The Wimbledon Palais front entrance, on that Saturday afternoon in 1962, advertised David Ede and the Rabin Band. These were the day's of the fading "Teddy Boy" and the big band era, known as real entertainment to the generations of Londoners who frequented the Palais for that much needed shot of laughter, dancing and primo musical entertainment.
What I noticed about the Palais, was stepping inside, you kinda left the outside world behind and I for one had no complaints in that area. But the world was about to change, Mods and Rockers, Motown, Stax, the Liverpool "boy's" and many others where breathing down the neck of accepted "Tin Pan Alley" musical entertainment, in 1963 and on, for better or worse, all musical hell broke loose and there I was, sucking
it all in, loving it, mentally noting events that would surface years later in my songwriting endeavors.
Mike Rabin had placed an ad in the Melody Maker for a bass guitar player and with guitar case in hand, ready for an audition, I pounded on the locked front glass doors of the Wimbledon Palais, until an elderly man appeared inside and shouted at me to go to the back door ( later I was to find out the cranky old fella was "Apache Jack", the Palais janitor and "salt of the earth", to a seventeen year old like myself).
At the back door I was still getting no response from my pounding and was just turning to leave when the door was opened by Mike Rabin, I walked in, as I mentioned, into another world. I guess Mike introduced himself and I followed him to the "Men's Cloakroom" where auditions were being held.
I guess I was expecting to see a long line of bass players, but there were none. As far as I can recall there was a drummer, Trevor Muggeridge, Mike and a tough looking leather boy from Sheffield called Fred. I think I ran thru my attempt at playing the bass solo in The Shadows song, "Nivram" after which, I was the bass player for Mike
The guitar player, Fred, did not stick around long, but for me he had opened the door to songs that I still love and play today, Hoochie Coochie Man, Roll Over Beethoven, Memphis, Evenin', Mona and on and on. A guitar player by the name of Brian Brind came to audition and got the job immediatly. He could play the guitar solo in Bill Haley's, Rock Around The Clock, he then turned to me and said, "do you know the Buddy Holly song "Ting A Ling", well that just did it, yer, he was "in".
Mike Rabin and the Demons were born:
Mike Rabin, lead vocals, saxaphone, harmonica, maraccas
Brian Brind, guitar (Hofner Verithin), backing vocals
Trevor Muggeridge, drums
Terry Stamp, bass guitar (Burns), backing vocals
Sometime earlier we had picked up amplifiers from the Vox factory in Dartford, Brian had a Vox AC30 on a chrome stand and I used a Vox bass amp (combo, I think, it had an 18 inch speaker in it) We played some gigs outside the Palais, and although Mikes dad owned and operated the Wimbledon Palais, it did not work out that we would be
playing there, right off the bat.
The Palais already had a resident "beat combo", but the way I saw it was, that Mike Rabin got us into such a good professional unit, (it just simply kicked, playing mainly American Rhythm and Blues, just pouring it on hard, with three voices going at it), that Mike's old man had to try us out, it was just good business sense.
We were booked at the Palais to support (a then unknown Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, at the time of the booking). Between the time of Mikes dad booking Billy J and the the actual night of the gig, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas hit it big with the song "Do you want to know a Secret".
The Wimbledon Palais was jammed, I think it could hold around three thousand people, I swear there were ten thousand people in there. When we came on stage to open for Billy J, the crowd thought we were them, the Palais exploded, Brian tore off the intro to Roll Over Beethoven and we gave it to 'em good.
The Wimbledon Palais "beat residency" was in the bag for us. I remember Mike's dad, tickled pink, puffing on his ever present cigar, throwing out his "one liners", everyone a gem, gem's that I would file away for future songwriting use.
I loved that man.
That night was the beginning of my "apprenticeship" in performing live, it also marked my interest in analysing the popular performers who came to grace The Wimbledon Palais main stage in the years to come. I watched as The Dakotas come on stage, there was no "tuning up" or "fiddling around" before starting to play. The Palais MC introduced them and they got straight down to business, playing instrumentals (The Cruel Sea) being one of them. That was when the "Mersey Sound" hit me, gone
was the slickness of The Shadows, there was a tough edge to them, what struck me years later, was that the Mersey Sound kinda came right off the Liverpool Docks, no shine, christ, it was "working class".
When Billy J Kramer came on stage, the whole show seemed to kick into overdrive, I sucked it in, their mohair suits, there hard polish, their demeaner and most of all their confidence. They all had a few years on me, I must have been barely eighteen, I drank it in and stored it away, again for future use and reference.
And so it went, if you had a hit record in the U.K. sooner or later your bones would turn up on The Wimbledon Palais main stage, first the "northern boys", The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, Billy J, The Searchers, etc, then a kind of change with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, The Animals and Them, The Dave Clark Five, Hermans Hermits, The Small Faces, etc, with
acts by American performers thrown in for good measure, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, The Crickets and on and on it stretched out, unrelenting, with brilliant professional performers, to what now is part of the musical history of this planet.
There I was, in heaven, thanking whoever was looking over me. I was the bass player in The Mike Rabin Band, resident at The Wimbledon Palais, making more money in one night than I was working in a transformer factory in Hanworth all week and things were going to get even better. Gone was my smoking bomb of a Vespa Scooter, with the help of my parents, I was driving a 1958 Morris Minor.
Gone was my three-quarter size Burns bass guitar, I was now thumping away on a 62 Fender Jazz Bass, yeah, with a red body, tortoiseshell pickguard, stacked control knobs and gleaming chrome pick-up covers. Our guitar player changed guitars and bought a Guild Starfire 2, those guitar changes upgraded our sound.
Mike started to dot our mainly American rythmn and blues play list with some current chart hits of the time and The Mike Rabin Band was rocking and rolling, South London never had it so good.Sometime in late 1963 or early 1964 we lost our original drummer, Trevor Muggeridge, who had secured a nice paying gig playing on a "cruise ship".
He was replaced by Mike Palmer, again this improved our sound. Palmer was a drum fanatic, who had the "hack", today known as the "backbeat". He also had a Ludwig drum kit, the snare throwing out that sharp rimshot crack and the toms and bass drum tightened up, so as not to sound "muddy", in short Palmer rocked good, having what I realized later, as aggression in his drumming, (also in his manner).
He was also the first drummer, that I can recall, seeing play with the heavy end of his drum stick.
Mike Rabin began writing songs around this time and came up with a piece called "Head Over Heels", a vicious foot stomping affair, which we made a demo of at Tony Pikes Recording Studio in Putney, (which turned out to be a home studio, built in his garage).
Now, I do not know the workings of how that demo got to EMI Records, but a month or two later we were on our way to Abbey Road to re-record "Head Over Heels" for EMI, the flipside also being written by Mike called "Leaving You". The band personel on "Head Over Heels" was Mike Rabin, lead vocal/ Brian Brind, guitar/ Mike Palmer, drums and myself playing bass.
So here the four of us were, actually standing outside a studio door inside Abbey Road recording studios, waiting to be "let in". We had "30 minutes" to record "Head Over Heels" and the flip side. Palmer began setting his drum kit up, right there in the corridor, to save time. The studio doors opened "on the hour" and we brought our equipment into what seemed to me a huge room, I think the "control room" was upstairs, we were told to "hurry up" as a large orchestra was coming in after us.
We set up in the middle of the studio, basically in a circle, facing one another and started tuning up and running thru the two songs. I cannot remember any "baffles" being put up to screen any sound leakage, i.e., drums leaking into the guitar mike, etc. Maybe they never gave much thought to that kinda stuff back then.
We layed down the backing tracks and then Mike put on the lead vocals, then backing vocals. When the record came out the producer had put on a kinda echoed click track on "Head Over Heels", which added to the songs "primal feel".
I recall Mike saying that there was "one track" left, and the producer used it, so I guess at that time Abbey Road was using four track recorders.
Again, a few months later "Head Over Heels" is gracing Saturday nights, Juke Box Jury on BBC TV and Mike Rabin was that weeks "mystery guest". That same Saturday night, The Mike Rabin Band were playing at the Wimbledon Palais, only this time, headlining, top of the bill.
The residency at the Palais was also peppered with "choice" gigs, big venues, the best hotels, mostly on the south coast, even the odd "country manor house" (the beat band is for the children, you know), one gig at which, we were actually assigned a butler and a maid to "take care of our needs", unreal, as I recall, Mike gave them the "night off", I think we were all uncomfortable in that situation, Christ, a butler and a maid, my old man got a charge out of that one. Mike would always pay us on Sunday nights and when we had played these outside gigs, I literally went home with a pocketful of serious cash.
Mike Rabin continued to expand his band, a keyboardist by the name of Pete Heathersay joined and played a Hammond B3 organ. Probably towards the end of 1964, Mike also added Stan Sultzman (alto and tenor sax) and Dave Coxhill (baritone sax). Also our guitar player Brian Brind quit the band and was replaced by Ian Gibbon, who was an excellent all-round guitar player (Fender Stratocaster) and harmony singer. This was the best line-up (in my opinion) of the Mike Rabin Band, it just "smoked". It was with this line-up that Mike would let me take the odd lead vocal or two, mostly singing the Stax hits of that time, "Mister Pitiful", "Midnight Hour", etc, it took me a while to get used to playing those Stax bass riffs and singing, but I got it, Christ, no way was I going to let that opportunity slip away and I poured it on good, with the best resident band in England thundering away behind me. From time to time I would catch a glimpse of Mike's dad standing and looking at the goings on inside his Palais, from some quiet spot , (he was probably "counting heads" as his father, Oscar would do), hands behind his back, gently chewing at his cigar, sporting that slyish all knowing grin he would rarely let break into laughter.
1965 and up until June 1966 that line-up remained. The Palais would present Radio London and Radio Caroline nights. These radio stations were pirate radio ships, anchored just off the coast, outside of British Territorial Waters and would play "any music they could get there hands on", 24/7, giving many UK bands and singers a start to their music careers. Friday and Saturday nights would fill the Wimbledon Palais to capacity and even more. From our vantage point on the Palais stage all we could see would be a sea of heads, moving, dancing and swaying. On rare occasions, fights would break out and would be dealt with by the Palais bouncers, a burly bunch of ex-soldier types, who were controlled by the head bouncer called Angus, a huge Scotsman, who could pick up two trouble makers at once and "escort" them out of the ballroom. Again these "goings on", I noted and would lyrically resurface in songs I would write, a few years further down the road.
Sometime in May 1966, Mike told us we had an audition at the London Palladium, as a band was needed for its Summer Season, a variety show called "London Laughs", who had Harry Secombe, Jimmy Tarbuck, Russ Conway, Anita Harris among others on the bill. When we arrived at the London Palladium for the audition, there was already a band ahead of us, auditioning on stage, they were a scruffy bunch, led by a guy playing flute, kinda like an early Jethro Tull. They did not last long, they were told "thanks, we'll be in touch", and we took the stage.
Mike told us that we would "do" the Beach Boys song, "Barbara Ann" (yep, I sang "high" lead). We were decked out in our Palais suits and the way it worked out on stage, was that I got the "John Lennon microphone, stage left" (these mikes came up through the floor, if I recall rightly). Anyway, Mike starts the beginning vocal of "Barbara Ann" and the band takes off, getting through a couple of verses to the second chorus, when this guy comes running down the aisle towards the stage, yelling and waving his arms in the air. Instantly I was thinking, it was "thanks, we will be in touch", but this guy said we had the "job", he was the show's producer, Robert Nesbitt.
That's how good the Mike Rabin Band was and Mike Rabin made it that way.
Our "tenure" at the London Palladium fell almost immediately into routine, two shows a night, Monday through Friday and a matinee on Saturday afternoon, with two shows that night. We had a few scenes and would back Anita Harris, as she would dance and sing and (what seemed to me) generally exhaust herself. There was a chuckle though, before the curtains came back revealing us and masses of boy and girl dancers pretending to "adore" Anita, Harry Secombe would be doing his "stand-up", in front of the curtain, an "act" that required him to make a few quick costume changes. When he came behind the curtain, we would be there, and although he would be seriously out of breath, he would crack us all up, with some rhyme about "Casey was hit with a sackful of "grit", etc". Harry asked us to play a benefit show in Oxford, which we did, after that show, my girlfriend (now wife) and I and the rest of the band found ourselves eating dinner, at a long table, with not only Harry Secombe, but Spike Milligan (who cut Harry's tie off with a pair of scissors) and Stanley Baker, of the movie "Zulu" fame. I was stunned, so were we all, to say I was a huge Stanley Baker fan would be a vast understatement and there we were, amongst the "chit chat", with our fillet mignon, done medium rare, thank you very much.
Towards the end of our run in London Laughs, Mike was asked if we would play in the Royal Variety Performance for that year, which he agreed to. That show had Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Wayne Newton (who looked about fourteen), Gene Pitney, Morecombe and Wise, The New Seekers, and others, Des O'Connor was the "MC" jokester.
On the Sunday afternoon of the show we were told to arrive for rehearsals. While waiting for our turn, we had the delight of watching, first Sammy Davis, supposedly rehearse, then Morecombe and Wise. The "acts" they rehearsed were not the "acts" they gave for the evening show, I swear they gave a "special" show, just for the stagehands and others in attendance.
Early in January 1967, Mike and I returned to the Wimbledon Palais, the other members of the band had moved on with their lives. Pete Heathersay got a job as a supermarket manager up in Birmingham, Ian Gibbon went into "insurance", Mike Palmer found a job drumming with a "jazz outfit" and selling used cars.
Mike Rabin ran an ad in the Melody Maker for a guitar player and drummer and eventually we got back into our Palais residency routine again, but while we were working at the Palladium, the music scene had changed, as it had five years earlier in our favour, only this time, for better or worse, we were at the receiving end of that change.
It seemed to me that after The Beatles 'Sergeant Pepper' album came out, things took off in all musical directions, as so they should. Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and others were turning the music of the early sixties into memories.
The business at the Wimbledom Palais seemed to have almost evaporated and Mike's dad closed the business down.
We played our final gig and I went home from the Wimbledon Palais for the last time. I had learnt my lesson well, I had seen and enjoyed most of the masters of popular music of that time. I had lived a lifetime in less than five years. I was twenty-one years old.
Terry Stamp, Los Angeles, May 2004