The Pete Newnham Interview (Peter JH March 2005) - Part 2

Now the Cockney Rebel lineup was 'almost complete' where did you rehearse?

We rehearsed at Steve's, and also at a rehearsal room in Fulham, at the junction of Dawes Road and Munster Road. Henry McCullock and The Greaseband had some involvement with the place. It was probably there, after a couple of try outs with other bassist's, that Paul arrived for his audition. He was very nervous, and had been driven there by his father who seemed quite jolly. We played for a while, and everyone seemed happy, so the line-up was complete!

Another thing I remember about rehearsals (and gigs) was that there was a complete ban on drugs... which really meant no smoking dope!

At this time I was still working as a roadie. I worked with 'Big' Ron Kort (R.I.P.) who drove a big Mercedes Van fitted with reclining airliner seats! His party trick, with a manic grin, and blue tinted glasses, was to drive as fast as he could, in as tight circle as the wheels would allow... IN REVERSE!

Well, oh dizzy anoraks, a moment for Ron.               Thank You.

He sounded like a great guy.

Sadly, I only found out yesterday that he was no longer with us. My most memorable adventure (with this memorable person) was when we took all the equipment for Joan Armatrading's first album to the 'Honky Chateau' near Paris. The problem with this particular journey was that there was two Chateau's in France with the same name, and when we conscientiously got the route map from the AA, guess which one they gave us? It was more like 'Laurel and Hardy go abroad.' When we eventually delivered, I did manage to have a bit of a play while the band were warming up.

Being a roadie sounded like great fun Pete?

It was heavy work! Driving across the country, with Ron and I unloading the back line and big P.A. Setting it up, making sure everything was working, then doing a sound check - and making sure nothing went wrong during the set. Finally, we would take it all down again, pack it all away, and drive home.
We did get the music 'for free' though!

Do you remember any other bands you worked with?

Yes. I remember we worked regularly for several bands including: Assagi (an offshoot of Osibisa), The 3rd Ear Band (The soundtrack for Roman Polanski's Macbeth), and a band called Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts (who also had a couple of hits as 'Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs') . The latter were a great footstompin', crowd pleasin' goodtime blues band with great slide guitar and zob stick! The 'Zob' stick was actually a broom handle with metal bottle caps nailed to it, and a large army boot nailed to the end. It was used to stamp out the beat.

An interesting fact was that their stage equipment was actually carried in one huge, enormous, wooden box! The drums, amps, weights, and the Zob stick. It all went in! The Keyboard player in the Thunderbolts was the craziest of a crazy bunch! His name was Jonah Lewie (Don't Stop the Calvary), who may still remember the night/early morning when we were so exhausted, and so very (you can fill this bit in yourself) that we ended crawling half way up the four flights of stairs in Redcliffe Gardens. We ended up collapsing in fits of laughter, waking up Geogina, who lived on that floor, who graciously made us coffee and we played records till morning.

Ah nostalgia rush.

Anyway, a girlfriend of Jonah Lewie's had a pair of shoes in beautiful soft leather with chunky red built up heels. They had bright red and blue panels, and I instantly fell in love with them, and she gave them to me! Those same shoes I wore for the Cockney Rebel gigs. They were a bit on the small side, but exactly the right look, and well worth the suffering! I wonder what happened to them?

 

Pete Newnham

 

Did this version of Cockney Rebel record any demo tracks together?

Yes, we made our first demos at a friend of Steve's studio, Riverside Recordings. 'Judy Teen', 'Ritz' and 'That's Alright That's Me' were the three songs. I had expected to do two guitar tracks, one a rhythm guitar and then a lead overdub for each song - but there was only time for a very rushed guitar take. This was also don't forget, the first time I had been in a serious recording situation. So, although at the time we all were over the moon with the general result, I wasn't too happy with the guitar. It was the first time I'd come across the attitude that the guitar should be recorded as clean as possible and effects added later. It didn't work for me then, and doesn't work for me now. For me, if you work with a sound then you have to hear it as it's recorded, or it affects the style of playing. It seemed obvious to me, but not to all the engineers/producers I've come across. Going back to those demo tracks, they were very clean and untreated, except for a phased drum reverb fadeout on 'Ritz' and a bit of echo on John's violin on 'Judy Teen'. A lot of time was spent getting Steve's vocals to sound right, and they sounded amazing. Anyway, the demo was to play to prospective management rather than record companies.

So what guitar were you using at the time?

I was using a Gibson S.G. De Luxe red guitar. I liked it enough to make it a dark blue velvet fitted 'Jacket' that covered the body. The amps I had were both Vox AC 30's. Steve had the combo, which was the better of the two, for his 12 string guitar. I used the other one, which was older and was split, separate amp and speakers.

How soon did things get moving for you as a group?

Things moved fast, Trevor Beaton and John Deveraux were played the tape, and took over management - but that was Steve's area. The rest of the band had little to do with that side of things. Trigram was the name of their company, with John Deveraux also owning a restaurant on the Fulham Rd. called The Teddy Bear's Picnic, which included in it's menu the wonderfully titled 'Desperate Dan's Cow Pie' complete with a pair of horns! This is where those seated clown group photos were taken. Let me introduce you to the band. John was 'Master Mascara', Stuart was 'Simply Lorraine', Steve was 'Muriel the Actor', 'Paul was 'Luigi Le Fou', and I was 'Queen Sagittarius'! These were the names that we were introduced as, to both the public and the press.

 

Photo from 'The Teddy Bear's Picnic'

 

Are there any other standout memories of this time?

Yes. We also rehearsed in a basement on the Pimlico side of the King's Rd. where I remember going out to get a sandwich with Paul and I being chased down the road by a crowd of girls who thought Paul was Marc Bolan! I also remember us all going to the West End and hunting 'round for the right sort of greasepaint for the clown make up. The look was based on the Auguste clown, fitted jacket with a white ruff, and wide knee length trousers. My outfit was blue and glittery, I think we all had blue outfits except Steve who wore green. We also took a trip to a Circus on Shepherd's Bush Green just to see the clowns. Meanwhile, we were fitted for our costumes, and rehearsed hard.

It was sometime around this period when I acquired those shoes.

At some point before the first gig Steve and his girlfriend Jill, John, my girlfriend Sue, and myself moved into a house on Cholmondesley (pronounced Chumley) Rd in Harlesden, round the back of the Labour Exchange. Being new to the area I went to sign on and was promptly given a job upstairs sorting files!
Lovely.

I also remember painting a clown's face on the front of my acoustic 12 string, on which I took 6 of the strings off, so the sound didn't clash with Steve's. John Liked the result, so I painted a design on his violin, and then decorated Steve's bowler with coloured glitter. I also remember John in his baggy blue denim dungarees, violin under his chin, and singing old English folk songs, we could have been sitting in the sun at harvest time instead of Harlesden - absolutely priceless! And a pipe, I do remember the pipe don't I?

So what memories do you have of living with Steve in Cholmondesley?

I was working days and used to go home for lunch, and Steve would be there, typing away in the front room, and playing records. 'Transformer', 'Blonde on Blonde', 'Hunky Dory' and 'Ziggy Stardust' were the main records played. Other times he would be running through songs with John, or, he'd be upstairs in his room practicing in front of the mirror. I can also remember having to duck out of sight when the bailiffs knocked on the door to discuss payment for equipment!

Being the only one with a driving license, I had inherited the job of driving the band around.

And then there were the gigs?

Yes, the first gig was to be at the Fulham Greyhound. First there was to be a full dress rehearsal at a secret location in the country.

This seems a good place for a coffee break... we can talk more later about the gigs, and fill in all the gaps! I'm sure you have plenty more to say?

Yes, great idea.

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