A couple of recent Cheryl's Specials have been about Rocket Record artists.
Another act on the label was Stackridge.
Former member Mike ''Mutter'' Slater discussed the good old days with EJW as well as what he's been up to in later years.
EJW: How did your old band wind up with Elton?
MS: Our contract with MCA was coming to an end, and it coincided with the start of Rocket Records. So our manager included them amongst the possible options for the band. We had built up a decent reputation and following by then, and I assume they heard a demo of some new songs so we got signed by their A&R man David Croker.
I can't remember if I had met Elton before but he and some of his friends certainly came and introduced themselves at the launch party for our album, Extravaganza, at the Shaw Theatre, London, where we performed in front of an invited audience. We were togged out in clothes made by Elton's designer, to our own specifications. It was his idea to do this.
EJW: Do you recollect the designer's name or what you wore?
MS: I believe it was Annie Reavey. I can't really remember what the others had on, but I wore white baseball boots with baggy bright green cord trousers, a red shirt, and pink velvet jacket with silver half-moons on the lapels, on top of a yellow waistcoat, and grey Homburg hat with a green band. I made the most of the opportunity to have something different!
EJW: Being on Elton's label, were you invited to any special events?
MS: The film Tommy premiered around this time in Leicester Square in London and Rocket Records invited me to join them in the audience. They were always supportive and never seemed to mind my presence in the offices--not to my face anyway.
I also remember the Midsummer Music festival when Elton headlined the concert at the old Wembley Stadium to help launch his Captain Fantastic album. Stackridge was included on the bill. The previous evening, he held a party in Chelsea inviting the bands featured at the concert, plus numerous celebrity friends. It was Wimbledon fortnight so Elton arrived in tennis whites with Jimmy Connors! He still made time to ask me how I was doing, despite the demands of the occasion. He was always a gent as far as I was concerned. I now realise how amazing this was, considering his own workload at that time.
EJW: Does anything else come to mind about the bash?
MS: I know Bryan Ferry was a guest. And the Pasadena Roof Orchestra was the musical entertainment.
EJW: How many Stackridge albums did Rocket release?
MS: There were two: Extravaganza and Mr Mick. This was recorded at the Who's Ramport studios. It was released in 1976 but by then the band had run out of steam after six years on the road with only a limited degree of financial success and punk was just beginning. Because of this and various personal travails I called it a day and retired from the scene. Elton and John Reid wanted me to pursue a solo career with Rocket, but I had nothing worthwhile to offer. I was a spent force.
EJW: The group did reunite years later, though, right?
MS: Stackridge did get back together briefly in the 2000s but finally stopped in 2015.
EJW: How different is your current group, the Mutter Slater Band, from Stackridge?
MS: Apart from singing and fronting the band, my main instrument in Stackridge was the flute. This later extended to include piano, organ and melotron. I still occasionally play the flute with the Mutter Slater Band as well as rhythm guitar and, of course, I still sing. The keyboards are a thing of the past for me especially now I've found an exceptionally gifted player for MSB.
I wrote quite a few songs on the piano for Stackridge, especially on the George Martin-produced Man in the Bowler Hat for MCA, then two more songs and a piano piece on Mr Mick.
Family life and working for a living kept me away from writing anything decent for almost 25 years. It wasn't until the early 2000s when it started to come together again. I've written, recorded and released five albums in the last 15 years. MSB are now mixing the sixth and I've been writing like mad during lockdown so there's plenty of good stuff in reserve.
I think faint traces of Stackridge's English prog rock can be heard in some MSB songs but my teenage love of American soul, blues and R&B has coloured it more (and writing them on a guitar). This and my addiction for a half-decent tune has kept me inspired for the last 20 years or so, and long may it continue. I am inordinately proud of my current songwriting and the musician friends I have to play them with.