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CHAPTER EIGHT- POSTHUMOUS
(The revival of interest in Steve in the 1990's, limited edition Shagrat releases on Pyg Track, the Missing Link CD)

With Steve Took's death came the end of any hope of Steve becoming a star in his own right, but it opened up the new possibility of him gaining recognition as a deceased cult artist. Certainly, one might well have thought that in the aftermath of Steve's death, at least some sort of revival of interest in his own music might have been a practical possibility, indeed Les Best was reportedly toying with this very idea in 1981, as were various other parties in possession of old Took material. Sadly however, as the early 80s wore on, such plans lost their momentum and although in time the building blocks for a posthumous interest in Steve Took did gradually come together, this was not to occur until the 1990's and for the first decade or so after Took's demise, he was to remain quietly forgotten, a footnote in music history, or at best as having been Marc Bolan's original bongo player. If any mythology was generated by Took's death, it was mainly Tyrannosaurus Rex that reaped the benefit, with the way that the loss of Took compounded that of Bolan to quickly give the sixties acoustic duo the unique mystique of being a "entirely wiped out" band, thus utterly disconnecting them from reality and accountability.  Steve's own music, meanwhile, if it ever got a look in during the 1980s, only got it in similar terms to those as listed above in Pete Frame's Rock Family Trees.  For the most part, however, writers would either quickly mention the Pink Fairies or simply assume him to have spent his post-Bolan days busily consuming drugs.  Indeed, with reference to that last point, Took would also enter Rock 'n Roll notoriety with the manner of his death, often indelicately described as 'choking to death on a cherry', officially classified as some sort of  'Comedy Death' and deemed suitable for use in composing sick jokes in 'Fascinating Facts columns in music papers, such as Vox magazine in early 1995. Steve and his music, it seemed, had been quietly erased from the collective consciousness of the world.

The obstacles seemed to set in almost immediately following news of Took's death, with the first stop being the obituaries columns of the weekly music press.  Melody Maker appears to have simply ignored the story, however Charles Shaar Murray wrote an obituary for the NME. This however did more harm than good, as Shaar Murray bizarrely appeared to imply that Took had never performed live since leaving Marc, a strange claim since, as we have seen CSM had previously reviewed a Steve gig in 1974.  Perhaps Shaar Murray had some personal grudge against Steve, as during the obituary he bitched about Took being "untrustworthy" and having "lived off ... whatever he could scrounge from his friends."  The feature did contain one interesting quote from an anonymous friend who stated that "people egged him on to be a clown and just to fool around, but underneath it all he was a really good songwriter. If he'd just written songs and not stopped considering himself as a performer he would have done pretty well."  This however overlooks how were the onstage jokes and clowning were a staple part of Steve's performances, often as much the result of public demand as actual fallibility. Whatever private agenda Shaar Murray might have had for all this, the final tragedy was that his words were widely taken in all innocent naivety as being gospel truth by much of Bolan fandom. One fanzine obituary, for example, reported that Took had been "happy just to live off old royalties" and had had no further career ambitions.

Thus it was that the one group of people who could have brought about a rediscovery of Took's music were left under the misapprehension of its nonexistence. With nothing released on vinyl (aside from the two tracks on Twink's LP) Steve Took seemed destined to be remembered by history as being only the percussionist on Marc Bolan's early work, while his own music, it seemed, would languish in obscurity, utterly forgotten. And for the first decade or so after Steve's death, this, sadly is exactly how things remained. Aside from the two tracks on Twink's album, for ten years things remained exactly the same way as they had during Steve's life - no material available whatsoever. Worse still, with Steve dead, the one outlet for his songs which had previously existed - his live performances - was cut off. Not only was it impossible to get any recorded material of Steve, but furthermore, there seemed to be an almost total blackout on information regarding Steve's music, other than brief, often inaccurate snippets such as the Rock Family Trees entry mentioned above. The lack of primary historical resources would have stood as a major obstacle to any Took researchers around this time. In the months after his death, Steve's flat reportedly fell victim to a series of visits, during which many of his personal effects, including songwriting tapes, vanished. Matters have been somewhat compounded by over the next few years by the deaths of several of Steve's musical and social collaborators; Dave Bidwell of a heroin overdose, Bob Calvert in 1985 as well as Bidwell's wife Patty and one of Steve's girlfriends Angie. (Later Mick Wayne died in a housefire in America in 1994 and Tony Secunda passed away of a heart attack in 1995.) Thus many valuable personal sources of information were made permanently unavailable.

With no information or recordings readily available, the standard history of this era seemed to run in most accounts more or less as follows: "Steve left Marc, played with the Pink Fairies a bit, took lots of drugs and died in 1980." And for a long time, this was all it seemed most people could be bothered to know about Steve's post-Bolan career. A break in the situation came, however, in 1987 when Nigel Cross, a writer and Pink Fairies fan, conducted an interview with Larry Wallis for the rock magazine Forced Exposure. As with several of Took's interviews, quotes from this interview have already been featured in this article. Amongst other subjects, Wallis discussed Took's fondness for Arthur Lee's band Love, describing how this had been an influence on both Took's music and later his own, as a result of Took's efforts to convert him to Lee's merits. Wallis also discussed the Strawberry Studios session, the Shagrat gig at Phun City and Steve Took's Horns. The two main upshots of this interview were to be the first ever dedicated Took releases and the first ever published attempt at a Took career biography. As a result Nigel Cross and Larry Wallis approached Colin Hill, owner of (High on the) Pyg Track, a tiny independent record label based in Launceston, Cornwall which specialised in rarities from the '60s/'70s underground/progressive era, with a view to releasing some Took material Wallis had in his private archive. These were the master tape of the 1971 acoustic version of Amanda and an acetate of Peppermint Flickstick from the Strawberry Studios Shagrat session, and in October 1990, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his death, Steve Took's debut single, "Amanda" was finally released in Pyg Track imprint Shagrat Records in a limited edition of 600 copies. Peppermint Flickstick was featured on the B-Side although regrettably the odd speed of the acetate was not taken into account and as a consequence, the B-Side was pressed up at too slow a playing speed.

The other main ramification - Nigel Cross's "Beautiful Dreamer - A Tribute to Steve Took" article, was published in Rockerilla magazine. More of a personal biography than a career history, the article is somewhat overflowing in material regarding Tyrannosaurus Rex, with for example the formation of Shagrat only coming two-thirds of the way through the feature and the Penetration interview wilfully dismissed as an historical resource. It was this article that encouraged the treating of 1973-1976 as a period of "twilight years". Nonetheless, it did at least mark a positive appraisal of Steve's talents and after years of his being dismissed as a hopeless loser, it did provide the beginnings of an alternative approach to Took. The record release and the article were to spawn further examples of either category. A year later, some more material resurfaced in Wallis' collection. Comprizing the master tape of "Strange Sister" "Still Yawning Stillborn" and "Beautiful Deceiver" along with two further acetates of electric tracks, "Boo! I Said Freeze" and "Steel Abortion". The five tracks were pressed up together as a 12" EP entitled 'Nothing Exceeds Like Excess', with the three acoustic tracks playing at 45rpm on Side One and the two electric tracks playing on Side Two at 33 1/3 rpm. Although again the acoustic tracks were in pristine condition in terms of sound quality, the pressing of "Boo! I Said Freeze" played too slowly, and while that of "Steel Abortion" did play at the correct speed, sadly Hill lacked the resources to properly clean up the track, and so when played, the scratches on the acetate cause no end of interference.

Four hundred copies of the disc were pressed up, featuring a somewhat garish picture sleeve by the late Edward Barker, a noted underground cartoonist. While some of Took's acquaintance felt it to be an accurate summary of Steve's personality, there were others who argued that it was both disrespectful to Took and perpetuated an irritating stereotype of the man. Nonetheless, this release, together with the earlier single, did constitute the first ever proper Steve Took releases and even managed to earn Steve his first-ever Radio 1 airplays, when Strange Sister and possibly other tracks were played by Mark Radcliffe on his late-evening show in the early '90s; Radcliffe would proclaim Took "a f---ing GENIUS!" after having played the aforementioned track. A new, more informative career biography was also written about Steve in 1993 by Clive Zone. Entitled "Flight of a Sparrow," (a name apparently inspired by the Waterproof Sparrows, Steve's first, pre Bolan band) the feature was serialised over seven editions of "Rumblings" the magazine of the 'Tyrannosaurus Rex Appreciation Society' (later renamed 'The Bolan Society'.) Although still fairly top-heavy in material regarding Tyrannosaurus Rex, as might be expected given the publication for which it was intended, the feature did uncover a great deal of information about the goings on before and during Steve's time with Bolan. It also managed to confound many a sceptic by providing the first confirmation, outside of the Penetration interview, of the existence of the 1974 band (from Adrian Shaw.) When serialised in 'Rumblings,' much of the photographic content of the original manuscript was removed/replaced, and Zone has since commented that given the chance, he would now largely rewrite the feature. Nevertheless, it did serve to plug several gaps in Steve's career history and establish a reasonable continuity for the period 1970-77, and as such has served as a good timeline for the novice Took fan.

The most high-profile release of Steve's music to date, however, came when in 1994 Tony Secunda came forward with Took material from the sessions recorded in the basement flat of his Mayfair offices which Steve occupied while under Secunda's management. After a delay due the finding of further electric material, the tapes were then subjected to extensive post-production work and mixing by American producer Len Del Rio, a ten-track CD "Steve Peregrine Took - The Missing Link To Tyrannosaurus Rex" was issued by Los Angeles-based label Cleopatra Records on their Collectors Series imprint in 1995.This was a pivotal moment as it effectively represented the closest the world had ever come - or indeed has since come - to a début LP for Took. The production work and the packaging of the record would seem to suggest that Cleopatra were trying to market the record in much the same vein as Syd Barrett's '70s solo efforts, to which indeed the sleevenotes, written by Dave Thompson (and partly reproduced in his book 'Space Daze') make a fairly direct comparison; also the sleeve art (featuring a reverse-scanned image of Steve circa 1968) was styled in the fashion of a particularly lysergic Prog Rock/Ambient album sleeve. While from a commercial point of view it is understandable, it does perhaps give a misleading impression of how Took himself saw his own music - more after the tradition of the likes of Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop.

It is unfortunate that the more accessible Shagrat sessions do not enjoy such a high profile as many newcomers to Steve's music have often found the CD somewhat heavy going to get into. While the tapes undoubtledly feature a great deal of interesting arrangement and musicianship, not least from Steve himself, the "Missing Link" CD does not showcase Steve Peregrin Took's singing - and hence, not his songwriting - in as fine form as might be hoped. On some tracks, Steve's vocals are thin and buried deep in the mix, perhaps disguising their alcohol/drug/fatigue-scarred nature. Nevertheless, as the first Steve Took album ever, its release was a seminal moment in Steve's career, a step up in the world for his music, perhaps best exemplified by how finally he was able to have his own 'Steve Took' section dividers on the racks of branches of HMV and other record stores (although some shops preferred to stock it among Tyrannosaurus Rex albums) It also serves as an interesting documentation of the sort of album Steve might have liked to have made - had he ever grasped the chance.

It had been a long struggle, but gradually the 1990s saw an increase in the profile of Steve's music. For the first time since his death, a substantial amount of Steve's music was readily available to us, and information regarding that music, the man who created it and those who assisted him was published and available. The first half of the 2000s was to see this process go into overdrive - much of it linked to the birth and growth of this very website. Most of the story can be read in this websites news archives, but to recap, the Shagrat sessions were reissued in 2001 on a single CD by Japanese label Captain Trip and imported to the UK and distributed to HMV and Virgin. The Think Pink and Secunda sessions were also re-issued around this time, albeit both in somewhat questionable circumstances. Most important of all, however, Took's Masterpeice, the 1977 Steve Took's Horns sessions, were issued for the first time, as part of a full length album including two other sings fronm the period - Ooh My Heart and Too Bad, as well as the out-take version of Average Man. Orgainsed took fandom has flourished with the growth of a tookie mailing list on Yahoo! Groups (although now largely dormant) and more recently the opening of Myspace and Facebook pages for Took and his music. Meanwhile research continued for an eventual Steve Took book and many of his old friends and colleagues came forward to tell us their story. Only a few pieces remain before this particular jigsaw puzzle complete. The net result has been the building of a cannon of Steve Took music, images and knowledge - a prioper basis from where Steve can gain a true measure of respect as an artist by the rock/pop world at large.


INTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1 CHAPTER 2 CHAPTER 3 CHAPTER 4 CHAPTER 5 CHAPTER 6 CHAPTER 7 CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSION

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