AFTER HAVING a very nice stoned, drunk, partying all night type Christmas period to round off 1972 (what a year!), it looks like 1973 is gonna be just as mind-blowing as '72 was. Oh boy! The first couple of weeks in January were well deserved 'time-off' days. Nice one. On January 6&7 1973 I did do a session for 'Rainmaker' at Island studios, but I never got paid! Oh well, that's okay. I'm breaking in the New Year slowly anyway. Nice and slow. Then on January 11, it all started again. Free were starting up the machine to tour the USA soon, so we started rehearsing for that. On the 14th we flew out to New Orleans via New York to start the tour. We had a couple of days there, so I nipped over to Houston the next day to visit my folks for one day, then flew back to new Orleans the next day to rehearse with Free on the 16th. On the 17th we did our concert in New Orleans at the Loyola Fieldhouse. It was during a huge loud thunderstorm with big lightning. Spooky! After the gig that night, we flew on in to Houston, where are second gig would be: the Houston coliseum. It 's nice starting a tour off in the southern states. The vibe there is always good. We covered Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, New York, and Florida. This tour took us all the way to February 17, 1973. Also on this trip we were without Kossoff. He was back in England with illness, so we brought the Trinidadian guitarist from 'Osibisa', Wendell Richards, who I knew from the Nash days, to replace Koss. It didn't really work out. They were two completely different styles of guitarists, and Wendell really couldn 't hack it. It just wasn't his style. Also this is the tour where I flipped out in the Chicago dressing room, and completely demolished all the lights, mirrors, and the entire room was wrecked in a rage, due to the fact that I knew we were suffering without Koss there. Eveybody stood outside the dressing room while I was demolishing it. Crash, bang, thump, whack! was all they could hear. Nobody dared to come in. but, when the noise subsided, and it went quiet in my dressing room, Chris Blackwell calmly walked in and said, "Does that feel better Rabbit"? I said, "Yeah Chris. I just can't accept that we have the wrong guitarist on this trip, and it's hurting us". He said, "Well, I'm glad this made you feel better. Now you can pay for it all". I said, "Fair enough, I enjoyed doing it. It's cool. I'll pay for it". What sparked it all off was on that night, Wendell decided he wasn't going to go on stage to play, unless he was paid more money. What a time to pull a stunt like that. At the gig! Fuck that, mate! I mean, we were Free, and we were supporting Traffic, along with John Martyn on a big USA tour. Where 's Koss?! It wasn't what I expected. Best forgotten, except for the happy times we had.
Anyway, after the tour finished, I went back to Houston to rest and visit my folks again for a few days. Then on February 21, I flew into Muscle Shoals, Alabama on my own to mix a master my solo album, 'Broken Arrows'. My girlfriend was with me, so we treated it like a little holiday. It turned out really good, the album did. The funny thing about Muscle Shoals is that it is a 'dry' county. No booze is allowed to be bought or sold. So, it turned into a little bit of a 'black-market' thing with the booze. I found this guy who would bring me a bottle of whiskey to my hotel room, in a brown paper bag, so it couldn 't be seen. I'd give him $10.00, invite him in for a drink, but he'd always refuse. It was too dangerous. If he got caught, he'd be in trouble with the police. Can you believe it? It was like buying illicit drugs, and it was only a bottle of whiskey. Wow! I mixed my album at the famous studio where Aretha Franklin and all the Soul Masters did their recordings. It was a real buzz! On the 28th of February, 1973 I flew back to England, via Miami, and arrived on march 1st. Still can 't figure that one out!
When I got back to London I started where I left off: more sessions. I did sessions in march for Dave Bloxham, Johnny Nash, started working on my second solo album, 'Dark Saloon', and Wayne Kraus. It was also biography time, so I did a lot of press interviews, photo sessions and even moved house one more time, to Chiswick, on the same day I was in the studio as well. Working and moving house on the same day ain 't easy to do, but Chiswick was a nice place to live. Moving on to April 1973, there were more photo shoots, and more sessions. I even did a rehearsal - audition for the 60 's band The Doors, minus Jim Morrisson obviously. He was dead. But the original guys from the band came to London to try to find a keyboard player to replace the original one, and asked me to come in and meet them and do an audition. Great! It really wasn 't my cup of tea. One thing I realised is that if I took the job, it would most likely mean leaving England and moving back to the states. No thanks! Free live in England, and even we aren 't currently doing anything, I ain't leaving London, just in case they start up the machine again. I want to be around if they do. So the audition went well, but I think they knew and I knew that I wasn 't right for the job. I wasn't 100% in to it. Anyway, 'Broken Arrows' was released on April 6, so I really wasn't prepared to go anywhere right then. I did a lot of interviews with the press for Broken Arrows, and it was good that I stayed around London. So, I went back to the session scene and did stuff for Sue Shifrin (CBS), and worked on Dark Saloon some more, and had quite a bit of time off to reflect. Nice easy month.
May 1973 took me on to more interviews and sessions. I was a very busy boy, so it didn 't really matter about the gig with The Doors. In fact, after they left, I never heard anything about them anymore, so maybe I made the right decision after all. This month I worked more on Dark Saloon, did sessions with Silverhead (Island), Rainmaker, Sue Shifrin (Screen Gems), Jo Burg Hawk, a south African group that one of Island 's engineers, John Bernes roped me in on (not paid), Wayne Kraus (CBS - not paid), and went to Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Leicester, Stoke, Sheffield and Brighton to do radio interviews. Also on May 23, a very important decision about whether Free were going to continue being a band was made, and the results were 'negative'. It looks like that is definitely the 'end' of the band called Free. Free are officially 'no more'. Shit! What a drag. My best gig of my entire career is over! I'm really back to being a session man now! So I did some more work with John Martyn, Sue Shifrin, a film session, and I worked on a Jim Capaldi album, 'Whale Meat Again'. Back to the grind!
June 1973 was gonna be another 'big' month. Free were over, no more, so I rekindled my friendship with Johnny Nash in June, and on the 8th I flew to New York with him to do a tour of the USA. Things were looking up though, because my old stablemates Tony Braunagel and Terry Wilson were in the band as well, along with a friend of theirs, as a second keyboardist for the band, Mike Montgomery. There we all were, together in New York. I missed Free, but at least I was now around friends that I 'd known for a long time, and we were working in America! We were rehearsing with Nash in New York, and while there I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I had access to the famed Hendrix 'Electric Ladyland' studios, and since I had my second solo album, Dark Saloon, on the go, I thought me, Terry, and Tony might as well go in the studio and lay down some tracks for my album. We also had their friend David Keeley on guitar with Nash, so I said let 's bring David in too. So we had a 'Rabbit' band ready to work. Keyboards, drums, bass, and a guitarist. I do like having more than one thing going at the same time, so while working with Nash, I was also working on Dark Saloon, for Island Records.
While we were in New York I made a big mistake. I wanted to see the 'real' New York with my own eyes. The early hours New York. So I went and bought me two cases of beer, and on June 17, I took my two cases of beer, went outside the front of the Ramada Inn on 8th Avenue and 48th, perched myself up on a garbage tip at about 6pm, and sat there drinking my beer, just watching New York pass by. I sat on that tip all night, and about 5am the next morning I heard a guy passing me say, "you want some dope?" I ignored it, but I heard it. Then he passed me a couple of more times and said the same thing. I stopped him and said, "Are you talking to me?" He said, "Yeah, do you want to buy some dope?" I said, "Sure, why not". Then the guy said, "Follow me then". I thought, "Here we go, you mean I have to actually go somewhere"? He said, "Don't worry, it's just around the corner". So I followed him around the corner, and just to check me out and see if I had any money, he stopped at an allnight store and said, "I sure would like an ice cream first. Have you got any money, cause I don't". I bought him an ice cream and that was his signal that cash was there. We left the shop, and when we turned the next corner, there was 6 black New Yorkers standing in front of me with 'knives' out. I turned around to the guy I was following and he was gone. One of the 6 guys said, "Give us your money now!". I said in a panic, "Okay, okay. Just don't hurt me. If you don't hurt me I'll go back to the hotel and get ya'll some more money". They laughed at that, and said, "Okay, go get us some more money. Just turn around and start running". Believe it or not, I was so scared that I actually went back to my hotel room and woke up Tony Braunagel, who I was rooming with, and yelled, "Tony, wake up. I just got mugged and they told me to get them some more money! Have you got any money I can take to them!? " Tony couldn't believe what he was hearing. He said, "Rabbit where and what have you been doing all night!?" I told him the story and he said that I was to fuck off, go to bed, and let him get back to sleep. "Don't be stupid!", he said. But I was drunk and tired from staying up all night, and I 'was' seeing and experiencing the part New York that I wanted to see, so I ran back out of the hotel, went back to where I was mugged. But the 6 guys had gone. I hung around for a bit to see if they would return, so I could explain that there was no money, but they didn 't come back. Am I on the verge of insanity here!? I was so hyped up that I thought to myself, "I've been mugged. What's next! Oh yeah, I gotta get a hooker!". That was easy. I took the first girl that approached me, went into a dingy building, upstairs with her, and started to get ready for the business. All of a sudden I heard a rustling in the other room. I said to the girl, "What's that?" she said, "That's my boyfriend". In he came and said, "Alright, give us your money now, and then get out!" The whole prostitute thing was a set-up from the start. The girl brings you in, and then you get mugged. No sex, just mugged. I told the guy I had just been mugged an hour earlier, and that I only had a few dollars left in my pocket. He took it and told me to fuck off! Which I did immediately. That 's it! I've had enough now. I saw what I came to see, and don't want to see it again! I'm going back to the hotel now and going to sleep. What a night! It was great! Just what I expected it to be like. Okay, now I 've done that, seen that, wore the tee-shirt. It's time to move on to more 'sane' activities? For the rest of June, I kept my head down, rehearsed with Nash, and recorded tracks for Dark Saloon. I 'm lucky to be alive! July 1973 was a fun month. We're still on the road with Johnny Nash, but we're heading for sunnier climates now.
On July 4,1973 the Nash entourage flew to Jamaica! Yipeee! Sun, sand and sea, and girls! It was beautiful there. We played a gig there, hung around on the island for a few days, and then moved off to Miami, Florida. We were supposed to do some gigs there but got cancelled, so we spent our time rehearsing instead. We were stuck in this hotel for days, going mad after a while. The band resorted to throwing pillows, sheets, blankets, and buckets of water out of our room windows, down on to people who were arriving at the hotel, all dressed up for their parties etc. We would fill a bucket with water, peek out the window, and as soon as someone came within drenching distance, we emptied the bucket out the window, some floors up, down onto the girls and guys in their suits and expensive dresses, completely soaking them. Then we 'd hide and laugh our heads off, take a pick out the window and see them throwing their fists in the air, cursing their heads off. We took magic mushrooms, got drunk and high as a kite. I got so out of control that Terry Wilson, who was sharing a room with me, had to literally knock me out with his fists to shut me up and calm me down. I was over the top with it all. I got so mad at him, that I went and shacked up with this girl I had met in the restaurant. I should have done that sooner! She was lovely! I stayed in her room with her for days, living it up! Everyone wondered where I went, and when they tracked me down, they said it was time to go back to work, more rehearsing. So off I went. There was one good thing that happened in the hotel though. The Ike and Tina review was doing a gig in our hotel ballroom. We all got invited and after the show we hung out with them all in Tina 's room, getting high, snorting coke and getting drunk. It was cool. But in the main, we just rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed. It drove us mad!
Then on July 27th, we went to the Bahama islands to gig. We did the gig at the Holiday Inn hotel. It was a good 'do'. I got laid on the beach after the gig that night. Very nice. We smoked lots of hash oil and got drunk on Jamaican Rum. Whoa! That 's strong stuff. Then on July 30th we headed back to Miami, and opened up with a gig at the Newport Hotel, in Miami on July 31st.
August 1973, saw me still on tour with Nash in the states. We did gigs in Miami, then moved on to New York, for gigs at the famed 'Bitter End' club, once the haunt of illuminaries from the folk world, such as Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell. It was a very small tight club with a great atmosphere. Nice! Then we moved off to Los Angeles. We did a whole week at the famous 'Troubadour' club. By then Johnny Nash had me, Terry, Tony, David Keeley, and Mike Montgomery doing an opening act. We would open the show with stuff from Broken Arrows and Dark Saloon, then I 'd introduce Johnny to come on for the main set. Actually it was a horrible thing to do, opening the show. We were an all out rock and roll band, opening the show to an audience whose primary interest in coming to the show in the first place, was to hear Nash croon and groove. They weren 't ready for rock and roll, so we got a lot of boo's and "Where's Johnny! Get off!". That started to wear thin with me very quickly. After a while I just went on stage, did a bit half-ass, and then said, "Here's Johnny!" without much enthusiasm. Nash must have thought, "Thanks Rabbit, for the big build up". But I was getting tired of our opening set getting boo'ed all the time. "Fuck it!", I thought.
Anyway, during this trip to L.A. me and Tony picked up these two gorgeous chicks at a club and decided to head to the beach for some night-time fun. Problem is, we had been snorting animal tranquilliser all night at the club, and when we got to the beach, I was flying. Mental! The chick I was with was flying too, so we were going strong. When we went back to the hotel, and I went to my room with my bird, I started to flip out. I was screaming, panicking, all over the place. Tony and Terry came to the room, and when they walked in, I started screaming louder. To me they looked like 'aliens', no skin on their bodies, just raw muscles and veins. It was like I was being abducted. I was scared shitless! Tony said, throw him in the shower. They did, and turned the cold water on and stuck me under it to try and bring me round. It worked to a degree, but I was never the same after that. I was visited by aliens, I know I was! Animal tranquilliser is bad stuff! Don 't do it! Anyway, Nash heard about it and said, "Give him some downers. Knock him out for awhile and he'll get better". Well, I did come round, but I was weird from then on.
On august 23rd, we were heading for the Bahamas again. I begged Nash to stay in L.A. cause I wasn 't ready to go anywhere. I wanted to live in L.A. with this lovely blonde girl I had discovered. But no, "Rabbit, pull your head out of your ass and get ready to go to the Bahamas!". So I said, "Okay, but I'm not going without my blonde". When we arrived in Nassau, and checked into the hotel, they roomed me and my bird with Terry Wilson. This ain 't gonna work. For a start, I was still flipped out, and I had this bird with me. In order to work things out with Terry, I told the girl to go and visit Nash in his room for a bit. Wrong! Never send a girl to Nash 's room! When it dawned on me what I had just done, I ran to his room to get my girl back, and when they let me in, I was shocked. There she was, spread eagled across the bed, with George Lee, our sax player, sticking his .. right up her. He was a big African, and his.. was like a telephone pole. And Danny Simms was waiting behind George for his turn. Johnny was sitting in the chair with a great big smile on his face. He was obviously first. The girl hadn 't been in his room more than 15 minutes. I couldn't believe they would do that to my girl. But they would do it to a dog! She was loving every minute of it, so I just went back to my room even more flipped out by what I had just seen. Thanks guys! But me being a Scorpio, I was already figuring out ways to pay Johnny back. "I'll get you for this! There's a sting in my tail. Somehow, somewhere, I'll get you for this!". We did a gig at the Junkanoo Club, during the Gommbay festival. I went on an opened up the show as usual, but I had two bottles of Jamaican rum on stage with me, and I was blind drunk before I went on. We got boo 'ed so bad, I was getting madder and madder, plus the fact about the girl, and the boo 's. It was all too much. When it was time to introduce Nash, I yelled into the microphone, "Okay you bastards! If it's Johnny Nash ya'll want so bad, then you can have his fucking black ass!". He walked on stage, looked at me with a face of death, turned around to the audience and grinned his usual white teeth smile and did his set. I hardly played a note on the keys, and left it to the band to back him. I 'd hit a note occasionally, but I'd start and then stop, and sometimes didn't play anything. I was mad as hell, and he knew it! Anyway, after the show, in the dressing room, the guys said, "Rab, you've had it!" What's up?". I told them the story and said I didn't give a shit, and I was gonna quit this shit gig anyway, so fuck it! When we got back to the hotel, Nash rang my room and asked me very politely to come to his room. I went, and when I walked in, there they all were, doing it again! Except this time it was with the accountant 's wife, and he was in on it too. He let all of them have a go at his wife. I thought, "This is just too much". Johnny looked up between pokes, and said, "Rabbit, your flight ticket back to England is on the table. You're fired". Thank God, I didn't have to quit. I was going home to England, away from all this madness. Free at last! I picked up the ticket, said thanks, and left the room and Nash 's team for good. Great!
left the Bahamas on august 26, arrived on the 27th, and went straight in to the studio with Kossoff for a session on his album. Sane people at last. Then I did a session with Carol Grimes at Island (not paid) on the 30th. I 'm home! September 1973 saw me recovering from my excursion with Nash in America, so I just broke back into the session scene slowly. I was still living off the animal tranquilliser episode. I did sessions with Steve Smith (Smith, Perkins, Smith - Island), and the 'Amazing Blondel' band. I need a break from rock and roll, so I got on a boat on September 13, and headed for Sweden, paradise, and reality. I rested up with my girlfriend and her Mom and family, and did a couple of sessions while I was there too. I did a lot of work with Janne Schaffer, a famed guitarist in Sweden, in the past Nash days, so I always called him up when I went to Sweden, as I did this time, and he invited me to work with him in the studio. One of these sessions was with the unknown singers, who were later to become ABBA. At the time they were just a group of backing singers for other artists in Sweden, and were trying their luck at doing their own record, so Janne invited me on the session to play piano. Little did we all know that they would become ABBA. I had a great time in Sweden, as I always do, but had to head back for England on September 30th. What a different life this is, compared to the one I just had with Nash on tour in America. Sanity! October 1973, and I was on the mend from the 'alien' adventure in L.A finally. This month there were sessions with Sandy Denny, Owen Gray, more work on my Dark Saloon album, a Nutz album, a college gig with Bryson Brown, meetings and session with Chris Blackwell, and lots of days off to rest my head. In November 1973, I joined Long John Baldry's band for a tour supporting Rod Stewart. We spent most of this month rehearsing though, and in between, I did sessions for Jim Capaldi (Island), more Dark Saloon sessions and mixing of the album at Air London Studios. November was a month for John Baldry and Dark Saloon. Funny thing with John Baldry, is I didn 't know at the time that he was gay. I said to our guitarist, Sam, "Why does John look at me all the time, with a funny expression on his face". Sam said, "Rabbit, don't you know? He fancies you". I said, "What do you mean by that?" He said, "He's gay". Uh-oh!. "That's okay by me, just as long as I know that's what it is, then I can deal with it, and manoeuvre around it. Thanks for telling me ". In this band, we were a bunch of drunken stoned out slobs. At our gig on November 29, I broke my hand after the gig, and didn 't have a cast put on it until December 1st. I was just too drunk to get around to it. Also Rod Stewart was starting to look at us all a bit weird. We even freaked him out. We were mad! The Baldry-Faces tour took us into December 1973. Still on the road in England. I also managed a session with Roger Charles, who did a cover version of Free 's 'Wishing Well' on his album, so he roped me in to do the keyboards at Olympic Studios in Barnes. Also, on this Baldry tour, after the broken hand incident, on December 17, I managed to cut my hand bad in this broken glass of a window in the bar. Drunk as skunks! This tour was turning out mad, like the Nash tour did in the USA. On December 20th, the Long John Baldry band got fired off the tour with Rod Stewart and the Faces. All the rest of the gigs for this month were cancelled as far as our band was concerned. Things are starting to look a bit 'drunker' for my career and my life. I think I am now a fully-fledged alcoholic. Whoops! Goodbye 1973.