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Mike Norton 


Some recollections from the day:-

I recall Martin Patterson who performed the combined role of vocalist (on "Minotaur" and possibly other songs too), sound engineer and roadie in my earliest days with the band. He departed sometime in the autumn of '73 to be replaced by ex-CMU* vocalist Richard Joseph and I believe resumed his career in insurance or similar.  Martin had been the first member of Rudi I encountered at my audition at the "Pied Bull" Islington in July '73.


There was a guy named Ravi Sharman who was the sound engineer/roadie for a while; I remember he had a dog 'Bouncer' that had the somewhat disquieting habit of lapping up water from a toilet bowl without so much as an olive or a slice of lemon. Then there were "Boffin" and "Cretin" whose real names I never knew. In response to an ad in Melody Maker they'd turned up as a two-man sound/road crew whose crowning moment was replaying something backwards from the Revox A77 tape machine, unremarkable in itself except for the small detail that the band were actually performing on stage at the time. Whereas this impromptu addition doubtless provided an enriched sonic panorama for the Billy Bunters, it gave rise to speculation as to their suitability. Perhaps we shouldn't judge them too harshly though: at the end of that gig one of the audience approached me and imparted: "F*cking great band to get stoned to mate!" so that was alright then. Notwithstanding punter-approval, they didn't last much longer. The most consistent road crew guy throughout was Pierre Langton; the image endures of him toting a 4 x 12 cabinet on his shoulder with easy grace. 

Andy Lawrence: Ex-BBC and Status Quo soundman, did the first Dutch tour in the summer of 1974. I particularly recall a gig at either Barnsley Civic or Bolton Institute of Technology where we supported Dr Feelgood who were struggling with their new PA system. They asked to go through our rig (which we agreed to) and Andy engineered their set - I remember being impressed by his work. We'd already been on and had gone down extremely well (as would Feelgood) and I can't help but wonder what the outcome might have been without Andy's sterling work on Feelgood's behalf at the desk. That recollection naturally stimulates memories of Barclay James Harvest: we'd done a couple of gigs supporting them on a projected tour (possibly now with Ray Furze on sound?) but for some reason, our services were dispensed with for the duration thereof.




As for myself:-


After returning from the Dutch tour of March-April 1975 it seemed indisputable that prog-rock in the UK was on the wane: the band were consistently well-received at gigs but found it impossible to attract serious interest from the 'biz' and clearly the tide of musical taste was turning in favour of pub-rock, new wave and of course, punk. That being the case, I left in May '75 (my last gig was The Marquee Club London on Sat 7th May) intending to pursue other musical paths. Over the next couple of years or so I got involved with a number of original music bands/projects and contributed to some fine music (if I say so myself) but again, found it impossible to make any lasting headway. During this period I'd found a position in the electronics industry and so, for a while, music went on the back burner. However, in '78 I decided to get out playing again and via an ad in Melody Maker found myself in an East London-based pub/club band called Uncle Sam. That continued quite nicely for a couple of years alongside the electronics but once again, turning tides of musical fashion - this time the swing to disco - brought dismay to many working musicians. 


Once more, Melody Maker to the rescue: in the summer of '81 I'd placed an ad there and shortly after came a call from an Essex cabaret nightclub called The Circus Tavern. I'd driven past the place countless times en route to gigs in East London and was vaguely aware that it featured big name musical acts such as The Three Degrees, The Four Tops, Drifters, Platters, Stylistics, Buck's Fizz, David Essex etc. as well as comedians such as Jim Davidson, Bobby Davro, Cannon and Ball and many others. I was invited to an audition, went along and despite impressing upon them that my sight-reading ability was limited, was offered the job. The Tavern gig remained my musical mainstay for over 11 years during which time there were many offshoots: assorted gigs, sessions, summer seasons and a brief tour of Brazil in 1987.

As the 80s drew to a close so did the heyday of cabaret clubs like the Circus; many of them had already folded and the writing was distinctly on the wall. I'd always had a soft spot for certain styles of country music so it seemed appropriate to explore that avenue, not least of all because there were still, in the early 90s, a good many country clubs open and if you were prepared to do the travelling it was possible to work 5 nights a week; as a self-employed contractor in the electronics industry that was a viable scenario. And so it came to pass: in early '93 I quit the Tavern and set about introducing myself to the world of British Country Music (or, as one fellow troubadour once put it, Horseshit and Gunsmoke). Within a few weeks I found myself in a 5-piece outfit called Tom Williams and the Borderline Music Company (the irony of 'Borderline' wasn't lost on us) and that was the beginning of a country music stint (interspersed with other bits'n'pieces) that lasted until I finally retired from giggng in March 2016 having worked throughout with myriad bands either as a regular member or dep. (I'd already retired from the electronics industry in 2006).


This is all obviously just a thumbnail of a musical career approaching 50 years and in my estimation comprising something like a minimum 5000 gigs/sessions and very possibly closer to 6000. 


And that's about it really; now fully retired and living quietly and comfortably at home with June my wife of approaching 45 years. I hardly ever play anymore, just drag a guitar out for a twiddle and a fiddle every now and then more out of tradition than anything else, but I'm happy with that! 

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