How We Met: 46. Georgie Fame and Alan Price
Sunday 09 August 1992
GEORGIE FAME: I was doing a residency at the Flamingo in Wardour Street in London during the winter of 1963, when I heard about this band from Newcastle called the Animals. In my break I walked over to the Scene Club to hear them. Eric Burdon was jumping up and down on this black baby grand piano singing a John Lee Hooker song called 'Big Boss Man'. Alan was seated at his organ, a Vox Continental. I think they were wearing dark three-button Italian suits with black ties, which was de rigueur for lots of groups at the time. I went and knocked on the band room door to say hello, and said I'd meet Alan the next day at this pub called De Hems in Macclesfield Street, where you could get steak and kidney and oyster pudding, as well as good beer.
After that we lived out of each other's pockets for a while. We had the same love of sport as well as the same kind of music. We both came from Northern backgrounds, so drinking was a social interest, to say the least - though we'd never get deliberately out of it. Sometimes we'd go off at short notice and while away the hours in Paris discos. They had a bit more class than the English ones.
We started working together in the early Seventies. One evening, we were both on the same bill at Bradford University. We were in the urinal, and that's when we said: 'Let's form a band.' The catalyst was when we appeared on Lulu's live TV show together. We shared a piano, wore rented tails, and sang 'Back in the USSR', the Beatles song - so we had this crazy idea. We got the strings in the orchestra to play the theme from Dr Zhivago, while we staged a mock battle and interrupted each others' playing. We ended up rolling on the floor pretending to fight. Word has it that Billy Cotton Jnr was strolling along the gantry at the time and said 'Give these boys a series.' This became The Price of Fame.
I can remember one time travelling back from a gig when I was quite drunk and lost my rag. I can't remember what it was about. But most of the time, when you're at the hub of it, you're too busy plying your trade for any aggravation. People often come up and ask me to sing Alan's songs, but it never annoys me. I was waiting to go on and play at a 'Save the Spire' concert for Salisbury cathedral last week. There was a bloke standing next to his wife 10 yards away and I heard him say: 'Where's your bear, then?' He meant Alan's song 'Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear', but I think it tells how strong the partnership was and the impact it's had on people. We established our professional relationship long after our personal one. Nothing's going to break it.
ALAN PRICE: The Animals were originally my band, of a sort. We were known as the Alan Price combo. The name was like a really bad Fifties film, so we became the Animals when we came down to London. Basically we all disliked each other. It was a marriage made in hell.
Anyhow, that night we'd done a bad set and weren't happy, but somebody said Georgie Fame had arrived. We were excited because we knew from the gig pages of Melody Maker that Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames were working all the time. That was the thing you aimed for, to be playing all the time.
When Georgie came into the dressing room he was wearing a black overcoat with a velvet collar - very Mod. I think he had a girl with him called Carmen, but that may have been the next day.
He told me he'd enjoyed the band and that we were going to give the scene a kick up the arse. He meant the scene down south. The only rival band at the time was the Stones, and we considered them a bit middle-class - though Eric always looked on Jagger as competition.
The Scene didn't have a drink licence, so the Animals would go out and buy half a bottle of Scotch and a bottle of Coke; we'd tip half the Coke out and top it up with whisky. We'd get through five bottles that way. Georgie Fame talked to me as if I were the leader and said to come and meet him at De Hems the next day.
At the time, the Animals were staying in a flat in Fitzjames Avenue, living on a diet of brown ale, Ryvita and rusks. It was so cold that when we got back from a gig, we'd all make a run for the only warm room in the flat, the bathroom. One of us slept in the bath while everybody else was relegated to camp beds. So you can see why I was glad to get to the warmth of De Hems. It was like civilisation.
It had been a leap in the dark for me, packing in my job as an income tax man to play in a band. Meeting Clive - I always call him by his real name - gave me reassurance that I was on the right track. I'd had terrible difficulties with the Animals. As soon as we'd cracked it, all they wanted was girls, sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. I couldn't get them to rehearse and I kept bugging them, which they didn't like at all.
Zoot Money (who Clive says had the best rhythm and blues band in the Sixties) had this house which was a crashing pad where all the raving was done. We became a tight circle. Often Clive was playing the all-nighter at the Flamingo until five or six in the morning. Later, after I'd left the Animals and started the Alan Price set, we'd meet at a disco called the Scotch of St James's.
I lived in Belgrave Mews North, but Alan and I never shared a house, nothing as strong as that. We never shared a girlfriend either. It was like: 'Don't tell me your troubles, I've got troubles of my own.' But I remember being impressed when a lady had a go at me about going out with another woman. She called me some very bad names, so Clive just picked her up and took her outside.
One night, Clive had had an argument with his current girlfriend, so we went down to Victoria Station. You could make a 45 rpm record there in those days. We were singing an apology to this girl, when this guy walked past who said he was a night chef. We got him in to the booth and started interviewing him. He told us he'd been involved in sexual peccadilloes with a British prime minister. We let him go after that]
Often Clive and I would take the Golden Arrow, an old-fashioned train with all the candelabra and the brass, and go to Paris, champagne all the way. We'd go to a bloody good restaurant when we got there and have oysters and more champagne. Sometimes we took girlfriends. It was a nice day out, something to do.
Later on, when we did cabaret together, we'd be somewhere like Liverpool and play golf in the morning, table tennis in the afternoon, then go swimming. Golf was a wonderful boon because it kept me out of the boozer and in the open air. We stopped working together in 1973, but people still think we're together.
I'm doing a greatest hits tour at the moment and I do 'Yeh yeh', which is his song, and 'Rosetta', which we both did. It's part of our history, if people can't tell the difference, who cares? Georgie's son James is going to deputise for my drummer in my band next month. Our wives have links, but you try to keep all that separate. I don't encourage fraternisation between spies]
I never really got angry with him. The only people you get angry with are managers, agents, or even audiences. With us it's like being able to speak the same language. It all adds up. It's kept us alive.
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