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Paul Olsen

Paul Olsen     -  Drummer   1971 - 1973

I moved to London from the Haight-Ashbury in December of 1969. I was living in Barnes, London in the spring of 1971 and had an ad running in the Melody Maker as an American drummer with a double kit. I got a phone call from John Fenton, who was managing Third World War...they needed someone and were holding auditions at The Cabin, a rehearsal room in Shepherd's Bush, just over Hammersmith bridge and up the road from me.

I arrived that day, set up my kit, with the boys looking on bemused, and we started playing. It was obvious from the beginning that this would work and I was asked to join the band.

John Fenton, the manager, had a big flat in Knightsbridge and I met with him and the band the following day and signed a contract for £15 a week - my first salaried band gig - so I was over the moon. We rehearsed at the Roebuck in Chiswick and began to play some gigs in and around London and the home counties....I particularly remember a gig in Norfolk in an old pub there that was quite the venue at the time, and we jammed the place...hot, sweaty, and LOUD!

But we were rough around the edges, and I certainly was, so Fenton arranged for us to do a month long summer tour of Finland. We did 35 gigs in 30 days, and had maybe 10 days off.....so if you do the math, you can see we played more than one gig per day on more than one occasion. In fact, on one Saturday, we played FOUR outdoor festivals!

What was really great about this band is that we all got on with each other, and though we were all cut from different cloth, it didn't matter. The lineup when I was in the band was Terry on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, John Knightsbridge on lead guitar, John Hawken on piano, Jim Avery on bass, and me on drums, with the lovely "H" as our road manager (late of Jimi Hendrix)...one of the nicest people in rock 'n roll.

On our way to Finland, we stopped just over the water from Denmark in Halsingborg, Sweden, and went shopping to stock up until we got to the ferry terminal that night just north of Stockholm. As we were waiting in the checkout, I noticed a huge poster on the wall of a stunning naked girl with big tits holding a litre of milk in each hand and pressing them into the sides of her boobs with a come-on smile on her face...this was how one dairy sold milk! Roll on, Sweden! what a country!

The ferry was Danish, and us starving and poor musicians couldn't believe our luck when we were shown the gigantic, lazy susan smorgasbord with everything ever produced in the western world laid out on it....did we pig out! And we didn't even make a dent in the thing.

We played many huge halls that are located out in the woods...always on a lake, and these places were large entertainment centers for this very rural population. The first one we went to was abandoned by the time we got there on a dirt road a mile off the main road....what the hell was this? No one was going to come, though our posters were up everywhere.

Paul Olsen, 2004

Further thoughts from Paul.....

In addition to what you have on your site, I had an ad in the Melody Maker in 1971 as an available drummer (where all pro and semi-pro musos advertised), having moved to London from the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco in December of '69. I was living in beautiful Barnes at the time and received a call from Fenton who said he had a hard rocking band (understatement) who needed a drummer who could kick ass. Could I do that?

I could. I was a former Marine. I could kick ass severely.

We arranged an audition at the Cabin, a temporary building in Shepherd's Bush that was one of the then three usual rehearsal places all the London bands used, the other two being the Cave in Lots Road, and a place in Pentonville Road I can't remember the name of.

I set up, we played, there were smiles all 'round and I was asked to join the band on the spot. We all hit it off immediately and have remained friends ever since. Maybe because we don't see other, y'think?

At the time the band had two roadies, Roger-the-Roadie, a real East End character who wore a leather top hat and could muscle anything anywhere without breaking sweat; and the incredible "H" who was one of the most charming people I have ever met in my life. We acquired another amazingly capable roadie named Wilf at some point, but I can't remember exactly when...Terry probably knows.

I can't remember where our first gig together was, but we played several in and around London, including the Club Noreik at the top of Seven Sisters Road (more on that later), and even one in Suffolk or Norfolk at a famous pub venue (whose name I can't remember, but they always advertised in the MM), when Fenton said we really needed to tighten up as a band. He and "H" were working with a top promoter in Copenhagen who booked groups throughout Scandinavia to arrange a tour for us during the summer of '72. Or was it '71? I know we recorded a single before I was ready for the studio, at Island studios in Notting Hill. We also scored a gig in Dourges in northern France at the then famous Piblokto Club, named after Pete Brown's band who we supported at the Club Noreik, oddly enough.

The Piblokto Club was incredible...a huge rectangular room with the stage at the far end and a lonnng bar running almost the length of the room on the right. Long bar. Tons of gorgeous girls, and one feature I especially remember: a unisex toilet with no door and only a squat hole, with everyone watching you as you did your business, male or female. As I like watching girls pee, I didn't mind waiting in the queue at all! Vive la France!

I think this was Roger-the-Roadie's first time out of England and he was going to make the most of it. Whilst we were playing, he would be chatting up the girls...after all, he told us he could speak French whilst we couldn't!

When we finished our set we found Roger backstage trying to chat up two girls by speaking English with an appalling Clouseau-esque French accent...Roger thought he was actually speaking French! We all creased up. Not the most worldly man on the planet, but lovable as hell, and he always took care of "his" boys.

I can't remember where we stayed, but the next day we made it to Lille and stopped in a small restaurant in the main square (I think) for lunch...which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had. The place was a family run business and when the seven of us waltzed in, they welcomed us as long lost friends and put two tables together in the middle of the restaurant and laid them like a formal banquet. The owner produced unlabeled white wine that his brother made, and it was fantastic stuff. The food was great, the service was like being part of a big family, and everyone got thoroughly pissed over the course of what must have been the best part of four hours.

I bought two bottles of this lovely wine, which were wrapped in white tissue as we left, and whilst walking down the street grasping the two bottles by the neck, my sozzled grip relaxed and they both crashed to the ground and splattered everywhere. The surrounding pedestrians all stopped and rushed over to me and commiserated with me at this terrible tragedy, their arms around me in sympathy...it was so lovely and refreshing! If that had happened in England, I would have been looked at as a clumsy oaf and given a wide berth.

Another time we were in France to play a big festival in Paris, but we never played for some reason...but we DID go to Herouville (sp?) near Pontoise where there was a fabulous chateau that had been converted into a recording studio and hotel for the musicians (the French version of Branson's Manor, and the Honky Chateau of Elton's eponymous album)..it was incredible. Pretty girls serving you and providing every possible service a man could want, beautiful surroundings with modern art on the walls everywhere---this place reeked with style and elegance. When we were there, the Grateful Dead were recording...I knew most of them (they lived just around the corner from me in the Haight) and wanted to pop in to say hello, but they were ensconced in the studio at the time deep in jam mode.

Elsewhere on the site I described some of our Finnish tour, which was simply amazing...let me pick up from where the previous description leaves off....we travelled with H and Wilf, our new roadie...I don't think Roger was with us on that one (he probably couldn't speak Finnish). Our first gig was outside Turku, the port at which we landed from Nortalje in Sweden. We followed the local Finnish promoter who drove down this deserted dirt road which ended in a huge parking area, sideshow booths like from a carnival, and a huge hall where we played. The place was packed out! Where had all these people come from?

By the time we got set up, I was busting, but the loo was at the opposite end of this enormous crowded hall, and I could never get there and back in time, so we went on and I sweated like a pig in the hot hall with all our aggressive rock. When we finished, my T-shirt was soaked and I took it off in the little dressing room backstage and wrung it into a cup which filled it. I looked up at the rest of the band and announced, "Well, boys, I don't have to pee any more!" They all groaned and backed away from me and wouldn't go near me the rest of the day...ha! The human body is an amazing thing, is it not?

We shared many gigs with a top Finnish band who were also quite popular in Germany. They had all the gear, plus big, new, 350 cubic-inch V-8 Chevy station wagons towing trailers with all their gear in them and were making very good money and playing ALL the time! These guys all had their own houses, and the drummer had purchased several acres of land and partially cleared it of the tall, straight pine trees that grow in Finland and built himself a log cabin and a log sauna (properly pronounced "sowna" by-the-way, not "sawna") down by his dock which sported a speedboat and a canoe. Very nice life in a beautiful part of the world. All lakes and forests, and most of the lakes connected, so you could travel most of the country on water.

We stayed with him for the few days we had off and would lay on the dock in the all-day sun up north near the arctic circle and drink beer and watch the Russian Migs buzz the lake, letting everybody in Finland know just who they wronged in WWII by siding with the Germans to keep the Russkies out. It was so bizarre during this cold war period to be in a western country whose airspace was owned by the Russians and to see these beautiful Migs whizz by, flying the flag in great style.

Most people in a sauna throw water on the rocks to provide a burst of steam, but this drummer showed us a neat trick: he threw beer on the rocks and we all got pissed from breathing in the vapours! When we couldn't stand it any longer, we would burst out of the little sauna and race down the dock and dive into the cold lake. What a kick in the pants that was! Then when we were too cold, it was back in the sauna to do it all over again.

One of the gigs we played was on a floating stage in the middle of what looked like a volcanic lake, with the audience ringing the lakeside. It looked nuts, and was quite a famous gig, as many of my friends have played there. H was very worried about this, as electricity and water are not the best of bedfellows, and it took some time for him and Wilf to inspect everything and finally give us the thumbs up.

We had all the usual gear for a band, but we had one special piece of kit that we tried to avoid at all cost: John Hawken's Lindner piano. Hawk was a PIANO PLAYER, not a keyboard player thank you very much, and at the time there simply wasn't an electronic keyboard that sounded anything like a piano...and Hawk HAD to have a piano, or no Hawk. So, he got this Lindner upright that had a minimal cast lyre of course, and was reinforced with welded angle irons and sported a robust sounding board, but was essentially naked to save weight (ha). This fucking thing weighed a ton. Its saving grace was that it had built-in pickups, and the keyboard folded up flat against the lyre for "easy" transport. It also had built-in, locking casters. This was the only transportable piano made anywhere in the world. Northern Irish, it was. Maybe it was a nefarious IRA plot to kill musicians. Sturdy turned wood handles at either end of this behemoth assured good purchase to move it around...that was the theory. And it worked just great on smooth surfaces...you could slide that puppy around like nobody's business all day long and not break a sweat on a slick dance floor.

But hoicking this monster out of the truck and then up onto a stage required more muscle than our two roadies could provide, so two more of us wonderful musicians were always needed to complete the task. Hawk couldn't do it because he might damage his delicate, long, real piano-playing fingers...and of course we wouldn't want him to do THAT, now, would we???? So whenever it was getting close to moving-the-piano-time, the rest of us got very busy on critically important stuff very far away.

Getting Hawk's piano onto the stage in the middle of the lake was lots of fun...teetering on a wobbly floating bridge had us all in hysterics as we struggled with this thing, and more than once Terry and I looked at each other with evil glints in our eyes and came real close to tipping the monster in the drink. SPLASH! Oops, SORRY!

We played a beautiful outdoor festival set in a natural amphitheatre...the first of four gigs that day...yes, FOUR gigs, separated by miles and miles. I met a delightful girl at that gig who sported TWO pairs of tits! Really! She had one amazing, normal pair, and then underneath those beauties, she had another, much smaller pair, complete with all the fixin's. Being a tit-man, I was in heaven! Roll on Finland! She stayed with me for the rest of the gigs and was an absolute sweetheart.

Terry and I found a record store in Tampere, and I was amazed to find one of my Robin Trower albums in the racks. It really lifted my day to see my artwork so far away from home....and to see many English records way up here in the boondocks.

Then we played in a place on the Baltic called Tammisari, and somehow Jim and a girl he picked up and me and mine found ourselves on the beach at midnight (as one does), and as we were far south, it was actually night, and Jim was curious about the stars, and as I had a smattering of an interest in astronomy, I was pointing out various stars and constellations when Jim suddenly said, "What's THAT!?" And pointed towards a light that was glowing on and off and was stationary. There was no way of telling how far away it was, but we both had the feeling it was VERY high up...like maybe over 100,000 feet, but it was only a feeling, there was no way to know. It could haven been a tiny light 100 feet away. We watched this thing for about five minutes, and we kept telling each other what we were each seeing to make sure we were seeing the same thing and remembering it, because this was clearly a UFO. The glowing on and off began to get more rapid and then it started to move and accelerate very rapidly and then shot off at an impossible speed, disappearing over the horizon in seconds. No sound.

We were excited as hell. I wrote down what we saw and we called it in to the papers the next day, but they already had the story...this thing had been seen all over Scandinavia and was the same object going in the same direction (south-southwest) that we saw. I also reported it to a UFO organization in the States when we got back to England, and they already had hundreds of reports, all consistent with ours. They had worked out from all the reports that the object was in fact more than 100,000 feet up and had accelerated to over 20,000 mph in seconds before it disappeared! It went as fast as a shooting star (grain of dust) appears to flash across the sky...FAST.

Whilst we were travelling around this beautiful, unspoilt country, we noticed kids hitch-hiking on the lonely roads, and hardly any houses anywhere (they were all nestled deeply in the woods off the roadside), and if a car came along going the wrong way, the kids would cross the road and catch a lift. What was going on?

What was going was that during summer break, kids would hitch around the country, and if you saw any child or teenager hitching, it was incumbent upon you to stop and give them a lift to wherever you were going. If you picked them up around dinnertime, it was also incumbent upon you to give them dinner and put them up for the night. Finland was like one big family who all took care of each other....and this was a unique way of keeping that bond strong.

We played a live TV gig in Helsinki at the national station, which was broadcast over the country...but none of us has a copy of it, sadly.

We lived in each others' pockets for 31 days, and there was never a cross word (except around Hawk's Lindner) and we really enjoyed playing with each other. And did we get tight. Best thing we could have done.

We caught a Russian cruise ship at Helsinki and were watched very closely by the resident KGB officer who was always placed at the bar at the only entrance to the cabins. We had to ask very loudly for more portions of our food, which was terrible and not enough of it. But, I got lucky with the stunning entertainment girl who snuck me into her cabin, so that made the dull run that much more exciting. The Russian band guys were all so pleased to have us on board and they were asking about our instruments and could we play with them on stage, which we did...had a great time. I love the Russian people.

We stopped in Copenhagen and moored right next to the Little Mermaid and wandered around the beautiful city, but had no time to go to the Tivoli Gardens, sadly. Then off to Tilbury and landing in that miserable place on a wet, grey English morning...our car was lifted off the boat and we drove it back to Fenton's in Knightsbridge.

Fenton had got us a gig at the Marquee in our absence, and we rocked the place out. Fenton was blown away at how good we had got in just a month. Our next gig was supporting one of my favourite bands at the time, Mountain, at the Lyceum, and we rocked that place out as well, but received a scathing review from Roy Hollingsworth that Fenton had blown up and flyposted all over London! I have a copy of the poster...I'll dig it out of my storage facility in Oxshott next time I'm there and photograph it so it can appear on this site.

That's where my memory fades...I don't know if we had many, or any, gigs after that, but shortly thereafter Fenton ran out of money and we all went our separate ways. I moved to LA in '75 and lived there until '91, not knowing that Terry had been living there since '76 I think...I only ran into him after I moved back to England in '91, then moved BACK to LA (don't ask) in '99 and found he was living in LA all that time I had been there! We got together in 2000 and went to some gigs and drank some beers in some sleazy bars on Sunset blvd., had burgers at Denny's on Sunset with all the hookers, and I think it was in 2001 that we rented a rehearsal room in Van Nuys and had a crack, which was fun. That's the last time I saw him. I've since moved back again to England and will surely look up Jim Avery after I get in touch with Terry so he can tell me where Avery is. Somewhere in Epsom, last time Terry mentioned it. Not far away from Oxshott.

Let me tell the Club Noreik story: after we finished the Saturday night gig and packed everything up into our two trannie vans, I ran back into the dressing room on a hunch just to double-check. Good thing I did, because dear old Knightsy had left his black SG behind! I grabbed it, had one last look around, and hared back through the club to the front doors. It was about 12:30 am and as I got through the doors, I was just in time to see BOTH trannies pulling away in the rain. They couldn't hear my shouts or see my waving arms. Each of the vans had thought I was in the other one. This was in the days before mobile phones, kiddies.

I had no money...and even if I had, there were NO taxis out at this time of night on an early Sunday morning...not in 1972. London was MT...completely dead.

So. I had no choice but to walk home...from severe northwest London to severe southwest London. Wiped out after playing the gig. In the rain. Carrying that fucking guitar. Good thing I was a former Marine...the training came in handy, knowing this was really nothing compared to what I had been subjected to in San Diego and Camp Pendleton.

Off I went, trying to picture London streets in my mind and to make the shortest possible journey of it. It was actually quite a pleasant experience, except for the guitar weighing me down, walking across completely empty London. I arrived home to a very worried Lesley, my girlfriend, at 5:30 in the morning, looking like a drowned rat.

Knightsy still has that guitar...now in Indianapolis...and if he ever gets rid of it, I'll kill him.

Paul Olsen, 2006

Visit Paul’s website at www.olsenart.com