Machinehead Tremeloarm is probably the UK’s leading survivor of the British music scene of the 1960s-70s. Known in his time as a consummate musician, it was rumoured that he had once managed to get up to page 7 of Bert Weedon’s Play With Yourself Every Day guitar instruction book. He may also have read several of the words in the manual, rather than just looking at the pictures like so many of the other guitarist of the era.
Not only did Tremeloarm know more that the requisite three chords, but he also knew how to hold the guitar the right way up. This was a skill that many of his contemporaries didn’t manage until usually well into their third album.
Of course, Tremeloarm had a long series of hit singles. The now world-famous standard Ooh Baby (Baby), My Baby is My Baby, Baby (Baby), staying at the top of the British single chart for almost 27 minutes.
A record for a record at the time.
Consequently, many predicted that Tremeloarm himself would have a career measured in months rather than the three or four days that was the average for the period. In those times, it was possible for a pop star to be an unknown in the morning, a massive star in the afternoon, and forgotten again by the time the pubs closed that same night.
However, it was the success and influence of the Beatles that changed how the pop music and pop star business worked. As with so many stars of the era, the Liverpool quartet was also a massive influence on Tremeloarm. However, it was not so much their music, or their fashion sense, that influenced Tremeloarm. In an interview with FAB N Groovy magazine, Paul McCartney made an off the cuff remark about both he and John Lennon experimenting with custard. This changed Tremeloarm’s whole attitude not only to music, but also to life, the universe and Luton.
Of course, the custard scene changed many musicians’ lives as they began to experiment more and more with such exotic substances. It was Tremeloarm’s fifth album, Major Custard’s Apple Crumble Army, which changed Tremeloarm’s entire philosophical outlook. Not only that, it also affected his guitar playing, but also his use of the then-new M1 motorway to get to Luton – the hip happening groovy town of the time. It also altered his decision to write songs with more than three chords in them. Furthermore, Tremeloarm used an accordion on several tracks, without the – then – obligatory legal health warning on the record sleeve.
It was this revolutionary use of the accordion, as well as his rather risqué – for the time – stage act, where several nude dancers gyrated in an enormous bowl of custard that caused outrage. It resulted too in getting Tremeloarm banned from America for almost a decade.
Although, those days are now long over. Nowadays, naked dancing in custard is a staple of so many contemporary rock and hip-hop acts, and middle-class dinner parties.
It is Tremeloarm and his revolutionary approach to rock ‘n’ roll as an art form, and thus a tax-deductible activity, that we have to thank for the development of the modern music scene. This is something we should not forget.