My two passions in life have been bicycles and music; strange combo really, totally unrelated. I have often written here on cycling history, here for a change is a little Rock n’ Roll history, concerning a man named Guy Stevens.
Guy Stevens was a behind the scenes man, a record producer with Island Records in the 1960s. He had a tremendous amount of knowledge of obscure American Blues artists, and was responsible for supplying the Rolling Stones with cover songs before they started writing their own hits.
He also had a flair for coming up with great names for bands and albums. Sticky Fingers, now famous album by the Stones was one of his. He once had a cat named Procol Harum that would become the name of a band he would manage with the hit record, Whiter Shade of Pale in 1967.
When Whiter Shade of Pale became a hit, Guy Stevens missed out because he was in Wormwood Scrubs Prison in West London, serving a short sentence for a drug related offense.
While in prison Stevens read a book by Willard Manus titled Mott, the Hoople, and thought what a great name for a band. Two years later the band would become a reality under Guy Stevens direction.
Here in the story we have to go back to a little known band called Silence, a somewhat strange name for a rock band. Silence originated in Hereford in the West of England, and incidentally next to Worcester, where I had my bicycle business.
They band consisted of Stan Tippins (vocals), Mick Ralphs (guitar), Pete "Overend" Watts (bass), Dale Griffin (drums) and Terry Allen (Organ.) The band paid their dues around the clubs and pubs of England, as well as doing the Hamburg, Germany circuit as the Beatles had done.
In 1969 Overend Watts went to London to audition as a bass player for the band Free, managed by Guy Stevens. He didn’t get the job but was highly impressed with Free and their manager. As a result Mick Ralphs went to see Stevens armed with his demo tape of the band Silence.
Guy Stevens eventually signed the band, but dropped the lead singer, Stan Tippins, and replaced him with Ian Hunter. This line up became Mott the Hoople. Strangely, the band never did well with their record sales, either in England or in the US, where they later toured.
However, their live shows were always a sell out and many big name bands of that era would not have them as an opening act, because they were too good an act to follow.
Mick Ralphs left the band around 1973, and went on to great success when he joined Paul Rodgers formally lead singer with Free, to form Bad Company.
Mick Ronson took over as lead guitar with Mott the Hoople. They are still relatively unknown outside of the UK, but do have somewhat of a cult following in the US and elsewhere. Had it not been for Mott, Mick Ralphs may well have remained in obscurity and Bad Company as we know it would not have followed.
Guy Stevens, the man who started it all, dropped out of sight for a short while after Mott the Hopple broke up sometime in the mid to late 1970s.
He reappeared in 1980, producing the highly-acclaimed album London Calling by The Clash. Sadly, he died shortly afterwards, having overdosed on prescription drugs he was taking for his alcohol dependency. He was only 38 years old.
Guy Stevens is one of those people, who although he was never a performer or rock star himself; he was instrumental in molding the way the music scene went. Had it not been for his untimely death, he may well have contributed much more.