HIT CHANNEL INTERVIEW: July 2014. We had the great honour to talk with a legendary drummer, singer and songwriter: Twink. John “Twink” Alder is one the most important figures in the English psychedelic movement. He was a member of The Pink Fairies, Tomorrow, The Pretty Things, The Aquarian Age, PinkWind and Stars (with Syd Barrett). Read below the very interesting things he told us:
I went to Rome last month (June) for 10 days to record the basic tracks for “Think Pink II” with The Technicolour Dream, Marco Conti, Fabio Porretti and Friends. We completed the basic tracks for 14 brand new songs. “Think Pink II” is being recorded in the same psychedelic spirit as the original “Think Pink” (1970) album. This month, on July 18th, we are going to London’s Speakman Sounds Studio where we will record overdubs parts with some very special guests for the album. Brian Godding (Blossom Toes, B.B. Blunder) who guested on the track “Moonchild” on the 2013 album “You Reached For The Stars” by Twink & The Technicolour Dream, Jon Povey (The Fenmen, The Pretty Things) who I worked with in 1968 and 1969 with The Pretty Things recording “S.F. Sorrow” together. Jon also played on the original “Think Pink” and his contribution to that album cannot be understated, Dane Stevens (The Fairies, Cops ‘N Robbers) together we are celebrating 50 years since the release of our first single “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” on Decca Records and others if they get it together. The album should be ready for release at the beginning of 2015. Our next recording project is a Psychedelic Rock Opera based on the life of Aleister Crowley and when that is completed, “Think Pink III”.
Are there plans for a tour with the Technicolour Dream in the near future?
There are no plans to tour with The Technicolour Dream in the near future.
Are you involved in any other projects or releases?
A live recording of The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band with Syd Barrett and Fred Frith guesting has just been released on Easy Action Records. The album is called “Six Hour Tecnicolour Dream – Cambridge 1972” and early reviews have been favourable. G.O.D. Records is releasing “You Reached For The Stars” by Twink & The Technicolour Dream on 12’’ pink vinyl, a limited edition of only 500 copies. Also, a special box edition of 50 copies on pink vinyl with a poster and a surprise gift. I am writing my autobiography entitled “Fool On The Hill”, which is coming along very nicely, and I expect it to be published in 2017.
When you recorded Tomorrow’s debut album (1968), had you realised that you created a revolutionary album?
I had hoped Tomorrow had created a revolutionary album and to be perfectly honest both John “Junior” Wood and myself were unhappy with the final product. The mix was rather weak and the choice of songs for the album was far from perfect. The album cover art was also a weak choice. Both “Junior” and I were, for some reason, shut out of the final stages of production. We didn’t input into the final mix and didn’t see the cover until the record was released. It could have been a lot better and the fact that it was released in early 1968 would have made no difference had they listened to us.
Tomorrow unfortunately lasted a short time, just under a year, because of the unexpected success of The Teenage Opera “Grocer Jack” single which released in the middle of 1967 and just after the release of Tomorrow’s “Psychedelic” single “My White Bicycle” b/w “Claremont Lake” which didn’t take off at the time. Keith West, our vocalist, wrote the lyrics and sung on the “Grocer Jack” single and the business people directly involved with The Teenage Opera, Keith West, Mark Wirtz, Brian Morrison and the record company, EMI, could only hear the cash registers opening and closing. They lacked the vision to realise the group Tomorrow, which actually existed, could run alongside The Teenage Opera. The “Opera” didn’t exist but with the right handling could have been developed. Tomorrow released one more single “Revolution” which bubbled under the Top 40, but without full commitment from EMI and others, it failed to enter the charts. With the business focus on The Teenage Opera, Tomorrow was losing momentum fast after a great start with many highlights in the limelight. By the beginning of 1968, Tomorrow’s flame had died and the Teenage Opera too. John “Junior” Wood and I formed The Aquarian Age. Keith formed Moonrider and Steve (ed: Howe, later guitarist of Yes) formed Bodast.
Are you proud of your participation in The Pretty Things’ “S.F. Sorrow” album in 1968?
I am proud of my participation in The Pretty Things 1968 album “S.F Sorrow”. When I joined The Pretty Things at Easter Time 1968, 3 drum tracks had already been recorded by “Skip” Alan and there was no need to re-record them as they were perfect. I played drums and percussion and also performed some vocals on the remaining tracks. I also wrote some parts into this very special Psychedelic Rock Opera recording, I helped out on production too and wrote the stage play for “S.F. Sorrow Mime Play” which we performed at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London in January 1969. Phil May narrated, Dick Taylor and Melissa played Mr & Mrs Sorrow, Jon Povey played Death, Wally Waller played a worker from the factory of misery, Silver played Sebastian’s girl-friend and I played Sebastian F. Sorrow. Our road crew took care the sound, lighting, film projections and liquid lights and Barbara Daly did the make-up. Recording and promoting “S.F Sorrow” was a wonderful experience.
Do you remember your performance with The Pretty Things at the Hyde Park free concert in 1968?
I remember very well my performance with The Pretty Things at The Hyde Park Free Festival, Hyde Park, London, England on July 27th 1968 when 15,000 fans came to see Mighty Baby, Traffic and The Pretty Things. We opened our set with The Byrds song “Why ?” which I had brought into the band from Tomorrow (Tomorrow always opened with “Why?” too). Next was The Pretties own “Talking About The Good Times” followed by that amazing Electric Banana tune “Alexander”. We then finished our set with a three song jam “Mr Evasion”, “I See You” and Tomorrow’s “My White Bicycle”. “Mox” a musician friend from our Denmark Street days joined us on harmonica. The Pretty things line-up was Phil May, Dick Taylor, Jon Povey, Wally Waller and me. At some point during the set I moved to the front of the stage with my floor tom tom and sticks and Jon Povey moved from keyboards to drums. I found myself climbing the PA speakers and arrived at the top. I looked down and realised it was very high from the ground up there, so I decided to pretend I was going to jump into the audience and motioned for the people below to move out of the way which they did. In a split second I decided to jump and I did. Luckily for me the ground was soft and slightly damp, my cuban heel boots sunk into the ground. Up to this point the audience had remained seated and when I rose to my feet with my arms upstretched they too jumped up and applauded my craziness with a mighty roar. I returned to my drums, we finished our set and Traffic took over. Excellent vibes all round and a lovely day out.
I do consider my solo album “Think Pink” as a highlight of my career, however at the time I was unsure about it, but eventually it took (no pun intended) on a life of its own. My own personal favourite tracks on the album are the two The Aquarian Age-penned songs “Ten Thousand Words In A Cardboard Box” and “Tiptoe On The Highest Hill”. “Think Pink II” is underway and after that the Psychedelic Rock Opera which we will be finished recording in 2015, next will be “Think Pink III”.
Can you describe us the musical and cultural vision of The Pink Fairies?
The musical vision of The Pink Fairies was a “Cosmic Rock & Roll” band with sounds that had been developed on my solo album “Think Pink”. The first thing we did was to get Paul Rudolph hooked up with an echo unit which was essential to achieving that goal. When I left the band shortly after our performance at Glastonbury Fayre in 1971 on the first pyramid stage, Paul continued to fly the “Cosmic Rock” flag but when he left in late 1972 the musical vision was lost.
The cultural vision was simply to share our gift for free with who we felt they were deserving at that time. We played benefits for The Underground Press, Gay Liberation Front, The White Panthers and others. We made donations to Worthy Farm to pay for telephone “bills” etc., while Andrew Kerr was preparing for the historic Glastonbury Fayre. We set up our own Free Festivals at The Bath Festival, Phun City and The Isle Of Wight Festival all in 1970.
Why you didn’t like stadium rock bands like Led Zeppelin?
I personally love Led Zeppelin, I’ve worked with Jimmy Page, John Bonham jammed with The Pink Fairies at Mothers Club in Birmingham in early 1971 and Robert Plant owes me a night out! However, at that time, we, The Pink Fairies were contra the huge commercialisation of music by “the music business”. We believed music should be for free. Yes indeed unrealistic in this world of money madness but we tried to balance the two sides of the coin and make the world a better place.
You formed Stars with Syd Barrett and Jack Monck (bass, ex-Delivery). Did Roy Hollingworth from Melody Maker destroy Stars?
After due consideration I believe Roy Hollingworth’s review of Syd Barrett’s STARS supporting The MC5 at Cambridge Corn Exchange in February 1972, when everything that could possibly go wrong for us did go wrong, is not responsible for destroying our little band. However it didn’t help matters. If Roy had reviewed the gig at the same venue two days later, STARS supporting Nektar, things might have been quite different. I think when the STARS review was published in Melody Maker the following week, Roger (Syd) was called to his London publishers office by people who claimed to be looking after his interests. Based on this one review he was told, I believe, to leave the band. I think the review was a catalyst that enabled those who would prefer “Syd” off the road, for obvious reasons, to get him off the road. Roger returned from London to Cambridge and came over to my cottage and said “I don’t want to play anymore!” A sad day indeed.
Syd Barrett was a very easy going person to work with. You can imagine how keen he was to play by his showing up to jam with The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band on the 26th & 27th January 1972. A few days after the gig on the 27th Jack Monck, Jenny Spiers and myself went over to Syd’s house in Hills Rd, Cambridge, which was close to my cottage in Union Rd, to ask him if he wanted to form a band with me and Jack. He said “yes” and the next day we started rehearsing in Syd’s basement. It was very small there with a low ceiling so we moved to a store-room at the back of the cottage in Union Rd which was far more suitable. Both Jack and I left The Last Minute Put Together Boogie Band. Syd was always on time for rehearsals and gigs and some of our jams were amazing. We chose the name STARS for our band.
I have always said that Syd’s “insanity” has been overplayed and I still believe that. We had been friends since 1967 when we played many shows together while Syd was with The Pink Floyd and I was with Tomorrow. However we became closer in Cambridge in 1972 with the formation of STARS and Syd was no stranger than anyone else around at the time. I think he was treated very badly by his band mates and The Pink Floyd management team at that time. He became marginalised and found that difficult to deal with. He was pushed out of the band he started, named and branded the music style and he never really recovered. STARS was Syd’s “last go round” but the same forces were at work and STARS went out.
Did you enjoy touring with Nik Turner (Hawkwind) in the ‘90s?
I have known Nik Turner since 1970 and I consider him to one of my oldest and dearest friends. We started the PINKWIND concept together back then which helped both bands get recognition. I came up with the name PINKWIND. In the nineties we teamed up again and played about 15 gigs including the world famous Strawberry Fair in Cambridge under the banner PINKWIND. We recorded 2 live albums while on tour, “Festival Of The Sun” LP & CD and “Purple Haze” CD only. It was wonderful working with Nik again! Last year we both appeared at Breaking Convention, The Second Multidisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness at Greenwich University and Nik also came to the Twink & The Technicolour Dream’s after-party when we finished recording of the album “You Reached For The Stars” which was released on Sunbeam Records CD only.
Do you believe that punk rock movement had anything to do with the music or it was just a marketing invention? I believe the latter.
I believe that “punk rock” had very little to do with music and was no more than marketing invention. In 1974 I was hanging out with a guy called Nils (ed: Stevenson), he later became Malcolm McLaren’s (ed: marketing genius and Sex Pistols’ manager) right hand man and Siouxsie & The Banshees’ manager. At the time, he was talking about his idea to me of putting a band together more rough and dirty than The Rolling Stones when they first started out. About 18 months later along came The Sex Pistols. Once the “punk” wagon started to roll, everyone jumped on it including me with a band called The Rings. Thousands of bands emerged across Europe and the US, small independent record labels and “punk” clothes shops too. The major record labels jumped on this new wave and began to sign bands by the handful. My band The Rings released one single on Chiswick Records in June 1977 entitled “I Wanna Be Free” b/w “Automobile” and has just recently passed 100,000 hits on Youtube. We also played a lot of gigs around London including supporting The Damned at The Marquee Club, London and The Punk Rock Festival Mont De Marsan in the South of France.
When I first visited the UFO Club I experienced this new “happening psychedelic scene” in early 1967 I asked Joe Boyd (ed: Nick Drake and early Pink Floyd producer) if my band The In Crowd could play at the club. He said “Not with a name like The In Crowd!” I eventually was able to persuade my band to change its name, musical policy and image to suit this emerging revolution and we stood in line waiting to get booked into the club. I think it was in May that the group The Knack pulled out of playing at UFO and we were called in to replace them. That night during our performance Jimi Hendrix joined us on stage playing bass guitar. It was an amazing set with just the three of us: Jimi Hendrix, Steve Howe and myself pushing everyone to outer space with our music. Tomorrow became one of UFO’s resident bands alongside The Pink Floyd and The Soft Machine.
How did it happen to jam twice with Jimi Hendrix?
My first jam with Jimi Hendrix is mentioned in the previous question. It came about when my friend Howard “H” Parker (RIP) brought Jimi along to UFO club because he was sure Jimi would like to see us. That night when John “Junior” Wood put his bass down to do some “mime-theatre” on stage Jimi, who was sitting on the floor in the centre of the club, jumped up to the stage picked up John’s bass guitar, turned it over because he was left-handed, and started jamming with Steve Howe and myself. We jammed for about 20 minutes.
Sometime in 1970 but a few weeks before Jimi died he was working with Stephen Stills on Stephen’s solo album. After a recording session at Island Studios, Stephen and Jimi came down to The Speakeasy Club. I was there and when Jimi walked in he came up to me and said they wanted to jam and with me on drums. I declined the offer at first because I was “wasted” but after a short time the DJ put that great track “Aren’t You Glad” by Spirit on the turntable which prompted me to jump up on stage and play the drums that were set up along with the music. Then Jimi and Stephen joined me with Billy Cox on bass I think and the DJ turned down his music and we took over. We carried on jamming to that great Ed Cassidy “beat” until I broke the snare drum and I left the stage.
You knew a lot of great musicians and you watched live everyone. Who was the most talented musician you have seen in your life?
I think Steve Howe is an extraordinary rare talent. I remember one evening playing “Strawberry Fields Forever” at The Saville Theatre in 1967 and Jeff Beck was in the wings. He was stunned by Steve’s guitar performance as he had put extra chords into the song. Steve was great then and still great today.
I was fortunate in 1967 to work alongside The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios while I was with Tomorrow recording our album “Tomorrow”. We were recording in studio 3 and The Beatles were in studio 2. At that time they were finishing the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. When they finished it they then moved onto the “Magical Mystery Tour” recordings. In April 1968 I joined The Pretty Things who had only just started recording “S.F. Sorrow” at Abbey Road in studio 3 too (we recorded “Well Of Destiny” in studio 2). The Beatles were recording “The White Album”. I saw more of “The Fabulous Four” in ‘67 when John (ed: Lennon) and George (ed: Harrison) would pop in to see how we were doing. I heard them mixing “Sgt Pepper”, I listened to acetates of their recordings and passed them in the hallway on numerous occasions. Great guys, love them still.
Do you think the collapse of the major recording labels is a kind of justice for their corporate greed all these years?
To be perfectly honest I didn’t know the major record labels had collapsed. I say bring back the small indie labels big time.
Have you ever turned down an interesting work offer, because you were busy or for any other reason?
I have never turned down an interesting work offer!
A huge “THANK YOU” to Twink for his time.
Official Twink Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/TWINK/237130826419795