Jamming

Near to Tom’s barge in Maida Vale was a pub in a quiet mews. It was run by Harry Dodgson and his wife, Anna. He had been the road manager for the Newcastle group, Lindisfarne and with people coming to use the studio on the barge, it obviously became a musician’s pub. One day, coming up to the end of the year, Harry said, ‘Look, you layabouts, I’ve got some beer crates and old doors downstairs to make a stage. If you do a performance on New Year’s Eve that would be brilliant.’ So we said – fine! Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd lived nearby, and Willie Wilson who played with them was involved along with Tom, myself and others. We were playing Chuck Berry and skiffle sort of stuff. It was great fun and we started playing as a regular thing on a Sunday night. One of those who played guitar was Rod Beddell. He was a mean-looking, six foot something, leather-jacketed bald guy. But he had a great sense of humour and was completely harmless…

I’d moved down to Brighton with my wife and kids and we were living in an old chemists shop there. It was easy to come up and record backing vocals, trombones or harmonicas. One night I got back to Brighton after a gig in somewhere like Manchester. It was at about six o’clock in the morning and the phone goes. I hadn’t even taken my coat off. It was Tom, saying, ‘You’ve got to come to London now! I said, ‘Tom, I’ve only just walked in the house.’ He said, ‘I can’t tell you what it is but please trust me – you’ve got to come now.’ I spoke to my wife, Jane, and she said, ‘That’s all right.’

So I get the first train and meet him there. Tom’s there with these other people who I don’t know. He said, ‘Pete, I’m really glad that you came because I want you to do some work with these people. You’d better sit down, they’re the Great Train Robbers.’ I said, ‘You’re joking!’ He told me that Richard Branson had just signed them up for a book deal and found that a couple of them had been writing songs while in prison. As we were talking more of them arrived in their limos. One of them, in his camelhair coat and all the glitter runs a pub, and we go there to talk business, you know? It was in a backstreet and absolutely packed. So we did these tracks with the great train robbers. It got tied up with a lawsuit although some of it did appear. Those were the sort of things that used to happen.