Pete Frame (with Kris
Needs and Magenta deVine) c 1976 Picture:
What can you say about
Pete Frame? Journalistic legend with Zig Zag, band manager, original
early Friars member and of
course well famous for his Rock Family Trees where no band seems too
difficult to research and map out their history, although Man are on
record as saying their history "would give Pete Frame nightmares!"
On the day of the 40th
anniversary gig, Pete said a few words to the website.....some of which
we can legally print!
Good news - and
exclusively revealed here in this chat... Rock Family Trees will soon be
Hi Pete, welcome to the
Friars Aylesbury website!
I have to say that your website is completely dazzling and unimaginably
As someone who has always done fastidious work himself, I can well
appreciate the ingenuity and the detail and time and effort that's gone
into it...I think it's great.
Thank you, that's
really kind of you.
To have all the handouts both front and back, it's quite amazing...
It's taken a long time!
And here we are at the Civic Centre where my I met my wife in early
1976. She was a student at the college - and she and her friends used to
come here to the coffee bar at lunchtimes. She knew the guys in the
local bands and she used to go to Friars. She's on that big Geoff Tyrell
photograph (from the Aylesbury Rock Explosion Friars gig in September
1976). I knew her back then, but we didn’t get together for another
NOTE - Pete has this picture with him and we readily identify David
Stopps, Pete, John Braley, Magenta De Vine, Robin Boult, Pete Trewavas
and many more!
There are loads of my old mates coming tonight.
Whilst your career
predates Friars, those first gigs at the Friarage Hall, what are your
memories of that period?
I think David phoned me up just after Friars had just started. I was
living in Luton but had been coming over to Aylesbury for several years,
to the Grosvenor (the Borough Assembly Hall) to see people like Rod
Stewart and Jimi Hendrix and Georgie Fame and Manfred Mann. David told
me he was putting on bands like Jody Grind and Edgar Broughton, and that
was inducement for me to start coming over again. I was writing full
time by then – Zigzag started in April 1969, a few weeks before Friars.
I got a very positive and powerful vibe immediately, and it grew
stronger every week – to the extent that I soon felt completely at home
there, among friends. I met not only David but people like Robin Pike
and Adrian Roach and Terry Harms and Carole Watts . . . and I thought
“why am I living in a stagnant town like Luton when I could be living
here?” So I found a cottage in North Marston and moved there in April
1970. Best thing I ever did. Stayed there for the rest of the century.
The Friarage Hall was small and the music filled the room, got the
curtains swaying. Most of the bands were known in underground circles
but were still young and hungry, all hoping to get a good grip on the
ladder. Best time to see a band – before commercial elements distract
them. Of course, to survive and prosper, to prolong active life, you
have to expand your audience and play increasingly bigger venues – but
how cool it was to get up close to bands like King Crimson and Black
Sabbath and Mott the Hoople. It was quite fabulous while it lasted.
When David took off for the south of France (in summer 70), to see his
sister I think, he entrusted me to look after the club, make sure the
bands got set up okay, make sure the place got locked up when everyone
had gone home, all that sort of thing. When Argent played what turned
out to be the last gig, the place was packed solid. Word had got round
that Friars was closing immediately as a result of establishment
pressure. In those days, there was widespread anxiety and animosity
between the police and anyone who didn’t have a regulation
Is that why the club
Apparently, the subject of long hair and drugs had been discussed at the
police station – but I can assure you that the use of drugs was minimal.
Some of the audience might have had a toke or two before they came, and
others might have disappeared into the night at the interval, but drugs
were never in evidence on the premises. It was probably a little
different backstage, but discretion was always the watchword. I don’t
think there was any justifiable reason for shutting the club down . . .
it was simply tabloid-generated neurosis, very much of its time. Anyway,
the sun-tanned David returned from France to find that he’d been
evicted. It was fate, of course. He had just about outgrown the venue
and it was time to move on.
And so on to Phase Two
at the Borough Assembly Hall....
Yes, Friars moved on to the Grosvenor which was a tacky dance hall but
had its own charm and a quirky history. You could sometimes sense the
ghostly presence of Johnny Kidd, who played there about a billion times
at the turn of the sixties. The hall was spacious enough but the bar was
always shoulder to shoulder like a sardine tin. I saw dozens of
memorable gigs there – Roxy Music, Spirit, Stoneground, Lou Reed,
Fleetwood Mac, the night Peter Gabriel jumped out of a birthday cake,
that David Bowie gig where a coach load of hot-shot American journalists
turned up. He’d chosen Friars as the best atmosphere for his showcase
performance. Years later, I interviewed Bowie. I’d never met him
face-to-face before but as soon as I told him I used to see him at
Friars, he treated me like an old mate and we talked for hours.
By the time Friars moved to the Civic Centre, its respectability was
never in question: the club had become one of the town’s greatest
assets. And – I can tell you this because I checked it out – it was the
best place in Britain to see the latest up-and-coming bands. Never any
trouble. The fact that the bouncers were 16-year-old schoolgirls gives
some indication of the atmosphere, which was always vibey and uplifting.
A lot of energy and warmth and communality. I consider myself very lucky
to have been part of it all. Paradise. I met so many good friends there
during this period. In fact, on Friars nights, every pub in the middle
of town was teeming with people I knew. Aylesbury was so great in those
days – full of writers and weirdos and photographers and musicians,
flamboyant characters like Magenta and Otway and Fish and Needsy, and
the most beautiful women on the planet. Some of whom are here tonight,
I’m glad to say.
Exactly. One of the
things about this 40th anniversary gig is that there will be a lot of
people in the bar reminiscing and catching up, there'll be people you
haven't seen for a while!
Undoubtedly! I've got friends coming down from London and up from
Cornwall for this gig, people who have never been to Friars before but
know of its reputation and want to get a whiff of its ambience.
It's very appropriate that the Edgar Broughton Band is playing tonight.
They used to do this song 'Out Demons Out' with the chant...
They're going to be
doing that tonight!
Back then, we would sing along and although Edgar didn't manage to
exorcise all the demons in the town, he instilled in the audience the
idea that you could either be a good citizen of the world or you could
be an exploitative, self-serving wanker. For me, that song was a
symbolic moment in the evolution of Friars. I’m delighted to say that
everyone I’ve met here tonight has been in the former category.
What are your fondest
memories of Friars Phase Three, at the Civic Centre where we are
The Ramones and Blondie were amazing, so were Commander Cody and Dr
Feelgood, Captain Beefheart, Iggy Pop . . . every week was a revelation
in some way. You have to hand it to David, he was so on the ball. Thank
God we had him in the town – because a venue is only as good as its
promoter, and he was the best. You find me another club in the world
where the promoter writes such an idiosyncratic newsletter every week,
where the entire audience feels a spiritual connection. He was slightly
bonkers, of course, but that’s why we liked him so much. A perfect
candidate for the Queen’s honours list, if you ask me, better still the
House of Lords.
So many artists speak
so highly of him as a promoter...
Bands loved him and they loved playing Friars.
But could I also mention Robin Pike, the spiritual father of Friars? He
taught at the Grammar School and during that late sixties/early
seventies period was one of the coolest teachers in the kingdom, and one
of the most influential. I know the CEOs of Sony and Island Records – ex
Grammar pupils – and they both single out Robin as having cranked them
up to the point where they could climb whatever mountain was in the way.
He had that effect on literally hundreds of his students. I’ll tell you
what would be good – a statue of David and Robin sitting on a bench in
the Market Square.
You are world renowned
for your Rock Family Trees - how did this come about?
I was writing about rock music and when I went to interview musicians, I
would take handwritten notes with arrows drawn on them, so I could trace
their history when I was talking to them, and these somehow developed
into family trees. I had studied architectural drawing when I was
training to be a surveyor, before I became a hippie drop-out, and I just
got back on the drawing board and started scribbling. Before long, my
family trees were in music papers, in tour programmes, on album sleeves,
on television. It kept me going. Turned me into a gibbering lunatic, but
I somehow managed to make it through.
I mentioned the Rock
Family Trees because they are an institution to any self respecting rock
Nice of you to say so. One of the television programmes was on again
last night (on BBC4) and hopefully they'll get round to doing another
series one of these days. The trees are going to be on the internet
soon: I've just gone into partnership with a company called the Family
of Rock. I had planned to retire, to sit in the garden reading all the
books I’ve accumulated and watching the movement of the clouds, but I’ve
suddenly become embroiled in all this newfangled technology. People
don’t use pen and ink anymore, it seems.
It should be a very
I hope so!
I understand that you
live in the Scottish Highlands now. Do you miss Aylesbury at all?
Sometimes. But you can’t go back – except for special occasions
like this, of course. I knew tonight’s gig was going to be a mind-blower
. . . it was an 1100 mile round trip for me, but there was no way I
could have missed it. I have to say that I do detect signs of fatigue in
the town, but as long as Stoppsy and Kris Needs and John Braley and
Robin Pike are still living here, the situation can never be entirely
Pete, thanks for your
I bet all this waffle will be as boring as arseholes!
No it won't...you're a
I am! This is undoubtedly true!
Pete...modest as ever!
This interview and its
content are © 2009 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not
be used in whole or in part without permission.