(Steve's career during 1973-76, his 1974 band, the Penetration interview and work with Bob Calvert, Adrian Wagner and Nik Turner)
In many respects, the split with Tony Secunda in 1973 proved to be the turning point in Steve's career, and very much the moment at which the world at large decided to write him off, along with the accomplishments he had achieved to this point. Many accounts of Steve's career fast forward at this point to his demise. Pete Frame, of Rock Family Trees fame, went further, cutting off after merging both Shagrat lineups and the first Pink Fairies lineup as one band, before commenting that "Able to neither repeat his past or leave it behind, [Took] bumbled through the seventies, stabbing at various solo projects until his death in Nov 1980 [sic]" Even more dedicated features on Steve, which have already blown all their energy on Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Pink Fairies before vaguely stewing the remains on some details of 1970-72, tend to rush through the details of the last seven years of his life as briskly as they possibly can. Nigel Cross quickly labelled them the 'twilight years' before bypassing them entirely.
In part this is because considerably less research material exists concerning these eras and what does exist was previously discounted as 'unreliable' by historians too far taken in by the perception of Took as a 'Useless Druggie.' Undoubtedly, Took for all his adult life had a taste for drugs. Steve clamied to have tried just about all of them. At the time this was not exceptional. There are numerous other people who were taking them to equal excesses. Many of those barely made it out of the 60's.The fundamental difference was that they could get their heads together sufficiently to not only record but also release and promote material. Living as Steve did for much of the time in the Ladbroke Grove area, he was exposed to a supply of whatever he fancied. In addition, his drug taking abilities were seen as a source of amusement for many people. Nevertheless, it is quite misleading to progress from this to surmising that Steve's debaucheries rendered him totally inactive or otherwise creatively impotent and I for one intend not to settle for the easy options, but to chart the developments of the later years of Steve's musical career in full and longhand.
Although the split with Secunda was certainly a major step backwards in Steve's career, it did not result in him lessening or abandoning his musical activities. He soon found a cohort in the shape of former Hawkwind frontman Bob Calvert. Steve had long been a fan of Calvert and the two hit it off socially and professionally. "He's a good writer, I'm quite impressed actually, and he's got the kind of splendidly infamous reputation as I have." Indeed, Calvert's post-Hawkwind career is also generally dismissed in much the same way as Took's solo career, as if both men had been slung into the hippy dustbin. It should not therefore be surprising that Bob and Steve hit it off socially rather well. The two underground faces quickly put together a co-operative arrangement, double-booking themselves into gigs and often operating as sidemen for one another once they got there. One such gig took place at a hippy commune in Suffolk, as Steve later recalled. "We just went down to the country, down in Suffolk and we were playing guitars. For two days there was natural country air and rice and vegetables, which disgusted me 'cos I had just started eating meat at the time. We suddenly found ourselves in this commune which had rice and vegetables which didn't go down too well. We were sitting there for a while and Bob said to me 'What sort of work is this for a man? Here we are sitting down with our guitars across our knees moving our fingers up and down the fretboard, that's not much work for a man.'" (It is interesting to note that Bolan had also abandoned vegetarianism around this time, perhaps indicating some degree of symbiosis between the two Tyrannosaurus Rex members.)
Steve was still very much in demand on the underground live scene at this point, often playing with various old friends such as the Pink Fairies (by this time, Larry Wallis had first supplemented and then replaced Mick Wayne as lead singer/guitarist and had fronted the band on their Kings of Oblivion LP) . Meanwhile, Calvert was working on his solo album Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, on which Took appeared and once it was released, the album was to have been promoted with an elaborately staged tour, on which Steve was to have been the support act. This could have been a major source of exposure for Took as well as an excellent A&R lure, however, the tour collapsed in a mess of record company politics and with it went Steve's support slot. In many respects this seemed to establish the pattern for Steve's projects as the '70s progressed, often falling apart on the launchpad sometimes for reasons that were not his fault, sometimes otherwise.
For instance, one of the main projects of 1974 was a band that Steve assembled, possibly with a view to it being his backing band on the aforementioned Captain Lockheed tour. This band reunited Steve with the former drummer-cum-tambourinist in Shagrat, Dave Bidwell, now firmly back behind the drumkit, alongside later Hawkwind bass player Adrian Shaw (who, while with Magic Muscle, had played on the same bill as Took at a Hawkwind gig in the southwest) and another musician from Japan, a guitarist called Hiroshi Kato, who later went on to work with Nicky James. By this stage, Steve had an electric guitar of his own and a very flashy one it was too - a twelve string Rickenbacker. Interviewed by Clive Zone for his essay on Took written in 1993, Shaw recalled that the band rehearsed together for several weeks at Steve's flat near Harrow Road before heading for a recording studio somewhere in North London to record a session of four tracks, one of which Shaw recalled as having been a new version of 'Flophouse Blues' although he was unable to recall the other three titles.
Despite this promising start, the band gradually fell apart as the members, especially Steve, developed a taste for Hine brandy and sulphate, which distracted from their work. Eventually, Kato, whom Took described as "my energy sparring partner" returned to his native Japan, and so Steve decided to work on his own again. Perhaps the loss of the live tour may have been a contributing factor. Still Steve seems to have enjoyed these projects enough as he would recall in early 1974 of another similarly-fated unit: "I spent about two grand trying to get a band together in the summer, and we did a bit of rehearsing and recorded a couple of tracks and then broke up. It was fun ya know, hah! There wasn't any business sense in it at all." Perhaps it was this fun aspect that ultimately sealed the fate of both that band and the summer 1974 Kato/Shaw/Bidwell band, which, never playing live, never required a bandname. "I suppose I should feel this revolutionary urge to kind of leap out and get a band together and rush about. But after last year  working nineteen hours a day for two months, it nearly killed me, I keeled over at the end of it and went out of action for three months, shagged out."
Steve was also working to assist Calvert in his projects, and one of these projects was two songs recorded for a single in spring 1974. Both had a cricket theme as cricket was a passion of Calvert's. Crikit [sic] Lovely Reggea (sic)" and "Howzatt" were recorded by Calvert and Took under the bandname "Bob Calvert and the 1st XI".
Steve was a keen amateur cricketer and for some strange reason, the sport had something of a following among the Ladbroke Grove Underground scene - as far back as 1969 Steve had joined up with a cricket team "The Freaks" (himself plus the Deviants and Jody Grind) who, Disc And Music Echo reported, were to play several matches against a team called "The Straights" (the Herd and the Time Box), so his involvement in this novelty project seems an understandable enough idea.
Of the sessions, Took said: "We've just recorded a single calling ourselves the First Eleven, and it's a wonderful cricket song which is playing to such programmes as "Top of the Pops" and "Crackerjack". It features such denizens of the underground as Paul Rudolph and Bob Calvert and assorted nutters, I believe Russell Hunter. Dressed up in cricket gear, which I think is a deeply commercial idea. Someone suggested to me last year that I should go on the pubs doing a cricket song, playing a cricket bat with a couple of machine heads and strings on it. Dressed up in my cap and my white outfit on, I thought that was moody and then it strikes me as being highly disgustingly moody. That's quite nice actually, 'cos the BBC would sort of go 'Oh yes, Great Britain and cricket, keep the public's morale up.' Instead of the Wombles, these sort of nutters, yes, a definite plan that should work, I'm going to take it upon myself."
Unfortunately the single was cancelled, however an acetate of the two tracks was pressed up at Trident Studios, dated 22nd July 1974. This acetate came up for sale in February 2005. For more information on the acetate - click here
In 1979, a new version of "Crikit Lovely Reggea" was recorded and retitled "Cricket Star". Robert recalled in a 1987 interview"... a friend of mine Adrian Wagner suggested that I resurrect the song, and it's meant to be a joke, it is a joke song, it isn't the original tape as that got mislaid, the original I remember was very authentically reggae. This is different, there were several thousand pressed as flexi discs, that's all I can remember". This 1979 version was slightly re-written and musically has a more electronic feel. As with the original Took wase involved along with Robert Calvert, Adrian Wagner, Pete Pavli and Simon House. The flexidisc was released on Wake Up Records .
The solo gigs also continued apace throughout this time, with Steve still quite a drawing card on the underground circuit, however by this time, the underground was going into permanent decline and was looking less and less like a launching pad for a pop career, let alone a safe enclave for long-term creativity. It is notable that the one piece of mainstream music press coverage Steve achieved during this time was a fairly bitchy review of a gig in late 1974 at Dingwalls in Camden Lock, London, written by none other than Charles Shaar Murray, the same writer who had conducted the two-page spread NME interview a couple of years earlier. Although copies of this article are thin on the ground, according to Nigel Cross, Murray spent most of his efforts dissing Took's new hairdo rather than his performance, however, Steve himself was quite quick to pick up on one of the faults of the gig: "I did this gig and found myself screaming down the microphone, because I imagined I had this band behind me and I had to freak people out...I was probably screaming down the microphone sort of four or five times as loud as my guitar was coming out, still thinking I had a rock 'n roll band backing me. People just sat there and stared at me ya know and I kept saying 'That went down big, didn't it? That went down big.' In the end, the situation got the better of me. I went into my impersonations routine, ya know."
Although the Music Press might have long since written him off, the hardcore freak audience were still able to keep him just about afloat and furthermore provide some documentary evidence of the goings on in his life. In early '74 or thereabouts, Penetration, an amateur hippy fanzine edited by the same Paul Cox who edited Terrapin (and which would prove the namesake of the Punk band of the same name), conducted the second of the two chief interviews of Steve's career, conducted by Paul Welsh. As with the Charles Shaar Murray interview, Steve's personality is given full flight and his sharp wit is still very much in evidence. Also as with the earlier interview, quotes from the Penetration feature have been featured extensively throughout this text. Although Steve no longer had the sheer optimism that he had displayed back in '72, he still seemed to be more-or-less enjoying life. Unfortunately, many of Steve's older friends from the Underground had written him off by now. In particular, Mick Farren, who had signed up to the NME, derided the contents of the interview, claiming that Took was "frankly psychotic and living in a dream world" at the time. As a result, it was largely dismissed as a historical source by many; for example, the band Took described in the article was generally thought to have been just a figment of his imagination, so much so that Nigel Cross did not deem it worthy of a mention in his 1991 article, and it was not until Clive Zone contacted Adrian Shaw in 1993 that the existence of the 1974 band came to light.
The one overriding factor in the interview is Took's increasing disillusion with the one-man acoustic format, which he felt was simply not exciting the audiences enough. "The only way I can conceive of doing solo gigs now is to go out with an electric guitar and plug that in and roar and scream away, bellow down the microphone, 'cos unless it gives them a twinge of agony in their ears, I don't think, they think, they are digging it, and it's weird. People that go to concerts, when you do a concert everyone is sitting down and you can have a wonderful time, it's like sitting in your own front room. But I prefer doing dances, at dances people are staggering around with a glass of beer or whisky in their hand, stoned out of their minds, falling about and shouting at one another... I would be quite happy to go round doing solo gigs with a 2000-watt P.A. The only times that I have used a 2000-watt P.A. have been entirely wonderful and satisfactory. I mean, they can even dance if they want to." Joly, a friend of Twink's who became a friend of Steve's during the late 70s, has commented that Steve, (like himself) had a strong love for big powerful live sound, relating it to the sheer intense ballast of the live sound which the Paul Rudloph-era Pink Fairies could produce live but were somehow never able to muster in the studio.
Otherwise, the main feature of the interview was Steve's sense of humour and this article was a sheer minefield of funny anecdotes. As well as a number of incidents described above, there is, for example, the story of his experiences with driving lessons. "I had my second driving lesson not long ago, I had my first one in 1969 and smashed the car up. But I had this second one and I drove straight down this road. The guy asked me to turn right, so I turned the wheel and we were going round the corner when he asked me to put the clutch down, which threw me right out. I put the clutch down, not far enough to disengage the engine, at the same time, pressing the accelerator down. We ploughed through two Cortinas and came to a stop on the sidewalk, that was quite fun, ha, haaa. The drummer was sitting in the back seat and he leapt out of the car, looked back and said 'Let's get out of here, man', but we didn't make it, so that is Took's view on driving." Took cited Slade and David Bowie as favourite musicians of his and he also reminisced about Bowie's support slots for Tyrannosaurus Rex as a mime artist. "He used to have this tape with oriental mythology, sort of mythological skit on the Vietnamese war, which he used to mime to, I suppose. He dressed in a white leotard and white tights. 'Lovely boy, fine pair of shoulders you've got, show 'em off boy, show 'em off.' (Steve switches to Sergeant out of 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' voice.) I like the sergeant out of 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' [Windsor Davies], I think I should award him Took's Acting Oscar." Took also revealed that he had experimented with stage makeup like Bowie and Bolan, but reported that it "used to make me look more unhealthy than people think I look."
Steve also mentioned his pet rat, Charlie, and how he used to feed him cocaine, "Like, rats move fast, but you should have seen him move then. He's a nice rat, wasn't very happy when I became a vegetarian though." Steve also mentioned the child he had fathered with his girlfriend Lou, "I have a chick with a kid, and I now live with a pregnant lady, so I am thinking of forming 'Took's Home for Unmarried Mothers'" (Incidentally, the son in question, Luke, is now married and living in Australia.) Took also talked about his plans for future music and revealed that he was currently working with one Adrian Wagner "a synthesiser player, who's working with Arthur Brown. This cat was sort of a concert pianist and all this shit, he writes music down, a thing I find a little distasteful, but it's sometimes necessary, I suppose....[he] was in Kingdom Come, and he trained at the Royal Academy of Music, which is far out."
Meanwhile, out of the Ladbroke Grove scene and away from temptation and those who sought fun in getting him completely wasted Steve could get his head together. It is to his credit that Nik Turner, another ex-Hawkwind member and later frontman of Inner City Unit, tried to get Steve off drugs. "Steve lived in my house for about two years" he told Dave Thompson in 1995 "and I looked after him, tried to get him off drugs, and it worked - I weaned him off, but as soon as he got back to London, he was right back on it, he was amongst all his friends, who were saying 'go on, Tookie, have this one, have that one, have them all ... you can take more drugs than anybody I know.' And he'd do it." Even so, the time spent with Turner proved to be most fruitful, with not only for Took personally, but also for his musical endeavours, as he performed frequently at musical parties held at Turner's house, demoed material with Nik and also worked on yet another band, the expansively-titled Jolly Roger And The Crimson Gash, along with Turner and an assortment of musician friends, largely recruited from around Thanet. This outfit would sow the seeds of the most significant musical project of Steve's late '70s career, of which more in the next chapter and as far as can be ascertained, this project took up most of Steve's attention musically during 1975-6. As this time period progressed, the Underground scene within which Took subsided deteriorated to the point where it was rapidly becoming ready for a fall. That fall would finally come when Punk arrived to challenge and ultimately supersede the Underground. Yet, ironically, it would be the Punk movement, which would provide Steve with the impetus for what appears to have been his last significant burst of creative energy, and the chief highlight of his late '70s career.