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1967, Lon­don. This band was called “Sam Gopal Dream”. The orig­i­nal band that was all instrumental…I played bass and B3 (on the left), Mick Hutchin­son played ragas on gui­tar (on the right), and Sam Gopal (cen­ter) played Tablas. We played all the Psy­che­del­ic Lon­don clubs includ­ing the “UFO Club” in Tot­ten­ham Court Road, “Hap­pen­ing 44”, “Elec­tric Gar­den” lat­er “Mid­dle Earth” in Covent Gar­den, we played the 14 hr Tech­ni­col­or Dream at “Alexan­der Palace” (our set began at 5am…John Lennon was there that night), “Christ­mas on Earth Con­tin­ued 1967” with Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Fair­port Con­ven­tion, Jimi Hen­drix, Traf­fic. We all played the same clubs.

Jimi Hen­drix sat in with us once at the “Speakeasy” in London…I looked up from the Ham­mond B3 I was play­ing and there he was play­ing Mick­’s gui­tar and using the mic stand as a slide. Mick had hand­ed Jimi his gui­tar and picked up my bass to play…Dave Mason came up a bit later.

Mick and I would often walk for 30 miles a day going here and there with our guitars…talking non-stop and solv­ing the world’s problems…perhaps occa­sion­al­ly adding to them. At one point we were low enough on mon­ey and gigs that we decid­ed to look for a tem­po­rary job of some sort. The hours were impor­tant because we need­ed the after­noons and evenings free to play music. We tried a few things…even work­ing at the Vox gui­tar fac­to­ry where they had me chis­el­ing out pick-up holes on my first day there. I pity the poor bas­tard who bought that guitar…Mick’s job was gui­tar tester which basi­cal­ly meant he got to play gui­tar all day; he’d pret­ty much let any­thing go past (with­in reason)…fortunately for me. I got the hang of it pret­ty fast though.…not that there was much skill in what I was doing. We knew the man­ag­er did­n’t like us, not sub­servient enough to him, so we quit when we caught wind he was going to fire us…didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

As a bass play­er the time I spent inter­act­ing with Sam’s Tablas was invaluable…and I still draw from those sub­tle bass Tabla rhythms when I get into a par­tic­u­lar­ly free form jam with the right musi­cians today.
Play­ing those long impro­vi­sa­tion­al instru­men­tal sets with Mick and Sam in the orig­i­nal Sam Gopal Dream instilled in me the impor­tance of becom­ing as one with your fel­low musicians…to with­out think­ing move instan­ta­neous­ly togeth­er like a school of fish…as one brain. Like a form of musi­cal telepa­thy real­ly. I remem­ber one very long impro­vised jam we got into at “Mid­dle Earth Club” in Covent Gar­den, Lon­don in 1967. We had always jammed off this par­tic­u­lar theme in the key of E. I was play­ing a Ham­mond B3 for this tune, although I usu­al­ly played my Gib­son EB0 bass for most of the oth­ers. I was play­ing a Tam­bu­ra type drone on the low­er man­u­al that Mick and Sam were impro­vis­ing over, and my right hand was play­ing ragas. The audi­ence was entranced…they were sit­ting cross legged on the floor with their heads down…I sus­pect as high if not high­er than we were. Sud­den­ly with­out any pre-arranged signals…Mick and I simul­ta­ne­ous­ly moved up a half step to the key of F. No tra­di­tion­al musi­cal cues to prompt the brain into a rule based diversion…nothing. Com­plete and absolute spon­tane­ity. It hit us like an emo­tion­al hurricane…filling us with a warmth…a nat­ur­al high…a musi­cal rush. Mick, Sam and I all looked up at the same time…our eyes locked and tears welled up. I haven’t expe­ri­enced that feel­ing to quite the same inten­si­ty before or since…although I’ve come close a hand­ful of times. The cli­mate you are play­ing in has to be just right…the audi­ence, the club, a sense of unqual­i­fied musi­cal free­dom and the con­fi­dence and com­plete sup­port of your fel­low musi­cians. The lis­ten­er feeds the band and the band feeds the listener…it’s cyclical.