INTERVIEW TO PETER VINEY
By ABEL FUENTES
Posted on "THE LOGICAL WEB" (www.thelogicalweb.com)
December 30th, 2010
QUESTION: According to my notes, you were born in Bournemouth, England… Is it right?
QUESTION: What date were you born on?
PETER: 2nd July 1947.
QUESTION: Your involvement with Supertramp was from being an old friend of Richard Palmer… When did you meet him? Did you also meet his long-time friend John Wetton?
PETER: I've known Richard Palmer since we were four years old, and we are still in touch. Richard, John and I were at Bournemouth School. Richard formed The Corvettes in 1962. John is two years younger than us. He joined them circa 1964 and they became The Palmer-James Group. Then Richard went to university, and The Palmer-James Group continued without guitar… He played in the holidays. They were a popular soul band, playing three or four nights a week.
QUESTION: What happened when Richard left university?
PETER: It was summer 1968. He formed Tetrad with John Wetton and John Hutcheson, who played Hammond organ, from The Palmer-James Group. Bob Jenkins, who later would be in Room, was drummer. They changed their name to Ginger Man early 1969. In summer 1969, they split. John formed Splinter with Ed Bicknell, who later would be Dire Straits manager, and drummer of The Notting Hillbillies. Then John joined Jim Litherland's Brotherhood with Ed Bicknell, which became Mogul Thrash after Ed left. Richard auditioned for Wishbone Ash and was offered the job, but chose Supertramp.
QUESTION: Both Richard Palmer and Roger Hodgson auditioned for Supertramp as guitarists… Why do you think Roger ended playing bass?
PETER: Richard was a vastly more experienced electric player, having been in bands with John Wetton for years, and became the guitarist, while Roger was moved to bass. I suspect that was always a cause of problems within the band. Roger rapidly became a very, very good bass player, but moved back to guitar as soon as Richard left. There are people like Roger who can get music from any instrument within minutes of touching it.
QUESTION: How did you get involved with Supertramp?
PETER: I was in contact with Richard all the time. I helped cut the Supertramp Hammond organ in half for transport at Easter 1970, and then started to work as roadie in the autumn of that year. I think they wrongly got the idea that I would be able to maintain the Hammond on the road, having cut it in half.
QUESTION: Was it something usual to cut the Hammond organ for transport?
PETER: John Hutcheson cut his Hammond L100 in half so that he could transport it more easily. I assisted by holding the wires while he cut them and soldered them. Supertramp asked him to do theirs. I went with him as his assistant. It took us 48 hours without sleep, because it was a much bigger model than his. It fell apart when we cut it and we had to make a new frame.
QUESTION: Were you 48 hours without sleep to cut the organ? Really?
PETER: Yes! The only record in the house was the LP "Bridge over troubled water" by Simon & Garfunkel, which Sam had bought them as an example of good production. We played it non-stop for 48 hours. I still can't listen to it as a result of the over-exposure.
QUESTION: How was your relationship with Sam, the sponsor of Supertramp?
PETER: I met him about three or four times. I didn't know him really. We had a wonderful meal once at his hotel. He ordered up a record player and played us the first Curved Air album. I didn't know him really.
QUESTION: What do you remember from Andy Andrews, who was the other Supertramp roadie by then?
PETER: Andy was the original bass player in The Joint, the band Rick Davies had played before. I remember that when we were cutting the organ in half and they were warming up by jamming, Andy played bass with both Richard and Roger playing guitars. Later, in 1971, Andy made an album worth of demos with Richard in Munich. He was good…
QUESTION: So why did he not play bass with the band?
PETER: I think he got dropped from the band because they wanted a lead singer. But he organized the auditions to set up the band and was with them as the only roadie on the Munich 1969 and early 1970 gigs. When I joined, there was already the thought that they'd need two roadies, so he showed me the jobs like driving the van, setting up the gear, sound mixing…
QUESTION: Was Supertramp the first rock band you worked with?
PETER: It was the first rock band that paid me, though I'd often helped Tetrad and Ginger Man to carry their gear in to gigs, in exchange for free admission!
QUESTION: Had you seen Supertramp playing live before working for them?
PETER: Yes, I saw Supertramp play in Croydon, where they supported Yes, Kingston and at the Marquee Club in London before I worked for them. One thing that is wrong in most chronologies of Supertramp is about Dave Winthrop. He joined immediately after the first album was recorded, so though he was not on it, he was on all the gigs after it. A lot of histories place him joining for "Indelibly stamped", because he plays on it. He'd already been in for nearly a year then.
QUESTION: Speaking about Dave Winthrop and The Marquee… Is it true that, during a show there, Dave and Stan Webb from Chicken Shack had a dispute regarding Dave's girlfriend?
PETER: Yes… But Dave now is playing with Chicken Shack, so perhaps better left unsaid… I don't even know that Dave was involved. Basically she told Stan to go away. No more than that. I was standing there, and it was just said in a very funny way. It wasn't a dispute.
QUESTION: Who was the main vocalist during the live shows of Supertramp during that era?
PETER: Richard Palmer usually did the two covers, "All along the watchtower" and "Season of the witch". When the PN Club video was shot, Haro Senft picked out Richard as the most visually interesting to film, so those numbers were done for the video. I don't think it represents the balance of the stage act. Live, Roger Hodgson was always the main vocalist, certainly while I was there. Richard did "Maybe I'm a beggar" too.
QUESTION: Richard Palmer was who thought of the name "Supertramp", isn't it?
PETER: Yes. We corresponded listing pages of possible names. He came up with "Supertramp" early in February 1970. They had had to drop "Daddy" because of the group Daddy Longlegs. I still have the list of possible names… Other ones in the running were "The Goat", "Thirst" and "29th February". They chose the right one!
QUESTION: Do you remember who had suggested the first name of the band, Daddy?
PETER: Definitely, Richard Palmer.
QUESTION: Early 1970, the first drummer, Keith Baker, left the band... Before Robert Millar joined, the band tried Nigel Olsson, who had played with Roger Hodgson in the past... Do you know why he didn't take the job?
PETER: I don't know. I don't even know if he was offered it. I do know that Rick Davies was a superb drummer, and way better than most of the many drummers they auditioned. It was very hard finding a drummer good enough to suit Rick. I just can say that Robert Millar hadn't joined at the point the band was still called Daddy.
QUESTION: Do you know if Richard Palmer write all the lyrics for the first Supertramp album? Didn't Rick Davies or Roger Hodgson help him with that task?
PETER: I don't know the balance. The lyrics mainly sound like Richard Palmer to me, and he went on to become King Crimson's lyricist, but I thought he had melodic input too.
QUESTION: In 2002 Supertramp released an album called "Slow motion" which included "Goldrush", a song from their early times written by Richard, Rick and Roger… Do you remember if there were many other unreleased songs from that era?
PETER: I think "Goldrush" was the only one. Great song. They tried to record it many times. Since I left the band, I saw them play at least three times before "Crime of the century", and I think they played "Goldrush" on every one of those shows.
QUESTION: Were you in Munich any time when the band was playing there or recording the soundtrack of the film "Fegefeuer"?
PETER: No, I wasn't there, although I was in contact with Richard frequently while they were in Munich. But I was in Frankfurt with them late December 1970. When we came back from there, we drove straight to the film preview at a studio in Soho. The film executives came in, said "Fuck! It's in German!" and promptly fell asleep.
QUESTION: According to my notes, in the fall of 1970 Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson and Dave Winthrop shared an apartment in Maida Vale where Richard Palmer and you slept on cots… Is it right?
PETER: Yes. We slept in Roger's room on camp beds. The flat was filthy. It was in Elgin Avenue and painted dark grey.
QUESTION: During that era Supertramp played a lot of shows all along the UK… What do you remember from those long and uncomfortable trips?
PETER: We travelled in two groups. Me with Richard and Dave in the Ford Transit van. Andy and the other three in the car. When I started, Andy and I were in the van. Then Richard joined us. Roger drove the car all the time too, no swapping. This was clearly unfair on Roger, who didn't seem to mind. Then Andy drove the car and Dave joined us in the van.
QUESTION: Why did you make that change?
PETER: The precedent for this happened in Scotland where during the day Richard and Dave fancied sightseeing, the others didn't, so the three of us went off in the van. Also with Andy driving the car, it made sense to have one or two travel in the van for comfort.
QUESTION: Was the car not very comfortable?
PETER: They usually had six seater cars with a bench seat in the front, but it still wasn't great with six adults. It's also a safety factor because you avoid having one person drive after a gig through the night. The passenger has an important job, keep talking to keep the driver awake. We might have had a radio, but there were no cassette players in the car or van, and very little on radio in those days. Nothing in the middle of the night.
QUESTION: So it was your usual way of travelling: Richard, Dave and you in the van, and the rest of the band in the car…
PETER: It was nearly fixed, but not quite. Once we were going back through Oxford with the next two days free, so Roger came in the van with me and Richard, so we could drop him at his mum's, south of Oxford, and drive on to Bournemouth for Richard and me.
QUESTION: And what about your accommodation in the hotels when you were touring?
PETER: In those days, with small British hotels, we had to book three twin rooms and a single to save money. That was a cause of contention. Richard and Rick always wanted the single. Richard usually got it. The rest of us were supposed to swap around as Sam thought it would prevent cliques forming.
QUESTION: What a funny way to share out the rooms…
PETER: Unusually for bands after about 1973, it was very democratic. The roadies shared rooms with the band, ate at the same places together, and got paid slightly more because it wasn't a career path for us.
QUESTION: Was Sam who dealt with the bills?
PETER: Our wages plus every penny the group spent had to be written down as part of their ever-growing debt. Roger kept the book… So it was "Roger – coffee, no cake 8 pence. Robert – coffee & a cake 11 pence". That didn't apply to me and Andy, though I'm sure the accountants added our wages and expenses to the ever-growing mountain of what they owed Sam.
QUESTION: Is it true that you played tambourine during a show in Swansea in November 1970?
PETER: I quietly played tambourine because during the set, the university started complaining that they'd booked a five piece group and there were only four people playing. Robert Millar was not there, and Rick and Roger had to share drums… So I picked up the tambourine for a few songs in order to retain the full fee, and Andy played bass during the encores, both Chuck Berry jams in the situation.
QUESTION: After that show, Andy left the band very soon… Was he replaced by someone?
PETER: When Andy left, I looked after the mixer and he was replaced by another guy for the last month… I'm not sure, but I think his name was Mick. He was from Liverpool. That was the guy who came to Frankfurt with us to the Zoom Club.
QUESTION: What are your memories about the Supertramp you worked with late 1970?
PETER: Really, it wasn't a happy band. Most bands have a history of friendship because they grow organically among friends. This band was totally artificial in origin, answering an advert in "Melody Maker". They weren't pals. Rick and Roger developed the rapport later, maybe it was already there then, but it wasn't there for all five members in 1970.
QUESTION: Were there many differences among the members of the band?
PETER: In that Supertramp line-up, age was a major thing. Rick Davies was the oldest and had been a professional musician for a while. Robert Millar had never done anything else. Both Richard Palmer and Dave Winthrop had been in very successful, busy semi-pro bands for years, then in full professional bands for over a year. Roger Hodgson had just left an elite public school and had made a record with top guys, but had no road experience. He was four years younger than Richard or Dave. At that point it's a big difference. Roger's favourite group was Traffic, while Richard and Rick shared a love of The Band, me too. On which, they loved The Band's use of two keyboards.
QUESTION: Did they consider the possibility of sign up another keyboardist?
PETER: I remember that in the flat they lived there was a demo tape of Gilbert O'Sullivan, which had some hits three years in the future, on it. I heard that they contemplated going for the two keyboards route, like The Band, by bringing in Gilbert on piano. Either they, or the management, thought his image was too odd. This was before I was working for them.
QUESTION: How it was your personal relationship with every member of Supertramp?
PETER: Richard and Dave, I knew well. Roger was always easy to get on with. Rick was quite remote. He was definitely "the boss". I don't feel I knew him. From my point of view, Roger was always the first to help with stuff, or drive the van, as he did when I was ill after a gig in Stoke-On-Trent.
QUESTION: What do you think it was the main reason for Richard Palmer leaving the band?
PETER: A lot was going on. Even though I was close friends with Richard and Dave, I didn't know much about it. But I do know some key points. For example, we played at the London School of Economics. It was a Saturday. Supertramp played in the theatre, while Mogul Thrash with John Wetton played in the dance hall later. There was an argument, very silly, about who was top of the bill and who played best, because the poster looked like equal billing.
QUESTION: What was the result of that argument?
PETER: Richard thought it was Mogul Thrash who played better and said so. We've often discussed this. "Mogul Thrash rocked harder", he said. But I thought Supertramp were much more interesting and original, and said so. After the concert, Richard and I went for dinner with Mogul Thrash because John was our oldest friend, and we knew everyone in the band. Roger and Rick considered this treachery. It was all very silly in retrospect. There were several such disputes. Some were even sillier.
QUESTION: After Richard left Supertramp, the band tried to replace him with the guitarist David O'List, but he didn't join… Do you know what happened?
PETER: David O'List played just on one gig, and it was the last time I worked with Supertramp. It was in South London, probably around Croydon, and was a few days before Christmas 1970. Richard had left a couple of days before, directly we got back from Frankfurt. It was a very short gig, because there was a huge fight in the audience, and the set was never finished… I'd say 30 to 40 minutes. By the way, I corresponded with David O'List earlier this year and he has no memory of that show!
QUESTION: Why did you leave Supertramp in December 1970? Had it something to do with Richard's departure?
PETER: Yes and no. Richard left, I was invited to stay and I did for a few days. But then it was announced they were going to come off the road and write a new album. That left me little to do. I was paid £15 a week, but when we were travelling, I got all my food and hotels paid for. So £15 was all money in my pocket. Coming off the road meant less money, the band got £12 each then. By the way, they never paid me for my last week, so still owe me £15.
QUESTION: Did you ever think then that the band would have a world success some years later?
PETER: Yes, I always believed Roger had the original talent and voice to be a huge success, on his own or in a band. Rick was a brilliant and original musician. I was sure they'd make it, even at their nadir in 1972.
QUESTION: Considering that, did you ever regret leaving the band?
PETER: No, I never regretted leaving. It wasn't my thing. I was a very minor employee. I went to see them on the "Crime of the century" tour at Bournemouth Winter Gardens and went backstage. Roger was extremely nice, and offered me a job with the band any time I wanted one. I didn't want one. I still feel pleased he offered. It may or may not have been sincere, but I appreciated the sentiment! It was the last time we spoke.
QUESTION: What were you working on just after leaving Supertramp?
PETER: My brother-in-law had just got a teaching job in Brussels at a university, and the English Language Teaching school he worked at in the UK were very angry because they couldn't find a qualified replacement at short notice for January 1971. I decided to go there for a month, at £30 a week, while Supertramp decided what to do. I loved it and stayed. I'd worked out that I wasn't a musician, and therefore had no creative role. I had wanted to go into management, but they already had that.
QUESTION: Did you work with other bands later?
PETER: No, not at all. But I've written extensively on The Band, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. And now I'm working on a book on British record labels. A&M come out well because they were very supportive of Supertramp, which I remember.
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Merci pour cette très interessante interview !
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Super, merci. Beaucoup d'informations sur cette période méconnue.
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