1. You Really Got Me
As the “Swinging Sixties” limped wearily into its final twelve months, an ambitious (but still flat broke) South Midlands rock group called Silence was preparing for one last tilt at breaking into the London gig scene. The group at this time consisted of organist Terence Verden Allen, drummer Terence Dale Griffin (Buffin), guitarist Michael Geoffrey Ralphs, bassist Peter Overend Watts and vocalist Stan Tippins.
Early in May 1969 Watts spied a likely ad in Melody Maker — “Tough Aggressive bass player required for Island Records group.” A quick phone call identified the group as Free or rather as Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke, who were looking for new musicians following a temporary split with Rodgers and Fraser. With Mick Ralphs along for moral support, Watts travelled up to London for the audition, but on arrival at the rehearsal room in Gerrard Street, Soho, he was dismayed to find a long queue of tough aggressive bass players all in German helmets waiting to be seen.
Mick Ralphs thought that Guy Stevens, who he had briefly met through Traffic’s Dave Mason the previous year, might be at the audition and, so, pushing his way to the front, disappeared into the studio. Moments later he reappeared and ushered Watts inside past what you can only imagine, was an incredulous and none too pleased queue.
The audition did not lead to being offered the job, (in fact, Free decided to carry on with its original members.), but it did provide another connection with Guy Stevens and Island Records. Guy liked the image and he asked if I was in a band and I said I wasin Silence with Mick. He said he’d like to hear Silence.”
Stevens arranged for Silence to audition for Island Records in a third floor room at Spot Studio, South Molton Street in London’s West End. Shaking their heads like their lives depended, on it Silence ripped through a set that included, among others, Mick Ralphs’ ‘Find Your Way,’ Electric Flag’s ‘Another Country’ and ‘The Rebel’ Luckily Guy loved them. Guy was impressed by the band’s instrumental firepower, but felt that Stan did not look the part.
On the 13th May 1969, the remaining four members of Silence entered Morgan Studios, Willesden, for what was essentially a recording test to decide whether Guy would record an album with them. Guy was satisfied with the results. All they needed to do now was find a singer. An advertisement was place in Melody Maker which read: “Island Records Ltd need Pianist / Singer to join exciting hard rock band playing Bob Dylan influenced country rock music. Immediate album recording work.Ring Regent 6228.” The group were very impressed.
On the evening of the 5th June, oblivious to the events happening in Denmark Street, Ian Hunter Patterson was sat in front of the television set when the telephone rang, Bill Farley asked me if I’d seen the ad in Melody Maker “He said I ought to get down there because they’d run out of applicants and the job was still vacant — so I relented and said I was on my way. I arrived at Regent Sound, I remember Buff looked about fourteen. With absolutely no confidence or technical ability on piano, Ian decided that the only thing he could do was brazen it out. He played Sonny Bono’s ‘Laugh At Me’ and stumbled through Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’ Playing ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ in my own primitive way did impress themenough to offer me the job — though they were very dubious about my appearance.
On the evening of the 12 June, Guy Stevens rang the boys at their Lower Sloane Street residence to let them know that they were ‘Mott The Hoople’. On the 20th June 1969, after just 11 days of rehearsal and without playing a single gig, Mott The Hoople entered Morgan Recording Studios, Willesden High Street, London to record their debut album with Guy Stevens producing and Andy Johns as engineer. Although Guy was credited with production, it was Andy Johns who was responsible for how the album sounded. ‘Guy really knew nothing about music’.
DALE GRIFFIN, IAN HUNTER, MICK RALPHS, OVEREND WATTS, VERDEN ALLEN
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