“Interview” with Psychedelic Cult Figure Big Boy Pete
“Interview” with Psychedelic Cult Figure Big Boy Pete
At some point in the late aughts, I stopped into a record store and saw a CD called Homage to Catatonia: The Psychedelic Adventures of Pete Miller by an artist named Big Boy Pete, whom I’d never heard of. On the cover was a picture of a guy wearing hypnotic spiral glasses—like the ones you’d see in the old comic book ads for x-ray specs. I was instantly intrigued, but left the store without making the purchase. However, I went online when I got home and found that Big Boy Pete had a very interesting history, so I went back to the store and bought it.
The music was quirky psychedelic pop recorded in England in the 60s, but not released until 1998. I liked it and was glad I’d returned to the store to buy it.
Recently, I decided to track down the Big Boy himself, who I’d learned became a music producer after having moved to San Francisco in the 70s. I was able to contact him through his website for The Audio Institute of America, a music and engineering school that he founded.
I can’t quite tell if he’s got a major personality disorder or just a wicked sense of humor, but the following is how he responded to the questions that he asked me to submit.
LeValley: I once read that Big Boy Pete is the only act to ever open for both The Beatles and The Stones. Was that actually Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers or was that someone else billed as Big Boy Pete?
Miller: Unlike Elvis, my twin bother survived and went out and doubled for me under the name of Bag Boy Beat.
AllMusic says that when you released your first single as “Miller” in 1965, you were backed by Peter Frampton (who must have only been about 15 at the time) and members of The Herd. How did you connect with him? Did you keep in touch with him over the years?
My understanding is that, as Big Boy Pete, you refused to tour. What was it about touring that you didn’t like?
Answering stupid questions like this.
How did you settle on Big Boy Pete as your recording name?
I have a baritone pecker.
Your Wikipedia entry says that you “released one of the first English psychedelic songs (“Cold Turkey”) which placed his name in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My understanding is that “Cold Turkey” was released in 1968, which means it wouldn’t have been one of the first at all. What’s the story behind this?
Typographical errors are the cosmic road to nirvanic glowpustular orbiting.
Outwardly, I appear to be a sparkling non-entity but deep inside I have a purpose.
You’ve created quite a bit of psychedelic pop-rock. Were you inspired by LSD and other psychedelic drugs? If so, when did you take your first trip?
I never took LSD, contrary to popular belief. What happened was I got into my Dad’s medicine cabinet and used his anti-viagric smear lotion. He had the really good stuff. It made a wonderful cocktail with a can of Campbell’s tomato (pronounced tomato) soap.
What prompted your move to San Francisco?
The 1906 earthquake.
You worked as a producer/engineer for many years. Who are some of the acts that you’ve recorded?
Mozart, Beethoven, Trump, Queen Elizabeth – she was the best. Didn’t even have to use Auto-tune – her steeplechasing horse kept her higher than a kite.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in music?
And here is the answer to the question you didn’t ask:
Outwardly, I appear to be a sparkling non-entity but deep inside I have a purpose, maybe even a reason. Maybe. Divesting me of my privacy and secrets in order to make me suitable for public consumption is permissible by virtue of poetic license. So let me peel off my stage face, douse my limpid limelight and gently nettle myself.
So we have a certified, organic, one-piece rock and roller from the green cow pastures of East Anglia—a largely rural area which sits sodomly like a milk-muddled wallflower maid about 100 miles east of London Town. That in itself should speak volumes. But let me disenfranchise this North Sea backdrop further.
Lamentably, those pongy pastures dealt this prophetic priest poetic injustice by way of his bumpkinness. With an accent thicker than peat moss, and a muddy lingo broader than the village bike’s arse, I strove to be unstriven. ‘Twas hard. But still waters don’t creep. Stilly as a comatose mouse, I squeaked my way through every slender vestibule in every flint church and thatched cottage, trying not to step on the medieval mousetraps that were really just impotent fodder for filial defrockments ‘neath a fleet harvest moon.
This step-out guitar player swallows opportunities alive before anybody else can even smell them.
I first met myself while apple picking on a farm one summerteen long ago. Shagging and sharing barley strippers in a bogus gentleman’s country club with a fervor driven by the barren backbeat. But there’s far more to these tawdry beginnings that meets even the most perspicacious eye.
This step-out guitar player swallows opportunities alive before anybody else can even smell them. Mind you, through the haze from the preponderance of these inscrutable smoking catacombs, even I will more than likely miss a carrot or two. I tend to be breezily duplicitous at times—just a tad. An imperial tad, not an American tad I hasten to add. Even the measliest possibility of financial furtherance is quickly stashed into my cerebral repository. Take no prisoners and do it clandestinely—like the passing notes from chord to chord that nobody else hears, except Ray Charles. My first job was in a theatre and my father was a will-maker—you do the math. Facts or fakes? Friends or flakes? And I secretly cheated on all of my school exams—and still failed.
Talking about my father—he lost her legs to a Japanese mine but found them again with the loving help of his mother. She was a Quaker who grew up alongside the Seminole tribe in the Everglades, on the Fakahatchi Strand where the rare Ghost orchid grew. She taught him how to love classical music. He taught her how to love him. What a seamstress she turned out to be. But I digress.
They say I am the quiet one. I thrive on neglect. The logical loner—the scientist—except when it comes to sharing my discoveries. A jealous spoiled brat—and brats always hold grudges—sometimes for a lifetime. At all times I carry with me a little black book from which there is no rubbing out. Dismissing my tantrums or reasonings as childish or trivial will only earn a repeat performance—this time without the accompaniment of justification. My soul is magnetized by such vanity as is only embraced on the darker side of a druid’s witchfest. Insignificant or supercilious flattery of legendary proportions will be batted away or captured in a butterfly net and framed. The remainder will simply be shredded.
Nobody should blame my parents, except maybe they should have produced a brother upon whom I could have practiced my hissy fits—a sibling who could have slaughtered my brattishness, with brute force if necessary. But Elvis had a twin brother, did he not? And sadly he did not survive. Would we have had Jailhouse Rock if he had?
When Elvis burst onto the scene, I was instantly married to him—musically. We remain harmonic partners most of the time but visceral venom can split our symphonic planet into myriad preludes, circled by discordant Saturnic rings at the slightest hint of a wrong note. But when the smoke clears, our music is as cohesive and inviting as the twin bed in a Mississippi motel, hidden deep in the cotton fields off Highway sexy one. Our love for each other can be deeper than any woman could provide, albeit it was always a woman that instigated our not infrequent divorces. But only briefly.
When Elvis burst onto the scene, I was instantly married to him—musically.
Musically, I don’t think there is anything that can bond two heterosexual males more than their choice of notes, and we both embrace an insatiable propensity for variance. But you cannot put two alpha lions on a tour bus with a single lioness without the excrement making physical contact with a hydroelectric powered air current distribution machine. It’s a mess. And one more thing—we both pursue band rehearsals with a fervent aversion, which annoys our drummers intensely—especially when it comes to working on some of their original songs. Makes them feel slighted.
But right now, we’re approaching one of the many police checkpoints along the road so I’ll defoliate my other two dishonorable but distinguished guitars at a less toe-twitching time. There is still an eternity before the moon rises. Let’s take a tea break; cucumber sandwiches, sliced diagonally. Not to mention the wurzels. (They told me not to mention wurzels.)
I never, ever, under any circumstances wear any underwear and I have a propensity for shagging in the middle of cornfields, churchyards and golf links.
Very little was vomited after tea so this might be a good time to pick up where I left off in the preceding paragraph with more psychic quack scrutinizations. Let us consider the leanings and deficiencies of my remaining two tendencies. Not every nook and cranny perhaps, but at least the admissible quirks relevant to our tale.
Remember that I was conjured up during the War years so you should not necessarily blame my parents. However in my case, I truly think my mother must have been about fifty years old when she dropped me—on my head. It always takes me twice as long as anybody else to accomplish anything at all—checking, double-checking and triple cackling.
Forthright and honest, I am a bit of a grumbler at times, also a simple but highly organized unmusical clerk. At least compared to Shoshtakovich. My childhood was doggedly jarred by religion from a Pentecostal nut-farm of preachers known as the Plymouth brethren, a highly disciplined sect whose beliefs were bizarrely strict and isolationist. They held very outdated views on the roles of women—almost all marry young, deliver large families and never go out to work. Sound familiar?
I courted, but unlike my mirror homage, never brown-nosed, lucrative avenues of carpet bagging—for which I should be applauded—bearing in mind the frugal childhood of coal miners’ poverty I endured.
Care of: The Home for the Bewildered was where I grew up; conceived of parochial, one might even say native parentage. Had there been a reservation in the county, I would have been quite at home flipping dominoes in a buffalo-skin tepee and hunting or fishing the trio of rivers that dissected the green but pleasantly pongy pastures of Norfolk county. An Eire of greens for most of the year.
Sex is sex and love is love and ne’er the twain shall meet. Geronimo!
Finally we come to my knees. Can I possibly denigrate them myself? Well here goes: I think we can quickly dispose of my indiscretions and transgressions with a few petite world-numbing confessions. They say I am an eloquent stoner. I consider such testimony to be the sincerest form of flattery, but I want to point out that I am a fully paid up member of the procrastination society. I never, ever, under any circumstances wear any underwear and I have a propensity for shagging in the middle of cornfields, churchyards and golf links. Spreading without bedding is what my probation officer calls it.
Although I was blessed with a formidable education at a private all-boys’ school from which I graduated with flying colors, my choice in ladies is usually, and I say this with all respect—the stupid ones. Life should be fun and non-confrontational on every level especially when it demands significant intelligence upon or near any mattress, either vegetarian or fabricated. An affair should certainly not be politically motivated, economically induced, or in any way argumentative. Sex is sex and love is love and ne’er the twain shall meet. Geronimo!
Although my father worked at Blenheim Palace for MI5 during the war—which probably gives me a different way of looking at things, I have a less than stellar history when it comes to historical matters. And by that I don’t mean memory. In fact, I kindle and fondle all perplexities until each and every one is mashed into a pulp and completely or irrevocably resolved—at least to my own stickling satisfaction. Furthermore and notwithstanding, I am perhaps naive when it comes to skullduggery or general malarkey of any kind, but I do believe that anyone caught stealing my stash is treasonous—it warrants the death penalty. Nothing less. I have the patience of a saint—I even suffer fools. In fact I quite like most of them, possibly because I own the complete collection of Laurel and Hardy escapades on 8 mm.
Incidentally, having gone to an all-boys’ schools, perhaps that’s why I am voluntarily and quite willingly abandoning all my scruples and making up for lost time in the poontang department. Quite right too.
So, notwithstanding how absurd I may appear, and not to belittle my unmusical masterpieces beyond redemption, I should point out that I eventually ended up in the actual Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio—for what that’s worth. I won’t tell you where, but it’s neither the toilet nor the graveyard. Somebody has already bought me a plot in the East Hudson.
So there you have it—that’s Big Boy Pete stripped nearly naked. Not exactly a radical revolutionary but nonetheless he has his own little cubicle in space. Will he come out of this alive? And why in heaven’s vast scheme of things is he still in this spirit-saken paradise? No fucking idea. All he knows is that it is one hundred percent better than that mundane, sewer-clogged, brainless, flee-pit of a life he fled from.
Are we there yet?