Note from Malcolm: these biography pages are very much in a state of flux as I turn back the years and try to remember what happened… and in what order! Please do get in touch if you notice any errors… I’m sure you’ll be right, and I’ll be wrong. It all seemed to happen in a flash… and yet only seems like yesterday. What I’m certain of, is that is was all (mostly!) great fun… some great music played by some great people. I wouldn’t change it for all the world. And now… I’m writing again and looking forward to bringing you new material as soon as it develops into something tangible.
Malcolm first came to attention with the London-based Hoodoo Blues Band in 1966. Malcolm tells the story that he came to join the band after bumping into drummer Dave Charles – a childhood friend – when walking down Chingford Road his home in Walthamstow, East London, sometime in late 1965. Charles not only recruited Malcolm into The Hoodoo Blues Band, he promised that Malcolm would get a girlfriend once he was in a band. The band played frequently around town until Dave Charles left to join Sam Apple Pie. Oh!—- and incidentally Malcolm did get a girlfriend during his time playing Farfisa organ with the Hoodoo Blues Band. Her name was Deanna Call ( see/hear track: Help Yourself ’Strange Affair’ —–’Deanna Call and Scotty’).
After Dave Charles left the Hoodoo Blues Band, Malcolm left Walthamstow for a time to sleep on various peoples front room couches in Barnes, south west London, and also to explore the possibility of becoming a full time musician, and get dinner as well. His friend John Eichler managed to get Malcolm a job in a cosmetic factory where he was the floor manager. Around the same time, Linconshire guitarist Richard Treece, trying his luck in the Capital, was also recruited by John Eichler as another factory worker.
Richard takes up the story: “I remember John Eichler coming in one day after being on holiday and saying Eire Apparent had need of a guitarist. It turned out that John was living in a house with Dave Robinson, ex-roadie for Hendrix and manager of Eire Apparent. They’d just returned from a Hendrix tour in the States and were in a state of disarray, living in a big house in Blackheath. I went for a jam but nothing much happened. I also had a few unsuccessful attempts to play with Malcolm through my trusty old Vox that I carted around with me everywhere. Then there were some more visits to Eire Apparent’s, and sessions with Malcolm and the guys from Sam Apple Pie – who Dave Charles played drums for. Hendrix had given the last Eire Apparent guitar player a Gibson Flying V – which the band still had. It was a joy to jam on it! Dave Robinson came up with the suggestion that Malcolm and I formed a duo. He reckoned we’d go down a treat in the States”.
Malcolm remembers:” Just before meeting Richard Treece, Dave Robinson had organised some recording sessions with a string quartet to augment the first two songs i ever composed ‘Goodnight Jane’ and ‘Goodbye’. When they were mixed, Robinson sat in front of the console scratching his head and looking vexed. “Well that’s a load of crap, can’t do anything with that Malc….why dont you go away and form a band” …..so after the initial ‘it’s all over for me’ reaction that is what i did”.
So it was the end of a solo career. However, one thing led to another, and together with Dave Charles (who decided to move on from Sam Apple Pie) and Richard Treece they decided to form a band instead – Help Yourself. John Eichler became their manager and via his connection with Dave Robinson and another friend of John’s, an editor of the early James Bond movies, Stephen Warwick (the latter two having formed Famepushers Ltd with Eddie Moulton - an organisation that would soon gain infamy in the music business via the hyping of Brinsley Schwartz), the band had financial backing… of sorts.
Malcolm continues: ”One day we bumped into this long haired guy in the Portobello Road. Paul Burton, who was acting as our roadie, knew him from somewhere, saying hello as we passed by. We asked who he was, Paul replying he was Ken Whaley,a bass player he knew. After about 10 minutes I said ‘aren’t we looking for a bass player?’ – so we went to see him and that was it”.
Thus by the beginning of 1970, Help Yourself became a four piece, complete with manager, a roadie and a distinct lack of gear… and money!
Footnote: There is a rumour that Malcolm appeared onstage with Frank Zappa during his time with Sam Apple Pie. Malcolm shakes his head at this story – although he claims he would have loved to have jammed with the great man!” I never even played in Sam Apple Pie let alone with Frank Zappa……….though John Eichler once met Captain Beefheart in Los Angeles who said he really liked the Help Yourself albums…….and that is about as close as i ever got to Frank Zappa”. The Zappa story arises from the time Sam Apple Pie shared a bill with Zappa at the Amougies Festival in Belgium during late 1969. Bootleg recordings (and allegedly, a video!) exist of Zappa jamming not only with Sam Apple Pie but also with Caravan, Blossom Toes, Aynsley Dunbar’s Retaliation and… Pink Floyd!