IN THE FALL OF 1966 the Action were at their zenith, one short step above complete obscurity. For one all too brief moment they had a chance at success. They had a clean R&B rock ‘n’ roll sound, drive, and a sense of humour. Londoners by birth and temperament, they were then only a notch or two behind the Small Faces. For whatever reason, they were not graced by fame, and though I heard later that lead singer Reggie King was still in the business producing records, the Action have long since disappeared.
London was swinging in 1966, debutantes were playing with fire at crowded discotheques, the dedicated followed the fashions of Carnaby Street and King’s Road, and “New Britain” was the name for the colorful optimism that sometimes broke through the fog of perpetual economic crisis. The Action were part of swinging London, though it never swung in their direction. Rolls Royces and baccarat are ever for the few. Reggie, Al, Mick, Pete, and Roger were rock ‘n’ rollers, as resilient and slyly game as Sam Weller and their cockney ancestors. Not heroes like the Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Zombies, Hollis, Eric Burdon, or Rod Stewart, the Action remained working class.
When rock ‘n’ roll reached England, the only people who picked up on it were kids. It did not become a pervasive force until Beatlemania, and, originated as it did in a foreign country, it was a more special phenomenon to English fans than to Americans who could take it for granted. In England before the Beatles, to hear rock ‘n’ roll, you had to love it. English fans were ravers. They adored Buddy Holly, yearned for Elvis, screamed for Gene Vincent. Cults gathered around Chuck Berry. Some bought instruments and got together with friends. This is how the Action told their story on a rainy October night halfway through the ’60s.*
Mick: For a start we work very hard.
Reggie: In the beginning we were called the Boys.
Pete: Do we want to go back that far?
Roger: Yeah, when we first started.
Pete: Actually the last couple records we did came out one day, went in the next.
Reggie: Well, we were professional about two years ago with a girl singer. We were called Sandra Barry and the Boyfriends.
Pete: What rubbish that was.
Reggie: We were thrown together by this sort of big-ideas manager.
Mick: We was only together two weeks when the record came out.
Reggie: Originally before that I was in a small group in a pub, the Vanity.
Roger: That’s where it all started.
Reggie: We broke away from that ’cause we didn’t like playing in a pub. We had bigger ideas.
Roger: Drunk every night.
Reggie: We wanted to get on, so we broke away. I knew Roger could drum, sort of, so we asked him to join. I had been singing since I was pretty young.
Pete: You look pretty.
Al: You was young and pretty.
Reggie: I used to go to the Saturday-morning matinees in the cinema. All the kids used to go. And, of course, when trouble started, they used to get little kids to sing-in front of the mike, you know. And if you were good and they clapped, you’d get an ice cream, and I used to get ice cream.
Roger: Every Saturday morning, we used to say, “We want Reggie. We want Reggie.”
Reggie: So I’d sing. Course I wouldn’t get ice creams now. I’d sing silly songs, songs of the time.
Roger: It was rock ‘n’ roll, rock ‘n’ roll. We was about nine or ten, thirteen years ago.
Reggie: Kentish Town, we all lived around that area at the time, tough area, near Hampstead. We were hard kids then. Wore jeans and bumper boots.
Roger: Me and Reggie used to go to the Army Cadets, when we was about fourteen.
Reggie: Roger fancied himself as a bit of a drummer, used to get biscuit tins. . .
Roger: Baked-bean tins.
Reggie: And a billiard cue, break it in two, sitting there bap a rappa dappa, and I’d sit at the piano going ching ching ching, making weird noises.
Roger: I was self-taught and watched other people.
Al: He’s got the biggest collection of biscuit tins you’ve ever seen. Me, on the guitar, it was the thing in those days, everybody was playing.
Pete: We just followed suit.
Al: I thought it would be a five-minute wonder with me. Me dad bought me a guitar, and never told me, for Christmas, and he laid it over the arms of a chair. I came walking in and went to sit down, and he said. . .
Reggie (falsetto): “Don’t sit down.”
Al: And I looked around. I was fourteen. It was a cheap one, a Gamadges guitar.
Roger: A gas guitar.
Al: I picked it up, started out on it, then left it for two months, went back to it, and haven’t looked back.
Pete: I listened to Buddy Holly, the Shadows, Eddie Cochrane, Gene Vincent. No teacher. I bought books with the chords, like the others, played with records.
Reggie: You’d bump into friends and swap ideas.
Roger: I had a Jew’s harp when I was three.
Reggie: We went professional when we were tired of work.
Roger: I worked down at Smithfield’s Meat Market, and got fed up, had to start work at four in the morning, so I thought I’d join a group.
Al: Reggie and me had started one.
Reggie: I used to play with Mick when I was younger, in another group, then I broke away and joined this group in a pub which needed a rhythm player, and Mick happened to walk through the door with a guitar in his pocket. Then we left the group and saw Roger, who happened to have a set of drums in his pocket.
Al: That’s how we started up, the four of us with a girl singer.
Mick: We was making more in the pub than what we’re making at the moment. The Maiden Arms in Kentish Town.
Reggie: There was always fights in there. We made a pound each night, four nights a week, for two and a half hours a night. Played pop stuff, the hit parade. Rehearsed one night a week.
Al: We had regular jobs then, the music was a bit on top of our wages. It helped.
Reggie [falsetto]: We was rich men.
Roger: We got this big ideas manager who used to come down and see us. We just got to talking one night, and he thought we had potential. He liked us. We wanted to get out of the pub, and he talked about turning professional. I thought it wouldn’t be worth the time, that we couldn’t get anywhere. We had no intentions of getting on to something. He found Sandra Barry, got her because she had had a name as a child star and he thought she could draw people. So we started out.
Pete: I knew Mick from working in a music store.
Reggie: After a while we found we was lacking a sound, you know, we needed a lead guitar.
Mick: We was flopping on jobs cause we needed a bigger sound. Good jobs too, not many jobs, but good ones.
Pete: The manager had the gift of gab.
Reggie: We were the second group to the Swinging Blue Jeans, thirty-five, forty pounds a night, which is good.
Roger: The manager took the lot.
Reggie: We were done, we were fiddled, we were rolled.
Roger: We managed to get a bit in the end, but not the amount owed to us. We had signed a bit of paper with his name on it. Were owed fifty quid each and got twenty.
Peter: That was February, I964. In four months we broke up because he kept on fiddling us. The girl left too. Had one record, ‘Really Gonna Shake’. Reggie wrote it.
Reggie: I’ve written quite a few, but they’re with a publisher that we don’t want to be with now. We signed to a publisher as writers, and we don’t want to release any through him. He’s got the songs we’ve written, but we won’t give him any more because there are publishers a lot better than him.
Roger: If we record anything we write, we’ll do it under another name. He’s got an option for another year; if the record got anyplace, he might take us up on it.
Mick: Then we went to Germany. Manager rolled us on that as well.
Reggie: We was out of work, didn’t have a penny between us. We went across for about two months, it was seventeen pounds a week apiece. Hanover, Brunswick, a month each. Teenage places. Five hours during the week, 8:00 P.M. to 1:00 A.M., seven hours on Sunday, six on Saturday. Seven nights a week.
Mick: He sent us over there, speakers and things started to break, the amps, and we needed repairs. We phoned him up and asked him to send stuff over. He said, “Yes, I’m coming over, I’m sending things,” but he never came, so in the end we stopped his percentage. The money we stopped we bought speakers with. He left us out there as well.
Pete: We had no van.
Reggie: Mums and dads had a big whip around between them and sent out a chap with a van to pick us up. The money we should have sent him paid for our fare home, so we came out almost even.
Mick: When we come back, we signed up with another crook and had another record out.
Reggie: He was a real con.
Mick: He had P. J. Proby.
Reggie: He took us right, left, and center. A penny here, a penny there. Made a record for Pye, ‘It Ain’t Easy’. Me and Mick wrote it.
Roger: It came out and went in again.
Reggie: I made thirty-three quid on the first record, seven shillings, four-and-a-half-pence on the second. Never knew how they did. Not well enough to get on the charts.
Pete: We was promised so much on that record, we was promised on the television shows, and in the end we had one, and that was up in Newcastle.
Reggie: We came back from Germany in September 1964. The record was out in November.
Roger: We thought we’d all be comfortably off by Christmas. Nobody did anything for the record. At the time we had two managers, you see, and each manager was blaming it on the other one. Actually it was three managers.
Pete: Each manager didn’t want to do more than his share.
Reggie: We knew there were a lot of jobs around, and we weren’t getting any. So we decided to leave, and Kenny the manager was saying, “Oh, there’s not much work around anyway,” and we knew there was.
Mick: It was toward the end of that that we got a residency at the Marquee.
Reggie: Then we signed up with another crook.
Mick: Not so much a crook, more an ice cream.
Reggie: An idiot.
Pete: He had all the right ideas, but he didn’t have no money or anything like that.
Reggie: He’s Polish. He’d come up to me with an idea, he’d say, “It’s great, great, fantastic,” and he’d forget about it in a couple of weeks.
Mick: He had another business.
Reggie: He used to run this thing on Tuesday nights at the Marquee in Soho. The Who were there then. They wanted a backing group, so we managed to get the job. We did pretty well, actually, for three months. We got a percentage of the gate, started off as nine pounds and ended up as twenty-one.
Roger: About 12.5 percent.
Reggie: It was more of a prestige thing than the money.
Mick: You go there for low money because of that. That gig made the Who.
Pete: Our sound was, well, it was around then, just before we started at the Marquee.
Reggie: We were still groping for an image and everything.
Mick: It sort of came naturally, and we knew that was the sort of stuff we were going to play. We started learning it.
Reggie: It’s American rhythm-and-blues without the blues, it’s sort of rhythm and soul. It’s all this reaction music, you know, it’s us and the audience, it takes two.
Mick: It’s American Negro pop.
Al: Impressions, Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas.
Pete: Almost everybody on Motown. Supremes, Miracles, Marvin Gaye.
Reggie: Ena Sharples.
Roger: We wanted to get a band sound.
Mick: It came naturally. We realized Al and Pete could sing falsetto. Where the records had trumpets we put voices.
Reggie: We sort of did scat in harmony.
Pete: When we started I was taking lead on the trumpets, but that lost the sound, so instead I’d play chords. Playing chords in the background instead of picking out the tune on guitar, we could save the guitar for a bigger backing, and do the tune with voices and harmony.
Roger: Then we got chucked outta the Marquee.
Mick: We was taking the limelight from the Who.
Reggie: The Who wanted a pony group following them.
Mick: They liked it when there was a good crowd and when they were on everybody was watching and when they went off the crowd died out. In the end they were getting a thousand people in there.
Reggie: They came to watch us as well.
Mick: Their management didn’t like it.
Roger: When the Who went off they’d sit and wait for us, instead of going out to the pub where the Who went.
Reggie: So their manager thought it the wisest thing to kick us out. He was running it there.
Pete: We had our own sound. When the Who came on it wasn’t such a climax.
Al: The way he tried to do it, he accused us of copying them. That was his first excuse.
Reggie: The worst thing about that was that it stuck.
Pete: We didn’t just get kicked out. It built up over time.
Al: It started by people saying, “I hear you’re leaving the Marquee.” We took no notice of that. Then two weeks before the sack, they knocked our money down to a straight fifteen pounds a night, thinking we’d say, “Oh, forget it, we’re leaving,” but we didn’t.
Roger: If they’d said, “Play for nothing,” we’d have played there if we could have afforded it.
Reggie: We were low on money.
Pete: Then we got Bob Druce as an agent and got jobs all around the country.
Reggie: The Polish manager wanted a record, but he didn’t have the money for the recording. We wanted a backer, so we went to the Marquee Studio and made some tapes, sent them to Decca. They turned it down. Then George Martin came to see us.
Roger: That was Reggie’s work.
Reggie: This Bob Druce agency had this girl Denise Hall working for them, She got us bookings, and she liked us a lot. [General giggles.]
Reggie: Shut up!
Roger: Just good friends.
Reggie: I was going out with her, like friends, but she liked us as a group, music-wise. She was really plugging us at the agency, working all day calling up people saying, “Book the boys, book the boys.”
Al: Meanwhile we had changed our name to the Action.
Reggie: That was her idea. She left the agency to work for us as a publicist. The Pole after a while got broke and couldn’t pay her, so we kept her on for 10 percent of what we earned.
Pete: She called Martin, phoning him up, phoning him up.
Reggie: Yeah, she made a nuisance of herself, and he finally came down to see us.
Roger: Everybody else had turned us down. We had started at the bottom and worked to the top.
Pete: Martin heard us at the Bedford Hotel in Balham.
Roger: The Gateway to the South.
Reggie: Very pretty there, see the lights turn from red to green, green to amber, back to red again.
Pete: Martin liked us, so a week later we went into the studio ’cause he wanted to hear us there. We did ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’.
Reggie: We had played it for about three weeks before we recorded it and suddenly thought it could be the one.
Pete: Martin hadn’t heard it. He had heard ‘In My Lonely Room’, wanted us to do that.
Mick: When we walked in we were all depressed ’cause we thought it would be a lousy session.
Reggie: It was the most fantastic big studio we had ever seen. [EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London]
Pete: We had the song written out on a torn bit of scrap paper.
Reggie: I had a sore throat. I thought, “Ridiculous-the top man in the business, and we’re all feeling terrible.” This chap walked in and said, “Sit down over there,” and started fiddling with mikes all over the place, and we were sitting.
Pete: It was just an audition, you know. They wanted to hear the tape, and if it was no good, it would have been, “Sorry. . .”
Al: We did two songs, the backings with Reggie mouthing the words to keep tempo, and the back-up vocals. Then we had a cup of tea.
Pete: Then Martin comes in and says, “First, let’s get in tune, shall we?” So we did it all again.
Al: But all he really added were some lower harmonies on ‘In My Lonely Room’.
Reggie: ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’ he said was too hard on the ear.
Pete: But he said he liked ‘Lonely Room’, and “Let’s release it,” he says.
Reggie: We didn’t know what was happening, didn’t know what time it was. He says he thinks it is very good, and we started talking contracts. We were dazed.
Roger: We went up to his office, and he got us out of our old managerial deal.
Reggie: The Pole agreed to part with us if we paid him the money we owed him, forty-two pounds.
Pete: George Martin paid it, wrote out a check and gave it to us. He didn’t know us, only a few hours, that’s how much he thought of the record.
Reggie: We talked about managers, and he said, “Would you consider Brian Epstein?” And when we all climbed back into our chairs—I did fall on the floor, he approached Epstein about it, played him the record.
Mick: He liked it but didn’t want to give a definite answer at the moment, but Martin wanted to know, as he was going away for a few days. So Epstein said, “Yes I will manage them as a favour to you, George,” but Martin said, “No, I don’t want you to manage them unless you’re going to push them.” He’d have to work for us if he was going to manage us.
Reggie: So we turned down Brian Epstein. Put that in.
Pete: You can’t really. We never even met him.
Mick: We met Ricky Farr about then. He owns a club in Portsmouth, a knockout club.
Al: One of the best in England for the stuff we play. They go mad for us.
Mick: I told that to Nick Jones of the Melody Maker, and he put it in his column, “The Raver”.
Al: Every time we see him we say the London scene is going down.
Reggie: So he started managing us. He’s like George. Gets things done. Maybe we’ll get some TV, but we’ve been disappointed about that. It’s all if they like the record. Ready, Steady, Go is the best, but you go on the rest for the plug.
Pete: Martin wanted the record out earlier, but then he was going independent from EMI to make his own company, AIR. Ricky was gonna have us raid Radio London in a Chinese junk, get in the national papers that way, but nothing has happened yet.
Reggie: Right now we’re working an erratic schedule, sometimes five nights a week, other weeks two or three.
Roger: We’re on “vacation” now. Reggie: We need it after last Sunday. We broke down.
Pete: But last week we were at Ricky’s flat in Brighton.
Reggie: Steak! Steak for breakfast.
Al: Birds all over the place.
Mick: Ricky’s father was a boxer, you know, fought Joe Louis.
Reggie: Where we been working most recently is at the Pontiac. We signed for four weeks, then they added four more.
Mick: It’s a good club, but the trouble is Flynn doesn’t have the money to exploit it.
Al: He’s got good ideas about decorating the place, but as far as booking things, I don’t think he has the slightest idea of what he’s doing.
Mick: Chuck Berry is coming to the Pontiac.
Reggie: ‘Cause the Pontiac is supposed to be the new in place.
Pete: Berry! We saw Bo Diddley, he stood there like a big dummy, even tuned up on stage. Very unprofessional.
Al: The Pontiac has the name, but it’s gonna go down.
Pete: He’s put the wrong names in.
Al: Nobody wants to see Chuck Berry any more.
Reggie: They should, but they don’t.
Al: I’d say this was a tense time for us. We think the record will do something.
Pete: I think it will go well enough to get, you know, fairly well known.
Roger: And then the next record. . .
Reggie: This record could very well get us in the Hit Parade, put it that way, and if it doesn’t. . .
Roger: Another one will.
Reggie: It gets us a name, known over the country.
Roger: Top fifty we’re hoping to get.
Reggie: If it gets in the top fifty anything can happen.
Pete: Once a record is in the top fifty, (snapping his fingers) television programs (snaps again).
Reggie: It comes automatic, they come to you.
Mick: Martin stated quite categorically, if it misses, he doesn’t want to know us.
Reggie: That doesn’t mean just this record.
Al: But it won’t go on forever, making records that fail.
Pete: If we fail, he’s failed as well.
Al: He’s really keen. He’s the first person we ever met in this business who’s shown confidence in us.
Reggie: Really, really shown confidence.
Roger: He’s straight, straight as the day is long.
Al: He’s a really nice fellow.
Reggie: He couldn’t be crooked–he’s too big, it wouldn’t pay. But the label is not so good.
Roger: We haven’t been rehearsing much. As much as we can, it used to be five days a week.
Reggie: We haven’t been finding material. If you work five nights a week, and mostly you’re traveling, you’re too tired the next day.
Reggie: My voice goes all the time. Recently I had sort of a bad cough, ’bout a month ago, and it made my throat sore. I’d be sore before I started. You have to watch those things, like broken fingers.
Al: We might be big sometime, as big as we can.
Reggie: We’re quite prepared to work. If you get to number one, you’ll be working seven, eight days a week.
Roger: The record is nothing. We’re not even worried about the record sales.
Pete: We don’t count them.
Reggie: You get TV, sixty, eighty, a hundred pounds a time.
Roger: And it goes up the more you’re on.
Reggie: And you go straight out to a dance hall the same night, and you earn three hundred pounds, or two hundred, so you’re earning money.
Pete: Get on the Hit Parade, and your money goes straight to one fifty pounds a night.
Roger: I’d buy a yacht with the money.
Reggie: Clothes, loads of clothes.
Pete: New equipment.
Reggie: Yeah; we got good stuff, but it’s going now.
Pete: We’d get the best equipment money could buy. The PA system, three mikes, and the speakers cost four hundred quid alone.
Reggie: Wouldn’t get uniforms, just right smart gear. Roger: We got shirts the Pontiac guy had made, one of his good ideas, “Superduperman.”
Al: I painted stripes on my belt.
Reggie: We swap our gear–he wears my shirt, I wear his jumper.
Pete: We’re getting to be pretty fashion conscious.
Al: People notice the clothes, not the person wearing them. So they say, “I’ve seen it somewhere before, but which one was wearing it?”
Roger: We go to some good parties.
Pete: Last party we went to, they broke bottles over our heads.
Reggie: We got invited to a party, got there after we finished work, and all the beer was all gone.
Roger: The people were a bit inebriated, didn’t like us coming in. They picked up some empty bottles, and we went out.
Reggie: Shattered our egos somewhat. We get to some weird places now and again.
Roger: Shocking, shocking.
Mick: The kids don’t like us in uniforms.
Reggie: Some do.
Al: We don’t want to be like that.
Mick: I couldn’t play in a suit.
Al: If we all dressed the same the way bands used to, I wouldn’t play the same, it would affect the way we play.
Roger: We can’t spoil what we got now.
Reggie: We didn’t plan how we were gonna look on stage, never got down to it.
Mick: One of the reasons the Tamla-Motown groups didn’t go over so well when they came here was their American Negro flashy clothes.
Reggie: Apart from being Negroes.
Roger: That doesn’t matter with the hip ones, with the masses it does.
Reggie: Being white but singing Negro stuff would go over bigger with the masses, but not the hip people.
Roger: Some prefer Marvin Gaye to us.
Al: People who like Marvin Gaye like us, but if Marvin Gaye was here, they’d rather watch him than us.
Reggie: The stuff we write isn’t like Motown. It’s sweet, nice music like the Hollies.
Roger: It’s a cutthroat business. Some of the smaller groups, smaller than even us, that back us, think they’re big, think they’re it.
Reggie: You get to a gig, walk in, and the supporting group, they’re all wag around with their noses in the air. You say hello -and nothing. Big groups, they’re all friendly straightaway.
Al: We’re friends with the Who. They speak to us.
Reggie [falsetto]: Hello.
Pete: We’re Beatle fans. Like the way they write and play, keep trying for a different sound.
Roger: ‘Yesterday’ is my favorite record.
Reggie: It’s hard to write the Motown stuff.
Mick: You can’t just sit down and write it.
Reggie: It’s all based on guitar riffs. Sit down to write something, and it’s more complicated.
Al: It’s soul music, comes from the soul.
Reggie: You know, deep down.
Pete: It’s soul, and we haven’t got any.
Mick: We can play it though, we couldn’t use to.
Reggie: Singing like a Negro came naturally to me, never worked on it that hard. About soul, you don’t sit down and copy them, you listen to the record and decide whether you want to do it or not, and decide whether it will suit the group.
Mick: We have to play it like us.
Al: Sometimes we go right through a number, playing it, even after we’ve finished rehearsing it for three days, we realize it isn’t us.
Reggie: We listen and write down the words, listen to the record’s arrangement, then work it out ourselves, our own ideas, our own sound.
Mick: Like the Impressions’ number, ‘Keep On Pushing’. It was three-four time, and we was doing dance halls and they couldn’t dance to it, so we did it four-four.
Reggie: We change it around as we do it.
Roger: I change my drumming. I feel a song different after a while.
Reggie: In the end it comes around to the way we want it, and then it stays. Half the time we’re changing and don’t realize it.
Pete: It’s a good life.
Reggie: I enjoy it.
Mick: It’s better than an ordinary job.
Reggie: I couldn’t work a nine-to-five job. Anything’s better than working eight days a week. I don’t do it because everybody’s looking at us on stage. We don’t look.
Pete: That’s right. When we’re on stage, we’re…
Roger: We get engaged.
Reggie: You get involved in what you’re doing.
Pete: When you haven’t earned any money in two years, you can’t do it without liking it.
Al: The sickening thing about some groups, they say, “Oh, if we don’t make it, we’ll all go back to our regular jobs.”
Mick: I look bored on stage, but I’m not. It’s my image.
Reggie: Big moody image.
Al: Girls don’t go wild over us yet.
Pete: We’ve had our moments.
Al: We sent a young lady at the Pontiac the other week. We send her every week.
Reggie: The girls, they stand there and dance, look at you, and you look at them, and you give a big hard look, then look away. If you look back later, they’d be waiting there for you to look back. You can play tricks with them.
Roger: Yeah, you mess ’em up that way. You work with them to get them to work with you.
Pete: We played in a sewer once.
Reggie: It was called the Little Fat Black Pussycat Club. It was an old sewer. We pulled up, and I said, “Listen, someone go around to the front,” and it was the front. The stage was in the middle, and we was playing to the wall. The people were dancing off to the right. Ridiculous!
Al: Fantastic atmosphere.
Reggie: There’s a lot of crooks in the business.
Roger: We play good places though.
Pete: We’re more a club group than anything else.
Mick: We played a strip club once.
Roger: It was better watching than playing.
Pete: She was changing in our dressing room, wouldn’t let anyone look at her.
Reggie: Not much drugs. You get pushers around, pills. It’s more the audience than the bands. It’s pretty rare.
Mick: We were playing a club called the Saints when it got raided once. Down the road from the Marquee.
Roger: Wardour Street, that’s the place where all the clubs are.
Reggie: Girls, they get out of school for holidays, and they hang around the street waiting for their idols to come in. Girls come up to you and ask for your autograph, not knowing who you are.
Roger: They’d say, “Hey, are you in a group?” We’d tell them no. It’s better to tell them that, or they follow you around.
Reggie: The Polish manager, he used to run a show-biz football team, where show-biz personalities play for charities. We used to go, ’cause it was a big bully-up, and all the kids would run up saying, “Can I have your autograph,” and I felt really embarrassed. So I used to say, “Do you know who I am?” They’d say no, and then I’d say, “What do you want my autograph for?” and they’d all run away.
Roger: I went to a football match, and about twenty-five girls came around and said, “Can I have your autograph?” I said, “What for, there’s the singer up there,” and pointed to my mate. Twenty-five girls came at him.
Pete: The funniest experience we had, I have never seen so many girls. They surrounded the van, and we couldn’t get out.
Reggie: Mass hysteria.
Roger: They didn’t even know who we was — imagine what it’s like when they know who you are.
Pete: It would be nice to be famous, just to see what it’s like.
Reggie: I want to be famous, I don’t care what it is like. The Beatles, they can’t go out of their houses, but they have advantages other people don’t have.
Roger: They go to the clubs, have a good time.
Reggie: I’m not really bitter about the class system, though.
Roger: If I had really wanted to make money, I would have stayed in school and done all that stuff. I wasn’t interested in money then, all I wanted to do was leave school. Went to Havistock Secondary Modern.
Al: We’re all ice creams as far as that is concerned, idiots.
Reggie: Can’t read music, maybe a single line. I used to write down the top line. The easiest way to learn a tune is with a guitar and singer. We’ve learned a lot of music by playing.
Roger: I play the guitar a little. Sang when we were in Germany. Once dressed up as an Arab. Involved in the music, hah. I would sit in Germany and play with a book by me side, read while I was playing. Mick would come back and chat with me.
Reggie: I’d completely forget I was singing. Really. Sometimes I hold my finger in my ear so I can hear myself because it’s so loud.
Roger: It looks good as well.
Pete: It ought to be a gun. When we get really famous we’ll employ someone to stand there with a finger in Reggie’s ear.
Roger: He got his style studying monkeys at the zoo, jumping about.
Reggie: I watch people that dance and dance the same as them. That’s what I’m doing sometimes, what people are doing on the floor.
Pete: We’re mods, sort of.
Reggie: A mod is more smart, with it, dresses better than a rocker.
Roger: They’re so nice, mod girls: short hair, big blue eyes, kinky clothes.
Reggie: We don’t call ourselves mods, we call ourselves individualists.
Pete: In between.
Roger: I’d vote Conservative if I voted. The Conservatives are the better of the worse.
Reggie: We live with our parents, couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. If it hadn’t been for our parents we’d have been packed up, dead, finished by now.
Al: They say they like the music, but I don’t think they understand it. They don’t make fun of it.
Reggie: I’ve got a couple of sisters who are fairly modern. They come and watch us and rave about us.
Pete: We’ve got a fan club. Two girls, Judy and Pat, run it.
Al: They’re clever about the membership cards. They started the numbers at about sixty, so everyone who gets a card thinks there are more people than there actually are. Costs five bob to join. The girls in it are about sixteen.
Reggie: School was sick, too much discipline. The uniform, that’s the biggest thing of all. You have to wear a uniform in English schools. When you’re about sixteen, and you’re mods or trying to be fairly modern, you look so silly in a blazer and a school cap. We all left about fifteen.
Roger: One time I knocked a cop over. I was on a scooter, he was on a scooter. He did a U-turn, I was coming the other way, smash. His hat was rolling on the ground. Hah!
Reggie: You know, if I made a lot of money, I’d invest it.
Roger: I’d become partners in a club with my friend Gary.
Pete: I’d get married. (General laughter)
Al: I’d become a beachcomber.
Mick: I’d stay in the business and manage somebody.
© Michael Lydon, ‘Boogie Lightning’ , 1974