THE KEY

In 1966 there were Diamonds Everywhere.

For those of us who lived through the Sixties, 1967 assumed, in retrospect, the psychedelic mantle. Because of this, the preceding twelve months are usually overshadowed, their own brilliance subdued by 67`s supernova. But, for me, it is 1966 that represents our own rising star, arcing silver light against blue time.

The Key were quite different to the Sidekicks. With the focus now very much on original material, we had shed much of our blues roots although could still grind out some decent R & B on stage. But audiences were now treated to our own songs for the bulk of each performance. We had also dumped the smart shirts and slacks and were wearing more fashionable clothes on and off stage. Music and fashion made the Sixties. And trends were usually lead by the Beatles: what they wore, we all wore; what they introduced into their music, we all tried to incorporate it in our music. For those who only know the Sixties from books, records and film, it is impossible to explain the influence the Beatles had on our daily lives. For those of us in bands, that influence permeated our every waking moment. The release of a new Beatles` record was always an event. We combed the radio dials anxious to hear the new single. It was not always easy as radio was very limited in those days, with Radio One not yet born; the pirates and Luxembourg were exotic, almost forbidden territories. An odd thing happened when we first heard a new Beatles` song. I often liked them, but was not overly impressed. But after hearing it two or three times I was won over, the complexity or simplicity of its construction stunningly original. Then it was impossible to hear it too often.

One of my favourite albums is `Rubber Soul` -- great title, stunning cover, good songs. But it was `Revolver` -- great title, good cover, stunning songs -- that made everyone sit up and listen. Now they were pushing at boundaries, now they were stretching the possibilities, now it was OK to write a song that wasn`t about love. Breathtaking. Something about music had changed forever. But if I sat and listened to music I chose Dylan -- equally inspirational, unsurpassed as a lyricist -- and Leonard Cohen, the poet-troubadour who could bring you down quicker than a handful of Valium.

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Back to the band. Give him his due: James East was attempting to land the mythical mega-deal. He called in all his contacts, knowing that if he could bring us to the attention of the right person sparks might fly and a career might be launched. He knew Diana Dors ex-husband, Alan Lake and got us a gig at the Marquee to audition in front of this mini-celebrity. We never felt any vibrations emanating from these auditions and presumably neither did they as none of them lead to anything. Auditions can be soul-destroying: cold rehearsal rooms or clubs at mid-afternoon with no atmosphere and no audience other than the contact who spends more time looking at his watch than at the band. Pack the gear back in the van. Nothing much to say. Spirits having flown. We went up to see our Mr East at his grubby digs. It was mid-afternoon; he was in bed. None too pleased to see us. We`d come to tell him we were sacking him. Red rag. It all got messy with solicitors` letters flying back and fore. Eventually our wig simply advised us to ignore the no-hoper and he`d probably crawl back into his hole. He did.

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So we entered 1966 despondent and with no-one at the helm. With Barry gone and East dumped, our gig list was anorexic. Ed and I had just been featured in the ABC Television house magazine; hardly fame. Then I got the sack after taking time off for rehearsals. Low. I eventually got a job at Young`s Seafoods in Victoria, selling fish over the phone to London`s hotels and restaurants. This was undoubtedly a dead-end. The people with whom I had to spend eight hours of every day were refugees from the Stone Age. The walls closed in and claustrophobia enveloped me. Ed and I would talk on the phone every day trying to boost what little hope we had left.

An earlier demo session had seemed to open a door when a guy called Harold Geller wanted to publish two of our songs, `And she`s mine` and `Reflecting.` But after we`d signed the contracts Mr.G disappeared. Early in `66 we established a contact with Mike Leander and Mark London, two music businessmen. They were putting out a single by a group of session players and needed a band to front the record. We agreed, eager to get a foot in the door any way we could. Luckily the record by The Falling Leaves went out without our involvement. But London and Leander were still interested in us, particularly after they heard some of our new songs, `Cold Sunday Morning 6.15,` `You`re not mine` and `Holiday Maker.` They booked us into a studio with a couple of session players. Overawed by the occasion, we performed badly and came away feeling we had not only let ourselves down, but had ruined any chance we might have had with the two hardened entrepreneurs. We had. London eventually told us to stop ringing him. Humiliation.

Realising that much of the interest we had generated had been as a result of our original songs, we decided to target publishers. Someone at Young`s knew someone who played in a jazz band who knew someone at Philips Records. I rang and asked about publishers and they told me to try Dave Carey of Flamingo Music. So, on the 1st August 1966 Ed and I slid nervously into their London office. Carey turned out to be a cheery, avuncular middle-aged man whose claim to fame was that he`d written a song called, `Bingo` which had been a minor hit sometime in the Eighteenth Century.



We apologised for not having brought any demos, but Carey waved this aside and told us just to play him a couple of songs live. So Ed strummed his acoustic and I warbled and the phone rang and Carey answered it and indicated for us to carry on singing and we finished and he said, `Great,` and we waited for the brush off. `Come back and see me in six months,` Carey suggested, adding, `Keep writing. Concentrate on your hooks.` We left the office with our tails between our legs. Another waste of time. And what the bloody hell were hooks?

In desperation we went back to see Harold Geller. He only wanted to listen to demos. We didn`t have any; as Mark London had paid for the last session, he felt entitled to keep the tapes and the acetates. So Ed and I went back to Jack Jackson`s studio out at Rickmansworth and recorded acoustic versions of, `Keeping it for you,` `You`re not mine,` `Now that we are just friends` and `A lesson perhaps.` Jack Jackson`s son Malcolm got so excited about `A lesson perhaps` that he rushed off to Decca with a copy, but failed to communicate his enthusiasm to the A & R gods on the South Bank.

`Where to from here?` was the title of one of James East`s masterpieces. He was always trying to get us to record his dreadful songs. This title now became an oft-quoted catch-phrase. What were we to do? The gigs had all but dried up. When we supported the Mojos at Brunell College, Acton in September, it was the first booking we`d had in four months. We actually went on to appear at Brunell College several times. Our new stage act featuring smoke bombs, fake blood capsules, a mini-skirted girl reading poetry inbetween songs and loud feedback proved very popular with the trendy students -- until we went too far and were almost chased from the building by the harassed events secretary.



Our gig list was an embarrassment. We didn`t have a manager. Our equipment was literally falling to pieces. We all had nine-to-fives that we hated. We`d left a trail of failed auditions, disappointing demo sessions and lacklustre bookings behind us. The road was long and we had come a long way, but: where to from here? At the end of December -- only days away from 66`s demise and the daunting challenge of another year ahead -- we succeeded in retrieving our demos from the clutches of Mark London. But who could we play them to? We`d knocked on so many doors, been turned away from so many offices. There were thousands of bands out there, all looking for success, all bruising their knuckles on publishers` and record companies` doors. Why did we think we stood a better chance than any other group of young hopefuls? Why did we feel we were more deserving of success than anyone else? The songs. That had to be the key -- and an unavoidable pun.

What was that guy`s name that we went to see in the summer? Dave Carey. Bingo!! What had he said? "Come back and see me in six months." But that was a brush off. It has to be worth a try. We rang. He said he remembered us. Yes, we could come in and see him. We did. We took along the guitar and the demos. "Have you been writing?" Of course. "Play me your two best songs." We gave him the demo: `Cold Sunday Morning 6.15` and `Holiday Maker.` He picked up the phone. That`s charming; doesn`t even wait for the song to end and he`s making calls.

"Hello, Dick," he said into the phone. He was looking at us. I looked at Ed; he looked at me. "Can you come over? I`ve got something." The demo finished. He sat there just looking us over.

Within a few minutes in walks a slim, ashen-faced guy with jet-black hair. He`s wearing a black suit. He`d make a great under-taker. He`s smoking like his life depends on it. He`s wired. Names exchanged. The demo`s played again. Dick Leahy checks us over. "Who writes the songs?" We do. "Got any more like those?" Dozens. "How many in the band?" Dozens -- no, sorry, four of us. "How would you like a recording contract?"

On the 2nd January 1967 we signed a one year recording contract with Fontana Records.

We changed our name to Kaleidoscope.

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