Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paul Kossoff - Live (and beaten) at Leeds

Back in 2006 I wrote about seeing Paul Kossoff play with John Martyn, the collaboration that is on the Live at Leeds album. I have a couple of updates - two rock'n'roll stories which are hardly uplifting, but are entertaining and possibly great anti-drug motivators.

Back then I referred to "one source" who wrote that John Martyn and Kossoff had had a fight before playing. Koss attempted to pick up a girl, and was rebuffed by her boyfriend.  Koss tried to get Martyn and Danny Thompson involved, but when they realized the "gang" which had attacked him was a single student who had shoved him, they beat up Paul Kossoff instead.

John Martyn, with Paul Kossoff, Victoria Palace Theatre London Jan '75,
Photo by Robert Ellis

The link to the "one source" died, but when I went looking for the story to replace it, I found it's been published in full on the web - it's an editorial from Allan Jones, in Uncut Magazine.  The story is vastly more sordid than I realized from the remembered version, but it's worth a read. I'm not a fan of this sort of loutish laddishness, and I've never much liked John Martyn, whose happy-go-lucky beating-up ways allegedly involved even women, never mind  5' 4" guitar-genius drug-addicts, and I was even less impressed with Danny Thompson's role in the issue. Given that he's a double-bass player, an avocation that should consider itself lucky not to have its members drowned at birth (as they would be in a just society), you'd think he'd he'd have behaved himself better even in times of stress.
“He’s the one that hit me,” Kossoff fairly shrieks.
Martyn, moments ago ready for havoc, pauses now.
“He’s not a fucking GANG,” he says of the trembling student. “What’s going on?”
Turns out Kossoff’s drunkenly groped this bloke’s girlfriend and the bloke’s given Kossoff a shove that’s sent the guitarist tumbling down some steps. All talk of a gang attack is pathetic bollocks.
“You c***,” Martyn shouts at Kossoff, smacking him extremely hard in the face. The short-arsed former guitar hero is further surprised when Danny Thompson fetches him what I’m delighted to describe as a pretty painful thwack to the side of the head with the arm of the chair he’d snapped off in the dressing room.
This makes Kossoff cry like a girl, at which point Martyn and Thompson stalk off, laughing like people who are mad.
Etc. Possibly Kossoff was so unpleasant at this stage of his addiction that Martyn was the only person who would have him around. Martyn wasn't even the only person Kossoff attacked with a bottle, in fact. Even so, when you read about his first death in August 1975, it makes you wonder whether being beaten with chair parts by his friends didn't have something to do with it (along with all the random drugs he managed to find and scarf down, of course). I've mentioned before that folkies can be unusually vicious, but certainly the drugs don't help.

Paul Kossoff attacking someone with a bottle, from 
David Clayton and Todd Smith's book Heavy Load.

However, the beating can't have dampened Kossoff's enthusiasm for the female of the species even temporarily.  On a long-defunct Paul Kossoff message board a young woman posted the following story. I don't have permission to share it here - and no way of finding it, since the board dissolved rather suddenly in a fountain of acrimony - but since she was happy to share it with the fans on the board a few years ago, I'm assuming this isn't outing her in any significant way. (I will take it down if requested.)

"I was 17 and in sixth form at high school, when on 13th February 1975 my friend dragged me along to see John Martyn at Leeds Uni. I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of him at the time and was only vaguely aware of Free through their chart hits, I was mostly into mainstream Pop type music.
After the gig my friend persuaded me to wait back while she got John's autograph. Paul Kossoff came over and asked me to go back to the hotel with him, I was somewhat taken aback, but there was no way I'd have dared go my mum would have killed me. He got one of the band to write down the hotel for if I changed my mind.
Next morning, having spent the whole night thinking it over I bunked off school and rang the hotel The Merrion in Leeds Merrion Centre. I was put straight through to Paul and he came out to meet me. We went to his room and he was obviously even to my innocent eyes under the influence of some drug or other.We spent the morning in bed, he was totally unable to do anything and apologised I was secretly rather relieved. we later went out round the shops and he bought a pair of very ordinary looking beige trousers at Royce Manshop and joked about being a shortarse.
Back at the hotel we met John Martyn and Danny Thompson at the bar, Danny was angry at the state Paul was in and at first blamed me for some reason, John said "leave her out of it she's no more than a kid" and he calmed down and bought me a Creme de Menthe which I have never ever drank either before or since that day but picked because it sounded sophisticated and I had never drank alcohol apart from a small glass of wine at home.
The band insisted on driving me home right to the end of my road, don't know wether they were heading home or to another gig."

No, that wasn't me pretending to be someone else. I was the same age, but I had heard of John Martyn - and Paul Kossoff, of course. I would have had the same problem with my parents if I'd been the one to get the offer, but as those who have read the earlier blog piece may remember, the biggest problem would have been getting away from my school friend, Captain Cynical. It would never have occurred to me to go to the stage door to meet a musician. Glad someone did, though.

I still love Paul Kossoff's music and really wish everything had worked out differently for him.


Bruv said...

Hi Sis

In MHO John Martyn is the "guitar genius", Kossoff was good, but not a "genius". Martyn's experimental playing opened a whole new world of tuning and playing the guitar. Only saw him once live in his later years but the playing was magic.


Anonymous said...

That's bullshit Koss turned into a screw up but musically no one could touch him his vibrato was on another level ..

backlotTest said...

You may enjoy the Crawling Spider Project, a tribute to KOSS and Mike Montgomery.

Lyle Hopwood said...

Thanks! Looks interesting. Good luck with the Indiegogo thing.

Unknown said...

found that interesting .


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