LONDONERS, The * Hamburg, Starclub 02.1967
Februar 1967 im Hamburger Starclub: The Londoners ! (Name: The Knack`s in England) Brian London,Paul Curtis,Loui Karrell,Gedrie Kenworthy
1947: Brian Parrish was born `Brian Morris´ to Victor and Joyce Morris in Ilford, Essex, England on July 12th 1947. He was one of twins, having a sister, Julie know as Boogie. Brian: “I don’t know why, but I started to call her Boogie and it stuck“
1958: His parents bought him first guitar as a reward for passing a school examination which would earn him his place in High School and further education. Ironically Brian cared less about education from the moment his hands touched the guitar.
was pivotal and
musically provided the
equivalent of St. Paul´s
road to Damascus
experience. During this
year Brian heard little
Richard records which he
found thrilling – “like
something from another
planet!“. During this
year his father took him
to see a low budget
rock`n´ roll film
featuring the American
stars of the day –
Little Richard (wonderful,
of course), The Platters
and significantly, Gene
Vincent. A great
tracking shot across a
street and into a
rehearsal hall window
was accompanied by the
opening bars of “Be-
Bop- Alula“. The tape
echo was astonishing for
the time, and when the
camera focussed on Gene
Vincent and the Blue
Caps playing the song
inside, the effect was
electrifying. Brian was
11 years old and he knew
what he wanted to do
with his life.
Brian made early stage
appearances with his
father, who was a singer,
as his own father has
been. Brian was
listening to Lonnie
Donegan – a popular
British singer of the
time. Lonnie piqued
Brian´s interest in
American roots music,
which he only knew only
as `skiffle`- knowing
nothing of Woody
Guthrie, Leadbelly and
the music´s other
originators at this
time. Little Richard,
Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee
Lewis -all made his
heart race. Buddy Holly
also, who was writing
his own songs. The world
1962: Brian formed his first group with two other boys – Chris Marsh and Ricky Carlowe. They were “The Titans“ and played in pubs where Brian was still too young to legally be inside (minimum age 18 years). He began to write his first “truly awful“ songs. “I like to think that I am a little better at it these days, but others will be the judge of that” says Brian.
Brian met Paul Curtis –
as he then was known
(real name Paul Gurvitz).
The two had a similar
passion. Paul`s father,
Sam was tour manager
with the famous
“Shadows“ – an
Paul and Brian formed a
band with Mick Palmer
(bass) and Stan (?) on
drums. They were called
The Londoners. Sam
Curtis found them their
first work in France and
Germany, playing U.S.
army bases. Brian
recalls, “The black guys
liked us best. We had no
idea why they, in
particular, took us to
heart – but it could be
because we were playing
their music –
rythm`n`blues – probably
quite badly, but with
great enthusiasm!” Brian
says “We saw nothing
incongruous about four
white English boys
playing `Parchman farm`,
a song about a Lousiana
jail famous for its
harsh treatment of black
prisoners. We knew
The Londoners were
offered work in Germany.
The first stop was in
Bremen at the Star Club.
This was a `spin off`
from the Hamburg club of
that name. The Bremen
club was opened for a
brief period only. The
Londoners proved very
popular. In Bremen Brian
met two people who would
later come to play
important part in his
life . They were Jochen
Laschinsky and the young
and beautiful Angela
The first of these
deserve credit for both
their unwavering loyalty
to rock`n`roll (they are
still playing!) and for
friendship. Stand Up
King Size (Ted) Taylor
and the Dominoes.
French singer Johnny
Hallyday – a big star
somewhat in the `Elvis`
style at the time
recorded Brian's song
Imagination`). This was
an early success for
Brian, the songwriter.
The Londoners recorded a
series of `singles` in
England, and released
these under the name
`The Knack`. Bass player
Mick Palmer was now
replaced by Geary
Kenworthy. The first
single was a Ray Davis /
Kinks song called
`Who`ll be the next in
found Brian not wanting
to play a gig over the
holiday “no matter how
much money is on offer”
as the band had played
throughout the previous
3 Christmases. As if on
cue, a lot of money was
indeed offered for a
Christmas day gig. The
band accepted the offer,
Brian said “No way” .
The others said “If you
don’t play you´re out”
Brian said “OK, I´m out”
and subsequently left.
NYPL toured extensively, and during one of their gigs Brian's short-scale Rickenbacker guitar was stolen. Having to replace it quickly he was unable to find the same model, and instead acquired a Rickenbacker 12 string guitar. The 12 string `jangle`sound became something of a NYPL trademark for a while. The band recorded singles – some of Brian's songs, but also versions of Doors songs, Lovin´Spoonful and others. Angela Panneck visited Brian in the UK. In this year also at this time Brian played many recording sessions, and was by now getting his songs covered by pop artists and groups from this era. Notable were Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Worth a mention just for the silly name. Very `poppy`and very successful in Europe. The very affable Dave Dee was a good friend.
Of the many guitar sessions played by Brian at the time, he was particularly pleased to be recording with Amory Kane. Amory was an American West coast songwriter. A good friend and fellow songwriter whose album (in Brian's opinion), should have sold more than it did. Brian says: “Wherever you are, Amory – Hello! Respect!”.
Brian was offered a solo
recording deal and left
New York Public Library
to sign with United
Artistes. He recorded
one single for the
label,“Love Chant”. The
writing credits for the
A and B sides were Brian
Morris, but the name of
the artiste for the
first time was Brian
Parrish. Soon after this
his name was legally
changed and has ever
since been PARRISH.
Brian met a record
producer called Lou
Reizner. Lou was very
impressed with Brian's
new songs and invited
Brian to work with him,
Brian was given the keys
to Lou’s London
apartment and access to
his recording equipment
to routine and “demo”
the new songs while Lou
was in the USA with
Richie Havens and
Brian asked Paul to sing harmonies with him on his solo project, and the vocal blend was “so good that it seemed ridiculous not to make it a duo, if Paul was free”. He was.
When Lou Reizner returned he was surprised - but very happy with the results. Brian persuaded Paul that he should use his original family name of Gurvitz. After initial misgivings Paul agreed, acknowledging that it was ethnically (culturally?) more interesting than the bland “Curtis”. So Parrish & Gurvitz was born. Recording began at London's Island Studios and by now Paul Gurvitz’ songs were included. This album, which included songs such as “On the way home” was destined to be unreleased. This Brian Parrish song would later resurface on the “One Live Badger” album. (It was credited on the Atlantic album as a “Badger” composition, as were two other Brian written titles)
Parrish & Gurvitz signed with Canadian Management AHED music, under Barry Authors. Their new managers took a copy of the Lou Reitzner produced master tape to Beatles producer George Martin. Martin wanted to sign the act to his new A.I.R. London Company and not surprisingly insisted on producing the record personally. Money changed hands, the original recordings “shelved” and Lou Reizner gracefully retired. Lou – a lovely guy – went on to produce (among other things) an all star concert and album of Pete Townshends “Tommy”.
Lou also passed away it seemed, long before his time. But that’s really God’s business. We miss you, Lou.
1970: George Martin revamped the P & G project. It was he who chose the final selection, running order and so on. “You don’t argue with success and musicality of this order” Brian said. Some of the earlier songs were discarded, as others were favoured by George. The producer also graced the recordings with the kind of orchestral arrangements which had been integral to the Beatles ever more adventurous recordings.
September 1971 saw the publication of a centre - spread editorial piece in English national newspaper the Sunday Mirror, hailing George Martins´ new act as “ The New Beatles”. The timing was terrible, as the album had yet to be released, and the article was full of inaccuracies and misquotes, but the damage was done. The bag was empty, the cat was out. From then on Parrish and Gurvitz became the subject of increasingly hysterical press articles worldwide with the Beatles name hanging like a lead weight over the whole project. For the “New Beatles” themselves these projections, expectations and inevetable comparisons did nothing to assist the development of their career. Months followed during which they mimed ( lip-synched ) to various tracks from the album on TV shows, and attempted to field questions from the press which were always along the lines of “How does it feel to be the new Beatles ?”, “Have the Beatles influenced you?” And so on, ad infinitum. As yet Parrish and Gurvitz had never played a live gig – but had been publicised world wide via press and television. Brian and Paul, who had “earned their spurs” as live players were now all but consumed by a machine that would prevent them playing and proving their worth. The album was released in the U.S.A. and tour dates were set (unwisely, not to coincide with the album release, but months later). Oblivious to the strategic stupidity of the timing, or of the investment that would subsequently not be recouped, Parrish and Gurvitz began to select musicians and rehearse the road band with excitement. Musicians love to play. It´s that simple.
1972: The band was somewhat “heavier” than the acoustic / electric blend suggested by the P+G album. It marked a return to the rock band format from which Brian and Paul had come. Their choice of musicians was indicative of this. Drummer Mike Kellie, formerly of Spooky Tooth, had played on the acoustic driven Parrish + Gurvitz debut album. On bass was Rick Wills previously with Cochise and later to play with Roxy Music, and Foreigner.
Mickey Gallagher was on
keyboards. Mickey came
up through Skip Bifferty
and other Newcastle
bands. In years to come
his work with lan Dury
and the Blockheads would
seal his already good
reputation. Mickey can
currently be seen with
the latest incarnation
of the Animals. The band
began to rehearse
material from the first
album, albeit now
sounding much heavier –
and new songs for a
projected album –
Parrish + Gurvitz “
TWO”. In May 1972 the
band played 2 weeks of
open public rehearsals
in the Nickelodeon – a
bar in Toronto – as a
warm up to their US tour
starting in June. These
performances were not
intended for press
attention., but as ´dry
run´ gigs to test
Brian was considering
his options when he
received a phone call
from Roy Dyke, his old
friend from the Star
Club Hamburg time (Remo
4) . The two had
regularly met as Roy
was, like Brian, a
habitué of the
Revolution and the other
London night clubs where
musicians would meet.
Someone suggested recording the Badger performances, reasoning that with no additional cost aside from a reel or two of recording tape, the results might produce something useful. So it was that in November two consecutive nights of Badger were recorded at the Rainbow Theatre. It may be that these were their first ever performances. Memories differ, but it seems likely that there was one appearance prior to this at a “university somewhere” together with the Groundhogs, (another “Worldwide” band) This is the consensus of opinion between Brian Parrish and David Foster. The resulting album “One Live Badger” received overwhelmingly good reviews. The album sold well in the US, entering the US ‘Billboard` charts shortly after its release.
Before the band was due to tour the United States, Badger undertook a tour of Europe with stable-mates Black Sabbath. Brian remembers, “We got on with Sabbath immediately – with Ozzie taking a particular shine to us. The gigs went well, and with such an assortment of lunatics in both bands, much fun was had also. I suspect that most people who have spent time the man have a number of Ozzie Osbourne stories. So do I! This is not the place for them. The point is he is a lovely guy and I want to be able to look him in the face should we meet.
I do remember things like the stage catching fire as we played an arena in Italy. Huge flames rose up from the boards and a wall of black smoke completely obliterated the audience. This was not the whispy white smoke of special effects, we were choking up there, but it was a dramatic way to close our act, and was followed by the best efforts of the Italian fire brigade to deal with the problem. Another time in Italy the promoters were trying to get us to use Italian amplification, we said “Thank you but definitely no, we have our own”. Upon our arrival that evening our crew told us that our trucks had mysteriously disappeared. We did, however have amplifiers- shiny new Italian ones. The promoters had said “No problem, you are in luck as our people have brought Italian amps to help you out!”. The following day our tracks re-appeared. Hmm… This was the time of free concerts, and at another gig a few thousand people who did not want to buy tickets rioted outside and finally broke into the venue. They were still jumping up and down on our limos as we were trying to drive away after the gig. We did everything in Europe, other than sleep. Suffice to say that I returned to England exhausted”.
Brian elected to leave shortly before the all important US tour. “Very inconsiderate to the others” he concedes. “I am pleased that they are still talking to me!”
“To leave on the eve of a U.S. tour with a buzz in the air about the first album was professional Hari Kiri, I suppose – but my personal life was problematic, and well, that’s how it was - that´s what I did”.
The album is highly rated. It was recently re-released for the umpteenth time. The following is the “blurb” from the label website and independent reviews :
In the history of British (or U.S.) rock music it is rare, if not unique to issue a live recording as a first release. This is traditionally a step taken by the brave few following the issue of numerous carefully crafted and successful studio recordings. For Badger this was more a case of happy accident than courageous strategy. A series of concerts take place in 1971 with the recently formed Badger appearing as special guests with stable-mates, Yes. These concerts were to be recorded for a live Yes album. Someone recording Badger also as they were road testing songs for what was to be a studio recording. The result is (a recording of) the bands first public performance and it crackles with energy. The review in Rolling Stone said “after hearing this album I hope Badger never go into a studio – if the always sound this good live they have absolutely no need to do so ( RS 142: see www.rollingstone.com/ reviews). There was a subsequent studio album, but with a changed line up. “ One Live Badger” is regarded as the best Badger album, entering the lower reaches of the U.S. album chart soon after it was issued, without the benefit of tour support there. Quite an achievement for a first release.
An excerpt from an accompanying and longer review says: ……the band made their debut at the Rainbow theatre in December 1972 supporting Yes at the infamous concerts that spawned the Yessongs live album. Atlantic records to whom both groups were signed, decided that as the equipment was in place, they should make the most of their financial outlay and record the support groups set as well. In a bold move that seems extraordinary by today´s standards, it was this recording that formed the basis of One Live Badger. And what a great album is, the material is strong and the group sound as if they have been playing and writing together for years. The production by the group, Jon Anderson and Geoffrey Haslam is crisp although somewhat more raw an aggressive than the resulting YES recordings from the same concerts. As expected Kayes signature Hammond organ sound is to the fore on most of the tracks (and) in particular on the album closer “ On the Way Home” although he does use other keyboards to add different textures. The chorus of “Wind of Change” features the mellotron ”, “The River” utilises the electric piano to great effect, and a Moog synthesizer is evident on other tracks.
Guitarist, Brian Parrish, plays some great solos, although nothing too flash (excuse the pun!) or overburdened with technical virtuosity. The solid and efficient rhythm section are quite prominent in the mix as one would expect from a live recording – Fosters bass in particular being particularly clear – the dynamic mix of driving bass, riffing guitar and wailing Hammond during “ On the Way Home” is superb and probably something that could only be got away with on a live recording. The closest comparison would be akin to a rockier Traffic. Overall a wonderful live album and worthy of inclusion in the collection of any fan of 1970´s rock music…..
Also during 1973 Brian got a call from old acquaintance Steve Rowland – a pop producer who had used him on many records including those by Dave Dee + Co. The result was Brian´s appearance on the Jerry Lee Lewis London sessions. “I had met Jerry Lee when working with Gene Vincent, of course” remembers Brian, “but it was a great pleasure to do these sessions” Sadly Brian cut his finger badly on the day and had to withdraw from guitar playing duties. “They asked me to stay and play harmonica – one of the few times I ever did that in a studio, together with percussion and stuff ”. Was he disappointed about the guitar playing? “Well yes of course, but it probably saved me from embarrassing myself, as Albert Lee and all sorts of really wonderful guitar players were on board. The main thing is I was there!”
1974 “Love on my mind”
1974 found Brian Parrish at a crossroads following his departure from Badger. He signed with Warner Brothers Music (publishing) as a songwriter and set about writing new songs. He was not performing and missed playing with other musicians – and was impatient to secure a record deal.
Hearing the new songs, Chas Chandler offered a deal with his newly forming “BARN” Records, which was to be distributed by Polydor . It would be some time before Barn would be ready to release a record, but work began in earnest to assemble the musicians and begin recording soon after the deal was signed. `Barn `was an unknown quantity – a new venture, but Brian had every reason to have confidence in Chas, whose track record was impressive. He had managed the phenomenal Jimi Hendrix from the time of Jimi´s arrival in the UK and throughout his career,until the time of the guitarist´s death. More recently Chas had overseen the career of pop band, Slade, then at the crest of their wave. In addition Chas´s pedigree as bass-man with the Animals and his likeable straight forward manner seemed to bode well for the future. A deal was struck to extricate Brian from his Warner Brothers song writing contract, one condition of which was that some Warner Brothers published titles would be used on the first album released.
Within the framework of Brian´s previous work with Badger, his songs with R+B leanings had emerged as rock songs. This was hardly surprising, given the Badger rhythm section of Dyke and Foster, and certainly did Badger nothing but good. Brian was now free to re-think (although “free” is hardly the right adjective, as much of his thinking was chemically altered at this time) He was certainly keen to explore a more funky neighbourhood. A superlative group of musicians was selected. Pete Wingfield and Brian Chatton would share keyboards, Pete van Hooke was on drums, Jerome Rimson on bass, and for the first time in a while a second guitar would be used. Vic Linton was a good choice. The horns included Brian´s friend Mick Eve and Howie Casey – another “face” from the Hamburg time. When recording was finished it became apparent that Barn was, indeed, far from ready to release any product (It was to be 1976 before the album – “Love on my mind “ would be issued!)
With songs to spare it was decided that tracks would be laid while fresh, and these could be used for the next album. Six songs were recorded, at which point this project was halted in order to rehearse a band for touring. Eric Burdon (ex. Animals ) was to return to England to play some concerts, and tentative plans were made to include Brian on the bill. Many of the musicians in the studio band had forward commitments, and so a process of forming a Barn “house band” commenced. These musicians would form the rhythm section for Barn projects, including the Eric Burdon dates, and for Brian´s gigs.
Over a time a very effective unit evolved, still including Brian Chatton on Keyboards from the studio band. When Eric Burdon arrived to play his tour the House Band accompanied him and Brian Parrish played guest guitar. Mostly, these were shared dates where the ´Brian Parrish Band´ would play a set and return to the stage with Eric, being announced as the ´Eric Burdon Band´. Confusing? You bet…
Also found Brian busy on the recording front with other artistes. Among these were ´Medicine Head´ who were being produced by Tony Ashton – once again a Hamburg friendship underpinned this activity. Also that year, still with Tony, was the Jon Lord (Deep Purple) and Tony Ashton album “ First of the Big Bands”. “ I was excited to do this “says Brian “ As it was so over the top – horns and everything going down live in the studio. Jon Lord´s arrangement skills and musicality were so good, all the musicians involved were great – Ian Paice on drums was magic of course, and working with Ashton was always fun. I loved it.”
1976 “Love on my mind” was finally released with scant promotion from either Barn or it´s parent, Polydor. Brian hated to packaging, finding it too light-weight and ´frothy´, altogether drawing more from the ´pop´ marketing style of Slade, rather than the ´rock-friendly´ design he had hoped for under Chas, as Jimi´s ex-manager. An earlier design featuring a sepia photograph which Brian liked was rejected as being too ´sombre´.
Be that as it may, sales of “Love On my Mind” were disappointing. Brian still has fondness for some of the songs, but less so the production for which he was also responsible (!).
The projected second album had stalled and would never resurface. As a footnote to the above, Paul Gurvitz appeared briefly towards the end of the year and wrote a song “Rolling Home” with Brian. They had performed and recorded together over many years, but had always written songs separately. This was a “first”. The song was released as a single with a Brian song, “Rock ´n ´Roll Man” on the flipside. It bombed. Brian and Barn parted company.
1977 Once again `retired` from performing Brian was, nevertheless writing songs as always. Some songs came to the attention of an old friend, Charlie Crane – long a champion of Brian`s work. Charlie had signed Brian to the Warner Brothers publishing deal, prior to the Chas Chandler/ Barn relationship. He (Charlie) was now Professional manager at A.T.V. MUSIC (now part of Sony…). Brian was signed to ATV and was introduced to a new concept. The writing `pool` . Brian says: “There were all kinds of songwriters in a stable. Pop guys like Allan Tarney who wrote “ We don´t talk anymore" for Cliff Richard, advertising jingle writers, my friend Viola Wills who sang some back up on my "Love on my Mind" album. She wrote some good things and had a disco hit at this time. I didn’t like disco, but I made an exception for Vi!!"
"This was a new environment for me. Every week we would have writers meetings. Everyone would play their new songs, and all the others would listen tight - lipped. Imagine twenty songwriters in a room listening to each others work – everyone thinking “ I wouldn`t have put that chord there!” or “The chorus is all wrong”. We would try to develop writing partnerships – but I was never a great collaborator, I think. Then we had `casting` sessions. That is, we would be told who was looking for songs, and the following week we would play what we had written and `cast `them for the projects and artistes by consensus. It was mad. We would be told that Ray Charles was going in to the studio and looking for songs. The following week it would be, “They need a song for Miss Piggy in next weeks Muppet Show”! All experience of course, and they were paying me, but it kept me from my first love of performing. I had no record deal, and I did not realise at the time that this emphasis on writing was to represent something of a withdrawal from playing for an extended period. I won´t let that happen again”.
1978: Not in any way central to this story, but merely as a matter of record, Brian had begun to practice Buddhism from around 1975, and was still doing so in 1978. Of more interest, perhaps, is that through someone in Buddhist circles he had become interested in horse riding. He frequently went away for riding / trekking weekends.On one such trip during this year he suffered a terrible fall from a horse at full gallop resulting in back injuries which left him bedridden and in severe pain for many weeks. Prescription drugs were consumed in vast quantities.In a stranger than fiction parallel (he later found out that) Angela Panneck , now married and far away in Bremen, Germany, was also laid up in bed with four broken vertebrae as a consequence of a horse riding accident.“The similarities end there, though” Brian points out, “Angela had become a superb horse woman and sustained her injuries when she fell in a horse race. She was one of Germany´s first lady jockeys. I was just a crazy musician crashing around on horseback with, as I recall, more than a little alcohol in my system.”Brian did play some low – key gigs at this time with his own preferred musicians before devoting his attention almost exclusively to songwriting. Occasionally other musicians would “sit in”. On one memorable occasion Herbie Hancock turned up and played a few songs. “A great honour” says Brian, “I am glad someone was around to take one or two pictures, but the reality was not so much that Mr. Hancock played with my band. It would be more accurate to say that he gave us a music lesson. Hats off, no question.”
1979–80 Having found the ATV experience interesting but not his ideal professional home Brian was now anxious to move on. “I had been playing less and less, although frequently appearing on guitar for recording sessions with the other writers. Lots of demos, advertising jingles… Things like that. Not exactly cutting edge! I mean, people were throwing money at me to work with them- doing vocal sessions too, but I was dying inside. Drinking and drugging too much to be really honest. It had to change, and eventually it did – but not just yet”
1981 Brian continued to write good songs but none “clicked”. Parting company with ATV, he was offered a contract with Chrysalis Music. Brian was more interested in the Chrysalis record label as a possible home for his work as a performer, but was nevertheless encouraged by the enthusiasm of the publishing division for the bluesy funky songs he was now writing. He was still playing with his band, albeit infrequently, but no record deal was concluded. The focus was consequently once more on his songs, and he accepted the Chrysalis offer. If he thought that this might naturally “morph” into a contract with the Chrysalis Record company, he was wrong.
As for the publishers, they failed to secure any significant “covers” for his songs. Ironically, as if the “scattergun” methods of ATV were still wielding an influence over his career, it was in the pure “pop” field that this was to happen. Alvin Stardust recorded two “BP” songs, for the Stiff Record label. These were “Got My Money on You” and “Give it a Little Time”. Both were produced by Brian.
1982 Brian left the Chrysalis company, and feeling disillusioned with the business, began to work on a project dealing with alienation, and based on George Orwell´s “1984”. It was a strange project which was ultimately not completed, and so did not ´see the light of day´, but yielded some good songs nevertheless. Reflecting on this time Brian says “I was really on the look for spiritual solutions, which I was not finding. I had yet to learn of the Grace of God, His unconditional love. I had no idea that He had His hand on my life. All this was waiting for me on the other side of a door that I had closed myself. I did not remember closing it – I did not even remember that there was such a door. I was lost for a while there!!” Numerous songs were written dealing with social injustices – people sleeping in the street, the apparent heartlessness of the establishment- in retrospect much of this was a reaction to the blinkered arrogance of the Thatcher government in the U.K. at this time. “This is certainly true” says Brian, “But it also has to do with the fact that I had a tendency to see negatives. I hope that the reverse is true of me these days. Some of those songs were good, I think, and some of them could even be reworked now…if I wasn´t writing stuff today that I like better!” His career was effectively on hold. These days when he did play gigs (such performances were sporadic) it was with a group of musicians who had played with him on various studio projects, including his own demo sessions whilst with Chrysalis, also the Alvin Stardust records .This Brian Parrish Band as they were billed consisted of Les Binks on drums (ex Judas Priest),John Currie on bass (Drifters, later working with Slash) and Alan Lisk on keyboards (an excellent composer in his own right who has done great work for films and TV). Drugs and alcohol, for years a problem, albeit in the background at least professionally speaking, now escalated to unmanageable levels.
1984 “Despite all the self abuse I was still writing” Brian remembers, “This is quite amazing to me now. I would frequently work until 4.00 am in my home studio – with the inevitable bottle at one end of the mixing console, and other substances too. I was obsessive, and I was productive! But I could not seem to activate anything ´in the world´ - that is, outside of my working environment at home. That could so easily have been the end of the story- but thank God, it wasn´t.”The “1984” project had stalled and with a film of the Orwell book already out, as the months of that year passed by the whole idea was deemed past it´s “Sell By” date
1985 SHELTER: Once again spawned by the idea of an uncaring government and the prevailing threat of nuclear conflict. (the arms build up had not begun to slow and the press, as ever, continued to focus on the threat of what might happen if ………they have to sell papers). Brian wrote a song called “ Shelter”. This was a somewhat anthemic tune, with words written from the point of view of an uncomprehending and angry nuclear holocaust survivor leading a group of ragged fellow survivors through an unrecognisable wasteland, searching for shelter, and finding none. The anger was directed at those who had decreed who was worthy of saving and those who must fend for themselves. Part of the lyric read “´They´ll all be safe and sound, the others under the ground we know – but dare not say out loud there’ll be no shelter“. The song was recorded with the aforementioned musicians, and a short film planned. In the end a six minute video was to emerge to support the record, which once again would not see the light of day. Brian: “I saw the Shelter video the other day, and it´s not bad….I just ´got´ the whole thing again for a few minutes – the angst – the feeling of the time. I think many people would like it if they saw it now and might think it is deep and meaningful or something like that. I just see a man in trouble with his life. This is just not work I would do anymore. I am 1000% happier today and completely re-energised! What can I say? For the sake of the website, and anybody who may be interested in what I was doing in 1985, this is it”.
Brian´s mother died in June of this year, an event which seemed to add to his feelings of alienation. His work rate accelerated – more hours in the home studio and still more alcohol. Bizarrely he began to write country style songs, and even made tentative plans for a country ( rock ) band to be called ´Parrish-Texas´ “There has long been an association between country music and alcohol. Maybe I thought I was George Jones or Steve Earle or somebody. I was a 38 year old man from Ilford, Essex who had been all over the would playing music, and now my world was reduced to a small room of recording equipment and a whiskey glass that was never empty. I was in an empty marriage too. I thought I could raise myself up – simply work my way out of it - write “the magic song” or something. I needed to do the opposite – accept my powerlessness and acknowledge the love and power of the Great One, and I was nearly ready, though I didn’t know it” Christmas came in a blur.
"On January -1st – 1986 I had a clear thought .It was something like ´wake up- this has to change-it’s now or never´. Somehow on January 2nd I drank nothing. Then the next day, and the one after were all alcohol and drug free. Somehow I did three weeks like this and I still did not know where the power was coming from. I began to fear that I couldn’t keep this up. I would slide right back to the way I had been. I had stopped, but to stay that way I would need help. I attended my first meeting of a 12 step programme - and here’s the important part….I got on my knees in my bedroom one night and said the words that would save my life. I said ´Please God help me´, I may have said ´if you’re there…… I still did not absolutely know if He was. I would like to say that there was a bolt of lightning, or some ethereal vision, but there wasn’t. I got up off my knees feeling al little embarrassed – my ego trying to reassert itself, I suppose. But the job was done, I had asked Him for help, and He was in the room, no question”.
At this time Brian put his music ´career´ on the back burner, to focus on his recovery. He was still writing songs, but accepted that he was ´morally and spiritually bankrupt´ and that this must be addressed if there was to be any possibility of life starting again. He was praying everyday – but still no “blinding flashes”
In the 12 step recovery programme he met many fellow musicians – some of them very successful public figures – and draws much encouragement from their experiences, and those of people from all walks of life. Says Brian “Alcoholism and addiction is indiscriminate. It can get anybody and destroy them. Anyone who walks away is so very lucky and in the minority. The terrible things that addicts (including me) have done whilst in the throes of the disease can be devastating. Even a casual look at drug / drink related crimes or motor accidents reveal as much. Also spousal abuse – you name it, the horror stories are just awful. Once in recovery you have to acknowledge responsibility. None of this ´I didn’t know what I was doing` stuff".
"Its a long journey that begins with your self esteem in the toilet, and a glimmer of hope that you cling to for all you are worth. But God is endlessly loving. Unimaginably loving. If you call with your heart He is there. I am no evangelist – I am a musician – It’s another road, but the only reason I am alive to walk my road is by the Grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ. That’s simply the truth"!
So passed 1986 with Brian finally able to find the courage to deal with his marriage crisis. “We had to part. I knew that. Life had siezed up for both of us. The end was as inevitable as it was painful, but my avoidance mechanisms began to stop working as my head became clear”.This also marked an up-turn in his creativity, producing songs, some of which would emerge many years later on Brian’s CDs “Home Alone” and “Songwriter plus Band”. Many singer songwriters have concluded that there is nothing like a relationship break up to inspire new songs. So it proved to be. Some were for more for personal consumption, cathartic in some way, others seemed to have a wider appeal and relevance.Brian´s old friend, Charlie Crane, who had been behind Brian's ATV contract, and Warner Brothers Music before that, got to hear some of the songs and wanted to get Brian in the studio once again.
1987 Charlie Crane had formed a company with John Fishlock, called Crane/ Fishlock Music. Wanting to sign Brian for publishing, they conceded that a record deal for Brian would be the way to go, ensuring that the songs would be recorded. Brian, by now wary of signing a publishing contract in isolation, was also keen to record. A deal was struck for Crane/ Fishlock to finance the recording of two country flavoured songs (Tethered Hearts” and “Standing in my Shoes”). The master recordings would then be sold / leased to a record label, at which point the company would inherit the publishing. A time limit was agreed by which Crane / Fishlock must secure a record deal. Failing this ownership of all song titles would revert to Brian.
1988 With such interest in these particular titles, which were country flavoured, Brian began to consider his “Parrish-Texas” idea once again. With no immediate dated set for the Crane/ Fishlock recordings, he set about writing and recording more country edged songs with Dobro (resonator guitar) in his home studio. He had by now become adept at multi tracking, playing bass and also keyboards (the latter laboriously-“it is not my instrument” says Brian) and various guitars and percussion instruments himself. Occasionally someone like Brian (B.J.) Cole – England's famous steel guitar player – would drop by and overdub something. “Mainly it was just me, though” says Brian.
By the end of 1988 the promised recording dates for the projected single “Tethered Hearts” were confirmed for 1989. Brian says “I was working hard at the musical “coal face” and really keen to do it, but still my main concern was keeping clean and sober and getting spiritually well. This particular “lost sheep” had strayed far from the fold, and rock’n’roll living had damn near killed me”.
1989 Brian went into the studio to record “Tethered Hearts” and “Standing in my shoes”. All his favourite guys played (Binks, Currie, Lisk) and BJ Cole played some tasty pedal steel guitar. The results were pleasing but despite the growing popularity of “new country” in America (Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett etcetera) there were no takers among the English record labels.
Cue Nashville? “No, not really” says Brian. “They are way to conservative for anything even a little left field of what they think of as “country”. Besides they are overrun with pickers and guys with big hats. What do they need an upstart Englishman for?”
Tentative calls were made to the U.S. and copies sent to selected A+R people in the record labels… Zero. “This was disappointing at the time” Brian recalls . “Ok, music was not getting my full attention for reasons explained, but it’s always about the songs to me and these songs were good. I don’t know if it was an ageist thing (he was 42 at the time). They (the press) were already running stories, calling the Rolling Stones “wrinkly rockers” – stupid and disrespectful in the extreme.
"I don’t know if punk did that or those pretty “New Romantic” bands. The point is that getting signed was a problem if you were not 22 years old and sporting the “haircut of the month”. Also, the frontline people from the labels (A+R people) were now a generation younger than me, and more interested in sequenced synthesizer based music. I find it ironic that most of these young guys and the artists they signed are long gone, and the Rolling Stones, now all over 60, were the largest grossing live act in the world last year.”
1990 Failing to achieve the goal of a release for the songs, the copyrights (song titles) reverted to Brian Parrish, and he was once again contemplating his next more. Royalties were slowing, tax was owed and he realised that in the absence of a new deal something would have to provide an income.
1991 During the previous year, Brian had worked on a tribute book for H.M. the Queen Mother on the occasion of her 90th birthday, with the process from sales going to her charities. Officially authorized from Clarence House, this had provided Brian with the opportunity to interface with many business leaders, such was the high regard in which she was held. Says Brian “This is not very rock’n’roll, and a lot of left wing people would not see it my way, but I have the highest regard for our Royal Family. My one time hero John Lennon sent his O.B.E back. This is not a decision I am likely to be faced with!”
Brian now met people who enabled him to use his experience and contacts to successfully work in a field that interested him. Brian takes up the story:
“I had long been interested in social problems, and the reactive and somewhat finger pointing stance I had taken in my songs years before had been replaced by a desire to focus on solutions. It seemed that many such solutions were in part economic and I was by now comfortable speaking with business people, who's activities impact the world environmentally, socially and economically. I had become interested in people – companies too – operating in a responsible way. Not just giving to worthwhile charities – nothing wrong with that of course – but operating in a sustainable way. I became interested in climate change, emissions, the ozone layer and so on."
"I was given the opportunity to work on a special book. There was to be United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. It was to be attended by countries all over the world with the intention of agreeing a programme of action to facilitate a sustainable future. The result was the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21."
"In 1991 I began to speak to presidents of major corporations from all industry sectors throughout the world. Reasoning that business could be the driving force for social change since since business feels economic growth. I was interested in whether companies would wish to be seen as proactive in environmental affairs, rather than simply responding to restrictive legislation concerning their industry processes and the environment. Many of them had a point of view which they wished to make known. Throughout 1991 many of them accepted my invitations to contribute corporate messages for the official UN Earth Summit Book, and pay for this platform."
"For the next four years I worked on projects for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees dealing with human rights examining the relational positions of governments in connection to democracy development and peace. Once again business was (is) central to development. I never stopped writing music, but one project seemed to foster another and there were many including books for UNDP and UNEP, and one I was particularly proud to be associated with......"
"This was a project in association with the World Food Program and in conjunction with the Italian Ministry of Education. Simply, I sourced corporate sponsorship for the production of educational resource packs for eleven to fourteen year old Italian children. The packs informed the children of the WFP work to provide food for 15 million people in 90 countries world wide."
The packs also contained project work for the children to compliment their curriculum. The project, called Many People/ One Planet (Tanti Popoli, Una Terra) also had an accompanying video following a day in the life of a young African girl and the work of WFP. Many celebrities including Zucchero recorded messages for inclusion.
"I loved doing this, but in case anyone reading this should think that was selflessly working for the good of humanity, I should point at that I was being very well paid, too. A win-win situation, then. but I was missing playing music live. I was called to do the odd recording session with old mates but I needed more than this."
1996/97 “I had started to attend church quite regularly to better acquaint myself with my Saviour. I didn’t much liked organized religion – and my time of practising Buddhism years before had reinforced that position. But something had been happening. Something big. I had attended several big Christian conferences and around 1994/95 (I know I should remember the exact date – this is important!). I made this commitment: I asked for His forgiveness, asked Jesus in to my life. Now there was the extraordinary presence of the Holy Spirit. The blinding flash had taken a while, but now there was no doubt. He was here. Praise God!”
“I should also pause here to thank a faithful and wonderful servant of God who I love very much. She got me to walk into a church for the first time in years, prayed with and for me, took me to various conferences, and all told gave me more than could possibly be repaid. I would not wish to embarrass her in any way by saying anything at all about her private life. My website is no place for this but even this inadequate thank you is more than overdue. I hope you will forgive me for calling you by name here. Patricia Randall, thank you so much. God bless you.”
1998 “I got the occasional call from old friends. One was from Topper Clay, from the Londoners, Knack and later New York Public Library. NYPL were still playing with two or three of the original guys. Every so often there would be a reunion of some sort and I was invited to play. This was always great fun and towards the end of 1998 (I think, but Topper may dispute the date – and his recollection is likely to be the correct one) – anyway 1998 or 1999 I played a gig in a pub with them. The stage was a sort of alcove affair, and volume levels became excruciating – seeming to feed back to us rather than going out front to the people."
left with a ringing in
my ears. Nothing so
strange - it had
happened at high sound
pressure levels before,
and would go away by the
following day. But it
did not go away this
tme. Weeks later my
right ear was still
ringing, and was feeling
dizzy. I went to my
doctor. To make a long
story short I was given
tests and medication
over a period of many
months while specialists
in ear infections
speculated about the
nature of this problem.
"Meniers disease?” said
one “Post viral
infection of the inner
ear” suggested another.
Finally a brain scan
Another long wait. Then
they asked if I could
come in for another scan
as the first one was
inconclusive. Finally I
was diagnosed with a
“A Sense of Tumour/ Playing by Ear”
I was told that this thing had been growing for some years and was now about the size of a golf ball. It was putting considerable pressure on my brain, and affecting my hearing and balance. They thought it was an “Acoustic Neuroma”. It wasn’t, as it turned out, but whatever it was it had to go. Surgery. What were the alternatives? What if I left it? It was explained that if left it would become inoperable and that I would eventually die, suffering epileptic fits and other unpleasant stuff along the way. I began to pray. The God who had delivered me from alcohol and drugs surely would not abandon me now, would He?
I had survived narcotics overdoses and all manner of things, had lived a very full life and was now nearly 14 years free of any drug or drink. What had I learned, and how could I use it? I decided that only God could know or effect the outcome of the operation, which was scheduled for January 2000. I reasoned that I was responsible for my conduct moment by moment until the operation. Lots of prayer. I began to reflect, and keep a journal. I thought back over my life and the precious people in it. Suddenly any remaining “bad feeling I had for anyone dissolved. I called my father and told him I loved him.
I had been abused as a child by a friend of the family and was somehow able to let that go also. I began to speak to people and try to “set the record straight - ”to thank many people for their friendship and generosity and importantly to say “sorry to some people whose lives I may have hurt. In such cases I did not need, want or expect ´forgiveness´ from anyone. This was an inside job” and was to do with me and God. Amazingly I was able to forgive those who had wronged me, but of course this was not me doing the forgiving ! I am not that big. This was the work of one much bigger than me.
I was anxious to finish songs that I was working on, and try to mix them with my already failing ears. The day before the operation I went to the London City Church for a big meeting, where I had decided to be baptised. This was a full immersion baptism, and the Holy Spirit fell on me as never before. He is wonderful. The following day I was prepped for the operation, but sent home minutes before I was due in the theatre. This was because of the sudden arrival of patients with severe head injuries requiring immediate surgery. A road crash, I think. The problem was that there would be no available intensive care room for me. It felt very strange to find myself once again at home later that day. The delay could have been very stressful for me, I am sure, if I had been “steeling” myself for this ordeal. As it was, I knew that I was safely in God’s hands and did not need to find my own strength.
I was given a date three weeks later and found that I was completely ready. The Lord’s timing is always right. I simply said “Jesus, I thank you for my life. Please hold my hand and I will come with you wherever you want me to go.” Then the anaesthetic kicked in. There were complications, nerve damage – and more. At one point I could not close my eyes to blink, let alone sleep. Facial muscles would not work. I will not say that this was not trying, and it was certainly painful, but in my heart the victory was already won. I knew for some reason that I would receive all the help I would need, and all I had to do was stay with Him inside me.
I have now taken up enough space talking about the health thing, I think, but there is an interesting musical post – script: I was lying in bed the day after the operation with tubes coming out of me, unable to move and in considerable pain. Suddenly I heard music in my mind and some words. Something profound? The Voice of God, perhaps? Well, not exactly. It was a rock song. I was getting chords, call and response harmonies, a full arrangement. I could “hear” the whole thing. I thought, “Not now, surely! Can’t you see I am a little tied up right now?” Then I said “OK” and relaxed into it. It was called “Help Me Darling”. I thought “This will be good, I will record it one day” and I did, in 2006, and I really like it.
2001 I had
begun to write music
again, and was trying to
adapt to playing whilst
hearing with one ear
rather than two. I had
also sustained damage in
my “good” ear due to
working for years with
high sound pressure
levels. I moved to a
beautiful house in
Surrey, and found that
the countryside suited
me very well. I was
doing special exercises
to counter some balance
problems I was having.
The inner ear greatly
effects balance, and the
sudden loss of hearing
in one ear presents such
problems. I had never
thought about anything
like this. Why should I?
Nevertheless I felt that
every day I woke up was
a good day – and I still
feel that way today.
Suffice to say that I
spent 2001 working on
Brian, and trying to let
my Higher Power take
care of my direction.
2002 I spoke to my dear friend Tony Ashton, who told me he had “a touch of cancer” in his typically irreverent way. He died that year, still drinking. He was a funny, generous and talented man whose life was blighted by the same disease that nearly killed me. I have had a few “scrapes”, near misses. How is it that I have been spared? Why me? I can only say that this is God’s business. There is a long list of people I have known whose lives were cut short by alcoholism. Charlie Crane is another who passed away a short time ago, falling victim to the disease. We had spoken on the telephone sometimes in recent years, but I had no idea, I did not pick it up. I did not help him and it feels terrible. It is my earnest hope that I may sometimes be of help to those with addiction problems.
Also in 2002 I recorded the first songs that to my ear (yes, only one!) sounded good. The first of these was “Long Distance Man”.
The countryside was a joy and such a welcome release from London, which I had begun to find way too loud. I seemed to need a quieter environment when not playing. As for playing I would eventually need to find out if it was possible for me to work at the loud levels associated with live performance with electric instruments. In addition there was nervousness about working in the studio without hearing in stereo. Music that I was already familiar with now sounded very different. This music would have to be my “benchmark”, providing a point of reference if I wanted to know if what I was doing sounded OK.
Any thoughts of playing live were “on the back burner. That I did not know if this would be possible was for the moment not a problem. I had noticed that there was no queue of people outside my door in Surrey offering me gigs.
2002 Getting “Match Fit”
When I did think of working with other musicians it was with some trepidation. I was struggling to familiarise myself with a new sonic landscape. OK, I had one ear working, but with some high frequency damage and I had Tinnitus (that is I was experiencing permanent internal noise in my ear, a little like a train pulling in to a station). So much for the negatives. This was going to be difficult, certainly, but surely not impossible.
I have been given some kind of gift from God. He would not leave me without a means of using it. The songs were coming, I thought, better than ever, but I had done so little performing even in the years immediately preceding my operation. How was this going to work?
For the studio environment I had a box made into which I could plug my headphones and monitor my work in mono – that is, combine left and right sides for me to hear the whole picture. I could then, at the flip of a switch, listen independently to the left or right side to “visualise” the stereo effect. This was helpful for recording, but how would a “live” situation be? Think of, say, a footballer who has sustained a physical injury who then has to train harder than ever before if he is to have a hope of ever being good enough to re- join his team. Would I be match fit? I had no idea…
I got a telephone call at the end of the year from Horst Fascher. This was followed by numerous e- mails and responses from my side. Horst is an old friend from the Star Club time. The original Star Club in Hamburg had closed many years before, but from time to time Horst, and others would organise a “Star Club Nacht” – a Star Club Night. Horst was asking if I would I be interested in coming to Hamburg early in 2004 to play such an evening as a “special guest”.
Hamburg – and actually all my time spent in Germany had always been remembered as magical to me. This had been a time when my musical identity was being formed, a time when, as a young man, I had met so many young people who were also excited by the music. Some were musicians starting out like myself, and others the young German people who took us to their hearts. The Star Club was my apprenticeship. The work had been hard, the hours long, but it was this intensity that had forged the strong foundations that I had stood on musically ever since. Then there were the friendships which were formed and the sheer electricity which was felt by all of the people who were part of this extraordinary time. It had all been almost forty years ago. Who could I expect to see? Who would remember? Who was still alive? The big question was “Does Brian want to come and play?” Is the Pope Catholic?
I told Horst “Yes, I will be there”. I was not sure if I could bring my excellent musicians with me – the guys who had played with me over a number of years, and when I had last worked live- it had been some time. I began to make ´phone calls. It transpired that logistically and economically this would be prohibitive. Horst said we could surely find good musicians in Hamburg. Roy Dyke was living there, I knew. Cue a ´phone call to my old friend. Roy said he would love to play and looked forward to meeting me again after so long. Now I had a great drummer. I was on the way. I was still worried about my hearing…..
Roy said he knew a bass player he thought would be good, and this was Dieter Horns. I trusted Roy, so of course Dieter would be great. I had a rhythm section. Then we got Adrian Askew, another English `muso` living in Hamburg. Roy said “ Yeah, I know him, he is good” . The band was in place. It was the singer I was worried about.The date was set for March 2004.
This was about getting back to basics. Performing had always been so important to me. My last time for playing in Germany had been for tour dates with Badger, together with Ozzie and the other lunatics. Roy Dyke, it must be said, was as crazy as me back then. The whole thing for me is a blur, snapshot images at best. The time before that would have been with Parrish and Gurvitz miming (working from playback) on television shows. I do not remember that so well either. The only thing I could be sure of was that I had not been to Hamburg since 1966 /67. Horst wanted to bill it as “Brian Parrish of the Londoners”. I said, “Whatever.” I could hardly wait to go. I was excited.
O.K, so much for my plan. Horst came to collect me and we had dinner, then together with his wife , Birgitt, we went out on the town, all the time Horst saying “ I have to show you around as you were not here for so long!” We went to Große Freiheit, home of the original Star Club which sadly burned down, and there we met more people including Piko Martens (one of the original Star Club faces), then still more. Had these guys really been milling around eating bratwursts in the Freiheit for all this time? So suddenly we had an entourage and we crashed around all over St. Pauli. All the sights, sounds and smells came back to me. All my senses were vibrating. On every corner, a memory. It was as if all the years were just falling away and I was that wide eyed boy with the Rickenbacker guitar again. My emotions were off the chart. I finally got back to the hotel after 4.00 am. Then I could not sleep, my mind was buzzing. With my commonsense plan down the tubes this was like the old days. Back then amphetamines kept us going on stage, only to make sleep impossible afterwards. With nary a chemical in my body I just lay there. Slowly the light came up just as my eyelids were coming down. Did I get a half hour of sleep? Maybe. Too soon the telephone was ringing. Tamara. Was it too early? Should she come to the hotel now? I said, “Give me 40 minutes, I´ll be ready.”
In a life that had seen it´s share of ups and downs – a life which had nearly ended more than once – there was about to be an emotional upheaval which would trigger a sequence of events bringing unimaginable change, and somehow making sense of all that had gone before. There had been reckless drug abuse incorporating a near fatal overdose during one of the tours. This has not been detailed here (although obliquely referred to) seeming to be of little direct relevance to the musical story. It is, nevertheless, a matter of historical fact.
There was of course, the tumour experience. Then there were two marriages. (The first of these has also not been mentioned here because people have a right to their privacy and, truth to tell, she and her family are better off without the Brian they knew. Whether I have changed – and to what extent- is a matter between me and God.
There had been many highs also and some wonderful musical moments. I reflected that I had been given the greatest gift, a new life by the Grace of God. Maybe I would get “closure” of some sort here in Hamburg. I had no idea of what was coming, or how big it was.
Tamara came. She was beautiful – all flowing hair and big smiles. She took me to breakfast and we were briefly joined by her son, Leandro, a cheeky intelligent and good looking boy. These two have become great friends of mine. By way of extra detail, Tam is a fine singer too!
After breakfast Tamara drove me to the Indra Club in the Große Freiheit to meet the band. She said she would see me that evening and, with a wave, was gone. I looked at the poster outside the club. It depicted a much younger me (18 perhaps?) with the other Londoners in a shot from a TV show. I thought of the face I saw in the mirror as I had been shaving that morning…..dark circles under the eyes, pale and drawn from lack of sleep. What did such a face have to do with the young boy in the picture? Boy, were these people ever going to feel cheated! Maybe not many would come. I would do my best to give them a show anyway.
I was still mulling all this over as I walked in to see Roy Dyke setting up his drum kit. A big smile, then a bigger hug. “How are you doing man?” The sort of stuff musicians says to each other …Roy is a treasure. It was just so good to see him. Then the others came. Adrian proved to be a lovely guy and Dieter too.
After what seemed like an age the gear was set up and we played our first notes together. Everything sounded so odd to me! I had not done this in so long and I now had only one ear which was not working as well as it should. This was strange, but I had other things to think about “ Brian, what key do you want to do this in?” “Shall I take an organ solo here, or do you want to take it on guitar?”
To make a long story short, this all felt so different but I thought I had the measure of the sound from my altered perspective, and I could expect no more than I was getting from the band with so little time. Thankfully they were are all very good players. We would get the job done.
We went out to dinner. Chinese. It was indifferent. I did not care, I was thinking about the music. I wondered who would come out to see us. Anyone I knew? Would I recognise them? Maybe no-one would come. Who the hell is Brian Parrish anyway?We went back to the club and ensconced ourselves in the dressing room. Records were playing and there were the unmistakable sounds of people out there. Then it was time. The band went out. I held back. Someone, Horst I think, was announcing me “ Meine Damen und Herren nach mehr als vierzig jahr der originale sanger von Die Londoners…….Brian Parrish”
The band was playing the “Peter Gunn Theme”. This was an “in” joke as it had been a popular stage tune from Roy’s then band, Remo Four. I began to play, perhaps not with the same touch as Remo guitar man Colin Manley but good enough for jazz, as we say. But with horror I realised that with people in the sound was different again. So I did what I had always done and ran to the microphone, shouted “Good Evening!” and got on with it.
The first song finished and they loved it. I could see a lot of faces, but it was impossible to tell if there were any I might recognise. Tamara was in the house somewhere and I could not see her either. An hour or so later we were playing our last song for this set, and there would be a second later on. The people were clapping and cheering – it was good to be back.We are in the dressing room. People are coming in. “Brian, do you remember me?” Hands are being shaken, backs being slapped. “Brian would you sign this copy of your record from nineteen sixty blah blah?” Some people had brought photographs of us taken in the Star Club. Some were given to me. Some I signed. I met Willi Becker, a long time fan, and now a good friend. He had pictures with him too. He had even called his son Brian. It was like greeting my long lost family, but it was a crush in there and getting hot, so I came out of the room for a “breather”.
I saw a beautiful woman – at first in profile- she was stunning and I was thinking “I wonder who…?” Then she turned to face me. She said, “Brian”. I think my mouth fell open. “Angela” I said, and she was in my arms. Time seemed to stop and the room just faded away. I am not sure where we were or for how long. I remember stepping back for a moment to look at her more closely, holding her face in my hands, then kissing her cheeks. Suddenly we were both talking at once. A rush of words -“I can’t believe it!” “Thank you for coming!” Do you still live in Bremen? Was the band OK?”
So after what - thirty eight years? I was looking at the face of Angela Panneck who had befriended us in 1964. I was more than overjoyed to see her. We were due to play again, and I had to get back to the dressing room. I did not want to stop talking to Angela, but she declined to come with me and said we could talk later. My head was buzzing as I got myself ready again. What exactly had just happened out there? There was no time to think. Time to play. “ Noch mal, Brian Parrish!” and I was counting the first song in. My voice was finished- it was so long since I had done this but the crowd loved it. Horst was happy. More old friends made themselves known, among them, my old friend Frank Dostal. Many faces, all smiling. And Angela..........
We were exchanging telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, exchanging information. She too had brought pictures, she said, to remind me of who she was in case I did not recognise her after so long. To me she was immediately recognisable. The beautiful girl had become a beautiful woman – but – in every way familiar. She told me she was not ´Panneck´ anymore, but married for many years, and yes, still living in Bremen. Photographs were taken, with Horst, Tamara, Piko and other folks, and in each of these somehow Angela was by my side. It felt very right, wonderful in fact, but I never stopped to analyse this as I was caught up in the emotions of seeing so many old friends, and was very adrenalized from playing. All too soon there were goodbyes.
I was going back to my hotel, people were dispersing, and Angela, together with her friend Kathy, had to leave to drive back to Bremen. We promised to telephone. We would write. We had a lot of ´catching up´to do.
The following morning I again met Tamara and Leandro and together we visited Peter Petzold, who had a DVD from Paul Gurvitz. Paul had recorded a welcome message to me, and a further message to our Hamburg friends from his home in Los Angeles. This was also very emotional – looking at Paul, who I had not seen for several years, whilst sitting with his daughter in Hamburg, where so much of this had began. Then I was aboard a `plane flying back to London, Heathrow.
Once in England I sent Angela an e-mail thanking her for coming to see me, and began to tell her much of what had happened in the past thirty something years. This was to be the first of many mails both ways as we each told our story.
There was one breathless `phone call on the Monday – because I simply had to hear her voice. I did not ask why or analyse this, it was non negotiable. The call had to be made. She sounded as excited as me. We were jabbering. Finally she said “I think we should each take tranquilizers before we talk again”. I was frightened to think to deeply about what was going on. The thought that kept trying to break in to my mind was more than highly inconvenient . It was pure madness. It did not seem to fit in with my life as I perceived it to be. I was aware of being excited to be in contact with my old friend. Indeed I loved her dearly and with more than half a lifetime between this meeting and our last, the excitement was quite understandable. Any other ideas were, simply, ludicrous. It`s called denial.
2004 – “HOME ALONE” // “WITH BAND”.
Jochen Laschinsky, now also in contact following the Hamburg show, began to e-mail me and ´out of the blue` made up two compilation CDs he called` Brian Parrish and Friends`, consisting of songs from the Londoners, the Knack, my first solo single, Badger stuff, NYPL and even a song from a rehearsal tape made in Hamburg in `64. I had totally forgotten much of this and with my recent Hamburg experience still fresh in my mind (and heart) I began to wonder what other songs and recordings I might have forgotten. I knew that when I had moved from London to Bletchingley in Surrey I had brought many tapes with me. Boxes and still more boxes, all stored in the basement. I would have to investigate.……
When I started to rummage I found both more and less than I expected. The sheer volume of tapes, multi-tracks, rough mixes and so on was surprising. So much material going back to the 1970 s was unearthed, but there were severe damp problems in the basement and much of it proved unplayable.
Over a period of months I selected songs with a view to transferring them to some kind of digital storage medium for safe-keeping. Songs had been recorded on various formats over the years. Some were studio demos with my band, others were multi-tracked home recordings with me playing all instruments, backing vocals and so on.
After a time I decided to produce two CDs from this. There were songs enough to produce more than this, but many recordings were not salvageable. For those that were OK, or just about listenable to my ears, I would need help.
I called Peter Morrison, who had a lot of digital recording equipment in his studio and he said he would be happy to lend a hand. Peter is a useful songwriter himself and plays with the still performing New York Public Library. So it was that we met in his home studio and he was most generous with his time. He is “dab hand” in the studio too.
Eventually we settled on a selection of around 25 songs that represented a ´snapshot` of the different periods of my writing career.
Although not sure how to categorise them at first, it was suddenly clear. I would have one CD with my self played home recordings – demos dating back to 1978 and up to 2004 and title this compilation “Home Alone”. The second CD was full of studio demos made with my band between 1978 and 1989. This would be called “Songwriter Plus Band”.
My good friend Jochen Laschinsky offered to master them for me and help with the packaging. Duly supplied with photographs, logos, text and information he set about producing CDs as a ´limited edition´ for me. He did such a great job too. His kindness to me was, and is, extraordinary.
This was a cathartic experience for me, as it took me back over my life musically – a process which we have tried to complete here as a biography for the benefit of anyone interested. I gave the CDs to friends and decided that I must now get on to recording the new songs that I had been writing.
Angela and I had been e-mailing quite regularly and speaking once in a while. She was in my heart, no question. I so did not want to lose contact with her anymore and we had begun to discover so many parallels and similarities in the events of our lives. Most of all we knew that we were kindred spirits, effortlessly close. She sent me pictures from her past and I began to build a picture of her life. It is difficult to describe or even understand myself what was happening to me as I went about my life in England. Angela was simply ´there´ and I began to look forward to her e-mails, and as she later told me, she also eagerly opened her lap top each day to see if I had written. Then it happened. On June 29th I got an e-mail from Angela to tell me that she was having tests for something in her left breast. She had not wanted to tell me, but would I pray for her? My head was spinning, I telephoned, but there was nothing to do but wait for the results of the tests. Nothing,that is, except pray. And pray, I most definitely did. For the next few days nothing else was on my mind. “Oh please, don`t let anything happen to her” was how the praying started, but over the days I became more aggressive as I became determined to “take Heaven by storm”. On July 4th the dreaded e-mail came. Malignant. Both sides. Now I was angry. Of major concern was how my dear, dear Angela was feeling. Was she frightened? More `phone calls, more e-mails, more prayer.
I told her to pray to Jesus. I told her He would never leave her side. The Father so loved His children that He sent His only begotten Son for our salvation. I had no fear of death or ill health for myself. I had been there and He had taken it from me. But this? How could I ease her pain? She was about to go it alone, as each of us must if we are seriously ill. All the well wishers in the world are powerless. But if she would only reach out for His hand, He would be there. Absolutely. In His Word He says “If two or more are gathered in My Name, I will be among them “. That`s unambiguous. I would ask Angela if I could pray with her over the telephone. She said “Yes”, and we did.
Then came the operation, on the day after my birthday and before long came chemo- therapy. She had bad days, without question, but she was resilient, stoic, unfussy, occasionally vulnerable and,over the next few months, wonderfully courageous. Something happened in me and I told her that I would get to see her as soon as possible. I told her that I loved her and that she could count on this, call upon my love for the rest of my life. I did not analyse whether this was a `spirit `love or a `soul` love – a man / woman thing. I only knew that this was the single most important thing to me in this time. She had to be OK! Her beautiful life had to go on - and flawed though I be, I would try not to let her down. The e-mails continued back and forth.
I had found some Parrish & Gurvitz tapes and copies of my solo `Love on my Mind `album, together with its original (subsequently rejected) sleeve design. I left these with Pete to digitise and the results also were sent to Jochen. As the year drew to a close I had copied of a lot of my work on CD and Angela was having the last of her ray treatment, following chemo- therapy. Her beautiful red curls were gone and I knew she was deeply affected by this. She did not feel feminine. When she told me I said “Oh good! I love bald women!” It`s just what you do at a time like this. Resort to bad jokes.
Christmas came. I was also with people I love – but this brave little woman in Germany was all that was on my mind.
2005. As January came I was `keeping tabs` on Angela and writing songs and wondering about live gigs. Hamburg had taught me that it could be difficult sound-wise, but definitely possible. The fact is if I can not hear myself, I may well play or sing out of tune - a nightmare for someone who loves to play live. I had started to think about an “in ear” monitoring system – little scarcely visible ear pieces with a signal generated from a wireless (radio) transmitter. This could be the answer….
The telephone rang. It was Roy Dyke `s daughter, Aysha. Roy was to be 60 years old in February and there was a plan to stage a “Star-Club All Stars” night on Saturday 12th in Hamburg. Would I come and play? I said “Yes of course, for Roy, always.” Then I thought of Angela. I telephoned her. Would she be well enough to come? If not, I would make sure of seeing her somehow whilst in Germany. We would see….
Over the weeks we got information on the other guys turning out for Roy. Kingsize Taylor and the Dominos were confirmed. Carl Terry too – wonderful lunatic that he is and Ecki Hoffmann – a very tasty sax player. The list was growing and it looked like being a great evening.
More e-mails: Tamara was coming, Jochen also and Angela planned to stay in Hamburg for the weekend . She begged me not to feel in any way obliged to spend much time with her, as the show was `more important`, however she was with car and would `taxi`for me, if I wanted. Was she kidding??
On February 11th I flew into Hamburg and later that evening I went to the Downtown Blues Club – the venue for the concert on the following day. There I met the owner, Uwe Mamminga, who was warm and welcoming. The man loves music and the guys who play it. Some of the other Brit musos had arrived and the usual hugs and talk of old times ensued. The venue felt great , the atmosphere was warm and all boded well for a good show tomorrow. By the time I returned to my hotel I had a bad headache – which happens occasionally since the neurosurgery, but my mood was ´up ´.
The next day Angela was to come to breakfast. I was up early. She was late – very unlike her, as she first went to the wrong hotel. This seemed to build the tension. I was sitting in the restaurant and suddenly she was there. So beautiful! Had this woman really been so ill? She had lustrous shiny red hair! Too long to be her own, I knew, but looking good. I remember nothing of what we spoke about, only the pure excitement of seeing her. We went up to my room, where I would collect my things to go to the Downtown Blues Club. While I busied myself with this she went in to the bathroom. She emerged some minutes later and said “Look at me”. I looked - the shiny red hair was gone and in its place some fuzz around one centimetre long – like duck down. The door of my heart blew off, never to be seen again. She was beautiful, still so beautiful and in that moment as her courage and her vulnerability were revealed to me, I was in love. But she must never know. We held each other. How was it that time stopped when this happened? When time finally did break in, it was time to go.
The club was buzzing with tuning up noises and microphones being tested. Uwe was running around everybody. “Do you want a coffee? Something stronger?” Different `bands`were to play throughout the evening and of these Ted and the Dominos were first to sound-check. Each one had maybe fifteen minutes, tops.
The main band for this evening was obviously the Roy Dyke `All Star `band including myself. As the great man took his place behind his kit, we discussed what we would do. Different `solo `spots would be featured, including one from me, consisting of four or five songs. We ran a few bars of everyone´s featured songs and all too soon we were done and vacating the stage for the next outfit, whilst still discussing endings”. I will cue you for the key change, ok?”
That evening the backstage area had been extended to include a restaurant where dinner and the party would take place. The food was good. Uwe, still running around frenetically, was the best host imaginable and the area began to fill up with many faces that I knew from way back. Indeed there were so many that I was sure this would be a special night that I would always remember. Angela sat beside me during dinner, occasionally squeezing my hand. Roy was laughing. Aysha, who had organized everything, looked resplendent as did her mother Stacia, who had also come from her home in Ireland to join the celebration. I began to miss Tony Ashton, but I could almost feel his spirit in the room. This was great! The club outside was packed to the rafters and the feeling of anticipation was high. Suddenly, from the stage came booming bass and drums and the riff from “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”. Ted and the Dominos with their patented method of removing ear wax. The evening had started…….
Later we went through our paces. The sound was a little strange to me (it´s always a concern since the loss of one ear), but the people were loving it. Roy was superb – on great form. My songs went very well. Then a certifiable lunatic took the stage, jumping around like one possessed. Rubber legs, bulging wild eyes, big crepe sole shoes. He was enjoying himself too much! He is wild. He is funny. He is Carl Terry. Great guy. Then there were some speeches. I read something out in bad German. A last song and we were off. As the next group of musicians took the stage I towelled off and rejoined the party.
Everything was crazy – Roy cutting a big birthday cake, people doing press interviews, more old friends. “Do you remember me?” Uschi Nerke (Beat Club) running around, Tamara laughing, Jochen Laschinsky looking tall and regal. Carl Terry smiling, mild mannered. Could this really be the same berserker who`s jumping around had threatened to punch holes in the stage? This was a happy, happy night. Eventually the curtain came down on the proceedings, and I was climbing in to a car with Tamara and Angela. They dropped me off at my hotel and I extracted a promise from Angela to come to see me in the morning before I would fly back to England. In the morning she came . We held each other. Same feeling as before! We talked about last night and when I might come back, all the time exchanging the odd glance, as if each of us was frightened of full-on eye contact. When our eyes did finally lock together the feeling was tangible, unmistakable. We knew. We said nothing. She had her life. I had mine.
We would go to Tamara for coffee and they would take me to the airport. We said our “goodbyes” to the many musicians who had also stayed in the same hotel and set off. Later that day Angela was seeing me off at the airport. “I love you” … “I know,I love you too”- and suddenly my feet were walking in the opposite direction to my heart.
Back in England, it was not long before I began to get mail from my increasing German `family`. Willie Becker had a band – The Shamrocks- (together with Adrian Askew, who had played the Indra Club with me the previous year) – and asked if I would care to guest with them later in the year when they were play in Kiel. Of course I would.
Meanwhile I was working on burying my “heart” feelings under a ton of logic, rationalisation, responsibilities and a lot of very grown up stuff which I labelled `reality`, when it was, in fact, the opposite. I was writing more songs. Paul Gurvitz was interested to hear the missing Parrish & Gurvitz recordings I had discovered. I would send a CD.
LONG DISTANCE MAN
I decided to put together a compilation of eight songs to be drawn from the two CDS of demos, together with a couple of newer tunes. Jochen helped with this once again. The idea was that I could use this as a `sampler` for professional use, as opposed to a `walk down memory lane` for friends as the previous compilations had been. This was produced under the title “Long Distance Man” and contained also the newly written “Most of All”.
Summer came: Kiel. Willie met me at the airport in Lübeck and drove us to his studio to meet the other Shamrocks. Angela had said she would come of “of course” and later that day we saw each other. Once again I was having the feelings I had told myself I did not have. How long could I keep this up? It was a sunny day and we played in the open air. This was `Kieler Woche`(Kiel week), a cultural event encompassing various kinds of music, dance troupes, food from many different countries and much more besides. The Shamrocks were a good time rock `n `roll band and a `good time `was what we had. I met Willie`s son, Brian- named after me, he says. Very flattering! I have another friend in Germany, Thomas Mösing, who also has a son named after me. I had not realized quite how much we (I?) meant to people when The Londoners played in Hamburg. The echoes are still reverberating from the Star-Club time, not only for me, but for all the bands who played and the people who were there. It certainly shaped my (musical) life. Angela was wonderful in Kiel. She was looking stronger, feeling better all the time. She is a fighter and between her excellent medical care and our loving Heavenly Father, she was going to be well. This was all I cared about. All too soon my feet were once again walking away from my heart.
Once home in England the e-mails to and from Angela reached saturation level. I had no immediate plans to return to Germany, but I was now in contact with so many friends there, that I knew it would not be long. Willie was mailing again, asking I fancied doing a gig with his band in Stuttgart in a club called Zapata. I really like Willie, the Shamrock stuff is fun, and Angela was never out of my mind or heart. So bring on Stuttgart, I would be there! 20th October found me in the Zapata in Stuttgart. It was a surprisingly big club, holding 1.500 people or more. The band played and I tested my new ear monitoring system. It was OK, but still far from perfect. It would take some getting used to, but it did help somewhat. The thing between Angela and me was on fire now, we talked. We had both been close enough to death to know that each minute of our lives is too precious to waste. I knew I wanted her happiness more than my own, if such a sacrifice was necessary. Finally we concluded however difficult the logistics might be – if mountains had to be moved, we must be together. We were in love with each other and would ever be. But I had to fly back again. And plans must be made for our new life. Somebody was going to have to move countries. No problem, I would go to live on the moon with this person, if she asked me. There were many people to get behind my music if I came to Germany. It would take time, perhaps some months to conclude everything in England, but this was the way to go. I loved playing to German audiences and it felt like unfinished business. I would come back to fulfil the (musical) promise made in Hamburg in the sixties. The dept would be repaid.
So began the process of breaking down my recording equipment in England. Meanwhile Angela was looking for a new home for us. E-mails were flying back and forth. What furniture would I bring? What must we buy? I like Italian furniture. Angela went to look. She took photographs of many pieces she liked and e-mailed them to me. Gradually it came together at such a distance. Were we crazy? She found a place, more pictures… Did I like it? This was in the countryside. A definite “yes” on that score. There would be no more cities for me unless she had other ideas. She agreed. Our taste is very similar in just about everything (except tomatoes, I hate them, she loves them). Little by little everything came together, and by Christmas Angela was installed in our new home. There was still much to do and I could not move completely until later in the New Year. However I would come for Christmas. When I arrived for a first look I was taken aback with how much this small woman had done alone. She almost set the place on fire with candles she had placed around our home to make it romantic, but she had created such a warm environment without need of additional heat. We had a wonderful Christmas. Tamara and Leandro came. We saw Jochen and his lovely wife, Ingrid. I began to visualize a music room. How would the garden look in the summer? There was a lake …… it was close to perfect. New Years Eve (Sylvester) was spent in a charming restaurant. I was “suited and booted” and she looked wonderful. The next day was Angela`s birthday and we spent it together. Then back to the UK for me.
2006 I was now working towards a goal and looking for (music) opportunities in my new country. And there was much prayer. I could hardly believe what had come to pass in my life. How could I have guessed what had been or might yet be in store? The Lord is ever faithful. His love is unconditional, but our decisions are freely your own and we are responsible for our choices. Without elaborating here, the decision that Angela and I took to be together would effect many people and would hurt some of them. People we both love. There is not one shred of doubt between us that this is our destiny, but a life changing decision such as this cannot be taken lightly. It wasn`t. I began to commute from around February onwards, so that I was flying into Bremen almost every weekend. Also I was bringing guitars and other equipment which could be carried by hand.
“Let the Good Times Roll”
The first such visit was to include a trip to Hamburg to see old friend Horst Fascher. Horst had written a book called “Let the Good Times Roll”, recalling his Star Club experiences. He was holding a press launch at Neue Flora to co-incide with his 70th birthday on 5th February. We showed up and the press were out in force, television, too. Before long I had microphones up my nose asking me about the `old days`, any “Horst stories” and “why was Hamburg and the Star Club so important?” Horst was very pleased to see us and we explained that we could not stay as long as we would like, as I had to get to the airport in Bremen to fly home that evening. There were bands playing. Someone put a guitar in my hand and asked me to please sing something. I said “It must be quick, as I have to catch a flight”. So I was announced – “Brian has time for one song only, as he has to dash to the airport to fly back to England”. I played one song -“Bo Diddley” I think. The people went bananas, and we rushed out of the building, as it really was “ touch and go” with time, should we encounter traffic problems. We finally got to Bremen in good time, only to learn that all flights to the UK were grounded that evening due to problems in the UK. I could not fly until the next day, so the frantic car journey had been for nothing. But it was a most effective exit from the stage in Hamburg! I could not have choreographed it better. Life is occasionally hilarious.
This is Your Life, Mr. Laschinsky
On May 24th Jochen Laschinsky would be 60. He planned to celebrate with family and old friends, with live music and good food. Angela and I were invited of course and Jochen was hosting the celebration in customary and typical style at the Waldbühne in the Bürgerpark in Bremen. His children Inga and Freya had put together a slide show of photographs taken throughout the years of Jochen`s life and this was constantly playing, projected on to one of the walls. It was funny and moving by turns. Jochen was in great form – witty and intelligent. Angela was behind the lens of a camera again, taking super pictures of everyone. The band played. Jochen sang. He had also began by singing skiffle in Germany at around the time I was a Lonnie Donegan fan in England.
I was invited to sing. This time I was ready and had brought one of my guitars – always preferrable to using a strange weapon. There were no hearing problems, the assembled company loved it and Jochens wife, Ingrid, began dancing like a young girl while her husband clapped in time. It was fun and it was fantastic to be with Jochen for this special occasion.I was also glad of any opportunity to re- orientate myself with performing live and to further unravel the mystery of my strange hearing.
Another reason to be pleased, then, that I had been invited by another Englishman and neighbour, Steve Westaway, to join an informal acoustic music session. This was to take place the following evening at the Kogge, which is a small pub adjoining the Worpswede Music Hall, near to our home. Steve hosts the session each Thursday, inviting many different kinds of musicians to play. The result is that one might hear jazz, folk songs,blues, rock and even bossa nova. The line up would always be a surprise.
I took a guitar. I played. I sang. It was interesting to take an acoustic direction. I really enjoyed it. Steve invited me to come and play whenever I wished and I said that I would do so once I was permanently in the country. I met H.D., the boss of the Music Hall and he was a friendly chain smoking man who is proud to display pictures of the many well known artistes who have appeared on the Music Hall stage. Another music lover. I always get on well with guys like that.He invited me to play there later in the year. “Glad to“ I said.
The weekly flights to Germany continued. I planned to move completely in June. As it transpired I was unable to do this until July.Meanwhile a special “Star Club All Stars“ night was being planned for June 3rd at the Downtown Blues Club. I was invited to play.
Mr. Boogie Woogie
The usual suspects were lined up: Kingsize Taylor, a full compliment of Dominoes – Bobby Thompson, John Frankland, Sam Hardie and Gibson Kemp.The special guests included Howie Casey and Ecki Hoffman on horns. It would be good to see Howie again- it had been a long time. The McKinlay Sisters were singing.(Both are lovely women, Jeanette and Sheila, who is, of course Mrs. Howie Casey.)
The evening´s special guest, who was flying in from Toronto, was Roy Young - billed as ever as “Mr. Boogie Woogie“.All this and Carl Terry too! Someone call the police! The gig, when it came, turned in to a party, and it was filmed for NDR television. Excerpts were transmitted somewhat later, after Christmas. I had a lot of fun and the crowd was, as ever, fantastic. I had some problems with my “in ear“ monitoring system.I discovered that it is all too easy to disconnect the mini cable which connects the small earpieces with the reciever, worn on the belt.A sudden movement can cause this, leaving me in mid ! song with no signal whatsoever.I do tend to move a bit so it happened more than once. Suffice to say that no-one noticed and the songs went well. This was a learning curve.
I stayed on stage for some Carl Terry magic. He did not let us down. I do not know where he gets his energy from, but I wish he would share some with me. He is not sane, of course. I joined Ted and the band for some of thier set - `meat and potatoes` rock `n`roll- the good stuff, and later I played with Roy Young. He is great – the “Little Richard“ voice is still in good shape. The finale was a couple of ensemble numbers. All artistes and musicians.Good closer.
Angela took pictures. She has such a great eye for photography. It is many years since she did this professionally but the quality of her pictures is always superb. She got some great ones of Carl. Uschi Nerke was in attendence and, as ever, was very warm to us.Once again there was a sense of a circle completing. When Angela came to see me on that night in 2004, after so many years, it was with two tickets she had won on Uschi´s radio show, “Beat Club“. Nice lady, that Uschi – and naturally we have a soft spot for her.
We were now ready for our new life to begin. Furniture, recording equipment, the remaining guitars and keyboards, paintings, hundreds of CDs and vinyl - the whole of my life in England, it seemed - was being bundled into a large truck to be driven to Germany by my brother in law, Martin. In fact I was taking as little as possible. Anything that had been ,or could be, acquired in Germany would be left and suitable arrangements made for it.Martin would sell my car for me after my departure.I would need something with the steering wheel on the other side!
I was to fly,one way only this time, and Martin would follow bringing Boogie with him and stay over for a few days. Goodbye England. Arriving in Bremen, I drove us to our new home in the village of Adolphsdorf. I was still trying to orientate myself with motoring ettiquette in this country where they drive on the “wrong“ side. I am afraid I frightened the living daylights out of Angela a couple of times, but eventually we arrived safely home.
The following day the truck arrived. We were in no hurry to unpack as Boogie and Martin were to be with us for a week.I was anxious to set up the music room / studio, but this also would have to wait.
“Happy Birthday, Dear Boogie“
The next day was my birthday and the first one to be spent with my twin sister in42 years, or thereabouts. This was so strange, but undoubtably fun. Martin loves to eat, so a suitably large breakfast began a great day which encompassed a river barge trip. This was no ordinary barge but something called a Torfkahn, which is endemic to the region. This was a surprise from Angela and a unanimous hit.In the evening was a barbeque party in our garden. We were joined by our neighbours who wanted to welcome me, and HD from the Music Hall with his wife, Marion, together with Jochen and Ingrid, Steve Westaway and many more with children also. As darkness was falling on a golden sunny day guitars were produced and music played.It was magic...
The next evening we went to the Worpswede acoustic session with Martin and Boogie along for the ride. Martin sported his new “corespondent“ shoes which I had given him. He was very proud of them, but his wife less so. She kept looking down at his feet as if a small dog had disgraced himself on them.It was hilarious.The musicians played and I joined in for a few songs. I stretched a point and told the people it was Boogies birthday. I so enjoyed the sound of a room full of heavily accented Deutschers singing “Happy Birthday, Dear Boogie!“ I think that Julie has tolerated me using this nick-name for her through gritted teeth all these years. Now she has a German family who know her by no other name. He he he.....
After a great week we were seeing them off, and now I knew I must start work. First I would have to familiarise myself with some digital recording equipment which was obtained in England, but never used there. I had been writing a lot – music and lyrics seeming to pour out of me all the time. There had been little opportunity to record anything in the previous months of travelling between our two countries.
The process of getting registered, insured and so on in a country as beurocratic as Germany was time consuming to say the least. I had thought that the English “establishment“ must be world masters in generating forms, questionaires and pointless dockets, but I was wrong. Rather like our football results in recent years, Deutschland has us beaten. If all of this slowed me down in respect of getting started with my recording, I was, at least, playing the Worpsweder session most weeks- but I was getting impatient.
H.D. asked me to play a Star Club style night at the Music Hall on September 29th. Once again Ted would play, and Lee Curtis. Having spent a lifetime writing songs I must say that my deepest wish is to bring some of these to audiences. That being said, I truly owe a lifetime of music to the Star Club experience and I treasure the friendships that have endured from that time.Whenever we meet and play it is unadulterated fun.
I accepted HD´s invitation of course, and doubt that I will ever turn down a Star Club event, as long as I can still stand. There is a time machine effect about this original rock music.From the moment they count off the first song I can almost see the years falling of the musicians and because they were THERE at the beginning they have AUTHORITY on a stage. It is wonderful.
“On Topper the World in Worpswede“.
My friends Topper (ex- Londoners drummer) and Peter Morrison, who are both with the still performing “New York Public Library“, decided to join us for a few days and take in the Worpswede Music Hall gig during thier stay. It was great to see them both again. We dropped in on the weekly acoustic session and I sang a bit, with Pete throwing in a nice harmony here and there.
The next night was the gig .Topper was clearly happy to see so many Hamburg faces – not only musicians, but some among the crowd. The place was packed (later on in the evening I wished it was not)! Uschi was the compere (in Deutsch they call it moderator, which to my English ears sound a bit like referee. Just what we needed as it turned out). The opening band played ` Beatles `pop at breakneck speed and VERY loud. They played and played. More than once I was told “you are on now”, and still the band played…. My ear system had been switched on, ready, throughout. When the band had played every Beatle song they knew (not the `clever ´ stuff – Day in the Life, Eleanor Rigby and so on) I was finally announced. When I took the gig I was told “we will get you a backing band”. It is usual in such circumstances to meet the band on the day, and so long as the musicians are competent this is not the “white knuckle” ride it could be. On this occasion I had drawn the short straw. My band for the evening was these `mock` Beatles. As I walked out on stage, the first thing I was aware of was the glaring faces of the band. They did not want to do this anymore than I wanted them to do it. I counted the first song in. It was deafening. As I approached the microphone I became aware of a second, bigger problem. My `in-ear`hearing system was out and I could not hear myself. What followed was the flailing of a band who would not know the blues, if they tripped over it. looking blankly at each other every time I played a chord that is not in "Twist and Shout" and all this with the `feel ` of a herd of stampeding wildebeest. As for myself – I was struggling and mostly out of tune, I was quite sure - but the professional thing is always to keep going. It was like being slowly spit- roasted.
I left the stage to fantastic applause which I could not understand. We certainly had not earned it. As for the band , recriminations would have been pointless, and I did learn that through a mix up (not H. D`s fault) they had not known that they would be required to back anyone. Niether do I say that they were actually a bad band, merely a bad band for me. Many friends were in – Jochen, Steve and others. Despite my discomfort and embarrassment they were all very warm to me. The audience had clearly loved it, and the subsequent review which appeared in the press, said the most complimentary things about me. Somebody up there likes me. It was undeserved ….. But on the night as Kingsize Taylor turned in his usual rocking set, I noticed that Topper, now in his cups, was grinning like a Cheshire cat. There were smiling faces all around and the only down turned mouth in the building was mine. I resolved to put it behind me and to try to learn something from the experience, keep smiling, as they say. The next day we were taking our English guests around Bremen and later to the airport for their return.
On 30th October I was invited to play at the Kukuc (literally `culture café `) in Ottersberg. This was a strange night with many kinds of acts – poets, singers and for one night, Brian Parrish. I took my friend Markus Willer with me to play slide on resonator guitar. I played acoustic . I could hear everything! The evening was a great success and Markus, as ever, played some lovely stuff. The Worpswede thing was forgotten, and my confidence was back!
In November I was asked by Ted Taylor to join him and the band for another rock `n `roll night at the Downtown Blues Club in Hamburg. Howie was on board.. “No” was not really an option unless I was pre – booked else where. I was not. We did the gig, I sang some stuff, this time with the able support of the Dominoes. I did have some hearing problems – but nothing that anyone else would notice – it just inhibits my playing. I am still coming to terms with what I can do in a “live” situation with electric instruments. Meanwhile the people always love what I do - and I am very grateful for that – and the warmth and friendship of Ted and the boys is great. Another good night.
In December I played the acoustic session together with Mr. Westaway and company in the Music Hall itself where a Christmas market was taking place. Great fun. Big hit with the people.
2007 My digital studio is now set up and with the kind help of my good friend Heiko Grein , I have been learning to use it. I am very exited by the new songs. One of them, “Moving on” has proved very popular with audiences at the `acoustic Lounge ` sessions in Worpswede. Another song – the recording of which was completed in January in my home studio, is “Help me Darling”. This song was the song given to me virtually intact as I lay in hospital in 2000 recovering from neurosurgery. I have no explanation for this. It seems an unlikely time to get a musical idea – but there it is. I wrote a bridge for it and some additional lyrics in our home in Adolphsdorf. The song could have been written in its entirety just yesterday, so fresh does it sound. Heiko Grein is my remix engineer, I am delighted to say. I trust his ears, his technical ability and his integrity as a `music man `. This is one more reason why I have agreed to do some promo work with his Dandyland label.
Now that I am installed in Germany I am filled with energy and optimism for the future. The songs are flowing and the project in hand is to get these recorded for a CD to be issued later this year. The tentative title is “Moving On” – but that could well change.
Mit freundlicher Genehmigung von: wikipedia.org, privat + Brian Parrish
vom Hamburger Starclub, der Starclub bis 1969, aber auch Sportbilder,Staedte und Sonstiges der Stadt Hamburg sowie
Alle Bilder Copyrigt by
JR-Project Jens Rabenstein, Robby Günther
sind viele Bands wie AC-DC, Deep Purple, Beatles, Lee Curtis, Led
Zeppelin, aber auch Stars wie Conny Froboes, Frank Zappa, Rolling
Stones, Walker Brothers /// Städte wie Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin
/// Sport wie Uwe Seeler
, HSV, Rosendahl, Gerd Müller, Kottysch u.v.a.
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Alle Bilder Copyrigt by JR-Project Jens Rabenstein, Robby Günther