The band turns blond and Joe threatens to fire drummer Brian Peachey if he doesn’t comply.
Robb and Pete begin to write songs with Saxon themes.
More recordings with Joe and personnel changes in the band.
Mick Collins joins as new drummer.
“How Will I Know” recording session with drummer Bobby Graham (RIP) using two drummers.
More personnel changes as drummer John Davies replaces Collins.
Pete and Robb write “Saxon War Cry” and Joe records it with battle sounds.
“Song of the Sun God” recording session using the Fifth Man organ guitar that Joe was working on.
Release of “Saxon War Cry”on Decca c/w “Clickette Clack”.
Joe places a phone call to Aylesmore Farm which will change the Saxons’ lives.
On the drive back to Gloucester we talked excitedly about Joe’s new instructions to us. I asked how we would be able to bleach our hair as I was sure we all would be too embarrassed to go to a ladies hair salon with all the women customers around. Roger and Pete came up with the suggestion that we should go over to their cousin who owned a salon in Stroud and she would probably agree to color our hair in the evening when there would be no other customers there. At this point, drummer Brian Peachey chimed in saying that he would definitely not color his hair. He was a redhead and that’s the way he said he would stay. We warned him that Joe would be really pissed off, but Brian insisted that he would not go along with the plan.
About a week later Mick Holder drove over with Roger and Pete to pick me up, and we made our way over to Stroud for our appointment at the salon. Looking back I can’t believe that we never considered what we were really doing. Remember that this was 1964 and it would be deemed quite unusual and even looked upon as being effeminate or gay to do something like this; but I guess we didn’t care about that, when you are doing something that you always dreamed of doing you will do almost anything to make it happen. I remember when they applied the bleaching solution to our hair it burned like hell. Roger had to take a couple of aspirins to take the pain away. Then they distributed it through the rest of our hair and we sat and waited. Then it was washed out and I looked in the mirror. It looked like somebody had poured a bowl of Bird’s custard over my head. My hair was yellow! Just as I was about to freak out I was told not to worry as a toner had to be put on to make the real blond color. After that application was done and my hair washed again it looked better. Roger Pete and I looked at each other with disbelief, we were all blond. All in all we took it very well, this was just something you had to do in show business and I guess we felt kind of special. Special, that is, until the next morning when I woke up and my mother brought me a cup of tea in bed and almost spilled it over me in shock. “Oh Robert” she cried, “What have you done?” I also remembered that I had to go to work and face every body there! I didn’t have enough courage to get on the bus as I felt so self conscious about my hair and thought for sure that people would be staring at me; so I just decided to walk to work. Of course when I arrived on the carpet department my boss Mr. Dyer freaked out and the whole place went into an uproar. My salesmen friends couldn’t take their eyes off me they were all in shock. This was close to forty years ago and they had never seen anything like it. The next thing I knew was that the Floor Manager, Mr. Robinson came to take a look. I can’t remember if he said anything to me, I just remember him standing there and shaking his head in disbelief. The news about the blond bombshell on the carpet department must have spread through the store like wildfire, as during the course of the day a constant stream of employees filed past the department and stared at me. Many of them were girls and the sound of them tittering could be heard from time to time. This was a day I think I shall never forget, however the excitement gradually subsided over the next few days giving me the courage to ride the bus again and the feeling of being special returned and outweighed the feeling of embarrassment.
The first time that we played in Newent Memorial Hall the locals were very surprised to see this almost all blond rock group with a red headed drummer, that were now called the Saxons. During the break girls came up to us saying how much they liked our blond image and how cool we looked and how come the drummer was not blond too? Pete Roger and I knew inside that there would be trouble when we showed up for the next recording session and there was trouble.
Mick Holder rang Joe to arrange the next session. Joe suggested that we should go up to London soon for a weekend to record a few songs. I don’t remember how I got the Saturday off work. It could have been a holiday weekend. Joe said that he wanted us to record “Clickette Clack”, a song that Pete had written with Joe. At the end of Mick’s conversation with him, Joe asked if we had colored our hair and how it looked. Mick said we looked great but didn’t have the nerve to tell Joe that Brian was still a redhead. At the rehearsals we tried to persuade Brian to do his hair but he outright refused.
When we arrived for the session we walked in and Joe greeted us with smiles of happiness. He looked us right in our eyes and in his soft voice he said “It looks great”. Suddenly he looked at Brian and realized that Brian had not colored his hair and his voice changed to a hard edged scream and he shouted out “Why didn’t you do your hair?”. Brian replied meekly saying that he didn’t want to. Joe virtually screamed at Brian telling him that if he didn’t do his hair today he was out of the group. At this point Brian consented. By a stroke of luck some of the band would be staying at the home of some friends of the Holder family that night and Mrs. Lucas used to be a hairdresser and could do the job. We put down most of the backing track that day and in the afternoon Brian left for his hair appointment with Roger and Mick as they would be staying at the Lucas house. Pete and I would be staying at Joe’s. I was not thrilled about this and at first I refused to stay the night. When Mick and Pete asked me why, I couldn’t tell them what had happened before so I just told them that I was worried about all the rumors that we had heard about Joe. It was Pete who basically put my mind to rest by telling me that we would both be sleeping downstairs in the living room on the sofas, and did I really think that Joe was going to creep in, in the middle of the night and jump on me? I took his point and agreed to stay. We went down the road to the Chinese restaurant a place where we would eat at, many times in the future. We talked to Joe for a while until he went up to the studio and was fiddling about a bit working on some recorded music. After some time the music stopped and we saw nothing of Joe for the rest of the night and guessed that he had gone to bed. At some time during the night I was woken up by the sound of the door rattling and some one clambering up the stairs to Joe’s bedroom, but as it was dark I could not see who it was. Pete and I were woken up that morning by Lionel who was Heinz’s road manager. He wished us good morning and went upstairs returning shortly with Heinz Burt who was the original bass player of the Tornados. He greeted us with “Hello lads” as he combed his pure white hair and put on his jacket. Pete and I must have looked like a couple of junior Heinz’s sitting there on our sofas. Can you imagine how it must have looked? Heinz the “White Tornado”, as he was known, carrying on a conversation with two blond Saxons. Joe really had a thing for blonds! Just then Joe appeared saying good morning encouraging Heinz and Lionel to get going as Heinz was to appear in Scotland that night.
Around 9.30 the guys showed up. It was Roger and Mick with Brian the new blond Saxon with his hair looking like the color of aluminum. Apparently it had been quite hard for Mrs. Lucas to get the color right due to Brian having coarse sandy red hair. Anyway I suppose it was good enough for Joe as he was quite happy now. It was really funny to see Brian with the ruddy complexion that he had together with his metallic hair. Joe mentioned that he wanted to do some overdubbing before Pete and I put on the vocals. Pete was to do the solo guitar and Brian was to overdub the bass drum. Joe went over to the big vocal screen and tore a hole in the covering. Then he proceeded to push a mike into the gaping hole and covered it up with the fabric. Brian was then told to beat on the screen with his hand together in time with the bass drum. Joe came in a few times and scolded Brian for not being in time and to keep it simple. I don’t think that Joe really liked Brian that much; in fact that was the last recording Brian did with the Saxons at R.G.M.Sound.
When the overdubs were complete Pete and I put on the vocals. We used to do it like the early Beatles. We would both sing the lead vocals incorporating the harmonies over and over again until Joe thought we had “One” in the bag. Sometimes the more we redid the vocals the worse it got and we would make mistakes or go flat. Joe would stick his head around the door and shout at us saying “A kid of three could do this”. Then he would smile and say “Well maybe a kid of four”. We would all laugh nervously until he would give you that special look and say “I think we’ll get it this time”, and usually we did. We would then overdub the vocals a second time being very careful to keep spot on with the previous track. Some time later when we heard the completed track when it came out on record it sounded different. This was because Joe had deliberately sped the track up slightly. He maintained that it gave the track a punchy sound. He had also overdubbed a metallic clicking sound with the drums to sound like high heels clacking on the sidewalk. It was a “Clickette Clack” sound. Joe came up with the spelling but I thought it should have been “Clicketty Clack”.
As usual at the end of the session, after we had put the gear away, we stood around talking with Joe and as always the conversation would end up with Joe explaining to us that if we had a record out, and it was a hit, we would all have to leave our jobs and move up to London. As usual we all replied saying that we would, but at the back of our minds we never felt really confident that Brian would turn Pro. Pete Holder had come up with a design for stage suits for the band. The jacket in particular had a special look to it, especially the collar. It was similar to the Beatles suits. When Joe saw the design he offered to send us over to Dougie Millings, who, with his son, was famous for making the best stage wear for the world of show business. Joe also said that he would pay for the suits. We arranged to see Dougie on a Sunday. This was convenient for us as none of us was working on that day, and Dougie being Jewish didn’t work on Saturday which was the Sabbath. We used to leave Gloucester real early on a Sunday morning, which was usually a little rough as we had probably played on Saturday night till one in the morning. When we arrived in London we headed straight for Lyon’s Corner House to eat a great breakfast and drink that great coffee from the “Bottomless Cup”. At our first appointment with Dougie we showed him Pete’s sketch, and Dougie said “Ok” and began to show us fabric swatches. Dougie told us that the Beatles had been there a few days ago and had chosen a certain fabric for their suits. When we saw the sample we all immediately agreed that we would choose that fabric. I remember going to the toilet at Dougie’s only to hear Dougie say to me “You just took a piss in the same place as John Lennon”. I felt proud and special. After we got measured, Dougie told us to come back the following Sunday at 10 a.m.which we did. The suit jackets were partially made, we put them on, Dougie made a few chalk marks here and there, and that was that. Mick Holder who used to drive us every where, laughed and said that we had to drive almost three hours just for a couple of chalk marks; but on the following Sunday the suits were finished, and boy did we look sharp. The suits fit us perfectly and we looked just like the “Blond Beatles”. From that moment on whenever we played on stage we looked great. These four blond guys called the Saxons wearing Beatle suits. We even bought four matching pairs of brown Beatle boots to go with the suits, along with shirts and matching ties.
Roger picked me up one night for practice and we talked about the prospects of turning Pro. On the way out to Newent we discussed Brian and remembered the times that he had told us that he wouldn’t leave his job to play music full time. Roger then told me that he had spoken to Mick Collins, the drummer of probably the best group in the Gloucester area, and as his band the “Beatniks” had disbanded, he was ready to join the Saxons and had no objections to turning pro. Roger said we would break the news to Brian that night.
It was a weird practice that night. When we all arrived we started to practice “How Will I Know”, the other song that Pete had written with Joe. Pete and I devised an intro to the song and by the end of the night it was sounding very nice. After we put our guitars away Roger again questioned Brian about turning Pro. Out of the blue Brian said that he had thought about it and had decided that he would, if we had to. This took us all by surprise and Roger blurted out that we had already spoken to Mick Collins and that he was ready to join the band and to turn Pro. At that point I guess Brian realized that he was out of the band and began to pack up his drums and load them into his car. It was kind of sad, but at the same time it was kind of exciting knowing that we were going to have a great new drummer. Brian was ok though. I remember that he used to play for the school rugby team, like I did. He was able to break up a fist fight between Roger and Pete at a band practice one night. They were fighting over a disagreement that they had about a certain chord in a song. It was A major! Brian was the guy who first took me out on a pub crawl when I was 18. Brian and I together with a couple of his friends drove to half a dozen pubs, one after the other, downing a pint at each pub. Brian was ok but I got real sick and threw up with my head hanging out of the car window. Brian thought it was hilarious and had a real good laugh. I had a hangover for a week. My dad kept telling me to go and have another beer and I would feel better but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. Knowing what I know now, my dad was right. I watched the tail lights of Brian’s Morris Minor 1000 disappear into the darkness as he pulled away from the Welsh House. That was forty years ago.
Brian Peachey died of a heart attack while at work in June of 2006 just a matter of days before the opening of the Joe Meek Exhibition in Gloucester. I was hoping that I might have met Brian there but it was not to be. Brian was 62.
Luckily, Mick Collins was able to fit into Brian’s stage suit quite well. He showed up for the first practice and set up his black pearl Premier drum set. His dad was a professional Drummer. We had seen Mick play with the Beatniks who were a great group back then. We had played a few gigs with them when we invited them to play with us at Newent Memorial Hall. Things sounded great right away. His drums sounded different to Brian’s Set; more professional, crisper, he had no trouble with any of the songs, but his hair was jet black, dead straight and combed to the side. We were already dreading what Joe would say, after experiencing his outburst with Brian, but we tended to ignore it and to really enjoy playing with a first class drummer. We kind of accepted Mick with his black hair and I don’t think that we ever asked him to go blond. It was a good contrast, in fact when Mick joined the band we were featured in an article in the Gloucester Citizen. The caption beneath the picture showing the Saxons read “The black sheep in the fold” It did look kind of special; three bleach blonds and a black haired drummer, better that is than, three bleach blonds and a red head!
Mick soon learned our repertoire so we began playing gigs almost immediately. I remember the audiences freaking out when Mick would play his drum solos. They would stand around and watch. He seemed to play effortlessly like a jazz drummer.
We started to rehearse “How Will I Know?” with Mick. We told him that we would be going up to Joe’s studio soon to record it. When Mick Holder called Joe to let him know that we were ready to record and that we also had a new drummer, Joe surprised us by saying that he had hired a session drummer to play at the session; but he also told us to bring Mick along, maybe we’ll use two drummers.
At the session we introduced Joe to Mick Collins. Joe seemed to approve of Mick and said nothing about Mick’s hair. When we lugged the amps and drums upstairs to the studio we saw this guy setting up his drums. He introduced himself as Bobby Graham. We set up Mick’s drums across the room directly facing Bobby’s set. Joe and Bobby agreed that Mick would play the straight beat and that Bobby would create all the Fill ins.
We started running through the song so that Bobby could get acquainted with it. Mick of course knew the song and played very professionally together with Bobby Graham. He never took his eyes off Bobby and laid down a good basic beat while Bobby seemed to be having a hard time with the song. At one point he turned around to me and told me that he had been at an all night party and had got really drunk and that it was taking him a time to get into the song. I think that Joe may have heard him say that because he came into the studio and complained to Bobby about his playing with words like “I’m paying you for this fucking session so you’d better get into it”. After those few inspiring words from Joe, Bobby did get into it and put in some nice work; although I do believe that Mick Collins was just as good as Bobby Graham. After the backing track was completed Bobby Graham left. Joe made several comments to us regarding his disappointment with Bobby’s performance. He was apparently pleased with Mick’s drumming and it looked like he had taken a liking to Mick. Pete and I then proceeded to put down the vocals. This we did after a few takes and listening to the play back made my hair stand on end. The song had a haunting kind of sound to it and I believe that it was the best recording that we had done so far. This was the one and only time that Mick Collins recorded with us at Joe’s studio. Much to our disappointment “How Will I Know” never got to be released as the Saxons until it came out on a Joe Meek’s Gems album compilation in the late 1990’s. However the song did get released on a B side recorded by the Honeycombs. We were not impressed by their rendition of the song. They had this silly intro sounding like the beginning of Telstar, which I’m sure must have been Joe’s idea and to cap it all when Pete Holder bought the record just to see his name on the songwriting credits, he found that Joe Meek had taken full credit for writing the song and Pete’s name was not on the record at all.
Not long after we had returned from the “How Will I Know?” session, we featured a local band from Cheltenham to appear with us at Newent Memorial Hall. The band’s name was Tony Faye and the Fayetones. This was a notable occasion as it was the night that Mick Collins decided to tell us that he was leaving the band. He told us that he had given some serious thought to the matter and knowing how much the rest of us wanted to turn pro, he had changed his mind and in fairness to us he felt that he should be up front with us. He explained that he had a good job working for the government and could not throw that away. The significance with the Fayetones was that they had a young drummer who was well accomplished and by a stroke of luck was a natural white blond. Mick suggested that we should approach him to join the Saxons. He was a good young drummer and his blondness would fit in with the band’s image. Knowing there was basically nothing that we could do to change Mick’s mind we decided to take his advice. Mick Holder got hold of John the following week. John agreed to come over to a practice session and subsequently joined the band. He was a good drummer and fitted in with the band real well. We didn’t need that much practice as he knew most of our repertoire, the stuff he didn’t know he picked up right away and best of all he was willing to turn Pro, in fact all that he wanted to do was play for a living.
He had no job that would pull him away from his ambition but unlike the rest of us he said he would have to be paid some money as he did not have a job. We agreed to his request, after all we had got exactly what we were looking for a good blond drummer who would turn pro.John Davies was about sixteen years old at that time and had just got out of Cheltenham Grammar school. That was the same school that Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones attended. Luckily Brian Peachey’s Beatle suit that Mick Collins had worn for a short time fit John Davies pretty well.
Now we were complete. We had an all blond band and only Roger, Pete and I had to get our roots done every few weeks. We were playing twice a week for the most part getting more and more popular and in demand and getting to know our new drummer. John seemed a bit serious at the beginning as he listened to jazz and Bo Diddley. I always thought that John’s head was somewhere else and not really into pop music. As a drummer there was never any problem with his playing. I can never remember him making a mistake. He was a very consistent, good drummer, and probably still is. Any time that we were working on original songs he would come up with good solid drum parts. He had a bizarre sense of humor and could be extremely funny. Sometimes he and his cousin Graeme would talk together in high squeaky voices for weeks. They even had me doing it in the end.
One night at practice as John and I, followed by Roger and Mick Holder walked in through the doorway at the barn we witnessed Pete holder as usual messing around with his guitar and echo chamber. He had apparently been working on something and began to play this line of a melody over a few times. We all agreed that it sounded a bit weird but on the whole it was really quite commercial, especially with the heavy echo. We didn’t really pursue the tune much that night but a few days later Pete and I got together and wrote the whole piece. We had no idea what to call it. We thought about some thing spacey like “Journey to the Stars” but we really couldn’t come up with a title. At our next practice we showed it to Roger and John and each player came up with their parts. Roger put in a good bass line and John came up with some nice drum parts. When it was finished we were excited and Mick Holder decided that he would call Joe with the news. Not long after that we were on our way up to Holloway Road with our new drummer and a couple of good songs as well. When we arrived Joe was in a happy mood and was very pleased to meet John Davies.
The rest of us were of course relieved that we did not have a hair color to contend with. As we were setting up a pianist that Joe had hired for the session entered the studio. Joe introduced him as Peter London and he was a blind guy. We couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed as we didn’t really want to record anything that we couldn’t reproduce on stage. We started to run through the instrumental and I called out the chords to Peter London. He had a heavy London accent and in no time at all he said “Ok I got it” and he really did. We were amazed at how quickly he picked the tune up. Joe’s head popped around the door and he was beaming, and we proceeded to record the tune. We put the whole thing down pretty quickly and Joe had Peter London over dub the bridge on the Lowry. We listened to the play back and Joe had made a good sounding recording with some great sounds on the drums. As we had recorded the instrumental fairly quickly Joe asked if we had any other songs. We had rehearsed a song that Pete and I had put together and prepared it for recording. It was called “Your Eyes Tell Me”. We played it through and Joe said “OK let’s record it” and we began to call out the chords to Peter. He suddenly put in this intricate arpeggio line which totally knocked us out. After two times he had it down perfectly and it was amazing to see his fingers flying over the keys. We decided to take a break when the track was completed and said goodbye to Peter who was leaving. When we got back from the Chinese, Joe was working on the instrumental which was really starting to sound great. Joe asked us the title but we had no idea what to call it. We talked a little about the name of the Saxons and came up with “Saxon War Cry” We thought it would be good to have the sound of a battle going on for the beginning so Joe made us gather around the mike telling us all to scream and shout. After we had done this a few times we listened to the playback as Joe faded the screaming into the tune. It sounded incredible whatever Joe had done with the voices and he fairly jumped into the air, laughing and saying “It sounds like fucking thousands of them!” We didn’t get to put the vocal on “Your Eyes Tell Me”, but some years ago I did get to hear the original backing track which does still exist on the “Tea Chest Tapes”.
We were all very excited that evening as we stood around talking to Joe. We were really hot on the Saxons image. We talked about riding in a Chariot through the streets of London to advertise our hopefully forthcoming release of “Saxon Warcry”. We also discussed the idea of wearing studded leather tunics along with helmets and horns. We were all coming up with ideas and you could feel the excitement, especially in Joe. We talked about writing pop songs built around Saxon themes. Songs that came out of that idea were “Castle on the Mountain” [the original backing track still exists], “The Wedding of Cedric the Saxon” [never recorded], “Song of the Sun” god [Backing track still exists] “The Lady in Gray”, instrumental recorded at the Holder’s farm on Pete’s Telefunken tape recorder. We actually took the tape to Joe for him to hear. He quite liked it but he was most interested to know if that was a real owl that was hooting at the beginning of the piece. Actually it was me trying to whistle like an owl.
“Song of the Sun God” turned out to be an interesting project. It was a composition that evolved out of our association with Joe. By that I mean that Joe’s influence upon us was mainly in an instrumental vein, which was probably due to his desire to create another “Telstar” and our desire to be a vocal group like the Beatles. So Pete Holder and I came up with “Sun God” which was tied in with this new Saxon image. It originally started out as an instrumental but ended up as a vocal.In the song we were asking the Sun God to bring us home safely that night after a huge battle that we would be fighting that day. At the session after we had played the number to Joe he got quite excited and suggested that Pete play an organ guitar that he was developing together with the Watkins electronic people. So after we had finished the basic backing track Joe brought out this weird, little guitar that looked like it could have been home made and plugged it into Pete’s amp. Immediately all kinds of crackling and sizzling sounds emanated from the instrument and one could almost expect to see sparks flying and smoke pouring out. Joe did not seem to be bothered by this at all and proceeded to fiddle about with some wires and controls on the guitar. We stood around wondering what was going to happen next afraid that the whole contraption would suddenly explode. Pete had a look of amazement on his face. On one hand he was feeling very honored that he was to use this great new invention that Joe had been working on and on the other hand he looked concerned that he might get electrocuted at any moment. Pete was able to get most of the lead melody down after a few takes. Sometimes the guitar gave out a sputter or two here and there, but we finally got one down, although right at the very end of the song the last extended note burst into a crackle and Joe seeing that we were disappointed by this told us that it was nothing and everything would be alright. I believe that had we ever got round to finishing that track Joe would have probably disguised that crackle with some effect that would make it sound like something strange and would not be seen as a mistake on the recording. The whole thing probably would have turned out to be beneficial to the song and be just another spark of genius from Joe Meek. If any body is curious as to the sound that the organ guitar produced I remember that it sounded similar to the Clavioline a small keyboard attachment that was used on “Telstar”. To my knowledge it was only ever used on that track. I have never heard any body else talk about using it. Sometime later there was an article in the Melody Maker concerning some new gear that Watkins was coming out with. It talked about a new professional thirty watt amplifier with a built in echo unit and that the teething troubles with the organ guitar they called the Fifth Man were over and the instrument would be on the market shortly. Joe’s name was mentioned in connection with some of their affects units. Today the Fifth Man is regarded as a “Turkey” that was technically perfect but commercially disastrous. I guess that’s why I never remember ever hearing about it.
Roger Holder came to pick up John and me for practice one night and told us that the Holder family in a combined effort had made these Saxons tunics and helmets with horns. Roger and Pete had driven over to the slaughter house and bought some horns and cow hide for the trim. They also called up their neighbor, Terry Biddlecombe who was a champion steeple chase jockey. As Tom Holder, Pete and Roger’s dad, had courted Terry’s sister before he was married, the two families were well acquainted. They asked Terry if he had any Jockey skullcaps and they wound up getting four of Terry’s caps. Actually they are more like crash helmets. They fitted the horns on to the skull caps and used the cow hide which they had decorated with studs for the trim. Mrs. Holder along with some of her son’s girlfriends had made tunics for us from leatherette. Pete and Roger’s were beige and John and I wore the dark brown ones. They laced up at the neck and we also wore wrist supports that matched the tunics. Not long after that we decided that we would take some publicity photos dressed in our Saxon gear. Once again the talents of the Holders came to surface. Mick Holder would take the shots and Pete would develop the prints. We did the photo session out at Aylesmore farm.
We took shots of us crawling up a rise, Roger threatening me with a sword and ended up riding around in a chariot that the Holders had come up with pulled by one of their horses. Mick Holder took a cine film of this which I believe has been lost over the years. During this photo shoot I was having a problem with my eyes and soon found out that I had a detached retina in my left eye. In those days they didn’t have the modern methods that they use today and so I was in hospital for over a week. I remember that the nurses giggled when they found out that I was not a real blond. Upon my release I was told by the doctor that I was not allowed to shake my head or bend and lift heavy objects for a while. This meant that I was going to get about six weeks off of work. Also I was not allowed to sing. When things got back to normal I found that I had trouble hitting certain notes and that my voice would go weird at times, but this soon passed and we soon returned to our two gigs a week routine. Suddenly out of the blue we heard from Joe that our recording of “Saxon War Cry” was to be released on Decca. On the “B” side would be “Clickette Clack”. Of course we were thrilled and couldn’t quite believe it after nothing had happened with our other recordings. Anyway it was true and Joe gave us the information of the release date which was June 16th 1965.
We had a write up in the local newspaper (see photo) which announced that the Saxons would be awaiting an answer to their War Cry. I believe that we were the first entertainers from Gloucester to get a record released. I am not aware of anyone from Gloucester who has accomplished this since, although there may have been but I have been away from Gloucester for over thirty years so I could possibly have missed some one. Joe told us to look in the N.M.E. around the time of the release date as there would be an advertisement in the middle pages of the newspaper together with a picture of the band. Well Joe was right there it was right smack bang in the center pages The Saxons “Saxon War Cry” C/W “Clickette Clack” on Decca Records, but who the hell was this band they featured in the picture? They looked like a bunch of bankers who were playing in a traditional jazz band. It was certainly not the Saxons clothed in their Saxon outfits. We were devastated and even quite embarrassed that people would think that this bunch of squares in the photo was the Saxons. We called Joe immediately and he had seen it too. He said that there had been a mistake at the N.M.E. and the editor had apologized to him. Later on Joe remarked that he believed that the paper had done this on purpose as they wanted to screw him up. The Citizen, Gloucester’s newspaper did a review of the single and said that we sounded like the Tornados but it was worthwhile listening to the B side which was a catchy vocal that sounded promising. This basically confirmed what we were thinking which was that instrumentals were on the way out and that vocals were definitely in, and that, coupled with the horrible publicity shot we knew that it was doomed to fail. I for one knew that I would never listen to, and definitely would not buy a record recorded by the bunch of bankers in the picture. About the only thing that we benefited from this whole fiasco was that we were able now to be billed as Decca recording artists with a single out called “Saxon War Cry”, which we proudly had printed on our business cards. I guess that we all felt pretty good that we had a record out and the gigs were coming in very regularly from all areas around Gloucestershire. We looked good on stage dressed in our Beatle style suits. The girls were crazy about our blond hair and we were working pretty much every weekend, Fridays and Saturdays. Saturdays were usually tough for me as we always played till late on Friday nights and I had to work in the department store on Saturdays. So when I got out of work at 6pm I had just about enough time to have a cup of tea and leave for the gig. One gig that we played at was at the Warwickshire Agricultural College for girls. The school was basically this big old rambling mansion and at the end of the evening, after we had put away the gear in the van we started to talk with some of the girls there. They told us that the place was haunted and that a ghost of a lady wearing a grey dress was frequently to be seen wandering the corridors at night. Pete Holder and I were inspired by that story and wrote “The Lady in Grey” instrumental together. We recorded it at Aylesmore farm on Pete’s Telefunken tape recorder using the Swiss Echo unit as a mixer, which was Pete’s idea. Pete and his brothers had saved up the money to buy the recorder by allowing the public to gather daffodils on their land and charged sixpence a bunch. At Easter time Daffodils grow in abundance in the Newent area to such an extent that they turn the country side yellow. We took the tape of “Lady in Grey” to Joe for him to hear and I think he quite liked it; after all we were just knocking off Joe Meek. At that gig at the college I remember that drummer John Davies had been talking to a girl there and as we were leaving and were walking out to the van she called to him from an upstairs window. John asked “What’s your name?” She replied “Debbie”Debbie Simons”. They went on to get married and had two daughters. We were beginning to become celebrities in and around Gloucestershire. Everyone in the small town of Newent knew the Saxons, especially the Holder brothers, who were local lads, and lived a stone’s throw away from Newent in the area of Dymock, their parent’s farm being a mere 300 yards from the birthplace of Dick Whittington who as a boy ran away to London and wound up becoming the first Lord Mayor of London. We were also gaining popularity in the surrounding counties, with some of our gigs being played further afield.
We were asked to judge bands that were competing in talent contests. I didn’t find this too appealing as sometimes it was embarrassing to judge bands that knew the Saxons. We knew these bands too and it was hard to choose one over the other. Whatever decision we made would be wrong as you could always depend on offending somebody. We pretty soon stopped judging contests just like we had stopped entering talent contests. After we had entered a talent contest at the Malvern winter gardens and Pete Holder broke a string right in the first number and all these other bands had brought their own fans by the busload we realized that we didn’t stand a chance; although we did get a scream or two when I appeared on stage wearing my shiny suit. I remember some band from Birmingham won by getting the most votes from the audience. They played one of their own numbers and said that their style of music was called the “Brum Beat”. In the six months that passed from June 1965 when Saxon Warcry was released, till the end of the year, the Saxons continued to improve as a band, looking and playing better on stage, writing more music, and generally getting prepared for a career in pop music. At my day job I was doing fine and received a special award from the managing director of the store for the good results I had achieved in my college exams. This must have been an unusual experience for David Pope the Managing Director, as only a few weeks before, he and a group of directors from other stores walked in and caught me and a friend of mine from the carpet department playing ten pin bowling. We were supposed to be cutting lengths of carpeting but as we were finished with that, we had made a large ball out of all the sticky tape that we had taken off the rolls of carpet and made ten pins which we had cut from the heavy duty cardboard tubes that the carpeting was rolled around. I was about to bowl down the ball when they all walked in. Jesus Christ I just stood there knowing that we had been caught and held the ball in my hand behind my back. Mr. Pope walked up to me and held out his hand. I promptly placed the ball in it. He tossed it once in the air and caught it, passing it back to me. “You’ll have to do better than that” he said and turned round and walked away with the visitors. I never heard any more about it but a short time after that I was transferred to the linoleum department, which I took as a demotion and was pretty upset about. My ex boss Mr. Dyer said that it was because of my eye injury and as I was not allowed to lift heavy weights I was being transferred. Meanwhile it was heavier to lift the huge rolls of linoleum on to the cutting machine than to lug the rolls of carpet around. I eventually found out that a salesman from the furniture department had asked to be transferred to the carpet department and that’s why I got moved. This all happened a few months before Christmas and the January sale was coming up. This was always a great event with customers lining up outside the store and then rushing in to be the first to get the best bargains. There would often be fights between the lady customers over who got to a certain item first. You could often see two ladies tugging on a rug or a piece of carpeting.
Sometime during the last week of December 1965, on a Monday afternoon a lady from the furniture office told me that there was a phone call for me. This was very strange because I had never received a call at work before and I didn’t know what to expect. It was Roger Holder. “We’ve just got a call from Joe meek” he said “He wants us to be in London next Saturday, we’re going to be the New Tornados and you’ll have to leave your job. We’re turning pro!”