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the Pale

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Perhaps I'm hyper-critical ...

Mick Grabham on 'Mick the Lad'

Roland Clare talked briefly to Mick Grabham in November 1998 about the release of Mick the Lad on CD:

I got the impression you weren't as happy to see Mick the Lad re-issued on CD as you had been about
the Guitar Orchestra. Can I ask how you originally felt when it came out on vinyl?

I felt all right about it. I didn't think it was the greatest album in the world or anything like that, but it came from the fact of me wanting to do a solo album: I didn't really spend any great time on the thing, writing songs or anything like that. As soon as I had anything that vaguely resembled a song I said, (laughs) 'Right, that's another one ready.' It was an excuse to get into the studio and double-track guitars, basically! (laughs)

Did you ever like the Mike Oldfield business?

No ...

How about overdub merchants like McCartney, or Roy Wood?

I liked Paul McCartney's first solo album, the sort of rough thing that he did, I always liked that. But with me it was just this Emitt Rhodes thing: I thought he wrote really good songs. I know it was extremely derivative and all the rest, but he'd done it all on his own and I thought I'd like to have a go at that.

You didn't build your own studio then, like he did?

No no, of course not, no. But I backed him: he came over to England through a guy that I knew ... blah, blah blah, I played guitar with him for the few gigs that he did over here.

And when was that, roughly?

You've got me now. 71? I'm going to say 71.

And you just became enamoured of his method of working?

Yes, at the time I did, being young and impressionable!

Have you got a studio now?

Only a sort of Portastudio four track kind of jobby, but I get a far better sound on that than I did on the solo album, for the most part.

An old Portastudio, have you got? I've got a 244, I think it is.

Is it 244? [mine is] an original steam one.

I'm surprised you don't like the sound on your solo album. You should listen to it again!

Oh (laughs) I try to like things, you know, it's me! But at the same time ...

There's one on there, On Fire for You, that was evidently recorded later ...

Yes, that was not on the album.

Was that scheduled for a second album, then?

No, no, the album was about to come out and Dave Elliott, who wrote the song, who I'd produced an album for just slightly earlier than that, had a song that I thought might make a good single, and United Artists said 'Fine'. I'd never get away with it now, of course. But they stuck that out after the album; nothing happened, of course.

What was the B-side?

Um ... the first track of the album. (self-mocking tone) 'Sweet Blossom Woman'.

What's wrong with that? I like that one.

Most people did at the time, actually. Perhaps I'm hyper-critical ...

I think you are. Perhaps it's a bit 'of-its-time' though.

Yes, very much of it!

I'm a fan of bass-playing, and it sounds as though you were enjoying that.

Yeah, enjoying: whether or not I'd actually consider it bass-playing: just trying to sound like a bass-player.

What was the method then? Bass and drums in one go, or was it all layered?

No, I recorded guitars first, a guitar; the drums had nothing to do with it until most of the track was done.

Is that on all the tracks?

Yep. I literally put down a rhythm guitar, and maybe double-tracked the rhythm guitar, and then went on from there with whatever went on next, but it would be nothing like the drums, it would be probably more and more guitars, and the bass, basically. I can't remember exactly, I can't remember if there would have been any vocals on when the drums would have been done, there may have been, I can't really remember that specifically. But that was done at Phillips Studio, where we'd done at least one of the Cochise albums.

What was the story of the bonus tracks on this album, Diamonds, Hit and Miss and The Wanderer?

Right. Well you've done the one bonus track, which was the single, which I like far more than anything on the album, more or less, from a sort of total point of view. At least it sounds like people playing together: mine, I just feel that all the stuff where I did everything myself just sounds like ... you know ... somebody doing exactly that.

We'll go for the worst one first. The Wanderer, that was a bad choice really: I wish I'd never put that one on there at all, to be honest, but Peter Purnell was saying, 'Have you got any bonus tracks?' and I was trying to think of things that I'd done. And I actually found a proper tape copy of that, as opposed to a cassette copy, and I used it and I wish I hadn't now because I had some other stuff that I could have used, which had Gary on piano, BJ on drums and Chris on organ. Just a couple of tracks that I tried ... to do a single for somebody, that never ... that didn't work out. The thing in question must have been recorded after Procol's Ninth, I think.

What's that called?

It was two songs; a Frederick Knight song called Trouble, later covered by Ry Cooder, and the other one was an Elton John track ... and I don't know where I got the bloody song from: I don't know if he's ever put it out on anything, maybe it was a demo I had from Dick James. Anyway it was a song called Turn to Me, and I produced this thing for a girl singer, and I can't remember her name.

Do you play on it as well?


And who's the bass-player?

Rick Wills. But it never came out.

That would be a sought-after item for the Procol collector, you know, that combination of people! When you re-press this CD maybe you could put that on as well! How did you come to have The Wanderer?

It wasn't even made as my record! I'd produced a sort of demo, 'cos that's what it is, sometime in the seventies, that's John Gilbert, singing, who used to be in Cochise. And I produced that and found that I had the tape, and so I said, 'What the hell, stick that on,' but I wish I hadn't because I came up with some other stuff that was a bit more interesting.

Anyway having gone past all that, the Diamonds / Hit or Miss theme. We recorded that at AIR studios and ... I'm trying to think when that would have been; that would have been after Exotic Birds and Fruit, maybe; some time in the period between that and Procol's Ninth anyway ... I would say. And Chrysalis wouldn't put it out, because they didn't think it would ... we just did it as a daft single, you know.

So they were the A and B sides of a single, were they?

They were intended to be, but Chrysalis weren't interested in putting it out. They said, 'You can't have two members of Procol Harum putting out the theme from Juke Box Jury' (laughs). I mean it wasn't any sort of huge stab at instrumental stardom, or anything like that.

Who's the sax player on that?

Dick Parry.

I think the sax credits on the CD don't actually cover tracks 11 and 12. It just goes Grabham, Wilson, Wingfield, Gordon and Madeleine Bell.

Well it's Dick Parry anyway. And it's Madeleine Bell and someone else: I can't remember who the other one was.

Katie Kissoon?

No, I can't remember, one of two blonde sisters, and I can't remember what they were called. So that was the story on that, but I always liked it, even if just for the drum solos. I thought there was an explosive drum sound on that.

Did you produce those?

That's a stone I'd rather leave unturned. I only ever had the rough mixes. Those are off cassettes.

Sounds pretty good for rough mixes.

There was slightly more done to those two tracks, but I never had the completed thing, because by that time I'd played the rough mix to Chrysalis and they'd said that they weren't interested. Maybe a couple of guitar bits were overdubbed, and it was mixed more. But rough mixes usually sound better anyway, in my book.

Sounds very live. Is it played live?

It is indeed. Well, more or less: there's a guitar solo on Hit And Miss that was overdubbed. But apart from that ...

The one between the piano solo and the sax solo?

Yep, a good solo: I don't often say it, but that's a good solo.

My review calls it 'a great Grabham solo!'


And has it sold well? One would have thought that the Barrie Wilson completists would help ...

Yeah! Well if only for Barrie's drum solos, it's a good record. There are other bits on there that I do like, the odd few bars where I like the feel or something happens there, or it sounds right there for a while ... but in general ... you know ...

You didn't think of working with a lyricist?

It was not that serious, you know! Or I was not that serious. Like I say, young and naive. How many times did I think that any old record company was just going to walk up and say, 'Yes, you can do a solo album'? Not realising it was going to be once! (Laughs).

No ambitions to do another solo album?

It wasn't that big a deal.

You're recording now with your trio?

We're trying some things out but so far we're not that pleased with it.

But you'll let us know at BtP ...

Of course, of course! 

Thanks, Mick!

Mick Grabham's BtP page

Mick Grabham on his Procol years

Mick the Lad: track-list, liner-note, review


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