Last year, I lost a good friend and mentor. Jim Percy, my first pro bandleader, drummer, singer, entrepreneur extraordinaire, scourge of venues and agents. He was a one-off, and I learned so much from him. He was taken much too young, and when I went to see his widow, Cheryl, we talked of the album we’d made with the band – Apollo – in Copenhagen back in 1979. We only ever released it on good ol’ musicassette, and she said she’d no idea where it was. I told her I still had a copy, and I would put it onto CD for her and their sons.
When I unearthed it, I discovered it had degraded a great deal, with a multitude of drop outs and an overwhelming amount of tape hiss. So I did my best to pep it up a bit using Garage band and audacity programmes to rescue it as best I could.
I found that revisiting this album – a selection of covers from the era – drew me back to those days in a wave of nostalgia. We worked bloody hard back then, 8 x 45 minute spots a night, 5 nights a week. but we played hard too. The album eventually got us out of Denmark and into Norway, where we secured a relatively easy 4 x 45 minute spots per night!
I remember Jim having an argument with a nightclub manager when we arrived in Drammen, near Oslo. They guy was moaning about our fee, pointing out that Eastern Bloc bands would work for a fraction of the cost. (remember, in those days, Eastern bloc bands would’ve sold their own Grandmothers to gig in the West) Jim verbally lashed the guy, leaving him in no doubt as to why we cost more. Then, after watching the outgoing Eastern bloc band’s last show, where they proceeded to annihilate an already bad song -“Physical” by Olivia Newton-John, complete with mangled eengleesh, we took the stage for the first time the following night.
Jim took the mic as we introduced ourselves and prepared for the month-long residency in this lovely Norwegian town:
“Hi, we’re Apollo from England. If anybody wants to get “Physical”, come over here and I’LL KNEE THEM IN THE NUTS!!”
The guy was, and will always be, a legend.
He also used to sing what we all referred to as “The naffers”. Easy listening songs that helped the rest of us draw breath during those marathon 8 set gigs. Songs like “The Last Farewell”, and “Streets of London.” For me, “Streets” was synonymous with Jim, and I recorded a tribute version of it to him which I included on the ‘salvaged’ Apollo CD.
I spent some time on a re-worked cover for the album. Using the original logo which I designed at the time, and also altering and photoshopping a group promo shot. I also dug out a load of old pics from the time and memorabilia, which I made into a montage for the centre.
I’m glad I’ve saved this album. It reminds me of a younger time, and some wonderful memories, and a good friend.
PS: Bob or Blue, if you read this, and you’d like a copy, just leave a message!
It is with a heavy heart that I make this post, but I wanted to pay tribute to the man who gave me my first job as a professional musician. Sadly, Jim Percy died suddenly after collapsing at his home in Doncaster on Sunday, and is survived by wife Cheryl and sons James and Adam. I spent a wonderful two years touring Scandinavia with Jim and Cheryl, as part of the band APOLLO. During that time, we lived virtually in each others pockets, so even when I left the band to form Tubeless Hearts in 1981, I always kept in touch with them both. Jim was cocky, self-assured, and the only muso I know who could outplay the agents at their own game. He also had a wicked sense of humour. He had honed his skills as a top class percussionist with the Coldstream guards, and along with his abilities, he also inherited from them a host of army stories that were beyond hilarious. Many, many evenings we would be crying with laughter into the wee small hours as he told tales of horses headbutting clarinets into players’ mouths, thunderous avalanches of Oranges on timpani at the Guards’ Harvest festival performance at the Royal Albert Hall, or the settling of inter-barrack grudges by the painful “plastic mugs at dawn” duels.
I remember him negotiating for a month residency, quoting our fee, perhaps 40,000 krone – and the hotel manager saying; “30,000” to which Jim would reply: 50,000! The guy would look confused, saying “but I thought you said your fee was 40,000” To which Jim said, “exactly, so stop offering me less!”
Jim’s influence on my career cannot underestimated. He gave me confidence as a performer, and two years worth of solid, well-paid work that certainly had the effect that I have continued to be a pro musician for a further 30 years.
He had a great aversion to the cheap Eastern bloc bands undercutting us and taking our work, and once , we arrived at a residency a day early and caught some Czech band performing a painfully bad version of ‘Physical’ by Olivia Newton John. It really set Jim off, seeing them murder what was already a bad song, and getting a gig because they were so cheap. So the following night, when we began our stint there, before we had even played a note, he announced;
“Good evening, we’re Apollo from England, and if anybody wants to get ‘physical’, come over here and I’ll knee them in the nuts!”
Rest in peace, Jim – You were one of a kind, and they’ll never make another one.