Magic Muscle #1


So Rod & Ade high-tailed it back to Bristol. Let Rod Take up the story again as told by Louis.

"We went back to the commune that I left, the anarchic commune (at 49 Cotham Road, L.). Mickey B, Kenny Wheeler and Pete Biles all lived there. As did  Keith Christmas, who was at Bristol University studying to be a draftsman. The house had a cellar, so we rehearsed whenever we felt like it,. any freak walking by could hear it. Smoked lots of dope, took acid and played benefits (mostly in that order, I should imagine, L.); I'll never forget the acid trip I was on with Micky B when Denny the Pervert walked in and told us of a recent 'run' the Angels had done (to Wales) and graphically described the delights of fucking sheep! Even he had to admit that they smelled "bloody awful" in such moments of unbridled lust. Denny the Pervert, Doc Puffer, Maverick, Big Jim, Ruby and Tank (of the Hell's Angels Bristol West Coast Chapter) had become regular visitors to 49, Cotham Road since the Chapter had first descended on us (en masse) to "suss us out" They lived just round the corner from us and had heard wild tales of drugs, sex, and revolutionary behaviour about our happy household. They had marched into our house that first time and announced: "This is just a neighbourly call"! They were invited to sit, which they did in a circle (pow-wow style) on the floor. We loaded our fearsome Boschburger (the tale of which is told a few paragraphs further down, L.) lit it and passed the thing around Immediately, grunts, coughs and shouts ensued... followed several minutes later by Denny's gently leaning forward and throwing up on the carpet. We put on "Death Warmed Up" by High Tide and sat there grinning at them. Some scowled others grinned back. When the High Tide 'anthem' had finished they got up to leave. They had determined we had class"! Death Warmed Up became the anthem of the chapter from then on.
We also got involved with street politics and started out doing work for the Black Dwarf party, a thing put together by a guy called David Hayles; you know, the Dwarf Party came over from Amsterdam
(where it was called "Kabouter", meaning "dwarf' I haven't got a clue as to how it got to be black crossing the Channel; surely pollution wasn't that bad in those days, L.) and we picked that up in '71 and took it out on the streets of Bristol. Dave Hayles stood for election and we went around putting his manifesto through people's doors, which there was a huge outcry about because it had a four-letter word in it and silly things like that. It said about Dave HayIes: "educated at Bristol University; has not done National Service; unmarried; acid head; interested in cannabis, rock and roll, balling and bicycles (incidentally, he had an uncle who was an Earl, something like twelfth in line to the throne, which explains why - in a newspaper interview - Mr. Hayles was quoted as saying "if my uncle knew about this, he would blow his mind"; also incidentally, he was wearing make-up with paper stars stuck to his face and was quoted further as declaring "we are not a political party; we are a lot of freaks". At least he was honest, L) ... the Dwarf movement stands for free everything: housing, medicine, love, entertainment and drugs... we feel that local government needs a fucking good shake-up on all levels ... you can contact me (meaning Hayles, L.) through your friendly neighbourhood hippy - he won't bite your head off' (he lost the election, L.).
Through that we got into doing our own artwork and posters, stuff from Zap Comix, that kind of thing. We had three resident artists: Pete Biles, our conga player, Kenny Wheeler the drummer and Norman Gosney, who's a cartoonist. Basically, that was how the band got started we were sort of the house band of  the Black Dwarf party. And then we started to play lots of free festivals and became known for playing benefits; we were a festival band and we played for free.
MM How did you manage to survive?

RR Mainly by signing on the dole, and the support of local dealers.
All these goings-on happened in the late summer and early autumn of 1970. If y'all don't mind, I'm taking some time off here, to let Colin Hill do the talking (meaning I'm quoting from the "Living Weeds From Ancient Seeds" booklet again):
Anxious to show the Dorset gang they were capable of going for it and competing on an artistic level Rod and Ade began writing songs and putting their own band together in earnest Initially nameless and with Rod on rhythm guitar (incorporating his own peculiar "lead" style) and vocals, Kenny Wheeler on kit drums, Pete Biles on exotic percussion, Adrian Shaw on bass and Mickey B and Thos Ensor (an electronics genius studying physics who had painted a giant Incredible Hulk on the walls and ceiling of his room in number 49, and had a mosquito net slung above his bed) handling electronics, all they needed was a permanent lead player. On their first experimental recording session at 49, Rod played all the guitar parts.
The band's first official gig was at the Art College in Bristol, late in 1970, and when asked by the promoter "what" (meaning "who") they were, Rod replied "spaced" ... which was consequently how they were billed! The name stuck for a while and got shortened to "Space" before they hit on "Magic Muscle", a reference to sex organs by Captain Beefheart on his "Lick My Decals off Baby" LP (Rod having been a great fan of the good Captain since his White Rabbit days, as was amply elaborated upon earlier on in this story, L.). The first studio outing of the new band (a free blow to try out newly installed equipment) took place in December, when they went to the HTV studios in Bristol. The three first tracks of "The Pipe, The Roar, The Grid' album come out of those sessions (to name them : "I Can Travel Anywhere", "Fly Brothers", and "Woodcarver Man”). As they still hadn’t got a lead guitarist, Keith Christmas helped out; it was the first time he’d ever played an electric guitar. As Rod put it in his '88 Bucketful of Brains interview: "he  was in the wrong key playing the wrong tune, the whole bit.  Now everybody says
"I wish  there was more of that strange guitar!”. There was another free session at Banana Studios in Bristol, the same deal as HTV, where Ade Shaw played lead.
This is where I come in again, for a moment: for their next recording session, they auditioned about 5 or 6 guitarists, among them John Perry (future Only Ones), 'Flash' Gordon Strong and Pete Airey (who eventually got to play for Gryphon) but no one really clicked until Huw Gower turned up really nervous (having been told by his friend John Perry they were looking for a guitarist) "looking a bit like Mick Taylor used to. We got a pipe down him and we thought that would be the end of him, but no: he suddenly came up with this wonderful, really floating stuff He can still tap into it now, but that first six months with us was the best; the January 4th tape has him at his peak". The tape in question was recorded in the basement "studio" at Cotham Road but unfortunately only one bit of it was released on the first album, as Pete Flanagan thought the recording quality to be below standard ("You Better See" is the name of the song that survived the hi-fi scrutiny). The January 4th happening meant the official unveiling of the new band, with Huw's friend Nick Howell sitting in on percussion too (he'd end up backing Johnny G in 1979). Over to you Colin Hill:
They rose early, crunched through a breakfast of muesli, imbibed the holy sacrament and played to the assembled throng of dope dealers, aristocrats, heads and Hell's Angels till they dropped ... The whole proceedings were recorded and edited highlights appear on the "Living Weeds From Ancient Seeds" cassette.
By late '70 the basement of 49 had been sound-proofed and, thanks to electronics wizards Thos and Mickey B, turned into a rehearsal room and studio. Safe inside, the Muscle gang (who, with various people crashing, normally numbered 20 or so) could create endless acid-haze musical mayhem. Due to dope-bust paranoia there was a very elaborate means of entry into the house, but freaks in the know could slide down the disused coal-shute from the street straight into the basement, soft-landing on surrealist pillows like a trip out of "Alice in Wonderland".
For several weeks, the constant flow of bizarrely dressed long-hairs to and from number 49 had been noted by the residents of a house across the road; Rod was especially conspicuous with a silver spray painted Tarot cross on the back of his parka and was eventually stopped and quizzed as to precisely what he and his buddies were into. It transpired that Muscle's neighbours, who included Ian Davies, his lady Suse, Norman Gosney (a cartoonist) and "Big" Pete (former lead vocalist with Elias Hulk, a band whose mystique is only matched by the excellence and rarity of their one and only LP, "Unchained" (issued on Youngblood in 1970, but recently brought out again, although illegally, as far as I know, L.)) had been following a similar lifestyle and had become involved in Black Dwarf, the freewheeling political movement. They immediately agreed to join forces and, as part of the Dwarf manifesto, Muscle agreed to play at a free and totally illegal gathering on a Sunday afternoon on the downs near the Clifton suspension Bridge. This was Huw Gower's first official gig with Muscle and led to the famous "Wild West Wagon Train" incident ... Aware that the police would attempt to bust the proceedings, the generator and the band equipment were placed in the middle and encircled by the band with a ring of speakers around them facing outwards (like a wagon-train warding off red Indians). They in turn were surrounded by a hundred or so social deviants who were ringed (and protected) by the West Coast chapter of Bristol's Hell's Angels (complete with a wall of linked bikes!). So, to get to the generator and bands in order to put a stop to proceedings the police would first have to touch the Angels' bikes (sharp intake of breath!). The fuzz decided to leave well alone and the concert, which also featured Amazing Lorn ("a jamming mechanism" comprising Bill Giles (bass), Nick Howell (drums), Gordon Strong and Pete Airey (guitars)) went off without any hassle and was apparently captured on cine film, including about 45 seconds of Muscle.
RR This 'happening' obviously convinced the Angels that we were "their kinda band" even though they didn't agree with everything we did and stood for. Far from it. Several of the things we took for granted the Angels abhorred One Angel (I think it was Ruby) was "stomped' by the others for picking up one of our habits: sleeping on a mattress on the floor! Even his explanation of having no bed in the first place wasn't good enough. Apparently one of the others got hold of some wood and built him a frame specially, so he wouldn't have to sleep on the floor permanently, "like a fucking hi
ppy"! So, although we were accepted as being 'brother outlaws' and NOT fucking CITIZENS' (better to be a policeman than a 'citizen’) we were not 'true brothers' and some Angels didn't seem to approve of the unholy alliance at all.

By the summer of 1971, Magic Muscle had acquired a certain reputation, on the strength of which the band was asked to perform at the first Glastonbury Fayre festival (the first big one, with the pyramid, that is, as there had been a less formal party-type gathering the year before). This is Rustic Rod explaining the reason why Magic Muscle was not featured in the Glastonbury movie:

We went along in the Muscle Bus, which was our old Nestles
wagon that we got around in (we could live in it, actually, it had got beds that pulled down on either side). We stayed there for about a week and got thoroughly involved with the Glastonbury festival. There was a film being made of it at the time
(for the BBC, L.) and there were two guys and a girl and a dog, all covered in mud at one stage, getting right down in the mud and getting very primal about the whole thing, looking very Stone Age. And they were naked They ended up lying in the mud in front of us and they started to get it on, you know, in time to the music... and I mean, a huge crowd gathered And that's why we're not on the film, because as the film crew came round there were the couples writhing in the mud very explicit Android came along to the festival to check us out and he said it was bizarre; he knew the cameraman and was right beside him as he was filming us, but it must have got cut out As he panned along, Android said he panned past the Muscle Bus, past our freak flag which we had flying past the group and the couple (well two blokes, a woman and a dog) that were writhing in the mud and behind the band, in the background walked a pair of nuns; that was the tops of it all it was just too bizarre for words. So Android said if for no other reason then that would probably be the cause for getting banned You know, we seem to often get banned for one reason or another But we had a beautiful time at Glastonbury. We played a special party for the people that ran the festival, we went back and did a special gig with The Pink Fairies and Hawkwind
 It was to be the first of many. At some notorious gatherings, there would be MagicPinkWind jams, meaning that when some members were unable to play (for obvious reasons) whoever could still stand up and hold an instrument would get up on the stage and play. An article of the period reads "Within a few minutes, Magic Muscle were getting themselves together, a pause, then - boom, everything came off the ground. All this, as well as the Pink Fairies, who kept the whole thing together with some updated "golden oldies", and Hawkwind (sic), with a brainshattering non-stop performance which left me totally exhausted. Plus a fire eater, and a slightly gymnastic male and female acrobatic team, apples and oranges, and homemade cake passed round to refurbish the energy gaps". The cake on that occasion was "a hell of a lot of hash plus acid icing; the little silver balls, they were microdots".
The acquaintance with various Hawkwind members grew throughout these informal little gatherings and it wasn't long before they became friends, with Hawkwind crashing in number 49 whenever they gigged in Bristol. Other "head" bands would come and stay too, with the Muscle family being further extended (to include, amongst others the entire Hell's Angels West Coast chapter) and the Cotham Road anarchy and hedonism continued. On the "Living Weeds From Ancient Seeds" cassette, Muscle were captured during a happening at number 49, with about 30 assorted freaks, in a deliberate attempt to get the "Muscle roar" on tape; about mid-way through the session (and tripping heavily) Muscle were told they had a gig later that night at the Bristol University Architects Ball. So the whole tripped-out caboodle (band, P.A., recording equipment plus assorted freaks) was squeezed into the Muscle Bus and transported to Bristol University to play the graduation ball... A mind-blower for all concerned. There were some other wild nights at the university, notably when Muscle supported Dr. John, after some highly pharmaceutical goings-on with the doctor's road crew and entourage; the Night Tripper actually came and jammed with them for the occasion (on congas).
RR We had this huge water pipe, called the Boschburger because it looked like... on Hieronymus Bosch’s "Heaven and Hell" picture (those of you who aren't familiar with his paintings should check out the cover of Deep Purple's third album,  & Pearls Before Swine’s One Nation Underground.) there's a picture of a chap with an egg and he's holding a plate and on the plate is what looks a bit like a haggis or part  of a bagpipe... yeah, it looks a bit like a bagpipe-looking instrument (first prize for circumspect circumlocution there; joking apart, it probably was a bagpipe, as this was a rather common instrument in the Low Countries in the times of ole Hieronymus, L.) and what it is I don't know, but the pipe looked just like it.  Somebody had moulded it, made it out of clay and painted it green, and it was hideous but it looked just like something out of Bosch, and so it was called the Boschburger.  When you smoked the pipe (more or less regardless of what was in it, because the stem was so wide that you had to put your  whole mouth inside it, not around it like a straw but actually inside it, which meant that the tube was quite big and thick which  in turn meant that the amount one had to breathe in, by the time it hit your mouth (and subsequently your lungs) was massive;  it was a colossal amount of smoke) it hit you like an express train. Apart from that they said that listening to Magic Muscle caused permanent brain damage (where have I heard this before, I wonder?, L.).
When we did a "roar", when Magic Muscle were really peaking and the magic started to happen (anything could be involved in that: feedback or just suddenly we'd all change key for no apparent reason... unrehearsed; you know, psychic stuff) it used to be known as the Magic Muscle roar and apparently when you smoked this Boschburger when this roar happened someone once said it was like thousands of tons of water crashing into the room, doors flying open and water crushing everything (this is probably why The Muscle were known as the country's greatest Underwater band in some circles, L.). And there was this feet sort of like a shared hallucination, that everyone could see, like, a grid-work There were actual experiments starting in and around Bristol trying to plot out a grid reference like on a map so you could find your way back if you were having a bad trip, by using certain references, using the grid.  So basically, there was the pipe, the roar and the grid which became the title of a series of tapes that we made from live happenings) but which eventually ended up on the album, of course; we couldn't let a title like that go by. It was also a perfect excuse for the cover of "The Pipe, The Roar And The Grid"; it's all in there, you know, a perfect Dada cover.
Meanwhile, by the spring of 1972, Keith Christmas (who had several albums out by then, to wit "Stimulus" (1969) on RCA, on which he was backed by members of Mighty Baby, and "Fable Of The Wings" and "Pygmy" (1970 and 1971) on B&C) decided that things at Cotham Road were getting a bit too crazy. With the money he got from his recording deals, he rented an old-fashioned farm-house between Mells and Radstock in Somerset, and moved there with his lady, Di Smith (another CaIne-raised person). After a while, however, things got a bit lonely in the country, so they asked Rod and Adrian (with Mally and Maureen, of course) to move in, and it wasn't long before the whole Muscle gang (including Huw Gower, who never actually lived at number 49, manager Bob Whitfield (an American, reputed to be the guy who turned on Nancy Sinatra!), Tony Lloyd-Williams, soundman Alan "Obdob" Osbaldston and the Black Dwarf crew from across the road) joined them too; all in all, twenty people and sixteen cats. They set up recording facilities and carried on much as before, subsidizing their totally vegetarian, health food diet with fruit and vegetables from their own garden. Bob Whitfield drove them to gigs in his own limousine. The band and "related artifacts" (meaning mostly the visual artwork, posters and badges created by Pete Biles, Kenny Wheeler and Norman Gosney) were now the sole breadwinners of the commune and, as a fast-growing cottage industry, needed a substantial injection of capital in order to survive.

Eventually, Magic Muscle got to support Hawkwind on an "official" west country tour that they did just about when "Silver Machine" came out and Hawkwind went big overnight, so The Muscle ended up doing a massive tour with them in the summer of 1972 and this is in fact where the public at large got to know them from (meaning the association with Hawkwind) because they played just about everywhere with them. Rod showed me a copy of an article written by Dave 'Boss' Goodman in I.T. dated October 18th, 1972, that goes as follows (under the heading "The Muscle Does The Bristol  Stomp")    Down from the darkest outbacks that surround the old tobacco port of
Bristol, England, comes what one might loosely classify as a beat group. Going under the unlikely name of "Magic Muscle" these boys are gaining a following throughout the country mainly playing as support band to Hawkwind. Indeed it has been said not only are they supporting but are being supported by young girls who travel miles to Hawkwind concerts with intentions of balling Dave Brock but always seem to end up in the Muscle's dressing room, buying them drinks, drugs, petrol, and putting them up for the night which is no mean feat 'cause there's about twelve of 'em (now I know what they meant by "playing benefits" in those days, L.) In the great tradition of the British underground rock band they don't earn much money, they support a large family, they take drugs, they play thousands of benefits, they have trouble getting a record deal, they don't get press coverage, they take more drugs, they ball, they sometimes get the clap, they like Hawkwind but take the micky out of Doug Smith, they drink stuff, they are mad.... "These boys is into everything" says Dikmik.
When Hawkwind threw their big end-of-tour party at The Rainbow on August 13th (there were a few thousand people there, and several thousand more outside climbing in through the windows, with free food for everyone) Magic Muscle were second on the bill, above Man (which, according to Rod, they didn't really deserve to be on the night because the Man band virtually blew them off stage, they were that brilliant); other participants were Keith Christmas and the all-girl, exquisitely named Beryl Billa-bong And The Sheilas ("captivating the young manhood of Bristol with their coverlessly exposed flesh and unsatisfied yearning for a few cans of ice-cold Foster's" it said in one paper). It must’ve been quite a party (it kept going for about six hours) although again not many of the participants seem to remember anything in great detail.
Muscle were also at the second Notting Hill Carnival, playing on Powys Square, with Byzantium and The Deviants (Simon House guested on keyboards for the occasion) and at the Pink Fairies' Christmas party at the Roundhouse, with the Flamin' Groovies, Chilli Willy And The Red Hot Peppers, Twink, and Mick Farren & The Deviants (all the profits of which went to Farren's Nasty Tales Defence Fund).
The time seemed ripe for them to score a record contract at last and there were several attempts made in that direction, but Lady Luck wasn't really with them: a demo they sent to Muff Winwood at Island was rejected on the grounds of it being pro-I.R.A., while all the boys were doing on "Bridewell" was ranting at the local police station (back in Bristol) for giving them a hard time over their consumption of things psychedelic. To top it off the demo was lost, and no other copies of it existed.
Then there was a rumour that Island's Chris Blackwell would be coming to check out the complete Magic Muscle freak show (on and off stage) one night when they gigged in Plymouth so the boys virtually played their entrails out only to discover Blackwell hadn't been there at all (in fact he’d flown off to Jamaica to sign a skinny guy named Bob Marley - good for him, bad luck again for Muscle.  Indeed it’s rumoured that Junior, the singer Rod replaced in White Rabbit was in the Wailers, so what goes around comes around….)

Things weren't going too bad really, because they had a national tour lined up, and played practically every night, when Fate came down hard on them once more: Rod Goodway caught an exotic form of hepatitis and had to be put in an isolation
ward. Adrian Shaw went with him to London, so this effectively put an end to Magic Muscle Mark I.