Extract from The Loop by Paul Olsen

Note: Paul Olsen was the last drummer to play with Bond. What follows below is an extract from his unpublished manuscript called The Loop. The extract discusses his experience with Bond. We thank Paul for making it available to us.
I had played some gigs with an excellent bass player named Phil who had worked with Jimmy and Jack McCulloch. He called me up one week while I had my ad running in Melody Maker and asked if I would like to audition for a band he had joined that was backing a new girl singer named Kiki Dee. This was a potential Omega Point I missed completely.
When I heard the girl's name (who was unknown then) I winced, conjuring up all sorts of pop-y kinds of lightweight commercial Eurovision type rubbish that I just didn't want to play. Phil assured me that the band was great and that this girl could sing. He neglected to tell me she was Elton John's protégé and already had a deal on Rocket Records, Elton's company.
I arranged with him to audition the next day, but the gig was already mine if I wanted it as long as there were no objections from anyone in the band. If a bass player recommends a drummer he likes to play with (or vice-versa), then that is usually recommendation enough as far as playing ability and style are concerned.
Later that afternoon the phone rang again and it was Graham Bond, who said in his gravely voice, "Funky! Come on down to the country...I need a drummer and we'll be up all night." Not one to mince words.
Graham Bond was one of England's rock legends. It was in his band, The Graham Bond Organization, that Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce first played together, along with Graham and Dick Heckstall-Smith, and where Ginger first played with two bass drums.
Here I was talking to Graham, one of Ginger's early musical influences, and as I was inspired to take up the drums in my twenties as a direct result of seeing Ginger do his stuff with Eric and Jack at the Fillmore, I felt that some sort of musical loop was coming full circle and I jumped at the chance to join Graham's band.
I called Phil and told him the good news and he wished me luck.
Roger Pope, the drummer who got the gig with Kiki Dee in my absence not only went on to play with Kiki during her heyday, but joined Elton for his Captain Fantastic tour of the world. Roger had played with Elton in the early days before Nigel Olsson joined him. I ran into to Roger at the house Hall and Oates were renting in the Hollywood Hills (he was then playing with them) and told him that he was sitting there because of me. I don't think he really appreciated what I had to say.
Understandable, I suppose.
I was pleased to play with and get to know Graham, who easily had the 'largest' personality of anyone I had met. He was also a big man.
I first saw him on stage at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm (north London in the lee of Hampstead) in 1970 with his band, "Initiation," and his presence on stage was compelling. This bejeweled, cloaked shaman careened on stage and began playing the Hammond B-3 (church organ) upper register keyboard with his right hand, the bass pedals with his feet, an alto sax with his left hand while he sang! Incredible.
Now here I was in this big old house in the Sussex countryside, feeling a bit of a fool setting up my double kit just like Ginger's with Graham looking on bemusedly. We rocked all night. I was in the band and commuted back and forth to East Grinstead in my Morris station wagon ("Traveller"). The band was actually Carolanne Pegg's (a folk violinist), but with Graham in it, it became Graham's band. Pete McBeth played bass and Brian Holloway (the same) played guitar.
I tried to tout our demo tape around town and was not having much luck when the Melody Maker came out with one of its special editions devoted to keyboards and famous keyboard players. There was a two page spread each on Elton, Keith Emerson and Tony Kay from Yes, in which all three of them pointedly mentioned that their earliest influence was, of course, Graham....no one was doing anything like he was doing when they were coming up. They all owed his genius quite a bit when it came to inspiration and direction in their early development.
Since Yes had their own management company and label and Elton had his own record company, I thought these would be two pretty sympathetic places to approach with our demo.
Wrong again.
I couldn't even get anyone to listen to the tape because no one wanted to know about Graham. He was too outrageous, had too much of an unreliable reputation for these now very responsible businessmen. When Chris Blackwell's Island Records opened their state-of-the-art recording studio in a converted church near Pete Drummond's flat, most of the London rock establishment were invited for the gala. Graham was enjoined to consecrate these hallowed rooms (he was into magic in a big way) and promptly ceremoniously pissed on the new Pirelli floor with great panache (if that's possible). That wasn't quite what Chris had in mind.
It was bitter irony for Graham to be held up and lauded by the current big three keyboard players in six pages of interviews in the MM and yet not even able to get a listened to. I was frustrated, but there was nothing I could do.
Graham was a real slippery character...I've talked with Ginger about him and he has very strong opinions regarding Graham which are at variance with mine, and though I knew Graham fairly well, Ginger spent much more time with him and had to have known him even better. There is still a lot about Graham that remains a mystery.
Graham had a voracious urge to imbibe any form of mind-altering substance he could lay his hands on, and as much of it as there might be available at any given moment. If there was a bottle of whisky around, it would soon end up inside him, along with anything else going.
One of his specialties was a tonic called Collis Browne's which could be bought over the counter. Apparently this stuff contained either morphine or opium which could be separated out with a minimum of effort. Graham found a bent chemist in Hampstead who would sell him a case which he would drink neat, bottle after bottle, without bothering to separate out the drug from the solution. Because he was a very large man, he could consume large quantities of anything before it affected him. I think he just couldn't handle all the demons vying for his attention inside his head all his waking moments and needed an enforced rest from the internal racket. Or maybe he just liked being whacked all the time.
The Marylebone Magistrate's court decided Graham needed an enforced rest after some public disturbance he was arrested for in Belsize Park and he was committed to Springfield mental hospital in south London for six weeks.
I went to visit him where he had a small bed in a large ward filled with patients who were all drugged up to the gills to keep them docile (a real "Cuckoo's Nest") and Graham was finding it hard to keep his tenuous grip on reality surrounded by this craziness all around him. I always felt a bit off-balance myself after only visiting with him for several hours.
On one of these occasions he took me into the arts therapy room (a perfect Victorian studio that would have done Monet proud) where they had a piano that hadn't been tuned since the Crusades. Every note on this beat-up antique was a semi-tone to several tones out of tune.
Such was Graham's genius with the keyboard that he instantly memorized all the notes and was able to transpose them so he could still get a reasonable tune out of that impossible instrument. While he was sussing it out, inmates drifted in upon hearing the "music" and it became quite an hilarious afternoon whilst Graham tried to keep a straight face as he pounded his way through several blues numbers, much to everyone's delight.
One of the inmates drew me aside during a break in the music and showed me a piece of superb sculpture he had just finished in clay. It was a bust of himself in repose, but when he turned it around there was another, screaming face full of rage, fear and pain. He looked at me and said, "That's me, that's why I'm here."
Graham arranged with the staff to have the whole band come up and give a concert for the hospital wing. What an insane event it was. These poor souls who had very little stimulation and who were all surrounded by crazy people were thrilled at the prospect of real live music.
When we tuned up and started playing, the incredible volume of sound in this sterile, 'live' atmosphere surprised the patients at first, but they soon got used to it and started yelling and dancing, and best of all, smiling. It was truly nuts, and afterwards we all agreed that this was the very best concert any of us had ever played and by far the most appreciative audience. Many of the inmates came up and hugged us and said "Thank you."
Graham had moved in with Lesley and I in our tiny flat in Barnes in southwest London, far away from his home turf in Hampstead. Lesley graciously put up with his drug taking and drunkenness (he was always the perfect, if outrageous, gentleman, even in a stupor) and began to see why I loved him so much...he was a big teddy bear of a con man and generous to a fault.
We were awakened at 2 am one morning with Graham standing in the street outside shouting at the top of his lungs, "FUNNKKKYYYYYYY, I love you!!" (I was still "Funky Paul" then). He was making a hell of a racket and I dashed out to try to coax him indoors, but he was having none of it. Graham was going to make sure the whole street knew he loved me. Flattered as I was, I began to inch him towards the door. Lesley was slightly annoyed at this disturbance, but Graham just smiled at her when he got inside and said, "I love you, too." What could she do?
Whenever Graham had money from a record deal or publishing advance, all his friends shared in his wealth and it would disappear in a flash. The problem most people had with Graham was that his generosity did not stop at the border....it extended to anyone around him and he just assumed that whatever was theirs was his, too. After all, whatever was his was theirs, right? He genuinely saw no difference. That was just too much of an advanced concept for most people around him, so he had few real friends, but many proclaimed ones.
Lesley, who was a whiz at sewing and creating wonderful garments from scraps, made Graham a handsome patchwork-quilt jacket of colored leather offcuts for his birthday. He was very moved, because he knew she wasn't his biggest fan when he first moved in. He loved his present from Lesley and wore it everywhere from then on.
Graham was finding it almost impossible to make any money and Lesley and I certainly had none. He managed to find a gig in a reggae club in Swiss Cottage (the Calabash Club) one night a week for five pounds a night. His bar bill of an evening would be twice that. I joined him for one of the gigs and can't remember how we got home.
He was getting more and more depressed and began looking in the Melody Maker to see what he could find and was reduced to answering an ad for Chingford Organ Studios in east London as a demonstrator. It hurt me to see such a giant of a musician reduced to such humiliating circumstances. Graham Bond was every bit as musical a master as Eric Clapton, Elton John or Jimi Hendrix.
The folks at Chingford Organ thought he was playing a joke and wouldn't take him seriously, even when he pleaded with them. It was embarrassing.
He then tried to line up a cruise ship gig, but they wouldn't believe him, either. Remember, this was a man who all the top keyboard players were constantly referring to in interviews as their mentor. He was a musical legend.
Very depressed, one afternoon Graham donned his Lesley-jacket and said he was going to north London to try to get something sorted out. I never saw him again. A month later a policeman was at the door holding a plastic rubbish bag and asked me if I knew Graham Bond.
Yes, I knew him.......what did the policeman want?
"Could you identify this garment, sir?" He opened the bag just a peep to show me the greasy and bloodstained jacket that Lesley had lovingly made for him. Graham had fallen in front of a tube train at Finsbury Park station (opposite the Rainbow) and was instantly killed.
After talking with some of his other friends and going to the inquest on Euston Road, I was convinced it was suicide because of his depression.
The driver of the train said Graham had appeared in front of him just as he came out of the tunnel, the ideal place for someone to jump. Knowing Graham as I did the last year of his life, I think he took his own life, but there was enough evidence around that Graham had conned someone into giving him a large amount of cocaine which he could have sold to his friends and acquaintances to make some much-needed cash, but that in his usual generous, freewheeling style, ended up giving away or blowing the money from the proceeds (or doing most of it himself) and was not able to pay the man who provided it.
Just as I am convinced that Graham took his own life (maybe because he couldn't pay the man) Ginger is just as convinced he was doing a runner and either slipped (because he was clumsy) or was pushed.
Like the rest of Graham's life, his funeral at Streatham cemetery was very disorganized and it ended up that no one spoke. I brought the large, glittering pentagram that I made as a prop for the Dingwall's gig where we played to a packed house and placed it by his coffin (this was not appreciated at all by the clergyman there, who walked out), Jack Bruce was at the organ in the back and played a jazzy funeral dirge while we all just sat there for our allotted twenty minutes with our private thoughts of Graham as Jack peppered his playing with melody lines from Graham's music. Since Graham's wife was handling the "arrangements" it was not my place to get up and say anything if she didn't want that, but I was upset that no one spoke. Maybe I should have anyway.
I am, now.
Ginger was deep in Nigeria, busy with his passion for recording African musicians and rallying in the bhundu and couldn't make it by the time word got to him.
Graham has been dead over 25 years and I've met many interesting people in that time, but never anyone with such a large and commanding personality, though the American pop writer, Geoffrey Guiliano comes closest. Graham seemed to be a worthless character to a lot of people....I still miss him and love him dearly. He was special.
Very special.

Check out Olsen's web site, olsenart.com.

By Borge Skilbrigt
© Silly Cow Publishing