Peter Daltrey – The Fairfield Parlour and Solo Years

Jason Barnard continues to speak to Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour lead singer Peter Daltrey to uncover the story of this truly legendary psychedelic group.

Peter Daltrey still in psychedelic guise today (used with kind permission from http://www.chelsearecords.co.uk)

You changed your name to Fairfield Parlour and linked up with David Symonds.

We’d done so many radio sessions as Kaleidoscope and rubbed shoulders with Dave. He was a nice guy. We got on well with him and he liked us. It was clear that Fontana were losing patience with us and we didn’t have a hit which wasn’t our fault. One day Dave said “Have you thought of getting away from Fontana? Move on. Your music is progressing. Why don’t you move on?” We agreed and went to see him down at his place at Hampton Court. We hatched a plan. Ed and I started writing much more mature songs and lyrics, expanded instrumentation and became Fairfield Parlour.

David Symonds at the Radio One Launch, 1967, back row far right

The funny thing was that we re-signed with Phillips. That was the parent company of Fontana. The reason being that they were starting this progressive label Vertigo. They said “Please don’t go. We want you on Vertigo on the first batch of albums to be released.” Slightly flattered we decided to do that but rather cleverly we said “We will come back on a recording contract but on a tape lease deal.” So we did the recordings. We paid for them and owned stuff. We leased them to the record company for a period of five years, after that all ownership reverted to the band.

“Bordeaux Rose”, was that from those sessions as it wasn’t on the LP?

I always like to keep singles as singles. I know people like to take a track off an album so it promotes an album. But we were writing so much that we had enough material to release as singles and keep other stuff as albums. “Bordeaux Rose” was designed specifically as a single.

Fairfield Parlour, Bordeaux Rose Single, Vertigo, 1970 (French sleeve)

You were on Top of the Pops.

As we heard before with “Jenny Artichoke”, “Bordeaux Rose” was played to death on the radio. It was very highly rated, great predictions for it. We got on Top of the Pops. If you went on in those days the following week your record it would go up at least five places on the chart. It was almost guaranteed as you had exposure on Britain’s only pop TV programme. Ours went down the following week. That shows you the distribution of Vertigo-Fontana-Philips.

Fairfield Parlour on Top of the Pops (photo used with kind permission from http://www.chelsearecords.co.ukl)

My favourite track on “From Home to Home” is “Aires”. I like the world weariness on your vocals. It’s clearly a special track.

There are a few tracks scattered through my recording career that are autobiographical and “Aires” is one of them. Whitey was a friend of mine. We did find a motorbike and as far as I know he did die when he was riding it. It was a great opener for the album and encompasses the mood.

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Other people say the same about “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh”. You’ve got those two songs bracketing the album. It is a melancholy mood. Unfortunately it’s ruined by an old Kaleidoscope number called “In My Box”. We were furious, it should never have been featured on there.

Having said that it shouldn’t spoil someone’s enjoyment of the album it had “Emily Brought Confetti” and “Soldier of the Flesh”. Things like that, plenty to get your teeth into.

Fairfield Parlour, From Home To Home LP, Vertigo, 1970, (this is a 2004 reissue)

How did you get involved with the Isle of Wight festival and record the single “Let the World Wash In?”

David Symonds as our manager was really motivated and energetic and worked 20 hour days of behalf of the band. He was tremendous. He got us the Vertigo contract and contract for writing for a TV advert. Then we did the music to the film “Eyewitness”, the theme song and incidental music. Then he pulled the real prize out of the bag which was an appearance at the Isle of Wight festival that was clearly going to be huge. Dylan had played the year before. Dave had convinced the brothers Foulk into writing the theme song for the festival in 1970. So we went away and did it. This was the third one that everyone predicted would be absolutely gigantic. As somebody said in the paper “If everybody who goes to the festival buys it, it will be in the charts for 10 years.” 

I Luv Wight, Let The World Wash In (Single), Phillips, 1970. The band as Fairfield Parlour also played at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival 

Unfortunately when we got to the festival, Ricki Farr thought he was in charge as he had the microphone. Instead of playing it in between every acts as it said on the contract he played it once and said “I don’t like that.” He threw it in the audience. The reason being he wasn’t involved in the original negotiations to write it. There has inter-office row with the Foulk brothers and he took it out on us. He frisbeed the disc into the crowd and it was never seen again. Of course after the festival was over no one was going to play it again. It was another sad day.

I might be wrong but wasn’t it “Ride a White Swan” that got massive out of Isle of Wight?

You might be right. A lot of it was down to the DJs Ricky Farr and, I think it was Jeff Dexter. They played what they wanted, that was what came off it. It’s a shame as “Let The World Wash In” I’m very proud of. We were told to write the theme song to a festival. I’d never been to one. We had to come up with something that was suitable for an open air festival, in the sun, by the sea with hundreds of thousands of people listening to it, perhaps singing along. I think what we achieved was right for it. I love it. I’m very proud of that song. That’s one I can stand listening to still and get enjoyment out of. It’s very accomplished and it’s a shame very few people have heard it.

It was a similar story with your next album “White Faced Lady”, an ambitious record. “Epitaph-Angel” is a beautiful track.

What happened was that Ed and I had so many songs accumulating I said to Ed “These songs we’re writing. There’s a mood, a sort of connection with them. We said why don’t we link them and create more of a story. I will write a book to go with it and put it out as a so-called concept album.” We spoke to Dave and he was over the moon with it. So Ed and I for next six months sat down and wrote the songs. I wrote the story to go with them and we had linking bits and pieces. We went off and recorded it with the blessing of the guy that was in charge from Vertigo at the time, a Dutchman called Olav Wyper. Dave and I went to see him and Olav said “Fantastic, great. Go away and record it. When you’ve finished come back and we’ll sort out the deal. We went away and recorded it.

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Dave took the tapes back to Vertigo to see Olav who said “I can’t do it.” Dave said “What do you mean, you can’t do it. We’ve just gone away and paid for the recording.” Olav said “I’m leaving Vertigo.” Dave said “What are we going to do.” Olav said “There’s no one here who’ll do, because as I’m leaving no one else wants to undertake my projects. So you won’t get anywhere here.” Dave said “Where are you going?” Olav said “Well I’m going to RCA. Bring the album to RCA when I’ve settled in. Give me a couple of weeks. We’ll do the deal there.” Dave went to see Olav at RCA who said “I’m sorry. I can’t do it.” Dave said “You’re kidding. What do you mean you can’t do it?” Olav said “The RCA bosses won’t let me do anything that I was involved with at Vertigo.”

We were caught and fell between the two rails and we struggled to find a home for it. We went to Island, Warner Brothers. The time for that type of album was just waning. Unfortunately it didn’t find a home. Because of that we were broke and the band broke up.

Kaleidoscope, White Faced Lady LP, Kaleidoscope Records, 1991 (This album, frequently described as a masterpiece, deservedly got released about twenty years after it was recorded.)

You all had to get day jobs?

We split up and the band went their separate ways. I was convinced we’d been forgotten. So much so I had some tapes of original material in my desk here at home. One day I came across them and I thought no one is going to be in the slightest bit interested in those and put them in the dustbin. There were 13 tracks we’d recording in a demo studio that had never been released.

You seem more popular now than ever and strangely, over the other side of the Atlantic.

It’s actually a worldwide thing. There’s a lot of Japanese and German fans, Norwegian. It is amazing. It is very rewarding. I love it. It’s great to think that something I did almost very nearly 50 years ago is highly regarded now.

I’ve benefitted from it because as since the band broke up I’ve released 18 albums I think it is now. Because of the interest in the band, it’s growing in some way.

A lot of people write to me and say “Please, will the band get back together and come over and do a short show please.” I put it to the other guys, Steve died in ‘99. Of the other two Dan wasn’t well and Ed wasn’t interested. People would say to me “You come on your own.” I said “Don’t be ridiculous! No one will come to see me on my own. I’d need a band anyway.” They said “We’ll give you a band.” I said “No, no. I can’t do it.” But then last year, 2011, someone else approached me and said “Look. I understand the band can’t come but I’m asking you again. Will you come over and do a gig. I’ve got a group of musicians who love Kaleidoscope, your music.” In the end I gave in because it was so tempting. I went over and we did a little tour of California. It was absolutely wonderful.

Peter rocking the Satellite Club, Los Angeles, 10 September 2011

I was watching the YouTube clips. They seem to have been really well received.

They were. It was good – we had a really good time. The band I was with was were tremendous musicians and were absolutely note perfect to the Kaleidoscope originals. I was very pleased, it went down very well. 

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There was a cover of “Music” by an American band in the early Nineties.

Cerebral Corps. They do a good job on it. It is interesting that you say we are highly valued as there haven’t been many covers. Somebody said that was because they can’t better the original but I’m still surprised there haven’t been more. We had a song called “Bless The Executioner” which was covered by Marc Ellington and [Claude] Francois in France did “Bordeaux Rose”. As well as the Spanish band doing “Jenny Artichoke” and “Cerebral Corps” doing music that was it.

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You started making music in the early nineties?

I was literally learning my craft. In the band I was writing the lyrics. When I realised that the band weren’t getting back together I had to do both, the lyrics, music and learn to play. “Dream On” my first album was rather tentative.

My albums are on the Chelsea Records site. Some of music videos are on Vimeo like “Tambourine Days”. “Tattoo” is my work with Damien Youth. Damien wrote to me and said “I love your music can I send you a song. He did. I loved it so much I said “Well I’d like to do a vocal on it”. From there we started writing together and we’ve written three albums, “Tattoo”, “Nevergreen” (another concept album), “The Morning Set” which is like a band album. We’re working on a fourth.

Peter Daltrey and Damien Youth, Tattoo CD, Chelsea Records, 2000

“Tattoo”, the album is actually one of my favourites. Working with other people is wonderful and writing with Damien was good. He’s a tremendous singer-songwriter musician. “Tattoo” I’m really proud of.

You did a cover version with Aeryon “Nature’s Dance”.

Aeryon is Arjen Lucassen, a Dutch heavy metal guitarist. He is a genius. He loves Kaleidoscope. He was doing an album called “Into the Electric Castle” and he said “Would I be interested in collaborating on it. Writing the narration on it and recording it.” I said “Of course I would.” So I wrote the narration and went over to his studio in Holland. While we were there we recorded “Nature’s Dance” and “In the Room of Percussion” which is out on my album “King Of Thieves, The Best of Peter Daltrey vol.2” on GRA records.

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Tambourine Days, your book, is a great record of the era. The interesting thing about it was that the band was quite insular in that you did your own thing.

We were very insular. We were four ordinary quiet guys. We weren’t musos. It would be pointless talking to me about sixties music in any great depth. I simply don’t know. We weren’t into many others. I didn’t buy a lot of albums myself. We were absolutely focused and dedicated to Kaleidoscope-Fairfield Parlour. We lived and breathed it 24 hours a day. We were very close, it was a wonderful time. We were like brothers and concentrated on our own road, nothing would deviate us from it until fate conspired to thwart that journey and we had to stop and break up. Up until that point it was just focused on going forward.

 

The guys – Fairfield Parlour (used with kind permission from http://www.chelsearecords.co.uk)

In terms of new tracks, what’s also in store?

Karl Anderson the boss of GRA records is compiling a tribute to Sky Saxon, the lead singer of The Seeds and he asked me to do a track called “Wild Roses” and that’s on the album as well. It’s fun because it’s got my son on guitar and another guy I work with, Derek Head on saxophone. It’s a good track.

And finally, I’ve really enjoyed the material I’ve heard from you from “Dream On” onwards. It’s very credible.

I’m pleased to hear that, thank you. Somebody said that my voice hasn’t changed in that time and to be honest I’m still writing about the same stuff I was writing then. I’m trying to make a similar music. Obviously hoping people who enjoyed Fairfield Parlour certainly and Kaleidoscope would find a lot to like in my newer music as well. The song “Tambourine Days” could almost have come from a Fairfield Parlour album. That’s my ambition to make music that runs alongside quite happily with the Kaleidoscope and Fairfield Parlour canon.

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It’s rewarding that people like you are interested. Thank you for asking.

It’s a pleasure and honour Peter. Thank you.

Many thanks to Peter Daltrey for his time and support. For further information please visit http://www.chelsearecords.co.uk for the definitive history of Kaleidoscope, Fairfield Parlour and Peter Daltrey.

Copyright © Jason Barnard and Peter Daltrey, 2012, All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without the permission of the authors.

Watch out for a special Peter Daltrey Strange Brew Podcast coming shortly.