Paul Fenton

(Drums) Paul was born in Dewsbury and always had an interest in music from day one. His late father, Bernard, who managed Sammy King and The Voltairs, probably influenced this foray into music.

Paul’s initial first big break was with his brother Christopher when they joined the local St John’s Ambulance Brigade’s bugle and drums band. The band achieved success by winning the England Open Championships for Bugle and Drums bands in Blackpool, no mean feat for your first band!

This first success in the music industry spurred Paul on to become part of the Bill Forbes and The Contrasts band when he was 18 years old. The band was connected to the Brian Epstein agency and they performed their single “Call Me” on Granada TV’s 5 “O” Clock Club. Unfortunately, due to Epstein’s interest being taken up with a band called The Beatles, they were unable to progress further through the Epstein management.

In 1971 Paul joined forces with Jeff Christie’s band, which was the start of a highly successful and enjoyable career, where they travelled the world with their international, number one in the pop charts single, “Yellow River”. The single went on to sell an amazing 15 million copies worldwide, getting to number 6 in the USA. Jimmy Saville and Tony Blackburn presented them with a UK Gold Disc live on BBC’s Top of the Pops for their achievements. The follow up to Yellow River, San Bernadino, reached number 1 in Germany and across Europe, whilst Christie’s debut album remained in the US charts for 22 weeks. The way that the band was received was beyond anything that they had previously known before; they were driven around in limousines with police outriders when touring abroad.

The Tremeloes had passed up the opportunity to record Yellow River due to the success they were achieving with their own songs at the time.

Kensington Market was a magnet for musicians, and after meeting David Allen who was the Anglo/Spanish-American vocalist/multi instrumentalist for the band Carmen, Paul then decided to join the band due to his meeting with David Allen. Paul felt bad for letting Jeff down by leaving his band, which Jeff took in his stride, as he understood the need for Paul to move forward and develop in his career as a drummer. Jeff and Paul were, and have remained, good friends through the test of time.

Carmen’s music was entirely different to anything that Paul had previously known, he was excited by the potential to explore the mixing rhythms and the unique, avant-garde fusion of roots, flamenco and rock. Carmen’s search for a drummer who apparently had to like wearing snakeskin boots, had cemented their relationship as a band. Paul’s manager had found them a house to live in and introduced them to Tony Visconti, who was at that point having success with T.Rex, whose music was already in charts worldwide. After taping a rehearsal tape at the house, Visconti then signed Carmen. Carmen’s first album “Fandangos in Space” – released on Regal/Zonophone/Emi was recorded at Visconti’s home studio. Appearing on David Bowie’s “Midnight Special” NBC TV show and on Good Earth, led to greater recognition within the music industry. David Bowie was a big fan of the band and a Bowie book entitled “Moonage Daydream” mentions Carmen and appears to support his love of their music. Paul remembers being in Bowie’s company, both prior to, and during his time with Marc Bolan and T.Rex.

Carmen then completed a six-week tour of the UK and recorded their second album “Dancing on a Cold Wind”. In autumn 1974 Carmen headed back to USA for their first American tour, Carmen performed over eight months in over 44 cities, opening for such bands as Santana, ELO, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Oak Arkansas and Golden Earring.

Towards the end of their tour of the US, the band were heard by Jethro Tull who wanted them to open for them on their “Comeback” tour of the US where they were promoting their “Warchild” album. Relationships were forged on this tour between Carmen and the Tull’s bassist, the late John Glascock, no doubt due in no small part to the hedonistic lifestyle on tour!

A close and lasting friendship also developed between Paul and the Tull drummer, Barrie Barlow, to the extent that Paul, a talented wood craftsman, built a recording studio in Barrie’s home by the Thames in London!

Due to this exposure, many other musicians such as Queen, Bryan Ferry amongst others, knew of Carmen.

Visconti had previously introduced Paul to Marc Bolan in 1973, which had allowed Paul to work with Carmen and Bolan when time between bands allowed. A close friendship developed between Bolan and Paul, due to their shared music interests and Bolan’s interest in Carmen’s music.

Paul, who features in Visconti’s book “Bowie, Bolan and The Brooklyn Boy” fondly recalls some of his memories of the times he spent in Bolan’s company. Bolan valued people who had become trusted friends and included Paul in that category, to the extent that Paul had stayed over at Bolan’s house one night as he was unable to get back to his own place and be back in time for his appearance on Bowie’s Midnight Special the following day. As Paul had been unable to go home and get a change of clothes, Bolan had opened the doors to his wardrobe to him and asked him to pick one of his shirts to wear on the TV show. Paul had seen a red top which had a cape attached to it which he really liked the look of, Bolan being the generous person he was, told Paul to take the top despite it being his favourite. Paul’s clothes on the TV show, including the trousers all belonged to Bolan.

Visconti’s book also recalls Paul McCartney visiting his house in Melrose Terrace when Paul was staying there. McCartney had been impressed with the strings arrangement for T.Rex and wanted Visconti to listen to some of his tracks that would need arrangements, the album once produced became his best post Beatles release “Band on the Run”. Whilst there McCartney listened to the Carmen album, which he was impressed with. Paul and McCartney soon found themselves together at the Air Studios recording, Paul with Carmen and McCartney with his band. Due to McCartney being short of both a drummer and guitarist, he asked Paul if he was interested in filling drummer Denny Siewell’s post. Unfortunately, due to Paul’s loyalty to Carmen he was unable to drum on the “Band on the Run” album. Who knows what could of happened if things were different?

Paul continued working with both Carmen and T.Rex, until the members of Carmen decided to go their own ways after the release of their third album “The Gypsies” Around this time Paul had an accident with a horse which resulted in him suffering from a seriously damaged leg.

Paul then devoted all his time to recording and touring with T.Rex, both live and for TV performances in the UK and the USA from 1973. The band’s line up was bassist Steve Currie, Bolan’s long-term musical partner Mickey Finn and Gloria Jones. Paul featured on each of Marc Bolan’s and T.Rex’s albums and singles starting from “Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow” in 1974 until Bolan’s tragic death.

Following on from Bolan’s untimely death, Paul was shattered and still suffering the after effects of both Bolan’s death and the accident with the horse, he was completely exhausted and spent most of 1976 and 1977 at Long View in the USA which was owned by Professor Gill Markle. The time spent at Long View gave Paul a personal and remarkable insight into the potential of psychology and philosophy from someone who knew what they were talking about.

Currently, 2011, Paul is still touring Europe and promoting the music of Marc Bolan through Mickey Finn’s T.Rex.


 
 
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