Interviews & Reviews
We have included a selection of interviews with Paul together with reviews on recordings and the thoughts of band members along the way.
I was born on January 9th 1948 in Dagenham, Essex, which makes me a Capricorn by birth, but for anybody interested in Astrology, I collect a lot of things in Gemini, mid-heaven and rising signs and all that and tend to lean more to the air sign than the cardinal sign of Capricorn.
This I suppose has quite a strong influence on my songwriting and character, one minute writing happy little songs, while other times deep melancholy numbers, the same with my moods - up one minute, down the next - typical Gemini really - and then other times, a typical workhorse Capricorn set in my ways.
Anyway, I was born to a family with a long history of dockers and stevedores from the East End of London, but my father wanted to do better for himself and when I was about three, we moved to a village called Stanwell, next to Heathrow where my father had obtained a job working as an engineer for B.O.A.C.
I spent most of my childhood in and around that village which had a very mixed population of locals, airport workers, gypsies, travellers.
A lot of roughnecks resettled from the East End and a few upmarket toffs as well. So I was mixing with quite a diverse set of people from a very young age.
Whether this had any influence on my songwriting is difficult to say but it was an interesting childhood if not always a happy one.
I was educated at the local secondary modern school, obtaining 3 o-levels (Maths, English and Art), and was advised by the headmaster to go to art college.
Unfortunately at the time, parents had to contribute to part of their children's grants and as my father wasn't having any of it, I left school at 16 to be of all things, a trainee chartered accountant.
I think had I gone to college, I would have been playing in bands a lot sooner.
A hell of a lot of 60s and 70s musicians got together at art school – Pete Townsend, Jagger, Bowie to name but a few, a pinstripe suit was definitely walking backwards.
However, back to my childhood. I really didn't start getting into music until quite late, about 14-15 years old.
At home, we only had an old radio and there was only one hour of pop music on every Sunday afternoon, and as we didn't have a record player, I was out on a limb about where it was all at really.
I spent most of my leisure time out with the rough element, scrumping, poaching rabbits with air-rifles and catapults, and when they were available, chasing the local females.
I think that is when I really became interested in music; around the time you start thinking seriously about women.
I'd gone to a local village fete and had seen a jazz band playing on the back of a lorry (we were to do the same thing years later with Mungo on a tour of New Zealand) and this band looked really good, especially the banjo player, t-shirt, fag hanging out of his mouth, and braces.
He looked pretty cool to a 14-year old, especially with all the girls hanging around. You guessed it - I bought a banjo.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a tenor or bluegrass banjo but an 8-string banjolin. I couldn't tune the bastard thing and it was only months later after I had systematically destroyed it with a club hammer that I found out it had to be tuned exactly like a mandolin - makes sense really - 8 strings, etc.
Anyway, this had whetted my appetite for a stringed instrument, so while I was saving to buy a proper banjo, I bought a harmonica for 10s 9d instead.
This was a lot easier to play and all the bands; Beatles, Stones, Pretty Things, etc were using them so you could follow along or improvise.
I picked it up really quickly after a local muso who played sax as well said that you suck mores notes than you blow when playing the blues (not on the sax of course) and that was it, I was away.
I used to play a lot for the lads at school during the break and boring lessons, and it wasn't long before I was sitting in with a local blues band, The Roosters if I can recall, and also The Count Four, led by Steve Bloomfield of Matchbox fame who was later to become a very dear friend.
Unfortunately, you can't use a harp on every number so I found myself pretty much redundant for 75% of the gigs.
Then came my first banjo, I had just left school and the princely sum of £4.50 was burning a hole in my pocket so I borrowed another 50p (ten bob I mean) and jumped on the back of my friends Harley Davison (the first and last time I might add), and travelled ten miles to pick up a banjo, a 6-string zither one this time which I had seen in the local paper advertised for £5.
Next problem; what to do with a 6-string banjo - most have five.
Well, I tuned it like a folk banjo, using only 5 strings and soon learnt enough chords to busk along.
The only problem was you still couldn't use banjo that much on RnB music so gradually, I drifted into folk music.
I was about 17. At this time, I was getting heavily into boozing, all I can remember one night is getting absolutely legless at a party and falling down the stairs while playing Love Me Do by The Beatles on my harmonica.
I didn't break my neck or swallow the harp, but woke up the next morning in hospital with appendicitis, having a nurse stick her finger up my arse and another one shaving my bollocks.
Anyway, I was off work for about six weeks and thoroughly bored, couldn't even have a laugh or a fuck because my side hurt so much, let alone play the harp, so I borrowed an old acoustic guitar from a Scottish friend of mine.
That was it, I was in heaven, my fingers had hardened playing the banjo, and in a week I had learned enough chords to write my first couple of songs.
That came about really because although I had the guitar, we hadn't owned a record player at home and to be quite honest, I didn't know what to play.
I had bought some folk 'sing out' books to learn tunes for the banjo but could only read the chords and not the silly little dots, so I had no idea of how the melodies went.
So the only way I could sing songs was to write my own as I was not really that clever at copying other artists material.
I found that it came quite easily, and soon had the harmonica strapped around my neck like Donovan and Dylan who were just making an impression at the time.
I spent my whole recuperation period learning the guitar and writing songs and going to various folk clubs to more or less see where it was all at.
It was more or less this time that I had my first glimpse of Ray Dorset playing at a cafe called Vanity Fair one lunchtime with The Tramps.
He was unknown to me but I remember thinking what a great voice he had.
However after six weeks convalescing, my fortunes were about to change.
Having arrived back at work on a hot July afternoon, I was told that if I wanted to become like my boss, an ageing accountant with a bald head, glasses, pasty skin, rounded shoulders, sitting in a sweaty old office, I would have to have my hair cut and smarten myself up - I said fuck it and left there and then.
Thus began my busking and roaming period more or less until I teamed up with Ray and Colin.
I spent the rest of that summer growing my hair and busking my way around the West Country and the South Coast, mainly playing in boozers and guesting at local folk clubs.
I acquired and wrote a lot of material at that period, and also won a local talent contest down in Margate, a bottle of bubbly I think it was, for singing Leadbelly's version of Irene Goodnight, along with my old mate Siddy Barany, on ukulele.
I stopped roaming around with the onset of winter, only managing to play in local pubs for beer money.
Feeling desperate, I managed to get myself a job as an artist and sculptor at Bendy Toys, Shepperton, making models of Mickey Mouse, Superman, Bugs Bunny, etc . I actually designed a few myself as well.
Looking back, I never got any royalties from those either!
An art director from Shepperton Studios was visiting one day, looking for someone to make some props for the Bond film, Casino Royale, I made them and luckily landed a job at the studios as a prop maker and set dresser.
The money was fantastic but all the excitement was on the other side of the camera.
The best thing that happened to me, though was as a prop, I was in charge of Ursula Andress's handbag, gear and accessories, etc.
Nice being close too, and talking to the lovely lass, but felt a bit of a twat holding the handbag, actually she's not as tall as she looks.
Being on set was far more interesting than prop making, better views and better money too, but the crunch came for me when we were filming in Dulwich Park.
I was in charge of a dozen horses as they are regarded as props.
Well to cut it short, a whole film crew, lots of Bond lovelies, a crowd of some 500 spectators and all the King's horses. And what do they do all day - yeah shit, and horse shit are props and I had to shovel it.
It was a bit of a downer to say the least but I was getting itchy feet, the filming on location was coming to an end, it was Spring and I had some money burning a hole in my pocket again.
Next stop - Crete!
I've always been interested in classical Greece and I'd never set foot outside of England until now and I was 19, a late starter really.
That was a great experience travelling between the Greek Islands by ferry to Crete having flown on a cheap flight to Athens - that's a piss hole but Crete and some of the smaller islands are absolute magic - heaven on earth!
I spent the whole summer travelling and lying on the beach and in the evenings playing in the tavernas for Ouzo, Retsina and the excellent Greek food, sometimes joined at the weekend by mountain-folk who would come down to the village with their bouzoukis and three-stringed fiddles - unique to Crete. Can't help thinking what an awful row it must have sounded – Leadbelly and Janis the Yodeller!
All good things must come to an end the Walrus said and late summer found me back in England, somewhat darker, but with no money and no job.
I suppose this was about the time of the hippies and flower power, I never got into the drug scene but jumped at the chance to dress up in the kaftans, knee high boots, military jackets, etc.
Looking back, what with the strange array of hats and other brightly coloured attributes, we must have looked like a gang of wandering Spanish gypsies infiltrated by some lesser bred 'Comanche's', but flowers - no, we never ever put pansies in our hair.
That summer and autumn was the best, roaming around the countryside, fruit picking, the bank holidays spent down on the coast with a weird assortment of hippies, Hells Angels, beatniks and a few other oddballs and nearly every night, at least 30 or 40 of us huddled around a simmering camp fire playing songs from Donovan, Dylan, T.Rex, Leadbelly, Lonnie Donegan, and Scott McKenzie – San Francisco was my party piece at the time.
We were having an absolute ball, when my best mate Terry and I said drunkenly after one hot and lusty bank holiday that we were going to the South Of France to carry on the party.
We were only really jesting at the time but two days later, three of the Hells Angels turned up at our local boozer where we having a jam and said they were coming to France with us.
Needing no more encouragement, Terry and I went home, got our passports and the hippy gear and promptly left with one of the rockers, the others following on two days later, without their bikes I might add as we had all decided to hitch.
That was a disaster, hippies and Hells Angels standing at Calais Docks trying to thumb a lift was beyond the ridiculous especially as we had no leggy females to push out front. Needless to say, we caught a train to Paris, split up and some three days later, rendezvoused on the beach outside the Carlton Hotel, Cannes.
Well the French loved us, A Whiter Shade Pale was in their charts and I think we were the first hippies they had seen, and the other boys, that was something else.
While Terry and I supplied the music, the other lads had this weird rocker type stomp they would do along the promenade at the same time holding out a top hat and bowler for the francs, we actually earned £8 in five minutes, a king’s ransom in those days.
We earned great money, ate good food, drank plenty of vino and met some very charming but very naughty French girls.
It was a great time enjoyed by all, even the Gendarmes would stand and listen, and I can remember well one night around the old camp fire on the beach, joss-sticks fragrantly burning in the cool night air, vegetables nicked from the local fields simmering in the pot, some fish that Terry had caught sizzling on the charcoal, the distant crash of the waves.
There must have been about 40 of us including one Japanese, a couple of Germans, a dozen or so Scandinavians and some naughty but nice French girls all singing together; What the fuck am I doing here? Actually Terry's in Thailand - lucky bugger!
Winter comes to the South Of France as well and that November found us back home in 40 degrees drizzle, not on but in the Russian Front.
It was a band I formed with Terry and our old pal, Steve Bloomfield, dressing in long army great coats, fingerless gloves and Terry going as far as to wear a balaclava - mad!
It was like a sauna in the coats alone. We'd got the band together out of necessity really to earn some money, I'd brought along a lovely girl called Helene back from Cannes with me and had been promptly been thrown out of home by the old man, as had Terry, and Steve was on the dole.
The only place we could rehearse was in the local bus shelter and launderette which was bloody freezing, hence the winter gear and subsequent name.
The Russian Front played mainly in the local clubs and pubs, climaxing at the Crown Folk Club in Twickenham.
One night when an 18-string Portuguese guitar I had adapted from a 12-string collapsed under the ridiculous strain put on the thin body, of all things on the last chord of the song, O'Sinner Man, which was luckily the last song of the set.
The thing literally exploded, showering the stage and audience with matchwood. Everyone thought it was part of the act.
We actually looked quite ridiculous, but we got a great write-up in the local rag and should have really continued, but I needed a new guitar, spring was round the corner and sunny climes were calling again.
This time the trip was organised, Terry and I had another friend, Olly - a good money collector with a hat, bought an old Bedford van and headed for Africa - via Portugal.
France had been a taster and this was going to be the trip of a lifetime - it was - a bad one!
I don't know how it came about but we never made Portugal, but found ourselves on the Costa Brava in Benidorm.
This was before all the skyscrapers and package deals, and the town was in its infancy, very pretty and actually quite welcoming.
The police unfortunately were not!
Whereas the French had loved us, the Spanish didn't know what to make of us.
Franco was in power and the police seemed worried by our mere presence and without even strumming a chord, we were in nick.
Needless to say, I could write a book on this chapter of my life, suffice to say, we were promptly stripped, fingerprinted, mug shot, and then horror of horrors, shaved bald, apart from Terry who for some unknown reason, they left a 10" clump of blonde hair on the top of his head.
He resembled a modern Howard Jones or a manic cockatoo. I looked like a negative - nut brown face, white head and a white strip where my tash had been.
We can laugh now but it was grim at the time and we were deported and banished from Spain for ten years.
It was still summer, so I went down to Cornwall mainly to grow back the barnet and hide my face and did various jobs such as grave digging, working on the beer lorries, and scenic artist for a local theatre, etc and wrote a hell of a lot of material - much that was to be recorded later.
When I stopped looking like a skinhead, I came back and started playing the new songs round the pubs and clubs.
One day I walked into the Master Robert motel, heard music sweet to my ears - and the rest is history.
I loved the music and Colin's right hand but thought Ray could do with some help on the harp.
Let me start by saying that Ray's talent and ability were never in question. He is a natural performer and no one wanted to or indeed could take his place as front man of Mungo Jerry.
In the beginning, we took the music world by storm, not only because of our style of music, but also of the rough and ready image and carefree attitude we displayed on and off the stage - we were in fact at this time very unique. We were a hit all the way around the world and from Eskimoes to Aborigines, they loved us!
As you know, it is normally radio on which you first hear a band, and before you ever get a glimpse of them, your mind can conjure all sorts of images and characters.
Sometimes you can love the song but be totally unimpressed by the performers, likewise you can see a band advertised on a poster or in the press, think they look the business but be disappointed once you've heard them.
In the early 70s with Mungo, we had the lot, the image, the songs, the ultimate success, but in the beginning it wasn't always like that.
When I first met Ray, he dressed quite straight and if anything leaned more to the medallion man, whereas Colin had his own identity.
I was always willing to chop and change to whatever made us look different.
In fact on the first photo session for the In The Summertime single, Ray had nothing to wear and can be seen wearing an old cut up leather coat of mine along with some of my old hippy beads.
The photo actually worked, although we came over as quite heavy looking (not musically).
What I am actually getting at here is that Mungo Jerry in the beginning was not one man but a democratic bunch of musos who had a common link with skiffle and the blues who enjoyed their music.
Ray had the front and the voice but not the image or dress sense to go it alone, although to be fair, he did listen to advice and looked sensational in the hairy boots and cloak, etc.
Mungo, was a blend of us all, colourful, a bit roguish and above all, totally different in the way we sat down and pumped out our earthy but happy-go-lucky style of music. We were if you like, at one with each other and the world and it worked.
Unfortunately, where success is concerned, money and greed will always raise its ugly head and towards the later days, this is what ultimately happened.
We had the misfortune if you like of having our first single go to No.1 without knowing really, all the different avenues where the royalties come from. P.R.S (Performing Right Society) for instance was totally new to me and I can't be sure, but due to certain contracts I think Ray lost or never received, all the money for In The Summertime.
We would have been better to have had a couple of minor hits before the big one in order to sort out better contracts and percentages and to reap the full benefit.
I believe we were only on 1% between the four of us, where the norm is around 12%.
Through being naive and exploited, we lost out a great deal, Ray more than anyone else.
I think that this is one of the factors that made him change along with the fact that we were being treated as a novelty band by the press; that may be but we were still the best live band around, but Ray wanted to change and bring in a drummer.
This wasn't a totally bad idea, for some of the numbers, as they were calling out for it, but it would definitely not have worked on the skiffle and jug band songs.
After all, that is what had made us unique, using stomping boards and no drums; pulling in a permanent drummer would have made us the same as the rest.
I can see why he wanted one, Colin and I didn't mind for some of the time but didn't see the need, if we were going on in the same vein, for a permanent one.
Ray's roots are really rock'n roll which he excels at, and is a cross between Elvis and Leadbelly with a bit of Lonnie Donegan thrown in.
I'm more Donovan and Leadbelly with a bit of early T.Rex thrown in.
Ray was more to the heavy side and me the lighter. So I can see why Ray wanted a drummer.
There is no animosity, just sadness really.
Had we stayed together as the original outfit and changed as we needed to, we could still have been going now - the music lives on but the band died”.
I tend to lay a guitar track down first and then build it up with other instruments, and then add the vocal - rather like making a cake.
On the blues and skiffle side, it is best to record it live and then doctor around with it in the studio, but it is very much hit and miss.
LIKES AND DISLIKES:
Again too many to mention but briefly, I like the sun, the Greek Islands, real ale, vintage wine, nice shaped bums (on women), vintage American acoustic guitars, live music, an intelligent trainable dog, good conversation, living by the water.
I dislike rain, flashy cars and women, vets, solicitors, taxman, lager, scotch, dentist, queues in shops, fish bones, bad hangovers and harps that blow out too quick.
Paul King arrived for our interview slightly harassed, as he had one day left to find a house before he went abroad on tour. At the moment he's living in one room in Sunbury with the group's chauffeur, and is a bit cheesed off with looking after himself.
"I want a big house with some grounds so I can keep a horse," he says, as if that wasn't such a tall order to have to find in Sunbury.
Another urgency is that he wants his lady and their son to move in. Paul is wearing a beautiful chamois jacket, carefully patched jeans and pink lace up boots. There's a lady in our office who swoons at the sight of him, but he gets quite bashful if you mention his appeal and says that Ray is the idol of the group and he is merely the jug player. But he is terribly charming about it and laughs a lot.
He's 23 and was born in Dagenham, Essex. He's got a younger brother and sister (the latter is an ace at breaking horses in).
When he was quite small, the family moved to Stanwell and he went to Ashford Secondary Modern School, and he left when he was 16. "I always wanted to do art but I couldn't find the break to do it, so to begin with I tried unsuccessfully for a year to be a chartered accountant.
“Then I became a sculptor and designed for Bendy toys. I later went to Shepperton studios as a special effects man and worked on 'A Man For All Seasons' making old scrolls and things. I also worked on 'Casino Royale' and 'Half a Sixpence'."
He learnt to play guitar during an attack of appendicitis. The inevitable period abroad followed, and he went round Greece playing for a meal.
When he came back and got chucked out of home he went strawberry picking, then hod carrying. One day at the coast with a crowd of rockers he went over to France and busked round St.Tropez and Cannes for a bit. "That was one of the best times of my life," he recalls.
A trip down to Spain ended him up in jail for vagrancy, then back to France where the same happened. The authorities shaved his hair off and he returned to England slightly shaken.
Following a spate of grave digging, Paul got himself a little studio and began sculpting for himself - doing decor work for pubs and restaurants and became quite successful.
All this time he was still playing in pubs and golf clubs and that's how he met up with Ray and Colin. That was two and a half years ago, and when he first joined the band they were earning only £8 a week.
Paul seems to have been very tied down by the band since their initial success. He doesn't begrudge it, but his horizons are much wider than being a member of a band. "I want to enjoy the world. I want a boat and I want to sail round the Greek islands slowly. People say, 'oh you're in a group what are you on about? Groups are always travelling,' but you can't SEE anything that way. And then I like playing football and I don't have time to do that. And I'd like to design the interior of my own house. I shouldn't think we've got much more than two or three years left to us as a group. I enjoy work and there's plenty of time left for everything else. It's not like a factory job where you say 'I'll retire when I'm 55.' This job you can work hard - work your guts out - and then retire and enjoy yourself while you're still young enough."
On the other hand, he wants to make his own album soon, and says it will be more folky, less heavy and hard than the usual music of the band. "I wrote things from the word go really. I didn't know any tunes so I used to make them up - I only knew three cords. I used to make up a tune on the harmonica and then put words to it. I first got to like jug music because it was such happy music."
The money aspect of the band doesn't worry him unduly. He's rich enough, he says, to buy a house outright, and when he's got his house and a bit of land he'll be happy.
Also he wants his son to have more of a chance than he did. His son - JANGO ODYSSEUS ARAMIS - ("well it's different isn't it?") is going to be taught something like trumpet when he's about six months old so that he grows up to be very musical.
His clothes - he probably takes more interest in them than anyone else in the band - are more of an artistic outlet for him than an exercise in vanity. He buys the ordinary thing then converts it to his own taste to ensure he never sees anyone wearing exactly the same clothes as himself. His latest purchase has been a pair of roller skates to keep him happy in hotel corridors while they're on tour.
In a way the band lives up to its "have a drink and drive" reputation. Paul's first cry upon entering his managers' offices is "where's the drink then?"
"Well we do drink quite a lot I suppose, but we don't take drugs of any sort. I can't hold smoke of ordinary cigarettes down for a start let alone anything else, and anyway the action is to slow people down too much - I prefer to be in control and have some fight left in me."
He grins and you wonder why the hell he isn't beset with women 24 hours a day."Groupies are bad in America - that's the only place you really notice them because they're so organised. You come offstage and they're sitting there waiting for you. I steer clear myself."
He grins and goes rushing off to continue his never-ending search for a house.
(Paul King talks to Rosalind Russell about the band formed with fellow ex-Mungo Jerry man Colin Earl)
‘Been In The Pen Too Long’ was an apt title for Paul King’s album, considering how he felt when he made it regardless of the connection it had with the song of the same name on the LP.
His stay with Mungo Jerry was becoming stale – he felt he had no outlet for his material as he thought that Ray Dorset was doing all the running as far as front man goes – and so Paul felt the time had come…etc.
He wrote the songs for his first solo album, even did the sleeve cover, and co-produced it with Paul Brett. And having got his solo album out of his system, he is concentrating all his energies on the King Earl Boogie Band – with the other ex-Mungo man, Colin Earl.
“The title track of ‘In The Pen’ is what I’m into now. The other tracks are songs I’d written for Mungo and I didn’t want them to go to waste. And there were the two Leadbelly songs. I’ve always liked his ‘Jean Harlow’ and I’ve heard so many people do it badly. My version is almost like his style, but with more instruments.”
Paul will be working full time with Colin Earl and the rest of the band – Dave Lambert (guitar), Russ Brown (bass), Joe Rush (percussion). As he’ll be able to put his songs forward for consideration for recording on equal terms with the rest of the group, he doesn’t think he’ll need to do anything else solo.
“I was very stifled with Mungo. It was mostly Ray’s songs that got recorded and it was one of the main reasons I left. The Boogie Band is nothing like Mungo Jerry. It has thicker sounds and goes very deep at some points. Even a bit on Moody Blues lines. It seems to have that depth in country/blues.
“I have an equal chance to write, and no one feels stifled. Some of the songs I wrote were too weird for Mungo. We used to have terrific live shows but we couldn’t keep it up forever. Ray wanted us to go one way and I wanted to go another. The songs the Boogie Band uses are a mixture of a few stompers and a few to get your head into.”
The Boogie Band should be ready to go out on the road in about a month, and at the moment are concentrating on making their act more visual as well as musical. They are learning a lot from the old jug music, but trying not to do it in a Mungo style.
“None of us stand up and have long solos. We are very much a visual band – the same sort of idea as Slade, and keeping the musical content too. It’s for entertainment. We have finished the album we’ve been making and should go out soon. There will be no musical clash with Mungo Jerry. We’re using harmonies, whereas with Mungo, Ray is the main singer with everyone backing.”
On Paul’s album, he has played as many of the instruments he could play himself, and used violin, piano, harmonica and electric bass to try and vary the sound as much as possible. He was very keen to make the package as much all his own work as he could, and as he was a sculptor and artist before he was a musician, the ideas were already there.
He worked at Shepperton Studios for a while, making things like helmets, heads and armour for the films. He has done sandstone and plaster work for himself and sold it. He prefers working in three dimensions, and as the cover of his album shows, he painting carries the same characteristic.
“I think album covers are an essential part of the package. I wouldn’t say they sell a record, but if you notice it, at least you’ve made a start by seeing it. I think it goes 50% towards a first listening.
“We’re trying for a cover for the Boogie Band album at the moment, but you have to be careful with a cover for a first album, because it reflects the music. Our music is basic, down to earth, so the cover will have to reflect that.”
The Boogie Band’s album was produced by the Strawbs Dave Cousins as was their single, ‘Plastic Jesus’ for which Paul wrote the tune using the traditional words. The album should be available in July.
Mungo Jerry riding high in the chart with ‘Baby Jump’, have been hard at it, practically without a break, since their early success last summer. Which is all very nice and proves that they’re not one-hit wonders, but is also rather tiring.
Ray Dorset collapsed a couple of weeks ago from exhaustion. And to meet Mungo, they’re half the men they were last summer; tired and a bit listless. In short, there’s been too much of ‘all work and no play’ adage.
“I like playing music” protests Paul King, that amazingly good-looking bloke in the suede gear. “But I do like doing other things as well.”
We’re talking in a crowded Fleet Street pub and although it’s lunchtime, Paul has only just got up. He’s paler and slightly fatter-faced than last summer, and explains it’s because there’s always so much waiting around to do that he drinks to pass the time and that puts on weight.
“I mean, we’ve just come back from three weeks in Italy. We got off the Hovercraft and went straight to a gig in the North. Then there was ‘Top Of The Pops’ next day.”
“You arrive at ‘Top Of The Pops’ at eleven, you’re needed for two minutes and then nothing – just sitting around until five o’clock for two minutes. That’s what is so tiring.”
Paul says he found Italy rather trying too. Essentially, he says, Mungo Jerry is a band for English speaking audiences, although ‘In The Summertime’ sold extensively over the Continent in its English version.
“Somewhere between eight and ten million,” says Paul reflectively. “That’s a lot of records to sell, and people expect us to be hugely rich, but the money’s hardly started coming in yet. I’ve just about enough money to buy a Mercedes, but that’s not really much use as I don’t drive. And anyway, people don’t consider you’re rich unless you have a house and a villa and a yacht.”
Right now, Paul desperately wants a house in the Sunningdale area, but he’s hardly had time to look. At the moment, all his possessions are crammed into one room, where he’s living with the guy who drives him around.
“I’m losing touch with my old friends – I had a drink with some of them last night and that was the first time I’d seem them in six months. Then there’s football – I love playing football and I don’t have time. Primarily, I’m an artist and I haven’t touched a paint brush in six months.”
He also designs and makes his own suede and leather stuff but has had no time to do that. In all, life’s become a bit too much of a rush and with ‘Baby Jump’ high in the chart it doesn’t look as if the pace will slacken much. But at least they will be in this country for a while – their American tour has been cancelled so they can concentrate on home ground, which they feel they’ve neglected lately.
Also, there’s the new album – ‘Electronically Tested’ – due out shortly. Alas, Paul didn’t finish writing and arranging his songs in time to get them on the album.
“My songs are more folky – they’re involved with people and life – not at all commercial, and you can’t really put the rest of the band on them.”
In what spare moments they have, the band don’t tend to stick together. They’re thrown too much on each other’s company during gigs and touring for that, and they’re all very different personalities.
“And anyway,” says Paul “we never rehearse, it all happens on stage. We rehearse in the studios for an album but otherwise it comes naturally. Ray plays something and we follow.
“I used to go around folk clubs and they used to sit there and you could hear a pin drop. I was nervous then with only 20 or so people in the audience, because they were super-critical. They’d watch your every movement and most of them played guitar too. When there’s four of you and you’re playing to 50,000 or 2,000 or whatever it is – you don’t feel nervous somehow.”
In the pre-Mungo days, Paul used to busk round the South Of France and Europe. In Spain once, he was put in prison and had his hair shave off for being too long. He’s slightly nostalgic about those days.
“When we were in Italy recently, we kept having to do photo sessions, hang around for interviews, and it was 80 degrees outside and I was thinking, ‘wow’ I could be spending this time outside lying there getting a tan, instead of which we had to have our photos taken and you happen to scratching your ear, and the next thing you know there’s a poster plastered up saying ‘Mungo Jerry’ with you scratching your ear.”
KING-EARL: BACK TO BASICS
The King Earl Boogie Band can’t wait to get out on the road and prove themselves. Especially Paul King and Colin Earl who still have the ‘ex-Mungo Jerry’ label over their heads.
From its conception, when King and Earl left Mungo and joined up with blues singer and guitarist Dave Lambert, the Boogie Band has been through a number of changes.
They started off rehearsing in a little Staines pub with Russ Brown on bass guitar and old timer Joe Rush playing an assortments of jug band percussion instruments. It was rough and ready music, very similar to the original Mungo sound with the accent very heavily on Dave Lambert’s contributions and non-original blues material.
But all that changed when they brought in Dave Cousins from the Strawbs to produce their album. Underneath all the boogie, Cousins could see a foundation they had never been aware of. He coaxed things out of them, took them into different fields of music, culminating with a fortnight at The Manor recording studios in Oxford.
Paul King: “Originally, it was going to be a blues band, it’s still got that feel but now the original material is sounding original. Before recording the album, all we were interested in was getting the band on the road and working.”
“The sounds Dave gave us,” added Dave Lambert, “taught us something as well. We’re trying to get good arrangements going now, and good solid sounds as well.”
They will not be going heavy or progressing, says Paul King. “There will be musical numbers to listen to, and stompers to stomp to.”
So far, their only real hang-ups have been the long time it is taking them to get on the road and the fact that their ‘Plastic Jesus’ was more-or-less banned by the B.B.C.
“I think the single is terrific,” says Dave. “It’s funny, Pye have been getting letters from people asking about us, and congratulating us on it. The initial reaction at the Beeb was tremendous, they all wanted to play it. Perhaps they got cold feet.”
“I suppose there are a lot of people who would not like it because they are religious, “ said Paul King, who wrote the single. “But they should have listened to the lyric. Still, Alan Freeman and Stuart Henry have played it a couple of times.”
Paul King is very aware, especially with ‘Plastic Jesus’, sounding something like Mungo, that people are going to accuse them of carrying on with an idiom more or less the same as the one they used with Ray Dorset. But it doesn’t particularly worry him. Because, as he points out, the King Earl Boogie Band is 50% of Mungo anyway.
“I guess a lot of people will be down on us. All you can say is that Mungo was taken for a teenybopper band rather than a group of musicians, but fair enough because that was what people wanted to hear,” said Paul.
“The Mungo thing used to really get me down,” added Paul. “But it doesn’t really worry me now because I’m out of it. It was a good band for a good night out, sinking a lot of beer and then smashing up guitars and things, but the trouble was with Mungo we could never put out any music. It got so bad, you could never hear my guitar because we never bothered about doing a sound balance or anything.”
It’s a completely different story now. All their sound is checked and checked again, even at rehearsals, and the energy they are putting into getting everything exactly right has to pay off in the end. But they know they are going to have a hard job convincing the public that they have something to offer musically.
Mark Plummer, Music Press, 1972.
“If you drink a couple of pints quickly, in about half an hour, and squeeze out a quick one before you go on stage – and then you start banging your feet.”
Paul King and Colin Earl are getting excited by playing music and talking shop these days. After two years with Mungo Jerry and the same repertoire gradually growing with top ten singles, they are having to learn new songs, new arrangements. Most of all, they are getting to point of bursting with ideas about their new stage show and life on the road without Mungo.
The King Earl Boogie Band – acoustic guitarist, harmonica and kazoo player King, pianist Earl, washboard and percussion parathenalist Joe Rush, bass guitarist Russ Brown, and raspy voiced guitarist Dave Lambert – are playing the music their title lays down. It goes back to what Mungo Jerry were playing around small folk clubs and pubs before they broke big with ‘In The Summertime’ and turned into a well oiled stomping machine.
Last week, as for the couple of weeks before, they were assembled at The Phoenix, and ordinary little town pub in Staines where modern jazz is played live on a couple of nights during the week.
Round the back in the little private hall come bar, Colin Earl’s flash sports car with electric wind down windows shines in the bar lights as a reminder of the fortune Mungo Jerry netted him. Equipment lays scattered on the floor. But there is a noticeable lack of amplification, just one solitary amplifier standing ready for the electric bass.
“We must go over the endings, “ Dave Lambert tells the band. Dave has pretty much taken over the band and seems to be fully in control of the music they are laying down. Perhaps, if it wasn’t for him, the band would still be working their way through half-a-grand a gig playing electric rock with Ray Dorset, and that is something they didn’t want to do.
The beginnings of the band happened when Dave Lambert joined Red Bus, Mungo’s management people, and lumped together with the band for a tour. One night, King and Earl joined Lambert on stage blowing out raunchy rock and roll behind the blues singer. They enjoyed themselves immensely, and the gig amplified their own doubts and disbelief in Mungo Jerry.
They had almost decided to quit the band, but they kept trying to pull the differences in Mungo together.
“We had decided before we left that something had to happen,” said Colin Earl. “We kept trying to pull it back together, we were hoping we could do it. But we had so many hassles. We tried hard but it never really worked out, and then we went to Australia.”
King and Earl tried to pull Mungo back to where they were before hit records came along, but when Ray Dorset informed them that he was going to get a drummer into the band they decided to call it a day. “It wasn’t that a drummer would have been a bad thing,” explained Colin. “We felt we needed something like a lead instrument, a violinist would have been a good idea. Getting a drummer in there seemed to be simply taking a retrogressive step.”
The King Earl Boogie Band have been in the studio working on their first album, with Dave Cousins of the Strawbs working as their producer. But live dates are out until mid-way through April when they play at the Marquee, London.
Mungo Jerry were back on the road after a couple of weeks following the departure of King and Earl. But the Boogie Band are waiting until their stage act is perfected.
Mark Plummer, Music Press, 1972.