The New Tony Williams Lifetime
The New Tony Williams Lifetime recorded two albums for Columbia, "Believe It" and "Million Dollar Legs" The lineup for both albums was:
He is currently working in The New Tony Williams Lifetime, and is in spectacular form on their "Believe it". The solo on Wildlife is his most cautiously deliberate, and it is interesting to study his phrasing in a less busy context. But his amazing lead on Red Alert is one of those performances where you laugh out loud at the furious virtuosity of it all. So few people seem to be aware of his talent will concede that a Holdsworth solo has less to say to the lay listener than a Santana solo. He may just be one of those musician’s musicians, a consensus which at least is more indicative of quality than either the critic’s or the public’s. And if you were neither a connoisseur nor an aspiring connoisseur you wouldn’t be reading this series. So check him out.
Tony, apparently on the strength of this recommendation alone, telephoned Allan and asked him to join Lifetime. No persuasion was required. Allan packed his guitar and his suitcase and headed west.
It was in Lifetime that he finally discovered what he wanted out of music. They recorded two albums for CBS, the first of which ("Believe It") he regards as some of his best work to date. "I felt freer in there than I’d felt before - not just free to play, I mean free to suggest things. It was a collective thing. But there were all sorts of problems with that band financially, so that in the end, through one thing and another, it petered out. Then I came back, and just got the gig with Gong. I’m not quite sure how it happened."
Along with Williams, bassist Tony Newton and keyboardist Alan Pasqua, he recorded two albums - Believe It and Million Dollar Legs - and toured in 1975 and ‘76. After bad management drove him away from that ensemble (at one point during a tour he ended up stranded in San Francisco with neither money nor a place to stay and had to pawn his guitar to get back to England), Allan recorded his first solo album, Velvet Darkness.
Can you give me a career résumé so far?
ALAN: 1971 I was still in Bradford; 1972 I had an invite from Ray Warleigh to come to London and a place to stay. Later that year I played with, Jon Hiseman in Tempest but I left in ‘73. He thought I played too many notes, I don’t like being told what to do, I’d rather find out for myself. Anyway I was on the dole for six months and in ‘74 I made some guest appearances with Soft Machine. In ‘75 I did two albums with Tony Williams in New York City. I like that place.
No Record Contract, No Big Hoopla, But The Fans Have Kept The Faith For Allan Holdsworth (Guitar World 1982)
Allan Holdsworth wasn’t Stateside for long. But he had a new band this tour, his own. The vocalist, Paul Williams, first appeared with Allan ten years ago in a heavy metal band, Tempest, on the same bill as the old Fleetwood Mac at the Fillmore East. Tempest didn’t make it big, and the next time Holdsworth appeared in the U.S. he was filling the chair formerly occupied by another British guitarist, John McLaughlin, in drummer Tony Williams’ Lifetime. Holdsworth was already a guitar legend, having recorded in Europe with Soft Machine, the prototypical jazz-rock fusion outfit. Guitar fans strained to hear Allan’s outrageous lines, which were buried in a muddy stage mix. After all, it was the drummer’s gig!
GW: When Jimmy Johnson remarked that he was listening to Believe It on the way down to yesterday’s session, you winced. That album is really something of a landmark, and your playing is a great part of what distinguishes it.
HOLDSWORTH:: Well, it was a great period for me in terms of being introduced to some really unbelievable musicians; that’s when I met Tony [Williams] and Alan Pasqua and Tony Newton, and hanging out and just being given a chance to play with them was really amazing. Alan is a truly astounding musician and I’ve always loved the way he plays. It’s also only in the last five years that I realized what kind of a genius the guy is. Same with Gary Husband. But getting back to that particular period, I hated what I did on that record. I can’t listen to it, but I thought everybody else sounded great. But I did the best I could at the time, so, that’s all you can do, unfortunately I wish I could go back and do ‘em all again [laughs].
MP: You went on to work with Tony Williams in his New Lifetime, you did an album Million Dollar Legs, any recollections of that?
AH: Yeah it was wonderful, apart from some of the financial hazards. It was a wonderful experience obviously such an amazing musician. I learned such a lot from him I know all of the guys in the band that’s how I got to meet Alan Pasqua who’s still one of my favorite musicians on the planet. He was great…
Q: Let’s go back a little bit. After hearing Clapton and being a fan, did you then pursue getting equipment like that, and buy a Les Paul?
Allan: I never liked Les Pauls. After I had the semi-hollow guitar, my dad bought me a Strat, and I played that for about 6 months. Then I made the mistake of going into this music store in Leeds, and I saw a SG custom in the window, a white one with 3 pick-ups. I played that thing, and that was it. So a friend of mine took over the payments on the Strat, and I started a new payment plan on the SG. And I basically used that SG pretty much right the way through until Tony Williams. I love those guitars. That one was lost mysteriously. The tour manager of Tony’s band was owed some money and he had my guitar, and what he did is, he took my guitar down to the pawn shop and sold it. So when I came back to carry on working with Tony, my guitar was in the window of Sam Ash’s or something. And I couldn’t get it back, because I couldn’t prove that it was mine. It was there for sale, but they wanted so much money for it that I had to go buy another SG somewhere else. This was right around that time of the first albu m, Believe It. And then I got this other SG Custom, a really nice one, but it was black, and that was a beautiful guitar. Then the band got stranded in San Francisco and I had to sell that one to get home.
So, how did the Gong projects come about?
Well, it’s funny because it kind of intertwined. I then went to do the thing with Tony Williams and stayed there in New York and then we had some real problems. Not with Tony or the band, because that was the other thing - I loved that band - enjoyed every minute of it - but it was really rough financially. I stayed at Tony’s house which was fine. I didn’t need any money and he took really good care of me. But when we were on tour, we had got back to New York and I’d scraped together enough money to get a plane ticket back to see my girlfriend. So I was there, hanging out, and then I phoned back to see what was happening, and then I found out that the tour manager didn’t get paid and he was in charge of my guitar and he sold it!
"That was the first and only time that I ever got that attached to an instrument. I was mortified! I only had one - I carried it everywhere - I used to buy a ticket for it on the plane... I’d had a lot of SG’s - but instruments are like that - you can make 50 of them but there’ll only be one of them that’s any good - some of them might be OK, but only one of them will be magic and so it was sold and I was completely bombed out. So then I went back to New York and had to buy a new guitar and there in the window was hanging my guitar! But I couldn’t prove it was my guitar and it was more money than I could afford, so I had to buy something else! So I bought another one and then we did another tour and ended up on the West Coast, ended up in San Francisco. And then the band ran out of money. Tony went back to New York to find out why there was no more money and both me and Alan Pasqua had no hotel - we were absolutely out on the street with a suitcase and a guitar. So we went down to the club where we’d been playing and the waitresses there gave us free drinks. We found the guy who had put us up for the night and we get back to this guy’s house in the evening and he said, ‘yeah, you can stay in this bed and you stay in that bed’. And we get back after the club had closed and there were two other guys in those beds! So this went on for three nights, and after the third night I said, ‘Man, I can’t hack this anymore’, so I took my guitar to the pawn shop and sold it. Alan Pasqua lent me the money (he lived in New Jersey at the time) to get from San Francisco to New Jersey and bought the ticket with my guitar from New York to London. I didn’t have anything! Just a suitcase.
"Tony Newton was OK, because he lived in Los Angeles, so a ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles wasn’t really expensive. So that’s when this thing came about with Gong. I got this call from Nicholas Powell, who actually managed me for a while. He split from Virgin Records and wanted to get involved in the video stuff. He really helped me out. In fact, it was Nicholas Powell who gave me the free studio time on the barge to record the IOU album.