FAIRFIELD PARLOUR Part 1
From my dog-eared scrapbook:
At four minutes to four on the morning of Monday July 21st 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon from the American Luna module, `Eagle.`
The tiny craft had landed at 9.15PM the previous evening. Buz Aldrin followed Neil onto the dusty surface and the two men carried out a series of tests for
two and three-quarter hours. They returned to their craft at 6.30AM. The module lifted off safely at 7PM and docked with the mother ship at 10.35 in the evening.
The three astronauts splashed back to earth at 6PM on Thursday July 24th.
It is impossible to describe how such an event affects your life. When we are growing up, particularly during the teenage years, big events seem bigger -- they can
make us feel small and vulnerable, with no protection from the vagaries of fickle fate: if our heroes die, for instance, then how can we be safe?
When, on the 3rd February 1959, a sheen of ice coated the wings of a light aircraft as it struggled in vain through a blizzard over Mason City, Iowa, Fate decided
to take from us the most promising songwriter and performer of the time. Buddy Holly died -- so how can we be safe?
When, on the balmy night of Saturday 4th August 1962, an angelic woman in a darkened house in Brentwood, Los Angeles, telephoned a friend, desperate for the sound
of a comforting human voice, and heard only the disembodied, impersonal recording of an answering machine, Fate decided to take from us the most fragile soul that
graced this earth died -- so how can we be safe?
On the 22nd November 1963, Fate drew together so many strands of coincidence that even the gods must have been in awe of such compounded improbabilities.
Lee Harvey Oswald was the world`s premier loser: spoilt as a child, he found himself unwanted as an adult. Russia didn`t want him and certainly did not
live up to his expectations. Cuba didn`t want him; surely he was a CIA agent? America didn`t want him -- and he didn`t want America, despising its vacuous,
materialistic society. In an extraordinary political manifesto Oswald set out his plans for a new society: Jesus Christ! Oswald was a hippie! But politically
he was all at sea, a Marxist liberal with left and right tendencies. Perhaps he was just looking for a home.
But his wife, Marina, didn`t want him. He was a puppy one minute, a violent authoritarian the next. She`d obediently followed him across half the globe, leaving
behind her beloved Russia to settle with him in Texas poverty. She was bewildered by this man who sat alone on the steps of their humble home, weeping into his hands;
the same man who she now knew had attempted to kill Maj.Gen.Edwin A.Walker on 10th April.
On 13th March Oswald had sent a postal order for $21.45 to Klein`s Sporting Goods in Chicago. On 25th March -- my seventeenth birthday -- he took delivery of a
Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5mm Italian rifle, serial number C2766.
His employers didn`t want him. He lost several jobs because of his surly, uncommunicative attitude. Someone mentioned that the School Book Depository was looking for warehouse staff.
Oswald got the job.
On the 21st Marina and Lee had rowed. That night Lee reached out to his wife in bed. She didn`t want him; it was too soon for a sexual reconciliation. She pretended to be asleep.
John F.Kennedy died -- so how can we be safe?
Kennedy had sent us to the moon -- it was his dream -- and here I was at the sleeping house on Farm Avenue watching the snowing black and white images of Armstrong stepping
onto the silver surface of that dream. The house was so quiet -- my family asleep, recharging their batteries for the following day`s work. Here was I, having shed the old skin
of a band called Kaleidoscope, ready to step into a new era, uncertain, but optimistic. I went outside: the garden awash with stilled shadows, the dawn chorus unaware, refreshing,
above me the wheeling stars encircling their mother, the moon.
If you were there you felt the rain of dust as it fell to earth: we were of our time, masked in a silver patina of possibilities. Perhaps we were immortal....
David Symonds was a mild-mannered bear. Probably only a few years older than us, we eagerly looked up to him, much as we had with Barry Ashpole.
Did Dave have a successful TV and radio career in New Zealand in the early Sixties? Where did I get that from? Don`t know; perhaps he did.
He`d certainly had a successful career at the BBC`s new Radio One alongside such innovators and minor luminaries as John Peel, Emperor Rosco, Mike Raven,
Ed Stewert, Tony Blackburn, Dave Cash and the mercurial, but fated, Kenny Everett. Many of them were fresh in off the North Sea.
`Dave the Saviour` had previous experience. After the meteoric `Go now,` the Moody Blues found themselves sans lead singer, stuck on a sandbank in the middle of a stagnant
pond called, `One Hit Wonder Lake.`
Dave championed their cause when they reinvented themselves as `Pop`s Philosophical Five` and released their ground- breaking `Days of Future Past` and then went on to
make a series of stunning albums. Dave, a man of considerable intelligence and foresight, was frustrated sat behind a turntable spinning pop singles of mind-numbing banality.
Having always championed our cause, he noticed that some of that mind-numbing banality was coming from us!
On Tuesday 15th July 1969 we met Dave in The George in town for a pow wow. Here we experienced for the first time Dave`s legendary hospitality as he wore a path in the carpet
back and fore to the bar. He explained his frustrations at Radio One and noted the demise in quality of our singles. Where were we going? "We`re lost, Dave..." we readily admitted.
Dave suggested we join forces with him as our manager. I think we probably agreed immediately.
Three days later we went to see Richard Armitage at Noel-Gay and told him we were leaving. There was no argument; they recognised how inept they had been as our agents.
Three days after this Neil was up there dancing on the moon -- and that same week our fifth Kaleidoscope single was released, the supremely banal, `Balloon.`
Fortunately it deflated upon release; the nadir of our recording career.
NME: It`s one of those jog-trotting easy-going numbers about the joys of the simple life.
Record Mirror: One can la-la along with it.
When you look back from the immense distance of three decades, some periods in your life stand out crystal clear in the swirling mist of faulty memory.
The summer of `67 for the excitement of signing our first recording contract and because that was the moment when even those of us who lived through it,
recognised that these times were special: something was happening. And the summer of `69 for the tranquil, Elysian days spent at Dave`s house by the river near Hampton Court.
Dave and his wife, the petite Dids, lived just a punt`s push from the manicured palace. Here we were to spend so many enjoyable days and nights in the years to come.
This summer of `69 found us messing about in boats on the river that ran at the end of Dave`s garden; eating huge meals prepared without complaint by Dids
who offered a puzzled enthusiasm for her husband`s new project; shooting Dave in the back of the head with an air rifle during high jinks in the garden
(poor Ed went the proverbial paler shade of white before Dave stood up and declared himself pained, but alive;) playing croquet with Keith Moon and the
Bonzo Dog Band on the lawns of Dave`s local; sitting up until 2AM playing Dave and his friends our new songs: acoustic `Aries` and tales of `Emily.`
On Saturday 9th August 1969 we again spent the day at Dave`s house. It was idyllic: we took our amps and cabinets and set up in the big lounge. The wide,
sliding doors were open to the tree-shaded garden. It was hot and humid, but the breeze off the river made its quiet way through the house and cooled the
band and its intimate audience of Dave and Dids and their young daughter and Bernie Andrews, a BBC staff producer. Steve had brought his newly-acquired flute
and its smooth notes were suspended on the breeze. We all went for a drink at 2 o`clock and strolled back to the house for a late lunch. We admired the potted plants,
had an enjoyable run through of more songs and spent the dusky evening trying to decide on a name for the band. We left after midnight. Oh, what a perfect day.
On the other side of the world seven people, including Sharon Tate and her unborn child, were dying forever...
Our final appearance as Kaleidoscope was at the BBC`s Maida Vale studios on 21st August when we recorded a session for the `Tony Brandon Show.`
Without even a glance back over our collective shoulder we moved on... One day we were up in Birmingham signing an endorsement deal with Park Amplification, the next we were
at Decca`s Southbank offices discussing our future with Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues and Tony Clark. Then we were recording some demos for Decca at
Pan Sound Studios in Denmark Street before a meeting with Dick Leahy and his new boss, Olaf Wyper -- `Windscreen` to the band -- to discuss our release from Philips.
On 2nd October we attended the launch party at the London Planetarium for the `Flaming Youth` album. Predicted world-wide success, the album failed to ignite.
Still, at least I got to chat up the drummer`s -- Phil Collins -- beautiful girlfriend.
Our first appearance under the new name, Fairfield Parlour, was inevitably a BBC radio session at the familiar Maida Vale studios. A new, younger producer,
Geoff Griffen, made a better job of the three tracks: `Aries`, `Free` and `Monkey.`
Right, about time we had a photo.
This was taken during a session at Claremont Lake, Esher. One of only a few photographs that exist of the band in its new incarnation.
(Over the years people have `borrowed` the original photographs from my files and not returned them. They know who they are.)
The day before we went to see Dave Carey and Paul Rodriguez to discuss our release from our
Flamingo Music publishing contract, we`d met up with the Freshmen, an Irish band
at the CBS studios to play them some songs.
They were looking for material and Ed and I played them `I will always feel the same` and a new song called, `Bordeaux Rosť.` Dave,
looking slightly uncomfortable, brought the meeting to an abrupt close. Later, he explained why. He liked `Bordeaux Rosť` and didn`t want us to give it away.
He loved the chorus, but was not keen on the verses. We rewrote it for him over the weekend and the decision was made to record it as our `first` single;
if we could find a record company willing to take us on. We were in limbo with no recording contract; dangerous ground.
At the beginning of November we had a meeting with
Warner Brothers. Later that week we went to see a film director who needed some incidental music for a bull-fighting film. Luckily we didn`t get the job;
I`d never have been able to look at myself in the mirror again.
On the 18th November we had our first gig under the new flag: back at Brunell University! And they recognised us as the Key. Ed`s new amp broke down,
but the new set went well and we got called back for an encore: a first. Dave initiated us to the bear-hug, something we were to get used to over our years together.
We drove home in our new 425 quid Transit.
With a new recording contract still eluding us, Dave made a bold decision: we would start recording hoping that by the time the bills came through we would have a lucrative deal.
The sessions, at Morgan Studios, Willesden, North London, ran daily from the 19th through to the 28th. We were using more instruments than previously,
with Steve on bass guitar and flute, Dan on drums and other percussion, Ed on a range of guitars and keyboards and me vamping out my ham-fisted chords on
piano and organ and enjoying my first use of the mellotron. The instrument`s unique sound came as a result of its dodgy technology, with each note playing a tape
of strings or woodwind. The instrument was notorious for going out of tune and being badly affected by changes in temperature. But a wonderful sound to a
group used only to drums and two guitars. A memorable series of sessions, culminating in an all-night mixing session at Olympic Studios in Barnes.
Dave liked to crank up the decibels; the album never sounded so good. We were suffused with its rich, folky sound, overwhelmed by the `size` of the
production and left the darkened studio aglow. Sadly, we never did hear the album sound quite that good ever again; something got lost from mixing session,
through production and onto vinyl. Not to say we were not pleased with the album -- but that night at Olympic was magical.
In December we had another meeting with
A & R at Warner Brothers, but no decision was made. We had our first album in the can, but would we sell it? Did this band have a future?
The future was on everyone`s mind as we said goodbye to that revolutionary decade. So much had changed, so much had happened -- but the Sixties had gone.
Were we aware of being witnesses to history? Perhaps, in some way under the skin, somewhere in the heart, deep inside, a dark recess where memory hides,
waiting for Time to light its release. Much has been forgotten. Much has been remembered.
After an enjoyable excursion writing and recording a 30 second song for a Fab ice lolly commercial -- for which we were paid more than for anything we`d done to date! -- we
set out on the road. We supported jumpy Joe Cocker at Birmingham and complex Caravan at Blackburn. We were to support Bolan`s newly-monikered T.Rex at the Lyceum in the Strand,
but pixie Marc and his percussive sidekick were late on stage following the previous dozen or so acts and at 5.30AM we threw in the sweaty towel and buggered off home.
Dave was now committing 100% of his time and energy to his position as manager and pulled off another in his series of major coups. The bull-fighting director offered
us the job of writing and recording the theme song and incidental music for a feature film, `Eye Witness.` From the depression and dejection of just six months previous, we were now on a high,
rising phoenix-like from the ashes of our former selves. 1970 was clearly going to be an outstanding year.
At the beginning of February we went to see a preview of the film, starring the young actor Mark Lester fresh from his success as Oliver. He was supported by the
be-whiskered thespian Lionel Jeffries and the well-upholstered Susan George. Ed and I set to immediately on the title song. But two weeks later we were all at
Morgan Studios recording `Bordeaux Rosť.` The results were very encouraging and Dave, on another inspired whim, went to Philips with a proposition.
In a startling turn-around, we re-signed to the company. Philips were in the process of planning the launch of a new label that would specialise in what was being
called `progressive rock.` With psychedelia confined to the history books and having turned our collective back on pop, we were shoe-horned into the progressive slot.
We were happy with that as we would be in good company. But Dave was firmly in control and was not about to sign us to an antiquated contract where we could be used, abused,
squeezed dry and dumped. He negotiated a tape-lease deal with Vertigo which gave them limited rights to release our recordings for a timed period.
The rights would then revert to us and we would never relinquish our ownership of our recordings. Perfect; talk about calling the shots.
We had returned to our old stable, but now we were tooled up and riding high. Oh, that`s enough of that.
Not satisfied with this, Dave also got Ed and I a new contract
with our publisher. All future recordings would fly under our own publishing banner, Our Songs Ltd. Dave`s mate, Kenny Everett was invited to write the sleeve notes for the album.
In March we played the first of what would be a memorable series of gigs at a club called Mothers in Birmingham. Then it was off to Elstree to record the music for
the film and into Morgan to cut the title song. Exciting days.
Our first single as Fairfield Parlour, `Bordeaux Rosť` was released on 17th April 1970. The radio stations pounced on it and never stopped playing it.
They loved it. Our confidence was guarded, but it became difficult to sleep at night. Surely this was the mythical big break.
Music Now: An excellent showcase for this new group. Every possibility of making the charts.
NME: A British `underground` unit that`s already made a profound impression on the college circuit. An intriguing fusion of progressive thinking and
old-world enchantment -- with flute, strings and acoustic guitars providing a delightful pseudo-classical touch. Pungent harmonies and a solid beat.
But just a couple of weeks later it was obvious that something was seriously wrong. We were hearing that the record was not available in the shops!
Fans from all over the country were writing wanting to know where they could buy this record that was being played constantly on the radio.
Dave challenged Philips who had to admit that their distribution had let us down again. Chappells were so appalled they also kicked up a fuss,
but when assured that the problem had been corrected, they put an ad in the music press: `Fairfield Parlour`s great new record now available everywhere.`
But they had been hood-winked.
Three weeks later we appeared on `Top of the Pops` and the following week -- expecting to see our record climb with some vigour into the Top Thirty on
its way to the higher reaches of the charts -- we were dismayed to see it actually drop. Unheard of for a record featured on Britain`s premier pop TV show.
Poor old Rosť was slowly expiring, starved of sales through no fault of hers or ours.
But at least we could look forward to the release of our album... Or could we?
Through the Moodies we`d met a guy called Timon. Justin had signed the young Donovanish singer-songwriter to their Threshold label. Timon had a unique,
child-like voice, show-cased on his first (and only?) single, `And now she says she`s young,` a beautiful, delicate song with a flowing melody.
The record was helped by Justin`s contributions on guitar.
Timon became a fixture at Dave`s house where we would sit around all night playing songs together.
On 12th June Timon supported us back at Mothers.
It was a sultry, humid night and up on stage we sweated through two lengthy sets, culminating in our old favourite, `Face.` Although we all expended
great amounts of energy on stage, the lion`s share of pure physical effort always fell to Dan. Our demon drummer never gave less than his best; 98% just
wasn`t good enough. Dan was always the one stoking the fiery boiler of our pop express. (Right, that`s it! One more metaphor like that and you`ll be sent to
Butlins for a Sixties Revival season. Now pack it in!)
We came off stage after four encores. Toweled down. Had a drink -- usually supplied by our trusty roadies, Ian and Ray -- and began dragging off stage the
Stonehenge towers of our cabinets and amplifiers. A scream split the air, the like of which I`d never heard before and hope never to hear again.
Dan collapsed on the ground, electrified with pain, sweat literally pouring from him, his whole wired body shaking, trembling, quaking as the seizure devoured him.
We stood in awed silence, shocked into stone. Dan was dying in front of our eyes. Someone called an ambulance. Someone else tried to hold Dan to the
ground as cold towels were pressed to his crimson brow. All I can remember doing was standing in useless confusion and fear, watching helplessly as the tragedy unfolded.
Suddenly he was gone in a haze of blue light.
The following day Dan had major surgery after he was found to have a nerve trapped in his spine. When we went up to see him he proudly displayed
his `zipper,` a twelve inch raw wound, secured with a neat tapestry of stitches. With Dan now out of action for the foreseeable future we would be
unable to promote the new album, due for release the following week. The release was cancelled, as were several gigs. But we had to honour a gig at the
Belfry in Birmingham later in the month and appeared with Ian Wallace on drums, he of Big Grunt (later to play with Dylan.) It was a miserable gig
which found us floundering against an unfamiliar battering of percussion. We missed our old mucker so much it hurt.
Now we really had problems. We had a session booked to record the next single. Let me fly off at a tangent to explain where this song came from.
Some idiot had decided that Lionel Bart`s ``Fings ain`t what they used to be` needed reviving in a modern setting. We were asked to write some songs for the new production.
Weird! It was Bart`s musical; why would anyone want new songs for it? Anyway, flattered to be asked, Ed and I dutifully set to work. We wrote three songs -- one
of which has been lost in the great mincer of dodgy memory: `A bloody great hole in the ceiling` (Yes -- that`s what it was called!
A cockney romp in the style of the Small Faces` `Lazy Sunday Afternoon.`)
And a poignant ballad, `Just Another Day.` Of course, the planned musical never saw the light of day; probably the bright spark who came up with the idea
was exiled to Elba. But Dave loved the song -- no, no! Not `Bloody Great `Ole` the other one.
And so 24th June found us at the Morgan studios with two Moodies lending a hand or four. Graham Edge manned the skins, whilst Ray Thomas fluted for Britain.
I`d just got a Honor Clavinet -- see promotional photo taken in Dave`s riverside garden with Dan on two walking sticks -- and bashed away at that in my own
special way; a performance that unfortunately featured too prominently in the final mix. (The old memory just kicked in: I think Ed might have played it as
the part was probably beyond my capabilities.) The following day we added vocals. Dave called in some additional help in the shape of a session player called Elton John.
Dave`s new career as manager was going from strength to strength. This really was going to be `the big one.` Not only had he secured us a place on the billing for the 1970
Isle of Wight festival -- he`d persuaded the organisers to let us write and record a `theme song` for the festival. We cut a demo of the song, `Let the world wash in,`
at the Livingstone Studios in East Barnet. The Farr brothers loved it and so we spent two nights at Sound Techniques in Chelsea recording the song. Lennon`s classic,
`Across the universe` is a little too obviously the influence for the song, but nonetheless, the resulting track is warm and sincere.
It is one of my favourite recordings of the band, featuring a full, well-produced sound, focusing quite correctly on the chorus.
Although the sessions were somewhat fraught for various reasons, none of this shows on the final recording.
Look at this for a crazy release schedule:24th July 1970, `Just Another Day.`
NME: An enchanting routine which erupts into an intense ensemble chorus. Hope it gets a better break than the lst one.
Music Now: Beautiful soft, lyrical intro, gives way to a sensitive and meaningful lyric. This is the follow up to the splendid, `Bordeaux Rosť,` which should have
done a lot, but sadly didn`t. Terrific pastoral feel. This has to make it.
14th August 1970: `From home to home.`
Tit Bits: A multi-talented team. Their harmonies are especially good. A happy combination of the Bee Gees and Beatles.
Melody Maker: Where do all these groups keep coming from? Here we have yet another band who emerge from nowhere with an album full of memorable songs, beautifully
conceived and executed. Maybe it`s a measure of the wealth of their material that their minor hit, `Bordeaux Rosť` is not even included here. It`s a gentle, lyrical,
happy-sad album and very English with fine harmonies floating above solid and unflashy playing on keyboards, acoustic guitars, flute and occasional touches of mellotron.
At times there`s an early Fairport feel -- maybe because singer, Peter Daltrey sounds faintly similar to Ian Matthews -- but comparisons are unfair, for this is one of those
happy bands who seems to have evolved their own style in a short space of time. It`s an album with a lot of character and deserves a listen from anyone who
veers towards the gentler side of rock.
Music Now: This is a cracking album! The music should not be defined, it should be enjoyed. It is pure, the voices are honest, probably the roots are in folk
music more than anything else. I love the album for what it gives me. It has much to offer because it is there.
Disc and Music Echo (John Peel): David Symonds told me a long time ago they were going to call themselves Fairfield Parlour and I groaned and he, quite rightly, paid no attention.
The LP, which is nicely produced, is playing now and Pig and
I just looked at each other and said, `Hey, this is a nice record,` and it is indeed. A bit Summer-67y, but it`s summer again anyway so what`s wrong with that?
One week later, `Let the world wash in,` was released by a band called I Luv Wight
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