Saturday, July 23, 2011

Popeye, William Bendix, Ray Danton

At the end of April 1963 Record Mirror's Peter Jones tipped off young publicist Andrew Loog Oldham and his business partner Eric Easton as to what was happening in Richmond. Oldham and Easton then witnessed the Sunday April 28 performance at the Crawdaddy Club. Here's a piece of Andrew's experience that night:

Finally, in the dark and sweaty room, the Rollin' Stones, all six of them, took to the stage, while the nattering, half-pint-sodden, hundred-odd couples seemed ready for what they were about to receive and went apeshit. So did the group - they didn't seem to start, so much as carry on from a previous journey. I was already standing up, but what I saw, heard and felt stood me up again, as the remaining air left the room from the whoosh of hundreds of waving hands, dancing feet and heaving bodies, having sheer, sheer pleasure.

Thinking was suddenly not required, redundant. The room was as one, the music and audience had one particular place to go, a place I'd never been to but was happily being drawn to. The Rollin' Stones were six who became one. Three were backed against the wall: on the left, one Bill Wyman, on bass, to his right a large amp I'd only seen in ads and Charing Cross Road store windows. He stood like the statue who became a celebrity, concentrated, nonchalant, picking his instrument in an upright 'shhhoulder-arrrms' army-drill position, perhaps as a result of having seen service as Bill Perks for Queen and country. He was gaunt, pale, almost medieval in a way.

The drummer appeared to have beamed in, and it seemed you didn't so much hear him as feel him. I enjoyed the presence he brought to the group as well as his playing. Unlike the jacketless other five, he had the two top buttons of his jacket done up meticulously over a just as neat button-down shirt and tie, unaffected by the weather in the room. Body behind kit, head turned right in a distant, mannered disdain for the showing of hands waving at 78 rpm in front of him. He was with the Stones, but not of them, kinda blue, like he'd been transported for the evening from Ronnie Scott's or Birdland, where he'd been driving in another Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley time and space. He was the one and only, all-time man of his world, gentleman of time, space and the heart. His rare musical talent is an expression of his bigger talent for life: I'd just met Charlie Watts.

Backstage right was an odd man out. Sometimes on piano, sometimes maracas, he had a Popeye torso, a William Bendix jawline and a bad Ray Danton haircut: he cared for his 'little three-chord wonders' till the day he died. As time went by he would pay me this compliment: 'Andrew Oldham? I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire'. Yes, the real deal, sixth Stone, Ian Stewart.

Source: Andrew Loog Oldham, Stoned, Vintage, 2001.

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