•Belfast Telegraph, 1970, one of a six part series on the band.
COLIN: DECEMBER 21:04 If only I'd known in 1970 what I knew in 1978, we'd all be driving Bentleys by now. Sorry, folks.Emerald Records was as far as I took you. But at least I stopped Mervyn issuing any follow-up to 'Sister Nell'.
BILL: DECEMBER 30:04 The cutting from Belfast Telegraph: how did you ever allow that wholesome photo into print Colin? Thought your job was to make look like cool dudes. Ah wait a minute - I see in the article that Anne Fry was impressed with a tall, dark and bearded man in a reefer jacket.Your eye was off the ball...
COLIN: JANUARY 6:05 Not guilty, old chap. Don't think anything ever developed with Anne Fry. And that photograpgh. Maybe I was grooming you all for your big break in...CABARET!! Remember Tito's?
ROBIN: FEBRUARY 7:05 I may be mistaken, but I believe that the Sister Nell epic was in part due to the peripheral influence of one of Adrian Mullen's associates, Ted somebody. This guy was the original 'used car salesman' and basically sold the band a bill of goods, which I personally, was not in favor of, but 'shit happens'!
COLIN: FEBRUARY 8 :05 Didn't Solomon release Sister Nell after I had severed our contract with him? There was a bit of a row, because our solicitor, Chris Napier, had sneaked in a 'joint negotiable option' clause in the original contract which Mervyn never spotted.

This meant that after a year we had the option to not renew, and I had some hardball correspondence with Mervyn when we refused to take up the option. In the end, he had no legal ground to stand on, so, I reckoned, in a fit of pique, released the song we never wanted to record in the first place. But do you mean Adrian Mullen's pal was the source of the original song?

Wasn't there some guy in the Solomon stable who was allegedly a songwriter, and who penned the B side? Is that the Ted you mean? If only we'd known the importance of original material at the time, and publishing rights. It wasn't until SLF in 1978 that I realised the record company makes more from this area than any other. So some associate of Solomon's must have had the rights to Sister Nell and that's why it was pushed down our throats. And why it was released after we'd severed our contract.
ROBIN: FEBRUARY 9:05 It has recently become apparent to me (since the creation of the website) that in the late 60's and early 70's, I was seriously impaired in the head, either by an excess of drugs, alcohol, ego, or all of the above. I have no recollection as to the genesis of Sister Nell, where it was recorded or anything surrounding its arrival, so this ongoing dialogue is very cathartic, so to speak. Almost cleansing! Yes, to the Adrian Mullen interloper being a songwriter of sorts. His name was Ted O'Neill and I coulda swore he was in some way (artistically - questionable) involved in the Sister Nell debacle. I do remember him going on at length with the varoius band members, trying to sell them his 'bill of goods'. I would love to get a quote from Annie Ferguson about him....
BILL: FEBRUARY 19:05 To help jog memories - we were summoned to Mervyn Solomon's Studio in Ann Street one day to lay down demos of a few tracks from our set with Pete Lloyd at the desk. There was this other bloke behind the glass window that we knew was Mr Big. So we were out to impress. At the end of the session Mr Big came out and, in classic Larry Parnes style, rolled out a contract that he wanted us to sign. He said he had a song he wanted us to record but couldn't tell us until we were all signed up - it was a guaranteed Number One and he didn't want the secret to get out.

I remember this well because this was the point at which I knew I was going to have to choose between the band and a 'real' job. Anyway we were not particularly impressed and said we would have to take the contract away and have our people study it. As we herded out he obviously felt he had to play his trump card. "OK you win - I will tell you what the song is." He had re-captured our attention. The song was - wait for it - yes now you remember don't you? A cover version of a ten-year old relic from the skiffle era - "Freight Train." The effect of this was startling - and made up my mind for me on the spot. Fuck that - I'm outa here.

I think we all felt the same way, but somehow we were persuaded to come back and lay down instead a cover version of that dreadful Sock It To 'em Sister Nell. But we never signed any contract..

Epilogue: Pete Lloyd is still around and has told me he might still have the original Chips demos in his attic. And Mr Big turned out to be Syd Scott - cockney brother of Alf Scott, one-time owner of the Hippodrome/Odeon and whose wealthy widow Betty - KayBee will know this - never misses an opportunity to this day to give a forceful rendition of "Summertime in A Minor" (as she calls it looking for a few bars intro). I heard that Sock It To Em Sister Nell got played once on Radio One.

COLIN: FEBRUARY 19 :05 Don't recall Syd Scott at all, but do remember 'Freight Train'. We did end up signing a one-year recording contract, though. I recall this vividly because the band were holding back about half of my commission until various targets were met, the main one being a recording contract. I was about to get married and badly needed the balance of the money, and I think we had a meeting in Tito's where I finally convinced everyone to pay me, the clinching argument being the Emerald contract.

And I am sure that somewhere in a filing cabinet I have the correspondence from Big Merv, where he tries to brow-beat me into signing for another year. But, thanks to Chris Napier, who was originally Sammy Smyth's solicitor, we had a gold-plated get-out clause.

PS When I got married for the second time, Helen chose her wedding outfit from Pat Jordan at Jourdan in Queen's Arcade, and Pat seemed so delighted with the sale (I wonder what the mark-up was?) she arranged a lunch at an expensive restaurant where, among others, we met the unique Betty Scott, who later asked us round for drinks at her house, near the Culloden, where we were staying. My only recollection of that night, apart from meeting Alf, is that Betty had a not-very-good nude painting of herself on the staircase.

And didn't Alf and Syd own the Boom Boom Room?

email: info@fitzweb.biz
Webmaster: Colin McClelland