Out of the Camp Ch. 10 – The Big Time, Not!
I think that you might have missed the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ BBC TV link in the last post as it’s a bit buried in the Listen Facebook page and might be a bit difficult to find. So here’s the link again…
Well anyway, the frenetic activity continued for two or three more weeks before it began to subside although club and college enquiries continued, and some we were able to fulfill but others, because of the work authorization problem, didn’t happen.
As Ed Durbrow, our guitarist from Sacramento, California, recalls it, “We went to EMI and they asked us what we wanted to do. We said we wanted to build on the publicity and come out with a single as soon as possible. Then the ‘ugly American’ reared its head. As Linda and I were American, we couldn’t immediately go into the studio because we might be taking the job of a British musician. So, we had to wait for the next meeting of the Musicians’ Union so that Paul could go and plead our case. I can’t remember clearly, but I think we joined the union. EMI also said, “we want you to have management and an agency”. Every management company we went to said we want you to have a record company and an agent, and every agency we went to said we want you to have a record company and management. A vicious cycle indeed! These people would say get a London gig and we’ll come and have a look. Of course, we couldn’t just book ourselves immediately somewhere, so we had to look for some gigs and then find a day we could play. Most of these places booked a month in advance. I think that is what happened with the Marquee. We’d finally get a gig in London at a famous club and then the prospective agents and managers wouldn’t show up. Meanwhile, we went to EMI’s Manchester Square Studio and recorded everything we knew just straight to 2-track live, so at least we have a recording of almost all of the repertoire. With the passage of time, the energy just dissipated after the high of winning the contest. It was pretty frustrating. Though the new managers did get us some gigs, I think they were kind of new to the rock scene as they had been organizing the Miss World Contest before that.”
The record, ‘Astral Boogie’ with ‘All Your Rock and Roll is Dead’ on the flip side, was released on Parlophone but hardly received any promotion – EMI were meeting their commitment to the competition by releasing a single, and nothing more. I’m guessing it received fewer than six spins on Radio 1 in addition to the session we did for Pete Drummond’s ‘Sounds of the 70s’ programme, and then, of course, it sank without trace.
We struggled on for several months finally breaking up in early ’73 and going our separate ways. Paul, our leader and organist, continued playing and teaching, and got more into jazz as the years went by. Ed, our guitarist, went to Switzerland and studied lute for three years before travelling to Japan where he met and married his wife, and remains to this day occasionally giving concerts and recitals in medieval music. Linda, our vocalist, returned to the USA and we lost touch. Mike, our drummer, continued to play, getting more into jazz, his first love, as time went on. He also worked with his brother in the family post-production business in Soho for a time. Dave, our bass player, returned to his native Huddersfield to continue playing and also work for the family hardware business as a painter and decorator. We lost Dave tragically many years later when he fell into a coma resulting from a head injury and never recovered. Dave was greatly loved by all of us and was one of the most selfless and generous souls I have ever met. He was a wonderful musician, always had a positive outlook and to my knowledge never uttered a negative word about anyone. He was a true friend and was always ready to lend a hand to anyone in difficulties. And Dave loved to laugh! Whenever I think of him it saddens me to remember that he’s no longer with us.
When ‘Listen’ broke up I was devastated. The group was the third significant music project I had worked at since coming to London. All three, ‘Rare Amber’, ‘Rubber Duck’ and ‘Listen’ had been highly talented and hard-working ensembles, each had rehearsed interminably, worked intermittently and had made significant in-roads, establishing connections with highly successful, well known music management businesses and yet, one by one, for one reason or another, efforts to become self-sustaining entities had fallen flat in each case.
Meanwhile, during all of the ‘Listen’ developments and dramas, I had managed to start my own TV aerial install business, “AERANAMICS”, and Mary was relieved that I had managed to hang onto the few contracts that I had while still managing to take time off when the group had out-of-town gigs. She by this stage had graduated SRN (in those days the acronym for ‘State Registered Nurse’) and was now working as a staff nurse at Hammersmith Hospital in West London. I continued auditioning and writing songs with no significant developments occurring until one day I answered an ad from a music publisher who needed a singer to record demos of material they had under contract. I started working part time at Sirocco Music in West Hampstead. Sam Fendrich there had a group of writers under contract who’d been working together for some time developing a catalogue. I started demoing much of the material and continued for some months until the project was wound up.
During this time, I had been contacted by an arranger/trumpet player who’d just returned from the States and was working with Carlin Music Publishers on a project to promote titles in the Redwood Music Catalogue which they had just bought. Redwood owned many well-known titles from the Great American Songbook, such as ‘Deep Purple’, ‘Button Up Your Overcoat’, ‘You’re the Cream in My Coffee’ and countless others. Heading up the project as musical director was Ted Taylor, a well-known composer/arranger who had had a long career leading the Ted Taylor Four, a band who made records and appeared in cabaret on radio and TV. He later became best known for supplying the supplemental music score for “The Benny Hill Show”. In addition to piano, he also played the clavioline and was featured on many recordings with the John Barry Seven & Orchestra.
We rehearsed and recorded a number of Redwood titles including the tunes referred to, at Ted’s Porcupine Studio in Eltham in East London. There were three session singers hired for backing vocals, one female and two males in addition to Ted who made it a vocal quartet. The project had to be given a title and so, as I was front-man, ‘Roger Berteau and the Radiomen’ became a temporary working title and later, in the absence of any alternative on completion of the recording, the name stuck and an artist was brought in to work up an image and devise an image which included photographs and project logo. The material was provided to Carlin who were to promote it to ad agencies and the like for use in TV or radio commercials however, as the recording itself was never released commercially and made available to the public it wasn’t eligible for airplay on radio or TV. An effort was made to capitalize on the work done by putting a band together and starting to do gigs but unfortunately things didn’t come together and we went our separate ways.
Ted was a really fun guy to work with and had a rosy outlook to life. I’m guessing he was in his 50s when we worked with him. I was sorry to learn that he died in 1992 but his son, Nick, a fine engineer, took over running of the studio which, I believe, he continues to this day.
(1) The Project Logo. (2) I think I used to ‘brush-up’ well! (3) Ditto!