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1947: Brian Parrish was born `Brian Morris´ to Victor and Joyce Morris in Ilford, Essex, England on July 12th 1947. He was one of twins, having a sister, Julie know as Boogie. Brian: “I don’t know why, but I started to call her Boogie and it stuck“
1958: His parents bought him first guitar as a reward for passing a school examination which would earn him his place in High School and further education. Ironically Brian cared less about education from the moment his hands touched the guitar.
1959: was pivotal and musically provided the equivalent of St. Paul´s road to Damascus experience. During this year Brian heard little Richard records which he found thrilling – “like something from another planet!“. During this year his father took him to see a low budget rock`n´ roll film featuring the American stars of the day – Little Richard (wonderful, of course), The Platters and significantly, Gene Vincent. A great tracking shot across a street and into a rehearsal hall window was accompanied by the opening bars of “Be- Bop- Alula“. The tape echo was astonishing for the time, and when the camera focussed on Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps playing the song inside, the effect was electrifying. Brian was 11 years old and he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
“The Girl Cant Help It” was the rock`n` roll film. The `girl` in question, who was played by Jayne Mansfield (memorable for two entirely different reasons), was less than a seminal figure in rock`n´roll history.
1960: Brian made early stage appearances with his father, who was a singer, as his own father has been. Brian was listening to Lonnie Donegan – a popular British singer of the time. Lonnie piqued Brian´s interest in American roots music, which he only knew only as `skiffle`- knowing nothing of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and the music´s other originators at this time. Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis -all made his heart race. Buddy Holly also, who was writing his own songs. The world was changing!
Like so many English boys at this time Brian was fascinated with the guitar sounds of the Shadows – who played back up for the very popular Cliff Richard. Brian maintains that Cliff made the best rock`n´roll record ever produced in England –“Move it“.
Brian says “Cliff really let us down, and broke his promise after that, producing nothing of value or interest (musically) ever again. Sir Cliffs bank manager and legions of fans would not agree with me, of course – so what do I know? But `Move It` gets me every time!“
1962: Brian formed his first group with two other boys – Chris Marsh and Ricky Carlowe. They were “The Titans“ and played in pubs where Brian was still too young to legally be inside (minimum age 18 years). He began to write his first “truly awful“ songs. “I like to think that I am a little better at it these days, but others will be the judge of that” says Brian.
1963: Brian met Paul Curtis – as he then was known (real name Paul Gurvitz). The two had a similar passion. Paul`s father, Sam was tour manager with the famous “Shadows“ – an invaluable connection. Paul and Brian formed a band with Mick Palmer (bass) and Stan (?) on drums. They were called The Londoners. Sam Curtis found them their first work in France and Germany, playing U.S. army bases. Brian recalls, “The black guys liked us best. We had no idea why they, in particular, took us to heart – but it could be because we were playing their music – rythm`n`blues – probably quite badly, but with great enthusiasm!” Brian says “We saw nothing incongruous about four white English boys playing `Parchman farm`, a song about a Lousiana jail famous for its harsh treatment of black prisoners. We knew nothing!”
Upon their return to England the Londoners were hired as the backing band for (-of all people!) Gene Vincent.
This contact came via Sam Curtis, now managing the group. Vincent was by now resident in England. Brian says he learned 2 lessons. One: Heroes are human beings Two: Playing rock music is the best job in the world. The Londoners toured England on rock`n`roll package tours, meeting other ´greats´ such as Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Some years later Brian would also record with Jerry Lee, but this was way ahead in the future. Brian signed his first music publishing contract at this time, and began to get his songs recorded by other artists.
1964: The Londoners were offered work in Germany. The first stop was in Bremen at the Star Club. This was a `spin off` from the Hamburg club of that name. The Bremen club was opened for a brief period only. The Londoners proved very popular. In Bremen Brian met two people who would later come to play important part in his life . They were Jochen Laschinsky and the young and beautiful Angela Panneck.
Angela was learning photography and had gone to the club to take pictures. She quickly befriended the band, and began to help whenever English / German translation was required. So friendly were they that she invited the Londoners to her home to meet her parents. Not wishing to be perceived as rock ´n´ roll bad boys the group were faultlessly polite, and all wore neck ties. We have the pictures to prove it. Of Jochen, more later…
After one month in Bremen the Londoners played for the first time in the Star Club, Hamburg. The Beatles, already famous, and on their way to further phenomenal success, had played the club along with many other young British bands, making the gig something like the Holy Grail of rock ´n´ roll venues in Europe. There was fantastic energy between the young German audiences and the visiting British bands.
The Londoners` constantly developing stage act was very popular with the people, and the group appeared frequently over the next 2 years at the Star Club, returning to play England and Scandinavia in between. At one time they appeared continuously for 7 / 8 months without a break.
This was not due to their undoubted popularity, but because the Star Club boss, Manfred Weisslieder had tax problems which prevented him from paying the band other than “per dium“ subsistence money. This had the benefit not only of extending their success with the fans and further honing their stagecraft (due to the long hours – 3 to 4 hours every night, 7 nights a week) but also delivered a nice pay day when Manfred could finally afford to honour his obligation as his cash flow improved. Angela Panneck regularly travelled to Hamburg to see `her boys`during this time.
The many bands who played the club with The Londoners are too numerous to mention - but three are worthy of note.
The first of these deserve credit for both their unwavering loyalty to rock`n`roll (they are still playing!) and for their lasting friendship. Stand Up King Size (Ted) Taylor and the Dominoes.
The second was The Remo 4, who were a great unit , featuring Colin Manley – a lovely guitar player, Tony Ashton – also a lifelong friend of Brian´s , who sadly passed away not so long ago, and Roy Dyke – a superb drummer who later played in the band `Badger` with Brian. “When the Remos turned up we knew we had serious competition” said Brian “ They were just so good!” The third band are the Cherokees, of whom more later…
1965: French singer Johnny Hallyday – a big star somewhat in the `Elvis` style at the time recorded Brian's song `Just my Imagination`(`C`est mon Imagination`). This was an early success for Brian, the songwriter. The Londoners recorded a series of `singles` in England, and released these under the name `The Knack`. Bass player Mick Palmer was now replaced by Geary Kenworthy. The first single was a Ray Davis / Kinks song called `Who`ll be the next in Line?`
This was semi successful – that is, it received radio plays, sold some copies but nothing spectacular. The succeeding singles did less well. There was, however, plenty of work and the band toured continuously throughout Europe.
When the band returned to Germany to play the `Beat Festival` at the Stadthalle in Bremen with the Kinks, it was as `The Londoners` - the name by which they were best known in Germany. Jochen Laschinsky provided back line amplification from his own fledging band (Mushroams), and of course Angela was present. The appearance was a great success.
The Knack returned to England to play and continued to develop their friendship with the Cherokees, visiting them when playing near to Leeds (Cherokees home town) and conversely seeing their Northern friends whenever the other group had work ´down South´. During this time when Cherokees drummer, Jim, departed Topper Clay was offered the job and so left the Knack to replace him. The Knack recruited Louie Farrell on the drum stool. The Knack (once again billed as the Londoners) returned to play the Hamburg Star Club, and during the second month of their tour of duty were joined by the Cherokees. Friendships were still strong, the Londoners ever popular, and Topper looked very happy in his new `family`.
Christmas 1966 found Brian not wanting to play a gig over the holiday “no matter how much money is on offer” as the band had played throughout the previous 3 Christmases. As if on cue, a lot of money was indeed offered for a Christmas day gig. The band accepted the offer, Brian said “No way” . The others said “If you don’t play you´re out” Brian said “OK, I´m out” and subsequently left.
He remained friendly with the Cherokees, now calling themselves `New York Public Library`and recording with 60´s pop producer Mickie Most (Animals, Lulu, Jeff Beck, the dreadful Hermans Hermits etcetera). When their singer John left, Brian was invited to join. He accepted.
NYPL toured extensively, and during one of their gigs Brian's short-scale Rickenbacker guitar was stolen. Having to replace it quickly he was unable to find the same model, and instead acquired a Rickenbacker 12 string guitar. The 12 string `jangle`sound became something of a NYPL trademark for a while. The band recorded singles – some of Brian's songs, but also versions of Doors songs, Lovin´Spoonful and others. Angela Panneck visited Brian in the UK. In this year also at this time Brian played many recording sessions, and was by now getting his songs covered by pop artists and groups from this era. Notable were Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Worth a mention just for the silly name. Very `poppy`and very successful in Europe. The very affable Dave Dee was a good friend.
Of the many guitar sessions played by Brian at the time, he was particularly pleased to be recording with Amory Kane. Amory was an American West coast songwriter. A good friend and fellow songwriter whose album (in Brian's opinion), should have sold more than it did. Brian says: “Wherever you are, Amory – Hello! Respect!”.
1967: Brian was offered a solo recording deal and left New York Public Library to sign with United Artistes. He recorded one single for the label,“Love Chant”. The writing credits for the A and B sides were Brian Morris, but the name of the artiste for the first time was Brian Parrish. Soon after this his name was legally changed and has ever since been PARRISH.
There were problems with his manager of that time. “Let us say that he was not the most honest person I have met in my life” says Brian, “However, I must accept the full responsibility of signing with him, even whilst laying some of the blame for what was an imprudent business move on ( shall we say?) rock ’n’ roll excess – something I was definitely guilty of at the time. The 12-step recovery programme(s) which was to save my life was still years in the future”.
1968: Brian met a record producer called Lou Reizner. Lou was very impressed with Brian's new songs and invited Brian to work with him, Brian was given the keys to Lou’s London apartment and access to his recording equipment to routine and “demo” the new songs while Lou was in the USA with Richie Havens and others.
1969: One day whilst in a nearby street to Lou´s apartment, a car pulled up and the driver said “How are you doing?”. It was Paul Curtis. In the intervening period the Knack had disbanded and Paul had formed a 3 piece with brother Adrian Curtis. Known as “Gun”, they scored a significant hit with “Race with the Devil”. Louie Farrell was the drummer. The Gun had meanwhile faded away despite 2 albums of good (for the time) Adrian Curtis penned songs.
Brian asked Paul to sing harmonies with him on his solo project, and the vocal blend was “so good that it seemed ridiculous not to make it a duo, if Paul was free”. He was.
When Lou Reizner returned he was surprised - but very happy with the results. Brian persuaded Paul that he should use his original family name of Gurvitz. After initial misgivings Paul agreed, acknowledging that it was ethnically (culturally?) more interesting than the bland “Curtis”. So Parrish & Gurvitz was born. Recording began at London's Island Studios and by now Paul Gurvitz’ songs were included. This album, which included songs such as “On the way home” was destined to be unreleased. This Brian Parrish song would later resurface on the “One Live Badger” album. (It was credited on the Atlantic album as a “Badger” composition, as were two other Brian written titles)
Parrish & Gurvitz signed with Canadian Management AHED music, under Barry Authors. Their new managers took a copy of the Lou Reitzner produced master tape to Beatles producer George Martin. Martin wanted to sign the act to his new A.I.R. London Company and not surprisingly insisted on producing the record personally. Money changed hands, the original recordings “shelved” and Lou Reizner gracefully retired. Lou – a lovely guy – went on to produce (among other things) an all star concert and album of Pete Townshends “Tommy”.
Lou also passed away it seemed, long before his time. But that’s really God’s business. We miss you, Lou.
1970: George Martin revamped the P & G project. It was he who chose the final selection, running order and so on. “You don’t argue with success and musicality of this order” Brian said. Some of the earlier songs were discarded, as others were favoured by George. The producer also graced the recordings with the kind of orchestral arrangements which had been integral to the Beatles ever more adventurous recordings.
September 1971 saw the publication of a centre - spread editorial piece in English national newspaper the Sunday Mirror, hailing George Martins´ new act as “ The New Beatles”. The timing was terrible, as the album had yet to be released, and the article was full of inaccuracies and misquotes, but the damage was done. The bag was empty, the cat was out. From then on Parrish and Gurvitz became the subject of increasingly hysterical press articles worldwide with the Beatles name hanging like a lead weight over the whole project. For the “New Beatles” themselves these projections, expectations and inevetable comparisons did nothing to assist the development of their career. Months followed during which they mimed ( lip-synched ) to various tracks from the album on TV shows, and attempted to field questions from the press which were always along the lines of “How does it feel to be the new Beatles ?”, “Have the Beatles influenced you?” And so on, ad infinitum. As yet Parrish and Gurvitz had never played a live gig – but had been publicised world wide via press and television. Brian and Paul, who had “earned their spurs” as live players were now all but consumed by a machine that would prevent them playing and proving their worth. The album was released in the U.S.A. and tour dates were set (unwisely, not to coincide with the album release, but months later). Oblivious to the strategic stupidity of the timing, or of the investment that would subsequently not be recouped, Parrish and Gurvitz began to select musicians and rehearse the road band with excitement. Musicians love to play. It´s that simple.
1972: The band was somewhat “heavier” than the acoustic / electric blend suggested by the P+G album. It marked a return to the rock band format from which Brian and Paul had come. Their choice of musicians was indicative of this. Drummer Mike Kellie, formerly of Spooky Tooth, had played on the acoustic driven Parrish + Gurvitz debut album. On bass was Rick Wills previously with Cochise and later to play with Roxy Music, and Foreigner.
Mickey Gallagher was on keyboards. Mickey came up through Skip Bifferty and other Newcastle bands. In years to come his work with lan Dury and the Blockheads would seal his already good reputation. Mickey can currently be seen with the latest incarnation of the Animals. The band began to rehearse material from the first album, albeit now sounding much heavier – and new songs for a projected album – Parrish + Gurvitz “ TWO”. In May 1972 the band played 2 weeks of open public rehearsals in the Nickelodeon – a bar in Toronto – as a warm up to their US tour starting in June. These performances were not intended for press attention., but as ´dry run´ gigs to test audiences.
The Canadian press got on board, and were favourable. Soon there were reporters from the USA and, tellingly from their U.S. label, MCA. With the album already old news, having been released several month before, this tour would do little to enhance sales. Of great concern to MCA was the fact that the softer music of the P+G album was barely in evidence now.
The label had not signed a rock bank, however good …. This outfit had more in common with the electric line- ups being used by the likes of Niel Young ( think Crazy Horse …) The band had evolved, the label had not. The US tour kicked off in New York. From a performance perspective the tour was a success, but received little or no label support. There was no one with the clear vision to harness the impetus of the press attention of the previous months and capitalize on what the band was actually doing. To quote Brian Parrish “ We just had our heads down and were playing, while our managers ran the marketing with the precision and sense of purpose of a headless chicken”
“ One highlight of the tour was when in New York we got tickets to see Elvis Presley at Madison Square Garden, via his manager Tom Parker. This was not a man known for his generosity, so I suppose this was a coup. Led Zeppelin – at the time the biggest band on the planet- also went along and they were like star struck fans. “We are going to see Elvis!!” Bonham wore full Edwardian ( Teddy Boy ) regalia, I recall. Elvis was in his pre-Michelin man period, before he became the Burger King, and was great.” Parting with their management, the band returned to England to install themselves in AIR studios and record P+G “Two” The album was not released. Since Brian and Paul were unable to pay the musicians other than for the recording, the band joined Peter Frampton , formerly with Humble Pie who had befriended the P and G band in the USA. This new band became Framptons Camel, enjoying significant success with “Frampton Comes Alive”. Paul and Brian looked at each other, shrugged and said “OK, Next ?” Paul took up once again with brother Adrian who was now also happy to use the name Gurvitz. Together with Ginger Baker they formed Baker Gurvitz Army.
1973: Brian was considering his options when he received a phone call from Roy Dyke, his old friend from the Star Club Hamburg time (Remo 4) . The two had regularly met as Roy was, like Brian, a habitué of the Speakeasy, Marquee, Revolution and the other London night clubs where musicians would meet.
Roy was working with Tony Kaye who had left YES ( to be replaced by Rick Wakeman ) and bass player / songwriter David Foster. Roy asked “What are you doing? Have you got any songs? How would you like to play with us?”Brian replied “Not much” “Yes, some” and “Maybe” to these questions. A meeting was arranged and Brian arrived to an empty rehearsal room, to ask a weary roadie “Is this the right place ?” and, “Where are the band ?”“In the pub, of course” was the reply, and Brian knew that they would get along well from that moment. And so it proved to be, when some hours later they played their first drunken notes together.
Never a fan of “progressive rock” as it was known, Brian was pleased that the band was edgier than he would have guessed from Tony Kayes previous efforts . Solos were still reassuringly long for lovers of guitar and organ “widdly bits”. Six songs were rehearsed. Four of Brian's-”Preacher”, “Wheel of Fortune”, "The River" and the aforementioned “ On the way home” , together with 2 David Foster Songs, “Fountain” and “Wind of Change”.
The band was signed to the company, “Worldwide Management” who had both Yes, and Black Sabbath ( with Ozzie still on board ) in their stable. Badger was chosen as the name of this new band. Worldwide Management added the new band to the bill for some forthcoming Yes concerts, and a short time later Badger would play a European tour with Black Sabbath. The intention was to record Yes´s performance for a live album ( subsequently released as “Yessongs”)
Someone suggested recording the Badger performances, reasoning that with no additional cost aside from a reel or two of recording tape, the results might produce something useful. So it was that in November two consecutive nights of Badger were recorded at the Rainbow Theatre. It may be that these were their first ever performances. Memories differ, but it seems likely that there was one appearance prior to this at a “university somewhere” together with the Groundhogs, (another “Worldwide” band) This is the consensus of opinion between Brian Parrish and David Foster. The resulting album “One Live Badger” received overwhelmingly good reviews. The album sold well in the US, entering the US ‘Billboard` charts shortly after its release.
Before the band was due to tour the United States, Badger undertook a tour of Europe with stable-mates Black Sabbath. Brian remembers, “We got on with Sabbath immediately – with Ozzie taking a particular shine to us. The gigs went well, and with such an assortment of lunatics in both bands, much fun was had also. I suspect that most people who have spent time the man have a number of Ozzie Osbourne stories. So do I! This is not the place for them. The point is he is a lovely guy and I want to be able to look him in the face should we meet.
I do remember things like the stage catching fire as we played an arena in Italy. Huge flames rose up from the boards and a wall of black smoke completely obliterated the audience. This was not the whispy white smoke of special effects, we were choking up there, but it was a dramatic way to close our act, and was followed by the best efforts of the Italian fire brigade to deal with the problem. Another time in Italy the promoters were trying to get us to use Italian amplification, we said “Thank you but definitely no, we have our own”. Upon our arrival that evening our crew told us that our trucks had mysteriously disappeared. We did, however have amplifiers- shiny new Italian ones. The promoters had said “No problem, you are in luck as our people have brought Italian amps to help you out!”. The following day our tracks re-appeared. Hmm… This was the time of free concerts, and at another gig a few thousand people who did not want to buy tickets rioted outside and finally broke into the venue. They were still jumping up and down on our limos as we were trying to drive away after the gig. We did everything in Europe, other than sleep. Suffice to say that I returned to England exhausted”.
Brian elected to leave shortly before the all important US tour. “Very inconsiderate to the others” he concedes. “I am pleased that they are still talking to me!”
“To leave on the eve of a U.S. tour with a buzz in the air about the first album was professional Hari Kiri, I suppose – but my personal life was problematic, and well, that’s how it was - that´s what I did”.
The album is highly rated. It was recently re-released for the umpteenth time. The following is the “blurb” from the label website and independent reviews :
In the history of British (or U.S.) rock music it is rare, if not unique to issue a live recording as a first release. This is traditionally a step taken by the brave few following the issue of numerous carefully crafted and successful studio recordings. For Badger this was more a case of happy accident than courageous strategy. A series of concerts take place in 1971 with the recently formed Badger appearing as special guests with stable-mates, Yes. These concerts were to be recorded for a live Yes album. Someone recording Badger also as they were road testing songs for what was to be a studio recording. The result is (a recording of) the bands first public performance and it crackles with energy. The review in Rolling Stone said “after hearing this album I hope Badger never go into a studio – if the always sound this good live they have absolutely no need to do so ( RS 142: see www.rollingstone.com/ reviews). There was a subsequent studio album, but with a changed line up. “ One Live Badger” is regarded as the best Badger album, entering the lower reaches of the U.S. album chart soon after it was issued, without the benefit of tour support there. Quite an achievement for a first release.
An excerpt from an accompanying and longer review says: ……the band made their debut at the Rainbow theatre in December 1972 supporting Yes at the infamous concerts that spawned the Yessongs live album. Atlantic records to whom both groups were signed, decided that as the equipment was in place, they should make the most of their financial outlay and record the support groups set as well. In a bold move that seems extraordinary by today´s standards, it was this recording that formed the basis of One Live Badger. And what a great album is, the material is strong and the group sound as if they have been playing and writing together for years. The production by the group, Jon Anderson and Geoffrey Haslam is crisp although somewhat more raw an aggressive than the resulting YES recordings from the same concerts. As expected Kayes signature Hammond organ sound is to the fore on most of the tracks (and) in particular on the album closer “ On the Way Home” although he does use other keyboards to add different textures. The chorus of “Wind of Change” features the mellotron ”, “The River” utilises the electric piano to great effect, and a Moog synthesizer is evident on other tracks.
Guitarist, Brian Parrish, plays some great solos, although nothing too flash (excuse the pun!) or overburdened with technical virtuosity. The solid and efficient rhythm section are quite prominent in the mix as one would expect from a live recording – Fosters bass in particular being particularly clear – the dynamic mix of driving bass, riffing guitar and wailing Hammond during “ On the Way Home” is superb and probably something that could only be got away with on a live recording. The closest comparison would be akin to a rockier Traffic. Overall a wonderful live album and worthy of inclusion in the collection of any fan of 1970´s rock music…..
Also during 1973 Brian got a call from old acquaintance Steve Rowland – a pop producer who had used him on many records including those by Dave Dee + Co. The result was Brian´s appearance on the Jerry Lee Lewis London sessions. “I had met Jerry Lee when working with Gene Vincent, of course” remembers Brian, “but it was a great pleasure to do these sessions” Sadly Brian cut his finger badly on the day and had to withdraw from guitar playing duties. “They asked me to stay and play harmonica – one of the few times I ever did that in a studio, together with percussion and stuff ”. Was he disappointed about the guitar playing? “Well yes of course, but it probably saved me from embarrassing myself, as Albert Lee and all sorts of really wonderful guitar players were on board. The main thing is I was there!”
1974 “Love on my mind”
1974 found Brian Parrish at a crossroads following his departure from Badger. He signed with Warner Brothers Music (publishing) as a songwriter and set about writing new songs. He was not performing and missed playing with other musicians – and was impatient to secure a record deal.
Hearing the new songs, Chas Chandler offered a deal with his newly forming “BARN” Records, which was to be distributed by Polydor . It would be some time before Barn would be ready to release a record, but work began in earnest to assemble the musicians and begin recording soon after the deal was signed. `Barn `was an unknown quantity – a new venture, but Brian had every reason to have confidence in Chas, whose track record was impressive. He had managed the phenomenal Jimi Hendrix from the time of Jimi´s arrival in the UK and throughout his career,until the time of the guitarist´s death. More recently Chas had overseen the career of pop band, Slade, then at the crest of their wave. In addition Chas´s pedigree as bass-man with the Animals and his likeable straight forward manner seemed to bode well for the future. A deal was struck to extricate Brian from his Warner Brothers song writing contract, one condition of which was that some Warner Brothers published titles would be used on the first album released.
Within the framework of Brian´s previous work with Badger, his songs with R+B leanings had emerged as rock songs. This was hardly surprising, given the Badger rhythm section of Dyke and Foster, and certainly did Badger nothing but good. Brian was now free to re-think (although “free” is hardly the right adjective, as much of his thinking was chemically altered at this time) He was certainly keen to explore a more funky neighbourhood. A superlative group of musicians was selected. Pete Wingfield and Brian Chatton would share keyboards, Pete van Hooke was on drums, Jerome Rimson on bass, and for the first time in a while a second guitar would be used. Vic Linton was a good choice. The horns included Brian´s friend Mick Eve and Howie Casey – another “face” from the Hamburg time. When recording was finished it became apparent that Barn was, indeed, far from ready to release any product (It was to be 1976 before the album – “Love on my mind “ would be issued!)
With songs to spare it was decided that tracks would be laid while fresh, and these could be used for the next album. Six songs were recorded, at which point this project was halted in order to rehearse a band for touring. Eric Burdon (ex. Animals ) was to return to England to play some concerts, and tentative plans were made to include Brian on the bill. Many of the musicians in the studio band had forward commitments, and so a process of forming a Barn “house band” commenced. These musicians would form the rhythm section for Barn projects, including the Eric Burdon dates, and for Brian´s gigs.
Over a time a very effective unit evolved, still including Brian Chatton on Keyboards from the studio band. When Eric Burdon arrived to play his tour the House Band accompanied him and Brian Parrish played guest guitar. Mostly, these were shared dates where the ´Brian Parrish Band´ would play a set and return to the stage with Eric, being announced as the ´Eric Burdon Band´. Confusing? You bet…
Also found Brian busy on the recording front with other artistes. Among these were ´Medicine Head´ who were being produced by Tony Ashton – once again a Hamburg friendship underpinned this activity. Also that year, still with Tony, was the Jon Lord (Deep Purple) and Tony Ashton album “ First of the Big Bands”. “ I was excited to do this “says Brian “ As it was so over the top – horns and everything going down live in the studio. Jon Lord´s arrangement skills and musicality were so good, all the musicians involved were great – Ian Paice on drums was magic of course, and working with Ashton was always fun. I loved it.”
1976 “Love on my mind” was finally released with scant promotion from either Barn or it´s parent, Polydor. Brian hated to packaging, finding it too light-weight and ´frothy´, altogether drawing more from the ´pop´ marketing style of Slade, rather than the ´rock-friendly´ design he had hoped for under Chas, as Jimi´s ex-manager. An earlier design featuring a sepia photograph which Brian liked was rejected as being too ´sombre´.
Be that as it may, sales of “Love On my Mind” were disappointing. Brian still has fondness for some of the songs, but less so the production for which he was also responsible (!).
The projected second album had stalled and would never resurface. As a footnote to the above, Paul Gurvitz appeared briefly towards the end of the year and wrote a song “Rolling Home” with Brian. They had performed and recorded together over many years, but had always written songs separately. This was a “first”. The song was released as a single with a Brian song, “Rock ´n ´Roll Man” on the flipside. It bombed. Brian and Barn parted company.
1977 Once again `retired` from performing Brian was, nevertheless writing songs as always. Some songs came to the attention of an old friend, Charlie Crane – long a champion of Brian`s work. Charlie had signed Brian to the Warner Brothers publishing deal, prior to the Chas Chandler/ Barn relationship. He (Charlie) was now Professional manager at A.T.V. MUSIC (now part of Sony…). Brian was signed to ATV and was introduced to a new concept. The writing `pool` . Brian says: “There were all kinds of songwriters in a stable. Pop guys like Allan Tarney who wrote “ We don´t talk anymore" for Cliff Richard, advertising jingle writers, my friend Viola Wills who sang some back up on my "Love on my Mind" album. She wrote some good things and had a disco hit at this time. I didn’t like disco, but I made an exception for Vi!!"
"This was a new environment for me. Every week we would have writers meetings. Everyone would play their new songs, and all the others would listen tight - lipped. Imagine twenty songwriters in a room listening to each others work – everyone thinking “ I wouldn`t have put that chord there!” or “The chorus is all wrong”. We would try to develop writing partnerships – but I was never a great collaborator, I think. Then we had `casting` sessions. That is, we would be told who was looking for songs, and the following week we would play what we had written and `cast `them for the projects and artistes by consensus. It was mad. We would be told that Ray Charles was going in to the studio and looking for songs. The following week it would be, “They need a song for Miss Piggy in next weeks Muppet Show”! All experience of course, and they were paying me, but it kept me from my first love of performing. I had no record deal, and I did not realise at the time that this emphasis on writing was to represent something of a withdrawal from playing for an extended period. I won´t let that happen again”.
1978: Not in any way central to this story, but merely as a matter of record, Brian had begun to practice Buddhism from around 1975, and was still doing so in 1978. Of more interest, perhaps, is that through someone in Buddhist circles he had become interested in horse riding. He frequently went away for riding / trekking weekends.On one such trip during this year he suffered a terrible fall from a horse at full gallop resulting in back injuries which left him bedridden and in severe pain for many weeks. Prescription drugs were consumed in vast quantities.In a stranger than fiction parallel (he later found out that) Angela Panneck , now married and far away in Bremen, Germany, was also laid up in bed with four broken vertebrae as a consequence of a horse riding accident.“The similarities end there, though” Brian points out, “Angela had become a superb horse woman and sustained her injuries when she fell in a horse race. She was one of Germany´s first lady jockeys. I was just a crazy musician crashing around on horseback with, as I recall, more than a little alcohol in my system.”Brian did play some low – key gigs at this time with his own preferred musicians before devoting his attention almost exclusively to songwriting. Occasionally other musicians would “sit in”. On one memorable occasion Herbie Hancock turned up and played a few songs. “A great honour” says Brian, “I am glad someone was around to take one or two pictures, but the reality was not so much that Mr. Hancock played with my band. It would be more accurate to say that he gave us a music lesson. Hats off, no question.”
1979–80 Having found the ATV experience interesting but not his ideal professional home Brian was now anxious to move on. “I had been playing less and less, although frequently appearing on guitar for recording sessions with the other writers. Lots of demos, advertising jingles… Things like that. Not exactly cutting edge! I mean, people were throwing money at me to work with them- doing vocal sessions too, but I was dying inside. Drinking and drugging too much to be really honest. It had to change, and eventually it did – but not just yet”
1981 Brian continued to write good songs but none “clicked”. Parting company with ATV, he was offered a contract with Chrysalis Music. Brian was more interested in the Chrysalis record label as a possible home for his work as a performer, but was nevertheless encouraged by the enthusiasm of the publishing division for the bluesy funky songs he was now writing. He was still playing with his band, albeit infrequently, but no record deal was concluded. The focus was consequently once more on his songs, and he accepted the Chrysalis offer. If he thought that this might naturally “morph” into a contract with the Chrysalis Record company, he was wrong.
As for the publishers, they failed to secure any significant “covers” for his songs. Ironically, as if the “scattergun” methods of ATV were still wielding an influence over his career, it was in the pure “pop” field that this was to happen. Alvin Stardust recorded two “BP” songs, for the Stiff Record label. These were “Got My Money on You” and “Give it a Little Time”. Both were produced by Brian.
1982 Brian left the Chrysalis company, and feeling disillusioned with the business, began to work on a project dealing with alienation, and based on George Orwell´s “1984”. It was a strange project which was ultimately not completed, and so did not ´see the light of day´, but yielded some good songs nevertheless. Reflecting on this time Brian says “I was really on the look for spiritual solutions, which I was not finding. I had yet to learn of the Grace of God, His unconditional love. I had no idea that He had His hand on my life. All this was waiting for me on the other side of a door that I had closed myself. I did not remember closing it – I did not even remember that there was such a door. I was lost for a while there!!” Numerous songs were written dealing with social injustices – people sleeping in the street, the apparent heartlessness of the establishment- in retrospect much of this was a reaction to the blinkered arrogance of the Thatcher government in the U.K. at this time. “This is certainly true” says Brian, “But it also has to do with the fact that I had a tendency to see negatives. I hope that the reverse is true of me these days. Some of those songs were good, I think, and some of them could even be reworked now…if I wasn´t writing stuff today that I like better!” His career was effectively on hold. These days when he did play gigs (such performances were sporadic) it was with a group of musicians who had played with him on various studio projects, including his own demo sessions whilst with Chrysalis, also the Alvin Stardust records .This Brian Parrish Band as they were billed consisted of Les Binks on drums (ex Judas Priest),John Currie on bass (Drifters, later working with Slash) and Alan Lisk on keyboards (an excellent composer in his own right who has done great work for films and TV). Drugs and alcohol, for years a problem, albeit in the background at least professionally speaking, now escalated to unmanageable levels.
1984 “Despite all the self abuse I was still writing” Brian remembers, “This is quite amazing to me now. I would frequently work until 4.00 am in my home studio – with the inevitable bottle at one end of the mixing console, and other substances too. I was obsessive, and I was productive! But I could not seem to activate anything ´in the world´ - that is, outside of my working environment at home. That could so easily have been the end of the story- but thank God, it wasn´t.”The “1984” project had stalled and with a film of the Orwell book already out, as the months of that year passed by the whole idea was deemed past it´s “Sell By” date
1985 SHELTER: Once again spawned by the idea of an uncaring government and the prevailing threat of nuclear conflict. (the arms build up had not begun to slow and the press, as ever, continued to focus on the threat of what might happen if ………they have to sell papers). Brian wrote a song called “ Shelter”. This was a somewhat anthemic tune, with words written from the point of view of an uncomprehending and angry nuclear holocaust survivor leading a group of ragged fellow survivors through an unrecognisable wasteland, searching for shelter, and finding none. The anger was directed at those who had decreed who was worthy of saving and those who must fend for themselves. Part of the lyric read “´They´ll all be safe and sound, the others under the ground we know – but dare not say out loud there’ll be no shelter“. The song was recorded with the aforementioned musicians, and a short film planned. In the end a six minute video was to emerge to support the record, which once again would not see the light of day. Brian: “I saw the Shelter video the other day, and it´s not bad….I just ´got´ the whole thing again for a few minutes – the angst – the feeling of the time. I think many people would like it if they saw it now and might think it is deep and meaningful or something like that. I just see a man in trouble with his life. This is just not work I would do anymore. I am 1000% happier today and completely re-energised! What can I say? For the sake of the website, and anybody who may be interested in what I was doing in 1985, this is it”.
Brian´s mother died in June of this year, an event which seemed to add to his feelings of alienation. His work rate accelerated – more hours in the home studio and still more alcohol. Bizarrely he began to write country style songs, and even made tentative plans for a country ( rock ) band to be called ´Parrish-Texas´ “There has long been an association between country music and alcohol. Maybe I thought I was George Jones or Steve Earle or somebody. I was a 38 year old man from Ilford, Essex who had been all over the would playing music, and now my world was reduced to a small room of recording equipment and a whiskey glass that was never empty. I was in an empty marriage too. I thought I could raise myself up – simply work my way out of it - write “the magic song” or something. I needed to do the opposite – accept my powerlessness and acknowledge the love and power of the Great One, and I was nearly ready, though I didn’t know it” Christmas came in a blur.
"On January -1st – 1986 I had a clear thought .It was something like ´wake up- this has to change-it’s now or never´. Somehow on January 2nd I drank nothing. Then the next day, and the one after were all alcohol and drug free. Somehow I did three weeks like this and I still did not know where the power was coming from. I began to fear that I couldn’t keep this up. I would slide right back to the way I had been. I had stopped, but to stay that way I would need help. I attended my first meeting of a 12 step programme - and here’s the important part….I got on my knees in my bedroom one night and said the words that would save my life. I said ´Please God help me´, I may have said ´if you’re there…… I still did not absolutely know if He was. I would like to say that there was a bolt of lightning, or some ethereal vision, but there wasn’t. I got up off my knees feeling al little embarrassed – my ego trying to reassert itself, I suppose. But the job was done, I had asked Him for help, and He was in the room, no question”.
At this time Brian put his music ´career´ on the back burner, to focus on his recovery. He was still writing songs, but accepted that he was ´morally and spiritually bankrupt´ and that this must be addressed if there was to be any possibility of life starting again. He was praying everyday – but still no “blinding flashes”
In the 12 step recovery programme he met many fellow musicians – some of them very successful public figures – and draws much encouragement from their experiences, and those of people from all walks of life. Says Brian “Alcoholism and addiction is indiscriminate. It can get anybody and destroy them. Anyone who walks away is so very lucky and in the minority. The terrible things that addicts (including me) have done whilst in the throes of the disease can be devastating. Even a casual look at drug / drink related crimes or motor accidents reveal as much. Also spousal abuse – you name it, the horror stories are just awful. Once in recovery you have to acknowledge responsibility. None of this ´I didn’t know what I was doing` stuff".
"Its a long journey that begins with your self esteem in the toilet, and a glimmer of hope that you cling to for all you are worth. But God is endlessly loving. Unimaginably loving. If you call with your heart He is there. I am no evangelist – I am a musician – It’s another road, but the only reason I am alive to walk my road is by the Grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ. That’s simply the truth"!
So passed 1986 with Brian finally able to find the courage to deal with his marriage crisis. “We had to part. I knew that. Life had siezed up for both of us. The end was as inevitable as it was painful, but my avoidance mechanisms began to stop working as my head became clear”.This also marked an up-turn in his creativity, producing songs, some of which would emerge many years later on Brian’s CDs “Home Alone” and “Songwriter plus Band”. Many singer songwriters have concluded that there is nothing like a relationship break up to inspire new songs. So it proved to be. Some were for more for personal consumption, cathartic in some way, others seemed to have a wider appeal and relevance.Brian´s old friend, Charlie Crane, who had been behind Brian's ATV contract, and Warner Brothers Music before that, got to hear some of the songs and wanted to get Brian in the studio once again.
1987 Charlie Crane had formed a company with John Fishlock, called Crane/ Fishlock Music. Wanting to sign Brian for publishing, they conceded that a record deal for Brian would be the way to go, ensuring that the songs would be recorded. Brian, by now wary of signing a publishing contract in isolation, was also keen to record. A deal was struck for Crane/ Fishlock to finance the recording of two country flavoured songs (Tethered Hearts” and “Standing in my Shoes”). The master recordings would then be sold / leased to a record label, at which point the company would inherit the publishing. A time limit was agreed by which Crane / Fishlock must secure a record deal. Failing this ownership of all song titles would revert to Brian.
1988 With such interest in these particular titles, which were country flavoured, Brian began to consider his “Parrish-Texas” idea once again. With no immediate dated set for the Crane/ Fishlock recordings, he set about writing and recording more country edged songs with Dobro (resonator guitar) in his home studio. He had by now become adept at multi tracking, playing bass and also keyboards (the latter laboriously-“it is not my instrument” says Brian) and various guitars and percussion instruments himself. Occasionally someone like Brian (B.J.) Cole – England's famous steel guitar player – would drop by and overdub something. “Mainly it was just me, though” says Brian.
By the end of 1988 the promised recording dates for the projected single “Tethered Hearts” were confirmed for 1989. Brian says “I was working hard at the musical “coal face” and really keen to do it, but still my main concern was keeping clean and sober and getting spiritually well. This particular “lost sheep” had strayed far from the fold, and rock’n’roll living had damn near killed me”.
1989 Brian went into the studio to record “Tethered Hearts” and “Standing in my shoes”. All his favourite guys played (Binks, Currie, Lisk) and BJ Cole played some tasty pedal steel guitar. The results were pleasing but despite the growing popularity of “new country” in America (Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett etcetera) there were no takers among the English record labels.
Cue Nashville? “No, not really” says Brian. “They are way to conservative for anything even a little left field of what they think of as “country”. Besides they are overrun with pickers and guys with big hats. What do they need an upstart Englishman for?”
Tentative calls were made to the U.S. and copies sent to selected A+R people in the record labels… Zero. “This was disappointing at the time” Brian recalls . “Ok, music was not getting my full attention for reasons explained, but it’s always about the songs to me and these songs were good. I don’t know if it was an ageist thing (he was 42 at the time). They (the press) were already running stories, calling the Rolling Stones “wrinkly rockers” – stupid and disrespectful in the extreme.
"I don’t know if punk did that or those pretty “New Romantic” bands. The point is that getting signed was a problem if you were not 22 years old and sporting the “haircut of the month”. Also, the frontline people from the labels (A+R people) were now a generation younger than me, and more interested in sequenced synthesizer based music. I find it ironic that most of these young guys and the artists they signed are long gone, and the Rolling Stones, now all over 60, were the largest grossing live act in the world last year.”
1990 Failing to achieve the goal of a release for the songs, the copyrights (song titles) reverted to Brian Parrish, and he was once again contemplating his next more. Royalties were slowing, tax was owed and he realised that in the absence of a new deal something would have to provide an income.
“I met some people who intruduced me to the world of advertising sales – that is selling the space in books/magazines for corporate advertisements. I did this for a while, and actually made some good money. I don’t want to talk about it much as it has nothing to do with my musical life or issues that really concern me, suffice it to say that I learned that other businesses can be as cut-throat as the music business, and I learned to talk with the heads of big corporations in a language they could understand. This was to prove invaluable for what I did next.
1991 During the previous year, Brian had worked on a tribute book for H.M. the Queen Mother on the occasion of her 90th birthday, with the process from sales going to her charities. Officially authorized from Clarence House, this had provided Brian with the opportunity to interface with many business leaders, such was the high regard in which she was held. Says Brian “This is not very rock’n’roll, and a lot of left wing people would not see it my way, but I have the highest regard for our Royal Family. My one time hero John Lennon sent his O.B.E back. This is not a decision I am likely to be faced with!”
Brian now met people who enabled him to use his experience and contacts to successfully work in a field that interested him. Brian takes up the story:
“I had long been interested in social problems, and the reactive and somewhat finger pointing stance I had taken in my songs years before had been replaced by a desire to focus on solutions. It seemed that many such solutions were in part economic and I was by now comfortable speaking with business people, who's activities impact the world environmentally, socially and economically. I had become interested in people – companies too – operating in a responsible way. Not just giving to worthwhile charities – nothing wrong with that of course – but operating in a sustainable way. I became interested in climate change, emissions, the ozone layer and so on."
"I was given the opportunity to work on a special book. There was to be United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. It was to be attended by countries all over the world with the intention of agreeing a programme of action to facilitate a sustainable future. The result was the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21."
"In 1991 I began to speak to presidents of major corporations from all industry sectors throughout the world. Reasoning that business could be the driving force for social change since since business feels economic growth. I was interested in whether companies would wish to be seen as proactive in environmental affairs, rather than simply responding to restrictive legislation concerning their industry processes and the environment. Many of them had a point of view which they wished to make known. Throughout 1991 many of them accepted my invitations to contribute corporate messages for the official UN Earth Summit Book, and pay for this platform."
"For the next four years I worked on projects for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees dealing with human rights examining the relational positions of governments in connection to democracy development and peace. Once again business was (is) central to development. I never stopped writing music, but one project seemed to foster another and there were many including books for UNDP and UNEP, and one I was particularly proud to be associated with......"
"This was a project in association with the World Food Program and in conjunction with the Italian Ministry of Education. Simply, I sourced corporate sponsorship for the production of educational resource packs for eleven to fourteen year old Italian children. The packs informed the children of the WFP work to provide food for 15 million people in 90 countries world wide."
The packs also contained project work for the children to compliment their curriculum. The project, called Many People/ One Planet (Tanti Popoli, Una Terra) also had an accompanying video following a day in the life of a young African girl and the work of WFP. Many celebrities including Zucchero recorded messages for inclusion.
"I loved doing this, but in case anyone reading this should think that was selflessly working for the good of humanity, I should point at that I was being very well paid, too. A win-win situation, then. but I was missing playing music live. I was called to do the odd recording session with old mates but I needed more than this."
1996/97 “I had started to attend church quite regularly to better acquaint myself with my Saviour. I didn’t much liked organized religion – and my time of practising Buddhism years before had reinforced that position. But something had been happening. Something big. I had attended several big Christian conferences and around 1994/95 (I know I should remember the exact date – this is important!). I made this commitment: I asked for His forgiveness, asked Jesus in to my life. Now there was the extraordinary presence of the Holy Spirit. The blinding flash had taken a while, but now there was no doubt. He was here. Praise God!”
“I should also pause here to thank a faithful and wonderful servant of God who I love very much. She got me to walk into a church for the first time in years, prayed with and for me, took me to various conferences, and all told gave me more than could possibly be repaid. I would not wish to embarrass her in any way by saying anything at all about her private life. My website is no place for this but even this inadequate thank you is more than overdue. I hope you will forgive me for calling you by name here. Patricia Randall, thank you so much. God bless you.”
1998 “I got the occasional call from old friends. One was from Topper Clay, from the Londoners, Knack and later New York Public Library. NYPL were still playing with two or three of the original guys. Every so often there would be a reunion of some sort and I was invited to play. This was always great fun and towards the end of 1998 (I think, but Topper may dispute the date – and his recollection is likely to be the correct one) – anyway 1998 or 1999 I played a gig in a pub with them. The stage was a sort of alcove affair, and volume levels became excruciating – seeming to feed back to us rather than going out front to the people."
"I left with a ringing in my ears. Nothing so strange - it had happened at high sound pressure levels before, and would go away by the following day. But it did not go away this tme. Weeks later my right ear was still ringing, and was feeling dizzy. I went to my doctor. To make a long story short I was given tests and medication over a period of many months while specialists in ear infections speculated about the nature of this problem. "Meniers disease?” said one “Post viral infection of the inner ear” suggested another. Finally a brain scan (MRI)was arranged. Another long wait. Then they asked if I could come in for another scan as the first one was inconclusive. Finally I was diagnosed with a brain tumour."
Sense of Tumour/ Playing by Ear”
was told that this thing had been growing for some years
and was now about the size of a golf ball. It was putting
considerable pressure on my brain, and affecting my hearing
and balance. They thought it was an “Acoustic Neuroma”.
It wasn’t, as it turned out, but whatever it was it
had to go. Surgery. What were the alternatives? What if
I left it? It was explained that if left it would become
inoperable and that I would eventually die, suffering epileptic
fits and other unpleasant stuff along the way. I began to
pray. The God who had delivered me from alcohol and drugs
surely would not abandon me now, would He?
I asked about the risks and recovery
expectation from such an operation. I was horrified as a
musician to learn that I would permanently lose the hearing
of my right ear, as surgery would entail the destruction
of the aural nerve. After the operation the main function
of my right ear would be to keep my glasses on straight!
In addition there maybe slight or severe facial nerve damage,
possibly resulting in facial palsey – none of which
could be known until the surgeon was about his business.
Finally the obvious question: Could I die? The answer was
oblique. There is always a risk with any kind of procedure
even some risk with a general anaesthetic. This was
a major neurological operation – but “no”
they were confident I would live to tell the tale. And
my quality of life thereafter? No one could really say.
had survived narcotics overdoses and all manner of things,
had lived a very full life and was now nearly 14 years free
of any drug or drink. What had I learned, and how could
I use it? I decided that only God could know or effect the
outcome of the operation, which was scheduled for January
2000. I reasoned that I was responsible for my conduct moment
by moment until the operation. Lots of prayer. I began to
reflect, and keep a journal. I thought back over my life
and the precious people in it. Suddenly any remaining “bad
feeling I had for anyone dissolved. I called my father and
told him I loved him.
I had been abused as a child by a friend
of the family and was somehow able to let that go also.
I began to speak to people and try to “set the record
straight - ”to thank many people for their friendship
and generosity and importantly to say “sorry to some
people whose lives I may have hurt. In such cases I did
not need, want or expect ´forgiveness´ from
anyone. This was an inside job” and was to do with
me and God. Amazingly I was able to forgive those who had
wronged me, but of course this was not me doing the forgiving
! I am not that big. This was the work of one much bigger
was anxious to finish songs that I was working on, and try
to mix them with my already failing ears. The day before
the operation I went to the London City Church for a big
meeting, where I had decided to be baptised. This was a
full immersion baptism, and the Holy Spirit fell on me as
never before. He is wonderful. The following day I was prepped
for the operation, but sent home minutes before I was due
in the theatre. This was because of the sudden arrival of
patients with severe head injuries requiring immediate surgery.
A road crash, I think. The problem was that there would
be no available intensive care room for me. It felt very
strange to find myself once again at home later that day.
The delay could have been very stressful for me, I am sure,
if I had been “steeling” myself for this ordeal.
As it was, I knew that I was safely in God’s hands
and did not need to find my own strength.
was given a date three weeks later and found that I was
completely ready. The Lord’s timing is always right.
I simply said “Jesus, I thank you for my life. Please
hold my hand and I will come with you wherever you want
me to go.” Then the anaesthetic kicked in. There
were complications, nerve damage – and more. At one
point I could not close my eyes to blink, let alone sleep.
Facial muscles would not work. I will not say that this
was not trying, and it was certainly painful, but in my
heart the victory was already won. I knew for some reason
that I would receive all the help I would need, and all
I had to do was stay with Him inside me.
have now taken up enough space talking about the health
thing, I think, but there is an interesting musical post
– script: I was lying in bed the day after the operation
with tubes coming out of me, unable to move and in considerable
pain. Suddenly I heard music in my mind and some words.
Something profound? The Voice of God, perhaps? Well, not
exactly. It was a rock song. I was getting chords, call
and response harmonies, a full arrangement. I could “hear”
the whole thing. I thought, “Not now, surely! Can’t
you see I am a little tied up right now?” Then I said
“OK” and relaxed into it. It was called “Help
Me Darling”. I thought “This will be
good, I will record it one day” and I did, in 2006,
and I really like it.
I had begun to write music again, and was trying to adapt
to playing whilst hearing with one ear rather than two.
I had also sustained damage in my “good” ear
due to working for years with high sound pressure levels.
I moved to a beautiful house in Surrey, and found that the
countryside suited me very well. I was doing special exercises
to counter some balance problems I was having. The inner
ear greatly effects balance, and the sudden loss of hearing
in one ear presents such problems. I had never thought about
anything like this. Why should I? Nevertheless I felt that
every day I woke up was a good day – and I still feel
that way today. Suffice to say that I spent 2001 working
on Brian, and trying to let my Higher Power take care of
I spoke to my dear friend Tony Ashton, who told me he had
“a touch of cancer” in his typically irreverent
way. He died that year, still drinking. He was a funny,
generous and talented man whose life was blighted by the
same disease that nearly killed me. I have had a few “scrapes”,
near misses. How is it that I have been spared? Why me?
I can only say that this is God’s business. There
is a long list of people I have known whose lives were cut
short by alcoholism. Charlie Crane is another who passed
away a short time ago, falling victim to the disease. We
had spoken on the telephone sometimes in recent years, but
I had no idea, I did not pick it up. I did not help him
and it feels terrible. It is my earnest hope that I may
sometimes be of help to those with addiction problems.
in 2002 I recorded the first songs that to my ear (yes,
only one!) sounded good. The first of these was “Long
countryside was a joy and such a welcome release from London,
which I had begun to find way too loud. I seemed to need
a quieter environment when not playing. As for playing I
would eventually need to find out if it was possible for
me to work at the loud levels associated with live performance
with electric instruments. In addition there was nervousness
about working in the studio without hearing in stereo. Music
that I was already familiar with now sounded very different.
This music would have to be my “benchmark”,
providing a point of reference if I wanted to know if what
I was doing sounded OK.
thoughts of playing live were “on the back burner.
That I did not know if this would be possible was for the
moment not a problem. I had noticed that there was no queue
of people outside my door in Surrey offering me gigs.
Getting “Match Fit”
I did think of working with other musicians it was with
some trepidation. I was struggling to familiarise myself
with a new sonic landscape. OK, I had one ear working, but
with some high frequency damage and I had Tinnitus (that
is I was experiencing permanent internal noise in my ear,
a little like a train pulling in to a station). So much
for the negatives. This was going to be difficult, certainly,
but surely not impossible.
have been given some kind of gift from God. He would not
leave me without a means of using it. The songs were coming,
I thought, better than ever, but I had done so little performing
even in the years immediately preceding my operation. How
was this going to work?
the studio environment I had a box made into which I could
plug my headphones and monitor my work in mono – that
is, combine left and right sides for me to hear the whole
picture. I could then, at the flip of a switch, listen independently
to the left or right side to “visualise” the
stereo effect. This was helpful for recording, but how would
a “live” situation be? Think of, say, a footballer
who has sustained a physical injury who then has to train
harder than ever before if he is to have a hope of ever
being good enough to re- join his team. Would I be match
fit? I had no idea…
got a telephone call at the end of the year from Horst Fascher.
This was followed by numerous e- mails and responses from
my side. Horst is an old friend from the Star Club time.
The original Star Club in Hamburg had closed many years
before, but from time to time Horst, and others would organise
a “Star Club Nacht” – a Star Club Night.
Horst was asking if I would I be interested in coming to
Hamburg early in 2004 to play such an evening as a “special
– and actually all my time spent in Germany had always
been remembered as magical to me. This had been a time when
my musical identity was being formed, a time when, as a
young man, I had met so many young people who were also
excited by the music. Some were musicians starting out like
myself, and others the young German people who took us to
their hearts. The Star Club was my apprenticeship. The work
had been hard, the hours long, but it was this intensity
that had forged the strong foundations that I had stood
on musically ever since. Then there were the friendships
which were formed and the sheer electricity which was felt
by all of the people who were part of this extraordinary
time. It had all been almost forty years ago. Who could
I expect to see? Who would remember? Who was still alive?
The big question was “Does Brian want to come and
play?” Is the Pope Catholic?
told Horst “Yes, I will be there”. I was not
sure if I could bring my excellent musicians with me –
the guys who had played with me over a number of years,
and when I had last worked live- it had been some time.
I began to make ´phone calls. It transpired that logistically
and economically this would be prohibitive. Horst said we
could surely find good musicians in Hamburg. Roy Dyke was
living there, I knew. Cue a ´phone call to my old
friend. Roy said he would love to play and looked forward
to meeting me again after so long. Now I had a great drummer.
I was on the way. I was still worried about my hearing…..
said he knew a bass player he thought would be good, and
this was Dieter Horns. I trusted Roy, so of course Dieter
would be great. I had a rhythm section. Then we got
Adrian Askew, another English `muso` living in Hamburg.
Roy said “ Yeah, I know him, he is good” . The
band was in place. It was the singer I was worried about.The
date was set for March 2004.
was about getting back to basics. Performing had always
been so important to me. My last time for playing in Germany
had been for tour dates with Badger, together with Ozzie
and the other lunatics. Roy Dyke, it must be said, was as
crazy as me back then. The whole thing for me is a blur,
snapshot images at best. The time before that would have
been with Parrish and Gurvitz miming (working from playback)
on television shows. I do not remember that so well either.
The only thing I could be sure of was that I had not been
to Hamburg since 1966 /67. Horst wanted to bill it as “Brian
Parrish of the Londoners”. I said, “Whatever.”
I could hardly wait to go. I was excited.
I flew to Hamburg arriving on Friday night, ready to play
on Saturday at the Indra Club. Horst met me at the airport.
He looked older! Did I think that I still looked 18 years
old myself, or what? It was great to see him! The plan (mine)
was to check in to the hotel, have some dinner and go early
to bed early in order to be fresh for Saturday. It would
be a busy and tiring day. In the morning I had arranged
that I would meet Paul Gurvitz´s daughter, Tamara,
who lives in Hamburg. We had spoken by telephone several
times over the previous few years, but had never met. We
planned to have breakfast together. I was looking forward
to this. Following breakfast I was to go to the club
to meet with the musicians, discuss what I wanted to play,
and after lunch we would sound check and so on, and in the
evening – the gig.
so much for my plan. Horst came to collect me and we had
dinner, then together with his wife , Birgitt, we went out
on the town, all the time Horst saying “ I have to
show you around as you were not here for so long!”
We went to Große Freiheit, home of the original Star
Club which sadly burned down, and there we met more people
including Piko Martens (one of the original Star Club faces),
then still more. Had these guys really been milling around
eating bratwursts in the Freiheit for all this time? So
suddenly we had an entourage and we crashed around all over
St. Pauli. All the sights, sounds and smells came back to
me. All my senses were vibrating. On every corner, a memory.
It was as if all the years were just falling away and I
was that wide eyed boy with the Rickenbacker guitar again.
My emotions were off the chart. I finally got back to the
hotel after 4.00 am. Then I could not sleep, my mind was
buzzing. With my commonsense plan down the tubes this was
like the old days. Back then amphetamines kept us going
on stage, only to make sleep impossible afterwards. With
nary a chemical in my body I just lay there. Slowly the
light came up just as my eyelids were coming down. Did I
get a half hour of sleep? Maybe. Too soon the telephone
was ringing. Tamara. Was it too early? Should she come to
the hotel now? I said, “Give me 40 minutes,
I´ll be ready.”
a life that had seen it´s share of ups and downs –
a life which had nearly ended more than once – there
was about to be an emotional upheaval which would trigger
a sequence of events bringing unimaginable change, and somehow
making sense of all that had gone before. There had been
reckless drug abuse incorporating a near fatal overdose
during one of the tours. This has not been detailed here
(although obliquely referred to) seeming to be of little
direct relevance to the musical story. It is, nevertheless,
a matter of historical fact.
was of course, the tumour experience. Then there were two
marriages. (The first of these has also not been mentioned
here because people have a right to their privacy and, truth
to tell, she and her family are better off without the Brian
they knew. Whether I have changed – and to what extent-
is a matter between me and God.
had been many highs also and some wonderful musical moments.
I reflected that I had been given the greatest gift, a new
life by the Grace of God. Maybe I would get “closure”
of some sort here in Hamburg. I had no idea of what was
coming, or how big it was.
came. She was beautiful – all flowing hair and big
smiles. She took me to breakfast and we were briefly joined
by her son, Leandro, a cheeky intelligent and good looking
boy. These two have become great friends of mine. By way
of extra detail, Tam is a fine singer too!
breakfast Tamara drove me to the Indra Club in the Große
Freiheit to meet the band. She said she would see me that
evening and, with a wave, was gone. I looked at the poster
outside the club. It depicted a much younger me (18 perhaps?)
with the other Londoners in a shot from a TV show. I thought
of the face I saw in the mirror as I had been shaving that
morning…..dark circles under the eyes, pale and drawn
from lack of sleep. What did such a face have to do with
the young boy in the picture? Boy, were these people ever
going to feel cheated! Maybe not many would come. I would
do my best to give them a show anyway.
was still mulling all this over as I walked in to see Roy
Dyke setting up his drum kit. A big smile, then a bigger
hug. “How are you doing man?” The sort of stuff
musicians says to each other …Roy is a treasure.
It was just so good to see him. Then the others came. Adrian
proved to be a lovely guy and Dieter too.
what seemed like an age the gear was set up and we played
our first notes together. Everything sounded so odd to me!
I had not done this in so long and I now had only one ear
which was not working as well as it should. This was strange,
but I had other things to think about “ Brian, what
key do you want to do this in?” “Shall I take
an organ solo here, or do you want to take it on guitar?”
make a long story short, this all felt so different but
I thought I had the measure of the sound from my altered
perspective, and I could expect no more than I was getting
from the band with so little time. Thankfully they were
are all very good players. We would get the job done.
went out to dinner. Chinese. It was indifferent. I did not
care, I was thinking about the music. I
wondered who would come out to see us. Anyone I knew? Would
I recognise them? Maybe no-one would come. Who the hell
is Brian Parrish anyway?We went back to the club
and ensconced ourselves in the dressing room. Records were
playing and there were the unmistakable sounds of people
out there. Then it was time. The band went out. I held back.
Someone, Horst I think, was announcing me “ Meine
Damen und Herren nach mehr als vierzig jahr der originale
sanger von Die Londoners…….Brian Parrish”
band was playing the “Peter Gunn Theme”. This
was an “in” joke as it had been a popular stage
tune from Roy’s then band, Remo Four. I began to play,
perhaps not with the same touch as Remo guitar man Colin
Manley but good enough for jazz, as we say. But with horror
I realised that with people in the sound was different again.
So I did what I had always done and ran to the microphone,
shouted “Good Evening!” and got on with it.
first song finished and they loved it. I could see a lot
of faces, but it was impossible to tell if there were any
I might recognise. Tamara was in the house somewhere and
I could not see her either. An hour or so later we were
playing our last song for this set, and there would be a
second later on. The people were clapping and cheering –
it was good to be back.We are
in the dressing room. People are coming in. “Brian,
do you remember me?” Hands are being shaken, backs
being slapped. “Brian would you sign this copy of
your record from nineteen sixty blah blah?” Some people
had brought photographs of us taken in the Star Club. Some
were given to me. Some I signed. I met Willi Becker, a long
time fan, and now a good friend. He had pictures with him
too. He had even called his son Brian. It was like greeting
my long lost family, but it was a crush in there and getting
hot, so I came out of the room for a “breather”.
saw a beautiful woman – at first in profile- she was
stunning and I was thinking “I wonder who…?”
Then she turned to face me. She said, “Brian”.
I think my mouth fell open. “Angela” I said,
and she was in my arms. Time seemed to stop and the room
just faded away. I am not sure where we were or for how
long. I remember stepping back for a moment to look at her
more closely, holding her face in my hands, then kissing
her cheeks. Suddenly we were both talking at once. A rush
of words -“I can’t believe it!” “Thank
you for coming!” Do you still live in Bremen? Was
the band OK?”
So after what - thirty eight years? I was looking at the
face of Angela Panneck who had befriended us in 1964. I
was more than overjoyed to see her. We were due to play
again, and I had to get back to the dressing room. I did
not want to stop talking to Angela, but she declined to
come with me and said we could talk later. My head was buzzing
as I got myself ready again. What exactly had just happened
out there? There was no time to think. Time to play. “
Noch mal, Brian Parrish!” and I was counting the first
song in. My voice was finished- it was so long since I had
done this but the crowd loved it. Horst was happy. More
old friends made themselves known, among them, my old friend
Frank Dostal. Many faces, all smiling. And Angela..........
were exchanging telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, exchanging
information. She too had brought pictures, she said, to
remind me of who she was in case I did not recognise her
after so long. To me she was immediately recognisable. The
beautiful girl had become a beautiful woman – but
– in every way familiar. She told me she was not ´Panneck´
anymore, but married for many years, and yes, still living
in Bremen. Photographs were taken, with Horst, Tamara, Piko
and other folks, and in each of these somehow Angela was
by my side. It felt very right, wonderful in fact, but I
never stopped to analyse this as I was caught up in the
emotions of seeing so many old friends, and was very adrenalized
from playing. All too soon there were goodbyes.
I was going back to my hotel, people
were dispersing, and Angela, together with her friend Kathy,
had to leave to drive back to Bremen. We promised to telephone.
We would write. We had a lot of ´catching up´to
following morning I again met Tamara and Leandro and together
we visited Peter Petzold, who had a DVD from Paul Gurvitz.
Paul had recorded a welcome message to me, and a further
message to our Hamburg friends from his home in Los Angeles.
This was also very emotional – looking at Paul, who
I had not seen for several years, whilst sitting with his
daughter in Hamburg, where so much of this had began. Then
I was aboard a `plane flying back to London, Heathrow.
in England I sent Angela an e-mail thanking her for coming
to see me, and began to tell her much of what had happened
in the past thirty something years. This was to be the first
of many mails both ways as we each told our story.
was one breathless `phone call on the Monday – because
I simply had to hear her voice. I did not ask why or analyse
this, it was non negotiable. The call had to be made. She
sounded as excited as me. We were jabbering. Finally she
said “I think we should each take tranquilizers before
we talk again”. I was frightened to think to deeply
about what was going on. The thought that kept trying to
break in to my mind was more than highly inconvenient .
It was pure madness. It did not seem to fit in with my life
as I perceived it to be. I was aware of being excited to
be in contact with my old friend. Indeed I loved her dearly
and with more than half a lifetime between this meeting
and our last, the excitement was quite understandable. Any
other ideas were, simply, ludicrous. It`s called denial.
– “HOME ALONE” // “WITH BAND”.
Laschinsky, now also in contact following the Hamburg show,
began to e-mail me and ´out of the blue` made up two
compilation CDs he called` Brian Parrish and Friends`, consisting
of songs from the Londoners, the Knack, my first solo single,
Badger stuff, NYPL and even a song from a rehearsal tape
made in Hamburg in `64. I had totally forgotten much of
this and with my recent Hamburg experience still fresh in
my mind (and heart) I began to wonder what other songs and
recordings I might have forgotten. I knew that when I had
moved from London to Bletchingley in Surrey I had brought
many tapes with me. Boxes and still more boxes, all stored
in the basement. I would have to investigate.……
I started to rummage I found both more and less than I expected.
The sheer volume of tapes, multi-tracks, rough mixes and
so on was surprising. So much material going back to the
1970 s was unearthed, but there were severe damp problems
in the basement and much of it proved unplayable.
a period of months I selected songs with a view to transferring
them to some kind of digital storage medium for safe-keeping.
Songs had been recorded on various formats over the years.
Some were studio demos with my band, others were multi-tracked
home recordings with me playing all instruments, backing
vocals and so on.
a time I decided to produce two CDs from this. There were
songs enough to produce more than this, but many recordings
were not salvageable. For those that were OK, or just about
listenable to my ears, I would need help.
called Peter Morrison, who had a lot of digital recording
equipment in his studio and he said he would be happy to
lend a hand. Peter is a useful songwriter himself and plays
with the still performing New York Public Library. So it
was that we met in his home studio and he was most generous
with his time. He is “dab hand” in the studio
we settled on a selection of around 25 songs that represented
a ´snapshot` of the different periods of my writing
not sure how to categorise them at first, it was suddenly
clear. I would have one CD with my self played home recordings
– demos dating back to 1978 and up to 2004 and title
this compilation “Home Alone”. The second CD
was full of studio demos made with my band between 1978
and 1989. This would be called “Songwriter Plus Band”.
good friend Jochen Laschinsky offered to master them for
me and help with the packaging. Duly supplied with photographs,
logos, text and information he set about producing CDs as
a ´limited edition´ for me. He did such a great
job too. His kindness to me was, and is, extraordinary.
was a cathartic experience for me, as it took me back over
my life musically – a process which we have tried
to complete here as a biography for the benefit of anyone
interested. I gave the CDs to friends and decided that I
must now get on to recording the new songs that I had been
and I had been e-mailing quite regularly and speaking once
in a while. She was in my heart, no question. I so did not
want to lose contact with her anymore and we had begun to
discover so many parallels and similarities in the events
of our lives. Most of all we knew that we were kindred spirits,
effortlessly close. She sent me pictures from her past and
I began to build a picture of her life. It is difficult
to describe or even understand myself what was happening
to me as I went about my life in England. Angela was simply
´there´ and I began to look forward to her e-mails,
and as she later told me, she also eagerly opened her lap
top each day to see if I had written. Then it happened.
On June 29th I got an e-mail from Angela to tell
me that she was having tests for something in her left breast.
She had not wanted to tell me, but would I pray for her?
My head was spinning, I telephoned, but there was nothing
to do but wait for the results of the tests. Nothing,that
is, except pray. And pray, I most definitely did. For the
next few days nothing else was on my mind. “Oh please,
don`t let anything happen to her” was how the praying
started, but over the days I became more aggressive as I
became determined to “take Heaven by storm”.
On July 4th the dreaded e-mail came. Malignant.
Both sides. Now I was angry. Of major concern was how my
dear, dear Angela was feeling. Was she frightened? More
`phone calls, more e-mails, more prayer.
told her to pray to Jesus. I told her He would never leave
her side. The Father so loved His children that He sent
His only begotten Son for our salvation. I had no fear of
death or ill health for myself. I had been there and He
had taken it from me. But this? How could I ease her pain?
She was about to go it alone, as each of us must if we are
seriously ill. All the well wishers in the world are powerless.
But if she would only reach out for His hand, He would be
there. Absolutely. In His Word He says “If two or
more are gathered in My Name, I will be among them “.
That`s unambiguous. I would ask Angela if I could pray with
her over the telephone. She said “Yes”, and
came the operation, on the day after my birthday and before
long came chemo- therapy. She had bad days, without question,
but she was resilient, stoic, unfussy, occasionally vulnerable
and,over the next few months, wonderfully courageous. Something
happened in me and I told her that I would get to see her
as soon as possible. I told her that I loved her and that
she could count on this, call upon my love for the rest
of my life. I did not analyse whether this was a `spirit
`love or a `soul` love – a man / woman thing. I only
knew that this was the single most important thing to me
in this time. She had to be OK! Her beautiful life had to
go on - and flawed though I be, I would try not to let her
down. The e-mails continued back and forth.
had found some Parrish & Gurvitz tapes and copies of
my solo `Love on my Mind `album, together with its original
(subsequently rejected) sleeve design. I left these with
Pete to digitise and the results also were sent to Jochen.
As the year drew to a close I had copied of a lot of my
work on CD and Angela was having the last of her ray treatment,
following chemo- therapy. Her beautiful red curls were gone
and I knew she was deeply affected by this. She did not
feel feminine. When she told me I said “Oh good! I
love bald women!” It`s just what you do at a time
like this. Resort to bad jokes.
came. I was also with people I love – but this brave
little woman in Germany was all that was on my mind.
As January came
I was `keeping tabs` on Angela and writing songs and wondering
about live gigs. Hamburg had taught me that it could be
difficult sound-wise, but definitely possible. The fact
is if I can not hear myself, I may well play or sing out
of tune - a nightmare for someone who loves to play live.
I had started to think about an “in ear” monitoring
system – little scarcely visible ear pieces with a
signal generated from a wireless (radio) transmitter. This
could be the answer….
telephone rang. It was Roy Dyke `s daughter, Aysha. Roy
was to be 60 years old in February and there was a plan
to stage a “Star-Club All Stars” night on Saturday
12th in Hamburg. Would I come and play? I said
“Yes of course, for Roy, always.” Then I thought
of Angela. I telephoned her. Would she be well enough to
come? If not, I would make sure of seeing her somehow whilst
in Germany. We would see….
the weeks we got information on the other guys turning out
for Roy. Kingsize Taylor and the Dominos were confirmed.
Carl Terry too – wonderful lunatic that he is and
Ecki Hoffmann – a very tasty sax player. The list
was growing and it looked like being a great evening.
e-mails: Tamara was coming, Jochen also and Angela planned
to stay in Hamburg for the weekend . She begged me not to
feel in any way obliged to spend much time with her, as
the show was `more important`, however she was with car
and would `taxi`for me, if I wanted. Was she kidding??
February 11th I flew into Hamburg and later that
evening I went to the Downtown Blues Club – the venue
for the concert on the following day. There I met the owner,
Uwe Mamminga, who was warm and welcoming. The man loves
music and the guys who play it. Some of the other Brit musos
had arrived and the usual hugs and talk of old times ensued.
The venue felt great , the atmosphere was warm and all boded
well for a good show tomorrow. By the time I returned to
my hotel I had a bad headache – which happens occasionally
since the neurosurgery, but my mood was ´up ´.
next day Angela was to come to breakfast. I was up early.
She was late – very unlike her, as she first went
to the wrong hotel. This seemed to build the tension. I
was sitting in the restaurant and suddenly she was there.
So beautiful! Had this woman really been so ill? She had
lustrous shiny red hair! Too long to be her own, I knew,
but looking good. I remember nothing of what we spoke about,
only the pure excitement of seeing her. We went up to my
room, where I would collect my things to go to the Downtown
Blues Club. While I busied myself with this she went in
to the bathroom. She emerged some minutes later and said
“Look at me”. I looked - the shiny red hair
was gone and in its place some fuzz around one centimetre
long – like duck down. The door of my heart blew off,
never to be seen again. She was beautiful, still so beautiful
and in that moment as her courage and her vulnerability
were revealed to me, I was in love. But she must never know.
We held each other. How was it that time stopped when this
happened? When time finally did break in, it was time to
club was buzzing with tuning up noises and microphones being
tested. Uwe was running around everybody. “Do you
want a coffee? Something stronger?” Different `bands`were
to play throughout the evening and of these Ted and the
Dominos were first to sound-check. Each one had maybe fifteen
main band for this evening was obviously the Roy Dyke `All
Star `band including myself. As the great man took his place
behind his kit, we discussed what we would do. Different
`solo `spots would be featured, including one from me, consisting
of four or five songs. We ran a few bars of everyone´s
featured songs and all too soon we were done and vacating
the stage for the next outfit, whilst still discussing endings”.
I will cue you for the key change, ok?”
evening the backstage area had been extended to include
a restaurant where dinner and the party would take place.
The food was good. Uwe, still running around frenetically,
was the best host imaginable and the area began to fill
up with many faces that I knew from way back. Indeed there
were so many that I was sure this would be a special night
that I would always remember. Angela sat beside me during
dinner, occasionally squeezing my hand. Roy was laughing.
Aysha, who had organized everything, looked resplendent
as did her mother Stacia, who had also come from her home
in Ireland to join the celebration. I began to miss Tony
Ashton, but I could almost feel his spirit in the room.
This was great! The club outside was packed to the rafters
and the feeling of anticipation was high. Suddenly, from
the stage came booming bass and drums and the riff from
“Dizzy Miss Lizzy”. Ted and the Dominos with
their patented method of removing ear wax. The evening had
we went through our paces. The sound was a little strange
to me (it´s always a concern since the loss of one
ear), but the people were loving it. Roy was superb –
on great form. My songs went very well. Then a certifiable
lunatic took the stage, jumping around like one possessed.
Rubber legs, bulging wild eyes, big crepe sole shoes. He
was enjoying himself too much! He is wild. He is funny.
He is Carl Terry. Great guy. Then there were some speeches.
I read something out in bad German. A last song and we were
off. As the next group of musicians took the stage I towelled
off and rejoined the party.
was crazy – Roy cutting a big birthday cake, people
doing press interviews, more old friends. “Do you
remember me?” Uschi Nerke (Beat Club) running around,
Tamara laughing, Jochen Laschinsky looking tall and regal.
Carl Terry smiling, mild mannered. Could this really be
the same berserker who`s jumping around had threatened to
punch holes in the stage? This was a happy, happy night.
Eventually the curtain came down on the proceedings, and
I was climbing in to a car with Tamara and Angela. They
dropped me off at my hotel and I extracted a promise from
Angela to come to see me in the morning before I would fly
back to England. In the morning she came . We held each
other. Same feeling as before! We talked about last night
and when I might come back, all the time exchanging the
odd glance, as if each of us was frightened of full-on eye
contact. When our eyes did finally lock together the feeling
was tangible, unmistakable. We knew. We said nothing. She
had her life. I had mine.
would go to Tamara for coffee and they would take me to
the airport. We said our “goodbyes” to the many
musicians who had also stayed in the same hotel and set
off. Later that day Angela was seeing me off at the airport.
“I love you” … “I know,I love you
too”- and suddenly my feet were walking in the opposite
direction to my heart.
in England, it was not long before I began to get mail from
my increasing German `family`. Willie Becker had a band
– The Shamrocks- (together with Adrian Askew, who
had played the Indra Club with me the previous year) –
and asked if I would care to guest with them later in the
year when they were play in Kiel. Of course I would.
I was working on burying my “heart” feelings
under a ton of logic, rationalisation, responsibilities
and a lot of very grown up stuff which I labelled `reality`,
when it was, in fact, the opposite. I was writing more songs.
Paul Gurvitz was interested to hear the missing Parrish
& Gurvitz recordings I had discovered. I would send
LONG DISTANCE MAN
decided to put together a compilation of eight songs to
be drawn from the two CDS of demos, together with a couple
of newer tunes. Jochen helped with this once again. The
idea was that I could use this as a `sampler` for professional
use, as opposed to a `walk down memory lane` for friends
as the previous compilations had been. This was produced
under the title “Long Distance Man” and contained
also the newly written “Most of All”.
came: Kiel. Willie met me at the airport in Lübeck
and drove us to his studio to meet the other Shamrocks.
Angela had said she would come of “of course”
and later that day we saw each other. Once again I was having
the feelings I had told myself I did not have. How long
could I keep this up? It was a sunny day and we played in
the open air. This was `Kieler Woche`(Kiel week), a cultural
event encompassing various kinds of music, dance troupes,
food from many different countries and much more besides.
The Shamrocks were a good time rock `n `roll band and a
`good time `was what we had. I met Willie`s son, Brian-
named after me, he says. Very flattering! I have another
friend in Germany, Thomas Mösing, who also has a son
named after me. I had not realized quite how much we (I?)
meant to people when The Londoners played in Hamburg. The
echoes are still reverberating from the Star-Club time,
not only for me, but for all the bands who played and the
people who were there. It certainly shaped my (musical)
life. Angela was wonderful in Kiel. She was looking stronger,
feeling better all the time. She is a fighter and between
her excellent medical care and our loving Heavenly Father,
she was going to be well. This was all I cared about. All
too soon my feet were once again walking away from my heart.
home in England the e-mails to and from Angela reached saturation
level. I had no immediate plans to return to Germany, but
I was now in contact with so many friends there, that I
knew it would not be long. Willie was mailing again, asking
I fancied doing a gig with his band in Stuttgart in a club
called Zapata. I really like Willie, the Shamrock stuff
is fun, and Angela was never out of my mind or heart. So
bring on Stuttgart, I would be there! 20th October
found me in the Zapata in Stuttgart. It was a surprisingly
big club, holding 1.500 people or more. The band played
and I tested my new ear monitoring system. It was OK, but
still far from perfect. It would take some getting used
to, but it did help somewhat. The thing between Angela and
me was on fire now, we talked. We had both been close enough
to death to know that each minute of our lives is too precious
to waste. I knew I wanted her happiness more than my own,
if such a sacrifice was necessary. Finally we concluded
however difficult the logistics might be – if mountains
had to be moved, we must be together. We were in love with
each other and would ever be. But I had to fly back again.
And plans must be made for our new life. Somebody was going
to have to move countries. No problem, I would go to live
on the moon with this person, if she asked me. There were
many people to get behind my music if I came to Germany.
It would take time, perhaps some months to conclude everything
in England, but this was the way to go. I loved playing
to German audiences and it felt like unfinished business.
I would come back to fulfil the (musical) promise made in
Hamburg in the sixties. The dept would be repaid.
began the process of breaking down my recording equipment
in England. Meanwhile Angela was looking for a new home
for us. E-mails were flying back and forth. What furniture
would I bring? What must we buy? I like Italian furniture.
Angela went to look. She took photographs of many pieces
she liked and e-mailed them to me. Gradually it came together
at such a distance. Were we crazy? She found a place, more
pictures… Did I like it? This was in the countryside.
A definite “yes” on that score. There would
be no more cities for me unless she had other ideas. She
agreed. Our taste is very similar in just about everything
(except tomatoes, I hate them, she loves them). Little by
little everything came together, and by Christmas Angela
was installed in our new home. There was still much to do
and I could not move completely until later in the New Year.
However I would come for Christmas. When I arrived for a
first look I was taken aback with how much this small woman
had done alone. She almost set the place on fire with candles
she had placed around our home to make it romantic, but
she had created such a warm environment without need of
additional heat. We had a wonderful Christmas. Tamara and
Leandro came. We saw Jochen and his lovely wife, Ingrid.
I began to visualize a music room. How would the garden
look in the summer? There was a lake …… it
was close to perfect. New Years Eve (Sylvester) was spent
in a charming restaurant. I was “suited and booted”
and she looked wonderful. The next day was Angela`s birthday
and we spent it together. Then back to the UK for me.
2006 I was now
working towards a goal and looking for (music) opportunities
in my new country. And there was much prayer. I could hardly
believe what had come to pass in my life. How could I have
guessed what had been or might yet be in store? The Lord
is ever faithful. His love is unconditional, but our decisions
are freely your own and we are responsible for our choices.
Without elaborating here, the decision that Angela and I
took to be together would effect many people and would hurt
some of them. People we both love. There is not one shred
of doubt between us that this is our destiny, but a life
changing decision such as this cannot be taken lightly.
It wasn`t. I began to commute from around February onwards,
so that I was flying into Bremen almost every weekend. Also
I was bringing guitars and other equipment which could be
carried by hand.
the Good Times Roll”
first such visit was to include a trip to Hamburg to see
old friend Horst Fascher. Horst had written a book called
“Let the Good Times Roll”, recalling his Star
Club experiences. He was holding a press launch at Neue
Flora to co-incide with his 70th birthday on
5th February. We showed up and the press were
out in force, television, too. Before long I had microphones
up my nose asking me about the `old days`, any “Horst
stories” and “why was Hamburg and the Star Club
so important?” Horst was very pleased to see us and
we explained that we could not stay as long as we would
like, as I had to get to the airport in Bremen to fly home
that evening. There were bands playing. Someone put a guitar
in my hand and asked me to please sing something. I said
“It must be quick, as I have to catch a flight”.
So I was announced – “Brian has time for one
song only, as he has to dash to the airport to fly back
to England”. I played one song -“Bo Diddley”
I think. The people went bananas, and we rushed out of the
building, as it really was “ touch and go” with
time, should we encounter traffic problems. We finally got
to Bremen in good time, only to learn that all flights to
the UK were grounded that evening due to problems in the
UK. I could not fly until the next day, so the frantic car
journey had been for nothing. But it was a most effective
exit from the stage in Hamburg! I could not have choreographed
it better. Life is occasionally hilarious.
is Your Life, Mr. Laschinsky
May 24th Jochen Laschinsky would be 60. He planned
to celebrate with family and old friends, with live music
and good food. Angela and I were invited of course and Jochen
was hosting the celebration in customary and typical style
at the Waldbühne in the Bürgerpark in Bremen.
His children Inga and Freya had put together a slide show
of photographs taken throughout the years of Jochen`s life
and this was constantly playing, projected on to one of
the walls. It was funny and moving by turns. Jochen was
in great form – witty and intelligent. Angela was
behind the lens of a camera again, taking super pictures
of everyone. The band played. Jochen sang. He had also began
by singing skiffle in Germany at around the time
I was a Lonnie Donegan fan in England.
I was invited to sing. This time I was ready and had brought
one of my guitars – always preferrable to using a
strange weapon. There were no hearing problems, the assembled
company loved it and Jochens wife, Ingrid, began dancing
like a young girl while her husband clapped in time. It
was fun and it was fantastic to be with Jochen for this
special occasion.I was also glad of any opportunity to re-
orientate myself with performing live and to further unravel
the mystery of my strange hearing.
Another reason to be pleased, then, that I had been invited
by another Englishman and neighbour, Steve Westaway, to
join an informal acoustic music session. This was to take
place the following evening at the Kogge, which is a small
pub adjoining the Worpswede Music Hall, near to our home.
Steve hosts the session each Thursday, inviting many different
kinds of musicians to play. The result is that one might
hear jazz, folk songs,blues, rock and even bossa nova. The
line up would always be a surprise.
I took a guitar. I played. I sang. It was interesting to
take an acoustic direction. I really enjoyed it. Steve invited
me to come and play whenever I wished and I said that I
would do so once I was permanently in the country. I met
H.D., the boss of the Music Hall and he was a friendly chain
smoking man who is proud to display pictures of the many
well known artistes who have appeared on the Music Hall
stage. Another music lover. I always get on well with guys
like that.He invited me to play there later in the year.
“Glad to“ I said.
The weekly flights to Germany continued. I planned to move
completely in June. As it transpired I was unable to do
this until July.Meanwhile a special “Star Club All
Stars“ night was being planned for June 3rd
at the Downtown Blues Club. I was invited to play.
The usual suspects were lined up: Kingsize Taylor, a full
compliment of Dominoes – Bobby Thompson, John Frankland,
Sam Hardie and Gibson Kemp.The special guests included Howie
Casey and Ecki Hoffman on horns. It would be good to see
Howie again- it had been a long time. The McKinlay Sisters
were singing.(Both are lovely women, Jeanette and Sheila,
who is, of course Mrs. Howie Casey.)
The evening´s special guest, who was flying in from
Toronto, was Roy Young - billed as ever as “Mr. Boogie
Woogie“.All this and Carl Terry too! Someone call
the police! The gig, when it came, turned in to a party,
and it was filmed for NDR television. Excerpts were transmitted
somewhat later, after Christmas. I had a lot of fun and
the crowd was, as ever, fantastic. I had some problems with
my “in ear“ monitoring system.I discovered that
it is all too easy to disconnect the mini cable which connects
the small earpieces with the reciever, worn on the belt.A
sudden movement can cause this, leaving me in mid ! song
with no signal whatsoever.I do tend to move a bit so it
happened more than once. Suffice to say that no-one noticed
and the songs went well. This was a learning curve.
I stayed on stage for some Carl Terry magic. He did not
let us down. I do not know where he gets his energy from,
but I wish he would share some with me. He is not sane,
of course. I joined Ted and the band for some of thier set
- `meat and potatoes` rock `n`roll- the good stuff, and
later I played with Roy Young. He is great – the “Little
Richard“ voice is still in good shape. The finale
was a couple of ensemble numbers. All artistes and musicians.Good
Angela took pictures. She has such a great eye for photography.
It is many years since she did this professionally but the
quality of her pictures is always superb. She got some great
ones of Carl. Uschi Nerke was in attendence and, as ever,
was very warm to us.Once again there was a sense of a circle
completing. When Angela came to see me on that night in
2004, after so many years, it was with two tickets she had
won on Uschi´s radio show, “Beat Club“.
Nice lady, that Uschi – and naturally we have a soft
spot for her.
We were now ready for our new life to begin. Furniture,
recording equipment, the remaining guitars and keyboards,
paintings, hundreds of CDs and vinyl - the whole of my life
in England, it seemed - was being bundled into a large truck
to be driven to Germany by my brother in law, Martin. In
fact I was taking as little as possible. Anything that had
been ,or could be, acquired in Germany would be left and
suitable arrangements made for it.Martin would sell my car
for me after my departure.I would need something with the
steering wheel on the other side!
I was to fly,one way only this time, and Martin would follow
bringing Boogie with him and stay over for a few days. Goodbye
England. Arriving in Bremen, I drove us to our new home
in the village of Adolphsdorf. I was still trying to orientate
myself with motoring ettiquette in this country where they
drive on the “wrong“ side. I am afraid I frightened
the living daylights out of Angela a couple of times, but
eventually we arrived safely home.
The following day the truck arrived. We were in no hurry
to unpack as Boogie and Martin were to be with us for a
week.I was anxious to set up the music room / studio, but
this also would have to wait.
Birthday, Dear Boogie“
next day was my birthday and the first one to be spent with
my twin sister in42 years, or thereabouts. This was so strange,
but undoubtably fun. Martin loves to eat, so a suitably
large breakfast began a great day which encompassed a river
barge trip. This was no ordinary barge but something called
a Torfkahn, which is endemic to the region. This was a surprise
from Angela and a unanimous hit.In the evening was a barbeque
party in our garden. We were joined by our neighbours who
wanted to welcome me, and HD from the Music Hall with his
wife, Marion, together with Jochen and Ingrid, Steve Westaway
and many more with children also. As darkness was falling
on a golden sunny day guitars were produced and music played.It
The next evening we went to the Worpswede acoustic session
with Martin and Boogie along for the ride. Martin sported
his new “corespondent“ shoes which I had given
him. He was very proud of them, but his wife less so. She
kept looking down at his feet as if a small dog had disgraced
himself on them.It was hilarious.The musicians played and
I joined in for a few songs. I stretched a point and told
the people it was Boogies birthday. I so enjoyed the sound
of a room full of heavily accented Deutschers singing “Happy
Birthday, Dear Boogie!“ I think that Julie has tolerated
me using this nick-name for her through gritted teeth all
these years. Now she has a German family who know her by
no other name. He he he.....
After a great week we were seeing them off, and now I knew
I must start work. First I would have to familiarise myself
with some digital recording equipment which was obtained
in England, but never used there. I had been writing a lot
– music and lyrics seeming to pour out of me all the
time. There had been little opportunity to record anything
in the previous months of travelling between our two countries.
The process of getting registered, insured and so on in
a country as beurocratic as Germany was time consuming to
say the least. I had thought that the English “establishment“
must be world masters in generating forms, questionaires
and pointless dockets, but I was wrong. Rather like our
football results in recent years, Deutschland has us beaten.
If all of this slowed me down in respect of getting started
with my recording, I was, at least, playing the Worpsweder
session most weeks- but I was getting impatient.
H.D. asked me to play a Star Club style night at the Music
Hall on September 29th. Once again Ted would
play, and Lee Curtis. Having spent a lifetime writing songs
I must say that my deepest wish is to bring some of these
to audiences. That being said, I truly owe a lifetime of
music to the Star Club experience and I treasure the friendships
that have endured from that time.Whenever we meet and play
it is unadulterated fun.
accepted HD´s invitation of course, and doubt that
I will ever turn down a Star Club event, as long as I can
still stand. There is a time machine effect about this original
rock music.From the moment they count off the first song
I can almost see the years falling of the musicians and
because they were THERE at the beginning
they have AUTHORITY on a stage. It is wonderful.
“On Topper the World in Worpswede“.
My friends Topper (ex- Londoners drummer) and Peter Morrison,
who are both with the still performing “New York Public
Library“, decided to join us for a few days and take
in the Worpswede Music Hall gig during thier stay. It was
great to see them both again. We dropped
in on the weekly acoustic session and I sang a bit, with
Pete throwing in a nice harmony here and there.
next night was the gig .Topper was clearly happy to see
so many Hamburg faces – not only musicians, but some
among the crowd. The place was packed (later on in the evening
I wished it was not)! Uschi was the compere (in Deutsch
they call it moderator, which to my English ears sound a
bit like referee. Just what we needed as it turned out).
The opening band played ` Beatles `pop at breakneck speed
and VERY loud. They played and played. More than once I
was told “you are on now”, and still the band
played…. My ear system had been switched on, ready,
throughout. When the band had played every Beatle song they
knew (not the `clever ´ stuff – Day in the Life,
Eleanor Rigby and so on) I was finally announced. When I
took the gig I was told “we will get you a backing
band”. It is usual in such circumstances to meet the
band on the day, and so long as the musicians are competent
this is not the “white knuckle” ride it could
be. On this occasion I had drawn the short straw. My band
for the evening was these `mock` Beatles. As I walked out
on stage, the first thing I was aware of was the glaring
faces of the band. They did not want to do this anymore
than I wanted them to do it. I counted the first song in.
It was deafening. As I approached the microphone I became
aware of a second, bigger problem. My `in-ear`hearing system
was out and I could not hear myself. What followed was the
flailing of a band who would not know the blues, if they
tripped over it. looking blankly at each other every time
I played a chord that is not in "Twist and Shout"
and all this with the `feel ` of a herd of stampeding wildebeest.
As for myself – I was struggling and mostly out of
tune, I was quite sure - but the professional thing is always
to keep going. It was like being slowly spit- roasted.
left the stage to fantastic applause which I could not understand.
We certainly had not earned it. As for the band , recriminations
would have been pointless, and I did learn that through
a mix up (not H. D`s fault) they had not known that they
would be required to back anyone. Niether do I say that
they were actually a bad band, merely a bad band for me.
Many friends were in – Jochen, Steve and others. Despite
my discomfort and embarrassment they were all very warm
to me. The audience had clearly loved it, and the subsequent
review which appeared in the press, said the most complimentary
things about me. Somebody up there likes me. It was undeserved
….. But on the night as Kingsize Taylor turned in
his usual rocking set, I noticed that Topper, now in his
cups, was grinning like a Cheshire cat. There were smiling
faces all around and the only down turned mouth in the building
was mine. I resolved to put it behind me and to try to learn
something from the experience, keep smiling, as they say.
The next day we were taking our English guests around Bremen
and later to the airport for their return.
30th October I was invited to play at the Kukuc
(literally `culture café `) in Ottersberg. This was
a strange night with many kinds of acts – poets, singers
and for one night, Brian Parrish. I took my friend Markus
Willer with me to play slide on resonator guitar. I played
acoustic . I could hear everything! The evening was a great
success and Markus, as ever, played some lovely stuff. The
Worpswede thing was forgotten, and my confidence was back!
November I was asked by Ted Taylor to join him and the band
for another rock `n `roll night at the Downtown Blues Club
in Hamburg. Howie was on board.. “No” was not
really an option unless I was pre – booked else where.
I was not. We did the gig, I sang some stuff, this time
with the able support of the Dominoes. I did have some hearing
problems – but nothing that anyone else would notice
– it just inhibits my playing. I am still coming to
terms with what I can do in a “live” situation
with electric instruments. Meanwhile the people always love
what I do - and I am very grateful for that – and
the warmth and friendship of Ted and the boys is great.
Another good night.
December I played the acoustic session together with Mr.
Westaway and company in the Music Hall itself where a Christmas
market was taking place. Great fun. Big hit with the people.
studio is now set up and with the kind help of my good friend
Heiko Grein , I have been learning to use it. I am very
exited by the new songs. One of them, “Moving on”
has proved very popular with audiences at the `acoustic
Lounge ` sessions in Worpswede. Another song – the
recording of which was completed in January in my home studio,
is “Help me Darling”.
This song was the song given to me virtually intact as I
lay in hospital in 2000 recovering from neurosurgery. I
have no explanation for this. It seems an unlikely time
to get a musical idea – but there it is. I wrote a
bridge for it and some additional lyrics in our home in
Adolphsdorf. The song could have been written in its entirety
just yesterday, so fresh does it sound. Heiko Grein is my
remix engineer, I am delighted to say. I trust his ears,
his technical ability and his integrity as a `music man
`. This is one more reason why I have agreed to do some
promo work with his Dandyland label.
that I am installed in Germany I am filled with energy and
optimism for the future. The songs are flowing and the project
in hand is to get these recorded for a CD to be issued later
this year. The tentative title is “Moving
On” – but that could well change.
next gig was at the Kukuc in Ottersberg on 17th
February. This was a great success, I am pleased to say.
There is are reviews on this site, if you care to look and
can read Deutsch! Some radio and TV slots have been promised
too – So do check on this side for more announcements.
After I played in Hamburg
early in 2004, following such a long absence, I was moved
to write an open letter to the ` Star Club ` fans. I have
just re-read it. I made the point that ours was the first
generation to join hands in friendship following the war.
To many of our parents this would have been unimaginable.
We all loved rock `n` roll and R & B music. Musically
I have come back to Germany to keep a promise that was implicit
in what we shared. If you like what I do – first of
all I thank you for visiting this site and second, I promise
you that the best is yet to come.
have not been this excited since I first stepped on stage
at the Star Club all those years ago!
you are someone who was part of all that energy in the sixties.
Or perhaps you are looking at this site out of curiosity.
Do you feel that `modern` music has left you behind? Maybe
it is now a `nostalgia ` thing for you. To you I say, come
back to your family! I never stopped doing this stuff, or
believing in the dream. Truly, what we are trying to do
now is what you might call rock `n `roll for grown ups`-
that is songs for `now` with the intensity of `then´.
I will try to touch your heart and mind – and make
your hips move too!
am having the time of my life, and I will continue to play,
sing and write music for as long as I can walk. Maybe longer!
invite you to listen.
big THANK YOU to Rocking Doc Matthias Misselwitz for doing
a great job in translating the above text into German.