ALAN MERRILL

15th November 2014

 

 

Q:You have an extensive website with a wealth of information…

 

http://www.alanmerrill.com/

 

AM: Yeah there are a couple of them. My son made the main one; he’s a web designer.

 

Q: I tried to find some stuff you hadn’t been asked before but it’s pretty difficult but obviously I want to talk about I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll and other stuff you’ve been interviewed about before.

 

AM: Yeah sure.

 

I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll

 

Q: Let’s get I Love Rock And Roll out of the way first; do you recall where you were and what you were doing when you first heard Joan’s version?

 

AM: The first Joan Jett version I heard was the Sex Pistols version – Joan and the Sex Pistols 1979 and I thought it was very good but I also know that it was only regionally released in Germany on Vertigo records I think, so I didn’t think it had much of a chance but I knew when she re-recorded it and it was released on Boardwalk Entertainment in ’81 under the tutelage of Neil Bogart who had established Kiss and Donna Summer, it had a very good chance. As fate would have it, Mr. Bogart knew he was dying of cancer and he literally wanted to go out with a big bang and it was all of our good luck that he put all of his learned effort and expertise into promoting it. It was one of the biggest records of all time, the most played record on American radio since I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles: Seven weeks at No.1 in Billboard and eight weeks at No.1 in Cashbox.

 

Q: It will be played long after me and you have left the planet. When you wrote it, you obviously couldn’t know it would be that big.

 

AM: No –you’re wrong. I thought it was going to be at least a top 3 chart hit record. You have to consider that at that time Arrows had only had three singles released. Our debut single Touch Too Much was Top 10. The follow up, Toughen Up, wasn’t one of Chinnichap’s best songs (British songwriters Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn) – I didn’t like the herky-jerky chorus because it didn’t groove to me and I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be a big hit (it made # 51 in the UK charts) but our third single My Last Night With You, I was sure about and it went Top 30; I think it got up to 22 in the British charts. So, given we had had two hits out of the first three singles and I felt that I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll was the strongest song we had ever recorded, I thought it had a good chance at our biggest record to date. It started out as a B-side recorded at Morgan Studios and if you look on YouTube you’ll see that there is a documentary about the secrets of the Pop song from BBC2 recorded in the seventies – Dave Mount from Mud is interviewed – and the documentary is about how basically the British pop groups would only write their B-sides and never make any money. Ironically, while we were recording that fifteen minute quick B-side, the BBC cameras were on us and we were all singing I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and they were intoning that the song would never be a hit and that the group would not make money off of this B-side.

 

Q: The irony is lovely isn’t it?

 

AM: It’s wonderful! You can’t make this stuff up! (laughs) Anyway, the original version was recorded with the BBC film crew recording us recording it and the second version at the behest of Mickie Most’s wife, Christina who said ‘Mick, you’re mad. I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll is the hit. You have to record it again’. At this point we had been on tour a lot and had changed the arrangement, doing the song a little bit different live. We went into Abbey Road studio with Mickie and cut the version that we performed on Muriel Young’s 45 TV show in the summer of 1975. That version got us the TV series and she told us ‘You guys are great. I want you to take over the Bay City Rollers show Shang A Lang’. So she thought it was a good song but Mickie was embarrassed because it was his wife who had called the single. We didn’t get Top Of The Pops with it, which was very unusual because every band that had a hit got Top Of The Pops with their follow up release. We had a top 30 hit with My Last Night With You but no Top Of The Pops for I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll which was the death knell for any record in those days. We had no promotion but the song did serve us well in that it got us the 1976 TV series. Jackie Fox from The Runaways related the story to me (and she’s a lawyer so I trust her word as gold) and she said that Joan was in the bathroom when the Arrows started playing I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll on the Arrows TV series and said ‘Joan, you gotta come and hear this’. 

 

Arrows

 

Q: So let’s talk about the Arrows a little bit…

 

AM: Did you know Jake Hooker died?

 

Q: No I didn’t.

 

AM: Yeah he passed away this year (Aug 4th 2014) and Paul Varley has gone too (in 2008) so I’m the only original Arrow left alive of the original family. Terry Taylor who has been with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings forever was the last member to join but I don’t think most fans think of him as being in the Arrows because he never recorded with us.

 

Arrows TV Show

 

Q:You did two, 14 episode series in ‘76 and ’77.

 

AM: Yes, that’s right. Two 14 week TV series. I was far more animated in the second series which is when Joan and Jackie saw us. It probably helped that I was performing it well enough to impress them. The first weekly TV series we were timid still playing the “polite boy RAK records” image game and by the second series we realized we were not going to get any records out so we just went bananas doing the shows hyped up on champagne and speed. (laughs) Dee Harrington who was Rod Stewart’s girlfriend was designing our clothes… They were very colourful,

 

Q: You had some outrageous clothes back then.

 

AM: Yeah we did.

 

Q: Do you still have them?

 

AM: Some of them but I don’t fit in them any more (laughs). If I go broke I can sell them on ebay.

 

Q: It’s funny in some ways because the legacy of Arrows is much bigger than the band itself.

 

AM: True yes.

 

Q: Was the TV show done once a week or did you do them in a batch?

 

AM: It was every week. We went up to Granada TV, Quay Street in Manchester and stayed two days, residing at the Piccadilly Hotel. We had a day of rehearsal and then a day of recording the show. We would record musical backing tracks for the show as well so there is a lot of unique tracks in there. When Terry joined the band, we actually had a guy in Terry who could orchestrate Horn parts so we would bring in the Granada brass as well.

 

Q: That was the British Musician’s Union rules back then that you had to prove you could do it live.

 

AM: That’s right.

 

Q:Who chose the guests?

 

AM: Muriel. For example, I was friendly socially with Tim Hardin and Tim Rose, two Americans who were in London at the time and they both asked me if I could get them on the show and I asked Muriel if Tim Hardin could come on and do If I Were A Carpenter but she said ‘He doesn’t have a current single’ and it was all about the current single. Even when Gene Pitney came on, he had a current single and then he also did 24 Hours From Tulsa. Tim Rose was only mainly known for Morning Dew as covered by Rod Stewart with the Jeff beck Group, produced by Mickie Most. Small world. .

 

Q: How come you never released any records off the back of it?

 

AM:Mickie Most stopped putting Arrows records out after we took on management against his wishes. The guy we signed with, Ian Wright offered three times as much of a retainer as what Mickie was paying us and we had a group meeting where I was outvoted 2-1. I didn’t want to go with Ian/MAM Management but Jake and Paul wanted the extra money. Jake was with Lorna Luft at the time (who is Judy Garland’s daughter) and Paul was with June Bolan (Marc Bolan’s ex-wife) who were two Arrows behind the scenes power-ladies. They said take the money and call Mickie’s bluff because he’s never, not going to put out singles with a TV series. I said we were going to have a problem with that concept because Mickie didn’t need the money, it was a matter of pride and principalwith a guy like him and I was right. January 1976 was our last release which was Once Upon A Time. The Arrows records were not in available in the shops (we had lots of fan letters of complaint) and I was doing promotional tours with Cozy Powell and Chris Norman from Smokie and none of the journalists were talking to me as if I were out the loop, and in fact I was. I called my new manager, Ian, and said it was stupid for me to be on the tour and told him to take me off it ,I wanted to go home, it was a futile exercise. We did the first TV series in March 1976 and at the end of the first series Bill Wyman was impressed and said ‘I’ll produce you.’ Bill introduced us to Terry Taylor (ex-Tucky Buzzard) who joined our band at the same time. We went into Island Records Basing street studio with Bill and did three songs which are the first three songs on the Arrows unofficial release, Tawny Tracks. They were good but weren’t great because at that time we were really drunk and really high on all sorts of chemicals. The tracks were unfocused but Bill sent them to Ahmet Ertugen at Atlantic and he heard the potential. Ahmet knew I had already been signed to Atlantic once (I was their first signing in Japan to the regional arm of the label) and was also friends with Helen Merrill – my Mother – the Jazz singer, so he said to Bill, ‘Yes’. Now, as fate would have it Dave Dee was working at Atlantic in London as an A&R man and he also was one of Mickie Most’s best friends. Dave told Mickie and Mickie told Ahmet ‘Please don’t sign this band’. So, we would have had records out for the second series with Bill Wyman producing but for the politics. Mickie would have lost face and that was unacceptable from a business perspective. He was a God back then and that was really the end of the Arrows. I knew it was over. Muriel was already talking about a third series but the band was already imploding. June couldn’t get along with Lorna to the point where the band used to all hang out together after filming the TV shows but Lorna and Jake would go off alone. The band was fracturing badly. At the end of the second series we fired Jake and bought in Steve Gould from Rare Bird and we toured a bit with him and we sounded great but no one would touch us because we were on an industry grey list by then, so we decided to split up. Years later at a party Ahmet Ertugen told my mother that he very nearly signed the Arrows but was shocked at how much highly placed opposition there was to such a deal.

 

Q: Do you know if those tapes are languishing somewhere or where they another victim of the great British tape-wipe that the BBC and ITV did some years back?

 

AM: About twenty of the twenty-eight shows survived: I have them. There are fragments all over YouTube. You pick an artist like Pilot doing Penny In My Pocket or Slade doing Let’s Call It Quits and do a search and you’ll find them. Touch Too Much was wiped – both the first and third appearances by Arrows on Top Of The Pops but the Mike Mansfield films of Touch Too Much and Toughen Up survived. They were aired in the UK and Europe on TV in 1974

 

Q: You were on Supersonic as well weren’t you?

 

AM: No. We were never asked on Supersonic. Mickie Most asked Mike Mansfield not to invite us on. The only TV appearances we had from the time we took on Ian Wright /MAM management were our own Arrows shows. Arrows never did any other TV shows but our own from 1976 and our only industry ally was Arrows show producer Muriel Young. That management was the worst decision we ever made.

 

After Arrows

 

Q: So what happened next?

 

AM: For a little while I floundered. I auditioned for The Hollies…

 

Q: Did you!?

 

AM: Yeah. Allan Clarke had quit and I sang with them at the office. It was great except for The Air That I Breathe because I sing very hard and I let out a lot of air when I sing and they sing very softly and that song has one endless note which was very challenging for a belter like me. I sat between Terry Sylvester and Tony Hicks and the harmonies were brilliant fun on most of the stuff but the end result was that Allan bottled out of going solo and rejoined. Then I had Marty Christian and Paul Clayton from The New Seekers contact me and we tried to put together a Crosby, Stills & Nash type vocal thing but I said that no one would take us seriously: Arrows and The New Seekers? Sorry. We were already in the cross hairs of every critic. They could never be objective about that sort of project. That was the end of that. But, Marty bought my Teac 4 track reel to reel tapemachine though! (laughs) Thanks Marty!

 

Japan in the ‘70’s

 

Q: Before we go further, we should talk a bit about your life in New York and Japan and how you got here.

 

AM: I started my life immersed in the world of Jazz through my parents.My father was a great musician and played on Sarah Vaughn’s first record; he played with Chet Baker and Stan Getz and my mother’s most famous song in Japan is You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To which was a very popular Seiko watch commercial. In 1966, I was fifteen or sixteen, living alone in New York and playing down at the Café Wha?, the same time Hendrix was there as Jimi James and the Blue Flames. I was just a kid and I was the guy who told Bruce Springsteen where to set up when he first played there! He was going to move the backline and put his own amp and drum kit up and I told him ‘You move that backline and you’re never going to work here again.’  He listened to me and his band The Castiles became one of the resident bands there. My band Watertower West broke up when my bass player and vocal harmony partner left for university in Boston. Then in early 1968, I auditioned for The Left Banke (Walk Away Renee) and got the gig over sixty other guitarists. They made me learn all their songs and then after about a month said they were going to go on as a trio and use session musicians rather than have another guitarist. I never even did a gig with them and I didn’t know what to do, I had had enough of the New York rock scene by then, so my mother said “Why don’t you come over to Tokyo?”

 

Q: For a young man from New York, what was Japan and the music scene here like back in the ‘70’s when you arrived? It must have been mind blowing.

 

AM: It was! I was semi-pro in New York and almost pro with The Left Banke (they apologized to me profusely for 1968 when we worked together again recently) and I wasn’t sure if there was a music scene in Tokyo until I went to a stationary shop and I saw these 5 little bobble-head dolls with Beatle hair cuts, British rock style clothes and it said ‘Tigers’ on the display. I then saw them on the TV and thought ‘Okay, There is a rock scene here’ and I asked my mother to hook me up with someone who was in the local rock music business because she had a lot of contacts being a top ranked music industry pro in Japan. She put me in contact with Jimmy Oka, a man who was the manager of The Dynamites, a popular Japanese GS (group sounds) rock band. He asked me to come down and jam at the Shinjuku ACB club, which I did and we played some Hendrix songs. Jimmy Oka then got me a gig at the Space Capsule club in Akasaka which would have been the winter of ’68 and that’s where I started dating Michi Nakao who was a Go-Go dancer at the trendy Mugen disco. I did a two week residency there at the Akasaka Space Capsule club and I didn’t get paid so I asked Jimmy Oka not to call me anymore. The crux of the problem was, the drummer I had been playing with, Shiro Imai, had come to my house where my parents lived in Sendagaya. My step-father was the vice-president of UPI and had a huge house and so he thought he needed the money more than I did. So I didn’t get paid and I never worked with him again, telling him he’d regret his short sightedness in our last meeting. Around Christmas time, my girlfriend Michi was dancing in the Pasha club in Akasaka and she told me there was a foreign band called The Lead whose lead guitarist had just been busted for marijuana. They were in the middle of recording an album and needed a replacement guitarist/vocalist and I was asked to go to the club and finish the set with them. I took his place that night and finished the album.

 

Q: So there were quite a few foreign musicians here back then…

 

AM:  Not so many really. Quite a few military brats played in semi pro bands but not in the Japanese pro scene proper. The pros that came to Japan only stayed a short time, did a residency in a club or two and never actually assimilated into the Japanese scene the way I did. There was the band The Clinic playing in Tokyo for a while with Archie Legget on bass, Alan Reeves on keyboards,Derek Wilson on drums and Roy Morris (ex-of The Koobas) on guitar. But bands like this, they would come to Japan, stay a month or so and leave. The Clinic went to Italy if memory serves, after they left Japan. Archie of course is a music industry legend and later was Kevin Ayers right hand man in the 70s. But I must tell you this story which I only just recently remembered. One night I was sitting in Byblos where all the foreign musicians and actors used to hang out in Akasaka and I was dressed like a British Pop starwhich I did deliberately and shamelessly. It was 1969 and I was into The Small Faces and The Beatles and The Stones and I had all the clothes custom made and the rock hair style popular in the 60s, long, feathered and layered. Anyway, this conservative looking guy walks in to the club with very short hair, a suit and tie and he said ‘You look like a musician, are you English?’ and I said ‘No, I’m American’. He said, ‘Well my name is Syd, I’ve just quit The Pink Floyd. Do you think I can find myself in Kyoto?’ I said ‘I don’t know, it’s worth a shot.’ He then said that he had sold all his guitars cut off all his hair and didn’t want to have anything to do with music any more and added ‘…so don’t ask me to jam.’ I replied by saying ‘Well give it a thought. There’s a cool scene happening here.’ Joel Larson (The Grassroots) was living here for a bit and I wanted to talk to Syd about coming over to guitarist Shigeru Narumo’s house for a jam and said ‘Hang on, I’ll just get us a couple of beers.’ He said ‘Ok, I’d love one.’ but when I got back from the bar with the drinks, he had gone. Just vanished. Five minutes with Syd Barrett in Tokyo! (laughs) Yes, I drank both beers.

 

Vodka Collins

 

Q: What was the origin of Vodka Collins?

 

AM: I had a group called Godzilla which was Haruo Chikada on keyboards and Jun Kanazawa on drums. Jun tragically committed suicide some thirty years ago; Haruo is still well known here and I played bass and a bit of guitar in the group. There was Hiroshi Kato (aka Yellow Gypsy) as well on guitar once in a while. We recorded the Dai-Go-Go party instrumental double album and that included a cover of the Popcorn songwhich is now a commercialfor Sanyo (2014) but our manager wasn’t very strong. He wasn’t hooked up with the mainstream powers that be in the Japanese music industry, so he couldn’t get a record deal for the band. At the same time, Oguchi Hiroshi, the drummer who was with The Tempters was in a short-lived band called Orange and a couple of years prior we had been talking about starting a group since I saw him play Honky Tonk Women with his band The Tempters in a sound check in 1970: He had really a very aggressive approach to drums and a good rock feel, there was danger in his playing, I liked that. Anyway, we got the chance to start Vodka Collins and my concept was to be an exported Japanese rival band to T.Rex – a percussionist and a singer/song writer augmented with other players. We rehearsed for two weeks with my new glam rock style songs just to see what would work and wouldn’t work and Oguchi asked who I wanted as a bass player and I said ‘The most musical kid in the scene who is young and adaptable is Take Yokouchi’ who was actually the guitarist for The Four Leaves and played like Paul Kossoff so I rightly figured he could play anything. I took my Hofner bass to the studio and gave it to him and he said ‘I don’t play bass’ and I said ‘Now you do.’ (laughs) He became like a lead bass player and he had the chops to make a trio sound big, like Cream. Rock trios need a bass player who can fill things up. Then Monsieur Kamayatsu asked us to back him up because he liked our sound and said we could play a few of our songs before he went on stage and that’s how he joined the fray. On the Tokyo-New York album, the only thing he contributed was sing back-up vocals on Terminal City. We recorded 14 songs and only 9 were finished when I left Japan – some of them are still guide vocals. The 9 songs (most of them unfinished tracks) became the album.

 

Q:Is it true you left Vodka Collins and Japan on the eve of a Budokan show?

 

AM: Yeah…yeah.

 

Q: You must have been pretty angry about something to do that.

 

AM: My rent was ¥76,000 and my monthly salary from the management of Vodka Collins was ¥70,000. As the band became more popular sometimes doing three appearances a day I had to phase out my lucrative sessions which until then had made me quite a bit of extra money. I had taken a big fiscal hit with the popularity of Vodka Collins. I called my mother and said ‘Ma, please send me $300’ (exchange rate was about 265 yen to the dollar at that time) and she said ‘What are you doing?’ and I said ‘Playing the Budokan.’ She said ‘You’re an idiot – leave Japan.’ At the same time, Jake Hooker, in to try to get me to come to England to start a band with him, told me that “Decca records is going to give us a deal and will send a ticket for me to fly from Tokyo to London” so I told him to send the ticket and he did. The truth was, he had sold a Marshall amp; there was no deal with Decca. There was in fact a meeting with Decca where Jake and I sat down with Dick Rowe and Dick said to me ‘I can’t see it happening for you as a band but don’t mind me because I turned down The Beatles.’ (laughs) Six months later we were in the Top 10 with Touch Too Much. (laughs) – The famous Dick ‘The man who turned down the Beatles’ Rowe and his Midas rejection touch was working once again.

 

Q: Was there a moment when you were on the plane wondering if you had done the right thing?

 

AM: Of course, it was a very ballsy impetuous move. I was penniless and was leaving a long career in Japan where I was established. but I was also broke. I felt I had to make a lateral career move right away. I wanted to go international and it was clear to me my project was not going to be exported from Japan. Jake Hooker picked me up at the airport in a taxi and the first thing he said to me was ‘You look like shit.’ I replied ‘Excuse me!’ Jake had booked me on a dodgy airlines and the flight took three full days to get from Tokyo to London making lots of stops in different countries. Anyone sat on a plane for three days would be somewhat bedraggled. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. I had a band in Japan that were at the top of the scene and a girlfriend who I loved and I didn’t want to leave her or my very promising band in Tokyo. But in the end non-payment of money due me in Japan made my mind up for me. I was against a wall. My girlfriend followed me a month later which pissed her parents off (Bank Of Tokyo daughter) and they disowned her. (laughs)

 

Q: Well, no deal with Decca but you did get RAK.

 

AM: Yes, RAK was on the horizon. We had no money. I arrived in London with empty pockets, basically. We had to walk around (we couldn’t afford busses or tubes) to the Publishing houses and because Jake said we should get a publishing deal first and then go for a record deal. Our original manager in London was Peter Meaden, who was The Who’s first manager when they started out and he told us a few places to go to audition for an advance royalty situation.

 

Q: How did Pete Meaden get involved?

 

AM: Through Streak, which was Jake Hooker’s Decca connection. Peter liked Streak and was a consultant for the band in 1973. They were signed to Deram records, a Decca subsidiary. Going to the genesis of the band Streak, when I was living and working in Japan, I used to come to New York for three weeks or so to get a new work visa (it took about a month back then) and during that lag time waiting for my visa to come through I would get involved in various music projects whenever I was, New York, London or Hong Kong. Jake , John Siomos (who later played with Peter Frampton and did the Frampton Comes Alive album) and I did a demo in New York which he got the record deal in London with on A&M under our band name Streak and when A&M realized it was me singing and not Jake, they dropped them. (laughs) Then they got an American drummer, David Wesley and Ben Brierley on bass who was the future husband of Marianne Faithfull. He was also later with the punk band The Vibrators in the late seventies and then when David left Streak, Paul Varley came in and briefly Rick Steel on guitar for the Deram version of Streak who released only one single that flopped.

 

Q: Got it. Let’s get back to you and Jake traipsing around London.

 

AM: Finally we went to RAK Publishing. We played a few songs that I had written and Dave Most – Mickie’s brother – liked the material and called Mickie over from another office to hear us. Mickie listened and said ‘I like you. I think you’re good and there’s a song I want you to record. I’ll give you the demo and you tell me if you want to record it or not.’ So we go back to Jake’s Mulberry Close flat where I’m sleeping on the floor and learned the demo which was Touch Too Much. Mickie told me that it was originally for David Cassidy who had turned it down as did Suzi Quatro and The Sweet. Actually, on the original demo I got, Brian Connolly was singing and Mickie told me to sing it as close to Brian as I could, but I can’t sing like Brian so I put my own vocal spin on it. In fact, the line ‘Oh Honey, you know what I want’ was my line. An ad-lib aside in the studio when I was doing the vocal. So back to how we got the deal, I went back the next day and sang Touch Too Much for Mickie and he said ‘Ok. Let’s get a drummer in and start routining (rehearsing) this.’ Jake pulled in former Streak drummer Paul Varley and we went into the Charles Street RAK office basement and started on that and the b-side We Can Make It Together. After a week or ten days, we went into Morgan Studios and cut the songs. It took a while before it came out. At around this time we signed a contract with RAK records and our former manager Peter Meaden bowed out of the Arrows situation when Mickie Most became our manager. Things were moving, changing. There was a kind of pre-bubble press of ‘The Arrows – The Next Big Thing’ sort of thing and we had good shots of us done by photo genius Gered Mankowitz so when the single finally came out, the British public were primed and we got Top Of The Pops immediately. I remember looking up on the RAK Records daily sales chalkboard and seeing 30,000 copies sold every day one week. It was amazing! We were then given a decent retainer which made us solvent and I got a place at the Nell Gwynn House on Sloane Avenue SW3 London and we were also doing sessions. For example I wrote, sang and played bass the first Paul Burnett BBC jingles, played bass on some Flintlock records (Flintlock were a UK band) and had enough money to keep my Japanese girlfriend Yoshiko happily ensconced in a lovely London flat. Things were looking very good in London for us in 1974.

 

Runner

 

Q: Now we are back to the post-Arrows time and up to Runner. Not much is talked about this band; is Runner something you’d rather not talk about?

 

AM: No I do want to talk about it! At the end of Arrows, my relationship with Steve Gould (he played utility man, bass, keyboards, guitar, vocal harmonies in the Arrows live entourage 1976 & ’77) became very strong and we found that our voices blended very well so when Arrows had finished we started Runner and we signed to Island Records after doing a quick 4 song demo. It was a big leap from RAK records to Island and suddenly I’m on £300 per week whereas with RAK when we had the hits I was on £35 a week. During the Arrows weekly TV series we were on £75 each a week but that was only for the TV series. That was across the board though; Dave Mount from the band Mud told me that they were also on £35 a week in their heyday with RAK. Anyway, Island Records thought that Runner were the new decade’s answer to their legendary band Traffic. The energy was just amazing but the problem was that Mick Feat and Steve Gould didn’t want to tour. I wanted to tour, Dave Dowle wanted to tour (Dave went on to become the original drummer with Whitesnake), Steve had just been touring with us in Arrows and Mick had just finished the Van Morrison Wavelength tour in his band so we were all used to touring.  Their ill conceived concept was ‘We don’t want to tour until we are Top 10 in the Billboard charts’ and Chris Blackwell at Island said ‘You won’t be Top 10 unless you tour.’ People stopped wanting to reason with Steve and they were calling me. I got calls from the word’s most powerful promoters Harvey Goldsmith and Bill Graham imploring me to convince the band to play out live: they wanted us to open for the Allman Brothers. I think that to ensure we couldn’t tour, drummer Dave Dowle left the band for “musical differences” –a decision helped along by Steve Gould and Mick Feat. I love Dave’s playing and wanted him to stay. We tried two different drummers and did some demos. One was Tony Beard (Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bee Gees) who was great but Mick and Steve wanted “somebody even better” so they brought in Peter van Hooke who was with Mick in the Van Morrison band. He came into the studio and I extended my hand to shake his and he looked away as if not to notice. I couldn’t work with somebody like that and said to Mick and Steve I would have to leave the band if he was going to be the drummer. He was a snob about Pop groups and hated Arrows so he didn’t want to be involved with me. It was one of the most unprofessional experiences I’ve had in the music business. Peter van Hooke may be a great drummer but he lacks humanity. I can’t ever work with somebody who lacks compassion and basic manners.

 

Q: Well then why join the band?

 

AM: Pete Van Hooke loved Mick Feat from the Van Morrison tour and recording sessions. Plus the money was very good in Runner: that would be a lure. We seemed to have endless resources from the label. He was in fact a great drummer but our uncomfortable first meeting soured any chance of us ever working together. In the end it didn’t matter, Chris Blackwell said ‘Enough dicking around. Goodbye – you’re cut off.’ Here’s the kicker and I discussed this with Dave Dowle years later; Mick and Steve wouldn’t tour to promote our own band Runner but then went off with Alvin Lee and were on tour for over a year with Alvin constantly after Runner broke up! I went off with Rick Derringer for most of the year 1980 promoting his Face To Face LPas guitarist and Dave Dowle went off drumming with Maggie Bell starting the band Nightflyer who were also touring lots. We all went from Runner, a band that made the charts but never did a single gig to bands that were all constantly on tour. So where we could have been the stars of our own show, instead we all went off to be sidemen for well known established musical artists. Crazy stuff. Before that all happened though I was hoping to keep the interest of Island Records so I cut a six track demo of my songs in one day at decibel studio London with Dave on drums and me singing and playing all the other instruments and one of those tunes was When The Night Comes which was first covered in 1980 by folk goddess Catherine Howe on Arista records. I wrote that song for Runner but because we broke up we never recorded it properly, it was always just a demo,and then in 1983, Lou Rawls cut it as the title track of his Epic records1983 LP “When The Night Comes.” That was the first album taken into outer space by astronaut Guion Blufordand and broadcast back to earth. So how insane was Runner as a collective? We had all this songwriting talent, vocal talent and instrumental ability that was squandered. It was madness heaped on madness. (laughs)

 

Q: Having your song played in outer space almost tops I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll doesn’t it?

 

AM: It does! (laughs)

 

These Days

 

Q: Let’s come up to date: what keeps you going and occupied these days Alan?

 

AM: Just knowing that people are still interested in hearing me and the response I get. Being able to play a show with the songs I’ve written covered by Joan Jett, Lou Rawls, Freddie Scott, Rick Derringer, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Tiny Tim, Felix Cavaliere…

 

Q: Tiny Tim covered one of your songs?

 

AM: Yeah. He recorded a song I wrote called Movies which was on my 1971 Merrill 1 album recorded in Tokyo, produced by Mickey Curtis and released on Columbia records Japan. It was in 1972 and at the peak of his popularity when Tiny Tim covered it. I only found out about it thirty years later. The Tiny Tim Fan Club contacted me and I had no idea about it so they sent me the 45 which was on Sceptre Records and it was indeed my song.

 

Q: Excellent.

 

AM: Yeah, that’s what keeps me going, surprises like that and the fact that I have a story to tell which is one of the more unusual stories in rock music.

 

Q: You do have a rather unique place in Rock and Pop history.

 

AM: Yeah, I find it boring to be humble, so I agree, but Rolling Stone have never written a story about me; Spin have never written a story about me. They’ve practically written about every other artist that has had a chart hit except me.

 

Q: How about when you have time off. What do you do?

 

AM: I like watching movies, reading books, flirting with pretty girls, drinking vodka and champagne. I’ve actually been writing a book about my career too. It’s a crazy story.

 

Q: It certainly is. Alan, thank you very much and please stay in touch.

 

AM: We will. Thank you very much.