Incendiary talks to the legendary Terry Reid.

They were loading crates of champagne onto the plane so I asked Eric if that was for the wedding. He told me it was for the plane journey and the bus ride at the other end! From there on, it was take no prisoners. 

They were loading crates of champagne onto the plane so I asked Eric if that was for the wedding. He told me it was for the plane journey and the bus ride at the other end! From there on, it was take no prisoners. 


Incendiary talks to the legendary Terry Reid.

Taking a break from rehearsing, Terry Reid met Incendiary in a dingy corner of grimy Kings Cross. The gloom outside couldn’t have been further from the sparkling stories which Terry was about to regale us with.

Let us just set the picture for those of you who don’t know. A blue eyed rock ‘ n’ soul vocalist, known for his distinctive and powerful voice, Terry had only just left school when he toured with the Rolling Stones and Ike & Tina Turner in 1966. He opened for Cream on a US tour, played with the Stones on the 48 city Get Your Ya-Yas Out tour across the US in 1970, culminating at Altamont, and was on the bill for the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 (with Hendrix, the Doors and the Who amongst others.) At one time or another he has shared a stage with Scott Walker, the Hollies, the Yardbirds, the Small Faces, the Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane and the MC5 amongst many others.



Now a resident of California, here is a man who has forgotten more hilarious stories about world famous rock stars than most people will ever know. He drops big names throughout the interview not in a bragging way, but just because he can’t help it – the musical circles he moved in involved the best of best.

Yet despite this, Terry himself remains relatively unknown. Always a bridesmaid never a bride, he remains the artist who always seemed to be a dealt a bad hand. Terry is usually known as the man who turned down the lead singer role when Jimmy Page was forming his new band after the New Yardbirds split (and recommended a then unknown Robert Plant for the job!) As if missing out on one of the greatest rock bands of all time wasn’t enough, Terry spent 1969-1972 in limbo after falling out with his manager, Mickie Most, meaning his recording career stalled at a critical stage. He also later turned down the chance to join Deep Purple. His life seems like a musical rollercoaster of bad luck and missed chances. “If only” seems to be two words most featured in any Terry Reid article.

Sporting a healthy tan which people in London just don’t have at this time of year, Terry settled back in a sofa and it was time to talk…

IN: So can we start by taking you back to the mid 60s? Your first break was touring with the Stones – how was that for an education? Did they treat you gently?

TR: I’d just broken up from school for the summer so I was 15. It was time to go to Technical College or get a job. I’d joined a band called Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers after Peter came to see my Dad and told him they’d got a place in London and would look after me. About 3 or 4 weeks later, the Stones saw us play at the Marquee. Ian Stewart came over and said Mick and Keith wanted us to tour with them, so the next week I was on stage with Ike & Tina Turner, the Yardbirds and the fucking Rolling Stones. The first gig was the Albert Hall. I didn’t realise why they called them screamer tours but soon found out. The place went nuts when we walked out even though nobody would have known who we were. When the Stones came on, I was sitting at the back of the stage. Brian Jones was saying (here Terry puts on a very effeminate voice) ‘Oh it’s going to be a riot, it’s so exciting.’ They went straight into Satisfaction and everything went black. There were girls everywhere – I was face down on the stage. 

Terry laughs uproariously with his own inimitable raspy cackle, no doubt fuelled by a lifetime of singing, cigarettes and liquor.

The Stones were more used to it. Bill Wyman grabbed me and we all tumbled through a door at the back. Then we realised Keith was missing. We opened the door and there was a seething mass of girls and the head of a Les Paul guitar sticking out of the middle. Ian Stewart went and rescued him. Keith got down the tunnel with his balls hanging out, his trousers all ripped, scratches all over and said how well it had gone! They shut the show down for 20 or 30 minutes. There was a time limit due to the unions so the Stones only played about six songs.


IN: Around that time, there was a quote from Aretha Franklin, “There are only three things happening in London: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Terry Reid.” What did you think of that at the time?

TR: I remember going to Mickie Most’s office. He was my manager at the time and everyone was treating me differently – asking how I was, offering drinks – stuff they never did. The night before I’d played at the Revolver Club, an upscale Member’s club. Everyone used to go there, Michael Caine, Dudley Moore, and Peter Cook. I looked out and thought that looks like Aretha Franklin. I didn’t want to believe it – I’d have had a hernia if the Queen of Soul was sitting four rows back. At the end of the gig Ahmed Ertegun (legendary Atlantic Records mogul) introduced us and we had a drink – she was great, so forceful and pushy. 

Anyway, I went to the office the next day and Peter Grant, who was Mickie’s business partner called me into his office. (Here Terry starts to imitate Peter Grant in a sort of Hitchcock style of voice).

IN: We always imagined him talking exactly like that.

TR: He did. He said, “I suppose you’re wondering why everyone is acting differently?” and showed me a double page from a newspaper with that quote. He was moaning as he said he couldn’t afford to get me coverage like that every week!

IN: Is it true you played at Mick and Bianca’s wedding?

TR: Yes – again Ian Stewart came and told me Mick wanted me to play at his wedding in St Tropez the following night. Stew took care of planes and equipment and I just had to turn up at the airport at ten the next morning at the terminal for chartered planes. So I turned up and I’ve never seen so many pairs of sunglasses. They were all there – Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. You’ve never seen such a bunch of hung-over fuckers. Everyone was in the terminal building bumping into things. They were loading crates of champagne onto the plane so I asked Eric if that was for the wedding. He told me it was for the plane journey and the bus ride at the other end! From there on, it was take no prisoners. The bus was like the original Magical Mystery tour – everyone was singing away. So yes I did play at Mick Jagger’s wedding.


IN: You opened the first Glastonbury Fayre in 1971 – a moment Michael Eavis put in his top 10 Glastonbury memories. You also played Glastonbury last summer – did that bring back memories?

TR: That first one had less than 10,000 people and now it is more than 200,000 or something. There’s footage of me in a big hat. I was there with Donovan, Traffic, David Bowie – Traffic were great. It was a little different the next time due to the weather. I love when you get to the stage and they tell you it will be a few minutes as the stage just got struck by lightning!

IN: We read that Mojo had put you down in a list of the 13 most unlucky people in rock, how do you feel about that legacy?

TR: Well if people feel like that, that’s their problem not mine…I want to be number one on that list…I better have been number one…

A big debate starts with his band, wife and PR guy about whether it is better to be number one or number 13 on an unlucky list, before everyone agrees that Pete Best must also be on the list.

TR: Poor old Pete Best but Ringo was a good drummer. They were fishing for him and he just wouldn’t join – that was way before they recorded any records. But that is just band shit, it happens to all bands.

So anyway, Robert Plant wishes he had had my life (Plant famously said that Terry should have had his life). I wish Robert had my life. No I’m kidding, I see Rob all the time. When he starts talking, his voice goes back to Brum and goes about two keys higher. (Again Terry does an impression which makes Mr Plant sound a little like Benny from Crossroads). He’s a good lad – they were all good lads. God knows how they lived through that one. Anyone who makes it that far deserves their success – there is no easy road to it.

IN: Can I jump forward to the recording of River? You’d moved away from London to California in the late 60s and were in dispute with Mickie Most. How do you look back on that time?

TR: The litigation meant I couldn’t record anything for years. Mickie was a powerful man with good lawyers. Peter Grant said he would have let me go, but that Mickie had a problem. I couldn’t get out of the contract so I put a band together with David Lindley, who could play about 150 instruments and Lee Miles, bass player with Ike and Tina. There was also Alan White on drums – he was a Geordie like my Dad. He played with the Beatles – they used to bring people in to do things. So I got a band together in London and started to write some songs. They were amazing musicians. The album sessions started here with Yes’s Eddie Offord but ended up being finished in the States. Producer, Tom Dowd, wanted to get involved and off we went. It took years but eventually it all got sorted out and released. I like the album but it’s not my favourite – that’s Seed of Memory.

IN: Have you got any recording plans at the moment, after not releasing anything new since 1991?

TR: Definitely. I have a whole load of songs. I’m going to sit on a stool with a guitar and Bruce (Bruce Malament – long time friend of, and collaborator with, Terry) on piano. I’m planning to do something like that and then add some colours afterwards with a band. I’ve never done it like that before.

Sensing that the band was getting restless as they waited for Terry to wrap up the interview, Incendiary pitched one more observation up into the air, which came out rather clumsily but the sentiment was well meant…

IN: You should write a book…

TR: All these stories – yes, if it is a kind thing. Keith Moon’s widow always said I should write something about him, as she says I really knew him. John Bonham too – maybe I should write a drummer’s book…but something nice, there is some much rubbish written about them.

With that tantalizing thought still in the air, the clock ran out and it was time to go.

What a raconteur – his reminiscences often went off at tangents, one story flowing into another, sometimes not really answering the question at all – but entertaining for all that. If not rock royalty, then Terry Reid would probably be counted as one of the leading courtiers. 

Naturally with so much to cover, Incendiary instantly regretted asking certain questions above others and went out in the cold London air thinking (unlike a lot of musicians) how great it would have been to have sat there and listened to Terry Reid talk all night…there’s a great story on the web about his Dad, James Coburn and Bruce Lee in a bar in LA…guess that will have to wait for next time…

Words: John Cottrill.