Tony Colton – A Forgotten and an Important Sixties Figure

Written by Katy Georgiou
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Tony Colton isn’t a name you’d instantly think of when contemplating rock and roll history. Not like Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton or Robert Plant. But to say he’s not part of that history would be far from the truth. He was on a night out with Jimi Hendrix just days before he died. He had heart to hearts with his then best friend Eric Clapton at a time when the Cream guitarist was unsure of his future, and he fell out with Jimmy Page over a guitar riff. He was on the rise as a credible artist for years. He was a rock frontman himself, a songwriter to many of the big bands of the 60s,

and a world renowned producer to a plethora of world class stars. He produced hit albums for Shirley Bassey, Taste and Yes, wrote songs for Rod Stewart and Georgie Fame, jammed with The Rolling Stones at the Flamingo Allnighter, and, in later years, wrote songs with Ray Charles, made albums with The Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, and more recently with Willie Nelson. He has written numerous musical scores for films, including A Man Called Horse. It was Colton’s own hand picked band, Poet and the One Man Band, who provided the rhythm section for countless artists in late 60s.


S
o why is it that we haven’t heard more about him?

In the 70s, he created a group of his own: Head Hands and Feet, comprising, among others, guitarist Albert Lee, and Chas Hodges, who would later form the duo Chas and Dave. The band were meant to be on the brink of stardom. In 1971, record label representatives from America and UK alike were reported to have flocked to London in a desperate record breaking bidding war to sign them. They were hyped up to overtake Led Zeppelin in the popularity stakes and Colton himself was tipped for the top. But somehow, it all went wrong before it started. Pressures mounted and members walked. Colton called it quits, the band dispersed and the songwriter’s dreams of being a rock star were gone. Heartbroken, he spiraled into severe drug addiction. As close friends, fellow band members and contemporaries began rising high into the famous stars we are familiar with today, Colton, who should have risen with them, slipped under the public radar, trapped in an unhappy marriage, and his moment for the limelight evaporated. Then in a strange twist of fate, new opportunities arose from nowhere. An emerging country artist in America who had been a fan of Head Hands and Feet decided to cover one of Colton’s songs from years previously. As luck would have it, it became an instant hit and was nominated for several awards. Revived interest in Colton led to a fortuitous phone call that saw him pack up and move to Nashville to forge a new career working alongside a new genre of artist, maintaining his status as a key player in the rock and roll industry, and his success still continues right up until the present day. Now almost 70, he is still going strong. Sitting in a café, he takes a moment to look back on his life, his period of “self-sabotage”, his regrets and all his amazing achievements since.

Colton’s most recent project is with an Irish 4-piece Blues band called Riptide Movement. He discovered them a few years back “by fate” he says, when idly standing in an airport waiting to go to Dublin. He was on his way to attend some Rory Gallagher tribute events he’d been involved with when he spotted a young musician behind him wearing a Gallagher T-shirt talking among his friends who were holding guitars. It immediately caught Colton’s attention. “It’s synchronicity,” he affirms. “When the universe delivers you something like that, you do take note.” They hit it off immediately. Colton now produces them and the band launched their debut album, ‘What About The Tip Jars’ in April of this year.

This intuitive, fatalistic encounter is one of many that have taken place in Colton’s career, and for the most part, it seems like he’s rarely been wrong. Far from dismissing anything as coincidence, Colton embraces these serendipitous moments as signs. When looking at the continuous stream of successes he’s had with any artist he’s worked with, it’s difficult not to believe that Colton has an inbuilt radar for what works. Around his neck is a gold plated necklace, called a Projector, designed for him especially by Dr Fred Bell, the great nephew of Alexander Graham Bell. “It changes energy,” he says. “I’m into tarot readings, all that stuff.” He lives his days according to a Rosicrucian system, where each part of the day represents a period of time conducive to specific activities. The days are divided up like a music scale. “We are in an F period now, for instance” he says. F is a lucky period, and a good time to talk. He only wishes he knew more about this system when he was younger, when he could have avoid a lot of the pain he experienced.

Colton is open about his both his merits and mistakes. Full of vivid anecdotes and tales of memories gone, his story telling is frequently interjected with deep hearty laughter, and a creased up smile that reveals an earthy sense of humour and the tell-tale signs of an eventful past. “I was in Atlantic Records in LA years back” he says, “and I was taking in the new artwork in for Head Hands and Feet. Mick Jagger came in - we were going in to see the same people. He said ‘what you got there?’ I was holding the artwork. It was from a Dutch artist who drew these really identifiable pictures of Chevvie cars. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘that looks interesting.’ Then they called him in. He came out and made a bit of a quick exit and I thought he’d gone a bit fast. When I went in I showed them the artwork and they said ‘Oh that’s no good, Mick just put all that stuff on hold for the Stones!’”

It’s not really surprising to hear him say he’s been writing an autobiography, provisionally titled The Day I Learned To Read The Sky. The idea came when he’d sat down one day to reflect on his turbulent past. When writing it down he realized that what he had to say was far bigger and more fascinating than a simple diary could allow. He had to go back to the beginning for any of it to make sense.

It’s clear that storytelling and writing come naturally, and is a habit that really began in childhood. Born in Kent, near Tonbridge Wells in 1940, and raised in East London, Dagenham, from the age of six, he is one of many siblings. As a child, he was always fascinated by musical scores in famous films. “I just loved the real, great songs,” he says. “I could get into Moon Rivers just as easily as I could with Whole Lotta Shaking or Elvis.” He would often skip school just to go and watch them over and over. By the age of 12, he was writing lyrics to instrumentals, and just about as soon as he could, he started forming bands. “We were terrible” he laughs. “I was into it as much for the girls as I was for the music, but I got another band and another one, until I eventually started working in the West End, and then it went up a grade. I started writing more seriously then.”

In his early 20s, Colton stumbled onto the West End gig and club scene, where he would watch guitarists like Jimmy Page and Albert Lee perform at The Flamingo Club, an artistic hotspot in the hub of Soho in the late 50s to early 60s. While it served as a jazz venue for most of the week, Colton says it opened up on Friday and Saturday to host a special live rhythm and blues night called The Flamingo Allnighter. It ran from 7pm on the Friday to 6 the following Saturday morning, and it attracted a huge musical community. “Those band rooms were packed with the royalty of the rock ‘n’ roll industry then, and now…Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Jeff Beck was in there with different people. Nina Green, Zoot Money, and all the big honchos….Mick Fleetwood, John McGee, Georgie Fame, Chris Farlowe, Albert Lee. The list is endless.” Run by brothers Rik and John Gunnell in Wardour Street, just down the road from the influential Marquee, Colton’s name quickly became known within the community, and it was here where his career rollercoaster began.

It was in this club where he first caught sight of Georgie Fame, who influenced Colton’s own style of playing: “The best band I have ever seen, is Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames at the Flamingo Allnighter” he says. “I still think he was one of the best kept secrets of England.” Colton was one of only a few people of that era writing the kinds of R&B songs that interested the community, and it wasn’t long before he was asked to work with several of the artists that the Flamingo hosted, including Georgie Fame himself. The timing, as is always a theme for him, was perfect. Through a talent agency that the Gunnell brothers had set up, Colton and Ray Smith, a fellow writer, provided material for acts like Zoot Money, including Big Time Operator, and he was becoming well established among his peers.

With such an array of talented musicians all in one place, Colton started experimenting with putting bands together and recorded some songs under his own name. He says it wasn’t uncommon for artists at the Flamingo to mix and match between each other: “We were all intertwined, there was lots of cross breeding. You’d go in there one day and you’d suddenly find yourself with another one of the ever-changing personnel that was home to the Flamingo Allnighter. Chicken Shack came and it had half of Fleetwood Mac in it” he explains. He worked with Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Beryl Marsden, Peter Badens, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, Dave Ambrose and Phil Sawyer in their band The Shotgun Express, he says, before they each then entered their various incarnations in the bands we’ve all come to know. “Clapton would come running down the street after me asking me for songs for a new band he was putting together at the time called Cream” he says. “It was the most awesome experience of my life….It always seemed like everybody you met was going to be famous the next day, and they were, it was incredible.”

Eventually, Colton formed bands good enough to perform at the Allnighter. These included Tony Colton and The Big Boss Band, and Tony Colton and The Crawdaddies.
There was a period of about four to six years, he explains, where the Allnighter ran with a real intensity and became cult like: “The Flamingo was open until 6. So Yes, or the Who, or Hendrix, they would be up at the Marquee, that shut at 11, and then they all came down to us…If I was playing in Basingstoke or Birmingham or Manchester, we’d bust our gut to get back to the Allnighter,” he continues.  “We’d get back there for about 4.30 in the morning and the place was rocking with jazz players…”

Through this, he formed close friendships with several of the artists, including Eric Clapton. He’d also had several converations with Jimi Hendrix: “He showed me lyrics, there’s one thing he wrote about what his mission was. It was incredible; it was about what he came here to do. To be a rock star, a poet, to carry some kind of message.” In fact, Colton had gone to a gig with Hendrix in Soho’s Ronnie Scott’s days before the guitarist’s death. Colton was hit hard by the news. “You knew a big presence had gone. He was a free wheeling spirit showing people what you can do when your will is alive.”

But life was very much like this at the time, Colton explains. With so many creative people hanging out in the club at any one time, he’d witnessed many a wild affair taking place in the building’s vicinity: “Some stuff is so hysterical for people who knew about the stuff at the time. Then there are the tragedies, people dying, overdoses,” he asserts. “You get a band room with Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Eric Burden, Alan Price, Zoot Money, a few horn players, guitar players, bottles of vodka, some marijuana and other stuff, and you’re going to see the shit fly…I could tell you stories, but they’re not really ones you want to hear. There was an incident at the Flamingo that involved a hooker in a dressing room setting, it was pretty debased, it was, but that is an element of how low we can sink unfortunately. But the band room was filled with some pretty heavy-duty people and I’m hesitant to say who they were even now. There are some crown princes of rock ‘n’ roll involved who may not like to have the world be told that they did such a thing…one in particular who will scream like a banshee… But any rock ‘n’ roll is built off these things…Musically though it was awesome.”

Aside from the interband antics, a number of Colton’s songs were starting to become big hits. These included I Stand Accused, which was later covered by Mersey Beats and Elvis Costello.

The only real logical progression from there, Colton says, was to start producing bands in the Allnighter. One of them was The Shevelles. “Danny Cordell, producer of The Moody Blues, heard the song on the radio, and rang me up,” he explains. “He loved the song and asked if I want to produce Georgie Fame. Can a duck swim? Of course I wanted to. So I went in and recorded that.” Before he knew it, the wheels were set in motion for this new career turn.

Straight after Georgie Fame, he was offered a permanent deal with Polydor to produce Rory Gallagher’s first three albums in Taste. Straight from there, he went on to produce Yes. Throughout this time, he was using a band he’d put together from the Allnighter community as a rhythm section. It contained Colton himself, Albert Lee, Mike O’Neill, Pete Gavin, Pat Donaldson and Jerry Donahue. In between recordings, they would work on their own two albums, under the name Poet and The One Man Band, and they were attracting huge attention. The albums they were appearing on were becoming major successes worldwide. Colton joined band manager Danny Ciccone to undertake some more production projects with reputed producer Johnny Harris. Together they produced the Shirley Bassey album, Something, again using the backing band. In all, they achieved five worldwide top ten hits with Bassey and their version of the George Harrison-penned single Something, beat The Beatle’s original to the number 2 slot.

Colton’s reputation was at this stage, understandably, impeccable. But it was clear to Ciccone that Colton was itching for more. After a heart to heart, Colton’s true dream became known: he wanted to go back on the road and be a rockstar. Left to hand-pick his band members, Colton gathered together his friends from Poet and The One Man Band. By this point Donaldson and Donahue had left, and Chas Hodges was picked as a replacement after he’d been working on a solo record with Albert Lee.

There were six of them in total: Albert Lee (lead guitar), Chas Hodges (bass), Ray Smith (guitar), Pete Gavin (drums), Mike O’Neill (keyboards) and Colton himself as lead singer/songwriter. Head Hands and Feet were born.

“It was one of the last supergroups to come out of England and in my opinion it was by far the best,” Colton enthuses. You didn’t want to follow Head Hands and Feet, I don’t care who you were. Live, it was an awesome thing to behold.” When news leaked out about their debut gig In 1971, the band found themselves in the midst of a record label bidding war. “Major labels in America flew to London” Colton reminisces. “The audience was like the impresarios of the record business. Chris Blackwell, Martin Wyaat [Fleetwood Mac, The Moody Blues, Christine McVie, The War of The Worlds], so many.” The band broke a world record for a signing deal. They were offered half a million dollars upfront, and signed to Capitol records in the US and Island in the UK. “It was a huge deal” he says. “We were expected to conquer the worked, and we went out to Hollywood, it was a big thing.”

It was really no wonder why record labels were keen to snap them up. As a unit, the band had instant credibility before they’d arrived. Colton was a top record producer, each of the band members equally as well reputed in their prior respective musical projects. And what’s more, Poet and The One Man Band had made a big impression from their appearances on the albums that were by now becoming classics. As if America needed any more excuse to take on another British rock band, Head Hands and Feet were making the kind of country rock music that greatly appealed.

In all, they recorded five albums. But despite the whirlwind they’d created, tensions within the band were rife and interpersonal conflict was taking over: “When we came out as a new band, we already had a sense of oldness about us“ he muses. “The problem was, the main nucleus of the band had already been in the studio and locked up in rooms together for five years before we were in Head Hands and Feet, when we’d cut those two albums in Poet and The One Man Band. Most bands have a sell by date that they can live with each other for before they move onto other things. We were already at that stage we when we came out on the tracks. It couldn’t go anywhere else but splinter. In a way, we came out ready to split up.”

On top of this, Colton admits to having made some bad decisions for the band musically. “I was writing it all, producing it all, and I was the lead singer, I was wearing too many hats.” Trying to take on too many roles at one time, Colton was burning out.

As hyped up as they were, within a year, Albert Lee walked, and by December 1972, Head Hands and Feet were over.

“It was a huge heartbreak for me, it still is” he says. “There’s no question that if we’d carried on, we’d have been up there with Fleetwood Mac.”

Colton was offered the opportunity to continue with the band with a replacement, but Colton didn’t want to know. Without Lee, whose guitar playing Colton greatly admired, the frontman couldn’t settle for second best. “I dissed it,” he says sorrowfully. “I should have listened, but I have a history of making up my own mind. My foolishness was a great deal of it. I could have revived it and done something with it, but it wasn’t how I’d dreamt it and by that point I’d resigned to going in to the background. I spurned the offer. It’s called self sabotage,” he laughs satirically, hiding what is clearly a deep seated regret. “It was stupid, but it’s the follies of youth…People bought it, paid money for it, got behind it, gave it their time…In a way I hate that I didn’t take up the opportunity,” he says. “If I had my same time over, would I make the same choice? No.”

The extent of his upset at the band’s demise showed when he began drinking heavily. “I was in my early 30s then. I was trying to reach for something, a higher consciousness and also smother the heartbreak and feelings. It’s all denial” he says. “Anything to have got me out of the pain.” On top of this, he was deeply unhappy in his marriage, but helpless to do anything about it: “I was staying in the marriage for the children.”

Discontented with where his life had ended up, his interest in other career opportunities waned. While he was still a songwriter, and Head Hands and Feet albums were selling, his reckless behaviour started affecting his once infallible reputation.

His friendship with Eric Clapton was also in question. “At that point, we were both drinking heavily, and we had a couple of fights.” Several times they’d tried to write together, but to no avail. In one particular dark moment in both of their lives, they confided in each other. “Eric Clapton had cut a song of mine down in Marble Arch, and at that time he was convinced his career was over. He said, ‘All we’re gonna get is the crumbs off the table. We’ve had the meal, and all we’re gonna get now is the crumbs.’ That’s really how it felt.”

Their influence on each other was so bad, that Colton was blacklisted by Clapton’s record company. “We were both so wrecked, his manager put a list of people who he was never to have anything to do with anymore, and I was on there.”

Luckily for Clapton, he got himself straight and went on to become bigger than he’d ever been.  Colton had no such luck.

As if fate were playing a cruel trick, a flippant moment from the past that Colton had long since forgotten about came back to bite him. He explains that when he had first been rising to fame with Head Hands and Feet, he had been invited to a radio interview. On air, he accused Jimmy Page of being jealous of Albert Lee, and claimed that the Led Zeppelin star had tried to secretly record Lee’s guitar solos so that he could steal them.

Unfortunately for Colton, Page had been listening at the time. “He was really pissed off, and quite rightly,” Colton admits. “He was a big star by then, and here I was telling everyone he’s nicking Albert Lee’s Licks. I was just shooting my mouth off, anything for dramatics. But it was true.”

What’s more, Colton explains, is that Jimmy never forgot about the incident: “Jimmy had messed around all his life with black magic,” he says. “A few years after, Chris Farlowe (of Chris Farlowe and The Thunderbirds) wanted to record a song of mine. He wanted me to produce it and to try and get Jimmy Page to play on it. So I called Page up. A girl answered the phone. She was relaying the conversation to him, and I could hear him in the background. She told him who it was and I asked if he would play on the record. He wouldn’t speak to me, but I could still hear him: ‘I’ll make the record’, he said, ‘when you make the fucking movie’, which was never. Then he said, ‘tell him I’ve put a spell on him that will last seven years.’ He did the same kind of thing to many. All I can tell you is I went into heroin addiction not long after that, and it lasted seven years. That’s a true story. I don’t care who knows it.”

His already excessive drinking escalated to cocaine and heroin and Colton spent seven agonizing years trying to get off it by drinking more brandy, which in turned fuelled his alcoholism. He went to several AA meetings, with little success.

By the time Colton was in his 40s, he was sure that the drink and drugs were going to kill him. “If you don’t deal with it, it’s going to go one of two ways. You either kill yourself, or you sort yourself out.”

But chance timing kicked in once more. In 1984, aged 45, Colton got a call. While Colton was drowning his sorrows in a bottle, an emerging country artist in Nashville called Ricky Skagg, who was a fan of the band, had chosen to cover the Head Hands and Feet song Country Boy. It was an instant hit, and was nominated for a Country Music Award. Interest in Colton, who was working for Warner Brothers by that time, had rekindled. He was invited to move out to Nashville and ride that wave.

“When I look back, it was divinity clear cut,” Colton states. It gave him the push he needed to get out of his marriage, and very quickly, his addictions dropped. “When I was at the bottom and I kept trying to give up the drugs, it didn’t work the whole time I was in the denial of the marriage. It wasn’t six months into Nashville, after trying and trying and trying to quit drinking for years, that I finally quit and dropped all my addictions. Except pot,” he chuckles. “I just walked away from it, like I left a coat behind…These things really happen. It was an act of self-love. The universe opens up when you do something for yourself and gives something back to you, and it works.”

To Colton’s good fortune, Nashville was becoming the place where the big stars were moving. The New York scene was dying, and dance music and techno was taking over LA. “The music in Nashville is mainly country” Colton says. “But the kind of country they make out there is not far removed from the rhythm and blues of the Allnighter days.” The opportunity couldn’t have come at a more vital time.

Within months of getting clean, he was working with Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Noel Hancock, Tom Waits, Troy Seals, Eddie Sector. “It was like a Renaissance,” he says. “I suddenly came alive again.”

One of his proudest moments, was writing songs with Ray Charles, alone with him on the piano. “I just said to Ray Charles once, ‘How about writing some songs?’ which was really cheeky of me, but he agreed, and here I am now, I’ve written a song for him. I was in his life, you know. That’s enough for me. He’s a genius and I was in the company of one. I rang my mum up and said, ‘That’s it, I can quit today’. It really felt like that, it didn’t get any better than that.”

In more recent years, Colton has written songs for Celine Dion (I Remember LA), Leanne Rimes, and had great success last year with an emerging country artist called James Otto. He’s been scoring several films, and worked on a production of ‘San Antone’ with Willie Nelson and Norah Jones.

In a lot of ways, Colton feels the alternative route that his life took to the one he had mapped out has actually made him more credible as an artist: “There have been lots of failings, lots of things that kept me from the limelight but nevertheless, I think I’ve had an incredible career. I might not be in the newspapers, but all those guys know me, whether it’s Clapton, or Townsend, and my work reached them. I went out into the 60s and made my name and my way. And then I went out to Nashville and started a whole new life with a whole new set of artists who were equally talented and influential and made another whole life for myself there. So I think I did pretty good.”

By slipping away from the spotlight, he feels he’s especially been able to develop and nurture a much more personal one to one creative relationship with the various musicians he works with. As such, he has witnessed some encounters that few others would ever know about.

“I was in Memphis with Jerry Lee Lewis producing a record,” he says as an example. “He wanted to kill me. He wants to kill most people, he pulls guns on you and shit like that. The musical collaboration was fine, but as far as the one on one goes, there’s a wall. I had said something about Richard Harris, the actor. Jerry Lee Lewis suddenly dropped to his knees and started reciting Othello! There he is, this pea brained red neck, and he’s on the floor next to me doing a one armed performance reciting Othello, and I think to myself, ‘What?!’ I mean it blew my mind for five minutes. Nobody else saw that. And then five minutes later he’s got a gun to my head.“

For Colton, experiences like these as a producer are not alien to him. Working closely with such talented, and often troubled, musicians, and having battled with his own demons and issues of fame himself, he has developed an understanding of the rock star psyche and neuroses.

“The great thing about most of those artists is that they’re always special, to even get to that level in the first place. When you have conversations with them and you get a chance to talk to them, especially when you’re in the creative process, so much of that exchange is incredible. The way of watching them and interacting with them when they’re choosing what they will and what they won’t sing and represent. There’s a great sense of knowing about things. I mean, like Johnny Cash, at times it was like talking to a professor, and at other times, he was so fucked up. They are rich experiences that rub off when you’re around them”.
When asked if he was scared by Jerry Lee Lewis’ gun threat, Colton just shrugs it off. “That’s just his way of communication, he’s a nutcase. But it is a little bit intimidating to be in that position. You just hope it’s not loaded,” he laughs.

He gives further instances of the quirks and foibles of musicians he’s discovered over the years: “They’re all nuts,” he points out flatly. “Wilson Pickett pulled out a knife once in the middle of a session. Don Everly, he’s got this thing about his brother.” Most extreme though, are his revelations about Greg Allman, who Colton witnessed being on the brink of death 13 times. “He nearly died on me in New York City on the night of the Harmonic Convergence, which is when the planets diverge – what a night to die!” he exclaims, reinstating his cosmic beliefs. “From a drug overdose. Come 6 or 7 in the morning, they carted him off on a stretcher. That was the 13th time that had happened to him! He’d been knocked out cold for a while, and they just about revived him, there on the slab. The following day we had to do the gig without him. I was going to sing some of the songs. Five minutes before the show, here comes the black limousine, and out gets Gregory looking like Dracula” he says fervently. “He calls the same two dealers from the crowd who had given him the shit that had nearly killed him the night before, took two great big lines of the same smack and went on did two hours of the greatest Rhythm and Blues you’ve ever seen. He lost his memory after that for two weeks,” Colton explains. “I moved in with him after that to write an album, in a beach house. A very dangerous thing to do,” he laughs. Dangerous or not, the album was, as always, an instant success. “With Greg Allman, you’re dealing with someone who is a complete purist as a blues artist. He had a drug habit that made Keith Richards look like a health freak, yet you couldn’t get a bad song past him in a coma”.

Do you think all that pain, the drugs, the addictions, the mistakes, is something all stars have to go through to get to a better place?

“I believe that with any kind of addiction, you’re reaching for a higher conscious. Even if you’re taking drugs, it’s the first step towards another reality, baby steps towards something spiritual. For someone like a star, it’s ‘for Christ’s sake, slow me down, give me some peace’. Smack will do that, heroin will do that, booze will do it. Cocaine will make it worse, take you to the other arena. I don’t think it’s always about getting high, but to find relief. Cos the buzz of being a star you’d think would be enough, but it isn’t. There is always stuff going on within us. What people don’t realize is that when you’re getting hooked on these drugs, you’re blowing your career. The dark night comes as it did with me with Head Hands and Feet where the chance is gone. Now you’re on your own, now you’re looking at the end of a bottle or a line and all your opportunities are gone. That’s a dark place to be. If anyone can avoid that journey, I would beg them off it.”

When musing on these thoughts, Colton back tracks and almost re-evaluates his decisions with Head Hands and Feet, and wonders, whether it wasn’t a blessing in disguise: “You see, I’m always beating myself up about what happened. I’m not gonna say that I wouldn’t have liked to have been a rock star, who wouldn’t. But then sometimes I think it was a bigger achievement for me to get over drugs and booze than it would have ever been to have become a star. Maybe if I had continued with the band, I wouldn’t have lived through it. It may have got so intense, that I would have done some damage that was irreparable. I did plenty of it as it was…I can clearly see it was really ordained for me to go to Nashville, because that’s where the real spiritual journey began. See when we come in to this life, we have contracts, that’s what I believe, we map it out. Well, maybe I had to heal alcoholism for my forefathers. I think that the burdens we overcome are far more important than the other road and I should be equally as proud of them as I am of anything else.”

While Colton counts his blessings for what he’s achieved, he recognizes the difficulties that stars face today in comparison to the 60s. “It’s very hard for artists now, people make up stories about them and they make them have their hair cut like this or that. Could you imagine trying to do that to Keith Richards? Or Gregg Allman, or Clapton or Pete Townsend? He’d ram a guitar down your throat! They wouldn’t stand for any of that stuff, not then, not now…”

Not only that, but he’s frustrated with the way the music industry works now. “Once upon a time, there was one guy who made the decisions for the record company and the buck stopped there. They knew real talent. It was always aimed at a world market. What dark story or tragedy you had may appear within their publicity if it had something to do with your music. But now, everything goes under an unbelievable microscope. A lot of the artistic process is lost and overlooked. It’s not that it’s not there, it’s just they want to know who was drunk, who was misbehaving, who was fucked up, and that’s it….Record companies now have committees to make decisions about a song, it’s nuts. They’ve lost the plot. There isn’t a record company in this country that knows how to create a worldwide star. They maybe know how to do it in England if they’re lucky, but not one of them can take a band off the streets of Dagenham or Newcastle and put them into the world market.”

Will you be the one to do it?
“Watch me do it with Riptide Movement.”

Besides his production and songwriting, Colton still plays festivals and gigs of his own and still has people approaching him to this day about minute details of recordings of years long gone. And his status among the elite rock ‘n’ rollers hasn’t waned either. The days of the Allnighter might be long gone, but the effects it had remain etched in Colton’s memory as well as all those he encountered there. “I was at the Grammys a few years ago in New York and John Mayall was walking towards me. As he went by he said ‘I bet no-one in here knows anything about the Flamingo Allnighter.”

He has no signs of disappearing any time soon: “I comfortably believe I’m going to continue for as long as I’ve got breath in my body.  Touch wood I’m still dealing with it at the zenith, it might not be the zenith for the dude out there into dance music, but for many people Willie Nelson is monstrously big, and James Otto will be and Riptide. So, as long as I’m doing it I don’t really care. Doing it is more important than achieving it.”
And what does he think will come of his autobiography? “The way to do it for me is to put a lot of work and creativity into it and then throw it out there. Then it’s the universes’ call to see what happens.”

A fatalist to the end.

© Words Katy Georgiou/ ZANI Media


Read 10602 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:44

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ZANI was conceived in late 2008 and the fan base gradually grew by word of mouth. Key contributors came from those of the music, film and fashion industry and the voice of ZANI grew louder. So, when in 2013 investor, contributor and fan of ZANI Alan McGee* offered his support to help restyle and relaunch the site it was inevitable that traffic would increase dramatically and continues to grow. *Alan McGee co-founder of Creation Records and new label 359 Music..

 

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