Monday, 24 May 2010

Borrowed from 'Queenpedia':

With a ready-made network of contacts back home in Cornwall, Roger Taylor also secured regular gigs for Smile. Among those he sought out was Peter John Bawden, ex- guitarist with Cornish band the Staggerlees (backing band for singer Dave Lee on two singles for Oriole in 1963), who'd recently founded his own Club, PJ's, in Truro. The gigs were coming-home events for Taylor.

“Those weekends in Cornwall were highlights of our time with Smile, because everyone used to make so much fuss of us there”, Tim Staffell told Mark Hodkinson. “It became a great social thing with lots of drinking sessions”. The camaraderie also extended to Mike Dudley, Roger's old friend from the Reaction, who would often join the band on stage. “It was fairly easy to play for a couple of hours after knowing each other for years and years,” he recalls, but as Smile developed, eventually mutating into Queen, Mike's guest spots dried up: “It happened for one or two summers, and then the third it didn't”.

Smile's adverts in the 'amusements' section of Truro's 'West Briton and Royal Cornwall Gazette' were prone to London-style hyperbole: “Beautiful sounds once again from Smile”, promised one; “The fantastic, beautiful Smile”, added another. Did these descriptions fit the band? “Hardly”, admits Tim Staffell. “That was probably more to do with what was being smoked than anything else. Or probably not. That was significant, you know. Smile wasn't a drug band at all. I've no idea what happened in Queen, although I suspect the old nose candy turned up a bit. That's not to say in Smile we didn't have the odd smoke now and again, but compared with some of the things I got into later on - you know, 'Can someone carry me out of the door, please' - it was quite an innocent, clean-cut little outfit. If the drugs squad had asked Brian to turn out the pockets of his cardigan, I can assure you that they have found nothing”.

Further advertiser's license took place on 28th March 1969, when Smile played their debut at PJ's, billing themselves as a “Tremendous London Group” who had “appeared at top clubs, the Revolution and the Speakeasy and have recently broadcast on Radio 1's “Top Gear” Smile had indeed played the fashionable nightspots mentioned (and would continue to do so), but on Radio l? It's difficult to imagine exactly what would have been broadcast on 'Top Gear' in March 1969, given that Smile's debut recording session was still four weeks away. Such an event would have been important enough to have made at least a small impression on the band's lead singer, but Tim Staffell suggests the ad was a ruse. Although 26 years have passed since the alleged broadcast, 'Top Gear's presenter, John Peel, is similarly adamant that it never took place. “They didn't record a session, of that I'm certain”, he says. “But it's worth pointing out that in far flung comers of the country, it wasn't uncommon for bands to make these claims”. Just to make sure Peel checked his alphabetically catalogued personal record/acetate collection, and no such disc exists there.
Freddie Mercury finally received his wish to join the band after his own outfits - Ibex, Wreckage and Sour Milk Sea - ground to a halt. When the last of these acts disintegrated in early 1970, he jumped at the chance to fill Staffell's shoes. “I left Smile because I was beginning to be seduced by the way the Americans made music”, recounts Tim. “There is a radical difference to the way English people do it. Around 1970, I bought one album which completely changed my attitude towards music and that was Ry Cooder's first album”. (The self titled; Ry Cooder LP was released on the Reprise Label in 1970). “That was a real catalyst. I suddenly decided against English rock and the way it works”. Speaking to Laura Jackson, he added: “Whereas I left Smile for my own reasons, in one sense I was moving out of the way, and the birth and evolution of Queen were a natural outcome”. Quote from Freddie Mercury set… “Thank God I moved aside!”… Or something similar!

While Freddie matched the power of Tim's voice, he couldn't even attempt to follow his bass playing, and it took two men to replace him. Mike Grose, a friend of Roger's from Truro (no relation to the Reaction's Johnny Grose – but I thought they were brothers!), became the second new member of the band, and Queen's original bassist.

Smile played their last gigs in Roger's home town of Truro, and their mutation into Queen is documented in adverts placed in the town's West Briton' newspaper. Although the name change had occurred a short while earlier, on 27th June 1970, at a gig at the town's City Hall, they were billed - for contractual reasons - as Smile. On 25th July, at “PJ's”, they were advertised as “Queen (formerly Smile)”. Queen's London debut took place the weekend before, at Imperial College, on the 12th June 1970.

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