The following is an interview that appeared on the now defunct Technodyke website.
Trying to track down the elusive Nickey Barclay, the former keyboardist for Fanny, is very akin to finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. If you do a web search, you won’t find any new info past the late 1970’s. Fortunately, someone associated with Fanny (Editor’s note: That was Byron Wilkins) was able to put me in contact with her. Nickey lives on the other side of the world and she is very reclusive. The following interview took place over the course of several weeks via email and is the first interview that she has done in close to 20 years. Be forewarned, she is very intelligent, caustic, and opinionated. She does not suffer fools lightly. She is also a survivor in one of the most mercurial businesses in the world. This is what she had to say.
Technodyke: Tell us about your early life and how you got into music?
Nickey: Damn, the first thing that sprang to my mind when reading this question was “Hah, can you imagine someone way-back-when interviewing J. S. Bach and asking him that?” Just imagine his response: “Let’s see, teethed, had a lot of illnesses, got beaten by parents, got beaten by priest, went to Mass all the time, got beaten by organ teacher, discovered I could get paid for writing hymns and stuff, whatever.”
From earliest childhood, I’ve been puzzled by the concept of fame-hunger and all that goes with it. I’ve also been eternally puzzled by the concept of gossip, indeed by all sorts of nosiness on the part of strangers. I have no interest in true crime stories in the daily news, nor for the most part in the opinions of creative artists whose work I enjoy, where those opinions aren’t part of a particular artist’s oeuvre. Way back in the 60s, The Kinks had a song called ‘Top Of The Pops’ which mocked the way the public hangs on the opinions of pop stars; I haven’t thought about it for years, but there was a line that went something like “…they ask me my opinions on politics and religion…”, and it was Ray Davies’ sarcasm that grabbed me (and made me delighted to work alongside him in later years). To this day I’m boggled by the way people bay for the various details of Celebrity Childhoods. This only applies to people who are already public faces, though – when someone enters my private life in a close relationship, better believe that I want details, details, details…so long as they don’t ask too many questions in return. Something else I did from the very off was to dodge cameras very successfully, so no one could pull out embarrassing childhood pictures in years to come. Paranoid and manipulative? Moi? Damned right. Chrissie Hynde (wonderful artist but NOT someone I’d want to meet, given what I’ve been told about her personal sociopolitics) said it best. “Private life drama? Baby, leave me out!”
I’ve been writing poetry since I was three, and wrote my first song when I was eleven, before I started playing. I never recorded that first song, but it lives on in a way, because I used the bridge of it in ‘Knock On My Door’ (from the Fanny Hill album). And I have to say that I am SO glad Rhino included a live version of that on the CD collection, because our a cappella harmonies show the baroque feel of the original! That’s the only relevant piece of my childhood I want to share.
TD: Who were some of your musical influences?
Nickey: The earliest music I latched onto was Bach, followed by the ‘Impressionist’ orchestral composers like Tchaikovsky and Ravel. Next were Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, plus a bit of Patsy Kline…I have to say that Floyd Kramer’s legendary piano style was quite an influence. Then came the important part: my Dad was a fan of Black music (he never could sing or play or even whistle, but he loved music, and unusually for a parent in those days, was totally supportive of my decision to become a musician) and brought home the most wonderful stuff – Gospel, New Orleans Trad jazz, and most important of all, Ray Charles. Listening to Ray changed my life. I never realised how much influence his playing had on me, though, until I saw him as a guest on an Oscar Peterson special in the 80s…instead of playing a grand, there he was on a Fender Rhodes, and the similarities to my style were so strong that I stood up and shouted! Another Big Moment was the first time I heard Mickey and Sylvia Baker’s delicious R&B version of ‘Love Is Strange’ in the early 60s. There’s a signature riff in it, a classic bit of string-bending that just took the top of my head off, and which I cherish to this day. The next wonderful things my Dad did for me included The Franklin Sisters (before Aretha went solo!…and it was either Erma or Caroline who originally sang ‘Piece Of My Heart’, which is why I’ve never had the least time for Janis Joplin), early Gladys Knight, the Staples Singers, remember to ask me about them later as there’s an amusing and significant story in it, and best of all, both James Brown and Etta James. I’d also have to give a special mention to my big brother, who turned me on to the first two Taj Mahal albums, The Nat’ch’l Blues and Taj Mahal, when they first came out; the moment I heard ‘Good Morning Miss Brown’, it was like I’d always been there.
I loved all the Atlantic/Atco stuff, and especially the Stax/Volt stuff, and was very, very lucky because I got to see all these people live. Ironically, the one type of soul that revolted me was Motown (with the exception of Stevie). I found it unspeakably vanilla, especially the Supremes, and when I first met Wild Honey, it was seven strikes against them in my book because they were Supremes fans. Uggh.
Some other influential tracks from back then were ‘Cissy Strut’ by the Meters, ‘Soulfinger’ by the Bar-Kays,’99 and a Half’ by Wilson Pickett, and oddly enough, a record by a non-musician: Bill Cosby’s (actually Cheech & Chong’s) ‘Basketball Jones’!
In the early 70s I got bitten by the funk bug, too…Sly, Bootsy, the Georges, Ohio Players, Johnny Watson…but by then my inner style was already set from the previous, so these were more an affirmation than an influence.
Even though I’m also a longterm headbanger, my soul/R&B/funk roots are what has come to shape my style. I couldn’t use any of that in the context of Fanny, but that’s always where my writing was headed, and for over twenty years now it’s been the mainstay of my musical style. Of course, you’ll probably never know since I opted out of the mainline industry long, long ago.
At this point you’re possibly thinking, oh God, she’s into rap and hip-hop. Well, d’oh, yeah. But I’ve called it chant for decades, and I’ve been privately doing it since I was a child poet, though in those days I called it calypso. I think most mainstream hip-hop is suckarama, and almost all gangsta is a con job originally foisted on the public by white middle-class record execs (though I might admit, reluctantly and through gritted teeth, that Sean Puffy Diddy Arsehole Combs seems to be keeping up a showtime tradition descended from Bootsy via MC Hammer) but the good ones are REALLY good in my opinion. Some of the best remain the originals, e.g. Run DMC and the venerable Salt ‘n’ Pepa, but I think commercial chant is best done by women, Missy, Latifah, Kim etc., and also, ironically by Ye Great Whitebread, the wonderfully confrontational and skankily manipulative Marshall Mathers, who may be the greatest chanter to come down the pike since John Cooper Clarke.
TD: Tell us about some of your professional gigs before you joined Fanny, especially what it was like to be part of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour?
Nickey: You know that drugs gag about “if you remember the Sixties, you weren’t there”? It’s crap, as much of a con as the concept of a “generation gap” was/is. Not that I wasn’t an enthusiastic consumer of Recreationals then, but that’s not the reason that much of the 60s and 70s are a blur for me – it’s because I always lived for the moment and deliberately forced myself not to file dry facts about gigs in my memory. I remember endless fine details of gigs beyond counting, but I can rarely tell you where or when those gigs took place because I wasn’t paying attention in the first place! There was a wonderful line in 200 Motels: “All I wanna know is, where’s the beer and when do we get paid?” My attitude was even simpler: “Where’s the gig and how soon can I get laid?” But sometimes I almost regret not filing when-and-wheres. Like, I would *love* to know how I ended up playing in Johnny Rivers’s band at the Whisky A GoGo (legendary club venue on Sunset Blvd. where Fanny later had a sort of residency)- a band that consisted of Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, James Burton, Larry Knechtel, Mike and Donna Deasy… and me, an unknown untried teenaged girl…how did I get that gig? Who recommended me? Damned if I know, but it was a great and fun way to start, it being my first high-profile gig in Hollywood. And I’d also love to know how I got into the virtually unpaid gig somewhere in the Valley with some blues band, that led after-gig to a party at producer Denny Cordell’s house, and how I commandeered a grand piano there, and how I was suddenly “adopted” by Rick (Danko) and Richard (Manuel) from Bob Dylan’s band, who recommended me into the session scene…it’s all a blur. Some of these people I met after meeting Wild Honey, some I’d already met before – and I have NO idea how I first met Leon Russell and Joe Cocker and Chris Stainton. Through Denny, surely, but that’s as much as I know.
The whole Mad Dogs thing just sort of happened by accident. I’d been doing sessions with Wild Honey – in fact, we’d probably become Fanny by then – and had verbally agreed to join the band; then, one day, I was at Leon’s house, hanging with friends and participating in one of the permanent floating jams that were always going on there. It was myself, Joe, Leon, Denny, Chris Stainton, a groupie named Gail who later became Mrs. Chris, Jim Gordon, and I think Jim Price from the Stones’ horn section was there too. Joe and I were talking and toking and I was noodling on the piano (we were singing my song “Conversation With A Cop” together, as a matter of fact; damn, I would love to have had him record it) when the phone rang and Denny went down to get it. He came back some time later with a funny expression on his face, and said, “Anybody want to go on tour?” We all raised our hands, and then he explained that it had been the Immigration people on the phone, claiming that Joe hadn’t honoured a reciprocal musicians’ union agreement and that if he didn’t do a certain number of concerts pronto he would face deportation! Denny made all the arrangements, including intensive rehearsal time at this big barnlike soundstage owned by A & M. By nightfall there were ten of us in the band. By the time we finished just over a week of 18-hours-a-day rehearsal – with a break to record Space Captain and Cry Me A River at Gold Star – there were twenty-two of us. By the time I had given about one day’s notice to the Fanny crowd (which was a shitty thing to do, since it put them back by many months, and I was well aware of it, but if I had to do it all over again I’d do the same…
You have to remember, I was ONLY with them for the money, which I had yet to see at that point, and the choice between, as I saw it then, a collection of reasonably competent but basically clueless girly pop players on the one hand and a crazed fun carnival of the best musicians of the time on the other – well, it was no choice at all), there were the same number again of families, friends and hangers-on. It was total chaos from the off, the tour dates were tenuous to say the least, and the band didn’t even have a name. When we arrived at our first venue, in Detroit, the movie-type marquee outside the concert hall said “TONIGHT: JOE COCKER AND HIS 15 PIECE GREASE BAND”!!!, and we all fell about laughing. It was Denny who named us, on the spur of the moment, since he had decided to be part of the circus and chose the role of announcer, bringing us on stage every night.
The Mad Dogs tour was a true rock circus. It embodied not only the joyous, party-down glories of what Ian Hunter so accurately described as the Golden Age of Rock And Roll, but also the cruel manipulations of greedy managers/agents/labels who didn’t give a toss what happened to their living, breathing ‘possessions’ as long as records got sold. For most of us involved in the band side, it was like an endless campfire session, all good fellowship and, if not toasted marshmallows, plenty of passing the coke-and-tequila. But the downside was that Joe was treated like a piece of meat by the management. There’s a limit to what I can say, even after all these years, in case anyone from the management company is still alive, so I’ll just say hypothetically that once there was a manager who took a simple – simple as in uncomplicated, not dim – Yorkshireman who just wanted to sing, and hyped him up on a never-ending supply of some very dodgy drugs including angel dust until he didn’t even know what day of the week it was, and made an absolute fortune from his performances but paid him a pittance so small as to be disgusting at the end of it, okay? It still pisses me off to this day, even though I’m delighted that Joe eventually pulled his life back together again and became the living, working legend he is now.
In conversational language: Mad Dogs was a fucking gas, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world even though I got a kidney infection so bad I had to drop out of nearly three weeks of the tour, even though I’ve always hated cameras being shoved in my face, even though I had to watch Joe get messed around bigtime by his manager…and even though it put the rest of Fanny righteously out of sorts for most of a year.
A couple of relevant women’s-viewpoint bits about Mad Dogs:
One of the higher-ups in the band, a certain trumpet player whose name we shall not mention for fear of lawsuits, resented the hell out of the fact that I, a ‘mere girl’, was one of the players as well as being in the choir (which in rock music was the equivalent of the kitchen, complete with bare feet and chains), and tried at every opportunity to belittle me. One small but irritating thing he pushed through was to claim that, because Nicky Hopkins was already well known as a piano player, I couldn’t be allowed to be credited as Nickey Barclay since “it would confuse people”. So I had to use another name on the credits, and the bastard insisted on calling me by that name in front of everyone. What a git. I got my own back later, first because some of the later studio work I did with Joe in London included the original tracks for “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and “You Are So Beautiful”, and when they decided to re-record these in L.A. with Nicky Hopkins, he contacted me and asked my permission to copy my piano parts note for note since they were perfect, hehe…and second because, when Fanny’s manager sacked me for working with Keith Moon, he tried to replace me with another keyboard player who was the horn player’s missus, and the poor woman was soooo not up to the job that she left in tears after a couple of days!
Another is not a funny anecdote, and I could leave it lie, but I think it’s relevant to women in general. Another band member – let’s just say he was in the rhythm section – was a very good friend of mine. We were session mates and drinking buddies. His girlfriend, or wife or whatever, came along for the tour, and one morning she knocked on the door of my hotel room and asked for help. I let her in and there she was, black and blue. Seems they’d had a bit of an argument and he got mediaeval on her face. I was utterly appalled – NOT because this was the first real-life domestic violence I’d ever seen at firsthand, NOT because my good buddy had turned out to be an evil woman-beating monster, but (and this is the truth) because in my opinion the stupid bitch was trying to drop a problem in my lap and tarnish my friendship with a fellow musician and she_was_only_a_civilian_and_a_bedwarming_civilian_at_that. If it had been a case of one male bandmember beating up another, and the victim coming to me for help, it would’ve been another matter entirely. I made some excuse or other and told her to go see Claudia, a choirmember who was also nearly a friend of mine (very nice lady too!), and I NEVER mentioned it to the man in question. What does that say about me? What does that say about society? Maybe it’s more about the civilians and musicians divide than it is about sisterhood denied? Damned if I know.
There were other gigs before Fanny, and plenty of them, some with famous names like Johnny Rivers as I’ve mentioned (which was fascinating because his best mate, this guy named Elvis, came to one of our rehearsals and took me off to a corner during a break and asked me to sing a cappella with him and then asked me if I’d join his backing singers for the shows in Las Vegas; I refused of course, on the grounds that I was waaay under 18 and would come to a bad end if I took a pressure gig like that then, but I have to say he was a major nice-guy and a bloody great singer in real life), but really, Mad Dogs was the most significant part of the pre-Fanny days.
TD: Back in the 60’s, what was the atmosphere like for a woman in music, especially one who went out on tour with a group of mostly men?
Nickey: (laughs) That’s a bit of a daft question, since “what was [it] like for a woman” impliesthat I know what it was like for a man. I can only tell you what it was like for me! Also, bearing in mind that I was born in the early 50s, I can only speak for what the times were like in the late part of the era. Seriously…that’s a complex question. The short answer is that I never paid any real attention to the concepts of male/female inequalities. I was *way* too inturned for that. All I noticed was “Hmm, I want this and I WILL have it”…I was the sort of child who didn’t entertain the idea of “can’t”. The thing that most shaped my attitudes, all of them, was my lack of what you might call the Hang Gene: when I was put together at the old embryo factory, someone obviously stamped “Not A Joiner” on my forehead. So I never gave a toss about peer-group approval because I went out of my way to avoid belonging to any. I wasn’t even a proper tomboy, because while I was into the getting muddy and the tree-climbing and the bicycle stunts, *and* while I had no interest in dolls or “dressing up”, I was also very happy to use girly charm to get my way…and when my sexual fantasies about horses (let’s call a spade a spade here – a friend of mine calls them “thousand-pound vibrators” and I think that’s spot on the mark) crashed into the start of puberty, I simply transferred them to males with the same qualities, i.e. lean and rangy and fine-boned, with long, flowing hair. Wasn’t I bloody lucky, then, that in the late 60s and early 70s that type of sex object was in excellent supply….. Sorry for rambling, but it’s all connected. Because there were no women – or girls, since that’s what I was then – playing in bands when I started, I was always the only female in whatever band I was in, and I liked that just fine. I usually followed the first rule of being in a band, which is “don’t fuck the band” (your *own* band, of course – anyone else’s is fair game- and for the record, rule 1-a is “don’t start a band with your bedmate(s)”). Since I also wasn’t in scoring competition with the guys, I had my pick of civilians and fans after the gigs, but in all other matters I was treated like “one of the boys”, and I liked that just fine as well. The simple truth is that I never noticed any obvious anti-female prejudice until I became a part of the Fanny thing. I’m not saying it wasn’t there, just that nothing of that sort ever showed up as an obstacle. My attitude to life back then could be best summed up in the words of Faith, the hottest character in Buffy The Vampire Slayer: “Want, take, have!”
All in all, I was rather spoilt in a way. Meeting the other members of Fanny came as a bit of a shock to the system.
TD: How did you come to be a part of Fanny?
Nickey: After so very many years of not even *thinking* about Fanny, many people are suddenly re-entering my life from those days, or asking me questions about same, and it’s raised so many ghosts and opened so many cans of worms that I get confused. It’s probably best if I say the nice things first. Jumping the gun to “having been a part of Fanny” is about the only way I can do that: the best feeling I ever got from the whole thing was that of having made thousands and thousands of people happy through our music, and having opened the way for girls and women to be rock musicians in our wake, and most importantly of having inspired a number of fans, our age at the time, to take up music themselves. Some of those fans-turned-musicians kept in touch with me for years afterwards, and one of them, John Sanders, was a help in putting together historical material for the Rhino collection (mugs for imaginary camera: Hiya, John!) I was fairly conscientious about reading, and often answering, fan mail (yes, we got a lot of that even back in those days. Hey, we even had a stalker once!), and some letters intrigued me enough that I developed something like a sort of friendship with a few of the more intelligent fans. One case was, for me at that time, a very weird story. A beautiful young New York fan – I won’t mention names, in case she’s still alive and might prefer privacy – fell in love with me and openly declared it. Normally I would have run a mile at that, but for some reason I made an agreement with her that if she stopped writing me love letters, we could stay ‘friends’; she traveled thousands of miles to watch our gigs and I came to quite like her, even though I was in horrors about the lesbian angle. Eventually she made another declaration about how if she couldn’t have me, she could *be* me, and she took up playing and formed an all-female band. I don’t know what became of them in the long term but they were certainly gigging around New York in the late 70s, and I am proud about that.
Cue SFX: the sound of another can of worms being opened.
Shall I be brutal here and tell the truth? I hated just about every hour of being in Fanny (though, in the words of the Vogon guard in Hitch Hikers Guide, some of the actual minutes weren’t too bad). I was headhunted by Wild Honey, I joined very reluctantly and only after a few false starts, I wanted to quit before the ink on my contract was dry, and when I finally did make my escape I celebrated big time. I’m afraid that’s pretty much the whole story. As for the reasons *why* I felt that way, there were three main ones:
Number 1) Our musical backgrounds were galaxies apart. When I went to meet and audition for Alice, Jean and June for the first time, and we were about to have a first experimental jam, I said, “I don’t know if we’re into the same kinds of music, so why don’t we just try a simple 1-4-5 blues, you know, a 12-bar jam,” and I was answered by three totally blank looks. I remember thinking “Oh shit, I’m in trouble here already, they don’t even know what a blues progression is!” and being freaked by that. So I asked what music they were into, and was equally appalled by the answer. They liked the Beatles – I had no problem with that – but they seemed to know most of the vanilla Motown girl-group songs, and that did *not* go down well with me. And so it went, pretty much ever after. June and I were butting heads constantly from the off because she was into softer music. I felt then – and still feel – that that was a tragedy, because she could play the most delicious dirty rock lead and was a decent rock rhythm player too, but getting her to do these styles was like pulling teeth. We were the bane of each others’ existence! In a mixed or male band, that would have been easily solved by walking, but there we were signed to a major label and, as much of an I’m-all-right-Jack as I was, I wouldn’t have walked out on Alice and Jean again because I knew they wouldn’t be able to replace me…don’t forget that young rock keyboard players with tits were just about nonexistent back then.
In all fairness, Jean and Alice were much more tractable and willing to explore styles that were foreign to them. I was particularly hard on Alice in a musical sense, always working on her to do the ‘impossible’ parts I wanted to hear. It was a great relief to find out very recently, after almost 30 years, that she appreciated it!
Number 2) We had the Manager From Hell. I could write a whole book about Fanny’s manager, Roy Silver. Someone should, because he was the archetype of the crooked, sly, ego-ridden, manipulative band manager. Not to put too fine a point on it, the guy was a bastard. He screwed us sideways – literally, in the case of Jean, because he seduced her and installed her in his Beverly Hills mansion and poured a Shakespearean amount of ‘poison’ in her ear. Having Jean in his bed and at his beck and call meant that the Millington sisters couldn’t stand united, so he was able to mess us around any way he pleased. I could tell you stories that would curl your hair – all of them provable, since the only way I could eventually get out of what was effectively an indentured servitude contract to him was to spend months gathering hard evidence of his rip-offs and misdeeds – that sonofabitch was the main reason I left the Hollywood session circuit, and the music business altogether. I still get the shudders thinking about him.
One important thing for which I felt thankful to June: Silver insisted we get the “star treatment” from the off, claiming that if we acted like stars we would be taken as stars. This included flying everywhere on tour when we could usually have driven (I fought for, and finally got, the right to have ‘flight credits’ when I went with the band truck, which I did as often as I could because I didn’t want to hang with the rest of the band. It was those hard-won credits that enabled me to get back to London whenever I had a few days to spare!), and staying in the best hotels; unfortunately, it *didn’t* include getting paid. Each of us got a weekly allowance of pocket cash – the amount of which would be rejected by any typical burbteen as being an insult – and if we needed something, say shampoo, we had to see the road manager, Mark, and damn near submit a written request, but_we_were_never_paid_wages. After a couple of years of touring, June blew a gasket. She quite rightly pointed out that when we’d been unknowns at the start, we were doing the planes and the limos and the posh hotels, and several years and many tours and lots of airplay down the road we were still staying in the same hotels and flying the same top class flights, so there was no concrete evidence that we’d actually accomplished ANYTHING…in the end, the management offered each of us a token cash payment after each gig, and when I say token, I mean it – there we were, filling concert halls and getting mobbed by fans, and for each night we’d get the low end of sweatshop wages, but fair dues, June, at least it was *something*!
Silver and Richard Perry worked as a team to dollify our sound and to keep us from having any *real* say in how we were presented to the world. May they both roast.
Number 3) I was – and still, in many ways, am – one of the world’s most passionate misogynists. Well, that about says it all, doesn’t it? (sighs) This one runs deep, all the way to blood and bone. I was in my late twenties before I ever had a genuine close female friend (who remains my best friend to this day). My “nurturing instincts” run strictly to keyboards, plants and small animals. I can’t abide the sound of most female singers, particularly *white* ones (with a few notable exceptions like Marianne Faithfull), and as a lifelong sci fi fan I dislike most female novelists. And I sure as Hell have never understood the female bonding/sisterhood thing. Can you think of a more unlikely candidate for being one of the Founding Mothers of women in music?
(A note here: On the other hand, I have NEVER understood sexual discrimination for its own sake. The ideas of paying a woman less than a man for the same job, barring a woman from a job or field of endeavour simply on the basis of sex, and judging female and male skills in the same arenas by different standards, have always seemed completely daft to me. Go figure.)
When I was first told that an all-female band was looking to hire me, I thought it was a joke. In the late 60s the concept of a “girl band” meant one of two things: a Las Vegas-type travesty (think topless), or a radical-feminist collective project, and at that stage of my life I was revolted by either prospect. Wild Honey spent months tracking me down, and at first I put the phone down on them, and they wrote in large letters across my CV, “DOES NOT LIKE GIRLS”!!! But they persevered, and eventually I did join because I was promised good money. Hah! As if.
A long parade of radical-feminist and radical-lesbian groups and individuals tried to get us to ‘stand up’ as spokespersons for the women’s movement. My reaction was, like, get outtahere, the very fact that we WERE signed to Warner Brothers and headlining concerts and, well, succeeding made the point far better than playing politics ever could. I mean, we were feminism in action by definition, weren’t we?. Also, in those days, even though I thought male homosexuality was perfectly normal, I was deeply freaked by the concept of lesbianism, and certainly couldn’t abide it being shoved in my face. (Looking back, I can understand it, even though it’s been more than twenty years since I realised that I’m equally at home having sex with women as with men.)
You see, as far as I’m concerned, my sex is irrelevant to my playing keyboards. In fact, I think my sex is irrelevant to everything except private personal relationships. During my tenure in Fanny, I was often asked, in interviews and by people in general, if I considered myself a feminist.
“No,” I told them all, “I’m a me-ist.”
TD: Can you remember what your thoughts might have been back then about being a member of the first all-female group in the U.S. to be signed to a major record label?
Nickey: Damn, gotta do the truth yet again here. I didn’t know when to keep my mouth shut on the spin-and-tact front back then, and I suppose I still don’t. Funny, isn’t it – here I have a perfect opportunity to re-write my personal history for public consumption, to mouth the “right” platitudes, and my honesty, the same crippling honesty that made it too difficult for me to soak the best out of the entertainment industry, won’t let me do it. Look – Christy Brown didn’t think of himself as a disabled novelist; he just wanted to be a novelist. Professor Stephen Hawking doesn’t seem to have ever thought of himself as a disabled scientist; he’s too busy looking for answers to how the universe works.
I was always aware of two things: that I was female, and that I was a musician, but then and now, the two things seemed to me to have no de facto connection. The question you’re asking here carries a massive amount of baggage in this setting, let’s be honest about it. So I say again, I never set out to prove anything on the sexual politics front. As for being in Fanny, the only time I *didn’t* feel embarrassed by it, by being in what was so often branded as a freak show or a second-string musical project riding on the coattails of a strange sort of positive discrimination (the “Gosh, they can actually kick ass up there, let’s praise them even though they’re just girls instead of ‘real’ musicians” mindset), was during the course of a good gig. To me, being in Fanny was a sort of step down, because I was already a rising *real* musician before I joined; I felt that I’d been demoted from being perceived as a keyboard player who happened to be a girl, to being perceived as a girl who played keyboards, and I resented the hell out of it.
My only thoughts about being signed to a major label – to *any* label – were that it might give me an opportunity to share my music with strangers who otherwise might never have heard me. If the internet had been around back then, I doubt I’d ever have bothered looking for a label in the first place!
TD: Did you think back then about how much influence you might be having on future generations of women in music?
Nickey: Not in those exact terms, no. Of course I was aware of the impact Fanny was having, particularly on live-concert audiences and on music journalists! Those were the people who came to jeer at the freak show and came away as glowing-eyed converts. I knew deep down that we were changing the course of history, but it didn’t mean much to me, for all the reasons I’ve already given. Here in the early 21st century, I can look back across the gulf of years and feel – despite my attitudes – a sense of satisfaction for what we accomplished. In the same way that there were almost no left-handed guitarists 30 years ago because there were almost no left-handed guitars available to learn on, there were virtually no female rock/blues/soul/whatever players in bands because there were no bands willing to take on female player-wannabes so girls and women had no place to start. Now, left-handed guitarists and female musicians are considered perfectly normal, just part of the furniture, and the latter traces its evolution directly back to Fanny.
But there are some relevant memories…
Somewhere in the American Southeast, possibly the Carolinas, we arrived at a nightclub venue and discovered that we had two dressing rooms – one for the four of us, and one “for the band”. It turns out that the venue thought we were a topless vocal group. My reaction was that it was hysterically funny.
One of the numerous times we opened for the Kinks at a major venue, I’d gone out briefly after our show and was refused admittance to the backstage area when I returned. It was sorted out, but the security guards had assumed I was a groupie because, being female, I couldn’t possibly be a musician. My reaction was first, anger; then later, resentment that I was being lumped in with other, what I saw as lower-order, females.
There were several bands, huge names at the time, who always requested Fanny as a support act, and sometimes as *the* support act on an entire tour. These included, in addition to the Kinks, Chicago, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull. Why? Not for novelty value, as it happens, but because we were 1) VERY professional in our stagecraft (arrived on time, always did full soundchecks, never got so incapacitated that we couldn’t deliver, always fulfilled the terms of contracts), 2) possessed of our own unique style and our own following, and 3) one of these acts’ favourite bands anyway. Fair dues to them!
Somewhere in or near London – probably South Bank Poly, but possibly Brunel University – we did a concert with a terminally naff band called Mungo Jerry (whose one and only claim to fame was “In The Summertime”, a ghastly confection that endures to this day as a “beloved Oldie” and advertising stalwart, and I have to foam at the mouth a bit here and say that the casual, mindless Male Chauvinist Pig sexism in the lyrics always irritated me, especially as it was performed by a bunch of saddoes who couldn’t pull in a Christmas cracker factory). The soi-disant leader, name of Ray, put it about that Fanny was a fraud, that we were miming to backing tapes recorded by male musicians, because there was “no way girls could be that good”. My reaction *this* time was that I had to be physically restrained from decking him.
As I’ve said, I was always accepted on my own as a world-class player by what was then an all-male musicians’ Establishment. But years later, I heard stories of how the above-named arsehole’s attitude was widespread – how in many quarters, Fanny was considered a laughing-stock, an artificially created puppet project fronting over the work of male studio musicians, a female Monkees. I’m glad I was oblivious to this when it was happening. If not, I would have been in the dock repeatedly for beating the crap out of assorted dissers. Hmmm, now that would have been *real* proof that girl musicians could behave as badly as the boys!
TD: Why did Fanny’s manager sack you for working with Keith Moon?
Nickey: Roy Silver had this mania for Fanny to be seen only as a mysterious gestalt entity, always playing as a unit, never “fragmented”. He gave us a combination pep-talk/warning lecture about it, saying we should think of ourselves as being like the Beatles…remember, in those days “supergroup” members didn’t do solo projects or appear in other bands. Looking back on it as kindly as possible, I have to admit that his concept wasn’t “totally” invalid, but for me at least, it was insanely restrictive, even vindictively restrictive (trips off the tongue nicely, that), since I was already a hired gun…I played and recorded with a number of other bands, including Long John Baldry and Dave Knights’ Ruby, while I was in Fanny, plus I was a “floating member” of London pub band Uncle Dog – who gave the world jazz singer Carol Grimes and Morrissey et al. producer John Porter, and who were direct friendly rivals of Vinegar Joe (Robert Palmer, Elkie Brooks); plus I was constantly doing on-the-quiet sessions under other assumed names (I had to make a living somehow!), and Silver really hated that. So what happened was that Keith and I were best mates, hanging together with our respective significant other’s as well as making music together for fun, when he had a brainstorm about making a solo album, of course he wanted me to play on it, and wanted to record several of my songs (which he did)…and when Silver got word of this he forbade me in no uncertain terms to do this, and naturally I went ahead and did it anyway (and it was SOOO much fun! The nominal producer was another close mate of mine, former Beatles roadie Mal Evans, but really the sessions were pure and simple rock and roll anarchy, that at any time might include not only the finest musicians like Joe Walsh but also crazed partying actors like Peter Sellars and Peter Boyle and Ollie Reed and so on), so I suppose Silver decided to make an example of me. At this point Alice had already left the band, and maybe he could see his real and imagined control of us slipping away, damned if I know.
I was, as I said, very amused at being sacked, but the bugger still had me under contract – and WHAT a contract. We all signed the same contract, which gave him a 20 per cent share of ANY income of ours from ANY “creative” source, not only for the term of the contract, but for SEVEN YEARS after expiry (and needless to say, he had the right to go on picking up our options forever if he wanted to). If you want that in English – say that I had written a novel, and promoted it myself, and found a publisher myself, and it became a bestseller… then he would have been entitled to a 20 per cent share of all possible profits even though he hadn’t lifted a finger to help me with it. Let’s further say that I hadn’t used ANY industry contacts, or even one of my own names, to do this bestseller – he STILL would have got his pint of blood. Likewise if I’d sold a sculpture that I created BEFORE signing to him, or any other example you might care to name. And if any of us left the band and joined another band, he was entitled to 20 per cent of our wages, even if it was only a bar band wage and barely enough to live on. And he was just the sort of bloody-minded SOB to chase us down for it. From what I heard back then, after Alice quit, she discovered just what that extended twenty-per-cent clause meant, and that’s why she left the music business altogether rather than live through him doing the vampire shuffle. Like I said earlier, thinking about him still gives me the shudders
TD: You mentioned being blacklisted to me once. Can you elaborate?
Nickey: We’re back to the 20 per cent clause again! When I decided it was time to leave, there was no way I intended to do what I’d heard Alice had done…I had every intention of staying in the frontline of the music business and staying on a label, and I was buggered if I was going to let that vulture continue to suck off my income. Now, you have to realise that though Silver is now a barely-remembered has-been, in those days he wielded quite a lot of influence: as Bill Cosby’s original manager, he had made his fortune, but he was greedy…*stole* millions of additional dollars from Cosby, likewise from Deep Purple when he and they were involved in Tetragrammaton Records, and GOT AWAY with it; he was a Player, with all the Hollywood trappings, the Rolls, the mansion, the indoor spa, the Japanese gardeners, the walk-in wardrobe filled with monogrammed silk shirts, the whole bloody nine yards, and I was just a scruffy little hellraising musician and still in my early twenties to boot. So what I did was to get an excellent hotshot lawyer (himself an ex-musician), and the two of us spent months doing detective work, getting all the necessary dirt on Silver to give me a position of strength. And when we had a fine fat dossier, I asked Silver for a release. An unconditional release. And I got it. Oh, there were many, many battles, during all of which I kept my outward cool, and that was what *really* got him into a vengeance mindset…he had thought for all those years that he had me pegged, as “very, very bright, very talented, but overly hot-tempered and a bit flaky and thus easy to manipulate”, and suddenly there I was as coldblooded as any gunslinger of fiction. And if real life *was* like fiction, that would have been it, game, set and match to me…but in this case real life was more like melodrama. When he realised that I had “tricked” him out of his “rightful returns” (not my words, I hasten to point out), he ranted at me and swore to ruin me and said I would never get anywhere in the business again. At the time I thought it was funny, like all he needed was the black cape and moustache-wax and he could have been Snidely Whiplash, but what followed wasn’t funny at all.
After the very last Fanny gig, which was the last of my contractual obligations, I carried on with my normal life – continuing to play in a few London bands, doing a bit of recording for Joe Cocker, writing. The first indication I had that something was odd was a phone call from a friend of mine in L.A., a well-known record producer, asking if I knew a fellow named Roy Silver. It seems Silver didn’t know we were close mates, and he’d rung this producer to warn him off working with me because I was 1) a “heroin addict” and 2) “still under contract” and forbidden to work! Naturally, my friend had told him where to shove it, but then more and more calls started coming in a similar vein. Where Silver couldn’t intercede directly against me, he spread rumours – that I was an alcoholic, that I was about to be sent up for dealing, that I had a history of defaulting on gigs and interviews (of all the many hurtful false allegations, this one made me angriest), even that I was under treatment for mental illness.(In case you’re wondering, none of these were true). And because he had far more power and influence than I did, these rumours and intercessions began to take effect. Labels and agencies still wanted me, but the contracts on offer were offensively restrictive, as if I was a known felon on some sort of probation, and after a few years of my refusing to take the shackles, the offers pretty much dried up. I call that being blacklisted.
It’s been hard for me to recount this. Even after more than 25 years, it’s still raw. I never wanted to be a high-profile star, but there was a lot of good work I could have accomplished out there if I’d had a fair opportunity. Silver saw to it that I didn’t.
TD: You talked about having reservations before, and after, joining Fanny. You also mentioned how dissatisfied you were with many things in the band. Why did you continue with the band for so long then, especially since you seemed to have many other possibilities for working with other people?
Nickey: How many people stay in what they think is a dead-end job because of inertia? The short answer is 1) it didn’t look like it was possible to get out of my contracts and 2) a person I completely trusted kept encouraging me to stay, plus a little bit of 3) much as I hated the goldfish-bowl aspects, I felt I had a duty to our fans.
To get a true picture of what was going on in my life then, you need to place everything in the context of the times. The early 70s were still a time of great enthusiasm and great innocence, a time before the legacy of the free-and-easy Sixties was finally crushed under the millstone of recession (argh, I sound like a sodding sociologist!). How can I put it? We were – “we” being Western society – both more passionate and more offhand then; *everything* mattered too much and nothing mattered much at all, and that made time pass in a funny way. Really. I didn’t like the department I was working in, so to speak, but I loved the job and the “office”, i.e. touring. For much of our history we were on the road up to nine months of every year, and most of the rest of each year was spent in recording studios and rehearsal studios, and I utterly loved that. Living out of suitcases was a joy. Every time we’d drive up to a Holiday Inn at night and I’d see that little neon star looking like a candle in the window, I would think, “Ahh, I’m home.” And I had hundreds and hundreds of opportunities to share my songs with thousands of strangers.
And an ever-changing menu of pretty-boy groupies on tap. Compared to that – and given that I was indentured anyway – the mere fact of me disliking some of my co-workers wasn’t such a biggie.
Touring is a funny animal, either you love it or you hate it. I’m pretty sure Alice didn’t like it much; even though she was the only band member I really got along with, we were nothing alike. She was more of a homebody, whereas all I wanted to do was travel and play and party. Very small private parties, that was, because I have never liked large collections of people unless I’m on stage and they’re not! Jean seemed happy enough on the road, and I neither knew nor cared what June thought of it.
The person I trusted, and rightly so, was my husband. He was Fanny’s head roadie, but we’d been together since long before then; I met him the first day I came to California, and we were together for more than twenty years after that. He was very wise and very cool-headed, a true gentle being (we eventually went our separate ways, but we NEVER had an argument in all those years – many disagreements, some of them passionate ones, but never an argument. So I trusted him to see clearly at times when I was losing my temper, and his take on the situation had always been that once I’d joined the band and become a piece of WB property, it was a good place to be on the whole. I’d go, “I can’t take this, I wanna leave,” and he’d go, “Not yet, Hang in there. When it’s time, we’ll both know it. Shortly after the sacking incident, he turned to me and without any other reference, said, “It’s time,” and once again I took him at his word. Looking back, who’s to say if I was right to stay for so long or even right to leave when I did? Deep down I’ve always wished I’d taken what was for me the easy route- being an “accidentally female” hired gun – but when I see so many bands where the sex of this or that member is incidental and no longer a matter of moment, I can’t help but feel that it was worth it. because we were the ones who made that happen. And dammit, we were a bloody good band!
It’s odd, but all these years, right up until a few minutes ago, I’d been thinking of Fanny as a band of decent-to-superb instrumentalists who unfortunately couldn’t sing for crap, and how the vocal weakness was what let our sound down. But it’s suddenly occurred to me that even these days, there aren’t as many great female rock players as there ought to be, yet there are always great non-playing female singers, so maybe the fact that we played so much better than we sang was one of the most important things. Blimey, that’s a bit of a change of viewpoint for me! Exonerated at last in my own twisted hypercritical mind!
As far as being there for the fans goes, that’s always been a part of my work ethic. A big part. I can tell you that it’s a lot easier when you’re a part of an organised, touring band with crew and dressing rooms though – I’ve been playing in small venues, mostly pubs and clubs, since I left the frontline business, and I find it harrowing to have people, no matter how much they’re trying to innocently show their appreciation, in my face and having no dressing room/hotel to escape to, and having to always remember not to drop my guard, to always be responsive. In Fanny, we may not have been the biggest stars of the day but we had many very devoted fans. Sometimes, instead of bogging off back to the hotel or going out privately, I would take a group of fans, up to a dozen at a time, out for a late-night post-gig meal, and answer any questions they wanted to put to me about the band or the business. That part I really did enjoy because I saw it as using a position of relative power to make people happy. Ye gods, that sounds soppy, but it’s true.
TD: Which albums do you think were the best and worst that Fanny released?
Nickey: When we were making the albums, like any musician, I favoured whatever was most recent, and my favourite of that time was Mother’s Pride. But looking back, and listening to the Rhino reissue, I have to say that, for me, the album that came across as strongest and most possessed of a distinctive sound and style was Charity Ball, by a long chalk. I think we were at our peak then, still running on excitement and not yet beginning to feel the long slow burnout that always comes with years of constant touring, and the live recordings from that period – both on the Rhino CDs and in my small but cherished personal collection of live Fanny gig tapes – tend to give weight to that. We were recording pretty constantly in our earlier days on Warner-Reprise, and as I remember it, a number of the tracks on Charity Ball actually dated from sessions at the back end of working on Fanny (the first album), but if so, it was definitely the back end of *that*. Fanny 1 was a hodgepodge of styles in my opinion, and weaker for it. But Charity Ball has a sort of gestalt, and I think it’s very much the spirit of rock.
People seemed to look upon Fanny Hill as our crowning achievement, but while there are some stunning tracks on it, I think that perhaps people let themselves be fooled by the cachet of Apple Studios, the idea that our recording an album at “the Beatles’ studio” was a badge of arrival.
Mother’s Pride does have some of my favourite songs on it, and again in my opinion, some of the only Reprise released recordings…especially “I’m Satisfied” and “I Need You Need Me” that managed to capture a taste of the joyous energy our live sound had. Which is ironic, because we were more than ever barely on speaking terms with each other by then! Oh, and it says in the booklet accompanying the Rhino collection that Mother’s Pride was meant as a tribute to the Millington sisters’ mother. Dearie dearie me, how selective some people’s memories are! I was the one who came up with the name, and there was a bit of bitter sarcasm behind it, that I kept to myself (well, no, I didn’t, but I only told my friends, not the other band members). Mother’s Pride was (and is) a leading brand of English mass-market bread, that tasteless, valueless spongy white stuff known to Americans as Wonder Bread, and yes, the inference was that Fanny as a packaged product was utter whitebread, and that certain members of Fanny might *just* be vanilla poptarts…rather low of me, but I was *very* frustrated at the time and felt I had to take my potshots where I could get them.
Rock and Roll Survivors was a crock of shit, and the shame is that it needn’t have been. But yet again the label, Casablanca this time, burdened us with a cloth-eared git of a producer who tried yet again to make us sound like featherweight sugarcoated pop dollies. Even one of the covers, “I’ve Had It” (another behindhand comment from me, since I chose the song) was a pre-punk explosion of attitude the way we originally played it live. Oh well, I tried.
Hey, in the midst of all this angst and negativity, can I point out that Fanny achieved another “first”, one that no-one ever seemed to notice: we gave the world the first Asian rock musicians! It was my current significant other, an Aussie, who remarked on this when he saw the Rhino collection. I’d never thought about it before, but damn, he’s right, Filipinos are indeed “persons of colour”!
TD: What do you think of the recently released CD box set by Rhino of the first four Fanny albums? How about the bonus material?
Nickey: For all that I felt, and have finally talked about being, negative about Fanny and my years as a core member of Fanny, I still kept all my copies of the LPs *and* all my assorted tapes of live Fanny gigs and rehearsals and rough studio mixes, because I regarded them all as legitimate history. Some twenty years ago I made a compilation tape titled A Load Of Old Fanny, and every few years I would make a fresh copy of all the tapes as a bulwark against tape degeneration. My previous significant other, who is also a musician, came across these one day, played them and was blown away by them, especially by Alice’s playing (he’s a drummer), and his reaction was genuine because he’d never heard the band – he was born in the early 60s in rural Ireland and grew up away from the rock scene altogether. So I had to listen to our old stuff all over again, and it was easier to see how good we were from a vantage point of time long past.
I would never have known about the Rhino collection at all if it wasn’t for a friend of mine challenging mutual mates to “ego surf”, for those of you who don’t know the term, it means typing your own name into a search engine like Google to see what comes up. I was delighted to see that my various aliases yielded NO info at all, but then I typed “Nickey Barclay” and was shocked to see how many references there were about Nickey and about Fanny. Some little demon in me made me write to one fan site, and led directly to me finding out about the Rhino project and getting back in touch with Alice for the first time in, well, a long time…I stumbled across this far too late to be an active participant, which is a bit of a shame as the tapes I had then (sadly, left behind in Ireland, possibly forever) contained some primo tracks and session bits, and some amazing live recordings of gigs like Glasgow University. Oh, well, I think Alice and company did a great job with what they had. I think the best part of the Rhino collection is the wonderful booklet that goes with it. The photos brought back so many memories, and the testimonials from assorted rock icons and writers and record company people look good, don’t they? As far as the music goes, there’s an awful lot of duplication, and a good many warts-and-all tracks that are fairly warty, but I think every piece is valid because it shows what the band evolved from. Not many bands would be willing to parade their musical toddlerhood that way! But getting back to the music – I have made my own mini-compilation from the four CDs. Twenty tracks, and I’m sure you’re not in the least surprised to hear that none of them are June’s songs. I did include Jean’s ‘What’s Wrong With Me?’ because it’s a lovely track and I enjoyed playing on it. I’ve left out a lot of my own songs, too (if you look back over the four albums, you’ll see that I wrote, or occasionally co-wrote, the lion’s share of the original songs, so there were plenty to leave out), the ones I thought were too weak or too inappropriate in style or just never appealed to me for some reason (including ‘Bitter Wine’, ‘Take A Message To The Captain’ and, oddly enough, ‘The First Time’ because I never forgave Richard for that ghastly Jim Price Tijuana Brass solo).
For me, the best part of the ‘bonus material’ is the live tracks from Cleveland. Nearly every one of those is included in my own compilation. We didn’t half cook
TD: After Fanny broke up, you released one solo album. Tell us about it? Why did you drop out of sight afterwards?
Nickey: Ugh, this part is painful. Go back to the part about blacklist and I think that pretty much explains it. As far as “Diamond In A Junkyard” goes, if I had a chance to go back in time and either scrub out my work in Fanny OR that one album, I would jump at the latter with NO hesitation. I think I was totally directionless at that time. It doesn’t matter that Billboard loved it, it doesn’t matter that Rolling Stone gave it an excellent review, it doesn’t even matter to me that many people would almost certainly have bought it if they could have (stay tuned for *that* horror story); I am deeply ashamed of that album and I think it is total crap, utterly and unforgivably naff, groady to the max, insert whatever expletive you want here. But, do I hear you wondering, *why* do I think it was so awful? Well, for the same reason that I thought Carole King’s Tapestry album qualified for the same epithets. For the same reason that I detested Joni Mitchell’s albums, for the same reason that I continue to detest almost the entire body of “Female Singer/Songwriter” music, for the same reason that I detest my own little oh-so-sweet ditty ‘Bitter Wine’…because I find the whole Femme Lite genre to be just too, too, too, TOO damned WET. Where is the real passion in all these? Nowhere, as far as I’m concerned. No way on earth do any of them stack up against, say, the powerhouse-level anger and longing that pulse through every track of Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English album, or the glorious venom of Alanis Morrisette’s ‘You Oughta Know’. or the I’ll-kick- your-crotch-in-even-though-it-kills-me warning tones of Sam Brown’s ‘Stop!’… no way. (pauses to calm down)
To my ears, Joan Jett was what a female rock musician should be. I really, really hate soft fuzzy girly music. But it’s not quite as simple as my dissing and dismissing all women songwriters out of hand, as you can see from the examples I’ve listed (and there are others, including a lot of Chrissie Hynde’s work, and Bjork’s). I’ll readily admit that it takes a lot to interest me if the music is coming from a female mouth, that’s just my taste in noises, but I’m pretty much just as brutal toward any songwriter, any novelist, and band, any film. Music and art and film, when they touch me, bring out violent emotion. Not bad emotion, just pulse-poundingly intense emotion. I mostly listen to music inside my head, but on the rare occasions when I *do* listen aloud, I have it very loud, and I thunder around the room in paroxysms of emotion, often crying involuntarily, often having orgasms. I want to be that turned on by every track, every book, every film, and when I’m not, I tend to react viciously. It’s just the way I am. When I hear a track I fall for, like ‘Coma’ by Max Sharam (LOVE her vocal on it!), I play it over and over until the neighbours consider unlocking their firearms cupboards. That’s me, what else can I say?
Right, back to the horror story. I was signed by ABC Dunhill, and did some recording for them, but they were dragging their heels about release dates so for whatever reason I let myself get signed to Ariola, which was a subsidiary of EMI. What I, and most of the other artists on their roster, didn’t know was that in this case “subsidiary” meant “money-laundering/tax dodge”. I may have been misguided about material and production style, but I did put my heart and soul into the project, and especially into the Good News Band, my “little orchestra” of eight players whom I was mostly supporting out of my own pocket. We spent six weeks rehearsing a planned-by-the-moment show for a pre-tour music-industry showcase at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood. We had a pre-release rave from many insiders, and a nine-week American tour lined up, venues and hotels and flights all booked, and a release date for both the album and the first single ( a Carole King-y confection called ‘Lonely Days’). Our Roxy show got fantastic reviews in the Los Angeles Times and in industry publications. I thought I was at the start of a reasonable career, more as a bandleader than strictly a solo artist…two nights before we were to fly out to our tour opener in Seattle, I gave a dinner party for the band members and their significant other’s, all very posh and grand, and for the first and only time I served it on the fine bone china dinner service that Silver had “given” me as a bribe a couple of years earlier after one of my many rows with him, and we all toasted the future, and then had a jam and called it a night…and I should also mention here that those band members who did have day jobs had quit them for the tour…and at nine o’clock the following morning I got a phone call from my post-Silver manager. He said I should sit down and then he proceeded to tell me that the record company had bounced the start-up cheque to us and – with no explanation – withdrawn all tour support, without which we couldn’t lift a finger road-wise. I didn’t scream or shout, not then, even though I felt like there was a red-hot railway spike going down my back. What I did do was to take every piece of that dinner service out of the sink, one by one, and walked down the hill to our front gate and deposited each piece oh so gently in the rubbish bin. Never broke so much as a teacup. And then I sat down and phoned the band, one by one, and let each one down gently, just like the crockery. And then I started investigating, and discovered that I wasn’t the only Ariola artist that this had happened to, and oh, by the way, Ariola hadn’t actually done a pressing run of Diamond, only a very small promo run…
I spent the next three years doing contract work for studios and publishers, and playing for other bands, but the heart had gone out of it. By the end of the 70s I was ready to pack up and go back to London, and I decided to leave the business and go experience life at pub level, where you may not make a fortune but you always get paid at the end of every night. Every time, ever since, that anyone has tried to interest me in a high-profile project, I decline the offer. I have never regretted it.
One thing – if the internet had been around in the early 80s, it might have been a different story. I have never stopped writing songs – and I like the way I write these days – but wild horses couldn’t drag me back onto a label.
I did have a lot of fun back then, and I am still a musician and will be to the day I die. And I think I’ll go have a little cry now, for all the memories and the opened cans of worms.