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Don Powell September 2009 Q&A.

Thanks to Lise Lyng Falkenberg (Don's biographer) for her help with the Q&A.

Q: Walsall Observer: Friday 27th June 1969 wrote: "We're Heavy / Hard Rock - but we also include quieter numbers like Martha My Dear." interjected Don Powell, looking up from his cider." This article refers to Ambrose Slade's first tour with Dave Dee & Amen Corner beginning at Newcastle, where they played to 2,500 people. Does Don recall anything about this "tour" and their time with Amen Corner?

Don: It wasn’t a tour. It was just one show. It was when we first met Chas and John Gunnell and they got this show in Newcastle City Hall. Amen Corner was THE teeny bop band and they were doing two concerts in one night. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich were on the bill as well. We got booked up for the two shows on that particular night, but driving up to Newcastle from Wolverhampton the car broke down and we missed the first show. We got there for the second show but we didn’t have time to get our own drums out so I used Mick’s from Dave Dee and we only played about four songs, I think.

Q: Does Don have any memories of Ambrose Slade (famous as The 'N Betweens) playing Alton Towers on July 13th 1969 with Marmalade (straight from the Hit Parade). ATV Today's Lionel Hampton was the compere.

Don: It was before Alton Towers was a theme park. This gig came up in the grounds of Alton Towers. I remember there was this big, stately home where we could change and Dave was seeing the oldest daughter for quite a while and I had a brief affair with her younger sister. I remember when Dave went to Alton Towers for afternoon tea with the father one time, this small plane comes down and lands on the lawn in front of them. This guy gets out and says, “Hi! I just thought I’d pop in for a cup of tea!” We were a bit out of our league!

Q: Knowing how much Don loves America, I wonder if he has any memories of two particular tours that were advertised? The 'N Betweens American Tour 1966. This tour was due to begin after The 'N Betweens appearance at Walsall Town Hall 24th September 1966? Ambrose Slade US Summer Tour 1969. This one was due to start shortly after their 'Sunday Scene' appearance at Aldridge Community Centre on 18th June 1969.

Don: Those tours never happened. When we played the Bahamas in 1968 there was a possibility of going to Miami, but we didn’t want to as we were ripped off on the Bahamas. So we didn’t get to the US until 1972.

Q: Does Don have any memories of their agent (briefly) John Gunnell? Did they meet Rik Gunnell when playing his clubs and does he have any 'Slade related' memories about those various clubs. Play It Loud is a Montgrove Productions product whereas subsequent recordings (i.e. 7" B-sides) are Barn Productions. Montgrove is Chandler & Robert Stigwood and I assume that Play It Loud was recorded late '69 alongside the skinhead bad press. Would I be correct in assuming that when Wild Winds Are Blowing flopped, Stigwood dropped them and John Gunnell lost interest. Does Don remember how and when Gunnell pulled out on Slade and does he have any tales regarding the band and Robert Stigwood?

Don: When Chas came to see us, he and John Gunnell had the management company together. We used to go to the office in Brook Street where Robert Stigwood’s office was. John was always making fun of us coming from Wolverhampton. He’d say, “Do they have telephones in Wolverhampton?” He was always taking the mickey out of us. And then Chas decided to go on his own. I don’t think we ever met Rik Gunnell. John and Rik were the club-land bosses of London and we played quite a few of their clubs. Tales about Robert Stigwood: there was a charity football match once at a big mansion near Ascot. I don’t know how we got involved in that, because we weren’t part of the football game. I remember Ginger Baker in goal, though, but we just went around in awe of all the opulence. Robert Stigwood, a few of his associates and the Bee Gees were in the mansion and they sort of popped out to wave at us menial at the football. It was like Royalty coming out! Then they went back to the house again. And then there was always something about Robert Stigwood fancying Nod, but I don’t know where that came from!!

Q: What does Don remember about Robert Stigwood and in particular, does he recall why Stigwood dropped out of the Montgrove partnership with Chas. 'The Slade' were included in The Robert Stigwood Organisations Seasons Greetings on the back page of the Record Mirror: 27-12-1969 and Stigwood swiftly washed his hands of them. It's fairly obvious that the skinhead controversy played a part but I would like something kind of 'official-ish' if possible rather than my assumption?

Don: I remember the Montgrove company, but I didn’t know that Stigwood dropped out of it. When Chas decided to be on his own, that was when he moved out of the Robert Stigwood premises and got his own offices. I don’t know if Stigwood didn’t want to have anything to do with Slade. It could have been that way, but we wouldn’t know, as Chas was very good at covering things up. He never told us anything.

Q: It's a long shot, but does Don have any contact at all with Steffan Chandler?
Don: The last time I saw Steffan was at one of Keith Altham’s lunches, but that was some time ago. So no, we don’t keep in contact so to speak.

Q: Can you ask Don if he remembers back in The 'N Betweens days, which arrangement of You Keep Me Hanging On the group used to do. I know the group had different sets for different venues and they performed Motown songs as well as a psychedelic selection. So did they do The Supremes version or the BoxTops/Vanilla Fudge arrangement?
Don: The Supremes version

Q: It would be nice to know if the current band are planning any sort of album.
Don: There is talk about doing one in the new year and it’s a bit more positive this time. Ask Dave!

Q: Would Don like to pick a few songs that he wishes Slade had covered and say why? Thanks.
Don: What I would like would be the Lenny Kravitz song “Are You Gonna Go My Way”. It’s the kind of thing that the old band would have played on stage at the time before Nod and Jim writing. That would have been the kind of song we would have learned. And I’d have loved to play that as a drummer. I can’t think of any other at the moment.

Q: Were there any particular record producers that you would have liked Slade to work with at some stage of their career?
Don: Tony Visconti I would maybe have liked in the 1970s as he used to do all the T. Rex and I loved the sound, but I’m not sure it would have worked for Slade. And I would like actually as a challenge for this guy to have worked with Jimmy Page. I’d like to see what he would have made, working with us.

Q: If you were asked to recommend a definitive Slade studio album to someone discovering the band for the first time, which one would you pick and why?
Don: “Whatever Happened To Slade” because at that particular time we had nothing to lose. And also the “Nobody’s Fools” album which is my favourite. We did that in New York and it was so much fun doing that.

Q: Have you had any contribution to the new BBC sessions album due out soon, with regards to picking tracks and promotion of the album?
Don: Not really. I think the BBC album are the tracks that are there of the ones we did. That’s the tracks that are available.

Q: Who is the most famous person you have ever met? Following on from this, have you ever asked for any celebrities or musician's autograph?
Don: I suppose Paul McCartney. I asked him for his autograph and had his photograph taken with me. It was at Abbey Road Studios at a No. 1 party where everyone who had ever had a No. 1 record was invited. Cameras were forbidden, but the girl I was dating had brought one along and I spoke to Linda McCartney. I remember saying, “Would your husband mind if we had our photo taken together?” And she said, “No. Where’s the camera? I’ll take it.”

Q: Have you ever tried giving up smoking, if so how long did this last for?
Don: I don’t smoke anymore. I haven’t smoked since January 1st 2009. Before that I tried giving up smoking in the 1980s, but back then it only lasted for a few months. Now it is different, because I don’t miss it at all.

Q: Are you doing or have plans to do some acting?
Don: I’d like to do something, but there have been no offers. My name is not around in England any more, but if anything comes up here in Denmark I’d be happy to do it.

Q: Was there an inspiration to writing the lyrics for the songs on Play It Loud, such as Dapple Rose?
Don: Regarding Dapple Rose: I’ve always had a fondness for horses and where I lived with my parents there were some fields over the back and there were always gypsies camping there. They used to have these horses and donkeys and they always looked dead to me. They were not looked after which was sad. As for other songs, for instance I Remember…I don’t remember!!

Q: How pleased are you with the Live at the BBC set? Can you tell us of any memories you have of recording at the BBC in that period? Thanks.
Don: I’m amazed that the BBC still had these tapes and I remember we always had a lot of fun recording there. We would have a three hours session to record and mix five songs. It was so good. I liked the spontaneity of the tracks. But as I said to Jim – I saw Jim a couple of weeks ago – the song “Coloured Rain” means nothing to me! I don’t remember learning it or playing it. It’s so strange!