Jackie Magazine (January 9, 1965)

Talking With The Takers…

Phew!

I’ve just met up with the Takers again. I’d almost forgotten that they’re the maddest bunch you could ever hope to meet – and also the nicest! When you get through their barricade of quick fire wit, one things stands out – they’re happy with life, with their music and with each other.

The Takers have other interests in common. I’ve never seen a group with so much photographic gear. Chris Huston carts around as much with him as the Jackie pic-man. (By the way, those two went into a huddle for some camera chat and didn’t service for hours.)

Geoff Nugent is much better…”I just bought a cine camera,” he said. “Trouble is they expect me to keep a movie record of the group. And, brother, am I running through the reels.”

‘Boots’ – otherwise known as sax man, Brian Jones – has flipped for a different sort of lens. When everybody else is in dreamland, the hotel window will open and out will pop – a telescope! Not just an ordinary telescope, but a big ‘un on a tripod stand, with all the fittings. Now Brian’s got himself another nickname, Moon Man.

I was yakking with Brian in the hotel room when I suddenly heard ping! PING! I looked out the window…A couple of ledges away, I saw Geoff. He was armed with an air pistol AND an air rifle and was firing away at a couple of old cans on a wall – three storeys down.

Like I said – they’re a mad lot! And ‘Bugs’ Pemberton must be the maddest drummer in showbiz. Did I ever tell you about the time he wandered around Hamburg in a gorilla skin…and well, that’s another story.

Yes, the Undertakers are a mad, wild, friendly lot. But they’re also sincere. Sincere about their music, their way of life, their friends…That’s why I sincerely wish them a lot of success.

Pete

That was a short article that appeared, together with several photographs, in “Jackie”, a teen magazine that was very popular in the mid sixties. We did a lot of interviews like that, in those days – Lots of fun. This story is taken from interviewer Pete’s reference to Bugs and the Gorilla costume caper.

The Gorilla Costume Caper
Playing endless hours every night at the Star Club was a wonderful education and lots of fun. But living in a strange country – were your comprehension of the language was, to say the least limited to basic salutations, ordering food and swear words – was even more fun. Removed from parental oversight, it was as if you could take liberties that you wouldn’t normally consider, back home on Merseyside. This is one such incident of idle minds put to creative use:

We were all backstage at the star Club. This was our second trip to Hamburg and we had been eagerly awaiting it. Our first trip had made such an impression on us. Anyway, this particular evening we were just sitting around in the dressing room backstage, having just finished our first set of the evening. American singer Davey Jones, (who had, apparently, a hit of some kind with a song called “Amapola”) who was also performing there, came into the room with what looked like a big lump of what looked like ‘fur’ over his arm. It was the gorilla suit he put on when he did a song called “I Go Ape”.

I don’t remember exactly how it all transpired, maybe Davey put Bugs up to the stunt? But, knowing Bugs, it was most probably his idea. Anyway, It was decided that Bugs would get dressed up in this mangy piece of fake fur and go out and terrorize the innocent tourists and inhabitants of St. Pauli. Dressed up and ready to go, Bugs looked quite convincing as the costume was pretty damn good with a mask that, especially at night, looked pretty real and definitely scary.

Bugs set off down the Groß Freiheit towards the Reeperbahn being led along with a length of chain around his neck. At the other end of the chain was Davey Jones dressed in his Arabian Sheik costume: long flowing silk robes and a colorful turban. Bugs got into character effortlessly as soon as he hit the street. He was lurching along, taking swipes at tourists who were walking up and down the narrow street. Every club along the Groß Freiheit had a barker/bouncer outside whose job it was to lure the unsuspecting tourists into the various strip clubs and bars. They all knew us, and seeing this strangely clad figure with Davey Jones must have quickly guessed that ‘Die Totengräber’ (our German name meaning the Grave Diggers) were up to no good – as usual. Those guys – the bouncers – were very protective of us Liverpool musicians and although our conversations with them were limited to salutations like Guten Morgen, Guten Tag, Gute Nacht and Tschüss, we got on great with them. In fact several of them came to Bugs rescue on one occasion when a local thug got him cornered in an alley and was going to beat him up, or worse, for allegedly (hmmm…) messing around with his girlfriend.

Upon getting to the end of the Groß Freiheit, where it meets the Reeperbahn, they saw the old man who sold newspapers there, everyday, rain or shine. Bugs lurched up behind the guy and when he turned around, his curiosity peeked by all the tourists screaming and getting out of the way, grabbed all the newspapers out of the poor, confused mans hands. Bugs proceeded to tear up every paper the old man had. Not content to savage the newspapers he’d grabbed off him, he set about the big pile at the mans feet. Next Davey and Bugs sneaked into a strip club and Bugs knocked over a table. A woman employee came at him with a big piece of wood with a big nail through it, so they got out of there in a hurry.

Next stop was the Rotisserie Chicken shop on the Reeperbahn. In there, Bugs jumped up on the counter and was chased out. It didn’t take long for the siren of a Polizei car to sound in the distance and Bugs and Davey took off, back up the Groß Freiheit to our apartment which was above the infamous Colibri strip club, which was right across from the Star Club.

He changed out of the gorilla costume back into his shirt and jeans and, when he thought the coast was clear, went back across the street to the club. He came into the dressing room and found us all sitting there looking real grave (pun intended). Barely keeping straight faces, we told Bugs that the Polizei had been to the club looking for him and he had to present himself, with his passport, at the main St. Pauli police station which was located on the Davidstraße, a little way down the Reeperbahn.

Later that evening, Bugs presented himself at the Police station and told the policeman at the front desk that he was the gorilla that they were looking for. This understandably caused some confusion as nobody had any idea what he was talking about. Eventually an officer with a command of the English language, albeit extremely limited, was found and an effort to understand this strange young foreigner was made. Bugs slowly explained again that he was the gorilla that they were looking for, from the night before. This only resulted in a lot head-scratching and huddled conversations. After a few more frustrating attempts to explain himself, Bugs was told that he should leave the police station before they locked him up for being verrückt – crazy!

When he got back to the club, Bugs found us laughing our heads off, having played a big joke on him. In fact. the Polizei had come to the club wanting to know what the crazy English musicians had been up to now? Manfred had, as we learned was quite a common occurrence in that area of Hamburg, given them a small monetary incentive to forget our transgressions, and they’d gone happily away.

© 2004 Christopher Huston

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