|The Ray Raynor Interview...|
|Copyright : Ray Raynor|
|...with Ged Peck
|Warhorse was a band borne of the late 1960s with five hugely talented musicians. Informed opinion at the time suggested that they were heading for super-star status, but only a few enthusiasts know anything about them today. Things started to go wrong when their guitarist, Ged Peck, quit the band following the release of their first album. He then disappeared for over thirty years. Ray Raynor caught up with him London in the late summer of 2002 to discover what led to the break-up.
Q Before you joined Warhorse, who had you played with?
A Too many to remember. Marsha Hunt, Marc Bolan, Bob and Earl from the US, Billy Fury, Billie Davis, Screaming Lord Sutch, and I backed the Flowerpot Men for a period in 1968. I really can't remember the rest what with all the sessions, although I was with the Freddie Mac Band for over a year.
Q What was backing like?
A Pretty damn soul destroying if you really want to know. Like so many others, I did it for the money. You had to. I got many studio sessions although the competition was fearce. Page got a lot of it, and it was pretty near impossible to break into the sessions that Big Jim Sullivan did. Anyway, he was good, very good.
Q Tell me what these people were like?
A I suppose one has to start with Billy Fury. I saw a television programme some years ago after he died and not one person had anything bad to say about him. Normally, you think...well...but I really don't doubt it. He was one of nicest guys I ever met, and there weren't too many of them. He always had time for people, paid you well, and never acted 'the star' when he was with us. Did you know that he was an ornithologist? He'd be driving along in his Mercedes and then suddenly scream to a halt, grab his binoculars, and dive into
the nearest hedge! He was also huge in the North. Let me describe it like this - a considerable amount of female underwear used to hit the stage during his performances...very embarrassing, but true.
Q What about the others; Marc Bolan for instance?
A This goes back a long, long way. It was 1964 or 1965 I think. I had a recording contract with some band or other and we were in our management's office in Kensington. Mike Hurst of the Springfields came up and asked if we'd do some tracks with him. I said "Who the hell is he?" Mike replied "You saw him in the corridor." We'd actually stepped over this impoverished-looking guy on the way in who was sitting on the floor and thought nothing of it. The sessions weren't up to much, and I didn't enjoy them. Someone recently told me that the subsequent record...'Third Degree' or something like that...is now worth a fortune. Can't think why. It was awful. Needless to say, I lost my copy.
Q What else did you do?
Well, there was the Freddie Mac Band, which was quite astonishing and very good. Its personnel went from around 12 to 19 depending upon who was still sober, and in their right minds. Although they toured the length of Britain and Ireland (over and over by the way) there were so many different band members that it was surprising who you came across. For example, on bass was Alan Cartright. He was excellent although could be a bit awkward. Barry (BJ) Wilson was the one-time drummer. Both Barry and Alan ended up in Procul Harum and I was sad to hear of Barry's death. He was brilliant, no kidding. Shortly after the Mac Band, Alan phoned me to offer me a job with Barry and their new band. I think they then moved into Procul Harum, and of course, I'd turned them down. I had a habit of doing things like that. Freddie also had a singer, Derry Wilkie from Liverpool, another nice guy and terrific showman. I went back to Derry's house once. He had this poster of himself 'Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen in Hamburg', with 'The Beatles' in small letters as the supporting group. There was also an organist in the Jimmy Smith mould called Bill Davidson. I think it was here that I met Nic Simper when he took over from Alan, although I might be mistaken on this. But I must tell you one thing. In 1968 we were booked to play at some millionaire's party in Paris. It was in a huge marquee in the garden and all the usual film-star crowd were there such as Jane Fonda. Needless to say what was left of the drink ...and there were hundred of bottles...was pilfered by the band. I had to go round Paris the following morning dragging drunk band members back to the coach. Some even got left behind. Anyway, as your history will tell you, 1968 was the year when De Gaulle was nearly overthrown. I missed it by a couple of weeks which was typical of my luck.
Q And what about Marsha Hunt and the Flowerpot Men?
A Oh! Them. It was the money...honest. It certainly wasn't anything else. The FPM were really big in Europe and I think had some big hits. We'd turn up at venues all over Europe and thousands of people would go wild. Why? Why? It was embarrassing, but as I said, good money. It was here that I met Carlo Little and Jon Lord who were in the backing band along with myself and Nic. As for Marsha, well, I'd rather not go into that.
Q I read your comments about her on another web site.
A Did you? The one about the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival? The people who did that site and spoke to me sent me a CD of it. Horrible. Just plain horrible. I think I shall purposely bin it for posterity.
Q And Billie Davis?
A Yeah, backed her for a time with Nic.
Q Did you know Jet Harris of the Shadows?
A Sort of. Billie introduced me to him once. Nice as pie, but when he'd had a drink...
Q But wasn't that because you and Billie, so I have been told, had more than a professional relationship and Harris was a bit upset...
A Hold on. This is supposed to be about the '60s music scene. No. I'm not going there. Billie was a nice person...end of story...and end of interview Ray if we go down this path. No offence, but that's the way it is. Move on.
Q OK, well how was Warhorse formed?
A Well, I'd known Nic Simper for some time. When he came out of Purple in somewhat acrimonious circumstances, I suddenly got a phone call from him. It was just him and me, I think, although he had the original idea. However, we both had to earn a living, so we got the job backing Marsha. We played the Isle of Wight with The Who and Dylan, although we didn't get along with her. In effect, the idea began to take shape whilst we were still backing her.
Q How did you get Frank Wilson, Mac Poole, and Ashley Holt?
A Actually, the original organist was going to be a young lad we discovered playing in a dreadful showband-type outfit in Reading. His name was Rick Wakeman. In fact, I think
(although I might wrong about this) that we did some demos with him. I know that no one will believe it, but Rick and I had the job of writing the material, except that we used to spend the day playing a silly football game where you flick plastic players about! Anyway, Rick got an offer from The Strawbs and disappeared. I can't remember how Frank Wilson
came into it, although Ashley was originally with Rick in Reading. Mac Poole was a good friend of Zeppelin's John Bonham and came from Birmingham. Nic and I drove all the way to his Mum's house to hear him practice on a set of artificial drums. He had to do that as the neighbours would have complained. It was obvious to us that he was very good. We then conspired to get him the job with Marsha in order to get him to London. We were then able to secretly rehearse.
Q Where did the rehearsals take place? How did you keep it quiet?
A Hanwell Community Centre in Ealing. Loads of bands used it. We were already doing so
with Marsha, so it was all cloak-and-dagger stuff. People had to keep their mouth shut, which was difficult when you knew everyone.
Q Didn't Deep Purple rehearse there once?
A A lot more than once. And Led Zeppelin. We used to come across them all regularly. It was all a bit embarrassing at times. Zeppelin used to use the main hall, Purple the room on the right, and us, or Marsha, the one on the left, sometimes all on the same day. At tea breaks, Mac would be off to see Bonham with Ian Pace looking on, and I would generally swop and discuss guitars with Page whom I knew from years back. Although I knew Ritchie Blackmore well (and, incidentally, had shared a room around Europe with Jon Lord only a couple of years earlier), I couldn't really say much to them because of the animosity with Simper. Nic would just sit in the rehearsal room, muttering obscenities and saying how he was going to sue the pants off them.
Q It was often suggested that you sounded like Deep Purple. How did that make you feel?
A Annoyed. Admittedly, the line-up was the same and we were in the same genre. But it stopped there. Anyway, I made an effort not to listen to anything they did. Not because of any hostility on my part as I was friends with them, but because I'd always liked Ritchie's playing ever since I first met him in Hamburg in 1967. I just didn't want to be influenced. So I still don't know how alike we were. Anyway, I think he was better than me...in some things. He was a showman, of course, whereas I couldn't care less about it.
Q When you finally left Marsha Hunt...and I read your comments on the Isle of Wight website...and Warhorse was formed, there were rumours that you and Nic Simper were not getting on.
A You've done your homework. There was a dispute about who wrote and arranged much of that album, although it's over thirty years on and I don't want to get into that all over again.
Q But it has a significance as to why you left, does it not?
A Oh, all right. Let's just say that I put in a lot of work into those arrangements and probably wanted more recognition for it. Very selfish, I admit, but that's the way it was. I can't deny it. They wanted it all put down as a collective effort.
Q So are you saying that you wrote it?
A No. I wrote some, but did much of the arrangements, sometimes with Frank Wilson, sometimes without. I certainly pulled St Louis, the single, together. I originally hated it and wanted something more up our street, so I made it more Warhorse-like with the accentation. Look, I don't really want to go into this and end up upsetting people again.
Q What do you think of the album now?
A It's not my style, or interest musically. That's all well in the past. However, I did listen to it when Angel Air, the company that now has the rights, sent me a CD. I must admit that for the time, it sounded quite promising and there's no telling how big Warhorse would have been had we...well...had I stayed. But I don't want to sound too negative because I am a bit of a perfectionist, even now. I've read some amazingly appreciative comments of my playing on the web, although I know that I was better live. Yes, I think I could have done a better job.
Q You had a unique sound on that album.
A I wouldn't say it was unique, but it was certainly different. It's strange that you've asked me this as a couple of months ago I had an email from a guy in Canada called Jim Patterson. He'd noticed on a website that I'd used a simple Vox 30 watt which had originally belonged the Brian Griffiths of the Liverpool band The Big Three. Jim was Griff's son. Frankly, the amp made me, if that is possible. I'd send producers and technicians mad in studios with the strange noises that it produced...not all intended by the way. There was only
one other amp like in the country, and Ritchie had that.
Q What about the others in Warhorse?
A Mac Poole's drumming impressed me. He had a rare ability. He could play straight rock,
jazz, or swing. He was also good at remembering the arrangements. But he was nuts. Aren't all drummers? Must be all that bashing about
Q And then it all went wrong?
A You could put it like that. You're determined to get back onto this, aren't you?
Q People know that you all started to row. Was it purely about who wrote what? Or was there something else?
A Well, in fairness to the others, it was perhaps more me that them. The life was simply driving me crazy and I just couldn't face another tour around Europe or anywhere else for that matter. I'd done it for years...over and over again. My 'perfectionism' was becoming destructive; I admit that. And I'll also go so far as to say that I was making their lives hell. In reality, I now realise that I wanted to move away from rock towards what became known as jazz-fusion. I was not prepared to start all over again, so as I also had a growing interest in classical guitar, I went in that direction. After all, it's somewhat solitary and there's no one to moan at if you get it wrong.
Q So you left?
A In reality, they couldn't take it anymore, and I had to get out otherwise I'd have been a basket case. It took me some time to come to terms with my life over the 1960s and generally calm down. The final gig...Ipswich, Norwich, or somewhere...was a total nightmare. I remember screaming abuse at them in the dressing room for something or other...I don't know. And then a few months later, I switched on the TV and saw Warhorse with their new guitarist on The Old Grey Whistle Test. It sent me into a rage. The new guitarist...whom I have nothing against as I've never met him...was miming to my solo! I was going to sue them, put a 'contract' out on them...all the crazy things you think of when you a recovering from the life I led. I can laugh at the ridiculousness of it now. Some years earlier, Jon (Lord) told me that I "wasn't cut out" for that life. I was quite annoyed at the time, but he was right.
Q So how do you feel about Warhorse all these years later?
A I've only met Nic once since, although it was twenty-nine years after the album was made. We met at a Sutch reunion through the drummer Carlo Little. I'd been corresponding with
Carlo's daughter, Giselle, and she'd told me about it. Things were very friendly, and just like the old days. Nic got Angel Air to phone me as the rest of the group were in the process of threatening EMI with legal action over back royalties. The others I know nothing of.
Q I get the impression that you would not like to go back to that life?
A You don't have to be very perceptive to realise that. About once a year, I have a dream about it, and wake up sweating. I was recently told that we could earn a fortune by reforming and going to Japan, but even if it were true, I wouldn't do it for million. Anyway, I've recently been seriously ill and nearly died so that's another reason. I don't regret any part of my experiences. I did things and went to places that others would never have dreamed of. But that was then. Life changes. I've changed. I'm not the same person. By a long way.
Q So why did you disappear all those years?
A To totally get a new life. When I quit I'd get people phoning me up and going crazy...why was I doing it?...didn't I realise what I was throwing up?...It was as if I had personally insulted them. I was dragged back into session work for a short period but I had to get away and become anonymous. I also did some rehearsals with Hendrix's old drummer, Mitch Mitchell at his house along with bass player Tony Dangerfield, but it was all a bit pointless.I finally moved house, cut all ties, and never spoke about the past with anyone. Even my sons didn't know until 2000. I'm coming out of my shell a bit as I would never have spoken to you two years ago. But I still don't tell anyone. In conversations, they sometimes talk about people I personally knew in the 1960s...but I keep my mouth shut. The trouble is that once you open up, they're be so astonished that it all sounds like name-dropping.
Q So you've no regrets?
A I have regrets. Never making enough money, never really getting the band and music that I wanted, that sort of thing. But no, not really. There's dozens of things in my life that wouldn't have happened if I'd stayed, and leaving certainly changed my ideas about life.
Q Who did you rate in those days?
A Not many. Apart from those I've mentioned, Billy Davidson on the Hammond was very good. I played with him in Freddie Mac's Band. In terms of bass players, Alan Cartwright and Tex Makims. And Barry Wilson on drums. Carlo was also good. And I better mention Robert Fripp as he's said nice things about me on the web! I also rated Nicky Hopkins. Remember him? Played piano on all those Stones records. He's dead now and I last met up with him when we were playing the Empire Pool in Wembley.But the best guitarist I ever heard was some guy who came round my place one evening. He was outstanding...and worked in a factory in Leicester. Amazing! Today, a guitarist I would recommend is my old mate Bernie Holland who's done a lot of work with Georgie Fame over the years.
Q So what are you doing now?
A I've been teaching and lecturing in colleges for years...sociology, history etc. I now manage an educational studies unit and really enjoy it. And I still play.
Q But no one knows your past.
Q Finally, what do you listen to today?
A Classical and Jazz to the exclusion of much else. Pianist Glenn Gould does more for me playing Bach than anyone I've even heard. Wes Montgomery on the jazz guitar. And I like
Chick Corea. I wish I'd have got a job with him in the 70s. I also love Django Reinhardt...what guitarist doesn't? Pop and rock have passed me by for thirty years and will continue to do so.
Q Thanks for this information. It clears a few things up.
A No problem.
* This interview was conducted at the Hard Rock Cafe in Oxford Street in August 2002.
** All photos below, apart from the publicity stills, are reproduced with the permission of Ged Peck.
Copies of Warhorse can be obtained from Angel Air Records, PO Box 14, Stowmarket, Suffolk, England, IP14 4UD, England.
|In Munich 1968||Bill Davidson, Ged, Nic, and Carlo - 1968|
|Frankfurt 1967 - Billie Davis, Ged, Nic Simper, and Carlo|
|Zurich 1968 with Carlo and Swiss promoter|
|Munich 1968 - live TV show. Ged, Carlo, Nic, with Jon Lord (out of shot)|
|Dublin 1966 - Alan Cartwright, BJ Wilson, and DJ Tony Prince|
|Derry Wilkie of the Freddie Mac Band|