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PENETRATION INTERVIEW

by Paul Welsh

Paul Spends an Evening with Steve Peregrin Took ......

I approached the Took mansion as dusk was setting in, one Sunday in late winter. The location, near Notting Hill, was seedy, people brawled in the streets and ran around berserk hitting each other on their heads with sweeping brushes. However, Steve was safe and warm watching the London Palladium on TV and drinking whisky, in the lounge of the flat (or mansion). I was invited in, and sinking down in the soft warmth of the sofa I took a large swig of whisky and asked my first question........

Q : Steve, what have you been getting up to since Tyrannosaurus Rex?

A : Well, I got a couple of varied bands together, we did a bit of recording and I got about half an album together. Then my energy sparring partner went back to Japan so I thought I had better work on my own again. That didn't really appeal to me 'cos I did this gig and found myself screaming down the microphone, because I imaged I had this band behind me and I had to freak people out. Then I started working with Bob Calvert, and he's quite mad, we played pagan riffs. Then there is another guy who was in Kingdom Come, and he trained at the Royal Academy of Music which is far out. I had managerial problems, my management and I just didn't see eye to eye at all.

Q : So what happened to Shagrat?

A : Oh the Amazing Shagrat, who had all their photos taken in a force nine gale. There was Larry Wallis on lead and Dave Bidwell on drums, who's now, strangely enough, in "Mungo Jerry". We were together for about a year and did Phun City and our drummer went quite berserk. We started off the set, right, and he played at double time all the way through; couldn't keep up with him on guitar, it was impossible and we never saw him after that.

We had like, a stone hall and it was a very hot summer, it was down by London Bridge somewhere and we just used to go down every day and play away. When we got tired there was like a small park outside and we'd go into it and laugh at the people who couldn't get to sleep because of the noise, which was wonderfully civil of us.

I never seem to go and do gigs with bands, I just sit about the house all the time. 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.

You see, I seem to have to contend with this reputation. I'd go and do a gig, and they'd say, "You will dribble won't you, you will fall over?" So I would say "Sorry man, that's extra, a fiver for every dribble, and twenty-five for falling over". It quite amazes me, if I say I will dribble they go "Great, great! They'll love it, they'll love it". I'm a bit like a footballer really.

Q : When did you first start playing music?

A : I first started in music when I was about fourteen, which is ten years ago. I probably did my first gig then, school dances, wedding receptions, parties. Doing numbers like "Peggy Sue" and "Pafilia", Shadows numbers, Buddy Holly numbers, with Cliff Richard thrown in, and that went on for a while, and then a group called "The Waterproof Sparrows". I then got a job at a post office so I could get a drumkit, I saved up and bought a wonderful drumkit and I was living at S.E.9. I moved to Maida Vale, met Marc, and we formed an electric band. We had a guitarist and a bass player, we played one gig at the Middle Earth and the guitarist went quite mad. He attacked my new drumkit and started knocking the cymbals over, so we split from them. Then we had to sell the drumkit 'cos we were starving, hah! And we went busking and Tyrannosaurus Rex was born. Then I got rich, and then I got poor again and I got rich then I got poor again, you see?

I had quite a splendid year last year. My bank manager phoned me up and said ahh "Your overdraft is fifteen hundred pounds" and I said "Yeah, that's right" and he said "You're mad aren't you? " I said "Oh yeah, right, you caught on". But he's a nice fellow, I paid him back afterwards. Bob Calvert's brother writes him a letter; Bob Calvert's brother is a property assessor or something, in South Africa. He writes telling him he's got a Range Rover, and a Mercedes, ya know, and we say, well here we are, supposed to be pop stars, and we've got fuck all, ya know. Talking about cars, 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 Cortina's 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.

Q : About Tyrannosaurus Rex, like when you were part of it, did you ever imagine that Marc would one day make it big ? ..... mind you, he did completely change direction.

A : Yeah, he's quite a jolly little writer, I mean it was quite successful then, for two people, two nutters playing very straight stuff, I didn't really think the expression of violence was there. I split to get an electric band together and I thought it was going to stay as it was but things sort of reversed themselves and I found myself going round playing acoustic numbers. I couldn't really describe myself as a folk singer, 'cos I 'aint a folk singer, people say I am a rock 'n' roll singer without a band, ya know. Marc's doing rock 'n' roll I suppose, boogie music I think it's called some of which I find highly entertaining - the singles that is.

Like err, Tyrannosaurus Rex would have made it with "Deborah" ya know, it was in the charts and I got busted for possession of acid or something, and I was sent to a home for about three months, so we couldn't promote the record. I mean you get arrested for stupid reasons. On November 5th I was walking down Westbourne Grove and they came up and asked me what I'd got in my pockets. I said "A police whistle" , which I'd bought from an antique shop, and they wanted to know where I had nicked it from. I told them that I had bought it, but they took me down to the station.

Q : Do you ever hear from Marc?

Not really, I found that I had the same manager, Tony Secunda, which err I suppose has sort of caused a breach in the relationship between T.S. and myself. Marc was signed up two months after I did which wasn't too bad, but they couldn't tell me, that's a bit under the arm ya know. Things have sort of ground to a halt in that direction, I can't be bothered with that kind of thing, I mean what has it got to do with music? I'm not much of a business man I suppose. I went to one of Marc's gigs and I was impressed with the amount of ridiculous energy flying about. Screaming chicks, people fainting, bouncers and policemen drinking whisky in the dressing rooms, which nearly caused me to get thrown out. I started shouting "Pigs" ya know. After that gig Marc wrote "Metal Guru" , which is me, "All alone by the telephone" ya know, it's good.

I haven't seen many bands lately, the last band I went to see was "Chilli Willi", who are quite exceptional, in fact "Chilli Willi" are a good band, good lads. The last person I saw before "Chilli Willi" was Stephen Stills, who was also quite exceptional.

Q : I read somewhere that at one of your solo gigs you played a number called "Steel Abortion" which caused a minor riot, is that true?

Yeah, that's true. I went up to this gig in a transit, and there was nothing in the transit except a couple of guitars the driver and the roadie. It shook all the way up the motorway and when we got there I must have been well out of my brain and I had this terrible headache, which was totally intensified as the whole of my being. When I got out I couldn't talk, I said "My head, my head, get me something for my head!" I was sitting in the dressing room and nobody was really aware as to whether I was there or not. First of all I think they thought my roadie was me 'cos he was bopping about getting it together. So we eyed up that little problem, and then a cat said "I don't think we should go on man, it's a bit violent out there." So I said "Don't give me that crap, that's what it's about isn't it, violence and rock 'n' roll?" Him thinking that I was a folk singer you see. So I went out and sang and it was alright. People were a bit worried at seeing this exceeding manic and so I said I'd finish off with "Steel Abortion". I don't usually do it 'cos it's a song I wrote for a band like Shagrat. So I started to explain what the song was about, it's about a guy that brakes out of jail and goes back to see his chick, he hasn't really got time to screw her 'cos the dogs are on his trail, so he lies down a couple of minutes with her, pulls his boots on and rushes off. When I started explaining this all bits of metal started flying through the air. They were sort of pulling chairs to pieces and hurling them through the air, but I played through the number quite content and happy with the scene, the reaction I was causing. It was a lot better than the reaction I got on this gig at "Dingwalls" and looking back in retrospect I was probably screaming down the microphone sort of four or five times as loud as my guitar was coming out, still thinking that 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 impersonation routine, ya know, a quick Neil Young and Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra thrown in for good measure. I used to be quite disgusted 'cos I'd get to a gig and if the audience weren't quite up to my standard then I'd start doing impersonations. I'd just play away and like do a couple of Neil Young songs and sing them like him "Lay Lady Lay" and that. (Quick Neil Young impression for my benefit.) People don't fuckin' notice man, ya know they'd go "Oh yes" and clap a bit, the cunts, I never get a reaction out of these people.

Doing a gig is really quite wonderful, silly things happen. You'd go to a gig somewhere where there'd be a little pocket of people who would be great fans of yours, for which reason you had never fathomed out, ya know. You'd walk on the stage and play a chord and they'd start applauding like mad, before the number, ya know. I've only done one radio show in three years, and I've not had any records out of any of my stuff, and so that kind of didn't help. You get a lot of energy from solitude and nothing to do, ya know. That's the weird thing about solo gigs really. The first time I did it, everyone was sort of bombed out, so I put my guitar in my case and said "That's it, I'll sell my guitar, and go to Morocco", ya know. People say "Oooh. He's off again", and then I say "That's it, I did it, I did it man, I pulled it off, wonderful, wonderful, who needs Morocco anyway?" Ya know.

I'm definitely a little concerned about the lack of underground in London. No papers, two or three bands. 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.

Q : Hawkwind are about the only underground band left, aren't they?

Yeah, they're pretty bizarre actually. I think Hawkwind are a goodly contribution to the underground. I'm doing this Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters tour with Bob Calvert. He's not too keen on forming a regular band 'cos err, he's been through that one too, I suppose. He's a good writer, I'm quite impressed actually and he's got the kind of splendid infamous reputation as I have, he's quite a good business man. 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 denisons 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.

I've got to do some work with the other cat, a synthesiser player, Adrian Wagner who's working with Arthur Brown. This cat was a sort of concert pianist and all this shit, he writes music down, a thing I find a little distasteful, but it's sometimes necessary, I suppose. Got to sort out all the contractual arrangements, it seems like they sort of pay me royalties to keep me quiet, very cunning these people.

I've got a concert programme from 1969 which is Tyrannosaurus Rex, David Bowie mime, Vytas Serelis Sitar and John Peel compere.

Oh a very cultural programme. Very cultural.

Then David Bowie becomes a big super-hype, sporting fancy clothes and chic make-up.

Yeah, he'd already brought out an album when he worked for us. Did some radio sessions with him. They were sort of quaint, it was sort of middle sixties stuff and I don't think he had found any logical direction at that time. He had been studying mime so 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", I think I should award him Took's acting Oscar. Bowie was quite a well mannered lad I suppose. I didn't like his "Pin-ups" album, didn't get me off too much, but that's the sort of thing he would like to do, but I thought "Rebel Rebel" was entirely wonderful. I used to make myself up which used to make me look more unhealthy than people think I look. Like I wouldn't put on my wonderful powder blue strides with the nice sharp crease in two days ago, 'cos they wouldn't fit me, put on weight, ya know. People still don't notice, they say "You look a bit peaky, man" especially as I am growing another beard, the colour of it goes in with the lines under my eyes, so people think I'm really dead, ya know. I mean the drugs I have taken since Christmas have been about eight Dexedrine, ya know. I haven't really smoked any dope, but I've had a little bit to drink, and that's it, I thought I'd cool it out for a little bit, ya know. People have this image in their minds that I'm a smack freak or a coke freak or an acid freak and I feel sort of middle aged, ya know, sort of settled down.

Last year however, I spent 200 grand on getting my band together and 200 grand on coke. I didn't really get into the coke trip ya know, I mean I used to drink a lot of wine but I didn't get hung up on that even. I used to give my pet rat coke, 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. But I think Dave's pretty good, his make-ups quite good, his hair's good, wears a nice set of clothes, and he's got a good band, it's a nice rock 'n' roll band. I suppose he's a bit prima donna but people don't care ya know. The chance to be a prima donna is not exactly ahmmm...... like I'd be sitting down with Bob right, and we'd be playing away, 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 fret-board, that's not much work for a man." But that's what you do in this day and age ya know. I think Bowie's best line is "My brain hurt like a warehouse", that's pretty odd, pretty odd indeed.

Q : You went to the States as Tyrannosaurus Rex, yes?

Yeah, we went over there at the end of 69, and we'd kind of go on with the M.C.5. and Country Joe and the Fish, we'd sort of go on after some electric band, and people wouldn't even notice we were on. So I got into this trip, like I would take my shirt off, take my belt off, turn my back on the audience and start whipping myself and being a great devotee of getting out of it thoroughly ripped and wasted after about five minutes or probably more like five seconds they'd shut up. I'd turn round and say, "Right, shut your mouths, sit down and fuckin' dig it, ya know, try and listen you might hear something." And they'd dig it, 'cos that's violence, and they can appreciate that ya know. It's the same thing now, you go out and do a gig, and 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. It gets up your nose a bit, in the wrong way, you kind of feel a bit pissed off 'cos you can hear these people talking. Why should they turn themselves down to your level at a dance ya know? I would be quite happy to go round doing solo gigs with a 2,000 watt P.A. The only time I have used a 2,000 watt P.A. have been entirely wonderful and satisfactory, I mean they can even dance if they want to. The last gig I did, there was just one chick dancing and that was all. All the rest of the people were kind of hiding behind their whiskeys and hamburgers and things and trying to pretend that I wasn't screaming obscene things down the microphone.

Q : What do you think of violence on stage?

I used to smash all the stuff up with Tyrannosaurus Rex, at the end of the set, I used to smash everything up. Then I broke my hands in the States.

That was my usual thing, we would get to the end of the set and we would do "The Wizzard" which was my licence to freak out. I'd scream such things as "I want a woman", throw my bottle up in the air and then I used to smash up my moraccas, and the occasional drum, if I didn't like it. I'd sling things across the stage, and then I'd pick up my chair and Oh, yeah, I used to throw my gong up in the air, kick it and bite it and dribble all over it, ya know. Which I found great fun in, bit like a 1970's Wee Willie Harris or some thing, ya know. At this gig I picked up my chair, whirled it round my head, and smashed it on the ground. It was a collapsible metal chair which I was entirely unaware of at the time, and it went craaash, craaak, craaak, oooh, ahhh! (A series of chair smashing, hand breaking noises and groans), and broke two hands. I wasn't too pleased about that, we had to do two gigs a night for a week or something, which in this age of advancement of modern medicine, isn't too difficult, ya know. It used to quieten people down, don't know if James Taylor does it, I think he has a band, ya know. But it is an exceeding seventies style sort of be quiet and just play, be obscene and foul mouthed and knock things over, which is pretty weird, I mean hippies are supposed to be peaceful, ya know.

Q : Yeah .......... Do people still remember you?

I don't really know. Two chicks started phoning me from America, I don't know how they got the number. They told me how good looking I was, although they'd never seen me. Eventually they said they would have to stop phoning and start writing, as it was too expensive. I used to get lots of groupies waiting outside my old flat, asking if they could stop with me. In fact, 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.

Q : Have you got any of your music in the house?

Yeah, I'd play you some of my stuff but I am completely lacking in sound facilities, apart from my radio and the television, being the blight of my life right, 'cos I didn't have a television for ages, I couldn't stand television, so when I got down here there was this television there. It belongs to the chick who shares the flat, right. She never watches it ya see, but she always pays the bill, so I probably get up at 3 o'clock, and watch "Callan" or something, and it stays on all day regardless of whether anyone is in or not.

Write this down;

Yesterday I saw you like a dog with a greasy bone,
Telling everyone you knew.
Now I see you like a kid with a runny nose
I see they got you.
You got those Flophouse blues.

I once did a gig with the "Fairies" and we were at Manchester University, I think. I was on bass, Russ was on the drums and Mick Farren was singing, Paul Rudolph wandered off and was missing when we went on the stage. I started playing one number, Russ played another, and Mick screamed political slogans down the mike, we were booed off stage, it was weird really. I think my favourite band at the moment is Slade, I mean they are really good, I like all their stuff.

When all the questions had been asked, Steve played some of his music on my cassette recorder, and believe me, it was first class. I hope that we hear from him, musically, in the near future.

Ironically, I left Steve's at about one o'clock in the morning, and was pulled by the fuzz on the way to my hotel. The pig in question searched me and accused me of nicking my camera and cassette player. After some explaining and name and address taking, he let me go.

Thanks for the interview Steve.


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