White Rabbit


When Rod had run into Andy Rickell he had been playing with White Rabbit for quite a while.  Andy had just got back from touring Italy & France with Linda Lewis on vocals, Pete Pavli on bass, Mick Aron on organ & Ron Berg on drums. Rod started doing the occasional gig with them which became more frequent with time.
The band never actually recorded & their play-list included a lot of covers. They did get good reviews though. Here's one on the gig at Middle Earth in 1968:

"First on stage is a delegate of the Exploding Galaxy commune in Balls Pond Road, poet Michael Chapman, a six foot six giant with a shock of orange thatch perched askew upon which sits an upturned waste paper basket, who performs a concrete study "A Fly", consisting solely of the letter  “Z”. Next is a mime turn of inconsequence, who is obliged to terminate his act prematurely though reluctantly, consistent upon the firm resistance of the audience to the same, as well as the matter of their improvised participation in it with the added prop of a case of bruised and abandoned tomatoes (this man went by the name of David Bowie. I wonder what happened to him, L.). He in turn is followed by a solid if not extraordinary combo called The White Rabbit, who play in a sub-Doors and Jefferson Airplane style, and do anthems like "Somebody to Love", "Crystal Ship” and "Morning Dew". The Crazy World of Arthur Brown throngs the gathering like a banquet of lusty lords. King Arthur wears clown whiteface and long wizard robes. He hangs bony and gaunt, pumping his arms in a cyclic movement, suddenly springing to one side and hopping back to the other in frenzied dance, wide-eyed and weird, while organist Vincent Crane, lank hay-coloured hair whipping his chest, attempts to ride a wall of sound and drummer Carl Palmer does his best to keep up with it all."  

The article is signed Penny Reel, and I wonder what the author was on at the time of writing it, but then again it seems to have been quite a night at Middle Earth!
The band had a residency in Saint Tropez for 3 weeks in a club called 'Papagayo'. Here they got to play in front of such luminaries as Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Donna Summer, Sean Connery, Elton John, Nureyev, Greta Garbo & Jack Nicholson.
White Rabbit did a fair few gigs at Middle earth. Rod recalls the one when they supported Captain Beefheart;
(as recorded in an interview conducted by Marc Mushroom on 18th July 1989):

 RR We supported Captain Beefheart at Middle Earth and he came up to us afterwards and said how much he'd enjoyed our set. The bass player in White Rabbit was Pete Pavli (immediately after, he went on to join High Tide) who never wore shoes in those days, ever. And Captain Beefheart looked down at Pete Pavli's feet and said: "Look you'll catch something; you'll hurt yourself you really should buy some shoes. " And Pete said. "I can't afford any shoes, I’m  too poor, and anyway, if I have any money it has to go on other things”.  And the good Captain said: "Look here's some money" and gave him a five pound note (remember, a decent hotel room in Bloomsbury was only about £ 2.50 then, L), "Go on and buy yourself a pair of shoes; now promise me you won't spend it on dope, buy yourself a pair of shoes before you catch something" Amazing, what an amazingly wonderful man, you know!

MM Did he buy the shoes?

RR No, he spent it on dope (loud laughter). Not naughty dope, really, just some smoke. But yes, I'm afraid he didn't really keep his word.  But the good Captain is a wonderful man; I met him twice and I've always been a fan. Having originally been inspired by Howling Wolf myself as a blues singer, and then the Captain, the similarities in their voices sometimes find their inflections into my own voice, and I don't mind admitting that one bit. It was because of the Captain’s influence that Android Funnel got back in touch with me after the JP. Sunshine recording scene had fizzled out and after White Rabbit had split up. Because you see, the recording scene (J P. Sunshine) was running concurrently with The Artwoods and White Rabbit. Artwoods and White Rabbit was earning the money to give us the time and the equipment to go around and make JP. Sunshine music.

MM That was around '68?

RR Which was in '68, and the whole thing sort of broke up in '69, all of it.

From White Rabbit Linda Lewis went on to Ferris Wheel,  Ron Berg went to Blodwyn Pig,  Mike Aron supposedly joined Pete Brown's Poetry And Blues Band, Paul Pavli went to High Tide, Andy Rickell went down to Puddletown to work with Arthur Brown.
Rod would later get together with Andy under the guise of Rustic Rod & Android Funnell.