Alan White

ARTICLE ABOUT Alan White FROM SOUNDS, November 6, 1971

Apologies for all the Yes related articles at the moment. I just couldn`t pass this one up. Here is an article with well-known Yes man Alan White, conducted 8 or 9 months before he joined the band that would be his home in between solo work and session work for a lot of artists. Thought this would be interesting for a whole lot of people as he has played with a bunch of very famous people in his career.


Alan the thump and funk man

By Danny Holloway

Since his appearance with John Lennon in Toronto as part of the Plastic Ono Band, Alan White has had a hectic and enjoyable career over these last two years. He`s also become one of the most successful session drummers around and until now, Alan has been almost totally ignored by the press and public. (He wasn`t mentioned in the recent pop polls). His only recognition has come from fellow musicians, especially drummers, who are knocked out by his ability to literally “drive” the music with loads of punch and funk. His Geordie mumble was a bit difficult for my Californian ears to decipher at first, but once I got the hang of it, we settled into a long in-depth conversation covering the whole of his professional career.

When did you first start playing?

My first professional chance was when I was thirteen. I started in the workmen`s club circuit up North in a local group. We played six or seven nights a week. It was good experience I guess. All the miners would go to drink at night after work. We used to play other peoples` songs on stage. I`ll always remember, this guy came up to me after we finished playin` one night and he said, “You`ll be playing with the Beatles someday”. I always think about that. It was seven or eight years ago.

What made you choose to play drums?

I played the piano for eight years, before I played the drums. My uncle was a drummer and he got killed just after I started fooling around with some drums that my parents had bought us for Christmas. He played with dance bands and things and was really good at it. He could feel it. I just gradually built up from there. I really wanted to do something after his death because he was one of my favourite people. I still did piano lessons and that, but the piano started to fade out and the drums started to fade in. Especially since I was making money playin` drums while I was still at school.


What happened after that?

I played in that group for two and a half years or something like that and after that I left school. I then went to technical school for about two weeks and this new band I was in won a competition, down in London, at the Prince of Wales where Ringo, Cilla Black, Brian Epstein and some other person judged it. That was the first time I got involved with that scene. (The Beatles). It keeps coming into it at certain points in my life. The group was called the Downbeats and there was a lot of good groups and we just happened to win it. We did one single with Pye, but it was pretty ordinary.
After that I got asked to join a group called the Gamblers who were going to Germany and I joined because I wanted to go. They were from Newcastle. I spent about three months with them in Germany. We played seven and three quarter hours a night, six nights a week. Actually, they were Billy Fury`s backing group. It was when I was about 16 or 17 I played with them backing him for about two weeks in carbaret up north. It was really funny. He kept movin` his hands around.
The Gamblers broke up in Germany and I came back to join a group some friends of mine were starting called Happy Magazine. It`s a terrible name but two of the guys are still with me in a new group we`ve started called Alva Sefan. We did a lot of gigs in London and did all the club scene before I got asked to join Alan Price. He was the manager of Happy Magazine and he pulled me out of the band. I played with him for about a year. That band got me into playing with a big band. It had eight pieces, I really enjoyed it.


What happened to the Alan Price set?

Alan Price left and Paul Williams, now with Juicy Lucy, took it over as the Paul Williams Set which didn`t last long. Then this friend of mine called Peter and I started a band called Griffin. From then on I went into the whole thing with Balls and the Peace in Toronto happened.

How did you meet John Lennon?

I think he`d seen me play at a club or something. Terry Dornan, he`s a really good friend of mine, he was George`s right hand man. I came back and the gig had been cancelled for the weekend and we hadn`t very much money and we were all feeling down about a drag week-end with no food. I got a phone call from Apple, it was Terry Dornan and he said “Do you want to go to Canada tomorrow?” And I thought all my birthdays had come at once. And he said:
“John wants to do a gig and he wants you to do it. Eric Clapton is doing it too and Klaus Voorman, yourself and John.” It took a lot of guts to say “Yes, I`ll do it”, because I`d never played with any of them before, which is really frightening. So anyway I said “Yeah, man, I`ll do it. Better than a drag week-end at home”. (Sarcastically).


Were you confident?

This is like a different matter. We didn`t even have any rehearsal before we went on stage. We were all so nervous we were nearly sick. It was the first gig John had done in almost four years and we hadn`t rehearsed with the band, and I just met them eight hours before. In the back of the plane we ran through a basic idea of what we were going to do. I just had some sticks on the back of the seat. It was an incredible scene though. We had a convoy and had to be guarded by the police.

It must have been like becoming a Beatle?

Right. Like Beatle for a day. Nobody believed, when we got to the gig, that the Plastic Ono Band were actually going to play. We were hidden in this dressing room where they had a couple of amps and still no drums. When we were thrust out on stage, all the lights were out and the drums weren`t mine. I had to rush and see if I could get them into place and feel comfortable.
When they hit the first chord of the number, all the lights in the stadium went on. I didn`t play really incredible, nobody did on the album, because it was a “let`s have a blow” sort of thing. But there must have been sixty or seventy thousand people there.

Did you know it was being recorded?

No, not at the time. I thought the mikes were just for the P.A. system. And then, all of a sudden, it was all over. John went and freaked out with all them noises and feed-back. The atmosphere in the stadium was really strange. I don`t know how he created it, but just being him and doing something like that. Lennon, he was swinging guitars around and yelling out.


Was it all spontaneous?

Oh yeah! It was freaking me out man. I was thinkin`, “What do I do to that?” Do I kick all of my drums over or what? But, I just started freaking around a bit. Then, they left all the guitars on the floor and we all went to the back of the stage and lit a cigarette up. We just stood there and everyone stood there watching this noise. John banged the drums a bit and then we walked off and left the noise. Everyone thought we were going to come back on, but we had gone back to the dressing room, and it was ages before anybody had the nerve to turn the amps off.

What happened after that gig?

I came back with Griffin and things were a bit dodgy there. I think we all knew what was going to happen because I started getting a lot of publicity from the Plastic Ono Band thing. I got asked to do an album with Rick Grech and Denny (Laine) and Trevor (Burton). And after the album was finished, Denny and Trevor asked me if I`d fancy teaming together with them, which turned out to be an unfortunate mistake. We came together, and I started doing a lot of work with George (I did an album with Doris Troy) and a few sessions here and there with George and Ringo. The first time I met Ringo, there was some really strange vibes but after a while he`s a really nice person.


What was the situation that led you to join Air Force?

Denny was in Air Force first, and I was in Balls by then, and I got a phone call at the studio saying, “Ginger wants you and Trevor and a couple of horn players to join Air Force. Do you know any horn players?” I thought, “Yeah, I know a couple of horn players.” A couple of friends of mine named Beddy and Steve, who are now with me in Alva Sefan, and I got them into Air Force. And Trevor and I drifted into Air Force. And that lasted for about five or six gigs I think. The original Air Force band had some incredible looners in it. When I was in the band there was Graham Bond, Ginger Baker, Phil Seaman, Denny, Trevor, Rick Grech, Janette Jacobs, and Jenny, the two chick singers, and Harold McNair. All together there were thirteen pieces. In between numbers there was a mad dash for your next instrument and people all crashing into each other on stage. It was far too big a  band. Me and Trevor quit the band because it was all too hectic. And we just continued on with the Balls thing. I couldn`t see eye to eye with Denny at all. I played one gig with Balls. And I just can`t play bad music on stage. I feel guilty doing it for money.

You must have been offered a mass of session work after Lennon?

Yeah, I couldn`t do all of them. I did George Harrison`s solo album. That was really great. Did Johnny Almond`s solo album. I also did Gary Wright`s album called “Extraction”. And did a couple of sessions with Derek and the Dominos. I`ve done about eighteen or twenty albums in the two years since the Toronto thing. I`ve always done one main thing and lots of other things on the side with other people.

When did you get your band together?

Well, it was about a year ago.

When did you start playing with Terry?

It was around the same time I started my band. Before last Christmas I joined on a temporary basis because they had eight gigs to do. And I enjoyed it and they still needed a drummer, so I worked on a gig-to-gig basis just like a session guy.

Have you ever played in the States?

I`ve never actually played there. I`ve been offered to be flown over for sessions. Lots of work in L.A. I`ll go over soon, but I`m an Englishman at heart.


Do you prefer session work or playing live?

I prefer playing live actually. You get a lot of money for session work, but everything`s dragged out. I love doing it live. I get loads of feeling off that. Just get it all out of my system.

What type of bass player do you enjoy playing with?

Lee Miles (Terry Reid`s bassist) is very good. But, Colin, who`s playing with me in Alva Sefan, has got a rolling style, very clicky and he rolls through it all. I like that because I can stick the funk around it. Lee`s different, he plays funk rolls, in and out of the things I`m doing.

You have a hell of a thumping bass foot.

My right leg, yeah, everybody says that. It`s amazing that I don`t break any skins. I go through a bass drum skin about once every six or eight months. There`s a tremendous amount of feeling behind it. I don`t believe in playing unless you`re peaking all the time. There`s nothing worse than a drummer that sits back and rests on the rest of the band. You gotta be up there kicking them up the arse. That`s what they want. That`s what they need.

Do you like working with Klaus Voorman?

Yeah. He`s really tasty. He picks a lot of really nice notes. A really nice bass player. It`s a great atmosphere that surrounds the whole of that scene. John`s a very clever man.

How much were you on “Imagine”?

I was on about seven tracks. His material`s fantastic. He`s a really good person to be around.


How did “Instant Karma” come about?

Again, I just got a phone call, saying, “John wants to do a session at E.M.I.” I turned up, and Phil Spector was producing. He got incredible drum sounds on “Instant Karma”. We spent about a half an hour to an hour to get the drum sound right. I did the whole thing on the bass tom-tom with a cloth over the rhythm. And then we did those drum breaks in a completely different time which gave it a whole other thing. It was a tremendous atmosphere in the studio as well. There`s four of us playing piano on that. There`s two grand pianos with George down on one end and me up here and John on the other grand piano and Klaus playing an electric one. This is Phil Spector for you man! Phil Spector records the whole thing with tape echo.

Does he listen to the song and then paint his own picture of what it`s going to sound like?

Yeah, that`s his way of producing, but he`s a musician as well. He`s a great technician and he can appreciate sounds. Sometimes a hundred musicians play on a session.

What do you see in store for you in the future?

Alva Sefan is where I`ve always been at, this type of music with these people that I`m playing with. If it`s the last thing I do I`ll get it off the ground. We`ve been rehearsin` for a year. To me, they`re really top class musicians. I really dig them all. I`ll still do sessions but it`s just a matter of fittin` it all in. I like doin` things with the Beatles. They`re good people.


I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Lindisfarne, Buffy Sainte Marie, Savoy Brown, Kris Kristofferson, Thelonious Monk, It`s A Beautiful Day, John Morris, Judy Collins, Mike Pinder, Sam Mitchell, Bitter Withy.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to:
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Alan White (Yes) FROM SOUNDS, March 13, 1976

Great to read a interview with one of those people that usually miss out on the attention from music journalists. So, for once, a drummer claims the spotlight in this interview with Vivien Goldman. Miss Goldman is known as the “punk professor” but have written several books on reggae. Still only 62 years old, she lives in New York and have her own web-page for those of you who want to check her out a little more:

Can a White man sing…..?

Alan White shows Vivien Goldman where you put the vegetables if you want to make a solo album.

`Now tell me honestly, what did you really expect when you came to meet me?` The disarming question is posed as yet another Yes album hits the turntable, placed thereon by the toughened hands of Alan White, drummer in officio to Yes themselves.
Well, pal, you`ve got me there. At the time you asked me my mind went completely blank; I think basically I`d had no preconceptions about you, but in retrospect perhaps someone a little more – errrum – pretentious, and shall we say, humourless?
Because try as I might to `get into Yes`, those adjectives recur with alarming frequency.
Heavens be thanked, Alan White is another kettle of seafood entirely, being as he is a charming, mellowed-out individual with an endearing capacity of respecting the fact that you don`t dig his band, although you do dig him. Fair enough, old thing?
But each to his own, and as my papa used to say, if we all liked the same things what a dreary place the global village would be.
It don`t worry Alan none, firstly because I`m sure he`s doing very nicely thank you, what with Yes being the second-biggest selling band in the whole of South America and all that, and secondly he digs them and that`s what really matters. To elaborate in his own words, “I believe in music that Yes play, and I never get bored playing with them. That`s the whole thing about Yes music, it always keeps you interested. I`ve been playing with them since 1972 and I find Yes as incredible now as I did then.”
Can`t say fairer than that, what?

So how did you get involved with them in the first place?
“I was on tour with Joe Cocker in Europe, on the same tour with Chris Stainton`s All-Stars, and I got a phone call saying the band wanted me to join them.”
That was rather flattering surely? I meantasay, Yes weren`t exactly peanuts in 1972 either.
That aspect of things doesn`t seem to have occured to Al – he looks bewildered for a moment. “Yes, I suppose it was kind of flattering in a way, they did pick up on my playing just from hearing me on records, but it was a split decision in a way.
“I didn`t really know whether I wanted to join a band like that – a progressive band, I mean. I`d always been happy just playing the way I was, with musicians I enjoyed playing with. And the music I was playing was usually a funky kinda thing. But it was a challenge, playing with Yes.
“It took me about a year to learn to play with the band, like something always moving forward with your instrument, learning to develop the sound in a certain way, and still keeping the basic roots of your instrument in the music. It really works now.
“You`ve got to remember that I`d been very ignorant that Yes were ever around in the first days. I remember when I used to play with Terry Reid in the way, way back days I heard an album, and was very interested in the kind of things Yes were up to.
“I was living with Eddie Offord, who was Yes` producer, in London, for about a year. I never actually met them, though I went down the studios to hear them a couple of times.”

Was it very difficult to fit into such a tight unit? For example, everybody knows, that Yes are ardent vegetarians. Was there any conflict there?
“None at all, because I was a vegetarian before I ever joined up with Yes. Eddie Offord was the guy who turned Yes onto vegetarianism, and he got me into it at the same time. I feel much better for it as well. Steve Howe`s probably going to stop eating dairy foods as well… there`s a lot of energy in the band that I think comes out of their vegetarian attitude, the band can communicate on a much higher level because of it.
“If most people thought about what they were putting into their bodies (shudders with disgust/distaste) I agree with you, though, the self-discipline on its own has a lot to do with it. Steve Howe and myself own a health food shop, y`know, in Hampstead High Street, the one with the bear on the front window, Brownies`.”
Great, does that mean I get a discount? (“No.”)
The point of all this pleasant social intercourse is (yup, you`ve guessed it, isn`t it always?) Alan`s new Solo Album. It`s called `Ramshackle` and is released on the Atlantic label.
“It`s an enjoyable little collection, with a spot of this and a spot of that gracing the black wax (vinyl, actually). There`s a touch of soul, a touch of funk, a touch of Yes-ian acrobatics, and even a Touch Of Reggae. That`s not so unusual these days, but more on that point later.
And by the way, weren`t you always noted as a funk/soul drummer all through your days with Griffon (“NOT to be confused with Gryphon,” Alan points out with a delicate combination of anxiety and boredom)?

Alan comments modestly, “If you count soul as swinging and playing in 5/4 time and yet funky, I suppose I might be. But there`s a load of different things on the album, the numbers change from number to number. (Yes, he really did put it like that, but who can blame him? I mean, after a while you get tired of scrabbling around for other words that means the same as `number`.)
“I tried to get a lot of different kinds of music on the album because I like playing lots of different kinds of music.”
Does that indicate that within Yes you`ve generally got to play the same kind of music?
“Not at all, because within Yes you can express your feelings of doing something nobody`s ever done, we`re always trying to see round the corner or over the hill, trying to take your particular instrument in a new direction. It`s quite simple, I just made an album of music I really enjoyed playing with a good band.
“It`s really a drummer in a band`s album, rather than a Yes solo album. The band on the album is the kind I`ve been associated with for the past four or five years, we were all in Griffon together.”
So tell us summat about these lads, then.
The keyboards player (Kenny Craddock) came from Lindisfarne, he`s not doing too much now, sessions mostly. The guitar player`s (Peter Kirtley) last band was called Riff Raff, and he was involved with Carol Grimes for a while. Basically they`re all really good musicians that are trying to find their hole… the bassist (Colin Gibson) plays with Snafu.


“They`re all really good friends of mine from up North. I come from Durham City. Why the accent? (a strange hybrid of Northern English and L.A.) My girlfriend comes from America and we`ve been together for a few years, and I`ve spent lots of time over there anyway. EVERYONE asks me that!” (despairing) You win some, you lose some, I guess.”
So will there be any special Alan White Band gigs to help promote `Ramshackle`?
“Unfortunately I don`t have time to gig with the band because of Yes` commitments, we`re pretty committed for the whole of next year, in fact.
“But there is talk of a Yes gig sometime with everyone doing some numbers from each of their solo albums at the end of the show – this is the third solo album from the five of us, Y`know – it would be nice, but I don`t know whether it`ll happen.
“I was having a good time living out a lot of memories from the past and really enjoying myself, believing in a certain type of music that was conceived over a number of years. I finally had the chance to let it come out to the public, and this was the first opportunity I`d had.
“It has been an ache for a few years, but Yes is my first commitment right now. In fact, at the end of the album, I really needed to get back to Yes, to the adventurous kind of music that Yes play. I`m really very happily surprised perhaps at the amount of good reaction to my album, especially as it hasn`t stuck as closely to the Yes format as Steve`s (Howe) or Chris`s (Squire).”

Do you think the drums are very differently positioned, much more prominent than they would have been had it been a Yes album?
“I`ve been told they are more prominent, but I didn`t put them there! (laughs). The person who brought them out was the engineer/producer, Bob Potter, he`s a good friend of mine, used to do the Grease Band. People usually complain that the drums aren`t loud enough on Yes records.
“One of my faults is that I always listen to the drums first, and then up through the music to the singer. But through producing an album you learn to listen to the whole unit much better. I`m not finding that I play differently now, but I`m more aware of the role drums play in a band now.
“Usually when we`re producing a Yes album there`s five pairs of hands controlling exactly what they hear their own instrument doing and putting it onto the record, and sometimes it gets all cluttered and squashed in. But through each member doing solo albums, I think that when it comes to the next album, which we`re rehearsing right now, everyone`s gonna sit back a little more, and see their own position in the music much better, it won`t be as cluttered.”
Let`s get back to album specifics for a moment. That reggae track, `Silly Woman`, how come that got on the album?
“They wanted to release that as the single, y`know, but I wouldn`t let them do it because it`s too obvious, I didn`t do it because it was in vogue. It was really because I`d spent the last two Christmases in Jamaica and really enjoyed the music, and a song came up that was appropriate for the reggae rhythm. It`s a white reggae, really.”

Did you design these macho lyrics deliberately to fit in with the reggae?
Ahh you silly woman I`m beginning to believe you can`t even see. Why aren`t you here next to me. I don`t want to mock you. I know you`re running to be free, it`s just the way you`ve been carrying on I ought to put you across my knee.
“No, they`re just a bit of fun! I didn`t write any of the lyrics, I`m not a lyricist in any way. The guy actually wrote it from personal experience (launches into an involved and highly personal story of love, betrayal, to-ing and fro-ing in young couples, winding up with `so we can`t play it when that chick`s around because it`s about the other chick.` Got that?).
And how about the `Song Of Innocence` track, taken from the poem of the same name by Wm. Blake?
“I`m not as clued in on Blake as some people but I do like him very much, I`ve read his biography and a couple of books about him. His pictures drive me round the bend (grins enthusiastically) they`re fantastic, the colours, the themes…”

And talking of pictures, how about the rather risque offering on the inner sleeve? It`s an old geezer whose visage is composed entirely of naked female bodies.
“Oh, he`s a 77-year old artist I`ve known for a long time. The original version from the 50`s is on the label, look. I own the copyright on the new one, you see he did it slightly differently. He came down to the studio and really enjoyed the music we were making, he doesn`t like knocking around with old people too much… that poem on the back of the sleeve, that`s by a poet called Tom Pickard, he`s a guy from Newcastle that everyone`s known for a long time.”
As Alan genially led me to the door of his manager`s plush golden office, we were standing on the gi-normous carpet in the shape of the Yes logo (pretty shprauntsy, that one), and was studying the pencil drawing of Alan on the white sleeve. It doesn`t look much like you, I commented (it doesn`t).
“You`re right,” said Alan, with a pleased grin, and quipped, it doesn`t really matter, does it – all that matters is what`s on the vinyl!” And on that heartfelt note, I took my leave.


I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Evelyn Thomas & Ian Levine, Shaun Cassidy, Jimmy Page, Cate Brothers, Julie Tippetts, Adam Faith, Pat Travers, Deep Purple, Jesse Winchester, Phil Collins.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to:
2. The offer should be 15 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.