peter di lemma interview, november 2005

Not unreasonably described in Richard's book as a '24 carat good bloke', Peter di Lemma continues to reside in South London, and in November 05 agreed to a slightly impromptu interview (ie, I hadn't prepared any questions!) for doctorsofmadness.co.uk. On the occasion we were joined by Brian Harding (who contributes also to the discourse below), and Peter and Brian's friend Rick. Note that Richard/Kid is referred to as 'Dick' by Peter and Brian throughout. Many thanks to Brian for making the arrangements!

Unfortunately there are various gaps due to tape hiss obliterating the conversation at certain points - however, plenty was retrievable. Hope you enjoy!


Part 1: cabbage patch kids

 H: Peter, you and Richard first met at school, what do you remember of those times?

P: We were with some other guys, Bill, of ‘Billy Watch Out’ fame, he was at school with us, and a guy called Colin Browne, he plays for Barclay James Harvest - or he was playing with BJH, but we met at the Tulse Hill School. Within about a week of starting at Tulse Hill, 1963, the year the Beatles came out, I remember it well. And the big freeze everyone’s threatening for us now! We played rugby together for four years, then (Richard) dropped out of rugby in the fifth year, it was getting a bit too animal at that time, too violent. But me, Colin Browne and Bill, we’d joined up with some other guy, George. We were playing in a rock’n’roll band, and Dick would come and see us.

H: He wasn’t playing himself?

P: No, but he was writing songs at that time, and then , funny enough, I was seeing a girlfriend, and when I met Dick after years and years, we’d left school and I met him later, I was taking a girlfriend home, saw Dick and Colin Browne and Bill, ‘do you wanna join a band’, so we all departed to Mr Harding’s house in Tooting! ‘69, ‘70 - I think I’d done all my teenage… sort of burned myself out as a teenager, going out every night…

B: You were the worst offender as the drummer, when I was trying to get to sleep at night!

P: Setting up the strobe machine in Mrs Smallbones’ (?) church hall!

B: Trinity jazz club…

P: Getting entertained by the women’s institute when we were double booked!

B: Yeah, they had this rehearsal place, Trinity Road, where amongst others, the Downliners Sect…

P: They used to live down the road… oh no, the Strawbs used to live down the road.

H: So you knew all those guys?

P: No, the only guys we used to bump into regular, Brett Harvey and the Thunderbolts. But they were Australian, really good band, a blues band. Me, Colin and Bill, we played with them down Ken Collier’s Studio 51 one Sunday afternoon.

B: Ken Collier used to live down the same road Dick did

P: We used to go down Sunday afternoon, Roger Chapman of Family used to be down there taking photographs, really nice photographs.

B: Roger Chapman used to… no hang on, the other one, Mike Chapman, a pupil. He was in Hyde Park round about the Pink Floyd free concerts doing his bit with the legalise hash people, and he lit up a joint and there was all these police around, but they wouldn’t do anything about it… he was in my year, but don’t forget, Tulse Hill is also famous for Ken Livingstone…

P: Linton Kwesi Johnson

H: Did you know them?

P: No, he must have been in the same year as me, I know people round here who were at school with Ken Livingstone. And there was the guy in Haircut 100, he was there, and Tom Robinson was there.

B: and Gerry Shepherd, he used to play with Gary Glitter…

H: Woooah, we don’t talk about him these days!

P: But unfortunately he died a couple of years ago. He was the lead guitarist. ‘Cause we were ‘blues bands’ then, and we had a blues band and Gerry Shepherd and Steve Caroll were at our school. They supported Free, we never! But we got them that gig, at Carshalton College. But they were a better band than us I think!

H: So around 1970 you joined that band with Richard, was his style formed at all at that stage?

P: Well there was three… there was Dick, Colin Browne, and Bill… and me, but the three of them all wrote songs, so we were doing Dick, Bill and Colin’s songs, Brian was just singing me one of Colin Browne’s, Spring Fever, which I remember well…

B: ... Pete’s cellar when the Doctors were rehearsing, there’s a number of songs you’ll probably know of... so where were we chronologically??

P: We were still with Bill and Colin, and we had a girl with us, Anita, she used to play piano with us, she used to come around when we first started rehearsing in my house, she’d come round and play piano

B: She was the one Dick wrote that song ‘Queen Rat’ about wasn’t it?

P: No, that was Colin Browne’s wife wasn’t it?

B: ‘Queen Rat, I wonder where you’re at? I never knew anybody’s face could look as bad as that…’ ( Much laughter)

P: We wanted to play rat and mouse! She turned up one of the nights at the Cabbage Patch when we got discovered, Colin and her turned up, so we had to play Queen Rat!

B: Of those unrecorded songs, Queen Rat was a good song…

H: Pigface and the Shiny Gang was one of those…

B: That was about a guy who tried to get off with Rene, in a bar…

H: So Pigface was a real person in the orbit of the band?

B: No, not in the orbit of the band, just in the bar we were at

P: It was the owner wasn’t it?

B: No, it was just some bloke, he just tried to get off with Rene, that was all…

P: I think Dick must have met him before on the previous trip…

B: No, it was just one evening, that was all it was, you’ve got this ‘Pigface and the Shiny Gang’…

H: That sounds like a William Burroughs book or something…

B: Yeah, Dick was very interested in William Burroughs, he’d read all William Burroughs before he’d even started writing songs, in 1968 or something like that…

P: There was a thing in the paper today, this doctor, the name was the doctor in Naked Lunch

B: Benway… he used to perform operations with an open sardine can or something like that…

H: Eurgh. So Richard was getting those influences quite early, VU-stroke-Burroughs, was this a recognised kind of underground thing at the time?

P: He was always into, yeah… but they were all into it - (VU) made some great records, Love and Velvet Underground, but the two of them, they both went to see them on stage, where you go to college…

H: LCP…

P: Yeah, The Velvets played there and Love played there as well…

H: Was that after Reed had left?

P: Yeah. They were just like a total disaster, and I think Love were the same, but having seen them on Jools Holland the other week, I retract that straight away ‘cause I thought they were fantastic!

H: So being into that in the late 60s/early 70s, were you considered a bit outre?

P: No, ‘cause we more into… the actual music we were playing, with Colin and Bill, was more like Neil Young, and Dylan and… with three songwriters, Colin and Bill were more folk orientated, it was sounding like Neil Young sort of, American bands rather than the sort of underground band. I think the only gig we ever played was the Tulse Hill School Christmas party, it was about the only gig… oh, we done the folk club at the half moon in Herne Hill, a guy called Steve Rye who used to be in the Groundhogs used to run, and they moved the boxing ring aside, they all sat round, we used to play acoustic, ‘unplugged’. And they left, Bill got a job, Colin sort of left, we got in another couple of guys, a guy called Tom who we’d have dearly loved to have kept on, a really fine guitar player, and Dave who played bass, and then on from there…

H: So Richard’s songs at this stage are ones you’d have gone on to do in the Doctors, he’d evolved what he was doing songwriting wise?

P: Yeah, so we just carried on from there…

H: So that was Great White Idiot?

P: No, that was Colin and Bill, The Great White Idiot… then we got this Dave and Tom who worked in a music shop, they came and went, but they had some really good parts that we used… Colin came along then, Stoner. We advertised, various people came along, down this cellar in Brixton, and Blancmange… one of the guys from Blancmange auditioned for us, I remember him, because he was a contender, it was only the fact that he only played the synth, but he came down - but he played with Portsmouth Symphonia, that’s why I remember him. We had some really good musicians come down there, but we couldn’t offer them a deal. We didn’t have a songwriting deal or nothing… we had a guy who came down from Joe Brown one night, he came down with a really nice Gibson Eddie Cochrane guitar… and he blew up every amplifier! He just kept blowing up amplifiers, ‘Sorry man!’- Victor Unit was his name. And we had another guy come down, Ray Major, who, when Ian Hunter left Mott the Hoople, he took Ian Hunter’s place… he was… sort of not getting past the audition!

H: How did Richard know Stoner, he knew him already?

P: Yeah, they were friends… but I think… oh, we done some gigs, I think Colin (Browne) was with us then, we got this guy playing a synthesiser, and I can’t quite recollect his name, but he had this synthesizer, and he had a theramin as well, and there is a tape somewhere of this gig at Hampstead Town Hall…

B: There was a recording, live at the Cabbage Patch…

P: Oh, that’s still going, the Cabbage Patch!

B: ...Dick’s up on stage, and he had all these wires going across the ceiling, I don’t know what was happening there… he’s no fighter at all, but all these people down there are giving him gyp, and he’s standing up there going ‘Come on, try it!’ He couldn’t get that gig going or something. Everything was breaking down at Twickenham, there was no music, he was supposed to be playing there, Dick was just up there, everyone was going, ‘Wheeeey, you cunt!!!’

P: We used to do this squat at Twickenham, a squat down by Twickenham station, they’d cleaned out the basement, and the basement went on forever, we done the gig, but when the Thames flooded, the basement flooded, they were the people who run the Windsor festival, this paddy used to run the squats, this guy used to set up the festival, it was nice, and they followed us on to the Cabbage Patch and that…

B: On this recording, there was the song called Pigface and The Shiny Gang… (does impression of Blitz’s violin tones), it ends up as a bloody mess doesn’t it, it’s like Pink Floyd not quite getting it on, or something like that!

P: We should’ve done Interstellar Overdrive, ha!

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