Musician - Author
The Story behind the Song
Handbags and Gladrags
by Graham Sclater
I spent many years living and playing my Hammond organ with bands in clubs around Germany although much of the time was spent in Hamburg at the Star Club, Top Ten and Kaiser Keller.
I joined the soul band The Manchester Playboys in Hamburg in 1967, we had a month’s residency at the Savoy Club in Hannover.
Most clubs booked one resident band for the month playing seven days a week. It was great for any musician who wanted to learn their craft because we would play six or more forty minute sets every evening with a fifteen minute break between each of them. Weekdays the start was around seven in the evening while on a Saturday it would be a much earlier start.
We were told that a chart band would be performing at the club on Saturday 9th March and we needed to work our playing times out accordingly. They were expected to be at the club and ready to play after our 10 o’clock break. That was crucial because anyone under eighteen had to leave clubs at that time. Every club was regularly visited by police who would check everyone’s ID looking for anyone underage.
The manager hadn’t told us that Manfred Mann had been booked and would be coming direct from a pre-recorded session for the hugely successful Beat Club which was watched on Sunday afternoons across Germany.
When we took our ten o’clock break there was no sign of the band. The manager asked us to start again at a quarter past ten and the crowd were clearly not happy. We took a break and did another set. People were getting increasingly noisy, raucous and very drunk.
At a quarter past twelve the band’s roadies came into the club and approached the stage. They explained that their backline was still on its way and asked if the band could use our amps, drums and my Hammond. We had no option so agreed.
They moved my Hammond to the centre of the stage and within a few minutes Manfred Mann started to play. The crowd were too drunk to appreciate them and began throwing bottles and glasses at Manfred. He ducked below my Hammond and the glass and bottles smashing at my organ. Although Mike D’Abo was suffering from a severe cold they managed to play for about forty minutes then, to huge jeers and threats they left the stage and took refuge in our meagre dressing room.
The road crew had miscalculated that what was usually a two hour journey from Bremen to Hannover was almost doubled due to overnight road works.
The club emptied and while I was removing the pieces of glass from my Hammond I heard the out of tune piano at the back of the stage being played. I walked over and realised that between coughs and sneezes it was Mike D’Abo playing. He told me it was a song he was working on and I was taken by a couple of the lines of lyrics which stuck with me.
Months later I heard the song on the juke box in the bier shop in Gros Freiheit. The song written by Mike D’Abo had been recorded by Chris Farlowe and was “Handbags and Gladrags”.
There have been many recordings made of this song but my favourite version is that by the Stereophonics in 2001 which reached number 4 in the charts.
Whichever version I hear it takes me back to that evening in the smoky, Savoy Club in Hannover.
Graham Sclater is a music publisher, record producer and author and is the CEO of Tabitha Publishing Limited.
Graham Sclater, the author of this book, spent much of the sixties living and working as a musician in Hamburg. Ticket to Ride is an account of some of the events that many English groups experienced and wished to forget. It is dedicated to the
many musicians who failed to survive the trauma and returned to England.
During the mid-sixties, at the peak of
the English group scene in Germany, dozens of groups made the short trip across the English Channel to northern Europe in search of fame and fortune. This novel follows the exploits of a naïve under-age five-piece group from the South West of England as they make the futile search for success in Germany.
Although they set out to follow the path of the Beatles, they soon fall deep into the world that their contemporaries were fortunate enough to escape.
Based predominantly on the Reeperbahn, the Red Light district of Hamburg, the group is soon dragged down, their lives affected forever by the everyday world of prostitution, sex, drugs and violence, resulting in a total breakdown of the values that they once believed in. Realising too late that they have no way out, the story charts their desperation and untimely failure.
‘Given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.’
Reg Simms - Organist - The Cheetahs.
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