I guess I was involved in music from birth. My Mother Diane was a vocalist. My Grandfather, Oscar Rabin was a popular Band Leader in the 40’s and 50’s. I remember going to the Lyceum ballroom in the Strand, London for Saturday afternoon Band rehearsals with my Dad who would deliver the musician’s wages. I must have been all of about five or six years old. Have to say I still have a thing for the big American West Coast Bands of the 50’s and 60’s. The Oscar Rabin Band was the first big band in the Country to break from strict tempo dance music to play Pop with weekly live broadcasts on the BBC and regular annual gigs at the Albert Hall, backing all the big “names of the day”.
When I got out of school I did the Chelsea Art College thing for a couple of years where I spent most of my time playing clarinet with a Trad Jazz Band. Eventually I faced the fact that I had more interest in making music than painting pictures and left College to form a Rock / Blues Band.
I figured that I would handle the vocals and Tenor Sax and look for other guys to make up the Band. A guitarist from Art School called Fred who used to play with “Dave Berry and the Cruisers” on the Sheffield club circuits was the first muso to join me. To be fair he didn’t last long. Dave Berry called him to go back to Sheffield and tour with the “Cruisers”. They eventually hit the Charts with “The Crying Game” and that (understandably) was the end of Fred! ( I never did get his surname. If you’re out there Fred, put me out my misery and let me know what it is?)
Things really got started in 1962 when I put an ad in the “Melody Maker”. I decided to hold auditions at the Wimbledon Palais in South London on a Saturday afternoon. I sat alone in this very large Ballroom (it held three thousand people) waiting for literally anybody to arrive. Of course I was in the Foyer at the main entrance to the Palais when I heard this banging on the back door of the place, which was about a thousand miles down the other end of the Ballroom. I ran like hell across the dance floor and pulled open the door just in time to see this guy, guitar case in hand, starting to walk away. The guy in question was Terry Stamp. Hell I nearly lost my Bass Player, and more importantly a friend and soul mate for the last forty-two years!
I remember one other guitarist turning up that afternoon. He was a “Hank Marvin” look-a-like, playing a pink Fender. That guy must have ruptured his hand on the tremolo arm! We busked around for a while and decided to “let him go”. That left Terry on Bass and me on Sax.
We eventually found a guitarist and drummer and managed to pass an audition that secured us a residency at the Wimbledon Palais. Cynics will say that as my Father owned the Palais we had it made but believe it or not my Dad was no pushover. He figured that as his son, my Band had to perform better than any other Band to get that Gig. The Palais became the biggest venue for Rock and Pop music in London during the 60’s. As the resident Band we got to play with just about every headlining Band in the Pop Business during the 1960’s. We also built quite a name for ourselves in the area over that period. “ Mike Rabin and the Demons” (well the name seemed good at the time) featured weekly on all the posters pasted up around South London.
I tried my hand at writing songs and eventually secured a Record deal with EMI on the Columbia label recording a couple of singles, “Head over Heels” which received a great plug on “Juke Box Jury” (a popular Pop Show during that period) and another song called “Leaving You”. Our Producer was a guy called Norrie Paramore (used to record Cliff Richard) and we were published through Helen Shapiro’s Publisher “Lorna Music”. We started to do a few one night stands to plug the records which occasionally took us away from the Palais. I remember us doing a thing for Radio Luxembourg alongside “Herman’s Hermits” when our drummer nearly thumped Peter Noone for messing with his drum kit, that livened things up a bit?
At that time we also played as resident Band to the “Melody Maker Beat Contest” which proved to be very popular at the time. Winning Bands would receive a load of new equipment and a recording deal. It was during this period that I pulled in a couple of extra Saxes and a Hammond Organ. (State of the art keyboard in 1965! Took a dozen men to lift it!!) We called the new band “Mike Rabin and his Music” and it allowed us to cover a much wider variety of stuff including songs by Georgie Fame and Zoot Money. We also got to back other Artists, which was great for the workload! One of the new Sax players was a talented sixteen-year-old (who was then still at School) called Stan Saltzman. He went on to become a very big name in the Jazz scene. We recorded another couple of singles for Polydor with the seven-piece Band.