It was in April-May 1965, when Long John Baldry saw me playing in the Manchester club "The Twisted Wheel". Baldry was already a famous name at that time. He even had his own hour on television, so big deal. I was called to a meeting the following week with John, his manager and agent. John's Hoochie Coochie Men were breaking up. It was suggested that my trio, the Trinity with bassist Rickey Brown and drummer Mickey Waller would become the rhythm section of the new band. I added Vic Briggs, John wanted his protégé Rod Stewart to sing with us. I suggested adding singer Julie Driscoll, who at that time was working in my manager's office but waiting to start a career with a band.
The Steampacket were a tremendous success live and went on to be called the first Supergroup. I arranged and interpreted stuff for everybody in the band. Because of arguments as what label to record for, we missed recording our own album. After the breakup, Baldry changed the band into The Shotgun Express and The Brotherhood, with Elton John at the piano. This anthology compiles tunes from before 1966.
My first single was "Fool Killer", a song I heard by Mose Allison. He really was a main stay at the Flamingo Club. Any band that played in the Flamingo, did one or two songs by Mose Allison. He was "The Seventh Son", "Baby, Please Don't Go", you'd hear "Parchman Farm", "If you are going to the City" and "Fool Killer". You don't believe how apt the lyrics are even today: I was walking down a back street just the other night when I had a funny feeling that things weren't right. I heard footsteps right behind and knew it wasn't just in my mind. The fool killer's coming, he is getting closer. If you have never been a fool, then you don't have to worry." Great stuff. This record was judged way too jazzy by the Melody Maker: What is this? We don't want this. Mose Allison wasn't that jazzy at all - especially when you listen to it now... I was fed up with hearing this and came up with "Tiger".
"Tiger" was the second single that I made under my own name for EMI/Parlophone. So I looked at the Top Ten: Number one at that time was "Wild Thing", then went progressively down, stopped by the Kinks, stopped by the Beatles etcetera. I took all the riffs, the musical repetitions, of each one and I read them out backwards. The Kinks' riff went "bam-ba-bam-ba-ba-bam-bam - in the daytime..." Taken backwards I had the line for "Tiger". Instead of "wild thing" I simply took "tiger" and "I'm coming for you, baby". It was just a joke on the industry. When I played it to them, they went 'this is fantastic'. And I thought EMI are throwing me off the label, but no: It becomes a hit. In France, it was on the charts for six months!
"Let's Do It Tonight" was specifically written for the dance crowd at the Flamingo. An organ gospel funk thing. The Flamingo Jazz Club or "the Mingo" as insiders called it, was in a basement in London's Wardour Street - the part of the city that was known as Soho in the first half of the 1960s. The Mod's who inhabited London's West End back then, gradually became regulars at the club. Also, it was the precursor of the ethnic melting pot that London was to become. In those days the main attraction in clubs was live music. In the breaks between sets, a DJ played some records.
"Oh Baby Won't You Come Back Home To Croydon…" is all about the clubs in town. Some of the lyrics were 'At Scotch they do the jerk' or something, at another club 'they do the Twine until they loose their mind, Baby, lets go back to Croyden, where everybody beedle an' bows'. Croyden is a part of London, but really out in the sticks. This doesn't mean anything, it's just absolute nonsense.
The first tune I ever heard Jimmy Smith play was "Back At the Chicken Shack". I heard it on the speakers outside my record store in Shepherd's Bush market and I went, what the hell is that? I ran in, and they showed me the record. I told them to wrap it up and immediately took it home (laughs). That was one of those moments where life changes direction. That tune made me go and buy the organ! I had been piano crazy up to that to some point, but when I heard this organ it was clear that I got to check it out.
"The In-Crowd" was a tune I heard by Ramsey Lewis. I met the Ramsey Lewis Trio when we played at Montreux in 1968, and they were fantastic. When the Rhythm Section asked me to come and jam and I was like, wow, these guys from America ask me to play with them! I really loved that tune - it had that thing about going out. Looking on the night town, Saturday night, outside a club like Flamingo, where everybody's out in the street, trying to get in.
"Baby Baby": One of the most over-used words in the pop lexicon. I recently found another track that was part of this recording session. Here we all sing background for Julie. That was one of her numbers.
"Cry Me A River" was sung by Baldry. A great tune. I have two versions of it, in different keys. Maybe it was too high when we first pitched it. As Baldry got more and more drunk towards the end of the evening and tried to sing it, it was too high for him. So, we ended up with two versions on tape, one of it was for the BBC and is in a lower key.
"Oh Baby, Don't You Do It" is a Tamla Motown tune, a great tune. Originally done by Marvin Gaye. What I loved about it, was the band. The band on that was great brass riding, like always with the Tamla people... great chords that were kind of like suspended chords, do not ask me to explain that... It's like a D minor but suspended over a G bass
01. I Am A Lonesome Hobo 02. This Wheel's On Fire 03. Road to Cairo 04. Shadows Of You 05. Save Me Part 1 & 2 06. As She Knows 07. Tiger 08. Kiko 09. Fool Killer 10. Let's Do It Tonight 11. Green Onions 65 12. Oh Baby Won't You Come Back Home to Croydon; Where Everybody Beedle An' Bo's 13. Back at the Chicken Shack 14. The in Crowd 15. Baby Take Me 16. Can I Get A Witness 17. Baby Baby 18. Holy Smoke 19. Cry me a River 20. Oh Baby, Don't you do it 21. Lord Remember me