RAY DORSET INTERVIEW : PART 2
AT THAT TIME JOE WAS PLAYING THE WASHBOARD ON HIS KNEE. I REMEMBER IN LATER YEARS, HE HAD A FULL KIT WITH CYMBALS, BLOCKS, BASS DRUM, ETC?
When Joe first got the washboard he played it on his knee, but later on he added a whole host of other percussion instruments e.g. Wood blocks, skulls, cowbells etc. and then a bass drum and snare. Joe could obviously be more specific.
I'VE GOT TO ASK, DID YOU EVER RECORD ANY OF THE MUSIC FROM THIS TIME?
The only recordings that I know of were the Saga demos and those that were made by Colin at the Master Robert, I remember that after one of the gigs we sat around Joe’s house and listened to the recording, we played a version of 'Heartbreak Hotel' that night.I don’t remember if Paul was in the band at this time. We used to include several rock‘n roll/rock-a-billy songs in our set and that is how we came to get the regular gig at the Northcote Arms and consequently other similar gigs.
The punters said that we had the Sun sound. Paul was in the band at this time. We did the first Northcote Arms show minus drums as the gig was put in at short notice, we then got a drummer in for all of the other rock ‘n’ roll jobs except one.
WERE YOU GIGGING AROUND YOUR HOME TURF ONLY OR DID YOU PLAY OUTSIDE OF THE LONDON AREA?
The first gig was in Oxford, we had another at a college for trainee nurses in Swindon, Dave Hutchins drove us there in his van, this is where I wrote 'Mighty Man', on stage! We did Brunel University in Uxbridge and played a rock ‘n’ roll club in Maidenhead but I think that all of the other jobs were in our own locality or in the London area.
THE STORY GOES THAT JOE LEFT AFTER YOU PLAYED 'THE ISRAELITES' ONE NIGHT, DID YOU HAVE A ROW ABOUT IT OR DID HE JUST WALK OUT?
I remember it like this; we played a Liberal Club gig in West Drayton. Some 'skins' kept calling out for the song so I attempted to play it. After the show, Joe said something like "I’m not going to play that shit" and left the band.
THAT LEFT JUST YOU AND COLIN. YOU THEN ADVERTISED FOR A BASS PLAYER AND ALONG CAME MIKE COLE & PAUL KING?
Paul was already in the band by this time, he was a regular in the audience at the Master Robert shows and got talking to us one evening, and I think that he jammed on blues harp on one or two occasions. We played the Master Robert with no bass player but it did not work, I also tried using a bass drum and high hat instead of just stamping on the stage but I wasn’t happy with the result. I also went with Paul to check out his friend Terry Bodell as a drummer for us but that’s about as far as we got before finding Mike.
DID THAT LINE-UP PLAY THROUGHOUT MOST OF 1969?
WHEN DID (roadie/driver/backing singer) TONY'BIZZ'BISSIKER START HIS ASSOCIATION WITH THE BAND?
The first gig that 'Bizz' came to was the Hollywood Festival; he was a friend of Paul's. Although we went to the same school, we really did not meet up as 'Bizz' was in the year above me.
SAGA WEREN'T INTERESTED IN THE BAND PLAYING THIS NEW STYLE OF MUSIC AND YOU WERE THEN SIGNED TO PYE RECORDS?
Yes, how we got signed to Pye is covered elsewhere.
DID JOE PLAY ON THE RECORDING SESSIONS FOR THE ALBUM AND SINGLE, HE OBVIOUSLY PLAYED ON 'DUST PNEUMONIA BLUES' SO DID HE LAY DOWN WASHBOARD ON ANY OF THE OTHER TRACKS?
No, he did not record with us again in the studio until the 'Army' LP although he did play on 'Have Pity On Me' and fixed up the jazz players, Bob Kerr, etc. for my 'Cold Blue Excursion' LP.
WERE YOU ALL GETTING A BUZZ ABOUT THE BAND AT THAT TIME?
I was particularly enthusiastic about the audience reaction that we got for the type of music that we were playing as a three piece, i.e. Joe, Colin and myself. We laid down the foundations of what was to come later. Maybe Mike can tell you the name of the first gig that he played with us, as I cannot remember but by the time that we had become a four piece we had started to get more prestigious gigs and at these we went down tremendously well with the audience.
In particular was the Swindon Nurses College, Brunel University and a Brunel University concert that was put on in a cinema in Hanger Lane near Acton, London, with the Soft Machine, Blodwyn Pig and Aardvark. Borough College in London with Duster Bennett, (he invited us up to jam with him at the end of his set), and the gig supporting the Moody Blues at Goldsmith College in London. We got fantastic audience reaction from all of these gigs plus we also played the important London club the Speakeasy.
STORIES DIFFER AS TO HOW THE MUNGO JERRY NAME CAME ABOUT. HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
Barry Murray said that a few names were written on scraps of paper and one was pulled out of a hat, this was Mungo Jerry, a name that Paul had come up with. Barry wanted to call the band The Incredible Shark; we didn’t like it, (this is the name that was written on the original acetate of our test recording at Pye Studios, when we recorded 'Mighty Man' and 'Peace In The Country). We agreed that we would be known as whatever name came out of the hat.
THE HOLLYWOOD FESTIVAL HAS ASSUMED LEGENDARY STATUS. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER OF THE EVENT THAT WE HAVEN'T HEARD BEFORE?
I came off stage on the Saturday night to be greeted by a hoard of radio and press people asking me questions, I was too hyped up to answer any of them coherently and I don’t think that the BBC managed to use anything that I said in their reporting of the event. I think that everything has already been said about the festival but one thing that sticks in my mind is that a hippy guy came straight up to me after the performance and summed it all up with the words, "No Bullshit!"
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE TAPES OF THE BAND'S APPEARANCES?
All the artists performing at the Festival were recorded on the Pye Mobile Studio, which I think was also the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, (one inch eight track multi-track machines), the producer being Barry Murray. The record company wanted to release a compilation but nobody got clearances from the labels of the respected artists. I don’t know what happened to the masters of our performances.
THE FESTIVAL SUCCESS WAS FOLLOWED BY YOUR DEBUT SINGLE, 'IN THE SUMMERTIME' GOING TO NO.1 FOR SEVEN WEEKS IN THE U.K AND NO.1 ALMOST EVERYWHERE ELSE. HAPPY DAYS OR WHAT?
There was no time for my feet to touch the ground, I had never been out of the UK before and we seemed to be on a plane every two or three days. We got wined and dined by our various record companies and publishers in the territories that we visited and invited in to the top clubs in the cities where we would be given as much free food and drink that we wanted. People that never had the time of day for me before suddenly became 'my best friend' and it seemed that as a band we could do no wrong but it wasn’t long before we started to get some bad press in England by journalists that thought that it would boost their reputations and be cool to unfairly knock us for our live performances, and also unnecessary bickering within the band began to take its toll on the harmony between the individual band members and the relationship between the band and the record company and management.
THE BAND EMBARKED ON WHAT WAS REALLY CONTINUOUS TOURING, BOTH HERE AND ABROAD. WAS IT EXHAUSTING OR JUST GREAT FUN?
Initially the touring was fun despite the heavy schedule that we had to undertake, we were running on adrenalin but it seemed that two distinct camps within the ranks of the band had developed and I could feel that some conflict would raise its ugly head. My assumption was confirmed when Barry Murray told me that Paul had contacted him and stated that if his songs did not appear on the B-sides of our future records, then he would leave the band. This I thought was totally out of order but I was asked to keep quiet about it and at the time I did.
MUNGO JERRY WERE SCHEDULED TO APPEAR AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL, BUT DIDN'T GET TO PLAY IN THE END. WHY WAS THAT?
The show was running several hours late and we decided not to go on as we would have been playing in the early hours of the morning. I believe that because of this FREE played twice as the first time that they went on it was about 6am.
THE ROTTERDAM FESTIVAL SEEMS TO BE ALMOST FORGOTTEN BUT IT SOUNDS TO ME TO HAVE BEEN REALLY SPECIAL?
This was in 1970 and the biggest audience that we ever played to, estimated at 100,000 plus and as at the Hollywood Festival we stole the show from the likes of Pink Floyd, etc. We got a great review in the Times. The film crew shooting the event were so overcome with the audience flying tens of thousands of paper plates into the air in celebration of their approval of our show that they filmed so much of this that they failed to get any footage of us on stage. We also played two other great festivals where we got similar audience reaction, no paper plates flying through the air but bottles of water, these were in Aachen with the Climax Blues Band and Edgar Broughton amongst others and Aux au Provence (must check spelling) in the South of France with Leonard Cohen, Johnny Winter, (he was also at the Rotterdam gig with his brother Edgar) and Sly And The Family Stone, etc.
THE TOUR OF THE UNITED STATES MUST HAVE BEEN FANTASTIC. WAS IT A BIG SUCCESS?
We played some major venues in the States on the bill with some heavyweight artists, and we went down great at every venue except the first shows at the Fillmore East, which we did as special guest to the Steve Miller Band, and the Fillmore West with Procul Harum and Poco. The audience appeared to be too stoned to participate with us and we were somewhat taken aback by this as we had previously been spoilt by the enthusiasm of audiences to clap and sing along, but then they would be hyped up or fuelled on alcohol and not marijuana which tends to have an intense chilled out effect on those that indulge making them want to relax and listen and not get up and jump around, etc.
We did a benefit show at the East, also on the same bill was Laura Nyro, we went down a storm there as we did with Rod Stewart and The Faces at the Downtown Theatre in Detroit and we headlined over Humble Pie at some venues including the Tea Party in Boston and got great newspaper reviews as we did when we headlined over Black Sabbath and Badfinger in Portland, Maine. We also did a great gig at a college where we were special guest to Mountain.
I was sharing hotel rooms with Mike and in New York he told me that Paul was often playing his songs to him in an effort to get them played by the band, Mike thought that the songs were good, on the other hand Paul was generally running Mike down to the rest of us and stirring it in general behind Mike's back and Colin and I got taken in by it. So, by the end of the tour it got to be Mike and us. It didn’t help that Pete Coggins our road manager had an accident in a rented van and Mike’s double bass was damaged beyond repair and he had to buy a bass guitar that he used to complete the tour.
THE BAND RECORDED A VERSION OF 'HAVE A WHIFF ON ME' WHILST IN THE STATES THAT WAS INTENDED I BELIEVE TO BE THE FOLLOW-UP SINGLE TO 'IN THE SUMMERTIME'. AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO BELIEVES IT TO BE THE BEST VERSION?
We recorded at the A&R Studio in New York, a place that has some major pedigree. Barry was producing and he picked up on 'Have a Whiff On Me' due to the popularity of the song with our live audiences and I think that we had already recorded it for two B.B.C sessions by this time. Barry was not 100% convinced of our recording and he asked me to get to work in writing some more songs that would make possible singles but in the back of his mind was the fact that when we played what was to become 'Baby Jump' live, this also created an overwhelming crowd reaction, this was the groove that set off the paper plates and water bottles at the festivals that I mentioned earlier, and we were playing that song about fourth in the set at the time. I must get to hear both versions back to back at sometime.
MIKE COLE WAS SACKED ON THE BAND'S RETURN TO THE U.K. WHY?
I think that I have covered this above, and in retrospect I think that it was very unfair to Mike but if he had not gone then John Godfrey would not have come into the band and he contributed very important bass lines on 'Lady Rose', 'Baby Jump' and all of the other tracks that he recorded, especially those on the 'Boot Power' album. The music had begun to lend itself more to bass guitar style by then but there was also room for double bass which Mike was a very good exponent of, especially in the jazz idiom and he obviously played the perfect parts on 'In The Summertime' and on the first album.
John was more knowledgeable about musical theory than the rest of us and he also played other instruments which also was of interest. Unfortunately what happened to Mike also began to happen with John but I was the one that got booted out of the band and John decided to stay with me. I think that I would have carried on working with John for many years but the new management insisted that I should have the Chicken Shack rhythm section as they thought that this would give me more credible press amongst the rock fraternity.