HEAVY METAL KIDS
© Dave Ling - October 2003 - previously published in CLASSIC ROCK magazine
The tale of the Heavy Metal Kids is a topsy-turvy, rags-to-rehab saga of comedy, drama and tragedy. Stranger still, it’s recently gone full circle with the addition of some new chapters, though minus its central character. Fundamental to this story is the London-based band’s choice of moniker, a tongue in cheek though decidedly ill-suited name that its five members were initially partial to, but which would prove to be a curse as well as a blessing.
The Kids (as they later preferred to call themselves) were simply ahead of their time – a riotous, hell-raising, collection of rock’n’roll rebel-rousers who not only went on to befriend punk rock icons like the Sex Pistols and the Damned, but also musically inspired them. Indeed, their flamboyant, high-energy rock has been cited as the missing link in the story of Britpop.
At the eye of their hurricane was a singer now infinitely better known as a TV personality. Those who knew Gary Holton say that carpentry aside, he didn’t have to act too much to portray Wayne Winston Norris, the skirt-chasing, beer-swilling, loveable rogue that charmed the nation in the brickies abroad TV comedy Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. It’s common knowledge that Holton died of a heroin overdose – indeed, the series was revived after a 16-year absence with a love-child son taking his place – but Gary’s musical career is also worthy of considerable note.
"Gene Simmons’ hair caught fire. He dropped to his knees and whacked his head against the floor
to put it out. We were in hysterics… who wouldn’t have been?"
A quintet comprising Holton, guitarist Mickey Waller, bassist Ronnie Thomas, keyboard player Danny Peyronel and drummer Keith Boyce, the Heavy Metal Kids were born thirty years ago in typically bizarre circumstances. Mickey Waller and Ronnie Thomas had been with Heaven, a band billed as England’s answer to Blood Sweat & Tears, but with prospects fast fading. Under the guise of a farewell gig in Southend, they collared Keith Boyce as replacement for their Glitter Band-bound percussionist, loaded the transit with equipment and fled from their manager’s winding up order to accept – of all things – a residency in an Indian restaurant in the South of France.
“It was playing Rolling Stones covers to 20 customers a night in Nice,” recalls Boyce. “But it lead to some better gigs in St Tropez.”
A paternity suit kept their singer in France, but Heaven had to return home at some point. In need of a new frontman they turned to Gary Holton of the band Biggles, who despite a raucous Cockney accent had joined the touring company of Hair two years earlier, aged just 17. Holton was becoming unhappy at Biggles’ progressive rock pretensions.
“They were like Emerson Lake & Palmer, in fact Carl Palmer’s brother Steve was their drummer,” divulges Ronnie Thomas. “We’d smoke dope and watch Gary rehearse with them, caterwauling above all this synchronized jazz-rock. Like us, he was a complete looner.”
“Biggles had a huge record deal but had never recorded a note, just like Heaven,” adds Boyce sagely. “They blew their entire advance; never even did a gig.” The addition of Argentinean-born keyboard player Danny Peyronel from The Rats completed the line-up.
“My American accent soon became a Cockney one, but till then Gary and Mickey put me through hell,” Danny winces. “When I spoke correctly I became one of the boys. It made me realise that Gary could be sharp and obnoxious, but also the nicest guy you could wish to meet.”
Ronnie recalls Ricki Farr, the band’s manager (whose boxer father Tommy once fought Joe Louis), suggesting the group call themselves the Heavy Metal Kids, from the writings of William S Burroughs. The choice was viewed as a masterstroke, but it would backfire.
Co-manager Laurie O’Leary secured the Kids a regular gig at his club the Speakeasy, a notorious London hangout for musicians and music biz employees. Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and Bryan Ferry were all regularly spotted hanging out. Despite the clientele’s often blasé atmosphere, the Kids knocked themselves into shape. “It was a great practice ground for us, and Gaz in particular,” Danny explains. “He’d holler, ‘Oi! Fucking listen!’ The only other time I saw the place react the same way was to Bob Marley & The Wailers.”
Having been spotted at the Speak by a secretary of Dave Dee (also of Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich fame), then general manager of the new Atlantic Records office in England, the quintet began to attract label interest.
“They were young and raw, but there was nothing quite like Gary Holton in full flight,” says Dee now. “He’d wander round in a pair of wellington boots – well before Freddie Starr – and a top hat. So Phil Carson and I decided to sign them [for Atlantic], but on a low-key level. What attracted us was that they were all characters. Besides Gary they had Mickey, another legend in his own lunchbox.”
“You’d be halfway up the M1 on the way to a gig, and Mickey would’ve forgotten his guitar,” elaborates Ronnie. “He’d run up huge bar bills – Cognac, everything – but have no money to pay. To this day, he lives in Paris and is banned from most bars in the city.”
Dee produced the band’s self-titled, debut in a whirlwind eight days, with the Eagles working on their ‘Desperado’ album in the studio next door. But there was already a problem.
“Gary had begun shoving gear up his nose, and he and I fell out in the studio,” explains Dave. “The others were pretty solid blokes, but Gary was a loose cannon. In the studio, I lost a stone and a half in weight.”
When the album was released in 1974, ‘Ain’t It Hard’, ‘Always Plenty Of Women’ and live set closer ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Man’ captured much of the band’s live ebullience. Though not a huge seller, it upped their profile immensely. The Kids broke Jimi Hendrix’s attendance record at the Marquee, then began gigging across Britain and the continent to what Peyronel describes as “exhaustion point”. More than 300 gigs per year were played, the Melody Maker acknowledging them as “the hardest working band in showbusiness”.
At an early gig at London’s plush King’s Road Theater, the Kids hired a fire-breather as their opening act. “It was a girl, actually,” recalls Peyronel with a smile. “Very exotic-looking.”
Although ‘Heavy Metal Kids’ sold reasonably well, the group found themselves in a vacuum. “There were all these bigger bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, and then there was pub rock like Bebop Deluxe – we were kinda of in the middle,” observes Peyronel. “We supported Heep and Humble Pie, but half of the audience was still out in the Hammersmith Odeon foyer drinking, it didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere. It was much, much different when we got to America. Kids over there would drive 100 miles to see you and were willing to give you a chance.”
Perhaps for the above reason, possibly for the sheer devilment, the Kids garnered a reputation for rearranging hotel rooms. They were banned from the Holiday Inn, Trusthouse Forte and Ramada chains as rooms were flooded, furniture destroyed, kitchens and bars stripped of food and alcohol.
“In this country, you can’t get a ham sandwich after 11 o’clock, and we’d all bowl back after a great gig high as kites,” observes Ronnie. “We were raiding the kitchen one night when suddenly the lights went on. Gary overtook me on the stairs, with a string of raw sausages hanging from his pocket. When I got to the room he was trying to flush ’em down the toilet – hiding the evidence.”
But the Kids outdid themselves the time their road crew snaffled a 15-foot Christmas tree from the reception of Torquay’s Holiday Inn.
“They took it out of the pot and bent it in half to get into the lift, there were all these birds in our room so it was party-time,” recollects Ronnie. “We’d plugged all the lights in when, ‘Bang, bang, bang!’, hotel security were knocking at the door and accusing us of nicking their tree. We tried to deny it, but there was a huge trail of mud from the lift to the door of our room.”
By the time of the second album, 1975’s ‘Anvil Chorus’, there had been many changes – not all of them for the better. Mickey Waller had been replaced by the enigmatically named Cosmo, and Andy Johns taken over as producer. Even this was an after-thought, his brother Glyn Johns (Led Zeppelin/Rolling Stones/The Who) being their first choice.
“Andy walked in with Gary on the first day, and Andy collapsed on the floor,” remembers Boyce. “They were both pissed.”
According to Peyronel, Waller’s departure was enormously significant. “The magic was affected – okay, Mickey sometimes played out of tune,” he muses, “and maybe he also drank too much, but he was the quintessential Heavy Metal Kids guitarist.”
Significantly, they’d also decided to abbreviate their name to The Kids. Reasons Danny: “It gave off the wrong vibes. We weren’t a heavy metal band – metal people don’t think Spïnal Tap is funny.”
Being signed to Atlantic, the Kids crossed paths with Led Zeppelin on a regular basis, even socialising with them from time to time. Peyronel recalls one memorable late night drinking session in Blake’s Hotel in Chelsea suggesting that cracks were appearing in Zeppelin’s internal relations as well as their own.
“John Bonham was at the bar drinking quadruple brandies when Gary went up to him and said something out of earshot,” he says. “Bonham just turned and whacked Gary in the stomach.
When he got his breath back, Gary went up and started, ‘Listen, man, I don’t know what I said…’, and Bonham tries to belt him again. This time Gary was too fast, ran up the stairs into the street with Bonham and his roadies chasing after him and shouting, ‘You bastard, come back here’… it was a scene from hell.
“They had to put Valiums in Bonham’s brandy to calm him down, it was embarrassing,” he says. “Robert Plant, Ronnie [Thomas] and I were chatting afterwards and Plant was saying, ‘I’ve had five years of this lunacy’, it’s unbearable’. Jimmy Page took Gary home, with Gary milking it for all it was worth. The next day they even made a formal apology.”
The band had enjoyed respect from the music press of the era, with Sounds and Melody Maker supporting them from the start. New Musical Express was another kettle of fish entirely, slating them at every opportunity. So when the Kids were told that a journalist from ‘the enemy’ (NME) was requesting an audience in their dressing room at Barbarella’s in Birmingham, they organised a welcome committee. To reach their changing space in the attic, the writer would have to negotiate a steep stairway. A sofa was heaved out onto the landing and a bucket of ice water prepared. You can guess the rest, right?
“The guys from Judas Priest had been with us saying how much they enjoyed the show, when we got the word the journalist was on his way,” beams Ronnie. “We dropped this three-seater armchair down onto the poor sod, then the ice water. He was pinned to the wall, we could’ve killed the fucker, but he took it all in good spirit.” Thomas then shrugs: “We later discovered the guy was actually from Sounds.”
The band’s notoriety took another welcome boost when TV show Panorama filmed them playing ‘The Cops Are Coming’ at the Fulham Greyhound. Reporter Julian Pettifer interviewed the audience about violence at rock concerts, receiving a suitable response from two fans in particular.
“Chub and Andy came to all our gigs in gigs in top hats and Clockwork Orange outfits,” Ronnie chuckles. “They went, ‘Violence, you want violence?’ and nutted this guy, who worked for The Times. Sent him sprawling…”
Consequently, local councils also banned them from playing municipal halls. The promoter of a gig at Bibas in Chelsea also had no idea what he’d let himself in for. “These yuppies were eating a sit-down meal until ‘The Cops Are Coming’, when Gary really let rip,” relates an eyewitness. “He was holding up this fake head dripping with blood, leaping over the tables. It’d been specially made at Madam Tussauds and modeled on his own face. There was claret dripping into people’s prawn cocktails, it was brilliant.”
"We covered Gary’s dick with some Uriah Heep stickers, wound a toilet roll around his head and put on these ladies’ silver stilettos he’d taken to wearing, then carried him on the mattress down in the lift."
Keith Boyce on the night Holton was sacked
Holton’s showmanship certainly wasn’t lost on Alice Cooper, who the band then opened for in America. The Kids played one memorable show in front of 82,000 fans, and Alice regularly watched them from the side of the stage. They also played some shows with Rush, though a run of dates as support for Kiss ended abruptly.
“We were kicked off that tour, and we didn’t regret it for one moment,” admits Danny. “There were two incidents that they took objection to. We arrived early at the gig and talked to some kids who’d been hanging out and buying us drinks; Kiss later claimed that we’d pretended to be them, because nobody knew what they looked like at the time.
“What they really objected to was when Gary and I stood at the side of the stage, and Gene’s hair caught fire,” smirks Peyronel. “He dropped to his knees and whacked his head against the floor to put it out. We were in hysterics… who wouldn’t have been?”
Later on in the States, Holton’s zany antics caused him to fall from the stage and break his leg. Trooper-like, he continued with the leg in a plaster cast. Growing drug problems aside, Peyronel concedes that Holton’s overpowering presence may have overshadowed their music.
“It detracted from the fact that we were a very exciting rock’n’roll band,” he affirms. “Gary sometimes went so far over the top that his outrageous behaviour was all you could see. It was a drag, but you couldn’t complain because that’s what the Heavy Metal Kids were all about.”
Having severed his ties as producer and record label boss, Dave Dee was able to mend his bridges with Holton. “I used to tell Gary, ‘One day you will be a star – you’ve just gotta clean up your act’,” reveals Dave.
“In fact, I tore up a five pound note. I kept one half and gave him the other, telling him that the day he was a star we’d put the fiver back together, and that he could have it. Until about a year ago I still had my half, Gary probably rolled his up and used it for other purposes.”
“People had been telling Gary he was the band’s star, and that he didn’t need us,” reflects Keith Boyce. “He became too big for his boots.”
Finally, on the same night in 1976 that headliners Uriah Heep ejected David Byron – and for the same reasons – the Kids sacked Gary after a gig in Madrid. By then, Holton no longed attended rehearsals and the band felt he was dragging them down. Breaking into his room, they found him naked and comatose on the bed, bottle of brandy in hand.
“We covered his dick with some Uriah Heep stickers, wound a toilet roll around his head and put on these ladies’ silver stilettos he’d taken to wearing, then carried him on the mattress down in the lift,” smiles Boyce. “We left him in the lobby, on a big, round table.”
Discovered by maids the following morning, Holton was arrested. The Heavy Metal Kids didn’t tell him he was no longer their singer, but he got the message.Three months later, after numerous unsuccessful auditions, the band invited him to return. By then growing friction with Cosmo had caused Peyronel to jump ship and join UFO, appearing on the ‘No Heavy Petting’ album in 1976. Danny had suggested John Sinclair of the Jackie Lynton Band as his replacement, but still feels he was forced out unnecessarily.
“I still can’t believe we agreed to let Cosmo join,” he says. “He was completely wrong. We were a band that had shunned virtuosity, but he wanted to show the world how good he was.”
With newcomer Cosmo campaigning for Danny’s ejection, the latter found himself in a resign or be sacked scenario. He reluctantly took the former option. Then, confirming that there was little rhyme or reason to the group’s thinking, Cosmo himself was then succeeded by Barry Paul.
"Johnny Rotten undid this huge gold safety pin and put it on Gary's lapel.
He then patted his cheek and said, 'You've been ripped off, Holton. How does it feel?'"
Considering the group “unmanageable”, Dave Dee and Atlantic happily sold their contract to RAK Records. Mickie Most had fallen in love with the band, throwing himself into the task of producing what would become 1977’s swansong, ‘Kitsch’. Material like ‘She’s No Angel’, ‘Chelsea Kids’ and ‘Squalliday Inn’ ensured that ‘Kitsch’ remains hugely popular among the fans. It’s certainly the most easily obtainable of the group’s original albums, given Atlantic’s continued reluctance to reissue ‘Heavy Metal Kids’ and ‘Anvil Chorus’ on CD. John Sinclair’s arrival, in tandem with Most’s slick production, gave the group a new flavour. Most spent six months mixing the record in private, adding extra orchestration and even bringing in Smokie to sing backing vocals.
“The album almost became an obsession for Mickie, but it still sounded shit to me,” confesses Ronnie. “I stayed in contact with Mickie, God bless his soul, and a few years ago he invited me to his gaff. The port and cigars came out later in the evening, and so did the reel-to-reel tapes. Unmixed, it sounded fucking great.”
During a performance at the Rainbow Theatre in north London, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies from The Damned engaged Holton in a realistic pre-staged fight, dragging him off screaming into the venue’s wings. The Damned were big fans of the Kids, “sometimes they even followed us in a van when we were on tour,” nods Danny, “I still don’t know why.”
Another personnel upheaval followed when Sinclair left to form Lion (later joining Uriah Heep), the band appointing second guitarist Jay Williams instead of another keyboard player. Success at last seemed within their grasp, the ‘She’s No Angel’ single even securing them an appearance on Top Of The Pops.
Then without warning, Holton decided to form his own band.“It really fucked us off,” Ronnie relates with considerable understatement. “Gary had been a good mate, but he was doing more drugs than ever and becoming really obnoxious. I’d been the best man at his wedding, but he was turning into a nasty little bastard. And onstage it all went out the window; he’d just do whichever song came into his head.”
After a gig in the Isle Of Man, the proceeds from which were squandered by Holton in a casino, Keith Boyce decided that enough was enough. Ronnie Thomas soon followed suit, but both were persuaded to play one final show – at the Speakeasy, where it had all begun. The farewell gig was as memorable for the faces that attracted as for the simmering dressing room tension.
“As Gary was getting ready to go on, he was wearing white cowboy boots with spurs, no trousers and pink posing pouch,” says a still gobsmacked Ronnie. “Across his chest he actually had two bullet belts. Gary was then trying to load this Smith & Wesson revolver; he was completely out of it, bullets all over the floor and roadies running in and out. I mean, people were trampling over live ammunition.”
In the gig’s front row was Johnny Rotten, who loudly and theatrically pronounced: “boring, boring, boring” to anyone within earshot. But the Kids had already made an impression on the Sex Pistols frontman, proven when he passed on his approval in rather more private circumstances. One night a hush had descended upon the Roebuck pub in the King’s Road as Messrs Lydon and Holton spotted each other in an upstairs snooker room.
“Gary was holding court with me and a group of others by the fireplace, when the atmosphere suddenly changed,” recalls Ronnie. “Rotten had walked into the room with two big bouncers – he always had to be protected because he was such an obnoxious little cunt. There was a deathly silence. Finally, Rotten undid this huge gold safety pin and put it on Gary’s lapel. He then patted his cheek and said, ‘You’ve been ripped off, Holton. How does it feel?’”
Even though he’d been forced from the band he loved by that time, Peyronel still feels like he and the Kids were cheated, to use a famous turn of phrase. “What happened to the Pistols in ’77 should have been us,” he says ruefully. “We were one of the first bands to have the term ‘punk rock’ used to describe us.”
The fact was not lost on The Damned, who once invited Holton to replace singer Dave Vanian when the latter couldn’t make a gig in Scotland. The ensuing shambles was still spoken of in hushed tones when bassist (and future UFO member) Paul Gray joined the band.
“Vanian had pulled one of his disappearing tricks I believe, so at the last moment Rat [Scabies, drummer] called Gary,” relates Gray. “En route to Glasgow, the first stop was an off license. It’s a fair old trot from London to Scotland, and lyrics went flying out of the window along with empty cans. When they arrived, Gary could only remember the title of one song, which happened to be ‘Neat Neat Neat’, repeated ad infinitum until, unsurprisingly, bottles started flying.”
Nevertheless, till it was cancelled, Holton was to have been part of a February 1978 concert at the Music Machine by the Greedy Bastards, a group mere mention of whose line-up – Scabies, Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott and Gary Moore and Jimmy Bain of Rainbow – would cause liver surgeons to don their plastic gloves in anticipation. Holton also formed the band Casino Steel and was even considered by AC/DC as a replacement for Bon Scott, though his addictions made him too much of a liability.
Gary discussed assembling a new group with Del Bromham of Stray, but by then his acting was flourishing. A role in the 1980 movie Breaking Glass, which also starred Hazel O’Connor, had seen him play Eddie Hairstyle in The Knowledge, a TV comedy about London cabbies.
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet had become extremely popular, and it was during the filming of a second series that Holton took a fatal heroin overdose on 25th October, 1985. Certain cast members (Jimmy Nail, a.k.a. Oz, was rumoured to be one) had felt threatened by the popularity of his king-birder character Wayne, but the news was still shocking. Kevin Whately, the show’s Neville, even suspected it might be cancelled, but Holton’s final scenes were played by a stand-in.
“The morning Gary died we were all sent home, and I was driving up the motorway thinking it was all over,” Whately said later. “A couple of hours later, the producers were saying, ‘We think we can rescue it’. It was dispiriting to pretend that Gary was off-camera when you knew he’d been dead for a month.”
Dave Dee was at home when he heard of Holton’s passing. Having bumped into Gary a few months earlier at the Reading Festival, he was mentally prepared.
“He’d been with Glen Matlock [Sex Pistols bassist] that day, all over the bloody shop,” Dave states. “With somebody larger than life like him, tragedy was always likely.”
As a new millennium dawned, something unthinkable began to happen. Living in Milan, Peyronel tracked down Thomas and Boyce to float the idea of recording a few songs. Nobody thought for a moment that the trio could become the Heavy Metal Kids again, but as new guitarists Marco Guarniero and Marco Barusso entered the picture, the project gathered pace. Peyronel had sung with his post-UFO band Tarzen (recording an album with them at Jimmy Page’s Sol Studios), and had no hesitation in seizing the mic as well as playing keyboards. The result was the end of what the band call “the longest tea break in rock’n’roll history” and the birth of an album called ‘Hit The Right Button’.
On paper at least, the Heavy Metal Kids are a non-starter. Minus Holton, you’d have expected them to sound tired and jaded. They’d rightly have been slagged for raping the ghost of the past, but equally for coming back sounding different to how we remember them. What they’ve actually done is award their melodic aggression a contemporary spin, hence the critics likening them to American Hi-Fi, the Datsuns, Cheap Trick and most especially The Wildhearts.
“The nicest thing is that people don’t think we’re a bunch of old farts playing the blues,” Ronnie insists. “Close your eyes and we could be in our twenties.”
Older and wiser, but no less charismatic, the band’s offstage demeanor has at least changed for the better. “Keith used to be an animal,” observes Ronnie. “Now he empties the ashtrays in his hotel room before he checks out.”
Even Dave Dee has returned to the fold, this time as manager. He admits: “The reviews all say that ‘Hit The Right Button’ is an excellent record, but we know it’ll be hard for a band like the Kids. Basically, they’re gonna go out on the road and start again from scratch. They’ve got a fantastic product… sometimes all you need is a bit of luck.”
Hey, don’t the Heavy Metal Kids deserve a slice of fortune after all this time?
Andy McCoy (Hanoi Rocks)
“Gary was a sweetheart, a good mate. I have beautiful stories about him, and some terrible ones that I won’t tell. He had substance abuse problems at the time, which was a huge shame, and of course so did I. Now, I want to see my grandchildren.
“I was the biggest Heavy Metal Kids fan. Gary came to every Hanoi Rocks gig. He hung out, got drunk and did whatever we did. At the time I was living in Great Titchfield Street in Soho, so it was convenient for partying – which we did plenty of! I was in L.A. when he died; I was upset but not too surprised. Like a lot of artists, he took drugs because he was too sensitive. Today you’ve gotta be a hard motherfucker.”
“The bastard owed me a fiver when he died! In today’s money that’s £25. Gary was the first person I knew to own a Walkman. One night, after we’d been in a north London club, we walked all the way home, both speeding out of our boxes. I climbed through his window and left him a note: ‘You were crashed out, so I did the only thing possible. I stole your tape recorder!’. He was a junkie, but a great guy. Once saw him play a gig in a wheelchair.”
Joe Elliott (Def Leppard)
“I first saw the Heavy Metal Kids at Sheffield Top Rank in 1976. I was in the front row and when they played ‘The Cops Are Coming’, Gary Holton shouted: “What happened next?” Like a fucking idiot I replied: “His head fell off”… Holton threw me this terrifying look. I thought he was gonna jump down into the crowd and kill me.
“I once met Gary at London’s Music Machine, he was just like his TV character. They were such a great band; they all looked like Ronnie Wood, too thin for their own good. They weren’t musos, they were doing it for the right reasons. I still carry the first two albums with me on my i-pod wherever I go. If they ever want the third one [‘Kitsch’ ] remixed then tell ’em to get in touch. I’ll do it as a freebie.”
Max Splodge (Splodgenessabounds)
“Gary Holton was Wayne [his character from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet], he wasn’t acting. One night we overheard some chaps talking about a party for Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Gary rang the club and told ’em he was calling on behalf of Mr Holton and Mr Splodge, who’d been invited but couldn’t make it, only now they’d caught an earlier flight. So could the doorman please make sure they were let in?
“As we pulled up, a motorbike nicked his parking space and its rider boasted: ‘You gotta be fast to do that’. So Gary just reversed over his bike, grinning: ‘You’ve gotta be rich and famous to do that’. Inside the club, we’re given a table and he clicks his fingers to get champagne sent over. He knew all the dancers because he’d been in Hair with them, so he was telling these gorgeous girlies, ‘Come and sit with us, not them old poofs’. It was a blinding night. Elton and Bernie were completely ignored and ended up walking out in disgust.”
Mick Box (Uriah Heep)
“We toured with the Kids a lot and Gary was an all-round great guy. You’d have fun in his company, but you’d always end up in trouble. In a Munich hotel, I was waiting in the lobby for him to come down. The lift door opens and he’s wearing a black and white plastic raincoat with a pair of stilettos. It was floor-length, and looked like a tablecloth. And he was wearing make-up. He’d like to take a bit of Valium and have a good drink, but Gary could talk himself out of a ruck.
“We did fleetingly consider Gary as a replacement for David Byron [in Heep], and I believe he could’ve done the job. His role within the Kids underplayed the fact that he was a good singer. But he never actually auditioned. Like his Wayne character, he’d walk into a room as though he owned the place. That was his persona, it gave him his star quality.”
Michael Monroe (Hanoi Rocks)
“When Andy [McCoy] and I were kids, he had their single ‘She’s No Angel’. I always loved that song, so when Hanoi broke up I recorded it for my ‘Nights Are So Long’ album [in 1987, Scandinavia-only], and then again [two years later] on my worldwide record, ‘Not Fakin’ It’. Hanoi also recorded ‘Delirious’ on our latest album, ‘12 Shots On The Rocks’. That band were so ahead of their time. The verse in ‘Delirious’ goes “No-one in the world likes me” – it’s the Pistols before punk.
“I never got to see the Heavy Metal Kids, but I already knew Gary Holton. When Hanoi first moved to London we all went to see him at the Marquee in his band Casino Steel. He then brought his wife and kids to our Marquee show; all dressed up as cowboys, with cute little guns and holsters.”
The official HMK website
This one was a lot of fun to write. There were so many great road stories; I still laugh aloud when reading Keith’s recollections of the night the band chose to sack Gary. The mental picture of the maids discovering him the following morning in the hotel’s reception… well, it’s hard to imagine. The guys in the band were all very easy to speak to, especially the gregarious Mr Peyronel. Unfortunately, Danny’s version of the Kids’ story differs wildly with that of Cosmo, who later rang Classic Rock and insisted upon offering his own side of the tale. But let’s not get into that here… (25th August, 2004)
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