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Simon Phillips : drums
Simon Phillips

Written by Simon Phillips 2000

I was born in London on Feb 6, 1957. My first introduction to the drums was at the age of three while my father, English bandleader, Sid Phillips, was rehearsing his band. Although I had been exposed my father's band before, he had just hired a new drummer, Dave Rogers, and suddenly I noticed the drums. From that moment on life was not the same - The Phillips household became a noisy place! For the next three years I played on a mixture of biscuit tins, toy drums, and eventually a snare drum and cymbal my mother bought for me. My father was not impressed with the idea of my becoming a drummer.

When I was six, my father decided it was time to see if there really was talent there, so the opportunity arose for me to sit in with his band during a BBC recording session. I rehearsed two songs, and then recorded them at Aeolian Hall, BBC studios in Bond Street, London. My father was then convinced that I should pursue the drums, and so I began to practice in earnest. My mother went back to the music store and invested in my first real drum kit - An Edgeware "Blue Pearl" Kit - 20" kick, 12" rack tom, 16" floor tom and snare, all with calf heads.

For the next two years I practiced. And, when I was eight, I started to sit in with my father's band at dances. I was attending Winchester House School, so my practice routine was somewhat disturbed, but other things had to be learned... At twelve, a big decision was made. My father's music was quite specialized stylistically and there were few drummers around who could play his style of 30's Dixieland. Having grown up with his music, I could play it, but obviously lacked the experience of playing with professionals. But, the time seemed to be right, so I left my boarding school, went to Bushey Meads Comprehensive School, and joined the band full time. The school was very accommodating - I remember with glee being routinely excused early from lessons to jump on the bus to drive to a gig. Thus began my professional music career.

I played in my father's band for the next four years, recording three albums; countless BBC broadcasts, and traveled many miles throughout Britain playing concerts and dances. I should add that in the nine piece band the youngest member, apart from myself, was thirty and the oldest was around sixty - Quite an experience for a twelve year old!

In May of 1973 my father died very suddenly from a heart attack. I had the option of continuing with the band, or going out on my own. His clarinet was so fundamental to the sound of the band that I thought it would not be right without him, so I decided to disband the band. Now I was an out of work musician.

Thanks to the many musicians I met during the four years with the Sid Phillips Band it was not long before some casual gigs came in. A pianist, Dave Cullin, very kindly recommended me to audition as a replacement for the drummer of the London production of 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. I got the gig - But I wasn't slated to begin for another month. While I was preparing for that show, I got an emergency call from the contractor of Superstar, who was also contracting the show "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"; to sub for that drummer that had been in a car accident that day. I was called at three for curtain up at eight, and was going to have to sight read the show, playing someone else's kit, as there wasn't enough time to get mine there and set up. When I arrived, the frantic conductor thought it was a joke. I was a young looking sixteen, which didn't help, but the minimal rehearsal installed a little faith in my ability. I stayed with Joseph until the drummer recuperated.

During Superstar I began playing sessions, and by the summer of '74, a typical day consisted of two sessions and the show at night. Sessions at this time included Dana Gillespie's "Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle", Robert Palmer's "Sneaking Sally Through The Alley" and Andrew Lloyd Weber's "The Odessa File" soundtrack.

My ambition to join a rock band was becoming strong, and the opportunity came after meeting keyboard player Anne Odelle (Blue mink, Roxy Music), and guitarist Ray Russell (Graham Bond, Georgie Fame). With bassist Klyde McMullin and singer Denny McCaffrey the band Chopyn was formed and I left Superstar to record the bands first and only album, "Grand Slam".

In the fall of '74 I made my first trip out of England, to America, touring with Dana Gillespie. I spent a month in New York City, at the Gramercy Park Hotel, often being addressed as "Ma'am" - long hair, Afghan coat, Patchouli oil and beads...

The first half of '75 I toured with Chopyn, until like so many bands time ran out, and I returned to session work. The rest of '75 and the following year were filled with a hectic schedule of now three sessions a day, leapfrogging my two kits around London. In the summer of '76 I got the call for a project spearheaded by Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno. We rehearsed ad nauseum, played three shows, the last of which was recorded and released as "801 Live". We never played another show with that line up, which was unfortunate.

The chance to meet Jack Bruce came along one summer afternoon when guitarist Hughie Burns (George Michael) recommended Tony Hymas (Jeff Beck) and me for his next project, which turned out to be the Jack Bruce Band. That meeting shaped my career for the next two years - we recorded the album "How's Tricks", did twenty four shows in Europe and twenty in the U.S., and finally a second album, "Sitting On Top Of The World" which wasn't released until much later.

I met and jammed with Jeff Beck and Stanley Clarke in the fall of '78, and together with Tony Hymas, toured Japan. Stanley asked me to join his solo band in '79, which led to a tour of the States and the record "Rocks, Pebbles and Sand." During that time Jeff was recording his next album "There and Back" and needed more songs. Tony and I began writing together, eventually penning "The Pump", "Space Boogie", "Golden Road" and "El Becko", which worked well with the material already written by Jan Hammer. "There and Back" was released in '80, and then we toured the U.S., Japan and the U.K.

In '81, tired of always being the youngest member of the band, I joined Toyah Wilcox (British punk artist) on her first tour of Europe. For the first time, I was the oldest one in the band, not to mention the most experienced, but it was a lot of fun, and we recorded two albums.

Then, out of the blue, Al DiMeola called and asked me to join his band for a tour of the U.S. and Europe in '82. This was a great band, and my first collaboration with Anthony Jackson, who later became part of Protocol. Also, while on tour in New York with Al I met Mike Oldfield at Tony Roma's Ribs. The next year I recorded some tracks for Mike for "Crises", but our partnership was so successful that I ended co-producing and co-engineering the album, and the two albums after that, and the supporting tours. Thus began my producing and engineering "career".

In early 1985 my career changed somewhat - I concentrated more on producing and my hobby of motor racing than playing sessions, until I was asked to become part of Pete Townshend's Deep End big band. He had recorded tracks for "White City" and it was time for him to play live. I signed on along with Dave Gilmore, of Pink Floyd, on guitar, and we did a video of the show at Brixton Academy, "Deep End Live". I returned to more producing and in '86 was called by Jeff Beck to join Jan Hammer, Doug Wimbish and Jimmy Hall for a short tour of Japan. This tour included a show in Karuizawa, where Carlos Santana and Steve Lukather joined us for the encore, and that's where I met Luke (Lukather).

...to be continued