Phone interview recorded September 26, 2010
P.P. Arnold - or Pat she's known to friends, fans and peers alike - has had one of the most longstanding careers in music. She started out as an Ikette, moved to London, was produced by rock and pop royalty (Mick Jagger, Barry Gibb, Eric Clapton), was a key member of the U.S. expatriate community in the UK alongside Jimi Hendrix, Doris Troy and Madeline Bell, has experienced the ups, downs, ins and outs of life in music biz, has faced her share of personal and professional challenges, is the voice behind more than a few massive UK pop hits...oh and was the original recording artist of the now-classic "First Cut Is The Deepest"! Although she and Soul Music.com's David Nathan have known each other and been friends since the '60s, this is their first-ever full length interview, a fascinating read...
David Nathan: Well, I am delighted and thrilled and very happy to welcome today to soulmusic.com a lady who I have known for several decades [laughs]. There’s no point in us pretending we haven’t known each other for several decades, because we have. We first met when she came to the U.K.—actually, not as soon as she got to the U.K., but certainly sometime shortly thereafter. We were actually introduced, if my memory serves me well, by a great friend of ours who is no longer with us, the late Doris Troy of “Just One Look” fame. Through all those decades we have maintained—which I would say in this day and age is quite unusual—an association and a friendship and a relationship through all these decades. We’ve both been in different places; lived in different places, and this is actually our first official, full, in-depth interview, as she reminded me, to my surprise, actually. So I’m really, really happy today to be doing an in-depth conversation with the great PP Arnold. Welcome, PP Arnold.
PP Arnold: Oh, thank you, David. I’m so excited about this, because it’s true; we’ve known each other forever [laughs].
DN: True—true, true, true.
PA: Forever, and… through the ups and the downs and the ins and the outs—
DN: This is true.
PA: —the all-arounds. And now we’re full circle. It’s great to be here in London on this Sunday morning having this conversation with you.
DN: Well, great. I want to start, not at the place most people would start with this interview, which would be at the beginning, but I actually want to start with what you’re up to right now, because I would say one of the events that precipitated us doing this now rather than any other time is the fact that… I’m going to call, for the purposes of this interview, because I don’t want to keep calling you PP [laughs…I am of course going to call you Pat…because Pat is about to begin a U.K. tour, which we’ll ask her to tell us more about. She also has just launched her new Web site, with many different opportunities to hear music; buy music... and so we’re going to start there and then we’re going to go back to, I guess, the beginnings of your association with the U.K. It may be a little bit before that, for those who are not familiar with your long and illustrious career. Because you know, everyone can’t say that they’ve been in the business for as long as you have and are still here, still making music and still performing, which is truly a blessing. So let’s talk about your upcoming tour and your performing activities in the U.K. and beyond. So what will you be doing?
PA: Well, it is truly a blessing to still be here and still be out here keeping the vibe alive. And yeah, I’m here. I’m really excited about a short tour that I’m doing—the first of many to come—but it starts in October, and I’m being backed by a fantastic band, Digby Fairweather and his Half Dozen. And I’m just really, really, really excited about this. I have a set that’s gonna include all the pop and rock classics, and the R&B and the blues, and I’m going to stretch out and do a bit of jazz with Digby and his great jazz band. And they’re real excited about doing all the classic R&B and rock things with me. The band’s fantastic; rehearsals are going great. The tour actually starts on Wednesday the 6th of October. We’re actually doing a preview, just sort of a preview gig, at a pub in Sevenoaks called the Woodman. It’s just like an opening gig, a warm-up gig for the first date of the tour, which is taking place at the Pigalle Club in Piccadilly, and that’s on the 9th of October. From there we go to Brighton to the Theatre Royal, that’s on the 13th of October. On the 15th of October I’ll be at the Playhouse Norwich. On the 22nd of October I’ll be at the Courtyard Hereford. On the 23rd of October I’ll be at the Playhouse Weston-super-Mare. On the 24th; the Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent. Then we return south on the 26th of October, and I’ll be at the Beck Theatre in Hayes, Middlesex.
PA: So yeah, so I’m really excited about doing my own solo tour. I toured last year with Gino Washington and Jimmy James; we did a great soul tour. And for those of you who want to check out some of the highlights of that tour, I’ve got a lot of live video from that tour at my new upgraded Web site, pparnold.com. So go on there and check out all the latest news; all lots of live video; I’ve got a store there. I’m doing downloads of some music, an independent project that I did, an independent production that I did with Chaz Jankel. For all of you who are aware of Ian Drury and the Blockheads…well, Chaz was the main guitar player. The Blockheads are just a great band, but Chaz wrote all those great songs with Ian Drury. We got together in the mid-nineties and recorded some music together, and so that music is now available, unreleased productions, on my Web site. You can download the music, and I’m really excited about that because this is some music that both Chaz and I really put a lot of love and a lot of heart into. At the time, the industry said it wasn’t commercial, but you know I still don’t know what commercial is after being in the business all these years [laughs]. I know that mainly, commercial is when people hear you on the radio. But if the record companies don’t like the music, you know, the fans don’t get a chance to hear you on the radio [laughs].
DN: This is true; this is true. Well, thank you for sharing all that information. And of course, when the interview is published, that will also be in written form as well as audio form, so people will actually be able to see all of the information you just gave us, because of the dates and so on. But one of the things that struck me about what you were sharing, particularly the last part, is how you have—and I want to be kind to some of your peers - but unlike some of your peers, you have definitely embraced new technology and obviously realized and recognized that there are many ways for an independent artist to be successful using today’s technology. So would you just like to comment on that and how that evolved for you?
PA: Well, it evolved for me from just going through the whole procedure of recording music—recording independent—getting into independent production many years ago, really. I first started doing independent productions way back in the seventies, and those recordings will be available soon as well. So I’m looking forward to sharing all of that music, because a lot of people think that I just haven’t been an active artist since the sixties. Because a lot of the music that I’ve been recording in different periods, in particularly, the seventies, I think it was a little ahead of the time [laughs] because I was doing a lot of… sort of… my music, it was still very soulful, because I was a soul singer, and a soul singer has a lot to do with telling the truth. And I think, at the time, I was writing about things—spiritual things—that maybe the industry wasn’t ready for. And yeah, maybe I was getting a little bit political [laughs]—or something. You know, I was just, like, trying to tell the truth. And as a female artist, you know—you’re always, like, put in a box. You know? They want to see you… they want to see you being sexy and all of that. And you know, I’m all of that as well [laughs]. So I started producing music that the industry didn’t think was commercial.
This kind of like helped me back, because I have been active and I have been writing. There’s also been that thing about different companies in the past weren’t really interested in… me being a songwriter, because they wanted me to sing their songwriters’ songs.
PA: And so my songwriting wasn’t encouraged, but I still kept writing just the same. And then I went through a lot of changes. I had the worst tragedy, the worst thing that could ever happen to a mother: I lost my daughter in the seventies. And so that kind of kept me out of the music industry for a while. I wasn’t really interested in the music industry at that time, I was…focusing on that. That devastation. But anyway, I came back to England in the mid-eighties and did Starlight Express, and I had a record deal with Ten Records, and when I came back in the eighties, there was now a black music scene in England—that there wasn’t before in the sixties. So then I kind of got caught up in that. Suddenly. When I was around in the sixties, it was like, music: it was just pop music and rock music and it wasn’t that sort of separation—that sort of race separation wasn’t happening here then. Then when I came back in the eighties, that was happening. So nobody knew what to do with me, because I’m black, you know [laughs], but before I’d been on a rock scene then suddenly I was put in the British black music scene.
PA: Which really kind of kept me locked up for a bit, because I’m an American.
PA: I’ve lived in England from the sixties. As you mentioned before, Doris Troy, Madeline Bell and Jimi Hendrix, and all of us, we came over here in the sixties and we really pioneered black music made in England, really.
PA: I mean, there were a few artists around, we weren’t the only ones. Of course, Millie (Small) was here before me; the Foundations were here. But there wasn’t really a black music scene at that time. Anyway, I don’t want to focus on that ’cause that’s all in the past. And now, thankfully, it seems like we have all this technology, so artists like myself—who have survived all of these different challenges that artists have to go through to survive in the music industry—we now have this technology that allows us to promote and market ourselves regardless of whether or not the record companies think that we’re commercial, or think that we’re over the age of being able to sing—which I never understand, because you know—as a singer, you develop in time. It’s like fine wine—you mature with age.
PA: So vocally, I like to think that that’s happened with me, because I take singing very seriously and I work very hard on keeping my voice in tiptop shape and everything. So, yeah! I’m so excited about being out here and singing, and being able to have such a large repertoire of music to share with the people [laughs].
DN: Well, for the benefit of those who will be checking this interview … because a lot of our visitors, of course, at Soul Music.com are in the United States—[and] may not be completely familiar with the early part of your history, I want to focus on certain parts since then so we can come back up to today. So just share with us about how you actually first got into the music industry, at the very start.
ENTER IKE & TINA TURNER…
PA: [laughing] Okay. All right. Well, I’ve been a singer all my life. I grew up singing in the church from the time I was four years old. And ‘a day in the life’ just sort of brought me into the music industry, because I had never even thought about it, in my wildest dreams, about singing professionally and being in show business or any of that. But ‘a day in the life’ changed my life, I ended up at Ike and Tina Turner’s house one Sunday afternoon [laughs], with a couple of girlfriends of mine—Miss Gloria Scott, whom you know—
DN: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah.
PA: And Maxine Smith. Gloria and Maxine had this audition to be Ikettes. And the girl that was supposed to go with them to the audition let them down at the last minute. So Maxine Smith was an ex-girlfriend of my brother, and she knew that I could sing, and they were desperate, right? So they called me [laughs]. They called me and asked me if I would just go with them to help get them the gig. Gloria actually knew about the gig because she was already singing with a set of Ikettes—Ike and Tina had two sets of Ikettes: they had a set of Ikettes that they took out on the road with them, and then they had another set of Ikettes that went on the road with Dick Clark and did the Dick Clark tours.
Gloria was in the set that did the Dick Clark tours, so she knew that the other girls—Vanetta Fields and Robbie Montgomery—those girls,she knew that they were leaving. So she wanted that gig with Ike and Tina. Anyway, I end up in Ike and Tina Turner’s living room doing some backgrounds to Gloria singing “Dancing in the Streets”—
PA: —and whatever else she did. I was, like, making up stuff in the background…Then, when we finished doing our little audition, well, Tina was just like… oh, she just loved us. She goes, “Well, girls, you got the gig.” And I’m going, “Oh, no, not me. Not me. I can’t go.” Because I mean, my life was already complicated. I had been in a teen marriage—a very abusive teen marriage. I was only seventeen, but I already had two young children. And so there was no way. I couldn’t, in my wildest dreams, think about going on the road with Ike and Tina Turner. But that Sunday morning I had prayed very hard to the Lord to help me find a way out the hell that I had found myself in, in this abusive marriage. So I said to Tina, “Oh, no, not me. There’s no way I could do this. My husband is not going to… I’m not even supposed to be here, I’m going to be in big trouble when I get home.” And so Tina said to me, she said, “Well, if you’re going to get in trouble for nothing, why don’t you come ride up to us in Fresno [laughs]—and see the show?” Well, any other day I would never have. No, not in a million years would I have disobeyed my husband and faced his wrath. But this particular day I thought it made sense.
So I went with Ike and Tina up to Fresno with Maxine and Gloria, just to have a look at the show, and of course my mind was blown… I had left home at eleven o’clock in the morning and it was about six o’clock in the morning when I put my key in my door to face his wrath. And this time when I faced his wrath I realized, ‘Wow, I have a way, I have a way out of this.’ What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four hours before I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this situation, and then suddenly I had a way out. So… okay, so that’s how I started singing with Ike and Tina Turner. I went and begged my mom and dad to help me and look after my kids and give me this opportunity, … they weren’t that okay with it, because I come from, like, a gospel background, and show business and all of that is like secular music.
PA: But they really, really, felt for me, because I had been a real honour roll student before I listened to my husband and let him talk me into ditching school that day that resulted in a teen pregnancy [laughs]. And I’d been through hell, so anyway, so that’s it.
PA: And I went on the road with Ike and Tina Turner and I sang with them for two years. The first tour, I went out with Gloria and Maxine—and all of us, were just shocked that, you know, the circumstances that were going on out there between Ike and Tina; the whole domestic scene and everything. And Ike was a really hard taskmaster, but still, it was a great gig, and worth doing it to go out and cut your teeth on, you know what I mean?
DN: Sure, sure.
PA: In show business, to be out there with Tina Turner as my first great influence—and Ike as well. That band, Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm: I mean, what a hot band. I mean, we are talking about a bandstand that would be burning up every night [laughs].
DN: Right, right, right.
PA: You know. So I toured with them. Maxine and Gloria left after the first tour ’cause they weren’t getting on well with—none of us were getting on—with Ike. But I’d already jumped into the sea and I couldn’t really leave the Revue like they could. They were free, and I had joined that Revue to give me a way to look after my kids—and support my kids, and get out of this situation. So I stayed, and I think it was a good thing I did, because one night in a club we used to play in on Sunset Strip called the Galaxy, we had some very famous visitors: Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman showed up at the gig. And that night we found out that we would be going to England to support the Rolling Stones. It was the first night that the band knew about it; Ike and Tina knew it was all happening.
So yeah, suddenly, wow, the next tour that we went out on [would be in England]… because we used to go out on tours and play what was known as the Chitlin Circuit in those days. And the Chitlin Circuit was like a string of soul clubs—and some of them weren’t even clubs. Sometimes we’d be playing in barns, and they’d take the little wooden chairs out of the church house and put ’em in the barn, and we’d be playin’ in there. And you know, we did all of that: the Chitlin Circuit and all the east coast theatre tours and everything. We came to London to tour with the Rolling Stones in 1966, and that’s when the next phase began.
DN: Now… and, of course, unlike your fellow Ikettes, you stayed [laughs] in London.
PA: I stayed, because I just had a ball. And lucky for me as well, I had caught my trumpet-player boyfriend messing around with somebody in New York, so when I landed in London I was a free soul.
DN: [Laughs] Okay.
PA: [Laughs] Free, okay? I was free in sixties’ London, with all that that was—all the revolution that was taking place there: music revolution, fashion revolution, just everything, the whole rock’n’roll/pop music revolution. And what better place to come than to England, doing a tour with the Rolling Stones?
ENTER MICK JAGGER…
PA: And so I became very friendly with Mick Jagger. We were mates. And Mick and his then-manager—Andrew Oldham, who had just started one of the first independent record labels in England, Immediate Records—they invited me to stay in England and be a solo artist. So that was next sort of unexpected ‘day in the life’….I never even dreamed of being a solo artist.
DN: Sure. Now tell us how the… there’s a song that is going to be forever associated with you—no matter what you do— you can lay claim to being the original recording artist.
PA: [Laughs] “The First Cut Is the Deepest”. And I just love that. I love that. Out of all the versions that I have ever heard after mine, I can truly say that the first cut is the deepest [laughs].
DN: Just so we know: how did the song come to you? I mean, do you remember the circumstances of it?
PA: Well, yeah, sure. I mean, like I said, I was invited to stay in London and record with the Immediate label, and Andrew Oldham and Tony Calder were managing me. And so yeah, I called my mom once again, and we just sort of said, well, I would stay, and if in six months nothing happened I would come home. And in six months, if things worked out, I would come home and get my kids and bring them back to England. I had had a lot of problems with Ike while I was in London, because Ike had no control over me. And I was having a ball in London hanging out with the Stones and everybody. I mean, these things would not have happened to me in America, because there is no way, back in those days, I could have been riding around in limos with the Rolling Stones [laughs]—in the whole sort of race atmosphere of America without people thinking that untoward things were happening. You know?
DN: Sure, sure.
PA: So it was great. Andrew and Tony, we decided I would stay, and Mick was going to produce half my album and Andrew was producing the other half. Andrew and Mick encouraged me to write my own tunes, which is the first time I’d wrote [sic] songs. And I have… “Treat Me Like a Lady”, “Am I Still Dreaming” and “Though It Hurts Me Badly” were the first songs that I wrote that Mick produced. All the things that Mick produced were my original compositions. Andrew was in charge of doing the production part, so he brought in Mike Hurst, who was also connected with Cat Stevens. There was just so much going on, on that little New Oxford Street block, there: we had Immediate Records; you had Dick James Music; and right around the corner from the office, Cat Stevens’ father had a restaurant—a Greek restaurant—he had a fantastic apartment right on top of that. So we were mates. He had this song that was presented to me which was perfect, because it just encapsulated everything that I was [dealing with] at the time: coming out of this abusive teen marriage and the pain from all of that, and having the courage to get out of that, and try to create a life for me and my kids. So you know, what a blessing—what a blessing to have got [sic] that song, that like you say, will be a classic forever. And I never tire of singing it or expressing it. I just feel… I just have such a heart for that song every time I sing it. It touches my soul, too, so…
DN: Right. And I guess you could have had no idea that it would last as long as it has as a song that is truly, as you said, a classic—a pop classic.
PA: Well, you know, it’s just a pop classic. I had no idea … I don’t think any of us [did]…. [Immediate] was a great label - you had the Small Faces on that label; you had Fleetwood Mac. My backing band at the time was The Nice. Keith Emerson was my MD, putting my first band together, and so I called them The Nice—and so that was The Nice with Keith Emerson and Lee Jackson. And sit was just great. I had a few bands before The Nice, but we put The Nice together because they were looking for more of an edge for me. Because I was on the road… I took over… remember Ronnie Jones?
PA: Ronnie Jones was an American soul singer that was in England—who had come to England and had been in the air force. He stayed in England and had a band called the Blue Jays. So Ronnie left and went to Italy to live, and so I inherited the Blue Jays. So the Blue Jays were my first band, and that was like a soul band, and I just went out doing covers. Aretha’s my idol. But everybody… somebody just put the flyers out for this tour and said, “The return of the Queen of Soul, PP Arnold.” And I was so upset about that, because hey, man—Aretha is the queen, okay [laughs]?
PA: Aretha is and always has been the Queen of Soul. I’m quite happy with being referred to as the First Lady of Soul [laughs]. So for anybody who’s seen that and thinks that’s my ego out there—it has nothing to do with me [laughs].
DN: I gotcha. Now, just to complete that particular period, of course the other song that you are absolutely associated with—and again, another pop classic—is “Angel of the Morning”. Now I don’t know, so you have to tell me, because I apologize for not knowing this—but were you the first person to record that song?
PA: No, I wasn’t, I don’t think I was the first person. I think an American artist named Merrilee Rush—
DN: Okay, yes. Correct, correct—absolutely correct. Yes.
PA: She had a hit in America, but I covered it in England. And when I covered it in England, there was also another artist called Billie Davis—and Billie is still around, I think—she also recorded “Angel of the Morning”, so it was a big competition as to whose version was gonna make it in the charts. And I remember, I went on Top of the Pops; they sent me the hairdressers at Leonard’s. And I had all this makeup with the whole Kafunta image as this African angel. And of course [laughing] we got on TV on Top of the Pops to do it with all this coloured hair and this Kafunta image, but forgetting that it was in black and white!
PA: [Laughs] And there I was, the black angel in all this hair and ostrich feathers and eyelashes… it was great. And so anyway, my version won, so people do remember my version. Billie’s version was nice as well, but… sorry, Billie [laughs]. I think we must mention my other single at Immediate that is just like… [a] northern soul classic… it wasn’t a big hit at the time—it was written and produced by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane: “If You Think You’re Groovy”.
DN: Oh, yes—yes.
PA: And that’s another classic that follows me to this day that I’m also very proud of. I’m really in love with that. I have so many great memories for all the work that I did with Steve—Steve Marriott was my soul brother. Soul brother number one—all those guys were. We were all… it’s awful, what happened with Immediate Records, you know, … the label broke down and went bankrupt, and all the artists were like lost and we were all just… devastated, because it was a great place to be, Immediate Records. All the artists we had, we were all working together in the same way. We had the inspiration of Motown in the States, and we were trying to build that kind of vibe here in England, where all the artists worked together and write together and play together, you know? So yeah, a great era.
ENTER DORIS TROY, MADELINE BELL…
DN: I was going to say, just to kind of cap off that particular period: can you give us an idea of what it was like for you, and you mentioned a couple of other people who were here: we of course talked earlier on about Doris—Doris Troy; Madeline Bell and I think there was somebody else… oh, of course, Jimi Hendrix—hello [laughs].
DN: What was it like for you all as Americans, as African-Americans in London, in the U.K. at the time? How was that, just coming from a different culture and then being in London and then being recognized and accepted and just being your own… in a sense, your own little community. How was that for you?
PA: It was fantastic. It was really, really fantastic, because we were free. We were free souls. We were really free souls at a very important time in the history of British music. And not only did we separately and individually have our own careers; we just worked with everybody, because we had that sound—that whole American sound that everybody was into, and the gospel and everything. Madeline, Doris and I, along with Lesley Duncan and Kay Garner and other great singers here in England—we just did everything, so we were really a part of the sound that happened with lots of big artists, you know? You know, nobody realizes that Doris was part of that original Pink Floyd choir.
And Madeline…. One session that I have always been upset about, and that was “With A Little Help From My Friends”, the Joe Cocker session. Now I sung on that session, and I never really got a credit. I don’t know what happened with the politics of all of that that went down, but I know that Joe also brought in—to go on the road with him—he brought in Sue and Sunny—the sisters, Sue and Sunny—and they were singing… I think there were a lot of versions of Sue and Sunny… but I definitely went and did that session with Madeline Bell that night. And every time I hear “With a Little Help From My Friends” and I hear me in the background and then it says “Sue and Sunny,” I think, oh well, okay, all right.
DN: Well, now you get a chance to tell publicly, now, that it was really you.
ENTER JIMI HENDRIX AND ROD STEWART…
DN: So you did a lot of session work?
PA: We did a lot of session work. Jimi Hendrix and I, as the universe would have it, lived right around the corner from each other.
PA: The first night I met Jimi, I was doing a gig at Bagnell’s. And my guitar came backstage…. I had seen this brother out in the club, you know, this really freaky-looking black guy hanging out surrounded by all these women, and I thought, “Who is this brother?” Anyway, I’m backstage getting ready to do my set and my guitar player comes back and he said, “There’s an American guitar player here tonight and he wants to know if he can jam with the band. “And I go, “Oh, well, just tell him he can jam on the second set.” Because if people wanted to jam, that’s cool, but I always let people jam on the second set, ’cause you don’t want someone to come onstage and jam and blow you away and then, you know…
PA: There’s your night gone [laughs]. So anyway, he came and we had a great night at Bagnell’s. And then Jimi came up at the end of the second set to jam with us—and of course, you know Jimi’s history. He blew us away. And we became the best of friends, and then we lived right around the corner from each other, and we had such a close community with all of us: Madeline and Doris, and then later, you know, The Flirtations came, and The Fantastics were here—well, they’re still here. Then my soul mate Jimmy Thomas came, the year after…Jimmy was also a singer with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Jimmy came back in ’68 to do the second tour with the Stones, and Jimmy stayed. So he’s been in London all these years as well. It was just great; we had such a great time. It was just music, music, music. I didn’t get a chance to party as much as everybody else because I had my babies. Within six months I had “First Cut Is the Deepest”. I had that hit. So I went home to L.A. and got my kids and brought my kids back to England with me…and you know, it wasn’t easy. Suddenly, I had my two babies in a different culture and a different country, but that’s the way it was. And I think having my kids with me saved me, actually.
DN: Right, right. I gotcha.
PA: There was a lot of extracurricular partying going on out there back then— at all those parties. [If I had participated]… I may not be here talking with you today [laughs].
DN: I gotcha. Now, let’s pick up on your recording career: so after Immediate, what was the next thing that happened with your recording career?
PA: Well, after Immediate I was lost for a minute… I had recorded a version of “To Love Somebody” that Barry Gibb just loved. And so at the end of the period with Immediate, Mick Jagger produced a duet with Rod Stewart and I. There I was… Immediate had not folded yet , we were doing an Otis Redding/Carla Thomas-type duet thing. And although Rod and I… [laughs] our relationship fell apart at that session. But it was good. We did the song “Come Home Baby”, which has also survived as a real big Northern Soul classic. Unfortunately, that was my session that we did that duet on, but I seem to find a lot of versions that says [sic] “Rod Stewart featuring PP Arnold.” This is not the case—that was my session—
DN: Okay [laughs]
PA: —through my producer at the time, Mick Jagger. And so anyway, just to correct that. For all these labels that are putting that out and have been putting that out for years, and… [fierce voice] I want my royalties! [Laughs]
DN: [Laughs] Okay.
ENTER BARRY GIBB AND ERIC CLAPTON…
PA: So yeah. So anyway, through Rod—[we] were close friends for a while—and I met a guy named James Morris … there’s a whole group of guys that came from West Drayton and I call them the West Drayton lads. That’s Ronnie Wood, Jim Morris, Rod Stewart… Dick Ashby, who is now the manager with Barry Gibb; the manager with Barry. But anyway, the West Drayton lads. So I met Jim through Rod, and Jim worked for Robert Stigwood, who managed the Bee Gees. Through Jim I met Barry, who just loved my version of “To Love Somebody”, and yeah, he was really interested in producing me. And so that was the next project that I did after Immediate. We started doing an album—I signed with the Robert Stigwood Organisation, and Barry and I started recording an album together. Now unfortunately, during that relationship, there were a lot of politics going on. People that have been around remember that the Bee Gees split up around that time.
So there was a lot of stuff going on around there, and unfortunately our project wasn’t completed. We did have a single release called “Bury Me Down by the River” with the B-side, “Give a Hand, Take a Hand”, which was released. I mean, “Bury Me Down by the River” taught me to never sing a lyric that has a negative connotation.. Because after recording “Bury Me Down by the River”, I got buried down by the river—
PA: —for a long time; I really did. And I sung that song with conviction. I didn’t really have a hit record for a while after that, but [laughs]… Anyway, I kind of got caught up in that whole thing; Barry and our productions kinda stop[ped]. So then I went on the road. I had a band—I formed another band, put a band together with Steve Howe of Yes playing guitar. And the rhythm section was a group called Ashton, Gardner and Dyke, with Tony Ashton, Kim Gardner and… oh, god. Bluh-bluh-bluh Dyke [laughs]. So we went on the road and we opened up the Eric Clapton Delaney & Bonnie tour of 1970 with George Harrison and Billy Preston.
PA: Yeah, and that was fantastic. Kay Garner and Lesley Duncan were with me singing my backgrounds and everything. That was a fun tour; that was a crazy tour. And after the tour I went in the studio with Eric [Clapton], with the Delaney & Bonnie band playing and Eric, and we started doing an album together, because Eric was also with RSO.
So yeah, once again, there’s a lot of recordings that were never released, because da-da-da-da, they weren’t commercial, or blah-blah-blah… but hopefully they’ll see the light of day real soon. I’m working on that. And then after that I did my first theatre project. I played Bianca—they beefed up the Bianca role in Othello. And I did the first rock musical, Othello; and it was directed by Jack Good, an American… who was famous for a rock’n’roll music program called Shindig—back in the sixties. An American show. So I did Catch My Soul, it was my first theatre experience, and it was great; with P.J. Proby and a guy named Lance LeGault and a really, really sweet English actress that—I don’t know, I’ve heard recently that she’s passed away, a beautiful lady named Anne Harriet-Reese. I went on the road with Catch My Soul and brought it into the West End, into the Roundhouse. And then it was great doing theatre, but at the time, I was really missing being on the road, singing. I think Marsha Hunt took over after me [in Catch My Soul]. And then from there, you know, we’re getting deeper into the lost years [laughs].
DN: Okay. Well, we won’t dwell on the lost years; otherwise we’ll have a ten-hour interview…
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.