The Gabriel Connection

In which Peter Gabriel turns up a few days too late
Plans are laid for the album
And the group is ruthlessly purged

With the band sitting on a fat cheque from Polydor, the first thing the lads embarked on was a spending spree, with new equipment the main priority. It was a case of new guitars, synthesisers, drums and keyboards all round - and no expense was spared. Everyone spent between £1,000 and £2,000 on new kit. For Dave Rhodes it was a Fender Jazzmaster and a Dan Armstrong Plexiglass Guitar through a Roland JC120 amp. David Ferguson accumulated a collection of Korg and Moog keyboards and Roland special effects through a special heavy duty Yamaha amp and speaker. For Bill it was an Aria and a Wal bass through a huge Ampeg V4B. Dave Leach collected a bright, sparkling chrome finish Premier drumkit with a mixture of Zildjian and Avedis cymbals. And we're buggered if we can remember what Simon bought other than a Lab Series L7 amp (but we feel sure he'll email us with the information). Boy, was it fun.

Then, heavy duty flight cases, in a rather fetching shade of muddy green, were specially designed, built and stamped 'Random Hold' in red. The band went round in something of a daze, with unprovoked outbursts of hysterical giggling a not uncommon occurrence.

As everyone fondled their new instruments, the business of screwing yet more cash out of unwary music companies continued apace. Management and publishing were still up for grabs and a number of new players were sniffing around. Meetings were arranged with Panache Music and Intersong as deals were sought for the band's publishing rights. Rehearsals resumed at a less than pre-possessing place called 'Base Studio' in Tooley Street on Thursday, 29th March and ran until the 6th April when the boys discovered that the less than scrupulous manager of the studio was happily loaning out their brand new equipment to bands without their knowledge.

On Monday, 16th April, rehearsals resumed back with their chums at Wharf. But Wharf had not stood still either. They had moved into an old church off the Borough Road where they had three or four much larger and better equipped rehearsal rooms as well as a soon to be recording studio being built out the back. The new, rather clean and comfortable surroundings fitted the band's new image of itself. No more roughing it for them!

Only two days rehearsal were available before the band were due to play, yet again, at their favourite haunt - The Rock Garden. Wednesday, 18th April dawned bright and clear (OK, it could have been pissing with rain but 'bright and clear' fits in better with the general mood of the moment) and the band headed off to the gig. The main problem for them this night wasn't a a bunch of beer throwing neo-nazis but the fact that they had so much equipment they could barely get it on the stage. But no matter, they played - to a noticeably bigger audience than before - and retired to the dressing room only to be invited back outside to meet and greet some more 'important people'. These important people turned out to be a large, affable character with a large, mid-Victorian style beard, a talkative and enthusiastic red-haired woman and a slightly built, quiet almost shy man who looked somewhat familiar.

It later emerged that an artist friend of the 'somewhat familiar' one, a certain Graham Dean, had seen the band at an earlier gig and had alerted his mate to Random Hold's existence. Interested, he had dragged his managers down to see them that night. Now they all stood and chatted with the various members of the band in the beer soaked debris of a post-gig Rock Garden.

The bearded one, it turned out, was Tony Smith, manager of Genesis, Brand X and others. He ran Hit and Run Management as well as Hit and Run Music, was inordinately wealthy and a good laugh. The talkative lady was one Gail Colson. Gail had previously been at Charisma Records but had left to manage, amongst others, the quiet, shy man who accompanied her. He, it turned out, was Peter Gabriel. Whilst there was general disappointment expressed by all three when they discovered that the band had recently signed a recording contract, this was tempered somewhat when Tony and Gail were told of the size of the advance. They were encouraged still further when they realised that the band had neither manager nor publisher. With very little prodding from Mr Gabriel, the band were invited down to the Hit and Run offices in Shaftesbury Avenue in order to discuss both.

Within a few days it became clear that this was the right combination of forces and things moved swiftly along with the band signing a publishing deal with Hit and Run (and collecting another few grand on the way) and a management agreement with Gail's company, Gailforce, which operated under the general Hit and Run umbrella. Polydor, too, were pleased at this outcome assuming that, with the power of Genesis/Gabriel management behind them, the band would sweep to multi-million pound sales within months.

Rehearsals resumed at Wharf and continued in a somewhat haphazard way through May. With the band now able to pay itself, and with some of his investment returned, the financial pressure eased on Bill and, to him at least, things seemed set fair for the future. Little did he know that matters were afoot that were to transform the band in the short term and limit its lifespan in the future.

Gail Colson also had plans for the band that were not on their planned agenda. Gail's involvement with Peter Gabriel had been one of long standing, being at Charisma when he was with Genesis and then when she undertook a management role during his solo career. Peter was now scheduled to produce a new album and, as before, he planned to ship over from the States the hugely talented (but also hugely expensive) bunch of musicians who habitually played on his albums: Tony Levin, Larry Fast and Jerry Marotta. Gail had other ideas. To the Random's immense surprise, on the last day in May, they were shipped off down to Peter's house in Bath to help him work out some of the numbers he had written for the planned album. After a hugely enjoyable three days or so, in which time they also got to play older numbers such as 'Solsbury Hill' with the great man, the band returned to London both amused and somewhat bemused.

Quite what the point of the exercise had been they were not sure. Had Gail been seriously hoping to persuade Peter to cut his overheads by employing low grade British musicians as opposed to the high maintenance USA version? Had the band really just been used to stimulate the Gabriel creative juices in order that he might fulfil his final contractual obligation to Charisma? Or was this a subtle way of allowing Peter to run his eye over David Rhodes with a view to him appearing on the said album? We may never know.

Whatever Gail's and Peter's intentions, however, the break seemed to have set the two Davids to thinking about the direction of the band and, as plans for recording a RH album began to be put in place, the urgency of their ruminations intensified. June wandered along in a summer haze. Gail told Peter Gabriel that any hopes he might have of producing the Random Hold album had to be given up. His commitment had to be to his new album. Instead, Gail proposed using another experienced musician from the same Charisma/Hit and Run stable: ex Van Der Graff Generator front man, Peter Hammill. A provisional date was set for the start of recording. It would start at the end of July.

Then, half way through June, a meeting was arranged by the two Davids to which only Bill was invited. They had something of a bombshell to drop. Two issues were raised. First of all, they were concerned with a medical problem with his joints being experienced by David Leach which was preventing him from rehearsing as often as had been planned. They had a solution, admittedly a radical one. They wanted to replace David with Pete Phipps - the tall, good looking drummer who had briefly played with him twelve months before. Pete had an intriguing background. He had been part of the original two drummer band that had backed Gary Glitter on his 70's hits. He was now available and the two Davids wanted him in. Now seemed a good time.

Then they raised the position of Simon. Their views were straightforward. He no longer fitted in musically. They regarded his contributions as too 'poppy' for a band with a very serious world view. Simon's bluesy licks no longer fitted with the image and mood of the band. He had to go if the band was to remain true to its ideals. This put Bill in a tricky position. He had worked with Simon previously and got on well with him personally (but there were no real 'personality' clashes in the band at this time). He also suspected that Polydor Records might find this particular move rather alarming. They clearly viewed Simon as the understandable and presentable front man of a band that they had signed in spite of clearly having absolutely no idea what the music was about. On the other hand, this was clearly the two Davids' band. The music was 95% theirs, the band's ethos was theirs, they dominated and directed the sound and style. Apart from the bass parts, Bill's significant contribution had been to allow the group to get a deal by financing them through some tricky months but it was THEIR band. Somewhat reluctantly he agreed.

Simon was invited for a drink at the Dulwich 'Wood House', a pub on Sydenham Hill. There, tucked a way in a corner, the news was broken to a crest-fallen Simon. Most of the talking was done by the Davids with Simon protesting his ability to change and his total commitment to the band. It was an unhappy and uncomfortable afternoon for all concerned. Simon's chance of rock stardom had been snatched away from him for the second time. He had certainly not seen it coming and was understandably devastated. The news was broken to David in an even less pleasant and certainly less personal way. He had not been feeling 100% for a while and was at home when called. Bill had drawn the short straw for this duty and the telephone conversation was tense, fraught. Polydor were told of the changes after the event so that they could not intervene in the process. There was, however, an immediate and detectable change of attitude amongst the A&R men who had signed them. A substantial sum had been invested and yet, within weeks, changes they didn't like and failed to understand seemed set to reduce the commercial value of their new 'product'.

On Monday, 25th June, the band resumed rehearsals at Wharf, only now they were a four piece.

Next - The Polydor Sessions Back to the Random Hold Archive