‘We should have got Dali to sign the wine, not drunk it’

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The Strawbs’ founding father Dave Cousins tells an hilarious rock and roll story, when, just as the sixties turned to the seventies, a fresh-faced keyboardist by the name of Rick Wakeman joined the band.

Cousins recalled: “Rick came in for a chat and I said, ‘Listen. What are you doing next week?

“He told me he was getting married.

“When I asked him where he was going on honeymoon, he said he couldn’t afford it, so I said come to Paris and join the Strawbs.”

Wakeman signed on for £25 a week, long before he found mega stardom and disappeared to some far-off planet of cape wearing prog-rock excess.

“Rick’s honeymoon was playing under a big-top circus tent in a rock and roll circus, with high wire act, a couple of clowns and some jugglers.

“Suddenly, during one of Rick’s solos, Salvador Dali jumped up onstage, and the audience just gasped and then went crazy.

“Rick turned around and said: ‘Who’s that?’ I said, Salvador Dali.’

He said, ‘Get him off the ******* stage now.

“It was surreal at the time, one of the funniest things I’d ever seen.

“Rick played on three of our albums and then suddenly he became the supreme keyboard player in the country and he joined Yes on £100 a week.”

Cousins met Dali in New York years later and added: “I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned round and it was Dali.

“He said, ‘You’ve very nice boots.’ Then he gave me a bottle of wine.

“I should have got him to sign it, but unfortunately we drank it!”

From acoustic alchemists to progressive rockers, The Strawbs – who are heading to Clitheroe next month with the seventies line-up of Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk – are enjoying a raucous rock and roll renaissance.

“I had stopped playing music essentially in 1979,” said 68-year-old Cousins. “The band split up, and I went into the radio business for 20 years, and I hardly played at all.

“I did odd solo shows, wrote a handful of songs, but that was it.

“I never imagined I’d play with the group again.”

But then fate took a hand as Cousins scripted a fresh chapter in The Strawbs’ colourful history.

“I went out one night, had a couple of beers, and then tripped up outside my house, spraining my wrist,” said Cousins.

“So I said to my guitar player the next day, ‘I can’t play that folk club next week. He said, ‘Well, we can’t let people down…..why not get Dave Lambert (Strawbs guitarist) to come down and play?

“Dave Lambert came back, it went down a storm - and we haven’t stopped since. The whole thing has gone into orbit.

“I’ve just finished writing my autobiography, I’m doing a Strawbs TV documentary and we’ve sold well over 100,000 albums in the last decade. Suddenly there’s a huge 
demand for our music again.”

While their best-known song – chart-hit Part of the Union still gets air-play today – dig a little deeper and there’s a fascinating back-story spanning the decades.

John Paul Jones, of Led Zeppelin, played several sessions with The Strawbs while David Bowie supported Cousins and his band at the Beckenham Free Festival!

“We go back a long way, so it will be a sort of music history tour at Clitheroe, a trip through space and time,” said Cousins.

“I take the audience from the beginning of the group right through to the current day with songs like Lay Down and Benedictus.”

The Strawbs plus The Springfields, Clitheroe Grand, December 1. £15 01200 421599.

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