"Slowly, I mean- slowly, Koss started to shape his fingers around the Les Paul fret board and that sound began to re emerge” there was light at the end of the tunnel.
It worked, Geoff had pulled off the impossible. I know David Kossoff was eternally grateful to Geoff for what he tried to do at that time.
A fit Koss looked great and was his usual funny self...brilliant.
Koss then asked Sless to form a band with him, but was in two minds, as the Mott the Hoople saga was still running.
What to do ? -the relative safety of a successful band with a recording deal intact and top class management or start from scratch again with Paul Kossoff and all his problems and demons.
“Koss would ring me at home in South Shields asking me to come down whilst Dan Loggins was trying to advise me of the risk involved with what he saw as an addict with self destruct written all over him.” He had seen Koss in one of his incapable moments and told him 'Mick Ralphs would blow you off stage right now'. This incensed Koss who attacked him with his Les Paul, thus ending any CBS interest in having Sless and Koss together.
“I had to make a decision, could anyone replace Ian Hunter let alone me? at least with Koss it would be he and I together, his pedigree and my raw enthusiasm.
It would be a clean slate. We weren’t trying to become another Free or Bad Company- a lead guitarist - a lead singer - a new beginning for him and me. "
What would you have done?
Sless and Paul shared a house together with Paul’s girl Sandy Charde and their 14 cats near Reading. “Trying to watch match of the day on Saturday night T.V with Mr: Bigs' tail wafting across the screen was a *kng nightmare - the goals I missed and the slippers we threw. Koss would pick up the guitar and we would write tunes, bits of songs. We eventually came up with ‘Stealin My Way’ from an idea of Paul’s, he had the title and we took it from there. ‘Our first song together’. I still like listening to that song for that reason alone. Happy Days.”
Koss and Sless were allowed a few trips to the big city.
“He would sometimes drive us up the M4 to Frank Coes’ La Chasse and the ‘Speakeasy night club of doom.’ Those trips up and down the M4 with me pulling the steering wheel straight;...nightmare. I would have a steak, sautéed potatoes and spinach served by the ever-happy Luigi and Koss would have Spaghetti Bolognese. Occasionally I had to raise his head from falling into the plate as he had been ‘given something’ whilst in the gents. Poor Mick Green (Koss’s reluctant minder –Bird dog) could not cope with Pauls' genius vanishing tricks. I loved those nights at the Speak –made a lot of friends. The boys from The Arrows band, esp: Alan Merrill and Mott The Hooples' Pete (can we go –right now) Watts, little Jimmy Mculloch and his brother. Jimmys' face of glee when he told me he was joining Paul McCartney’s Wings and (a couple years later) his face of blood after Sid Vicious had cut him with an ashtray”
Rehearsals at Island Studios Hammersmith were shaky so Texan session guys Terry Wilson and Tony Braunagel were brought in to form a foundation for Koss to express himself. We were introduced- 'Hi I’m Paul…'sorry just had an attack of Groundhog Day. Wouldn’t that be great? Groundhog Day- maybe not.
The idea was to 'not' sound like Free, forgive the grammar but that was the plan. On paper it was a great idea –an American rhythm section with English front men. Rabbit Bundrick had brought Tony & Terry to the UK but had abandoned them for a US tour with another Geordie, Eric Burdon; so Mike Montgomery was asked to come over from New York to do keyboards. Mike had some songs already to go- so that gave the band something to work on instead of doing what seemed like endless jamming. Sless & Montgomery moved into the Portobello Hotel and 'hell-raised' awhile. “I remember the roadies bringing in some equipment after a festival gig in Belgium and getting Jimmy Page, JPJ and Percy on tambourine to play along with The Third Man theme at four in the morning” Montgomery used to love telling anybody that story ‘I got Jimmy Page to play the third man’. (On banjo actually)
“We toured the UK to road test the band and material. Koss would feign passing out on stage, the audience would rush the stage chanting ‘Kossoff-Kossoff’- he would struggle to his knees and eke out a few notes, and they went wild. Glasgow Apollo was a biggie- they came running from the balcony chanting- his fans loved him they really did. Newcastle City Hall, my home town was next and I warned Koss to be on his best behaviour- my family were coming and I didn’t want any ‘mishaps’ he was cajoling the crowd saying ‘I think I’ve upset Terry, shall we bring him back out’ this was for the encore. He had disappeared off-stage first and I was saying “Kossoff get your ass out here”, then I went looking for him and he’d come on from the other side I was furious at the time kicking the floor lights off the stage.
It was, very frustrating for everyone except Koss I suppose; he revelled in stirring things up and pushing you to your limit. Then he would break into the Hunter and the crowd went mental. Backstage my mum came in and he went up to her,
‘Hi Peggy you must be very proud of your son he’s a great singer you know’ My mum would say ‘isn’t he lovely? I don’t know what all the fuss is about- a really lovely lad.’
Atlantic records were after the band- they’d had great success with Bad Company, Ahmet Ertugen (Atlantics’ president/founder) was a big admirer of Paul Kossoff and was delighted that Koss had chosen Sless as the singer remebering their first encounter at the Matrquee club. I think they 'outbid' Island records to sign the band. Ahmet flew over from the States to see the band at a couple of festivals and liked what he saw. “We signed to Atlantic/Atco. I was 'bought' out of my contract with C.B.S - £20,000 to cover the Beckett advance and it was settled. All we needed was a name- the management were into the Paul Kossoff band but Koss didn’t want that at all, he wanted a band name. I’d like to think I said, “lets use your solo album name for the band but I may be giving myself too much credit,
so we did and Back Street Crawler we became. We were supposed to have our name written in whiteness at the signing but Phil Carson said we would have to make do with our initials. B.S.C written out on the glass table. I got the C.
Geoff Docherty became increasingly exasperated at the way Koss was being handled by his ‘management team’ (read Geoff’s book ‘A Promoters Tale’ for elaboration) and walked away wishing Sless ‘good luck with that manager.
“Straight after the show at Fairfield Halls Croydon- the whole band Back Street Crawler, my long time on/off 'girl friend' Woody and her friends from Cambridge University went to Ridge Farm in Dorking Surrey to record the 1st album.
The local butcher roasted a pig on a mic stand for us and they all skinny-dipped in the swimming pool. I didn’t use that mic stand again”.
‘The Band Plays On’ produced with Rod Thear using Ronnie Lanes mobile unit- (then remixed at Olympic studios In Barnes London.)
“We recorded in the open air on the lawn most of the time. I was singing up a tree and I could see a jumbo jet heading straight above us. The mic was live and you can hear the jet pass over us on the end of Jason Blue. So if anyone is trying to reproduce that sound- that is what you have to do. Even Koss couldn't come up with that trick. When we were recording at Sawmills studio in Cornwall (we had to go to those extremes to get Koss away from London and the dealers), there were only two ways into the studio. Up a railway line- on foot (hence Train Song) or up the estuary- when the tide was in- by boat. We all got marooned one moon-lit night in the middle of the river, surrounded by thick black river mud. We had a bottle of whisky so we didn’t care”.
“Koss asked roadies Jack McGill and Ronnie Balantyne to row a boat over the lagoon with a mic and mic lead. ‘Stick it up a tree’.. he then faced his Marshall stack out over the lagoon to get the reverberation of the water and the echo of the hills of Fowey and turned his Les Paul up. The residents weren’t too impressed with his sound actually. I don’t think they bought the album.
We had already been barred from the only pub in Fowey”.
Recording was a relatively new thing to Sless. “I reckon most singers get a shock when they hear their own voice played back to them. In fact, there is nothing worse. I had gotten used to copying other singers like McCartney, Noddy, Plant, Rod and even Tina. Where was my voice..?.. who was I supposed to sound like? How I fretted. I opened up to Paul and he was great, he said "you are my singer and we were going to stick together and see this through. He gave me a copy of Bobby Blands’ Dreamer album and said ‘forget the rest- try and copy this guy- you won’t be able to but it will help you with your own phrasing and delivery." He was absolutely right, he gave me a lesson in what he was so good at naturally...Less is more-
its what you don’t play. The closest I got to Bobby Blands style was on the 2nd Street album. The band had recorded a Rabbit tune. I took the backing track back to the hotel (Riot House on Sunset Blvd) and wrote the lyrics for ‘Just for you.’
This was when we were in L.A. I was definitely at my most creative there. I can understand it when Robbie Williams says that he too does his best work there. I sang the blues, probably for the first time. It’s a miserable song actually- but its mine”.
Ahmet came down to visit the band at Ridge Farm to keep an eye on his investment. Earl McGrath, his confidante accompanied him on these occasions.
He became a good friend to the band especially Sless, with whom he met up with regularly in New York at Earls home. Earl would take Sless out on the town as his personal guide to the nightlife in New York. He was eventually placed in charge of Rolling Stones records and was responsible for that ‘drive thru New York’ gig on the back of a lorry when he stitched up all the press guys he didn’t like by giving them front row seats for a press reception that wasn’t gonna happen. They were crushed trying to get out to see the Stones drive by on the wagon.
Some European festival appearances followed then Koss & Sless went to New York for an interview tour. “I had not experienced anything like it. An interview every 20 minutes, they were queuing up outside our hotel suite, we were doing interviews in the elevator and in the limousine on our way to the next interview. You name the magazine we were in it”. .Circus/ Billboard/ Rolling Stone magazine- countless radio stations. WNEW with Scott Munie was the biggie. They all played the album relentlessly- but that same problem arose- no hit single “We were staying at the Shaftsbury Hotel on 57th-opposite Carnegie Hall. The first night- I went out alone for a stroll, turned left and had a nice walk in the park. When I returned and said where I had been Koss said ‘you cannot be serious that’s Central Park’ - wrong.
Koss met up with Ronnie Wood, I was surprised how really friendly they were with each other I don’t know why I was surprised- but it was good to see how much everyone liked Koss. Ronnie and Ahmet took us all over New York’s sleazy speakeasies in a limo. I left them at around 5 a.m. – novice. Another night we went to the Bottom Line club. Our names were on the door as usual. The Tubes were playing. I was totally mesmerised by their performance. Quaylude being propped up on his platform boots and his huge Eltonesque specs. The girl dancers- the Harley Davison and the television screens depicting them playing on the moon. We went back stage and they all wanted to talk to Paul. They were all impressed that he had came to see them, I was beginning to see how much Paul was respected in the business, not only as a guitar player with an exceptional gift but as a person who everyone wanted to be around. My mate. I felt so proud being with him- and being introduced ‘this is my new singer- Terry’ When he wasn’t stoned too much- just merry he was fabulous with everybody- funny- entertaining and most of all-