OCTOPUS 1968 - 1972
In December 1968, only a month after the change of name from "THE CORTINAS" to "OCTOPUS" we played at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, supporting "PLASTIC PENNY" a band with a top ten hit at the time. The bass player TONY MURRAY (who shortly afterwards joined THE TROGGS) and Nigel Olssen (destined to become ELTON JOHN'S long term drummer), talked to us about the possibility of them producing us. They were both writers signed to DICK JAMES MUSIC (The Beatles Publisher). We said fine and exchanged phone numbers.
On Wednesday January 1st 1969 we played one of our now regular gigs at "THE MARQUEE CLUB" in London supporting "YES" who had just begun a residency there. As a band they knocked us out completely, great songs and great arrangements, and they were to have a big influence on OCTOPUS. "YES" were virtually unknown at the time and there were only around 50 people at "THE MARQUEE" on that night. We began going to see them every wednesday and supported them a couple of more times.
On 13th January we visited TONY MURRAY at Dick James Office and he played us some songs for us to consider recording. While we were there Dick James asked another one of his writers if he had any songs. He was a short chubby guy with glasses who's face was familiar, and we remembered we had seen him working in a record shop in Berwick Street, Soho. He said "you may be interested in this song that I've written" and he gave us a demo record and on the label was written "WHEN I WAS TEALBY ABBEY" by ELTON JOHN. He was a couple of years away from his first big hit with "YOUR SONG" and years later was to successfully sue "DICK JAMES" over copyrights in a landmark court case. I still have Elton's demo today it features him singing with a full orchestral backing and the song has never been released. On the 12th March we recorded a couple of songs (not Elton's) at Dick James Studio and they came out well, and Tony said he would see if he could get a record company interested.
In june 1969 another change in lineup. Gary decided to get married and hang up his drum sticks, so in came Brian Glasscock, who with his brother John had been in local band "THE JUNIORS" with Alan Shacklock and Mick Taylor, who by now had joined "THE ROLLING STONES".
Tony Murray (who by now had joined THE TROGGS) phoned in August to say that Larry Page, THE TROGGS manager was starting a new label called "PENNY FARTHING RECORDS" and was interested in signing us. There was also another record company called ZEL RECORDS who were showing an interest. On 15th August Tony brought Larry Page to see perform at one of our local gigs, Cuffley Youth Club, and a week later we went to the offices of "PENNY FARTHING RECORDS" in Tilney Street, Mayfair and signed a five year record deal, with Tony Murray as our producer.
Nigel had been writing songs for some time and on our first recording session for "PENNY FARTHING RECORDS' at "CHAPPELL STUDIOS we recorded two of his songs "LAUGH AT THE POOR MAN" (written with the help of myself and Nigel's girlfriend Jackie Steward) and "GIRLFRIEND", which he wtrote with our Guitarist Rick Williams. We also recorded a song that Larry Page had found called "WITHOUT YOUR LOVE". We worked well with Tony Murray who allowed us a free hand in the studio giving help when needed and the outcome was that "LAUGH AT THE POOR MAN" was chosen as our first release on "PENNY FARTHING" coupled with "GIRLFRIEND".
"LAUGH AT THE POOR MAN" was released on 7th November 1969 to favourable reviews. It received several plays on Radio One and on 26th November we travelled down to Exeter to be intereview on "RADIO ONE CLUB". Once again we didn't set the charts alight but it was a good starting point and over the next few weeks we began recording more of Nigel's song with the view to putting an album together.
On 15th December 1969 Rick Williams, Nigel and myself went to a Charity concert at The Lyceum Ballroom in London. It wasn"t very well attended around 300 - 400 people. We didn't know exactly who was on the bill but found the show pretty boring. Then at 11.oclock the compere announced "THE PLASTIC ONO BAND" and onto the stage walked "JOHN LENNON" "YOKO ONO" "GEORGE HARRISON" "ERIC CLAPTON" "BILLY PRESTON" and most of "DELANEY AND BONNIE'S" band. They sang two songs the first of which was "COLD TURKEY" the current single. JOHN LENNON threw leaflets from the stage with "Happy Christmas War is Over" on one side and The Hare Chrishna Mantra on the other. Another great 60s memory.
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