An Exclusive Interview With Clive Jones
JIM GANNON--Lead Guitar
CLIVE JONES--Saxophone/ Flute
JESS "ZOOT" TAYLOR--Keyboards
Nowadays Leicester is best known for producing Walkers Crisps, footballer Gary Linekar and a rather nice brand of cheese, but once upon a time the City was renowned for spawning controversial Rock groups. The most commercially successful of them was Family, with the manic Roger Chapman trashing mic-stands whenever the mood took him, which was very often. Even Chappo's notoriety pales into insignificance, however, when compared with the furore that surrounded Black Widow. BW just happened to be Britain's first Black Magic group, with a debut album and stage-act that depicted the summoning of a female demon and the simulated sacrifice of a naked virgin. Not the type of stuff that goes down well with the "Establishment", although predictably enough it proved very popular with the punters, who purchased sufficient copies of the album for it to scrape the Top 30 in 1970.
The origins of Black Widow actually date back several years to the Summer of Love in '67, when a Soul/ R&B band called Pesky Gee! got themselves together with a line-up as noted above. Marmalade Skies is very pleased to bring you an exclusive interview with Saxist/ Flautist Clive Jones, covering the story of Pesky Gee! and Black Widow from the beginning to the end...and beyond.
Skies (MS)—Who were
your early musical influences?
started buying records in the early 60s but my influences were quite
different to my friends, who all liked the Beatles.
loved Phil Spector who is still my hero, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield,
Vanilla Fudge, Soul music and American artists who always seemed to have the
edge on the UK groups.
have any formal musical training?
started at school on the recorder, then I moved to the Clarinet. I passed a few
exams and then started to learn piano. I passed a few more exams and then
bought an alto sax. I moved to tenor sax, then did a gig with Jethro Tull and
bought a flute plus the first Jethro album (This Was) and taught myself.
started to have singing lessons with an opera singer till one day she recorded
me saying it was brilliant! When I heard it I never went again because it was
the music scene in Leicester like in the mid-60s?
music scene in Leicester was brilliant in the 60s. We had Family, who were great
in the early days. There was Legay who were well ahead of their time. They later
became Gypsy. Hal C Blake were a great Soul band and there was Sissy, who
later became Spring.
no one really made it that big.
Pesky Gee! come together?
Gee! Were already together when I joined but were called Inside Outfit. I worked
in a department store and one of the girls who worked there had a boyfriend who
was offered a job, playing sax for them. He didn’t want to take up the offer
and sold his sax, but he told me about the job. My first band, Frank Lee Union,
had just split (we never knew who Frank Lee was lol) so I rang up and got the
job. Sax players were in demand in those days.
the name was changed on the suggestion of our agent. He had a band named "Broodly
Hoo" and they used to play an instrumental called Pesky Gee!, hence the
memories of early gigs?
quite a few memories, both good and bad, but it was such fun then. I remember
our first London gig in Carnaby Street. We pulled up outside the club and about
6 guys all came out of the club, all fighting and covered in blood. Kay, our
singer, burst into tears and we suddenly wondered what we were going into, but
when we got on stage it was brilliant. They called Kay “Lulu's little
sister”. I’ve called her that ever since!
think we were also the first and only group to play Leicester prison. I fixed it
up through my piano teacher who did charity gigs there. You can imagine the
inmates all went wild after being locked up all the time, and as we had a
girl singer we could not go wrong. The sound of the applause was so loud I can
still hear it now!
second time we played there, they had clubbed together to buy Kay chocolates,
which was a really nice thought.
the Leicester club The Nite Owl in later years. We often had guys coming up
saying that they saw us in Leicester prison. It stood us well because we never
had any trouble and were always looked after by the ex-cons (lol).
kind of music were you listening to at the time? Were you a fan of
‘Psychedelic’ music and the Underground Scene?
Gee! were basically a soul band when we started, playing all the usual things
like Otis Redding/ Sam and Dave/ Wilson Pickett, but then soul seemed to die a
bit. The songs were not so good and we started to change style.
think one of the first songs we did was "You Keep Me Hanging On",
Vanilla fudge style. I’ve played that in a few bands and its one of my
personal faves. We also did “Fire” by Arthur Brown and other “psychedelic
music” as it was starting to be called
Pesky Gee! land a record contract?
Gee! were discovered in Warrington by a songwriter called Malcolm Rabbit.
Malcolm had had some success with a group named Curiosity Shoppe.
were doing 2 nights in Warrington and Malcolm saw us on the first night. He
introduced himself as a songwriter with London management and the next afternoon
we learned Malc's song "A Place Of Heartbreak". We all liked it and
Malcolm introduced us to his management, the famous Meehans, who were rivals at
the time to the infamous Don Arden. We signed up with Pat Meehan Jnr and that
was the start of our recording career.
Is My Mind” is probably Pesky Gee’s best-known song. What can you remember
about recording it?
Is My Mind" was not written by any Pesky member. It was the little known
follow up to the Fudge's "You Keep Me Hanging On" hit. I bought the
single because I loved Vanilla Fudge and we decided to do a cover version, but
at the time we didn’t think it would ever be released. Our management picked
it out and released it as the single. To Malcolm’s horror "A Place Of
Heartbreak" was relegated to the B/side, but both sides got airplay, even
if only as jingles. For years afterwards I heard the beginning of
"Mind" every Saturday morning on the Tony Blackburn show and
"Place" in the afternoon on the Stewart Henry show.
all these years I managed to track down Malcolm Rabbit and we met a few months
ago. he is releasing an album of his old songs named "Weston /Rabbit”
that contains "A Place Of Heartbreak". Take a look at www.wa2-music.co.uk
and you will see my meeting with Malcolm on webcam.
also been in touch with Mark Stein from Vanilla Fudge who wrote "Mind".
He had never heard our version of his song and didn’t even know it had
been covered. I sent him a copy in the States and he loved it! It’s a
pity it wasn’t a hit for either of us.
memories of recording the Pesky Gee! Album?
Pesky Gee! album was recorded in dead studio time at PYE studios. It was
completed in 4 hours! We only got one chance at any song and we were told that
all of the mistakes would be cut out, but of course after 45 years they are
still there. Years later we realised we had been smuggled into the studios in
the early hours and I don’t think the sessions were ever paid for. Quite a few
bands had this experience.
you listen to "Season of the Witch" on the album you can hear Kay's
husband tuning up a bass drum in the corridor at the beginning of the track, but
it sounds quite spooky and fits in OK (lol)
I forgot to say that the albums engineer was the late, great Gus Dudgeon. I only
found out myself a few years ago. Maybe Gus was getting a bit of a backhander so
his name was never used.
many people like the album and its been re-released so many times.
were so many cover versions included on the album?
are so many cover versions on the album because no-one in the band had done any
writing up till that point and as we were just changing our style you have soul
music AND psychedelic music on the same album
true that the album was mis-titled?
always been a funny story about our album title in the music biz.
We were very fond of the exclamation mark at the end of our name because
nobody else had one, so our manager rang up PYE records and told them to make
sure they put it on the album at the end of our name. Of course PYE didn’t do
this, they called the album "Exclamation Mark" instead. When Sanctuary
Records re-released the album a few years ago I asked them to put this right and
this they did (Thanks Sanctuary). Oh, anyone who forgets it is now cursed by the
Pesky Gee! record any BBC sessions?
Pesky Gee! did not record any BBC sessions or, in fact, anything else at all,
unless anyone has any bootlegs. I do have a demo, recorded before I joined, of "A
Little Bit Of Soap" and "Worksong" that has never been heard. Its
a bit scratchy but pretty good.
Actually, now I think about it, we did appear on Radio 1 Club once. I think it was in Derby. We just did an interview and they played "Come To The Sabbat". We took the single along and I don't think they knew it had been banned!
the group appear on TV?
CJ--No. We never appeared on TV. Ever. To be honest I don't know why. I guess it just didn't happen because we didn't have a single in the charts. In fact, we did do Beat Club in Germany but as yet I can't trace the recording. We were on with Gary Wright's Wonderwheel and played the "Sacrifice" song.
led to the change of name to Black Widow?
had this idea to do a Black Magic story to music. The name Pesky Gee! felt too
bright for this subject so, after many names were thrown into the hat, our
manager Pat Meehan Jnr picked Black Widow. I loved Pesky Gee! but I liked Black
Widow just as much.
did the ‘Black Magic’ direction come from?
black magic idea came from our drummer Clive Box. Jim the guitarist and, at the
time, main songwriter, took on the project and it snowballed from there. All the
words and names we used were correct. We did a lot of research.
led to Kay’s departure after recording the initial Sacrifice demos?
left to get married. She was/is a brilliant singer and I’m sure she would have
had a great career. We are still in touch and Kay has agreed to take part in a
new project I’m working on at the moment, "Metal Heart."
married a Leicester drummer Terry Abbs. Her brother is a famous pianist, Michael
Garratt. He appeared in the film “Women in Love” with Oliver Reed.
can you recall about the writing of the song “Come To The Sabbat”?
remember that Jim came round to my house. He was writing a song but had got
stuck. I always had a commercial feel. I added the chant and a few other accents
and things. It was originally called “ASTRAROTH” after a female demon. This
of course was totally the wrong title and was soon changed.
strange but the beginning of the track with the drums and flute was never
intended for that song, but as an intro to it for the stage show. Jim clapped
his knees for the drum sound and the flute bit just came to me at the time, as
easy as that. It took as long to write it as to play it, but most bands
that cover it use that intro for the song.
been covered so many times and has been a hit everywhere except the UK. It even
made the Top 10 in New Zealand for a band named "Timberjack" and was
nominated for an award. When I heard their version I realised that they had got
all the words wrong (lol).
Widow, of course, did the ultimate version????????
memories of recording the “Sacrifice” LP?
I think it was in De Lane Lea Studios, which was a huge studio. It took about a
week to record. We still only had about one go at solos and stuff. The engineer
was Roy Thomas Baker who later went on to produce Queen.
especially remember putting the strings onto “Come To The Sabbat” because
they were played by some small children from the London School of Music. They
had never been on a pop record before and thought it was great. They played it
in one take and never made a mistake! I wonder if any of them remember the
recording or have a copy?
MS--Did you have a good relationship with CBS?
CJ--We didn't have any direct contact with CBS. They never interfered with our music or direction. They put "Sabbat" and "Mary Clark" on 2 of their big-selling sampler albums ("Fill Your Head With Rock" and "Rockbuster") but didn't include us on a third. I think the company was too big for us. We got lost behind all of their other artists because they had so many. If you were flavour of the month then great, but if not then you were just one of the crowd.
much did the controversy over Black Widow’s stage-act affect the group?
controversy over the stage-act was good and bad for us. It got us lots of
publicity. The press all said “Don’t let your kids see this show!” so of
course they all came to see it.
album was released in the States to great reviews and we were due to go over
there, but Charles Manson did his black magic murders, and when they saw the
publicity about us we were banned from going over. Our management had just
signed up Black Sabbath, who at the time denied that they had anything to do
with black magic, so they went instead of us.
Alex Sanders become involved with the group?
Sanders called himself the ‘King’ of Britain’s Witches. He came to give us
advice with the stage show, about how to get the rituals correct and that sort
of thing. He also lent us his wife Maxine to ‘sacrifice’ at the end of the
show for a while.
died quite a few years ago. I’ve traced Maxine recently and hope to meet her
soon. I’ve asked her to write sleeve-notes for a new Black Widow album that I
hope to do.
made a short film with Alex but I’ve never seen it.
It might have been called “King Of The Witches” but I’m not
certain. If anyone has a copy then please get in touch with me! We were filmed
in some caves in Bromley, Kent. Black Widow played “Come To The Sabbat” and
everyone danced naked to it. Great fun but very cold!
MS-- Black Widow played at several of the big Rock Festivals in 1970, such as The Isle Of Wight, and the May Bank Holiday Festival at Plumpton. What do you recall of those events?
CJ--I can't remember much about Plumpton. People get that one mixed-up with the Hollywood Festival that happened at the same time. We were originally billed to play the Hollywood Fest. but this was changed to Plumpton. Ginger Baker's Airforce topped the bill.
I've read reports that say we were very entertaining and far better than Black Sabbath, who had problems and left the stage after a few numbers. That must have been a different day or place because we never played on the same bill and I don't remember meeting them there.
Another report said that we did the Black Magic act, which we certainly did not do! After the show the DJ (David Symonds) said something like "Now back to real music". It doesn't mention that the day after he turned into a frog...
MS--What about the IOW?
CJ--I remember we played after the Groundhogs and before Supertramp. It was very cold and I was worried about keeping the sax & flute in tune.
"Come To The Sabbat" went over huge. There's nothing better than a chant at a Festival with a million people there!
Travelling down there was great. We were allowed to jump the queue at the ferry. We didn't really get to mix with anyone though. They brought us to the site just before we went on and we left straight after. We must have been there the day before though, because I remember watching a group named Howl. They were brilliant and I wanted their singer, Frankie Miller, to join BW, but instead he formed Jude with Robin Trower of Procol Harum. We played a few gigs with them but their record company didn't like them and they folded.
I can't remember seeing any of the aggro that's supposed to have taken place. It's wonderful to have been a small part of that event. I wish someone would release a video featuring all of the Bands because we were all filmed.
Black Widow play overseas gigs (Europe, USA)?
I said, we were banned from the States but we did play all over Europe. I
recently guested with a Black Sabbath tribute band in Copenhagen and someone
there remembered Black Widow playing there 30 years before.
remember we played at a circus with an elephant and midgets. I suppose you would
remember that, wouldn’t you?! I wonder if the elephant remembers us?
did tours of Italy with YES. In fact Black Widow are still very popular there.
There’s even a record company out there named Black Widow Records and I
occasionally do some recording for them.
led to the eventual break-up of Black Widow?
we all fell out like most bands do. Jim and Kip wanted to drop the Black
Magic but I wanted to keep it and make a second album with the same direction and to hell with it, but they split the band and we became just a
Prog rock band like thousands of others. They weren’t very
nice to work with.
They thought they were Gods gift and they brought drugs into the band, which
totally wrecked it. They also kicked out some of the guys who disagreed with
of the parents brought a gun into the dressing room one day, to shoot Jim. My
dad took it off her. I’ve never forgiven my dad for that (lol). Jim has
lived in Australia for the last 30 years. I hope I never see him again.
I’ve had my say.
MS--How do you rate the albums that followed "Sacrifice"?
CJ--After "Sacrifice" we did the "Black Widow" album. I would have preferred that it had a 'proper' title. Some people think that it was to have been called "Maybe Now", but I've never heard of that.
We all thought the production was rather poor. It was produced by the manager's son and he had no experience at all. He would come to the studio with a girl on each arm and pose as a record producer.
It did have some great tracks though. "Mary Clark" should have been a single, and "Legend Of Creation" was a great song. It had some bummers too. "Poser" was bloody awful, and "Journey" leaves a lot to the imagination. They released "When My Mind Was Young" as a single in Australia but didn't tell us! I only found out 35 years later!
"Black Widow 3" was another really boring title, especially when the first two albums weren't titled "1" and "2". The production went from bad to worse. This time the producer was the office boy, Malcolm Koss. I wanted to get in a proper producer but Kip & Jim thought they could control the production themselves if they just had the office boy to bully.
songs were OK, except for "Old Man", which I thought was a real dirge,
but they were all a bit 'light', especially when we played them live. "I
Wish You Would", an old Billy Boy Arnold song that the Yardbirds had also
done, was released as our second single. This was also produced by Malcolm Koss.
There was a drum piece in the middle but Malcolm decided to edit it and he cut
it on the wrong beat! He also didn't want any flute on it. So here was our
follow-up to "Sabbat"--basically a flute tune--and the follow-up had
no flute on it. Very clever! BTW,
a live recording of Black Widow from Italy 1971 has been found and will be
"Black Widow 4" was very good. It wasn't released at the time of recording because it was done as a demo, but 30 plus years later a friend of mine (and Black Widow fan) went crazy when he found out that I had this under the bed. It was produced by the band and includes "Sleighride", a Christmas song that we played all year round! Part of the album includes our then 'new' singer, Rik E, an American who sang with Twisted Sister before Dee Snyder.
Of course, the last thing I wanted was for it to be called "Black Widow 4". I had a great title for it, but due to a misunderstanding by the record company they called the bloody thing "4"!
Finally, I also had the demo version of the "Sacrifice" album. It has the same songs as the released version but it includes vocals recorded by Kay before she left the group. This version was released as "Return To The Sabbat" (and several of the demos were included as bonus tracks on the CD re-issue of "Sacrifice", now re-titled "The Ultimate Sacrifice").
did your career take you after Black Widow?
decided to take a break for a few weeks after our split but this turned into two
years. Then I got back together with Clive Box, the original drummer. We started
a Heavy Metal band called AGONY BAG, which was THE craziest band you have
ever come across.
took over lead vocals and we did all the KISS-style makeup before Kiss had been
heard of! We were heavily into sex on stage. I’m sure we were the first band
to have live sex on stage and not just with the girls! Anything with two or even
one leg was fair game.
wrote what has become a cult single, "Rabies Is A Killer", which has
also been covered a few times.
Bag toured Germany about 8 times. A few years ago I pieced together an
album that has been released as "Feelmazumba". I’ve also been back
to Germany to re-record some of the songs with a new line-up, though as yet this
has not been released. Also some live tracks from when we first started have
turned up, and I’m planning to release them sometime in the future.
a look here: http://www.agonybag.co.uk
still involved with music?
I’m still involved in music. I do many things including a one-man show called
Dr Pesky that often gets banned (very strange)!
love to write for other artists too. This year I’ve written for Italian punk
band TAXI, who also recorded “Rabies” a few years ago.
Baccini, the lead singer of Presence, who are a great Prog band, has one of my
songs "The Candystream" on her solo album.
SS asked me to guest on their new album “Sax/ Flute”. They are a brilliant
band, very like Black Widow and Agony Bag. They have also recorded “Come To
The Sabbat” and “Rabies” on previous albums.
Copenhagen I recorded a few Black Sabbath tracks that will be released on a
Sabbath Tribute disc later this year I hope. It’s great that a member of Black
Widow will cover tracks from their rival band of many years ago.
for the last few years I’ve been working with a team writing a new musical
“METAL HEART”. I hope that this year we will be able to get it released. The
songs are great, ranging from heavy to pop. One of my partners, Kevin Brooks,
has recorded Kylie, 911 and Jakatta so he knows all about pop/dance music.
back, do you have any regrets? Do you think anything could have, or should have
been handled differently?
I do, but it’s easy with hindsight. I wish we had got to the States and I wish
I had taken over as lead vocalist for Black Widow I would love to do a new Black
Widow album and I know some of the other guys are interested, so you never know.
I’ve kept the name alive and the band is still well remembered.
"Sacrifice" is known as a classic album and as the first Black Magic
I have great memories. "The Isle of Wight Festival" in front of a
million people; the gig in Montreux Casino with Mungo Jerry, before it was
burned down, and Deep Purple wrote “Smoke On The Water” about it. Then there
was the Lyceum gig in London where they held the Miss World shows and we sacrificed
a naked girl against the orders of the Management and all hell broke out!
was great fun back then, but watch this space!
For more information on Black Widow and Pesky Gee! check out this site: http://www.blackwidow.org.uk
Clive, Kay and Bob at a recent re-union
Many thanks to CLIVE JONES for his time, co-operation and patience.
CLIVE would like to thank PASI KOIVU for his help and enthusiasm.