“It’s a mighty long way down the dusty trail …”
So wrote Ian Hunter back in 1973 in ‘All the Way From Memphis’, the band’s second top-10 single, Mott the Hoople by then firmly established, barely a year after they considered splitting.
In their case, David Bowie’s gift of ‘All the Young Dudes’ made the difference, the Brixton-born Bromley boy – on the back of success with Hunky Dory – seeing something in this formidable outfit on his first Mott live sighting in my Surrey hometown in April ’72 that others were seemingly slow to grasp.
But that dusty trail was littered with many a rock’n’roll casualty, and among them was a band by the name of Stoned Rose that supported Mott at Liverpool Stadium a year before that pivotal Guildford Civic Hall date (that story retold by Campbell Devine’s splendid 2019 Rock’n’Roll Sweepstakes authorised biography from Omnibus Press). However, don’t think for one moment the band would be bitter about any of that. One would go on to make his name – several years down the line – with Ultravox, and it turns out that this Preston-based outfit would still be remembered five decades on.
And here follows the amazing tale of the two Lancashire lads behnd that band, who paid their dues on that late ‘60s/early ‘70s music scene, playing with an array of big-name acts without breaking through, and going on to score a surprise hit 10,000 miles from home.
Then, half a century after recording their initial demo tapes, one of their early tracks was picked up again, getting a debut official release, much to the surprise of surviving co-founder Pete Hughes.
The name Stoned Rose might not mean much to you, wondering if you’ve misheard and I might be talking about a certain Manchester band who shook up the international scene in the late ‘80s. But in a sense that was, as Ian Brown suggested, ‘The Resurrection’, with the band I’m focusing on making their name at the tail-end of the ‘60s, straight out of Bamber Bridge and Ribbleton, Preston.
Their story was largely forgotten … until now, with the imminent release of a new compilation from Grapefruit, the David Wells-fronted bespoke psych/garage-era imprint of Cherry Red Records, including previously-unreleased Stoned Rose track ‘Day to Day’.
Grapefruit has built a reputation of late for career anthologies and definitive versions of rare and classic LPs from 1966-70 packaged with eye-catching artwork, rare photos, detailed liner-notes and master-tape sound quality.
And its 53-track I’m A Freak Baby 3: A Further Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene, 1968-1973 triple-CD boxset – in a clamshell box with a lavish 40-page booklet – is no exception, the third instalment of pioneering hard rock from the nascent British underground including acts synonymous with the stoner, free festival element of the counterculture, such as seminal underground stalwarts Mick Farren and The Deviants, Edgar Broughton Band, Pink Fairies, and Hawkwind.
Then there are those heard honing their sound before finding success, such as an embryonic Deep Purple, a teenage Free, first-LP Thin Lizzy, Lemmy fronting Sam Gopal, pre-fame Mott the Hoople, and old-stagers The Yardbirds’ 1968 live take on ‘Dazed And Confused’, a song Jimmy Page would take on to his next band.
You’ll also find UFO, Nazareth, Uriah Heep, Chicken Shack, Stackwaddy and Procol Harum, among others, and many acts long since attracting record collector interest, their LPs now going for huge sums. And then there are those that wouldn’t get as far as attracting record companies, with Stoned Rose among them.
There’s no denying that Pete Hughes, now 70, is made up with his band’s inclusion, but there’s added poignancy, Stoned Rose co-founder Mick ‘Caz’ Carroll having died in late 2018, aged 68.
“He’d have been buzzing about this. He would have found it unbelievable, someone picking up on something we did 50 years ago and considering it good enough to be put on a very credible album. Like me, he would have been philosophical about it – he wouldn’t have been jumping up and down, thinking, ’Wow, we’re going to be pop stars again’. But it’s nice for people to hear what we were doing in those days. It deserved to be heard at the time.
“And it’s not like it’s coming out on next-door-but-one’s record label. It’s going out all over the world. Mick was the lead singer, and his vocal on ‘Day to Day’ is fantastic. He had a fabulous voice, and back then it was more Robert Plant-like. And we carried on writing songs from there, touring the world.”
Was there a day-job outside music for father and grandfather Mick?
“When we did all the Ritzi stuff and before, we were full-time. But he had a degree in psychology, studying while in the band, going to college, then working at Runshaw College, Leyland for quite a few years, helping students, trained in counselling. He was good at that and very popular. And at his funeral there were so many people, it was unbelievable.”
Pete was out walking his dog near his home in Walton-le-Dale when I called, telling me ‘songwriting partner and musical cohort’ Mick had been a close friend ‘since we were kids’, the pair initially forming One Step Beyond in 1967, that outfit in time becoming Stoned Rose. But how did it all start?
“We met at Preston Catholic College. Somehow, we both passed our 11-plus in 1962. I was from Bamber Bridge, he was from Ribbleton. We became friends around ‘63/’64, writing songs together from a very early age. We had two things in common that we loved – music and Preston North End.”
A self-taught player, Pete – whose first major influence was The Shadows, learning their songs and buying sheet music as he sharpened his playing skills – has fond memories of the Watkins Rapier electric guitar his parents bought him not long after his 12th birthday in late 1962 from Greenwood’s music shop.
“I’d look at it in the window going to school in Winckley Square, drooling. I adored it, and Mum and Dad bought it for me that Christmas. My cousin was older and we lived together at one stage. He was into Marty Wilde, early Cliff Richard, Billy Fury. I liked all that but when I heard ‘Wonderful Land’ and ‘Apache’, it completely blew me away. Until this day it still does whenever I hear those songs, still getting that magic feeling.
“Mick’s first big influence was The Kinks. I’d stop over at his house when we were kids, around 1964. and we’d try to emulate them. The other big influence on me as a songwriter was Bob Dylan. I loved his songs and those abstract lyrics that created such imagery.”
Were you always aware of Mick’s voice, or did it take a while for him to gain that confidence?
“He was always a confident singer. First time we got on stage together was at a Mormon chapel on Ribbleton Lane, which was actually more like a scout hall. My uncle was a Mormon bishop and some of my family were Mormons. There was me, Mick and two girls, playing acoustic guitars, doing around four songs we’d written.”
With the addition of drummer John McAuley – these days in good stead and based in Southport, Pete tells me – they formed One Step Beyond, initial bass player Alan Smith in time replaced by Steve Woodworth, who was on board for around a year until he went to university in London, the band soon becoming Stoned Rose.
“We put an advert in Melody Maker, had answers from all over the country, and ultimately got a guy from Tottenham, Chris Allen, who after Stoned Rose split, returned to London, met Dennis Leigh and formed Tiger Lily, who after a couple of years got a deal with Island Records and became Ultravox. The rest is history.”
There were several name changes before New York Dolls-influenced glam-rockers Tiger Lily became Ultravox! and then Ultravox, by which time Dennis – originally from Chorley, Lancashire, but studying at the RCA – was known as John Foxx and Chris, who first became Chris St John, was Chris Cross. But that’s another story. Right now, I’m more intrigued how Stoned Rose tempted Chris up to Lancashire in the first place. Preston must have been a bit of a backwater for this North London lad back then.
“It would have been. But we became very good mates and I got to know his Mum and Dad, as we’d sometimes go down to Tottenham. His brother, Jeff Allen, was the drummer in Hello, who had a couple of hits, the biggest ‘New York Groove’. I always thought it amazing that two working-class kids from Turnpike Lane ended up on Top of the Pops with different groups. And I knew Tiger Lily from day one, and recall being at Chris’ house when he got to know Dennis, Billy Currie and Warren Cann.”
Is there truth in the rumour that a certain band from Manchester picked up on your band name and a decade or so after you split twisted it a little for their own?
“Ha! Cherry Red asked that, and I haven’t a clue. It’s just one of those things. It could just have been an amazing coincidence. If a band out of Southern California had come up with The Stone Roses, you’d think fair play. But when it’s a band 30 miles down the road from where we were, and the fact that we used to play in Manchester and Liverpool quite a lot …
“The guys in that band would have been to young, but I always thought maybe one of the dads, uncles or older brothers might have seen or heard of us. It was an unusual name. I suspect someone remembered it. But it’s possibly just coincidence.”
And five decades later it turns out that Stoned Rose haven’t been forgotten anyway, Pete sending three tracks recorded on a reel-to-reel demo tape to set the ball rolling for a much-belated release, telling me, “It came out quite well seeing as there was no production or studio – it was just recorded live.”
What’s more, he’s hoping there may be more good news soon, Cherry Red interested in putting out a limited-edition vinyl LP.
“We only have three songs recorded by One Step Beyond, but I’ve 11 by Stoned Rose, five with Chris Allen on bass. Whether that happens or not I don’t know, but it’s work in progress.”
Did you see your original groups as psychedelic rock bands?
“We did more psychedelic type material with One Step Beyond, for instance a song called ‘Heaven Is Pink Primroses and is Everyone’s Sunset’.”
Was that around the time Status Quo had their hit with ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’?
“Yes, in fact we played with Quo just after. Psychedermic, we’d call all that! The songs were a bit hippie. It was that era. We did around 50% our songs, 50% covers, songs like ‘Paper Sun’. We started out around the youth clubs of Preston, getting promoted into working men’s clubs, getting a bit more money. By ‘68 we were playing lots of clubs in Liverpool, doing regular gigs at the original Cavern, the Blue Angel, Litherland Town Hall, all those iconic ‘60s venues. Around 1969, the band split, morphing into the heavier Stoned Rose, performing songs we had as One Step Beyond and new material.”
Always a live draw, Stoned Rose featured in Sounds and shared bills with lots of big-name bands. Why did they split? Were they just not getting a break?
“We played all around the country – in Peterborough one night, Brighton the next, then London. We were all over, living in the van, with no money to stay in hotels. If we turned up at a gig we’d try to get someone to put us up. We played with loads of bands, doing lots of gigs with Blonde on Blonde, Quiver before they became the Sutherland Brothers, Lindisfarne, Fairport Convention.
“But the bands that stood out to me who became well known included Canned Heat, who we did a gig with when they were over from America, playing Manchester Uni not long before Al Wilson died. And as well as Status Quo, who became massive, there was Judas Priest – who were on the same level but went on to unbelievable success – and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. And he was a wild guy!”
I’m not sure many venues would get the insurance to put him on today, what with his legendary pyro-antics.
“Possibly not. I remember he started his show on a cross, leaping off amid a load of strobe lights. He was great, a real one-off. And I still do a lot of work with another iconic guy from that era, Geno Washington, still going strong.”
More of all that shortly, but first, how about the band Pete felt stood out among all the others in those days, a legendary outfit with Herefordshire roots, sharing a bill on Saturday, April 3rd, 1971, on a night that legendary Mancunian, CP Lee’s breakthrough band also featured … and all for 65p.
“We only played with Mott the Hoople once, at Liverpool Stadium. Chris Allen was in the band then, before they made it, before ‘All the Young Dudes’ was a hit. But they were already a cult band. We did this gig with them and a bunch of other bands, including Greasy Bear, an up-and-coming band from Manchester. We went on immediately before Mott, did a good set, went down well and were buzzing, thinking we were the bee’s knees, saying to each other, ‘Let’s see if they can follow that’.
“They were in the same dressing room, getting the thigh-length boots on, all that stuff. Me and Caz went out, sat in the crowd, Mott the Hoople came on, opened up and within 30 seconds or so it was, ‘OK boys, back to the drawing board. This is how a real band does it.’
“They were absolutely brilliant, they blew us away, the best band I’d seen at that time. But one thing I will say which was in their favour – though it doesn’t necessarily make you a better band – we turned up with a 100 watt Marshall PA system, as everyone had to use their own, but they had a 1,000 watt PA. Bands play in pubs now with that wattage, but fucking hell … it was mind-blowing!”
Stoned Rose battled on, but perhaps luck had deserted them, Pete and Mick soon seeking another way to try and make it.
“When Stoned Rose split, we decided to concentrate on songwriting, without a band, to see if we could get a publishing deal rather than a record deal. We were always good songwriters – more so than being great musicians. We’d knock around with Judas Priest, and were with an agency in Birmingham run by Tony Iommi, us and Priest the main upcoming bands.
“But it was wrong place, wrong time, and one thing led to another, so eventually we decided to write something Frank Sinatra or anyone could sing. And Ritzi was more about quality pop songs, played in various styles. We weren’t rock or heavy metal.
“We recorded an acoustic demo, five songs, and hawked it around London, meeting various publishing companies, getting quite a lot of interest and going with April Music, the publishing arm of CBS. That led us to do a lot of demos at CBS’ studios just off Tottenham Court Road in London, just me and Mick with a session drummer, keyboard player and various other session players.
“And the very first song written in that genre was ‘Too Much Fandango’, the most successful song we ever did. April Music struck a deal with Warner Bros to release it, with a song called ‘Wrongly Accused’ on the B-side. That came out in the UK to fantastic reviews, but Radio 1’s playlist panel turned it down. And if you didn’t get on that at the time, you might as well forget it.
“It did get one or two plays when it came out and was starting to sell, but they didn’t have the same independent radio stations in those days. I think if it had been played on Radio 1 it would have been a hit. But there you go. It did however become a big hit in Australia in 1975, where it did get radio airplay.
“When we did that, we didn’t even have a band – it was me, Caz and these session musicians, including the violin player from the Electric Light Orchestra. There was also a Spanish version, ‘Mucho Fandango’, by an Israeli all-girl band, that proved popular in Spain, our song also making the lower end of the charts for Ritzi in Argentina.”
I should add that according to the discogs.com listing, the Spanish language version was actually called ‘Demasiado Fandango’.
In time, Ritzi would also involve Fylde-based Phil Enright, aka Phil Free, who they’d initially approached to join Stoned Rose before taking on Chris Allen. He’d turned them down and moved to Canada at the time. Which seems a bit extreme.
Ritzi’s success led to a London move, rehearsing at renowned West London studio NOMIS and living in a Kensington mews-house owned by an Australian couple, fans of the band who were only too happy for them to be there.
“We did lots of other styles with Ritzi, not just acoustic or violin-based. We were more synthesiser-orientated as we got more into the ‘80s. In time, me and Caz were joined by Phil, drummer Pete ‘The Fong’ Long (and before that Steve Wilks), and Chris Skornia on keyboards, who later joined The Boyfriends then saw success with The Truth (as led by Nine Below Zero singer Dennis Greaves). And he was replaced by Nigel Sawyer from Swindon, a friend of XTC’s who it was rumoured they had in mind with ‘Making Plans for Nigel’.”
There are a few Ritzi numbers online, the most recent, ‘The Stroll’, just involving Pete and Mick, recording with The Lurkers’ Nigel Moore (bass) and ‘Manic Esso’ (drums), with added keyboard from Nigel Sawyer, who died in September 2019, shortly before Mick Carroll.
By the early ‘80s though, Pete had swapped Ritzi for a new career as an agent, booking many famous bands down the years. He now works for Rock Artist Management, having known colleague with Pete Barton since the latter’s days in the band Cavern, who were fronted by stalwart John Lennon tribute act Gary Gibson.
“When we came back from London, my girlfriend at the time said this band was playing at The Moonraker, a big Preston pub. So we went to see Cavern, with Gary Gibson the lead singer. I became their manager, having lots of connections in London. They thought of themselves as a local band, but I thought more of them. Me and Caz wrote songs for them and I got them a record deal. They brought out ‘No Reason to Cry’, a three-song EP we wrote that got Radio 1 airplay, Mike Read becoming a good friend.
“I then went to New York for the first time – I got a train from Bamber Bridge to Preston, another to Manchester Airport, got on a plane to Newark, New Jersey, got on a bus to a bus station in central Manhattan, walking out of there not knowing whether to turn left or right, not knowing a soul. But that week I met an agent, Pat George from Boston, a friend of a friend who arranged to meet me, signing a contract there and then for Cavern to do a four-week stint at the Forty Thieves club in Hamilton, Bermuda that July.
“Pete Barton had just joined Cavern – he was about 19 – and in time became a successful agent himself. Where I went with Ritzi Artist Management, Pete formed Rock Artist Management, and we always stayed close.”
The two Petes remain busy on that front, working with the likes of promoter AGMP, their current clientele including The Boomtown Rats, The Blockheads, Blow Monkeys, the afore-mentioned Geno Washington, Hawkwind, Bad Manners, Toyah Willcox, and From The Jam.
And both still play to this day, pandemics aside, with Pete H occasionally out on the road for ‘60s circuit outfit The New Mindbenders, with Chris Jopson, Clarke Taylor and Alan Davis.
“The band started out backing Wayne Fontana. But we were playing in a band called The Shout, featuring former members of Cavern, whom I managed. We put a band together, with Pete Barton on lead vocals and Graham Pollock on guitar, and I ended up on guitar. Wayne saw us play a music festival in a Blackpool holiday camp, a ‘60s week with different headliners every night. I think we were playing The Star, by the Pleasure Beach, and he turned up to watch us, offering us the gig to back him.
“I didn’t actually play with Wayne. I was with The Easybeats at the same time, but when I left them, Wayne had come away from that band. Sadly, his wife had died. But the band decided to continue and wanted me to rejoin.
“That was around 1985, and then Eric Haydock joined us, a founder member of The Hollies. By then, Pete (Barton) was on drums, singing lead vocals until he left to join The Swinging Blue Jeans, so we needed a drummer and a singer, and Mick (Carroll) had the perfect voice for singing those Hollies songs. And because The Hollies had so many hits, we changed the name to the Eric Haydock Band.”
Incidentally, the two Petes have also had links down the years with Slade, and were lined up to play shows with Don Powell after his much-publicised fall-out with Dave Hill last year, before the Covid lockdown and Don’s health saw those gigs put back … at least for a while.
Looking back on those Ritzi years and everything before and after, was it as your big hit suggested, a case of ‘too much fandango, tequila and tango’ in the end? Or did you never get to live that life?
“I think we pretty much did.”
You practiced what you preached?
“We certainly tried to. And when I look back at my career … I’ve been in the music business since 1967, originally part-time, then full-time with Stoned Rose onwards – although I did a brief stint of working for about six to nine months in 1978 – I’ve managed to make a living out of music and being a musician, or being an agent, or a bit of both.”
What was that brief day job?
“I worked at Baxi’s in Bamber Bridge. I was signing on but didn’t want a job, went to the dole office and they sent me down to Baxi’s for an interview. I thought I’d be alright – they wouldn’t want to take me on. I think it was a Thursday or Friday. I showed total disinterest in what they said, then they hit me with, ‘OK, that’s fine, start at 7.30 on Monday’. What! I had to do it, or they’d have stopped my dole money. And I did quite enjoy it.”
Did that sharpen your resolve to carry on in music?
“Yes, and even when I look at my contemporaries like Chris (Allen), who made serious money – and I know a lot of people who did – I’ve no regrets.”
Did you not think, ‘That could have been me’, or were you always happy with your lot?
“I was never jealous of anyone. That’s not in my nature. I always thought, ‘Good on you!’. And Chris is a great guy. Besides, when I look back, I find it remarkable how from picking up that guitar when I was 11 or 12, if I’d never done that, my life would have been so different. I never achieved mega-fame or fortune, but I’ve always made a good living out of it. And when I look back at what I’ve done, it amazes me. I’ve been all over the world – Europe and Scandinavia, the Far East, America, Australia, all these places …”
So you did finally get Down Under, the land of your biggest hit.
“Yes, we did two tours of Australia as members of the Eric Haydock Band – myself and Mick. And we always played ‘Too Much Fandango’. The first tour was about five weeks and the second about 10 to 12 weeks – a lot of shows.
“The Hollies had that many hits that we could do an hour of those. But we did an acoustic spot, mid-show, when Eric and the drummer would go off, leaving me, Mick and Graham (Pollock) from Cavern, The Shout, and The Mindbenders, with two guitars and three-part harmonies.
“We’d do ‘King Midas in Reverse’ and another Hollies song, ‘Too Young to be Married’, a big hit in Australia, and we’d do ‘Too Much Fandango’. And the response everywhere we went when we did that was unbelievable – everybody knew it. Loads of people came up to us after the show, saying, ‘I can’t believe we’ve just met the guys from Ritzi!’
“It always went down a bomb. There were TV interviews too, and they spent more time talking about that song than The Hollies. One couple came up to me at the bar at this Twin Towns venue in Coolangatta on the Gold Coast, and said, ‘That’s always been our song, from that beautiful summer of ‘75 when we met. We were on the beach and everywhere we went ‘Too Much Fandango’ was playing. It’s always been a special song to us.’
“They were fans of The Hollies and travelled a long way to this gig, setting off in the early hours of the morning, and this fella said, ‘Before we set off from home, we actually played that song. But the last thing we expected was to meet the guys who recorded and wrote it’.
“That means more than money to me – for someone on the other side of the world to be touched like that. It’s funny to think that a song we wrote in my mum’s house in Bamber Bridge became really special to people on the other side of the world.”
With thanks to Gordon Gibson at Action Records for suggesting I got in touch with Pete Hughes; friend of this website and Deadwood Dog music maestro Daevid Goral Barker for the new image of Pete; and Matt Ingham at Cherry Red.
I’m A Freak Baby 3: A Further Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-1973 is out on June 25 via Cherry Red in triple-CD boxset format, priced £19.99, with a pre-order link at https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/im-a-freak-baby-3-a-further-journey-through-the-british-heavy-psych-and-hard-rock-underground-scene-1968-1973-3cd-box-set/. And for more about Ritzi and the acts that preceded them, try http://www.ritzi.uk/.