© Dave Ling - May 2003 - previously published in CLASSIC ROCK magazine
Along with Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath, Mountain pioneered the heavy sludge sound that would mutate into what we now know as heavy metal, deriving their name jointly from Leslie West’s enormous size – at his peak the guitarist/vocalist tipped the scales at 320lbs (almost 23 stones) – and also from sheer density of their heavyweight electrified blues. Given the fact that Mountain would become one of the first and most important American hard rock giants of the 1970s, the reasons that West cites for making a career of playing the guitar are a little strange.
"Apart from maybe baseball, it was the only thing I could do well," admits the former New York jeweler. "All my friends were skilled at three or four things, so my options were pretty limited. During my lunch-hour I’d walk to 48th Street and gaze at all the guitars in the stores; one day I guess I took too long and my boss told me not to bother coming back. It wasn’t till later that I realised the guitar looked like a woman – it had a nice neck, lots of curves and it only made sounds when I wanted it to."
Leslie West achieved his fame through a combination of talent (Jeff Beck once called him "the greatest living guitarist in the world"), motivation and an unusual series of coincidences, and he’s the first to admit that stardom went to his head. In an era when bands could take just about anything they pleased, Mountain did all of that – and more. There were drugs, private planes, punch-ups, rampant egos and even a high-profile casualty.
"I’m not proud of everything that I did in those days," he admits now. "But history’s history and you can never change it."
“Krispy Kream donuts… I used to buy them by the dozen.
When I’d finished the box I’d lick the glaze out of the bottom.”
Having bought an electric guitar with the proceeds from his Bar Mitzvah, Leslie’s first group of note were The Vagrants. The Long Island quintet had a gimmick of smashing their equipment, also attracting attention for the guitarist’s stage garb of a feathered cape. This regrettable choice of attire caused legendary promoter Bill Graham to compare West to a 300 lb psychedelic canary, though The Vagrants did have the good fortune to encounter Felix Pappalardi, a local bass player and producer of considerable note. Pappalardi worked with The Vagrants on a couple of early singles, though West insists he had no idea that the Sonny Bono lookalike behind the desk had also overseen Cream’s ‘Disraeli Gears’ album in 1967. He and wife Gail Collins had also co-written ‘Strange Brew’ with Eric Clapton.
"Honestly, it wasn’t till a couple of years later that I put two and two together and realised it was the same guy," swears Leslie. Had he done so, West would’ve had every reason to be in awe of Pappalardi. By then Cream were his favourite band.
"I’d gone to see them at the Village Theater, which became the Fillmore East, and I was on acid at the time," relates West. "When I saw how good Cream were… holy shit, that’s when I knew I had to start practicing."
Pappalardi was also heavily involved in Cream’s ‘Wheels Of Fire’ and ‘Goodbye’ albums, but the demise of both Cream and The Vagrants meant that Felix and Leslie had time on their hands by the time that West resumed contact. However, even the guitarist was unprepared for Felix’s agreement to produce a solo record, ‘Mountain’, in 1969. By this point Leslie had also begun gigging with a prototype band of the same name, which he had as aspirations of persuading Pappalardi to join.
"We knew Felix would have to come and see us play if we put another band he produced, Jolliver Arkansaw [whose own 1968 album ‘Home’ had also featured a guest appearance from West], on the bill," chuckles Leslie. "So that’s what we did, and sure enough he came to the show. He then came to the studio, ended up playing bass on ‘Mountain’ and at the start everything was great."
"At the beginning, Mountain was definitely Felix’s band," states Corky Laing, the drummer that ended up joining Pappalardi, West and keyboard player Steve Knight in a more permanent Mountain line-up. Devious means had also been used to secure the services of the Canada-born percussionist, who was invited to a gig in West Hampton to "help the drummer get a decent sound", but ended up becoming a member of Mountain the following day.
"My band had been produced by Felix as well," continues Laing, "and my first conversation with Leslie was about evading the draft [from the US Army], which he managed to achieve. They were already working on Leslie’s ‘Mountain’ album at the time. I’ll never forget them telling me I was gonna be joining their band. Felix was sitting next to a big pile of cocaine – I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time – which he pointed to and told me, ‘See this stuff here? I don’t want you ever touching it’. At that point I knew I was in. I was a sideman, but it didn’t matter."
Bad timing ensured that drummer Norman D Smart and not Laing appeared with Mountain at Woodstock, just their fourth ever gig, in 1969. Some footage of a well-received ten-song set that included ‘For Yasgur’s Farm’ and ‘Theme From An Imaginary Western’ appears on the band’s recently released ‘Sea Of Fire’ DVD, though the rest was destroyed by fire. The group had flown in by helicopter over 400,000 fans to perform on the second day, though West’s enormous size had it necessary for them to make two trips to the site.
"My weakness was cakes and pastries, eventually they made me diabetic," he says. "Krispy Kream donuts… I used to buy them by the dozen. When I’d finished the box I’d lick the glaze out of the bottom."
Jimi Hendrix was among the first people to hear Mountain’s debut album, ‘Climbing!’, having been recording next door at the Record Plant.
"The first cut we played him was ‘Never In My Life’, and he said he loved the riff. That kind of acknowledgement made me feel like hot shit – I stopped talking to all my friends," half-jokes West. While Leslie wouldn’t claim to have struck up a friendship with Jimi, but they did play together two weeks before he died. West recalls: "He walked into this club and said, ‘Let’s jam, man’. The only problem was we had no equipment and it was about 1 am. So we got into his limo and went back to our rehearsal loft to get the Marshalls [amplifiers]. Our roadie was asleep when we arrived, you should’ve seen his face when he realised Hendrix was there with his hat on and wearing a fringed jacket. Jimi actually played bass that night – he must’ve thought I was too good."
Laing compares his early days with Mountain to like "being on boot camp". Pappalardi was little more than "a tyrant", says the drummer, though Felix’s ruthlessness certainly paid off as the band became tighter by the day. It was not unusual for the band to play between two and three hours each night. "What Leslie brought to Mountain was its magic," adds Corky, "while I found myself becoming Henry Kissinger as the years went on. Whatever the problems, it was a great combination."
Rave reviews of ‘Climbing!’ helped Mountain to achieve Gold sales of half a million copies in 1970, a feat easily matched by the following year’s ‘Nantucket Sleighride’. The debut’s focal point was the cowbell-enhanced boogie of ‘Mississippi Queen’, with the latter’s title track also becoming another huge radio staple.
"When ‘Mississippi Queen’ came out, it took over the airwaves, but we had to work hard to seize our opportunity," recalls Laing. "The airlines were on strike, so we had to go everywhere by bus to go to Cleveland or wherever. Other bands stopped showing up [for their gigs], that only made Mountain work harder than ever. We toured our asses off to get behind that song."
Corky felt a mixture of emotions when ‘For Yasgur’s Farm’ was selected as the second single from ‘Climbing!’. With the drummer still a junior member, he was powerless to object at the choice of a pre-Mountain track he himself had brought to the band, though he knew it was a dangerous move. Laing now nods: "After the impact made by Leslie’s voice, why would we switch to a song Felix had sung? ‘Never In My Life’ should’ve been the next single, but it was all to do with Felix’s ego. Whenever I stated my opinion we came to blows, so I ended up keeping my mouth shut."
Nevertheless, a sign of the group’s growing status arrived in ’71 when West was invited by The Who’s manager Kit Lambert to return to the Record Plant and perform on the band’s ‘Who’s Next’ album.
"Pete [Townshend] wanted me to play lead guitar, and my reply was: ‘What’s the matter with him playing it?’ But he only wanted to play rhythm," Leslie comments. "When I got there Kit asked whether Felix played keyboards, but he ended up sending his bass amps down and when John walked in there was a lot of confusion… [in best Entwistle impression]: ‘I’m the fucking bass player in The ’Oo’. So Felix began pretending he was producing and Townshend got a little annoyed. It turned out they’d mistaken him for Felix Cavaliere [organ player of The Rascals] so they sent him home."
Although the ‘Who’s Next’ sessions were re-recorded in London with Glyn Johns producing – West’s efforts with The Who belatedly surfaced during the 1990s – the incident had served to reveal that the balance of power within Mountain was slowly shifting. At the start, West had been "very impressed" by Gail Collins, the gifted spouse of Pappalardi who wrote lyrics and designed artwork with equal aplomb. Collins had co-written the title track of ‘Nantucket…’ and painted its sleeve. Gradually, though, relations began to sour.
"As Mountain became more famous she seemed to hate the fact that I was becoming better known than Felix," explains Leslie. "That was when the shit really started. There were a lot of drugs and things got nasty."
"Although I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time, drugs and women ended up destroying the band," agrees Corky, responsible for the band’s biggest hit though with his views constantly overlooked. "The drugs destroyed the women, and then the women destroyed the guys. Felix was way over the top with his demands. It was so incestuous. The bigger the band got, the bigger Gail got. It was a Spïnal Tap situation, but at least Spïnal Tap was funny. He was pushing Gail in Leslie’s face, and that was a big mistake. Creativity inspires a human change, and Felix just didn’t grasp that while someone becomes better at what they do their views will blossom. That’s why he’s now dead – he did not understand the social implications of pushing people the way he did."
Chemicals and the indulgences that celebrity introduced only served to sharpen Mountain’s internal strife. Jetting across the States on board their own plane, it was commonplace for the group to make expensive and sometimes fruitless diversions to meet their dealers.
Ozzy Osbourne also alleged that West had introduced him to cocaine."That might’ve been true because Sabbath opened for Mountain," Leslie ponders. "I remember Ozzy being so out of it that he took a dump in his manager’s Rolls Royce, then tried to throw it out the window – not realising it was still wound up. The drugs eventually became a crazy cycle. There were some wild stories involving girls, but getting high was always more important. Because of my size I got away with things that would’ve killed a smaller guy."
Mountain’s third album was the beginning of the end. Issued in 1971, ‘Flowers Of Evil’ was a half-live and half-hearted attempt to recreate the formula of its predecessors.
"It was terrible," sighs West now. "It was too early to do a live record, but Felix got lazy. He was more interested in waiting for his drugs to show up than coming to rehearsals."
Among the reasons that Pappalardi cited for leaving Mountain in 1972 was the damage that the group’s excessive concert volume had inflicted upon his hearing. Although Felix had been declared ‘legally deaf’, West describes the excuse as "a complete concoction". However, when formulating plans of his own he was happy enough to call somebody that his former colleague had introduced him to.
"Felix had made the mistake of allowing me to meet Jack Bruce at his house in England," explains Leslie of what happened next – a power-trio featuring the former Cream bassist and completed by Laing. "When we’d hung out together, I knew there was something there. Was I shy about asking Jack Bruce to be in a band with me? Sure, but I’m a schmuck with huge balls. But it still shocked the crap out of me when he agreed."
“Leslie sometimes compares Gail Collins to Yoko Ono.
In fact, she was far worse than that. She was a witch.”
West, Bruce & Laing released two studio records (‘Why Dontcha’ and ‘Whatever Turns You On’) and a live album followed before the drugs took over and Bruce quit. "Heroin really fucks you up," winces Leslie. "Especially that Chinese shit. Brown sugar, they called it. Getting off that stuff was the greatest accomplishment of my life."
Life in London during the WB&L days was one huge party, a fact proven by an experience related in Tony Fletcher’s excellent book Dear Boy: The Life Of Keith Moon. Leslie, Corky and Bruce had all been among a group of stars gathered to watch a boxing fight between George Forman and Joe Frasier, and were joined by The Who’s drummer, who went into the toilet alone. Loud crashes were heard and Moon failed to come out.
"When we found on the floor him he’d turned blue," says Leslie. "He was rushed to hospital, and everyone wanted to know why Mountain had been trying to kill Keith and know what we’d given him. I hadn’t give him anything, he’d been going through our medicine cabinet!"
Mountain reformed in the winter of 1974 for the disappointing ‘Avalanche’ album, though by the time of the ‘Twin Peaks’ double set Laing had been shown the door for questioning Pappalardi’s studio credentials. Recalls Leslie: "Felix had smacked Corky in the mouth for the suggestion that we hire a new producer. I ended up telling Felix that I would quit unless we got Corky back, but by that point it was no longer the same band."
A frustrating cycle of reunions and splits followed, interspersed with solo work from West that often included Laing. Future Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones graduated to instant multi-million sales from the Leslie West Band, and although Mick Jagger dropped by to play some guitar on his 1975 solo album ‘The Great Fatsby’, drug-fuelled ambivalence had set in.
"To be honest, I didn’t really care whether I was doing the album or not," he shrugs nonchalantly. "I was next door to Ahmet Ertegun [founder of Atlantic Records] and one day Jagger found out I lived there, knocked on my door and we hung out for a couple of days. The idea of him playing guitar as opposed to singing on my album really appealed to him. He brought David Bowie and John Lennon to my birthday party, so it was a good time and a shitty time."
By now Leslie’s royalties were being diverted to his grandfather in order to prevent him from blowing them on drugs. Finally, West admitted himself to a Milwaukee rehab clinic in 1976 and even stopped playing the guitar for two years. "I just didn’t have anything more to say", he says sadly. It was seeing Edward Van Halen for the first time that made Leslie feel rejuvenated enough to pick up the instrument again. The pair have since developed a close friendship, and it’s even been discussed that they may record together.
"I hope that might happen someday," says Leslie. "I spoke to him a few nights ago and we discussed doing a blues album, not the usual rock shit."
In April 1985, just as West and Laing were about to start the promotion of a new Mountain album called ‘Go For Your Life’, they heard that Pappalardi was dead. According to Leslie, it was a rumour they’d been subjected to lots of times before, only this time it was true.
"We were on our way to a gig in Indiana," he recollects with a shake of the head. "It was on the news, then somebody gave me the phone number for our local cop precinct. As soon as they told me they were connecting me to the detectives upstairs I knew it wasn’t a hoax."
Felix had been shot in the neck by Gail Collins in their Manhattan apartment. Pappalardi was just 41 years old. It later transpired that the bassist’s wife had known of an affair he had been conducting with a younger woman, something she used to her advantage in court when she claimed the gun had gone off accidentally.
"Gail was fucked up on drugs, she shot Felix during an argument with a Derringer he’d actually bought for her – but then she said it was an accident," protests West, hard to hide his contempt. "That was bullshit, she’d also once pulled a gun on Corky’s wife."
Surprisingly, Collins successfully defended accusations of negligent homicide and had already served a year awaiting trial, promptly vanishing upon her release. West last heard that she eventually hung herself, remarking gruffly: "At least Gail finally did the right thing."
For Laing, who claims to have rebuffed Collins’ advances during Pappalardi’s time with Mountain, it felt like a close escape.
"Gail was coming onto all the guys, it was disgusting," he blasts. "She was fucking Jack Bruce, she also came after me one night and turning her down was one of the better things I did in my life. Leslie sometimes compares Gail to Yoko Ono – in fact, she was far worse than that. She was a witch. She always wanted so much credit and she managed to permeate Cream and Mountain – both testosterone-driven, heavy bands. How did do that? Bud Prager [the Mountain manager who eventually represented Foreigner] saw what went on and in later years women were forced to sign contracts stating that they would not go near their husbands’ shows."
Having departed Mountain for what he believed to be the final time, Laing stepped across to the other side of the desk for a while, accepting a role as the A&R vice president of PolyGram Records in Canada between 1989-1995.
"Leslie and I had a falling out after the ‘Go For Your Life’ album, so I went to play with Meat Loaf," he says. "I enjoyed the twilight of the golden years of the record industry; my own office, lots of great looking chicks around and playing the odd gig with Leslie again, too. I played on people’s records whenever I could… we’d make albums for around $20 and that made me very popular within the company."
However, West’s dependence upon Laing’s continued presence in Mountain wasn’t exclusively due to music. Pappalardi had bequeathed his half of the group’s name to the drummer. Explains Corky: "That meant Leslie was not supposed to call his bands Mountain unless I was there with him; if he worked separately we agreed he would be billed as ‘Leslie West from Mountain’. There was no problem with that."
As the years passed by, West’s condition as a diabetic forced him to trim down his waistline. That didn’t prevent labels from using his still above average girth as a marketing tool.
"RCA Records came up with the brilliant idea of putting scales in the lobby of the Beacon Theater and inviting fans to guess my weight," he explains through gritted teeth. "When I saw that it I threw the Goddamn thing through the doors and out onto Broadway."
There have been various Mountain line-ups, ex-Colosseum/Uriah Heep/Billy Squier bassist Mark Clarke joining West for the aforementioned ‘Go For Your Life’ and again for ‘Man’s World’ in 1996. Former Jimi Hendrix bassist Noel Redding had even helped the group out on the boxed set ‘Over The Top’ a year earlier. "He played on a couple of tracks, but wasn’t the easiest guy to work with," confirms West. "Noel’s the most balanced guy in rock ‘n’ roll – he’s got a chip on both shoulders. You don’t hear any of those stories about Mitch [Mitchell, Hendrix drummer]."
Laing harbors less of a grudge towards Redding than his partner, having formed the band Cork with him and former Spin Doctors guitarist Eric Schenkman for the ‘Speed Of Thought’ album in 1999. A follow-up record is in the pipeline.
West and Laing finally rekindled their 35-year friendship in 2001 when the latter returned to Mountain for the third time. Last year a new-look line-up completed by Richie Scarlet issued the new album ‘High’ (known in America as ‘Mystic Fire’). Like many of their 1970s rivals, Mountain’s sales have dipped dramatically, but their legacy remains considerable. In many ways, their fuzzed-up simplicity has been copied by such groups as Kyuss, Monster Magnet and Queens Of The Stone Age. Curiously, considering their chart success and the fact that he has already produced stoner rock minnows Clutch, neither West not Laing have even heard of Queens Of The Stone Age, though Leslie does express an interest in checking them out if somebody at the label will send him the albums for free.
"That’s always been one of this band’s commercial problems," muses Corky with an impassive grin. "We never had a movement to attach ourselves to. We’re not really blues, heavy metal or Southern rock. ‘Mississippi Queen’ had a country rock feel because of it’s narrative style – it was the story of a love affair, albeit with a hooker – but there are no easy categories. I look at our audience and it’s a collection businessmen, society burnouts and family people. I always thought of us as a band in the tradition of Free; good, solid songs and great playing… but not as wussy as Foreigner."
When asked what he does listen to, Leslie professes to like Creed, Smashing Pumpkins, Kid Rock and even Limp Bizkit, though he doesn’t comprehend the latter’s lyrics. 59 years old this coming October, he’s been drug-free for so long that he says he "no longer feels the thrill" of their temptation. He also derives great amusement from the fact that he and Laing are sometimes referred to as the Insulin Twins.
"Corky and I finally worked out what we expect of each other," nods Leslie. "And Richie [Scarlet, former Frehley’s Comet/Sebastian Bach guitarist turned bassist] not only plays great, he also looks good."
On his worst day, West still prides himself on being a grouch to rival even Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, though his vicious tongue has mellowed in recent years. Friends say that is due to one of the most unlikely love stories you’ll ever hear. Leslie ended up hiring a private detective to track down Roni, a young girl who’d appeared on the sleeve of his ‘The Great Fatsby’ album some 24 years earlier, and is now his fiancée. Underneath that veneer of fierceness and sarcasm, is there a contented person trying to get out?
"As Roni likes to say, I’m still a prick – these days I’m just a happy prick," he chuckles. "She’s made me very happy, but if the band are playing good and my guitar still makes my balls vibrate then you can take every last thing I’ve got."
Except the regret that he stunted his creativity with drugs for too long, West says he would change little of his time on the planet. He certainly doesn’t regret turning down an offer to join Lynyrd Skynyrd just before the tragic plane crash that killed three musicians in 1977. "Peter Rudge [manager at the time] had advised them not to approach me because my ego was too big," he reveals. "After that crash, during which the new guitar player had been sitting next to Ronnie [Van Zant, singer and one of the casualties], I sent him a note thanking him for his advice."
At the time of their 1975 collaboration, Mick Jagger had also made the suggestion that West should go to France, knock on Keith Richards’ door and speak to him about replacing the departing Mick Taylor. "The Stones were an English aristocratic band – a lot of guys were in the picture and it probably wouldn’t have worked out," he theorizes.
While praise for his playing has poured in from all sides, West has received his sole platinum disc for playing on Billy Joel’s ‘River Of Dreams’ album in 1993. Laing has his own theory concerning the cult appeal of his partner.
"I hope Leslie won’t mind me saying this, but he burnt a lot of bridges when he was a younger man," says the drummer. "He was difficult to deal with, but he was going through a very bad period in his life. Some really bad decisions were made by a very sick man. I was over in Canada and I heard about some very bad Mountain shows… it wasn’t like he was English and could retire to his mansion for a few years while the heat died down. We’re pushing each other all the time now and all the greed and crap has been dissolved, we’re now having a great time, but that wasn’t always the case. I won’t name any names but I actually quit because Leslie hired some bassists that were second division, the fans see through that stuff.
"And before Leslie, Felix had also made bad decisions," continues Corky. "He thought he knew everything. What kind of a producer leaves a band saying he’s lost his hearing? He admitted having an affair and got shot for it."
Mountain ended up dribbling into oblivion, though Leslie and I tried to keep things going with West Bruce & Laing. Even then, Jack [Bruce] was already a registered junkie before that had begun. It was a mistake to keep Mountain going after that because the Sex Pistols came in and before you knew it the dinosaurs were gone."
For Leslie West’s part, he’s willing to consider that the consistently high levels of musicianship may sometimes have obscured the quality of Mountain’s catalogue. "It’s a definite possibility," he nods. "Some people have said that our songs are just an excuse to get to the guitar solo. But Mountain’s definitely written some great material. I suppose if I’m completely honest I’ll admit that there’s also been a lot of crap in there. Too many fillers on the albums. Maybe I’m just a better collaborator than a writer. I’ve always needed someone to bounce ideas off."
Leslie West ‘Mountain’ (1969)
Often mistaken for a bona fide Mountain release, ‘Mountain’ pre-empted the band’s formation by a matter of months. Though recorded fairly cheaply and with a line-up that was soon destined for the axe, tracks like ‘Dreams Of Milk And Honey’ and ‘Blood Of The Sun’ nevertheless set up Leslie West’s career. "It’s still an album I’m very proud of, and it set the stage for all the other Mountain albums," he says.
Mountain ‘Climbing!’ (1970)
"There were some great songs on that record – to me it’s still Mountain’s best album," affirms West. Among them was ‘Mississippi Queen’, a song born during a club gig power cut. When the circuitry failed, Corky Laing launched into a spontaneous drum solo. "I started hitting the cowbell and screaming out this lyric about a Mississippi queen, it must’ve gone on four about an hour", he recalls. "When Leslie and I worked on the song together, it wrote itself."Although largely cosmetic, the presence of keyboard player Steve Knight served to deflect the accusation that Mountain were guilty of ripping off Cream. "Better people said we were like them than the [Jefferson] Starship," retorts Leslie now. "Felix was the one who was uptight about the Cream comparisons."
Mountain ‘Nantucket Sleighride’ (1971)
Even West took a while to warm to the Felix Pappalardi/Gail Collins-penned title track of Mountain’s second album, best known for many years in the UK as the theme tune to ITV’s Weekend World. "The first time I heard that song I hated it – it was just too difficult to play," he grins. "But Zakk Starkey told me that he and his father [Ringo Starr] used to wait by the TV each Sunday afternoon, so I ended up warming to the darned thing."
Mountain ‘Flowers Of Evil’ (1971)
"The title track was actually a great song, which I wrote about soldiers coming home from Vietnam with heroin habits – the poppy being the flower of evil," comments West. "As Bobby Kennedy had said, was the price of peace really worth the price of oil? But as for the rest of the record… it was terrible."
Mountain ‘Twin Peaks’ (1974)
Recorded live in Japan, ‘Twin Peaks’ includes a 31-minute version of ‘Nantucket Sleighride’. "On the original double vinyl version, Felix’s bass solo was so long it was on Side One and Side Two," winces Leslie at the memory. "Some nights I used to go outside, get a sandwich and he’d still be playing it when I got back."
Mountain ‘Avalanche’ (1974)
"Oh man, that thing didn’t even need to have been released," Leslie sighs deeply. "You know what… I can’t even remember a single song from that album. Did we cover The Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction)’ on there?" [Yes, you did – Ed].
Mountain ‘Go For Your Life’ (1985)
By 1985, eleven years had passed between Mountain albums, and the Felix Pappalardi’s place had been replaced by Mark Clarke. "The sleeve was supposed to be an illustration of what you’d see looking up from a grave," reveals West. "It had some great songs, which we’d spent two years writing, and Pete Solley did a good job of producing it."
Mountain ‘Man’s World’ (1996)
"I liked that album a lot," enthuses West. "Songs like ‘Crest Of A Slump’ and the title track, which was a song I used to do with The Vagrants, were great. Unfortunately, the record label didn’t do jack shit with it."
Mountain ‘High’ (2002)
"It’s a whole new deal," says Leslie. "There’s new life in the band, and we’re contracted to make at least one more record together. I couldn’t tell you how soon that might be. ‘High’ sounds like Mountain, but a new Mountain. Besides some fresh ideas, we also re-recorded ‘Nantucket Sleighride’ with an orchestra for the first time and it sounds great."
The official Mountain website
As anyone who’s met Leslie West will probably testify, he can be brusque to the point of rudeness. That’s not a criticism, just an observation: it’s the way he is. So when I switched off the tape recorder and he growled: "You certainly did your homework", I took it as a very big compliment. Of course, it’s impossible to tell the 30-year story of a band as important as Mountain in 5,000 words – especially if one of the key protagonists is dead! – but the piece got great feedback from Classic Rock readers. It was set up by my good friend Paul Newcomb, who is Mountain’s long-suffering road manager. He arranged for me to meet Leslie and Corky Laing at their picturesque country hotel before a gig at the Bisley Pavilion in November ’02. Besides being a great show, it was memorable for the fact that Corky allowed a small boy up onto the stage to play drums for a while. In doing so, he really made the kid’s night… I felt choked watching. I’d have loved to mention it in the original CR story, but there simply wasn’t room. There is now. (25th August, 2004)
Please send me your comments on this article.