London, Houston, LA & back.
JANUARY 1976, ladies and gentlemen, was a 'Crawler' Year. A lot happened this year, that would put me back on track, musically, but not necessarily mentally. The years of drink and drugs had taken their toll on me, and it was holding me back quite a lot. But the true musician that I am, everything comes second place to my music, so I plodded on and got through it all. On January 1 1976, I wanted to surprise my parents by just showing up in Houston, without even letting them know I was coming to visit. I wanted it to be a big surprise, so I just got on a plane and flew to Houston, I told no one what I was up to. Anyway, on the flight over, I got drunk out of my head. When we landed at Houston international airport, I decided that I should rent a car and drive out to mom and dad's place and spring the big surprise on then. I never made it out of the airport. The rent a car guys took one look at what state I was in, and no way were they gonna let me have a car. I caused a big stink, and raised Hell with them, but got nowhere. I was stranded in the airport. So I had to call my big brother, Bill, to come and get me. He said okay, but was a little pissed off that I had just shown up out of the blue, and drunk at that. I went outside the front of the airport to wait for him to pick me up. But trouble was around the corner. It was gonna take Bill awhile to get there, so being as tired and drunk as I was, I decided to just put my bags down on the concrete, lay down beside them and go to sleep. I was in full view, so I knew Bill would see me and wake me up. The trouble is that he wasn't the first one to see me. A Houston police officer pulled up first, and saw me lying there like a vagrant. He came over to me and woke me up and said, "Hey boy! This ain't no park. You can't sleep here. You gotta move on". I told him I was waiting for my brother to pick me up, but I was so drunk that he couldn't understand a word I was saying. The cop got a bit stroppy and demanded to search my bags. After all I did look like a drugged out hippie at the time, so I went fumbling through my bags for him and I stumbled with a can of shaving cream in my hand, and it went flying in his direction. He accused me of throwing it at him and causing an affray and being a public nuisance, and that I was to get in his police car. I was being arrested. I pleaded with him and told him my plot to surprise my parents, but he just wouldn't go for it. He said, "Get in the car"! I said to him, "You're a fat bastarding pig, you bastard"! Wrong thing to say. He said, "What did you call me, boy?!" I said, "A fat pig!" I was mad, so was he. All of a sudden the handcuffs were on and just as he was putting me in his car, my brother Bill pulled up behind the police car. Bill saw what was going on and pleaded with the cop that now he was there, he could take me home and keep me out of trouble. The cop said, "No way sir. He's just called me a Fat Pig. He's going to jail for the night!" no amount of pleading helped, so off to jail I went. Bill just had to go back home. The cop took me to the Houston City jail, and threw me in a communal cell with lots of weird looking characters. I had a bit of a funny accent by then, sort of English-American, and they thought I was a weirdo too. So it was watch your backside time in that cell. I didn't sleep all night for fear of what could happen. I just stood up all night with my back to the wall. It was Hell!
The next morning I was taken out to go before the judge, and once it was decided by them that I was no real threat, they said I could go. Only problem is, how? From the police station I phoned my mom and dad. When they answered they were surprised. Mom said, "John, it sounds like you're next door. It's a very clear line." Remember that they thought I was in England. So I sprung the big surprise on them now. I said, "No mom, I'm in Houston. I've come to surprise you and dad." She said, "Well, where are you?" when I told here, "I'm in jail, at the police station. Can ya'll come and get me?" she went quiet for a second, then I heard her yell, away from the phone, "Dad, Dad, it's john. He's in jail in Houston! He's in jail! He's in jail!" then I heard her crying. They came to pick me up and took me back to the lakehouse. Boy, did my surprise plan work or what!?...Terry and Tony just happened to be back in Houston as well, with Koss and Terry Slesser (singer) and was using Houston as a base for their new band with Koss for awhile. They had let Mike Montgomery go, and were really there to recruit me in 'Crawler' so it's just as well that I was there, in one shape or another. I met up with them, in between the times that I went Country and Western clubbing with my other brother Sam. I was out on the town. I went back and forth from Houston and my mom and dad's place to sleep, so it was a bit topsy-turvy for them I know. My big surprise visit turned more into a refuge from hanging out in Houston all night. Crawler had just been signed by Atlantic Records, and were in the states to do some recording and rehearsing, so on January 8, 1976, I decided it was a good idea to join Crawler, and get stuck in to making some music again. I would put England on hold for a while and see what would happen in America once more. We started rehearsing in Houston and I stayed at the Roadrunner Inn. We rehearsed loads, did a few local gigs around Houston, and then on January 24, we headed off for Detroit. I was in a working band again, and on the move. Yipee! We gigged in Detroit on the 25th, and then on the 26th we moved to Los Angeles. California, here I come again! We settled in L.A., went deep sea fishing, met up with old friends, and then started recording our next album in earnest at Kyndon Studios on February 1st, 1976. Our first song we recorded was a Terry Wilson song, 'Sweet, Sweet Beauty'. Lovely track!
FEBRUARY 1976, Recording was going good, although we were having trouble with Koss. We kept having to physically throw the drug dealers out of his room all the time. It was a bit like when Free recorded Heartbreaker. Same old scenario. So we just rang up Snuffy again, who lived in L.A. at the time, and he gladly came in to help us with the guitar parts that Koss wasn't around to do. Nothing stops us Texans. We're gonna do it, with or without you; but we're gonna do it! On February 2 we recorded 2 of my songs, 'Crazy Women' and 'On Your Life', which is a song that Jess Rhoden had done a brilliant version of in 1972. On the 3rd we did one of Tony 's songs, 'Stop What You're Doing', which in hindsight, looks like it could've been aimed at Koss. It's an angry sort of tune and very effective. Crawler kept recording up to February 9 and then we stopped and got ready to go out on the road and gig. We had 3 days off so we partied like mad! Then on February 13th headed for Kansas City, the first gig of our new Crawler tour of the USA. Great! We 're doing it again! We made it to New York on the 15th, and took some time off to record some more for the album. From the 15th to the 19th the band recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York. Then on the 20th we hit the road again, starting in New Jersey. Then 4 more studio dates at Electric Ladyland in New York, then on to Connecticut on the 26th for more gigs. After a couple of days break in Houston, we all flew back to L.A. on March 1 1976. Crawler had a gig at the Starwood Club on March 1st at midnight and then at 3am we were back in Kyndon Studios for recording. We worked like this for 3 days, until March 4th. Then we had a couple of days off, so we all went, along with our friend Snuffy Walden, to see B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland perform 'live' together at the Coconut Grove club. Fantastic night that was. They were brilliant! Real blues man! After that show, we were all so drunk, that as we left the club, of all things, a petty fight broke out between Snuffy, Terry, and the rest of us. We were chasing each other down the street, yelling, cussing at each other, trying to throw punches (but never managing to hit anyone), and just ripping it up! It must have just been adrenaline and energy and booze coming out after such a fine show we had all just seen. It was fun, nobody got hurt, and nobody took it seriously. No harm done. On the 9th we switched studios to Sunset Sounds, and recorded more stuff from the 9th to the 16th. Then on March 18th 1976, according to my diaries, tragedy of all tragedies happened. Paul Kossoff died! He was only 24 or 25 years old I think. Everybody knows the story, but he died on the airplane back to London, via New York, in the toilet of the plane. Mysteries surround the cause of his death. Was it a heart attack? Was it a blood clot? Was it a drugs overdose?, or was it all 3 put together? I think the general feeling now days is that it was a blood clot in his leg, but I 'm no doctor, and I wasn't there, but on my way to Houston instead, so even I don't know exactly what happened. I just know that Koss is dead! That's really the end, the finish. He ain't coming back from this one! It's also the end of Crawler as we know it. It's all over in a flash! We did, however, manage to finish our album, 'Second Street', and it was released on Atlantic Records, but as far as promoting it at this time, we were dead in the water. I went on to Houston for the rest of March, to rest and get over the tragedy, and visit my Mom and Dad. We had all just had a huge shock, and the band was scattered all over the states. It's time to leave it all behind for now and re-group later to try and salvage the situation, or at least to figure out what we all should do next.
On April 1, 1976, I flew back to London and moved house with my girlfriend to Battersea. Times were getting strange. I bought me an old upright piano for £265 from a shop in Chiswick, and had it moved into my house, so I could just sit and bang on it, reflect, and see if I could use the tragedy as a creative source for writing some more songs. Terry, Tony, and Sless had also returned to England, so we were at least all still together. We got together with one of their mates, G.T. MOORE, and did some sessions, rehearsals, and some little pub gigs, just to get back into things. Then on April 17, the remaining Crawler decided to get together again at a rehearsal studio called The Tunnel, 74 Great Suffolk Street, Blackfriar's Bridge, and just the 4 of us knock out some stuff to see what we could pull together. Without a guitarist it was hopeless, but we were mainly doing it to keep ourselves in touch with each other, with the idea in mind that we would replace Koss with another guitarist and carry on as Crawler. So we would get in shape, and then hold auditions for another guitar player. After we did audition a few guitarists, it wasn't working out. But then, in walked Geoffrey Whitehorn. We all took one look at him and before he even played a note on his guitar, we all looked at each other and nodded and winked, "There's the guy. There's our new guitarist". We were in communicado, so he didn't notice our nods and winks, but we knew we had a band again right then. Geoff plugged in, we played, and he confirmed our thoughts. He slipped on and in the band just like a warm glove. We've done it! We've got a new Crawler! Let's go guys! In the meantime I took on more session work with Sandy Denny, and this along with rehearsing the new Crawler took us to the end of April. It's all falling back into place, slowly but surely. We'll get there somehow, remember, we are from Texas!
MAY-JUNE-July 1976, more sessions for Rabbit. I took onboard this time, John Kongos, more G.T. Moore work with Terry and Tony, sessions with Chris Dimitri at Decca Studios, more Sandy Denny studio work, and started sessioning with Andy Fairweather-Lowe and Glen Johns at Olympic Studios. In between this all, Crawler carried on rehearsing. We had meetings with managers, and generally got stuck in. As a side kick me, Terry and Tony, along with Lord Ted Bunting on sax, were doing pub gigs around the town with G.T. Moore, under the guise as the 'Rhythm Tramps'. It was all good clean fun. Musicians having a bash. Great! Crawler did a handful of gigs around England, but nothing strenuous for now.
June 1976 was a bit more of the same, except things were starting to accelerate. I was still doing the Andy Fairweather-Lowe sessions, G.T. Moore stuff, Sandy Denny, and Crawler were still doing a few gigs around Britain. On June 12, Crawler went into Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales to do some demos and track laying. We recorded for a week and then did a couple of more gigs. It was all going pretty well, although on an amateur sort of level. We'd seen the 'big time' before, so we knew we were looking ahead, and not behind us. Then on June 20th, I decided to have a break, so I headed off to Stockholm, Sweden for another visit to my memories of the Johnny Nash days in 1971-72, to visit old friends, and to try and find my youth and creative sources again. To re-charge my battery is how I think most people put it. Sweden was my beginning, so I always like going back there to re-live my inspirations of the time, and try to drag them into the present to enable me to carry on with this roller-coaster of a business. It helps a lot, going back to Stockholm. I love it there. I went there at the right age, when everything I was doing was new to me, so I use those times as a well that I can dip back into in order to refresh an otherwise stale situation.
JULY had a little bit of a slower pace going on. I liked it, and need to slow down a bit anyway. A couple of Crawler gigs took place, and the pub gigs with the Rhythm Tramps was still going on, but there was a lot of days off, which I used to reflect, do nothing, work on my own stuff at home, and just chill-out a bit. Crawler did some gigs in Germany at Rotz, near Nuremberg, some outdoor festivals. There 's a funny story here. When we left Germany to fly back to England, I was so drunk at the airport that the airlines wouldn't let me board the plane. They said to the other guys, "He's not getting on our airplane. You'll have to find him another way to get back to England." So Terry directed me to another airline and he convinced them to let me get on their plane instead. They said yes, so off the other guys went, leaving me to my own devices and I had to sort it out myself, as far as making sure I made the right flight, and could get home at the other end of it. When Terry and the others landed at Heathrow, he thought he 'd better taxi over to my house and tell my girlfriend what the score was. That I'd be coming in later on another flight, because I couldn't get on their plane. But, lo' and behold, as Terry was arriving I his taxi, he looked out of the cab window, and just stared in disbelief. There I was, riding my bike, coming home from the pub. He couldn't believe it, and neither could I. I beat them all home. They thought I was still in the air, but my flight had beat theirs to Heathrow, I got home before they did, had been to the pub already, and was making my way back to my house on my bike. My girlfriend didn't even know what happened at the German airport. She was none the wiser. I kept my mouth shut, came home and went to the pub to get drunk again. No problems there, mate!... For the rest of July, I spent my time doing more sessions with Sandy Denny, and album with Speedy Keen, of Thunderclap Newman fame (We all Got to Get it Together Now), along with Terry and Tony, and had the rest of the time off in the pub. Nice one!
AUGUST-December 1976, more peaceful pace. Sessions with Sandy Denny, Speedy Keen, John Kongos, and Crawler. More Rhythm Tramps pub gigs, and Crawler rehearsals. I suppose the only really odd thing that happened this month was when me, Terry, and Tony got asked by Van Morrisson to join him for an audition to play in his band. The rehearsal-audition took place at a dump called the Cabin, in London. I was reluctant to do it in the first place because I'd always heard what a 'dick' Van was, and how hard he was to work for, and he wasn't my favorite artist of all time anyway, but decided to do it for Terry and Tony's sake. I'd thought, "I'll go with the flow, for their sakes, and see what happens". Well, just as I expected, nothing much did happen. There the three of us were in this horrible dank room, perched behind our instruments, and in walks Van the Man. He was just an arrogant fellow. Pushy, stark, to the point, rough and rude. We played for awhile, and decided to have a break. We'd join up in 30 minutes after some lunch. Well, Van should have never taken that break, cause that was my way out! He left the room and I said to the guys, "He's a complete jerk! If ya'll want to work with him go ahead, but I'm not. He's too arrogant for me. I'm going to the pub across the street. Ya'll decide for yourselves what you want to do, but if I ain't back in 30 minutes, then I ain't coming back at all". 30 minutes later, when Van returned to the rehearsal room, he got his answer as to whether we wanted to be in his band or not. He returned to an empty room. We were nowhere to be found. I just stayed in the pub, got drunk, and said "Fuck it!, I'm off home". The guys said, "Aren't you gonna even go back and tell him your not interested"? I said, "Nope!, I'm so 'not' interested, I can't even be bothered to tell him so". Whether they went back out of politeness or not, I don't know, but I went home and forgot about it all. End of story! No way! Not my cup of tea, mate!...
SEPTEMBER was even slower. I think I was winding down, and beginning to get critical about the work I took on. I was getting tired of playing with just anybody that rang on the phone. I did carry on with my session work though. I love it. I sessioned with Chris Dimitri, Crawler, Steve Smith, and Murray Head, and did the Rhythm Tramps pub thing, and just took lots of time off in September. I was getting lazy!...
OCTOBER picked up quite a bit more. My interest in working with Glen Johns took the forefront. I got stuck in with the Andy Fairweather-Lowe thing and gave him a lot of my time in the studio, did some more stuff with Chris Dimitri, some sessions with Ian Green (Polydor), lots of stuff with Glen Johns, and a bunch of Crawler rehearsing. In fact I would say that the better part of October was spent in the studio with Glen, doing sessions for Andy, Joan Armatrading, and people like that, who were being produced by Glen. For the time being, I was Glen 's piano player. I was rehearsing with Crawler everyday from 12 noon to 6pm, then I would go to Olympic Studios in Barnes and do sessions from 7:30pm with Glen. Working all day and night, I was! Fantastic! I was happy, off the road and in the studio, my second home. Also, at the end of this month is when Glen introduced me to Pete Townshend, to fix it for me to play keys on Pete's and Ronnie Lane's album-Rough Mix. Things are looking up!...
NOVEMBER 1976 saw the start of recording for the Rough Mix album, with Glen Johns, Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane. I could feel the 'big time' calling me again. Something was bubbling underneath that was getting ready to explode, in the near future. I worked from November 1st to the 18th on the Rough Mix album, and at the end of it I picked up a check from Pete's office for Â£420 for my time in the studio. Not much I know, but it was to lead on to bigger and better things. Aside from the low wage, doing the album was a great learning experience with Pete, and I was making 'Big Boys' music finally. My persistence is gonna pay off soon! The rest of November was taken up by sessions with Chris Dimitri, Crawler, and Kenny Young. So all in all it was a Pete Townshend month. Pete took me to a party one night after our session, at Ronnie Wood 's house in London. They were all there, Ronnie Wood, Ameht Erdigan (president Atlantic Records), Pete, Mick Jagger, the guys from Monty Python 's Flying Circus, and lots of drugs, booze and pretty girls. I had an argument with Mick Jagger though. There was a Wurlitzer electric piano in the house, and I had been snorting a mixture of cocaine and heroin, which somebody so kindly fixed up for me. Being a stranger to these sort of gatherings, I did what I usually do when I don 't know anyone personally, am shy or embarrassed or just plain stoned out of my head. I jumped on the piano and started entertaining myself. After a bit, Mick came over to the piano, pushed me out of the way with a bump from his ass, and said, "That's no good, man! Listen to this". I reckon he must have been up there too. Anyway, it pissed me off, so I said, "Fuck you too man!", and in my embarrassment, and my stoned out head, I headed for the bathroom. Being a water sign, whenever I am in distress I head for water. I needed calming down from the headiness of the dope and the company I was in. I went into the bathroom, filled the bath up with cold water, and laid down in it, fully clothed, holding my nose, and put my head under the water. It felt great. Somebody came into the bathroom, and saw me under the water. They ran out of the bathroom yelling, "Hey, there's a guy in the bath tub. It looks like he's trying to drown himself!" Pete and a couple of the others came rushing in only to find out it was just me. They started laughing and saying, "Rabbit's trying to drown himself. Why are you trying to drown yourself Rabbit"? To be honest, I didn't know. In fact I didn't even know that it looked like I was trying to drown myself. As far as I was concerned, I was just clearing my head a bit, trying to get this cocaine-heroine mix to wear off quicker. I'd never done it before, and tonight was the wrong time and place to try it. It sent me lop-sided, so I thought if I got under the water, it might make it go away faster. I got out of the bath, soaking wet, went back into the room where everybody was, and they had all forgotten it by now. It was an old joke. Time for them to move on with their part. I knew I had enough, so I didn't even say goodbye to anybody. I just sunk out of the front door and walked home. Lucky for me, Ronnie 's place was only about a 30-minute walk from where I lived. So I stumbled home, not knowing what I was doing there in the first place, bumped into a policeman, asked him where Battersea was, he said, "Are you okay"? I said, "Yeah, just tired." He pointed me in the right direction, I got home, went to bed, and the next thing I knew, it was daylight. Time to get up! How do those guys manage to carry on such a lifestyle and get their work done at the same time. Oh yeah, on November 30, I also sold my lovely blue Jaguar for Â£50. It didn't run, I couldn't afford to get it fixed, so I sold it for junk...
December took me and my girlfriend on yet another house move. We moved to 5 New End Square, Hampstead. Nice place. December was more session time, with work for Bill Wyman (the Arrows band at Island), rehearse and record a Frankie Miller album produced by Chris Thomas at Air London Studios, Oxford Street, and a session with Eric Malamud (Island). The whole month was really allocated to doing the Frankie Miller album. He 's a fine singer and a great bloke to hang out with. He loves to laugh. Frankie's album was called 'Full House'. Nice album! That's it folks for 1976. Again there's much I didn't tell, but in reality, there's 'too' much to tell. Let's move on to 1977.