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...
Well, oh dizzy anoraks, a moment for Ron.
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.
a roadie sounded like great fun Pete?
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!
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.
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.
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
this version of Cockney Rebel record any demo tracks together?
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.
what guitar were you using at the time?
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.
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.
there any other standout memories of this time?
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.
was sometime around this period when I acquired those shoes.
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!
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?
what memories do you have of living with Steve in Cholmondesley?
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!
the only one with a driving license, I had inherited the job of
driving the band around.
then there were the gigs?
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.
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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