EXCERPT FROM UNFINISHED AUTOBIOGRAPHY…
Reluctance to involve a ghost writer and shortage of time to complete the memoir has retarded its completion. At the time of this posting, the book is half finished. This section describes the first meeting the McCartney family while visiting the Island of Montserrat during the world circumnavigation undertaken in Mike’s yacht, Braemer in 1981
“We agreed to get together for dinner one night, and Paul was fascinated by Braemar and the voyage,- having seen her lying at anchor in the bay earlier that morning. I invited him to bring everyone aboard one evening, as we would be staying for a few days – and again wanting to show that his side of the conversation wasn’t just polite banter, he asked me to name the day – and we settled for the following night, which I think was a Tuesday. Stevie Wonder was due to arrive the following day. On the first day I remember a very energetic game of ping-pong with the McCartney kids. It must have been Stella and Mary, plus my two girls, Samantha, Robin and myself. Air studios had good leisure facilities, including the table tennis table just off the main swimming pool area. The kids got on very well together.
On the night the McCartney contingent came aboard it was quite good weather, although the only way to get to us at anchor was to be picked up from a funny little wooden pier in our Boston Whaler, a fifteen foot motor launch driven by one of our crew. Paul, Linda, George Martin, Denny Laine (wings guitarist and main collaborator) and Carl Perkins were brought aboard this way. Our crew had organised a really fantastic spread for dinner and had it all ready to serve on the afterdeck. Funnily enough, I don’t remember it being totally vegetarian. You hear stories of Paul and Linda insisting that all their road crew and band eat vegetarian. I even heard a story of a guy being sacked for eating a hamburger backstage. Maybe our meeting was earlier in their relationship and they were more lax. Certainly we were aware they were vegetarian, and made great efforts to provide a vegetarian dominated meal, but there was chicken, pork ribs and all sorts of other carnivorous food.
Before dinner, I offered to show them around the ship. We went below aft, and I showed them my glass paintings in the main stateroom (our bedroom) and he was very complimentary, saying that one day he’d like to design a house and do more artwork himself. George Martin joined us, and – I think having been a nautical type before becoming a record producer (perhaps during the war) he was full of intelligent questions as we reached the wheelhouse. He wanted to know about the satellite navigation equipment, depth measurement (sonar) equipment, autopilot and radar. He was interested in Braemar’s history, too.
Meanwhile, Carl and Denny were getting settled on the afterdeck and the drinks began to flow. Carl was still declaring himself to have landed in Heaven the previous morning , and indeed the mood was very happy. Our crew, other than those serving drinks , (a deckhand and the stewardess, smart in their new white uniforms with rank badges), kept discreetly out of the way. As we sat down to dinner I said “ I think I’m going to get drunk tonight, just so you know!”. It was a great night. The food was brilliant, the conversation lively. As the food was all served, Carl Perkins turned to Paul and said, “Y’know what Paul? Back home this is what we call shittin’ in HIGH COTTON!”. His voice went up on “high” and the vowel was delivered long and emphatically before coming down on “Cotton”. After dinner the evening developed into a jam session in the music room with Paul at the piano, Denny and Carl on guitars and me on accordion. We sang everything from “Ilkley Moor B’aht ‘At” - (don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it) to “Let It Be”, and Paul took his position as the leader of the sing-song, as one would expect him to. Denny was in great form on guitar. Then Paul said, “Come on, Carl, play that song you wrote yesterday morning!” and so Carl picked up the guitar and sang “On the Island of Montserrat, I never will forget…” (I can’t remember the rest of it, but the opening rhyme was hilarious, as he had to pronounce “forget” as “forgat” to rhyme with Montserrat”). He then demonstrated some truly fantastic guitar technique, - something he had devised when, as a young guitarist, he couldn’t afford an echo unit to put his guitar through. He played a piece where he hammered the string a second time after each time he played it, giving the totally realistic sound of it going through a fast-repeat echo effect box. Then he sang “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Honey, Don’t” – and it was we who thought we’d died and gone to Heaven. Hearing a couple of famous songs sung by the writer is always a great thrill. We invited the crew back aft, and they joined in the sing-song, and Mark, one of the deck hands, sang a song called “Froggy” which he had written, accompanied by Roy, the captain. It had a croaking chorus. Later, I often wondered if this had provided unconscious inspiration for the famous “Frog Chorus” song later written by Paul for his Rupert Bear animation, even though the two songs were not very similar in melody or lyrics.
As the party reluctantly drew to a close, and the guests climbed into the whaler to be driven ashore, Paul invited me to drop by the studio the next day, when Stevie and he would be recording a new song called “Ebony and Ivory”.
I showed up at the studio the next day, and Paul met me outside in the sunshine. “Wow, what a night! “ he said. “You said you’d get drunk, and you were true to your word!”. Then he said the best moment for him had been when Carl had leant over and said “Paul, back home this is what we call shittin’ in HIGH COTTON”– Paul imitated Carl’s southern American accent perfectly. To this day, whenever I see Paul, which is not often, - he says “Mike, this is what I call shittin’ in HIGH COTTON”.
“Come, on, Mike”, said Paul, -“I’ll take you into the studio, - Stevie’s putting a drum track down, but he won’t mind, - I want to show you this fantastic new drum machine called a Linn drum that Stevie’s brought with him as a present for me”. So I followed Paul into the studio, and there’s Stevie Wonder sitting at a drum kit to our left as we go in, surrounded by low screens t prevent the sound from whacking out all across the studio, and he’s in mid-flow, laying down the drums to “Ebony and Ivory”. I felt a bit weird walking in right in the middle, but you could hardly say “I don’t think we should be doing this” to Paul. He was Paul McCartney. He went where he liked, did what he wanted. It reminded me of the joke “Where does a gorilla with a machine gun sleep?” to which the answer is “anywhere it likes”.
“So you press this button here, you see” says Paul, not keeping his voice down “and you get a bass drum, then you turn this knob and the snare drum starts up”. All the time, I’m looking through the glass window into the control room where George Martin is trying to produce Stevie’s drum track, surrounded by other people, including Linda. Stevie’s bashing away, full volume, so Paul’s having to talk quite loud to me. After a while, Stevie stops playing, “Hey, man, what’s happ’nin’” he says. “Don’t worry Stevie, won’t be a tick, just looking at the Linn drum thing, with Mike, by the way Mike Batt, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Wonder, Mike Batt”” says Paul. Just then, we hear the upper class voice of George Martin coming through a pair of talkback speakers in the studio. “Chaps, would you mind doing that a bit later? I’m trying to get this drum track recorded” – not unsurprisingly. So we move into the control room.
The session proceeded and at one point Stevie came into the control room and I was introduced properly. Paul, Linda and George thought the drumming track was great. “No I haven’t tapped into the groove yet” says Stevie, “I need to try a few more times”. So he goes back into the studio while Paul, myself and the others leave him and George to it. An hour later he’s happy. And so is Paul. “Brilliant, man, totally one hundred percent better” says Paul. Which it was. Just shows, good is good but sometimes the guy playing it has to tell you when he’s felt it was right or wrong, or could be even better. Sometimes it works the other way around, and you have to restrain a guy from playing his brains out when he already nailed it half an hour earlier. On this occasion, Stevie was right to insist.o
EXCERPT FROM “THE CHRONICLES OF DON’T BE SO RIDICULOUS VALLEY”
The as-yet-unpublished story of Ergo the slug and his fairy friend, Elsie (known as Little Else) and their struggle against the evil PIGFROGS who come out at Christmas and squash you just for fun. Ergo would like to learn to play the piano but has no hands. He would also love to marry Little Else, but fairies don’t fancy slugs. It was first written as a “novel”. It has been intensively developed as an animation property. This excerpt is an edit of the opening of the story.
"Once, (not as far back as the Olden Days, but fairly far back, somewhere between the Olden Days and last week) there was a medium sized slug called Ergo. He had some mates. The mates were slugs, too, and also medium sized. They all lived in a very unusual place called Don't Be So Ridiculous Valley. The valley was called Don't Be So Ridiculous Valley because it was actually a hill, and hills go upwards whereas valleys go downwards and along. Some people might tell you that hills go downwards, but they are pessimists. Hills go upwards. Valleys go downwards, and even then only in the nicest possible way.
It was a dull, foggy morning, but it was dull in a fairly bright sort of way. The sort of way that means you can only just see your hand in front of your face (if you have hands, and if one of them is in front of your face, which was not the case) - but bright, so that there was a broad glare right across his field of vision, or vision of field, I should really say, since it was indeed a field that Ergo had vision of, - or didn’t, really, if you see what I mean.
In their tree house some miles away and not even close to Don't Be So Ridiculous Valley, the Farnsbarneses were just getting up and doing their exercises. Dotty Farnsbarnes and her husband, Mr Farnsbarnes were unlike all the other little fairy folk, because they had bought themselves a matching pair of combat helicopters which they kept in a large disused Owl-hole, which was of course simultaneously occupied by a Large Disused Owl.
Dotty’s helicopter was pink until midday, and light blue with a dark blue stripe after lunch (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), and Mr Farnsbarneses’ was light blue with a dark blue stripe in the mornings and pink after lunch. This helped them to tell the difference between the two helicopters, which were, in every other respect, identical. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends, the rules were reversed, and Dotty’s was light blue before lunch and pink after lunch. This caused a certain amount of confusion, which they solved either by only ever using one helicopter at a time, or by not minding if one of them used the other’s helicopter by mistake.
Over breakfast, Dotty and Mr Farnsbarnes made their plans for the day, which they decided would involve a trip to the small village shopping area some distance from their own area of woodland bits and bobs - which didn’t really have a name, out across the next lump of countryside which was called I Thought I Told You Not To Be So Ridiculous Valley, and which was unlike Don’t Be So Ridiculous Valley in that it was a real valley which went downwards and along, and it did it in a very nice way indeed. It was beautiful countryside, of the sort that Mr Farnsbarnes called “jolly pretty”.
There had been a time, - when they were both young, when Mr Farnsbarnes had thought that his wife, Dotty, was jolly pretty, but now she was only a bit pretty, but also a tiny bit ugly. However, as he reminded himself (for he was an optimist) she was only a very little tiny bit ugly and still quite a big bit pretty. This was only fair because Mr Farnsbarnes was also getting older every day and, it had to be admitted, was very slightly less handsome than he had been as a young man fairy. Thankfully, Dotty had not noticed this, as she was even more of an optimist than Mr Farnsbarnes, - or maybe she had noticed it, but didn’t mind.
After bidding the Large Disused Owl a very good morning, they carefully selected Dotty’s helicopter, using a calendar, a clock and a colour chart, filled its fuel tank full of tea (containing a ratio of two sugars to the Woodland Litre) - and took off into the morning mist, the pinkness of the helicopter glinting in the sunshine, reminding them that it must be Monday, Wednesday or Friday"
“OCCASIONAL” VERSES (RANDOM SELECTION)
There was a bloke called Luke M Batt
Whose father was an utter twat;
Who woke one day and loudly cursed
“Oh, Damn! I’ve missed Luke’s twenty-first!
Well not exactly missed the day
But bought NO CARD with which to say
‘Hey, Luke, I hope you’ll have a blast
Before this happy day has passed”.
And so his dad dashed off a rhyme
Knowing he still had some time
Upon his words to ruminate-
As Luke would often get up late.
Hence these syllables inept,
Written as his son still slept.
Twat or not, his dad was clear,
“Have another wicked year!
And when you’ve kids of twenty-one
Do not do what I have done!
Buy a card, or to be sure,
Write your verse the night BEFORE!”
(written for a friend’s daughter)
A monster with a purple head
Jumped out on Isla Campbell,
And chased her up the stairs to bed
As fast as she could scramble.
And there she hid beneath the sheet
For two weeks and a day,
With only marmite toast to eat
Until it went away!