A Clockwork Tangerine!

SHINDIG INTERVIEW with Peter Daltrey

**Tell me about your mod days, what music did you listen to? Did you get to Brighton on your Scooter?

When I left school around `62 I teamed up with Les and Whitey and Evans and Mad John. Les and I had motorbikes. I`d been to see the Cliff Richard film, `The Young Ones` and fallen for a Triumph trials-type bike. I kept on at my dad until he leant me the money. It was a great bike; one of the first road bikes with `cowhorn` style handlebars and a high exhaust; damn, it could burn your leg if you weren`t careful. Straight through your jeans. We were into Billy Fury and Gene Vincent. Used to see them at the pop tours that went round the country cinemas. Then mods came in with their emphasis on style and their adherence to strict rules of fashion: you could be `in` one week and `out` the next just because you had one vent in your Italian suit rather than two, or because the brim on your `Pork-pie` hat was one inch wide instead of a half-inch wide. I loved it. Sold the bike and bought a Lambretta. We despised the arty-farty Vespa boys. We had to have chrome luggage racks at the front -- then they had to be only on the back; then we had foxtails flying from ten-feet long aerials -- then it was small windshields; then your side panels had to be chromed -- then it was de riguer to have racing numbers. It was almost impossible to keep up with fashion, but we spent a fortune trying. I particularly liked the Ska music phase. That was when we all ended up down at Clacton -- probably 1963 -- mincing up and down the promenade winking provocatively at the surly Rockers. I was always one step away from the fights. Let them get on with it; didn`t want to mess up my hair.

**Do you (or any of the band members) still have the recordings of The Sidekicks from Central Sound Studios?

All the demos we made between 64 and 66 exist on dodgy acetates that are crumbling like ancient dusty relics. Bring them up from the airless tomb and they crumble into blue air and disappear. I`ve recently transferred them all to DAT. There was talk of releasing them, but the clean up job -- although possible with today`s technology -- would be expensive for such a specialist release that might only appeal to five people (that`s the band and my dad.) We recorded a lot of easy R & B stuff at first, thinking we could simply send them off to a record company and get a contract. Fools. We soon realised that we would have to write our own songs if we were to attract any attention. Those early songs are basic and banal, first steps down the road. Amusing to listen to now; we thought they were marvellous at the time.

**What was it like in the early days. Were you thinking of music as a profession?

Almost from day one there was a special bond between the four of us. Difficult to understand unless you`ve experienced something similar. Trite to say we were like brothers, but -- well, we were like brothers. By tacit agreement we knew we wanted to succeed -- and to do that we had to get a recording contract. We all had 9-to-5 jobs that we hated. We were soon dreaming of success. Eventually it became something of an obsession; it ruled our lives. The Beatles had shown us that if you tried hard enough you could win the game. At that time -- 63/64/65 -- the Beatles dominated everything:the TV and radio, the papers. Everything they did or said or wore was news. Everyone waited to hear their next single. Cheerful little gods with cheeky grins and funny accents and the faces of young angels. We loved `em.

**With The Key what was it that kept you going through all the let downs?

We changed our name to the Key as our music was changing. We were dropping the R & B in favour of our own songs; a name-change was needed. We carried on making demos and collecting rejection slips.

**Was your smoke bomb etc stage act inspired by The Who? This seemed like early pop-art/psych freakouts. Was this the beginning of the change?

Don`t know where all that came from. We just wanted to spice up the act. We had a mini-skirted girl sitting on stage reading poetry between songs; we set off smoke bombs and turned up the amps until fire seemed to burst from the cabinets themselves; at the end of the final raucous number I`d fall into Ed`s arms, a blood capsule crushed in my teeth, and be carried off stage `blood` pouring from my mouth. It fooled the students at the universities we used to play. At Brunell the poor dears were so outraged they chased us into the car park screaming for real blood. I don`t know what is to become of the youth of yesterday, I really don`t.

**Were Rubber Soul and Revolver a great significance?

I loved the early Beatles` albums. I`m not good at remembering titles actually, I`m not much good at remembering anything -- but `Eight Days a Week` and Holly`s `Words of Love` and `No Reply` and all those great tracks, so evocative of those times. I don`t listen to music, but if I heard `Hard Day`s Night` it would transport me back instantly to those black and white days of the early to mid-Sixties with tubby Harold Wilson, smog and smoke, pounds-shillings-and-pence and Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Come back Alma Cogan, all is forgiven... And `Rubber Soul` features, to my mind, the greatest photo of the band ever taken: our hirsute heroes gaze down from heaven in all their rugged beauty, in all their hairy glory; perfection. `Revolver,` of course, was something else. From the stunning cover, the like of which we`d never seen before, to the music, the like of which our heads had never been exposed to before, this was a revelation. They`d broken the mould, broken the rules, we were all simply disciples, followers. They could do no wrong. Ed and I looked at our songs and wept. How did they do it? We put our heads togeth...

**Who came up with the name Kaleidoscope? Why?

When we signed to Fontana as a result of Ed and I taking our new songs to a publisher first, rather than to a record company, it was felt a name change was needed to reflect our new music. The word `kaleidoscope` was of the essence of the year 1967; it was also the title of one of our songs.

**On May 15, 1967 you had your first photo session in the pre-hippy garb. You took the day off from work, what were you all doing in between gigs? Good or bad day jobs?

Yes, in the spring of the year we were still wearing our lacy, Edwardian garb, but two months later we were decked out in our hippy, Indian finery, just like everyone else. Easy to mock from this vantage point. Important to see the music and the fashion in context. (Even Clapton ended up looking like a prize prat with his afro and his embroidered ethnic waistcoats.) Inbetween meetings and recording sessions at Stanhope Place Ed and Dan were working in a record shop, Steve was still doing engineering -- I think -- and I was flogging fish. (My girlfriend thought I worked in a boutique; thank god for after-shave with the power of disinfectant.)

**You mention the blue light room where you hung out and drank "the cheapest gut-rot bulls blood". Was this the influence on your early mind-bending songs?

Ed and I used to have regular writing sessions. We`d go for a Chinese -- corn and crab soup followed by something stringy with greasy bits in -- then a bottle of your cheapest wine, please, mine host. Then back to Ed`s high blue room over-looking the railway. He`d play me the song that he`d finished by adding a melody to my lyrics. I`d love it, learn it, have another mouthful and wake up with my head under the bed. My god, the spiders are everywhere...

**Was `Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds` the song to shape the majority of UK psych?

Ed and I had returned from a practise session somewhere. Dan and Steve had buggered off home. It was one of those smouldering, balmy summer nights. It was late, probably after midnight. Across the road the trains were wailing as they crawled into their sidings for the night. The stars were probably stunning. Ed had a tiny portable radio. Only Luxembourg at that time of night. Suddenly that voice floating through the ether, those glass-like notes, that stately progression: `Picture yourself in a boat on a river...` We pressed the radio to our ears, the phased signal weird and wonderful: `...A girl with Kaleidoscope eyes...` Did the song shape UK psyche? I couldn`t give a damn. It shaped my mate and me.

**Was pot and acid much of an inspiration on the band, or could you admit to being influenced by those who took the drugs? Booze, was your ticket to nirvana, hey?

Influence is such an ephemeral concept. Yes, we were probably influenced by others, but I wouldn`t know who. Drugs were around, of course, but we were strong enough in our musical convictions not to need them to create. Yes, we enjoyed a bottle of cheap wine now and then, but we were far from boozers. And we didn`t go to church every Sunday. The band was more important than anything else. We were totally dedicated, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

**What bands/singers influenced you around the time of the first LP? It`s quite across the board isn`t it? (Donovan/Who/Move?)

I was a big fan of Donovan. I loved Dylan for his wild poetry and his shattered, battered, beat-up wreck of a voice. I liked Donovan for the opposite:the pure Englishness of his boyish voice. Ok, he was a bit too close to being a Dylan clone to begin with -- or, perhaps, that was only a media invention -- but his `Catch the wind` is quite beautiful, as are many songs on his early albums. It was more flowery-powery than Dylan, more sentimental, but that appealed to me at the time. Bit twee when you listen to it now. You can find lots of Donovanish touches in all our Kaleidoscope recordings. I went to see him in concert at Epstein`s Saville theatre; came on in a huge, white hairy coat and delivered a perfect solo set. Ummm, all these great memories...

**Who were some of your favourite bands that you shared the stage with and why? Who did your consider your contemporaries?

My brain`s beginning to hurt. We played with the Who, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, the Mojos, Caravan, Family, Joe Cocker, Cat Stevens... Oh, god, I can`t remember them all! Who were our contempories? You`ll have to answer that for yourselves.

**You`re not at all happy with the BBC tracks. Why? I love `A Dream For Julie` and `Dive Into Yesterday` recorded for Brian Matthews` Top Of The Pops.

We would arrive at the BBC studio. If it was late in the day the producer was anxious to get home to the suburbs. "Got a tape, lads?" He`d put on our instrumental-only version of the song, Ed and I would lay down some vocals and he`d be out the door with his season ticket in his hand before you could say:"Is this strictly professional?" If we did lay down the backing it was all recorded on steam-driven equipment, controlled by bored, white-coated engineers who were more interested in the racing results than in recording a classic live performance. Besides, I always prefer studio to live stuff. But it`s a shame our stage act was never recorded. We had a very loud, very uncharacteristic live show, even in our later incarnation as Fairfield Parlour.

**How did you meet up with Dave Symonds? Did you think he was your ticket to the big time?

He should have been! We`d worked with Dave on his radio show. He was fed up just playing records. We were fed up being told we had to be the new Herman`s Hermits. He suggested we join forces, start afresh and we readily agreed. A change of name, a new tape-lease deal with the new progressive label, Vertigo, a new, gentler, more folky approach to our music and we were off on that short, but tranquil journey as Fairfield Parlour.

**In Holland `68 what were your opinions on the drug addled hippies? Were they your brethren or in a different cosmos? Had thing s gone too far in a year or so?

After our disastrous show at the Amsterdam concert hall with Country Joe due to terrible acoustics, we drove to Utrecht to appear at a small club. It was a wild night after someone left a whole crate of Vodka in our dressing room. We then drove to another `underground` club for an unofficial performance. When we got there we found bodies scattered everywhere in the blue gloom of a warehouse, the subtle stench of vomit in the air. We bid them a fond farewell and skeedaddled back to our hotel. Yes, the `drug thing` was clearly getting out of hand.

**Out of the two Kaleidoscope LPs which is your favourite and why?

Considers carefully before replying. I do like `Faintly Blowing.` The title track has captured something of Ed`s guitar genius. That wild feedback-rich style was awe-inspiring on stage. This track has captured about 60% of that. I also like the diversity of styles on the album. I think it is a good showcase for our song-writing. I`m fond of `Tom Bitz` and `Snapdragon` and the spontaneously-recorded `Poem.` But, then, I`m also fond of `The Sky Children` for various reasons and `Dear Nellie Goodrich...` But, overall, I think `Faintly Blowing` has the edge.

**Who in the band was most into the Tolkein/Carrol/Lear thing? Why do you think `whimsy` was so attractive to fashionable youth at this time?

None of us were into Tolkein etc. One reviewer tagged us with this and it stuck. I`ve never read `Lord of the Rings.` Whimsy was our Englishness coming out. Peculiar to us as a race? It fitted in with that clichèd hippy-dippy-stick-a-geranium-in-your-ear stuff. There were about three or four months in 67 that were like that -- then it began to get nasty and the rot set in, culminating with Manson`s night out.

**The angry `Music` on Faintly Blowing -- PUNK weirdness -- sounds like an answer to your disgust in the music industry. Was it?

Certainly not. Just us having a bloody good time in the studio and Dick Leahy giving vent to his own creative urges. Unfortunately he went a bit far, but as a track of its time it`s OK.

**Was it Dave Symonds who decided you should change your name?

Joint decision. Bit drastic, but we needed to shed any negativity that had stuck from our previous vain endeavours. Our music was changing, so it was appropriate.

**From Home To Home builds on your folky/Donovan singing style and has the bonus of a big production. You say you were shoe-horned into the Prog- Rock genre by Vertigo. How did you view what you were doing in 1970 -- there`s a hint of Cohen in `Emily` isn`t there?

Ed and I were shedding the whimsy that you mentioned. I always wrote the lyrics, Ed always wrote the music. I consciously moved away from the fairy-tale stuff. Ed responded by composing in a more mature way and the production followed suit. I`m very proud of our Fairfield Parlour recordings. `Bordeaux Rose` should have been our biggest hit record. We were let down by poor distribution. Musical labels are convenient for journalists; makes their job easier. One minute we were darlings of the psychedelic scene, then we were underground and progressive. Labels mean nothing; only the music counts. Leonard Cohen is also known as `God` in this house. Don`t know about `Emily,` but I`m sure he`s in there somewhere. He probably still is in my solo stuff. I`ve released three solo albums and have been told there is much of Kaleidoscope and Fairfield Parlour in my own music. I wonder why... Visit my web site at www.chelsearecords.co.uk for details of all my solo work.

**What is/was your fave thing about the 1960s?

The Kings Road in Chelsea at 6am. We would come out of Sound Techniques studio at dawn after twelve hours of `White-Faced Lady` sessions to be greeted by the smell of freshly-baked bread from the village bakers. The dawn chorus would be the only sound. The light was silver -- the mood optimistic, hopeful... Bit like a waking dream.

Jon 'Mojo' Mills, SHINDIG

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