look at the man and his incredible
The Kinks, "Session
Man" (Face To Face, I966)
He was born in I940 and
brought up in Edmonton, North London.He realised early on that
drumming was his future.
"When I was eight I used
months with the biscuit-tin kit he was taken to Ted Warren's
Drumshop in the Old Ford Road in near London's East End.
"It was like heaven, drums everywhere" remembers
Graham, "I was obsessed by drums, I didn't play football,
I went straight in to practice. I used to play along with Ronnie
Verrall, the drummer from the Ted Heath Orchestra. I stuck cotton
wool in the record player, to slow the records down so I could
hear what he was doing beat for beat".
Graham left school at
fifteen. As he says:
"I didn't want a grown ups job.
I've never had a grown ups job".
He'd already played with a skiffle group. but his heart
was in jazz. At
sixteen he took up the drum stool at Sunday night jazz sessions
at The Witches Cauldron, a Hampstead coffee bar.
Rock 'n' roll soon came (literally) knocking on the door.
Even though Graham was
a self-confessed jazz snob, the invitation to join his
So off Graham went to
Yorkshire, playing the chart hits of the day, mainly covers of
Cliff and the Shadows. In September I960, after the Butlin's
season, the Stormers split when Halsey got married.
Joe Meek was interested in Mike Berry, but didn't like
his backing band, so the Stormers were talked into reforming.
Meek renamed them The Outlaws in late I960, "I thought
(The Outlaws) was a bit camp.
At the time we did what we were told" recalls Graham.
The Outlaws became a
Meek house band, backing up Mike Berry and John Leyton as well
as recording on their own.
Meek's unusual approach to songwriting made an impression:
"He used to come to us with demos of him singing what he
thought he heard in his head, but he would use strange backing
tracks that were nothing to do with the song.
Occasionally he might try to play a few notes on the piano.
We used to rewrite the things, but we would always see
his name on the label,
You didn't dare criticise Joe, as he might throw a wobbly. I didn't like his occult thing, I'd seen him and (songwriter) Geoff Goddard on a oujia board session. He told me he was talking to Buddy Holly and Mario Lanza. Its no secret we didn't get on. He was a sad little man, a very lonely person. He couldn't relate to people"
The final straw with
Meek came in September I96I after the release of the Outlaws
third single. The
B-side, "Crazy Drums", was credited solely to Meek,
although Graham had devised it as a drum showcase. A way out of the Outlaws came from Meek's arranger,
Charles Blackwell, who told Graham that Joe Brown needed a drummer
for his band, the Bruvvers.
After passing the audition, Graham left the Outlaws for
Brown in late I96I. "I was suddenly thrown into this world
of stardom, which was terrifying at the start," Graham recollects,
"from being in The Outlaws in a second hand van, to being
in a luxury coach with Joe Brown, Marty Wilde, Billy Fury.
It was a mad life, we used to have police protection to
get out of theatres and into coaches".
Brown soon let Graham
know that he was a more precise taskmaster than
Graham's stint with The Bruvvers was marked by an offer which didn't seem significant at the time. "We were on tour in June I962 and played at (Liverpool's) Cavern and Litherland Town Hall. After the show we went to a club called the Blue Angel with Brain Epstein. Brian offered me the job with the Beatles. They wanted to get rid of Pete Best, they were having problems with Pete's mother. Brian didn't like her, so he decided to out Pete, and asked me if I was interested in joining the band, I said 'why would want to join a band in Liverpool that nobody's ever heard of?". After some clashes with Brown, Graham left the Bruvvers in early I963. "We didn't always see eye to eye, I was pretty wild in those days. I should have listened. I learnt my discipline on that when I became a session man".
He quickly found a spot in Marty Wilde's Wildcats: "Marty knew my reputation as a drummer and invited me to join". The only legacy of this Wildcats line up was "Polaris", a Telstar-inspired single released under the name The Boys in March I963. This Wilde-penned instrumental was produced by John Barry.
Marty Wilde wasn't the only one to notice Graham's skills. Tony Hatch had been at the recording of "A Picture Of You" in early I962, and asked whether Graham was interested in playing on sessions by other acts. At the same time, another staff producer at Pye records (Brown's label) asked Graham if he'd play on an album by Davy Graham. "I got to the studio, and was surprised because there was only me and him" remembers Graham, "he was an acoustic guitarist, no bass, nothing".
By the end of I963 Graham
was well known amongst arrangers and producers and finding studio
work was easy. 'Mike
Smith at Decca heard my playing. Then Mickie Most rang, and it
built up from there". Other session drummers didn't have
Graham's feel for rock 'n' roll: "Ronnie Verrall and Kenny
Clare had been around for a long time, they were both big band
musicians, Ronnie had come out of the Ted Heath Band, Kenny had
come out of the Johnny Dankworth Band. Neither were particularly fond of rock 'n'
roll music. They
had a great big band jazz feel and would play exactly what was
written on their drum parts.
If a fly landed on their chart they'd play it! Whereas
I couldn't read. so I had to rely on what felt right. I was loud. My trick was, if the singer took a breath,
fill in. I was one of the first of the new generation coming
in, Jim Sullivan was already in.
Jimmy Page - same thing, couldn't read a note but had
a great feel".
Musicians on the session
circuit were generally booked by a fixer. Graham
Graham often had no idea what he was turning up for: "It was a peculiar way of working, almost everything you could think of. You could get there and walk into a 70 piece orchestra doing a movie thing, or Tommy Kinsman and his strict tempo dance orchestra at Phillips studios. then you'd dash across to EMI and it would be a film session or P.J. Proby with a big orchestra, then to Pye, and in the evening it would be The Kinks.
The session musicians
were a close-knit group, but Graham doesn't think of them as
a band: "The combinations used to change. Big Jim Sullivan,
Alan Weighell on bass. Alan had come from Tommy Steele.
There would be Earl Guest (a.k.a. Reg Guest) on piano.
On the next session you'd find it had changed to Jimmy Page on
guitar and Arthur Greenslade on piano.
Suddenly it would be three guitarists - Jim Sullivan,
Jimmy Page and Vic Flick.
Joe Moretti was another big session guitarist at
After the younger guys
had got in, everything else stayed the same, the string players,
the brass and wind instruments". Session musicians were
brought in for various reasons, mostly financial: "It was
done mainly for convenience. it was financial, you had to get
at least four titles done in a three hour session. The
record companies booked the professionals to come and do the
backing tracks. they got
a better performance of course as well".
It was hard work, probably
harder than touring. "There
were three sessions a
Session men were expected
to cope with every style of pop.
"One of the sessions I did with a fairly big orchestra
was for Petula Clark. I remember walking in to the studio and
thinking - 'oh my god there are all these guys I've looked at
for years'. People
from the Heath Orchestra, big names. I was terrified. I was half
their age. I couldn't read, and in those days, arrangers would
write all the drum parts. I remember doing a session with Tony
Hatch. Tony hadn't
realised I wasn't a reader, I'm playing
The production line approach
meant that records now considered classics,
The Kinks really stood
out because of Ray Davies' songs. not the standard I2 bar blues".
Some acts stood out, either because they put so much into the
recordings. Or simply because they were friendly.
"I" d be the first one at the studio, setting
up, tap on the shoulder, Bob how's the family'?' - and it would
be Tom Jones, 'just the same as somebody working in a factory!
Tom was a performer, he'd stand behind the microphone
and get stuck into it.
Kathy Kirby had a big voice, but didn't perform. I remember
thinking what an strange singer Marianne Faithful was, nice person
though. Brenda Lee
really did perform. Mickie
Most produced that record ('Is It True') at Decca, they wanted
this English sound. John
Carter and Kenny Lewis wrote the song, and also did backing
vocals. Jimmy Page and
Jim Sullivan were on guitar, Alan Weighell was on bass, Stan
Barrett on percussion and myself on drums.The
arranger was Reg Guest.
For the B side, 'What I'd Say'. we were messing around, somebody started the lick, Brenda jumped in and Mickie Most said 'let's record that'. It was done in one take".
Graham has special memories
of Dusty Springfield: "She threw a cup of
The higher calibre of
studio and musician in London attracted acts from abroad.The
French pop star Eddy Mitchell was a regular visitor, recording
at least eight EPs in London.
For Mitchell's releases the session men were dubbed "The
London All Stars". Graham recalls: "Charlie Katz rang
- 'please be at Pye records,
don't ask who the artist is'. I plodded along there, said
to (engineer) Bob Auger 'who is it tonight?' - 'Eddy Mitchell',
'who the hell is Eddy Mitchell?".
Every record on the Barclay label credited to The London
All Stars features Graham, Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan.
Other French acts like FranÁoise Hardy, Michel
Poinareff, Eric Saint-Laurent and Sylvie Vartan would also record
In early I964 Graham
began production for Fontana. "Jack Baverstock, head
Fontana released Graham's first solo single in January I965. "Skin Deep" was a drum work-out famous from Louis Belson's recording with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Graham's version was recorded at Phillips Studios with Jimmy Page, bassist Alan Weighel, organist Kenny Salmon, Arthur Greenslade on piano and a brass section of Duncan Campbell, Ray Davies (the Button Down Brass guy, not the Kinks and Bert Ezard from The Ted Heath Band. The same line up appeared on Jimmy Page's debut single "She Just Satisfies".
During I965 Graham continued
playing sessions, but began to put more effort into production
work. In February
Eddie Barclay, the millionaire playboy owner of Eddy Mitchell's
label, asked Graham to produce an album for the French market.
Credited to Le London All Star, "British Percussion",
released in September I965, was a stereo showcase, with ping-pong
percussion effects. Graham
used his session colleagues - guitarist John McLaughlin, bassist
Alan Weighell. Drummers Andy White and Ronnie Verrall.
Jimmy Page's contribution was significant.
He played lead on every track and co-wrote three with
Graham. The stand-out is "Lord Byron's Blues"
a bluesey fuzz/slide guitar work out.
Before the album's release, Barclay offered Graham a job.
"I was taken on as the head of Barclay Records UK.
I didn't speak much French, I had an interpreter with me all
the time. My job
was to produce English artists for the French market.
When I joined Barclay I began to stop playing, I just
got so tired from the work load. I was tired of playing music I didn't like.
Clem Cattini took on a lot of the drumming when I moved
from session work".
Finding English language
acts for the French market was a somewhat random
Graham then landed a job with Dutch producer Freddie Haayan, who he'd met while producing the Golden Earrings. when they came to London to record. "Freddie rang me in I967 to ask if I'd work for him. I went to Hilversum, then EMI (Bovema in Holland) headhunted me, and I started producing Dutch artists for the international market. I got very lucky, the first record I produced which was a hit for Unit Gloria, "The Last Seven Days". Their singer, Robert Long, is now the Cliff Richard of Holland". After four years, Graham left Holland. .'They asked me leave in I97I because my drinking had become horrendous, I disguised it until it got the point where you can't disguise falling over and throwing up in your office. I ended up on the streets in Amsterdam, full of booze, never dreamt I had a problem. Finally my parents got me home, and I never had another drink".
From I973-75 Graham produced
a variety of acts for Christian labels.
He then opened The Trading Post, a collectors record shop
in Edmonton. He soon tired of the 9-5 and started a business
making training videos for Midland Bank and Ladbrokes
Bobby Graham is undoubtedly amongst the most significant figures of British '60s pop, yet he looks back on his vast body of work with something approaching bemusement. "There are many things that I'm proud of, like The Kinks records, but there's not one thing that I can listen to and say, 'that's it'. I don't live in the '60s. I live for today, its history, it's gone. I find it strange that people want to talk to me about ,what I did in the '60s. How can it be interesting?"
Thanks, to Bob Graham
for the time, hospitality and Reminiscence and also to Russel
I first met Jimmy when
he was with Neal Christian and The Crusaders.
They played with Joe Brown in Aylesbury, I was so impressed.
We became very good friends, and when I became a producer
always used Jimmy. We
started a publishing company called Jimbo music, for stuff we
wrote. Jimmy wasn't
The weirdest thing I
ever did with Jimmy was Gonks Go Beat.
Charlie Katz had booked us into Decca Number 3 studio,
the cathedral where they all did the classical recordings. I
wasn't supposed to he at that session, it was the only time at
the wrong place. My part looked like a map of the London Underground,
Jimmy came over and said 'I think we're in the wrong place, I
can't read my part'. The
musical director said 'are you ready Gentlemen', and there was
complete silence. He
looked vaguely in my direction, and I thought he was talking
to somebody behind me.
He said, 'Bob, You're in at the start, and I struggled.
Finally he put the baton down, and came over and ran it
through with me. During the session I looked across and Jimmy
was thundering away. At
the end of the session I said 'you looked alright Jim'. he said,
'I turned my amp off".
Let Him Go", I964
Marie Antoinette (!)
Daly was a thirteen year old from Southend. Charles
Blackwell produced this fabulous stamping slice of Spector-influenced
girl pop. Recorded
at Decca Number 2, the engineer was Terry Johnson.
Graham provided clattering castanet rhythms and Page the
twangy inverted guitar figure.
Earl Guest, "Foxy".
A version of this Mar-Kays
instrumental was on the flip of a rock version of Cole Porter's
"Begin The Beguine" Guest (also known as Reg), a session
pianist himself, used Graham, Jimmy Page.
Big Jim Sullivan and John Paul Jones.
The Hairy Ones, "Get
Off My Cloud", French EP, I965
One of Graham's attempts
to woo the French record buying public. The four tracks ("Gloria".
"it's My Life", ,(Get Off My Cloud".
"Ring Dang Do") were played by a stellar line
up: Graham; Jimmy Page lead guitar; John McLaughlin, rhythm guitar;
Alan Weighel, bass, Kenny Salmon, organ.
The singer was Ray Merill from The Joe Loss Band.
He modified his BBC tones for rock 'n' roll - his absurd
Eric Burdon impersonation on "It's my Life" has to
be beard to be believed.
The Staggerlee's, I965
Graham signed this Doncaster
band to Barclay. They came down to London to record their debut
LP, and didn't even get to play on it.
Probably never released, the four tracks included two
sub-Hollies efforts, "City Streets" and "I'm Still
Alone", and two covers.
"Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart" and "Since
I Don't Have You".
The line up was Graham; Page, lead guitar; Eric Ford,
rhythm guitar; Reg Guest, piano, Alan Weigliel; bass.
Michel Polnareff, "La
Poupee Qui Fait Non", French EP, I966
Michel Polnareff had
spent time in London in late I965 and early I966 and was well
aware of the capabilities of English musicians. Upon signing to French label ,KZ,, he came
to London in March I966 to record his debut EP at Denmark Street's
Southern Music. Heard
were Graham, Page. lead guitar; Big Jim Sullivan, rhythm guitar.
Reg Guest; piano.
The Kinks - You Really
Got Me "PYE Number One, the big studio.
Dave Davies did the solo, I was the only session man on
the record. They
ran through it twice. 'They
would count it in, I'd dive in until I got the feel for it, and
then start recording. There
were these odd little drum breaks that Ray Davies wanted, he's
able to convey what he wants, I'd met them before, for "Long
Tall Sally", I got along fine with them.
They respected me for the fact that I was a session man.
There was some talk about me joining the Kinks but I turned
it down because I'd had enough of touring and was a successful
The Pretty Things
"If you booked a
session at I 0 o'clock in the morning, you were lucky if it got
started for 2 in the afternoon. They
would drift in, in ones and twos looking shagged out. Most of the time Viv Prince didn't come, not
because he couldn't play, he was a good player, but because he
was absolutely done in from clubbing night before.
When he did come in, he was pissed as a parrot.
Once I'd set the sound, I went straight in the studio
and played drums. Once
we got them all in one place at one time, and locked the doors
to stop them all drifting off to the pub, they would work quite
hard. Phil May sometimes
looked he'd be having an epileptic fit in the voice booth. he
used to perform as though there was an audience".
Dave Berry - The Crying
A classic example of
a session man shaping a recording. "Jim Sullivan used a De Armond wah wah
peddle. He said
to the producer 'what about this for the solo?' I remember thinking
the song was somewhat wasted on Dave Berry, but I was wrong,
it was a hit. Mickie
Most took Dave Berry to Decca, but there was something political.
they didn't want him to produce Dave, so they signed him and
put Mike Smith behind the desk".
Stan Barrett played the tinkly tree bells and Ronnie Price
was on piano.
Adrienne Poster - Ooh
Shang A Lang
"Phil Spector came
to England to produce something with Andrew (Oldham).
We did it at Olympic Sound Studios in Marylebone.
Keith Grant was the engineer.
Spector came down in the studio very briefly with this
long black cloak, he looked like Dracula. He wouldn't speak to anyone, and disappeared
into the box. It
was a weird session, there was two or three of everything.
Arthur Greenslade and Ronnie Price were on one piano.
One bass player was Alan Weighel, there was upright bass
An intriguing session from I965 - never released. "Eddie Barclay sent her to England. A really freaky bird, really weird. I did an EP with her, it was all in French for the French market, using British musicians. It was a Marianne Faithful-type thing, we did a Joan Baez number. She wasn't much of singer. The Immediate recordings were nothing to do with me."