The first New Zealand beat band to play the UK club scene at the height of the 1960s British pop explosion, Me And The Others evolved from a combination of Christchurch units that included drummer and later top producer Peter Dawkins and legendary bass player Gary Thain.
Bass players in rock bands mostly blend in as part of the rhythm section, rarely taking centre stage, but the melodic, lead guitar style and mesmerising stage presence of Gary Thain broke the mould.
Thain played with the cream of musicians in the UK, joining progressive rockers the Keef Hartley Band and then Uriah Heep for their classic years from 1972 to 1974.
Mick Box, guitarist and founding member of Uriah Heep, says Thain was a natural fit for the five-piece band as it was breaking internationally. “Gary came in playing these lead lines all over the place and they fitted well. We were like five front men … he had these melodic walking bass lines that I’d never heard before.”
In 1963, Thain, a lean teenager described by schoolmates as quiet, broody and passionate about music, joined his brother’s band, The Strangers, playing rock and roll hits and Beatles covers at Christchurch clubs.
Rival unit The Secrets poached him in 1965. Keyboardist, rhythm guitar player and vocalist Paul Muggleston reckoned with Thain on board, they’d be the best in town.
They scored support for Gene Pitney and The Searchers, recorded several singles for Allied International and back in Christchurch, secured a dual residency at the Pride of Place, alongside The Others.
When The Secrets disbanded Muggleston and Thain joined forces with Dawkins and Chapman, renaming themselves Me And The Others.
The Others, founded by former Strangers drummer Peter Dawkins and featuring guitarist Dave Chapman, had backed Tommy Adderley and Lou and Simon on the Miss South Canterbury show and supported Tom Jones and Herman’s Hermits on their 1965 national tour.
When The Secrets disbanded Muggleston and Thain joined forces with Dawkins and Chapman, renaming themselves Me And The Others, with the role of “Me” continually shifting as part of the in-joke. The plan was to hit the UK and play alongside their musical heroes.
Dave Chapman describes Thain as a showman. “He used slap rather than picking…people used to look at him watch his style, sometimes with fast numbers his hand was going round on his wrist like on a swivel.”
Muggleston says he was “totally finger style” like a guitarist, delivering a funky, solid driving beat. “He had callouses on his hands that carpenters would have been proud of.”
Muggleston and Thain departed for England on the Australis a month ahead of their drummer and lead guitarist and were soon soaking themselves in the sounds of ‘66 and doing odd jobs to pay the rent while they waited for their bandmates.
Thain scored work with a Scarborough covers band and when Muggleston went to meet Chapman and Dawkins in May 1966, he was nowhere to be found.
The trio found temporary lodgings, fearing they might have to hold auditions for a new bass player. When Thain finally showed up two weeks later Me And the Others began rethinking their options.
Muggleston says they had hoped to bring a version of the surfing sound with overtones of Ray Columbus but the British scene had morphed into something grittier. Their sound systems and amps weren’t going to cut it and it was clear they needed to develop a wilder, “fuzz blown compressed sound”.
Chapman traded his 1963 Fender Stratocaster for a Vox guitar, amp and fuzz box, Muggleston acquired a Vox Continental organ and Thain bought a Gibson 335 bass with Vox amplifier and two 15 inch speakers for either side of the stage. Dawkins already had a top of the range Rogers drum kit.
They soon ditched their current transport, a Triumph Herald with a roof rack, for a Bedford van to carry all their gear, and began pitching for work. A fortuitous series of events unfolded after Muggleston and Dawkins encountered Pretty Things drummer Viv Prince outside his Knuckles nightclub in Soho.
Dawkins knew he’d been good friends with Tommy Adderley and soon they were invited inside for a meal and drinks and secured two weeks work. The place was buzzing, The Easybeats had just arrived from Australia and Pete Townshend from The Who and Mick Jagger were regulars.
The boys found a couple of bedsits nearby and at The Ship, a well-known musicians club, Keith Emerson, later of the Nice and Emerson Lake and Palmer, introduced them to an agent for the club circuit.
Me And the Others were truly pioneers, well established and playing London to Cornwall all the way to the top of Scotland before The Human Instinct (previously The Four Fours) got their first British gig later in 1966.
Me And the Others were supported by Reaction with drummer Roger Taylor, later of Queen, and shared the stage at another venue with the Graham Bond Organisation.
At The Blue Lagoon club in Newquay, Cornwall, Me And the Others were supported by Reaction with drummer Roger Taylor, later of Queen, and shared the stage at another venue with the Graham Bond Organisation, whose rhythm section of Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker would shortly team up with Eric Clapton in Cream.
They were given a demo from the band The Ivy League, 'Love is Not A Game', and asked for a more aggressive version which they eventually recorded in November 1966, at Regent Sound Studios.
In late 1966 they followed The Kinks into a month-long residency at the Piant Hithouse in Schwabing Munich, where they worked long hours packing in the crowds seven days a week from 3pm until 3am.
Band members found different ways of coping with the pressure; a few too many drinks or some herb. Gary Thain, perhaps the most dedicated, continually rehearsing and improving his musical knowledge and skills, had taken a shine to “happy pills”.
The “crowd adoration” of so many punters who returned night after night was part of the buzz the boys missed when they moved on to play armed forces bases across Stuttgart seven nights a week.
The servicemen on rest and recreation from Vietnam were more interested in drinking and getting the girls than what the resident band might have been playing. Thain’s favourite tipple was brandy and lime, and after a session with his bandmates at an airforce base bar, he disappeared.
When the band couldn’t locate him and was late to the stage a group of airmen took over. Thain was later found passed out in the garden. They didn’t get paid for that gig.
While Muggleston, Dawkins and Chapman took advantage of the free meals, Thain, already painfully thin, stuck with soup and fags and continued to lose weight.
After a solid eight-month circuit of venues across the UK and Germany, Muggleston and Chapman called it quits. As the deep chill of winter set in across Germany, Thain and Dawkins decided to push on with the addition of Californian guitarist Ed Carter under the name New Nadir.
They went back to the Pient Hithouse, played France, Switzerland and other European venues and headed into a recording studio in Zurich, Switzerland on 28th August 1967 to lay down five tracks for the Witchseason label, including jazzier and more progressive sounds.
Further tracks were later recorded with session player Mike Kowalski replacing Dawkins on drums in 1968 but the album was never completed. Several tracks were finally released on vinyl in 2009 with live recordings of Me And the Others on side two.
In Part Two: Peter Dawkins returns to New Zealand to begin his Australasian music production career and Gary Thain, after the demise of New Nadir, plays sessions with the cream of British musos, is recruited by former John Mayall drummer Keef Hartley and steps up into the global limelight with Uriah Heep.
Whilst waiting for Dave Chapman and Peter Dawkins to arrive in the UK in 1966, Paul Muggleston worked briefly as part of "The Dalton Brothers" in a cowboy themed riding show in Kirby.