mother superior 1974 - 1977


Jackie B:

Back in London at the Royal Oak, in the middle of a solo Audrey collapses on stage. Some friends Chris and Kevin, remove the guitar she is still gripping and take her unconscious to hospital in their car. We cancel the next few gigs and then ask my boyfriend Pete Chapman to stand in for her. It's a sad sight to see her in a hospital bed attached to a drip. Doctors think it is exhaustion from the German tour. Luckily she recovers quite quickly and is back with us soon. We've been discussing the need for management and after much toing and froing we decide to go with a Mr. Campfield. He has all sorts of useful business pals including the DJ Alan Freeman. We are signed to a publishing deal with Panache and a deal with Polydor SMA.

However we had not realised the significance of the clause in the management contract we signed, without seeing a solicitor that allowed for our manager to sign for minor things on our behalf. It seemed fair enough to us, we might be away on tour and this was a world that had not heard of fax machines let alone mobile phones or email. Of course the important word here is 'minor' what it actually meant was that he could sign anything on our behalf and probably still can, including selling us on to whoever he chose which he did the following year, but that's another story.

      April - we start recording an album at IBC studios on Portland Place (many bands have recorded here - The Stones, The Who... and now us). There was some great stuff to play with - Steinway, Moog, Mellotron, but the best, by far was the percussion box, hours of endless fun. We were usually there in the middle of the night, when the rest of the building was empty, the vibe was strange and spooky - probably haunted by the ghosts of musicians who were told 'it'll be alright in the mix'.

Hugh Jones and Keith Bessey were producer and engineer, this was Hugh's first shot at producing, and my first contact with the phrase above. To be fair it was good to be able to record anything in the days before independent record companies. The album will be called 'Lady Madonna'.


Around this time we had a residency at the Chiltern Arms on Baker St. they demanded 3 x 45 minute sets, all with different material, and for this we got £30 plus free meals. Unis paid better but even so, we were hard pushed to make a profit. After covering all the touring costs we were struggling to pay ourselves and the roadies - we clearly weren't in it for the money.

MORE GIGGING Lesley: Jackie Badger (bass) wrote the above on-road saga. She kept notes, she is a fabulous archivist but her memory isn't perfect. There are several references in her saga to us ALL being drunk most of the time. It has slipped her memory that I (Lesley Sly, keyboards) didn't drink alcohol at that time, so they got more drunk by getting my free drinks (they chipped in and bought me a replacement soft-drink) and so I was never drunk and it must have been me who got us to places we had no real maps for. If so, I was extremely unsuited for that role, as I have a pathologically poor sense of direction and need a GPS to find my way around my home town, so it must have been me also who got us lost in the Black Forest. One of my sharpest memories of the long and winding road was our ill-fated winter tour of Sweden and Denmark. The promoters, two guys we travelled in a car with, seemed to be arranging the tour as we went along, though we could only guess at this as they weren't speaking in English. But there seemed to be an ambience of uncertainty about everything. Except the weather! It was freezing. Our truck, with a brand new engine, died on the way back from a gig to the accommodation at about 4am, we had to walk through shoulder-high snowdrifts to get to the accommodation, a considerable distance. The only food we had was a packet soup (just one packet) and we heated this with one of those elements you put into a mug, and shared it. This probably saved us from terminal whole-body frostbite. We then had several hire trucks that also blew up. We never saw our own truck again, it remained in Sweden (with that brand new engine we were still paying for), along with my camera, prescription sunglasses, and a few other things the roadies didn’t notice when they collected the gear from it. In Denmark a fight broke out on the dance floor just in front of us, and we had to keep playing while extreme violence (there was a weapon involved, maybe knife, maybe broken bottle, and a lot of blood) continued. We arrived back in England broke and truckless - how the gear got there I can't remember, but we flew back. Our manager greeted us at the airport, accompanied by a man we’d never met who he introduced as our new manager. We’d been sold. This got off to a good start when new manager bought a Mercedes truck with aircraft seats – hitherto unknown luxury and comfort! - and some new equipment. It started to go wrong when we failed to produce a hit single and when we couldn’t get a serious record deal (all we had was a release for our album in Sweden – there was no internet then, it wasn’t going to travel beyond Sweden, and so it wasn’t an ideal situation for a UK-based band).

The album had been recorded in downtime in a London studio, and so with no recording costs it wasn’t going to cost a UK record company a whole lot to release it, but it was still rejected by everyone. There was a strange logic to this we discovered when an A&R guy from Sony came to a gig in London that was packed and we did several encores. He came to the dressing room afterwards and said: “The trouble is, I can’t see an audience for you. Girls won’t like you and they won’t want their boyfriends to like you.” I said: What have we just been playing to? Wasn’t that an audience? A room packed with men and women, who kept wanting more? We’ve built up a significant audience from non-stop touring, most often we are the headlining band at gigs now, we always draw good crowds and we always get encores. He couldn’t relate to that. It seemed that the real problem was that we could play quite well, and that was somehow not sexy. And our original songs weren’t suitable for singles for various reasons, one being that they were too long, the other being that they didn’t have formulaic arrangements. We didn’t want to be a pop band. Big sin. Countless all-boy bands at this time, who could play quite well, didn’t do singles. Not a big sin, perfectly acceptable.

This was the seventies, there was no such thing as a cheap home studio, and major record companies were the gatekeepers of what got released and what didn’t. Regardless of all that, and harrowing tours, poverty, etc, we had some very good times, such as a fabulous summer tour of Finland on our own private train. 

So far as my memory recollects we (the band) never had serious conflict, only healthy conflict over musical ideas which improved the material, and we laughed a lot and remained friends and are still in contact. Considering the difficult and frustrating circumstances of that time, culminating in the only way we could get free of management that wasn’t working was to split up, and without a serious record deal we couldn’t advance beyond constant and exhausting touring that paid the touring bills but left us with next to nothing to live on when taking a break to recover and write new material … remaining friends was a fairly major achievement. – LS

Mother Superior IBC studios 

Audrey and Jackie B Golden Lion, Fulham