Bernie Marsden - Blues Rock Survivor - Pt 1
Bernie Marsden is a true blues rock survivor, with a career stretching back almost 40 years. Primarily known today as a driving force behind what many feel to be Whitesnakes halcyon period, Bernie was the main writer of some of their very biggest hits including ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Fool For Your Loving’. Bernie has also had an exceptionally varied career outside of his time with David Coverdale and the boys.
In this epic three-part interview, Bernie gives AOG the full run down on his career from the nascent Blues Rock scene of the mid 1960’s right up to the present day. Bernie has worked, recorded with, and played alongside a veritable Who’s Who of the British and International rock scene. Names such as Cozy Powell, Tony Ashton, Micky Most, Suzi Quattro, Don Airey, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, Jeff Beck, David Coverdale, Robert Plant, Sam Brown and even Paul Weller all crop up in an interview that I personally have been looking forward to getting out there for a long time.
Back in 1992 as a young guitarist just starting out, I was lucky enough to play and record occasionally with the great Don Airey, who has played and recorded with just about everyone in the business rock world from the mid 1970’s to the present day – Colosseum II, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jethro Tull, Whitesnake and Deep Purple to name just a few…
One day Don called to see if I would guest at a charity concert that he was putting together with some of his industry pals (including Bernie) to be held in the grounds of my old school in Cambridgeshire. I was due to guest on a couple of tracks, including Guns’n’Roses ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, whilst wearing the leathers and full wig/top hat Slash gear…
I was due to perform about an hour or so into the set, and so was left backstage and told to keep out of sight. I was supposed to listen for the cue that “a very special guest has flown in to play for you all” – i.e. me pretending to be Slash – and walk out to a hero’s welcome, ripping out some hot lead guitar. The thing was, that there was a lot of booze backstage and with time on my hands it is fair to say that I perhaps indulged more than I should have done…
It was later recounted to me from audience members that I just about got through it with ego and reputation intact! However, my enduring memory of that day was watching Bernie at close quarters. The sound that Bernie got of his guitar, lead, and amp was mind blowing – a rich, deep and ‘real’ tone that made my fizzy preamp driven effort sound anaemic in comparison. He soon helped correct that, and I learnt something about how some of those guys get great sounds day in day out, year in year out – often with just a decent valve amp, a cool guitar and the most basic of set ups. Truly, sometimes ‘it’s all in the fingers’…
For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing him play live: irrespective of whether you are a traditional blues man, a country picker, a metal monster, a shredder or whatever style – do yourself a favour and go and see the man in action. A simply fabulous blues rock guitarist with a touch and tone to die for – passionate and lyrical yet deeply ballsy – and exhibiting none of that ‘over-playing’ that most ‘rock players doing blues’ indulge in.
As this interview is published (January 2007), Bernie is gearing up for a trip to the 2007 NAMM show in Anaheim, Los Angeles – and to the many readers who will be attending: make sure you head on down to the PRS stands and check out Bernie in full flight. You won’t regret it!
In addition, in November 2006 Bernie’s highly recommended anthology ‘Snakes & Scales’ (a double CD collection charting his entire career to date) was released on Sanctuary records and is the perfect companion to this interview – our most in-depth yet! This is an excellent buy for any fans of rock and blues from the late sixties to the present day, and watch for a review and the chance to win some copies very soon.
In this first part of the interview Bernie takes us from being a schoolboy in leafy Buckinghamshire up to the cusp of stardom in the early 70’s.
Back in The 60’s
What can you tell us about your early days?
I’m from Buckingham, in the middle of the Home Counties delta!
By the time I was 12 or 13 the Beatles really hit and it had a big effect on anyone interested in music and the guitar. By that time I had had quite a lot of exposure to live bands at weddings or in local pubs and clubs. I also had a cousin about three years older than me who played in a band in Liverpool – which, as you can imagine, I was very impressed by! Around Buckingham in the early 60’s there were two or three bands who played regularly, and one them was really pretty good. They played at a lot of parties and weddings, as well as pubs, and I had a lot of cousins and various family friends of that generation who, when getting married, instead of some guy playing a piano would get this guy in with a gleaming red Stratocaster! That made such an impression on me. What’s more, this guy could play ‘Apache’ by The Shadows and things like that (so I couldn’t have been that old because ‘Apache’ is something like 1960?). Anyway I was about 11 years old but I remember it so clearly – standing as close to the front as possible, hearing the bass drum banging away close to my head, and watching the guitarists fingers move…
When did you take the plunge and get a guitar – and did you ever have any lessons?
The Beatles hit a few years later and the next thing is I’ve got myself a guitar, and pretty much like everyone else from my generation the rest came from there. We were pretty much all 100% self-taught in those days. I mean, even if you had wanted to find a guitar teacher, the best thing back then would have been a classical teacher. You might have been lucky with a guy who could do the latest stuff and who played in a local band, but there were a lot of people who would turn their back on you if they knew that you played. You know, they might have learnt the latest Searchers lick or something (!) and spent the whole week doing so, and the last thing they wanted was for a little Herbert like me to come along, watch them play it once or twice and go “Oh…that’s how you do it”! It’s not to say that all of them were like that, but a lot of back turning was going on as far as I remember!
It was really a case of ‘do it yourself’ – I remember for years playing in my bedroom, playing along with whatever records I could on my mum and dads old Stereophonic record player. There was a lot of putting yourself on the spot – someone would say, “Oh, have you heard the latest Chuck Berry song?” and you’d go “Yeah, I can play that one” to which it would be “Can you? Show me on Friday then at the youth club”!
Now, this would be like a Tuesday or a Wednesday, so you’d have to rush home and figure the record out quick! Putting that sort of pressure on yourself really worked, and as we were all new to this game I’m sure that everyone from my era had all that.
When did you start gigging?
By the time I was about 15, I could play quite well, but was still very much the bedroom player. But one afternoon I got the chance to play in the garden of a local pub; I think there was a particularly good quality acoustic guitar that got my attention – so when someone said “Bernie can play” I had a bash around. What I didn’t realise was that one of the guys from the locally famous band was standing watching just a few feet away from me and he came over to me afterwards and said, “Kid, what are you doing tonight?” I, of course, went “What do you mean?” and he replied “Well, we’re playing this pub tonight and the guitarist isn’t going to show – he’s going out with some girl – could you do the booking with us?” (In those days gigs were called bookings). Now, I did know a lot of their material because I’d been to see them umpteen times; but, of course, going to see them and watching is one thing – suddenly being put in a situation when it’s “play tonight with us” is another.
I don’t know why – spur of the moment maybe – but I said yes…I think that if I had had longer to think about it I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it – but I had like three hours!
They gave me a basic set list of what they did (and I already knew about 60-70% of it in ‘my way’) but when I got there, there wasn’t a bass player either! Now, rhythmically, that was one of the best things that could have happened to me, because I had to keep the whole thing going without just doing all that flashy single string work – which at that time probably wouldn’t have been that great anyway. Having said that, the reason they wanted me was that I had all the new influences down – like Hendrix and Beck – that the other guys didn’t.
How did it all go?
Oh, it was fantastic! And, they even gave me money – I’d not even thought about that! It wasn’t much but it was still great! What I didn’t realise was that there were a lot of politics flying around that guitarist (who was a bit of a hero of mine). What was happening was that, being in his early twenties, his girlfriend was trying to take over his life a bit.
Of course I was only 15, and they realised that I would be still living home with mum and dad – so they asked me if I would be able to make every weekend after that; I said yes and that was it!
My hero never really got a look in – which I’ve always felt about guilty about to be honest! He’s still a good friend now – a really old acquaintance – and I still get that buzz seeing him play today; doing all that Shadows stuff – he still vibes me up as much as he did when I was a kid. Nipper Rogers, my first guitar hero – he still won’t have it though, which is nice really.
So was this when you started to take things to the next level?
Oh yes, that was the period when my guitar playing really kicked in; I think within a year I’d got myself a fuzz box, I could play ‘Hey Joe’ and all the other new stuff and, of course, this really impressed the younger crowd in the pubs. From there it was “This kid can really play” – I mean, I couldn’t really, but I was much better at the newer stuff than the previous guy who had come from the Shadows and Buddy Holly generation. So I was lucky in a way and that’s how my career started – or unlucky, depending upon the way you look at it!!
Home Counties Music Scene
What was the general scene like around your hometown area?
Well, it was pretty good; there were a couple of bands who were fairly decent and I ended up playing in both of them because I got kind of headhunted from the first band to join the second lot. They were the more popular band but it was a backwards move actually, because even though they were the ‘recognised band’ – you know, they had proper transport, and an agent and everything – they were doing pretty horrible gigs. I remember very early on with them thinking, “I don’t like these sort of places”; in the first band we were very much a ‘play in the back room of a pub type of band’. I liked that – real sweaty but real fun; and The Originals were really open musically so I could get to do some Howling Wolf and things like that. But with that second lot…well they offered me more filthy lucre, but when I said “How about trying this Muddy Waters song?” it was very much “We don’t do stuff like that, we like The Tremeloes” so, as you can imagine, I was: “Hold up, I don’t like playing with these guys very much”.
So I became the rebel in The Daystroms very early on!
One night, they threw a ‘Stage Clothing’ set up at me – you know, the crushed velvet pants, shiny shoes, and white polo neck sweaters! “ I’m not wearing that” I said, so they all went “Yes you will” – but you know what? I never did, and they all realised I was too much trouble so they got rid of me.
As it happens, I had already found some people my age to play with who had properly digested Cream, John Mayall, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Green and the rest, and that was when we decided to do it properly. This would have been about 67/68ish so I would have been around 17 and this became my first ‘proper band’.
When did the idea that this may be a career strike you?
I didn’t even think about it on that level until about 18 months later when I had a pretty decent band and we were starting to get a bit of a following. The thing is, you are never going to be really big in your hometown – and my first following came from Banbury in Oxfordshire, which is about twenty miles from Buckingham. You see, when you are an unknown and people only know you as a guitar player, straight away it’s “Oh, this kid’s great”, but in my home town it was always “Oh, here he comes – old big head” – you can’t win! Very focusing though…
Banbury was really good to me: the first place to really take to me, and even now I always try to get back at least once a year to play. Back then it was a good move because as a much bigger town they had quite a healthy circuit of bands, guys I didn’t know anything about, and pretty soon we were playing double headliners with all these groups. They were always much older than me and instead of “Oh, it’s him again” it was “You’re really good kid, show me how you do that and I’ll show you this neat lick”. It was quite a healthy environment; lots of helpful musicians – semi-pro guys – and their hearts were in it.
What were the sorts of venues you were playing now that you’d gone up a gear?
Mainly pubs on weekends; a lot of USAF base gigs and village hall shows where we’d often do two or three sets and old ladies (well, I say ‘old’ but they were probably younger than I am now!) would bring cups of tea and sandwiches during the break!
Village hall gigs became more and more popular in the late 60’s, I saw The Primitives in 1966 in a local village hall, and they were very good.
The landlords would always say “If a fight starts – keep playing because if you don’t they’ll start on you”! Great experience! We also did a lot of weddings and parties, but I never liked those too much – always preferred the pub gigs. Having said that I never cared too much for the lunchtime sessions at pubs as it often seemed as if you were there as token background music…
Were there many ‘Jam Sessions’ or ‘Open Mic’ nights then? In most half decent sized towns the length and breadth of the UK you still tend to find these are popular…
Not really, I think that anyone of that era who was any good would have been out there working and gigging in a band.
Going to see bands was the version of “open mic” really, except that you learned from watching the real thing a few feet away from you.
Also, without being big headed or anything – and a lot of the guys will tell you this now – I basically terrified most of them because, even though they were all good, they couldn’t get close to what I was doing because I was the only one doing it. You know, I’d got a wah-wah pedal, and could play the lick to Voodoo Chile – and it was “Oh, he’s as good as Hendrix” – and bending the strings – well, at that time that was outrageous! I’d done all my homework, and read about people putting banjo strings on, so I was hip to all that at a young age. I’d started on bending and vibrato from so early on in my playing that it was totally natural to me – working from records, I’d got licks from Eric, Jeff Beck and Jimi. Everyone else around was from the previous generation, where Hank Marvin was the role model, so I was a bit different. Doing all of those things meant that you found your own level; and regarding vibrato again, well that’s something you can’t really teach – or we’d all be doing it. You’ve either got it or you haven’t – and a shocking vibrato is still one of the scariest things in Christendom!
Was it when you first started getting a following in Banbury that the idea that you could become a professional guitarist took hold? And which band were you in at that time?
Skinny Cat was the band that first got that following in Banbury, and actually some of the songs that we recorded have surfaced for the first time in more than 30 years on my new Anthology album. I dissected 4 tracks and made a little medley. These were originally recorded in order to get us gigs – because you didn’t dream of getting a record deal (even though we all tried!) – but you needed recordings to get bookings. And we got a load of good ones, opening for Fleetwood Mac, Vinegar Joe, Groundhogs, Keef Hartley Band, Jeff Beck, Slade, Argent, Hawkwind, Skid Row (where I met Gary Moore for the first time, he was great then, and still is) and Chicken Shack plus (Ed note: see a new review of Stan Webb and Chicken Shack in the Live Reviews section) lots more.
In fact one night we went to see Chicken Shack – this would have been around 1970 – and I was admiring Stan’s great playing (after all, he’d played with Freddy King so I was in awe of him!) and after 3 or 4 songs I turned to the lads and remarked how great I though he was; to which they said “ Well, you’re as good as him.” I was like “Naaah…he’s a professional” and laughed it off. But it stuck in my mind over the next few days, and I thought if that these guys who’d worked that closely with me thought that, then maybe I should give it a go. That was when my first professional aspirations really kicked in. So I asked the guys if they really thought that I could be a pro, and they laughed and said, “You could have been gone ages ago”.
Now, I’d never thought about it in those terms; you had your security of a job on £15 a week or whatever, saving for that strat and you never thought that it could be you – pro’s were the guys that you went to see, so how to actually become one was beyond me. I mean, you don’t just become one overnight, do you? But, of course, after you do a few auditions and you get a gig, you realise that actually that is what can happen!
You’ve mentioned that in essence you made the transition from busy gigging provincial guitarist to full-time professional guitarist almost overnight – is that what happened?
More or less! What happened was that once I made the decision to give this thing a go, I went for lots of auditions, and actually got quite a few gigs; but I turned them down – I was a bit of a pain in the arse to some people I think!
You see, those were the days when in the Melody Maker it would be advertised ‘Name Band require Lead Guitarist’, but the ad would never tell you who the band was. So, you’d go down to London, or Birmingham – usually London – and you’d be in a waiting room with 20 other guys and it would be “Who is it, who is it?” “It’s East of Eden” “Ohh…” So you would do the audition, do pretty well, and afterwards they’d tell you that you’d got the gig – and then you’d have to say “Thanks, but no thanks – it’s not for me.”
And did that that happen a lot?
Well, it happened a few times; I remember clearly that I had to say no to Renaissance, Sam Apple Pie, and East of Eden. Now, subsequently you’d get to know to them all and you’d have a laugh about it – “You used to be a bit of an upstart!” But, in a way, it’s like going for a job as a pro footballer and when you get there it’s for a rugby player – just not the same.
Is that how you got the UFO gig – by replying to an advert in Melody Maker?I went for the UFO gig first of all because the ad said ‘Name Band require Lead Guitarist, have management deal with Chrysalis’. I thought “…Ah, here we go”, so I went for it and got it. However, I realised almost from day one that I shouldn’t really be doing it, but I was very mercenary about it – they had the management, the record deal, and there was the offer of a trip to Japan (which never came up by the way!) – so I took it. I thought that if I was going to ever break out of this local thing – you know, a big fish in a very small pond – then this might be the opportunity; and I went from playing to 200 people (on great night) back home to suddenly being on tour in Europe, playing to 1000 people in Frankfurt! I realised then that I had made the right move, and resolved to do it for as long as possible, and to try to enjoy it.
Which line up was this?
This was Phil Mogg, Pete Way and Andy Parker and over there in Europe it was great. Here I was a pro, travelling around and being paid for it – great! It was a very big jump, very quickly: after just a few weeks we were over in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. We would do a circuit of venues and then be back in the same area a few weeks later, and I realised that there were some people coming to the shows again just to see me – and that really was a great feeling, because it was suddenly clear that it wasn’t just Banbury after all! Here I was doing it internationally and it was very exciting.
The only thing was, I didn’t really want to be doing it with them!! I didn’t like the material: it wasn’t anything like the stuff that they became famous for – it was like ‘space rock’…not really me! But looking back of course it was the right thing to do at the right time for me, and I will always have a soft spot for those guys as they gave me that opportunity.
So I gather that you were there when they made the acquaintance of a certain Herr Schenker?
You could say that – in many ways it was me that discovered Mike! The Scorpions were opening up for UFO on regular occasions in those days and I always used to like to go and watch the support act. So, I went out to watch and there’s this 16/17 year old (and I wasn’t much older at 19 or 20 then) with white hair down to his waist cut in a way that all you’d see is this Gibson Flying V coming from under it – and being played brilliantly! I went back to the rest of the guys and said “Come and look at this kid playing – he’s amazing!” And old Phil Mogg said “Nah…we don’t watch support acts.”
I tell you, it was at that point that I knew that I’d got to get out of this – and I knew that Michael should be my natural replacement so I helped make it happen. So, poor old Michael – he’s had 30 years of trouble ever since!
How did you extricate yourself from the UFO machine?
I very unprofessionally failed to show up for the start of the final (4th) tour that I was supposed to do. I sat at home filled with remorse, because I knew that a certain percentage of the crowd would be expecting to see me, so I was letting them down as well as everyone else. After a couple of days I jumped on a plane, went and found the guys and said “Look, we’ve got six weeks or whatever to do, let’s finish these dates – but after that I’m out – get Michael Schenker in.”
We made a deal to never talk to the press about the fact that we’d played together – and you know what? – That lasted about 20 years. Before it all came out in the open, it was always rumoured: it would be “Did you play for UFO?” “No, no” or “Did Bernie Marsden ever play for UFO?” Now, of course, they would say, “No, he auditioned for us but we didn’t want him!” They loved saying that! We actually did some demos with Dave Edmunds that have never seen the light of day, but were actually pretty good!. In the studio it was a different kettle of fish; I’d get them to do some Janis Joplin numbers and generally toughen things up – so maybe I did end up influencing them in my own way after all.
Anyway, one night we were playing a festival in Berlin and I’d heard that Wild Turkey were looking for a new guitarist, so I went to find them and they suggested talking to Glen Cornick – who at that time was sitting up in the rafters of the lighting rig watching the show. I climbed up there, tapped him on the shoulder (we’d all met before on the circuit) and asked what was what and he replied, “Great, come to rehearsals on Tuesday”. They used to rehearse down near Kew Gardens, so I popped down and that was that; before I knew it I had been with them a year – it was all very natural and easy.
London in the early 70’s
A lot has been written about how groovy London was in the 60’s, but the general conception seems to be that London in the 70’s was all social and economic depression, the end of the hippie dream and all those cliché; what are your overriding impressions of those days?
In a word? – Vibrant! There were loads of rehearsal rooms, loads of places to play, loads of great players around and it was all very, very enjoyable. The gigs were all great fun – even ones that at the time we thought were dodgy weren’t really – they were just a little bit less good than the others. Getting back to UFO for a second, they used to have a Friday night residency at The Marquee, and I’ll always remember the first week I was with them (so this was my first week as a pro) arriving at the Marquee to do the gig and seeing the crowd stretching well into Wardour Street. I felt that I had arrived! That whole period was a very exciting time; you’d go to The Speakeasy club after you’d played the gig, and instead of having to queue, now you’d get invited straight in “Oh, come in, come in” – before you couldn’t get arrested near the door. All of those hangouts are long gone now of course…but at the time I was working 5, 6 nights a week because there were so many places around to play at. Unfortunately the gigs just aren’t there nowadays. They were all fairly well paid too, because the whole city was buzzing and you’d normally have packed clubs. It was a great time for all of us – and everybody pretty much played all the time. You’d have your 3 tonne truck, a couple of roadies and your own PA. There were no house PA’s back then; you’d have to take it all with you gig to gig – even to Spain. Now, there’s a story…we were there when Franco was still alive…best wait for my book for all that! That whole time is gone, and in many ways it was the end of an era. Back then you could still see all the genuinely legendary rock bands and players playing decent venues where you could actually see them properly: The Who, Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. It would be great because you’d never know who was in town, so on any nights that you had off, it would be “Fancy going out later, because Cozy Powell’s playing at so and so..” and you’d know Cozy’s name from his time with Jeff Beck’s group, so you’d go down to The Roundhouse, have a few drinks and you’d never know who you’d bump into – and a lot of bands had been formed through bumping into each other in clubs.
I can tell you: it was a great moment in time to be ‘coming up’ in the music business; and I wouldn’t think it’s like that for the younger load of musicians in London nowadays, although I may be wrong…
Is that how you began your association with Cozy Powell then?
Well, I first met Cozy briefly in a rehearsal studio; Jeff Beck and Cozy used to rehearse at a place called TW music, which was where I used to rehearse as well. It was a place on the Fulham Palace Road in West London, just north of the river. I remember seeing his magical red Ludwig kit in there and all his flight cases with The Jeff Beck Group stencilled on them – which was like the Holy Grail to a guitarist like me in those days. Cozy came in to get his kit one day and we met then. A while later, Cozy had a band called Bedlam and Wild Turkey and Bedlam played quite a few double headliners. Bedlam were quite feted at the time, they were going to be the new Cream – and Felix Pappalardi produced them – but you could see that all wasn’t well. Whenever we met we used to natter about football mostly, but I do remember him talking about his new record coming out – ‘Dance With The Devil’ and he said that he was doing it as a solo artist for Mickie Most; he said it was basically a Sonny Nelson type of thing, a real Let There Be Drums.
Out it came and it was a massive – which of course brought an end to Bedlam as I don’t think they could handle suddenly having a pop star drummer. You know, I think it got to number one.
Anyway, Cozy said that he was going to put a band together, and asked me to play lead guitar; he mentioned that he had Clive Chaman on bass – so that in my mind made me Jeff Beck…I wish! The next bit of the jigsaw was that he was auditioning a kid fresh out of music college – who had been recommended to him by Clive as well as Max Middleton – and that was Don Airey. Auditions were at the old Fender Soundhouse on Tottenham Court Road – which was at that time seemed the biggest guitar shop on earth, but also had loads of rehearsal rooms as well and was a real social gathering place for the musicians of that era. And that was how Cozy Powell’s Hammer started.
How long did this union last for?
About 9 months! Everything was always crumbling around Cozy, although he had two more hits. The last single we did as a band was a very stupid pop song called ‘Na Na Na’, but in that period we were on Top Of The Pops all the time. In that time the band did very well, and I was doing loads of work on the Mickie Most record of that time as he started using me as his in-house guitar player. I played on a bunch of Hot Chocolate records, Smokie, CCS, Racey – he sued to call me up and say “Bernard, come down to the house, I’ve got the mobile here” – the famous RAK mobile recording studio – and I’d get picked up in his Rolls Royce and taken down to his fabulous house in Totteridge. As you can imagine, I was very impressed with all that; two years previously I was working on a building site, happy to be in a band, so it all came very quickly really.
The problem was that when we felt it was time to do a Hammer album, Mickie more or less knocked it on the head: he said that he was used to working with artists that he could do everything for, get in all the session musicians and look after all aspects of their records. He didn’t feel that he could cope working with a bunch of musicians who knew what to do properly, as there wasn’t much input left for him; he couldn’t really start telling us lot how to do a part – certainly not Cozy! So for a big band with sell out shows everywhere to get knocked on the head was at the time pretty rough; I remember one Friday this was going on and the next week it was all over – I was a bit gutted at the time…
This would have been around 1974?
Yeah about then; Cozy went off to form Strange Brew with Dave Clempson and Greg Ridley, great players both of them, we read about it in the music papers and it was a bit “Oh, that won’t work…” – you know, sour grapes and all that! In the meantime I got a call from Steve Girl who was the piano player in Babe Ruth (who I’d been in Wild Turkey with) and he asked me if I wanted a job. I’d never heard any of their music, but I went up to Hatfield one day to rehearse with them – and, to be honest, if I had heard their stuff I probably wouldn’t have gone! – But as I was now an established pro guitar player, I had to keep things going so it was for the best. The music was all a bit proggy for me, but there was the lure of a tour in Canada or somewhere – and they had a girl singer, so, being a sexist pig, I said “Oh, great, count me in”!
They were all nice people, though apart from Steve I knew nothing about them; but it was all very easy – I didn’t have to audition or anything it was “Here’s the new guitar player” and we were off. They made me very welcome but when it came to learning all the material and starting to arrange things for playing live, I realised that the previous guitarist had basically written and arranged all their music – he was musical director, songwriter, producer, everything. They needed me to kind of assume that mantle, as they needed a leader figure again – and as they were ready to go into the studio again we cut a couple of my tunes. Babe Ruth had a deal with Capitol Records – the first British band to be signed direct to Capitol UK – and we had to work on the follow up album very quickly. I ended up writing about 80% of that record, which caused a couple of arguments. The bassist left, and as he was involved with the singer she quit, so there was all this going on and suddenly I’ve got my mates Neil Murray and Don Airey in the band doing sessions for this album – all very cloak and dagger. You know, if we’d got Cozy in it would have been Hammer again!
The record sounded pretty good and did OK – but right at that time Cozy phoned me (he was at this time in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow) to say that Jon Lord and Ian Paice were looking for a guitar player…
Part 2 coming soon…