Episode #234 – Paice Ashton Lord – Live 1977

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Lead up to the Album:

  • In Tony Ashton’s book, “Zermatitis – A Musicians’ Guide To Going Downhill Fast” he tells the story of being in Pinewood Studios for PAL rehearsals for the tour. Roger Moore nearby.  “Roger Moore greeted us with a charming ‘Hello, lads’ on our way back from a hearty rustic lunch in the serene period restaurant near the sound stage. Roger was doing his 007 bit with Barbara Back, now Ringo’s missus. I was shaken, but not yet stirredas we approached our specially deisgned stage set. Jon, Ian and I were pride of place at the front of the stage, with Ian on a big rostrum, Jon and me faced each other (when I wasn’t up front) armed with black concert Grand pianos and a Hammond organ each. Lordy’s was a highly elaborate affair, incorporating all his synths and clavinet, etcetera. The awe-inspiring stage structure was snow-white, punctuated by discrete silver striping. Howie Casey and the other horns with Shelia and Jeanette McKinley were above us on a large platform. Bernie and Paul had their daises, which had ramps – not unlike dry ski runs – on which they could pose and canter up and down at will.”
  • Ashton goes on about the night before the show: “But that night, even after my usual liquid intake, I couldn’t sleep . . . I was left with my thoughts and agonised again and again over our ambitious project. Surely most of the fans are going to want lackmore, Gillan, Coverdale or Glover, to say nothing of Glenn Hughes or Tommy Bolin. Only once had I performed without my organ as a prop (I did allow myself a little smile as I reminisced that, of course, Ian Gillan and David Coverdale featured theirs comprehensively in their act). I really couldn’t see myself strutting and sashaying all over the shop. Also, I never regarded myself as your ‘lead singer’. Ah, weill, I always did thrive on new experiences, being lynched by a howling mob for instance.”
  • Ashton reminded Magnet (who he referred to as the Brummie Deep Purple veteran rhododendron) that he was missing something before the rehearsal and put his cupped hand to his mouth.  He said Magnet responded, “Don’t panic, it’s on its way” and then the Heinekins arrived.
  • After drinking quite a few Ashton said “. . . I was glad that my Hammond was switched on and ready to go. I don’t think I could have negotiated eleven that procedure.”  He said Bernie and Paice both asked if he was okay when they saw him.
  • Jon arrived late, half way through their rehearsal of “I’m Gonna Stop Drinking” and said it sounded great.
  • Jon started up “Ghost Story” and Tony described a blinding flash, his voice seizing up, and a feel of nausea and disorientation.  He said it had happened once before at a club in Switzerland.  He said a “Swiss quack” diagnosed it as alcoholic relate stress and exhaustion and charged him two hundred Swiss francs.  He said this seemed the same.
  • Ashton said Jon recommended a doctor to him as he didn’t want to “risk my life at the experimental hands of dear old Mike the Psych this time.”
  • He had an appointment the next morning.
  • The doctor told him that “musus is sliding down your throat like Niagara Falls. Your larynx is beind drowned. You’ll have to stop smoking.” He also ran a liver function test.  He told Tony that he was in very bad shape.  He also said no fried foods or curries and that he wanted to see him right after the tour.
  • He said he adhered to the advice and only drank beer or lager and ate sensibly and that he also quit smoking.
  • He said the condition got worse.
  • After the first gig on TV there were reviews that included:
    • “Ashton was unconvincing and seemed at odds with his musical superieors.”
    • “Sadly the band with so much potential was sabotaged by Ashton, who seemed to be in some extra-terrestrial orchestra of his own.”
    • “Bring back the Purps!”
  • Ashton said that his morale and confidence were at an all time low but that the band shrugged it off.
  • He said he felt he was flushing Jon and Ian’s money down the toilet and that his great friendship with them was at risk.
  • Their last gig was at the Finsbury Park Rainbow. There had been a German leg of the show that was canceled so they could focus on recording.
  • Bernie Marsden entitled the Paice Ashton Lord chapter of his book “Pals with Deep Pockets.”
  • Bernie said he enjoyed working with Ashton and said he made him feel welcome. He said he and Ashton were relatively unknown compared to Lord and Paice who were huge names in 1976.
  • Bernie said he’d referred to Deep Purple Overseas Ltd. – their offshore management company – as a “bottomless pit.”
  • He said that Lord was very encouraging and that even though the band was called Paice Ashton Lord that Bernie was also crucial.
  • Bernie referred to Jon Lord as one of the most important men he ever worked with.
  • He said that staying at the Arabella hotel together and going downstairs for the recording they would not see natural light for ten days at a time.  He said that he got to know the musicals really well: Jon’s good and gentle nature, Ian’s subtle humour and his legendary thriftiness, and that Tony Ashton was “without doubt one of the funniest men I have ever known.”  He said Tony would drop his trousers any place, any time, for no reason at all.
  • Paul Martinez had been in a band called Stretch but Bernie says he was in a bogus version of Fleetwood Mac in the early 1970s formed by one of their ex-managers.
  • Bernie tells a story of being at the hotel pool and German man having a conversation with him where he said, “You schwimm gut!”  He said they had a broken conversation where he said “‘Zere is too much of zis English rock music in Chermany.”  After the conversation the man stuck out his hand and said, “You must be Bernie Marsden. I’m Martin Birch.”
  • He said that Paice in the studio was a revelation. He realized that he’d only given 50-60% during rehearsals and during his shows and recording he gave it his all.
  • He said Paice’s nicknames were “Tight Wallet,” “Small Pockets,” or “The Bank of Paice.”
  • Bernie says Roger Moore was invited in and they showed him around, Bernie showing him his red, double-necked Gibson.  They were invited to visit the Bond stage and Bernie said he went.
  • Bernie said he was tasked with getting Tony to work every day.  He said he’d go to pick him up at the pub and the people there would boo him because he showed up every day and took Tony Ashton away.
  • One of the pub regulars was a guy named Paul Knight who was a TV producer.  He was working on a show called “The Crezz” and got Tony to write the theme music.  Tony asked Bernie to play on it along with Simon Phillips and Dave Peacock on bass.  He said Tony showed up absolutely drunk and had no demo table.  He called Bernie Bernadette and hummed the tune in his ear saying, “Bernadette – you can’t  handle it , can’t you?”  He said that he, Simon, and Dave laid down the song as he described and when he sobered up enough Tony added the piano and groaned the vocal part.
  • Tony and Bernie went on to do music for ads including Pepsi.
  • Bernie noticed Tony getting very nervous through rehearsals and drinking even more than usual.
  • Bernie mentioned that during the tour planning meeting that Rob Cooksey addressed them with news that Tommy Bolin had died.
  • The tour eventually wound down to being just five UK shows.
  • The first show ever was slated to be a live gig for the BBC.  News of this reached Tony and he didn’t take it well. Bernie seemed surprised that they weren’t going to do any warm up shows.
  • Tony confided in Bernie that he was in no condition to go on television and was terrified.
  • Jon and Ian approached Bernie and asked if he could cover for Tony.
  • Bernie says Tony had a lot of drinks to prepare, going to a nearby bar for a couple of hours and showed up looking OK.
  • Bernie said the band was very tight but he was watching over Tony the whole time, nervous about what may happen.

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The Venue:


Paice Ashton Lord – Malice in Wonderland Live 1977 FULL CONCERT

  1. Ghost Story
  2. On The Road Again, Again
  3. Silas And Jerome
  4. Arabella (Oh Tell Me)
  5. The Ballad Of Mr. Giver
  6. I’m Gonna Stop Drinking
  7. Steam Roller Blues
  8. Remember The Good Times
  9. Malice In Wonderland
  10. Sneaky Private Lee

Paice Ashton Lord Lifespan film from 1977

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Bustin’ Out The Spreadsheet

Reception and Charts:

  • After this their final gig was at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park.  Tony had set up for Ronnie Frasier to introduce the band.  Bernie said he was pretty sure he hadn’t notified Jon or Ian about this.
  • After the opening act, Bandit, left the stage the lights went up and Ronnie Fraser was there wearing a cloak and holding a skull.  He went into a speech from Richard III.  He said within a few moments he started getting booed and people yelling “Get off, you old fucker – off! Off! Off!”
  • Ronnie then started cursing at the crowd and was whisked off the stage by the crew.
  • During the show Jon started up Ghost Story but stopped playing.  The lights came up and Bernie saw Jon in the orchestra pit looking up.  He gestured to Bernie to sing.  He said he could see Tony Ashton lying face down in the pit and for a minute thought he was dead.
  • He tripped and fell six feet into the pit and hadn’t even been drunk.  In fact, it was the same thing Frank Zappa had done on that exact stage.
  • Tony had to hobble back to the stage.  During one of Jon’s solos he went off and got an injection for the pain.
  • The album did poorly and didn’t even chart. Bernie said he thought it would be over but in a few weeks they were back in Musicland recording a follow up.
  • Martin Birch was producing Rainbow in France.  David Coverdale lived nearby and popped in and this was when they talked about him possibly joining.
  • They recorded about 12 songs before the whole project was scrapped.  Bernie Marsden estimates they may have sunk as much as 250,000 on the project.
  • Jon Lord said, “I still think that Tony is one of the finest performers Britain has ever had. But he had this nervous breakdown, which is why we had to stop Paice Ashton Lord thing. He was just a nervous wreck.”  He later added “Ian Paicea nd myself paid the bills and it was a lot of money. PAL finished in 1977 and I didn’t do anything until 1978. I had a nervous breakdown as well. I sat at home and felt sorry for myself. And the longer you do that, the harder it is to walk out that door again. I stopped writing, playing . . . Listen, it happens to a lot of people.”

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