old barn. We didn’t record “Three” there in the end, but it accounts for the ‘folky’ feel that the US fans hated. Sigmund didn’t like it much either. Brian did.
It all kicked off after “Album #Four”. Six songs. All concert favourites for the next ten years, pretty much. “The Hedgerow Hustle” lasted twenty seven minutes live, every time. Jimi was always note perfect. I had a drink with Frank Zappa once and I told him about Jimi’s accurate reproduction of the same solo every single time. He laughed and said “Why’ncha just play the records?”. He didn’t remember calling Abbey Road, maybe it was a prank, though I didn’t know Sigmund then.
By this time, Sigmund was pretty much off the rails and half-way down the ravine. Like Marriott, he was the life-and-soul, until he wasn’t, and then he was the biggest arsehole in music.
We made Picturedrome. It was a success, natch. We even got away with a calypso song. The album's title got used for a track title on our last good studio album. “Mental Scribblings”.
There were the other albums. Some brilliance, if I say so myself. Still doing some creative re-arranging of out of copyright gems. I used to find them. You could say it was nobody’s fault by mine.
Sigmund’s death was the death of the band. Brian bought a farm in Wiltshire and had some of the wrong kind of ‘shroom. Jimi played with all the tapes and remastered concerts, the old albums, the new albums and all the rest of it. I went back to session work, but not for the money.
Anyway, I called Siggy Jr. He was in, of course. Then I contacted Jimi’s agent/manager. I forgot to mention. He was the guy from the Wateredge Motel incident. Yeah, he set up our label “Encore” — and himself for life pretty much. He called back and said ‘Jimi’ wasn’t keen. I sent an e-mail to the label’s office. It laid out the story, I appealed to ‘Jimi’’s better nature —or more likely that of some intern who’d signed an NDA on the first day. So I said I had an autobiography written too, and I knew one of the big five would take it, so the Fixer had better ask ‘Jimi’to reconsider.
So here we are… “One, Two, Three, Four!”