Russell Hunter

Barry Russell Hunter was born on 26th April 1946 in Woking, Surrey. At the time his parents were living in the London suburb of Waterloo with his father’s parents, but the nearby St Thomas’s hospital had closed its maternity unit during the war and relocated thirty miles away to Woking as the nearby train station was deemed a possible Nazi target. In 1948 the family moved to temporary accommodation in Bournemouth when Russell’s father got a job at the newly opened British Drug Houses factory in Poole. The following year the Hunter’s moved to new housing built by BDH for its employees at Moorlands Way in Upton, a northerly suburb of Poole, and then, a few years later, a stone’s throw away to a larger house in Holcombe Road. Russell initially attended Upton Infants, which operated out of a hall at St Dunstan’s Church until it moved to new purpose-built premises a few hundred yards from his home. In 1954 he moved onto Lytchett Minster Juniors and finally three years later, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar in Wimborne, where for three years he was in the same class as Robert Fripp and Gordon Haskell, one of a triumvirate of rock stars in waiting.  

A teenage Russell Hunter (Photograph courtesy of Russell Hunter)

Russell’s first exposure to music, like most kids in the fifties, came from the radio, but unlike a lot of youngsters he took it a step further by regularly catching a bus into town and sneaking into hotels to watch groups entertain the holidaymakers. It didn’t matter if it was a jazz trio, a middle of the road combo knocking out tired standards or a beat group rehashing top twenty hits, it was all grist to the mill and nothing was off limits as far as music was concerned. For some reason he was always fascinated by the drums and the night he sat in a cheap seat on the stage of the Winter Gardens behind The Shadows, where he could study their drummer Brian Bennett at close quarters had a huge effect on him. However, the inspiration to take up drums seriously came from his sixteen-year-old classmates, Robert Fripp and Gordon Haskell, who he saw at the Cellar Club in Poole with their new group, The League of Gentlemen. He realised if they could do it, he could do it and used it as the motivation to nag his dad into signing a credit agreement for a fifty quid set of Broadway drums. From then on Russell spent his spare time locked away in his bedroom, playing along to records while irritating the neighbours. For a short period he hired an old pro to show him the basic rudiments and how he could sharpen up his technique, but he couldn’t afford to keep up the payments and reverted to working it out for himself.

Shortly before Russell’s seventeenth birthday in 1963, he plucked up the courage to audition for a top local group, Tony, Howard and the Dictators. A nervy run through of Pat Boone’s “Speedy Gonzales” and an Everly Brothers album track, “When it’s Night-Time in Italy, It’s Wednesday Over Here”, highlighted his shortcomings and was told thanks, but no thanks. Russell returned to the sanctity of his bedroom where he worked on his chops before trying again with a soul band called The Big Six. This time he was successful. Gaining in confidence, he moved onto The Hurricanes who eventually morphed into The Mob. The quartet of Russell, John Dickenson on keyboards and vocals, bassist Rex Arnold and a guitarist / vocalist, whose surname has been forgotten in the mists of time called Paul, rehearsed at the Dickenson’s family owned Pinewood Motel in Ferndown.

The Mob pose next to their old Commer van circa 1966, Left to Right: Paul ?, Rex Arnold, Russell Hunter & John Dickenson (Photograph courtesy of Russell Hunter)

For a local covers band, they were fairly adventurous. Sure they played the Wheelhouse and Bure and Cellar Clubs along with the other groups, but they also branched out covering the south coast west to Wareham, Dorchester and Lyme Regis, east to Southampton where they supported The Yardbirds, onto Portsmouth, the Shoreline Club in Bognor Regis where they played with Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers and The Untamed and north to Winchester and Basingstoke. In August 1965 they landed a plumb job opening for The Animals at the Salisbury City Hall.

The same year they signed with the Jean Alexander Agency. Jean and her husband were an incongruous-looking couple who resembled the type of agents that would have been happier booking vaudeville and music hall acts back in the forties rather than pop groups. She wore a voluminous, slightly moth-eaten fur coat of unknown vintage and he drove a large flashy Rover, but despite the suspicion that they were probably out of their depth in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, the pair treated The Mob well and provided them with plenty of work. Various gigs in London such as the famous, but tiny, 2i’s coffee bar in Soho (the home of skiffle) and the Starlite Ballroom in Greenford where they supported The Action were exciting propositions and numerous college dates and a Cambridge University fresher’s ball brought in fairly good monetary rewards.

Even John Dickenson’s father chipped in with some dates. He was originally from County Durham and called in a few favours by organising two trips to the northeast where the band played a variety of working men’s clubs, miners’ institutes and village halls. Adults in the heavily industrialised towns would organise ‘Beat Nights’ for their bored teenagers and pay the groups approximately £15 a night to keep them off the streets. Not a huge amount of money, but six gigs a week was enough to live on and to cut the cost of accommodation, the ever resourceful band dragged a small four berth caravan behind them which they would park up in the club’s car park overnight, or in a nearby layby.  

Joe Meek stands outside his first floor studio in Holloway Road

In 1966 the band jumped at an opportunity to record two John Dickenson’s songs, “Gypsy” and “Don’t Make a Habit of This”, for a possible single in Joe Meek’s studio in Holloway Road, London. There was talk of a linkup with Pye records but nothing came of it and the tapes languished in a vault never to be heard of again. For Russell, the disappointment was palpable and the catalyst that drove him to leave the band and try his luck in London. Before he left for the bright lights, he spent a couple of months working for the Post Office and in his spare time hung around with a gang of beatniks who introduced him to the joys of dope smoking which supplemented his already heavy amphetamine use. When he arrived in London, Russell took a job with the Civil Service at Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in Holborn and shared a room in a civil service hostel in Bayswater while he weighed up his options. As for The Mob, they disintegrated, leaving John Dickenson to recruit drummer Billy Nims from The Falcons as a replacement for Russell, Greg Lake from The Timechecks on guitar and bassist Malcolm Bracher in a new band called The Shame.

The London Russell found in 1966 was well and truly ‘Swinging’ according to the popular press. England had just won the World Cup, The Beatles were expanding musical boundaries fuelled by the drug of the moment, LSD, Twiggy’s face was plastered all over magazine covers and mini-skirts were shrinking by the day. Russell threw himself into the scene, gravitating to hip clubs such as the Flamingo, Tiles and a new psychedelic hippy hang out in Tottenham Court Road called UFO. The doorman, Mick Farren, was a pivotal character in an underground movement that had been gradually bubbling to the surface in the Ladbroke Grove, Holland Park and Notting Hill Gate areas of London. Long before the hippies moved in, the cheap rents of bedsit land attracted beatniks, bohemians, writers, free thinkers and immigrants, particularly West Indians, but by 1966 their ranks had swelled to include freaks, anarchists, musicians, long-haired rabble-rousers and various movers and shakers. For a short time in the late sixties the counterculture blossomed with its own socio-politically motivated press, International Times and OZ, a unique style of psychedelic art epitomised by Martin Sharp, Peter Blake, Nigel Waymouth and Michael English and a soundtrack provided by Hawkwind, the Edgar Broughton Band, High Tide and Quintessence.

The Deviants lead by Mick Farren stir up the locals and freaks in Trafalgar Square 1968

It was in this highly charged environment that Russell landed in 1967 when he passed an audition to join vocalist Farren, bassist Pete Munro, and guitarist Clive Muldoon in The Social Deviants. The politically motivated front man was already writing controversial articles for the International Times and was in the process of organising the London branch of the White Panther Party, an anti-racist collective sympathetic to America’s Black Panthers. The Deviants (they soon dropped Social from their name) became a vehicle for Farren’s polemic, and the band backed up his agitprop lyrics with a pre-punk garage thrash aided by a cocktail of drugs.

Russell’s first gig was a baptism of fire on 29th June 1967 at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm as part of ‘The Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation’ arranged by several radical psychiatrists including R. D. Laing, the favoured therapist of the counterculture. The band was chronically unrehearsed, and the gig descended into a complete shambles as the equipment failed and Russell was left to thump out an impromptu drum solo. He soon found out it wasn’t unusual for a Deviants gig to end in total chaos, as a festival in an aircraft hangar in Utrecht, Holland was so disorganised, bassist Pete Munro decided he couldn’t take anymore and quit. Not long after, Clive Muldoon auditioned for a vacancy in The Move created by John ‘Ace’ Kefford’s departure. He failed to get the job, but was ousted anyway for his disloyalty. Muldoon was replaced by Sid Bishop, and Cord Rees came in for Munro.    

The Deviants, Left to Right; Duncan Sanderson, Paul Rudolph, Russell Hunter & Mick Farren

Up to this point The Deviants had failed to bag a record deal, but a millionaire friend of Farren’s, Nigel Samuel, agreed to finance an album by stumping up £700. He suggested they record the album at Sound Techniques in London, press it themselves, use their artist friends to design the cover and distribute it through the underground press, head shops and mail order. The concept was novel for 1967 and a precursor for what was to come ten years later with the rise of independent record labels inspired by the punk movement. Released in 1968 on their own Underground Impresarios imprint and encased in a lavish fold out sleeve based on a Marvel Comic concept with liner notes by John Peel, Ptooff! initially sold around eight thousand copies. Later, in 1968, it was picked up by Decca and distributed nationally. Likened to a cross between The Fugs and The Mothers of Invention, The Deviants rough-and-ready debut has gained kudos over the years as a psychedelic classic, however, at the time it definitely split opinions. Disc & Music Echo likened it to Frank Zappa with, “Their music is highly individual, following no style save a strong admiration for the Mothers…Free, alive, funny, freaky music”, while Record Mirror weighed in with, “It’s the usual British underground scene, early Pretty Things, somewhat pretentious lyrics, primitive excitement”.

To promote the album, the band took the revolution to the masses in universities, colleges, clubs and at free gigs, if there was a cause worth fighting for. To help carry the load they employed two drug dealers from their coterie of friends, Tony Wigens and Boss Godman, as a driver and humper. In northern industrial towns and throughout the midlands, The Deviants were mainly looked on as heroes with their lefty views and in your face noise terrorism, but in the shires and at a gig in Exeter in particular, they were lucky to get away with their lives as disgruntled locals attacked them with fists and beer glasses.

Before recording their second album, Disposable, Cord Rees suffered a breakdown and walked out, leaving an opening for occasional percussionist and vocalist Duncan ‘Sandy’ Sanderson to come in on bass. Part-time keyboard players Dennis Hughes and Tony Ferguson helped out on organ and piano respectively, and Michael ‘Mac’ MacDonnell doubled up on bass and guitar. On the question of taking the unusual step of employing two bass players, Farren said in his autobiography, Give the Anarchist a Cigarette, “They could replicate an atonal B52 in a power dive and were far from pleasant”. In September 1968 the band decamped to Morgan Studios and recorded thirteen tracks ranging from scuzzy garage rock to surf music and spoken word pieces to aimless twelve bar jams. Record Mirror were on-board this time calling it, “Noisy, exciting, occasionally original but certainly more interesting than most”, while Disc & Music Echo went with, “Raw and powerful as the Stones, with the bitterness of Dylan”, high praise indeed but not warranted, as the album lacked focus and most of the songs highlighted Farren’s weak vocals. The singer once described the album as, “An unfocused chaotic Methedrine shambles”, a fair assessment.

The Deviants, St Paul’s Cathedral Left to Right: Sandy, Russell Hunter, Mick Farren & Paul Rudolph

During 1969, The Deviants lost Dennis Hughes to suicide, and Sid Bishop made way for Paul Rudolph from Vancouver. The new recruit came in with a vision of where he wanted to take the band, and Russell and Sandy were happy to follow, which over time marginalised Mick Farren. By May, the band that had coalesced into the quartet of Farren, Hunter, Sanderson and Rudolph played a mid-day gig on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in central London. Some believe it was for Christian Aid Week and others insist it was for the cathedral’s renovation fund, but whatever the reason, it was a strange choice of venue. The audience, a mixture of freaks, curious bystanders, office workers and city gents on their lunch breaks, watched in bemusement as the band kicked up an unholy racket while members of the clergy mingled with the crowd rattling collection plates. All Russell can remember of the gig was their roadie Boss Goodman holding onto to his bass drum for dear life, while trying to stop it from skidding on the stone and toppling down the steps. Later in September the band performed at a free festival in Hyde Park along with the Edgar Broughton Band, Quintessence, Bournemouth’s own folkie, Al Stewart, Eclection and the head-liners Soft Machine. The Deviants played a full-on aggressive set that had the audience and a gang of Hells Angels up and dancing. Towards the end of their allotted time, a semi-naked woman clambered onto the stage to loud cheers from the crowd and was about to remove the rest of her clothing when she was hauled off by one of the Angels, which was greeted by loud boos.

The Deviants Hyde Park 1969, Left to Right: Sandy, Mick Farren, Russell Hunter & Paul Rudolph

By the time of their final self-titled album Mick Farren observed, “We were so creatively tapped out we couldn’t even come up with a snappy name for the damned record”. In some ways, he was right. The production by Farren smoothed off the rough edges, making the band sound like a competent heavy rock outfit rather than the DIY noise merchants of the past. However, when you look past the slick production, the lyrics are just as caustic and rebellious as before. Farren had lost none of his bite and bile, and in some quarters it’s looked on as being their best album.

After its release, The Deviants flew to Canada for three ill-fated and sparsely attended dates at the Colonial Club in Vancouver. During the visit, Farren became paranoid and behaved erratically as he believed the rest of the band were plotting against him. Ultimately, his paranoia proved to be correct, as Paul Rudolph thought Farren’s commitment to the cause was unrealistic and holding them back musically. Plus Russell and Sandy enjoyed pushing the boundaries of the songs, spurred on by Rudolph’s expansive and inventive playing. After the gigs, a meeting was called and Farren was sacked from his own band. He boarded a plane back to London where he teamed up with drummer John ‘Twink’ Alder, formerly of The Pretty Things, and Steve Peregrin Took who had recently been sacked by Marc Bolan from T. Rex. The hapless trio, plus Twink’s girlfriend Silver Darling on a keyboard she couldn’t play, performed an unrehearsed, ramshackle gig at Manchester University as The Pink Fairies Motorcycle Band and Drinking Club. Took played bass while Farren yelled slogans and Twink left his drum kit to wander into the middle of the hall where he pulled down his trousers and farted. After the gig Farren was hospitalised suffering from physical and mental exhaustion. 

Meanwhile, back in Canada, the remaining trio picked up a week’s worth of gigs at the Trolley Club in Detroit, after which they moved onto San Francisco where they lived off the hospitality of several hippy communes including Chet Helms Family Dog. While they were living at a commune in Oak Street, the band took advantage of a free rehearsal room and worked up new riffs and songs which they honed and perfected at The Matrix Club, Berkeley University and the Family Dog Ballroom. By February 1970 they were virtually broke, but they had just enough from the Frisco dates to fly to Montreal and play a series of pre-arranged gigs at McGill University. The money they made paid for tickets back to England.   

In their absence, Twink had decided he would hook up with the remaining Deviants on their return. Apparently, he originally intended to be the singer, but Russell’s kit was impounded for several weeks by customs on their return and he became the drummer by default until the kit was returned. However, Russell sees it differently. He believes Twink only wanted Rudolph and Sanderson, but they remained loyal and refused to join up unless Russell was involved. In the great scheme of things the reasons are irrelevant, as the band became a powerful unit driven by two dynamic drummers.

The Pink Fairies and Hawkwind play for free at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music

The newly christened Pink Fairies made their debut at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm in April 1970 on a bill with Patto, White Trash, and Siren. From the outset, the Fairies carried on the tradition of impromptu free gigs to help further causes or aid deserving organisations. Their first high-profile freebie was at the 1970 ‘Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music’ held at the Royal and West Showground, Shepton Mallet in June. The festival was noted for its stellar line-up of American band’s including Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, The Mothers of Invention, Steppenwolf, Dr John, Johnny Winter, Canned Heat and Santana amongst others. Throw in Pink Floyd who premiered “Atom Heart Mother”, John Mayall with special guest Peter Green and a headlining spot from Led Zeppelin, and the ticket price of fifty shillings wasn’t that excessive. However, these were the days of anti-capitalist militancy, so The Fairies and Hawkwind organised a people’s festival from the back of a flat-bed truck outside the fences of the main festival site in protest at the high ticket prices.

Twink and Russell bare all. The Pink Fairies, Phun City Festival, Worthing July 1970

There was an opportunity for the two bands to repeat the performance at the Phun City free festival organised by Mick Farren in his hometown of Worthing in July. Despite Hawkwind turning up with the intention of taking part, it’s believed their mammoth drug consumption on the day handicapped their ability to perform. On a bill that included The Pretty Things, The Edgar Broughton Band, Mighty Baby, Mungo Jerry, Kevin Ayers, the Beat author William Burroughs and headliners the MC5 from Detroit, The Pink Fairies had the crowd up and dancing in the afternoon and finished their set with Twink and Russell cavorting around the stage stark naked.                                             

The Pink Fairies and Hawkwind (Pinkwind) play Canvas City at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival

In August, the two bands did get together at the Isle of Wight Festival and played outside the festival site by an inflatable tent called Canvas City on the Friday afternoon. On Saturday the two bands humped their gear to the fairground tent and jammed for two hours or seven hours, depending on who you asked. Apparently the coffee was spiked with acid, so who knows how long they actually played for. Meanwhile, Mick Farren was out and about stirring up trouble by mobilising the White Panthers, a gang of Hells Angels and a disparate bunch of anarchists and radical French and German students to help him tear down the fences and make it a free festival.

From then on the two bands became kindred spirits and established a working relationship, often appearing at gigs together, taking it in turns to headline. Each band brought their own specialty to the performance, Hawkwind provided the ‘Space Rock’ while The Pink Fairies contributed the ‘Cosmic Boogie’, and at the end of the night the two bands would amalgamate for an elongated jam as Pinkwind. It all ended in 1972 when Hawkwind hit big with “Silver Machine” and graduated to larger and better venues, leaving The Fairies behind.

The Pink Fairies circa 1970, Left to Right: Paul Rudolph, Twink, Russell Hunter & Sandy

In the autumn, The Pink Fairies received a generous £20,000 advance from Polydor and set about upgrading their gear and hiring another roadie, Ian Lee, to help Boss Goodman. Their first single, “The Snake” backed with “Do It”, was a double-sided, kick-ass statement of proto-punk intent. Over the years John Lydon of The Sex Pistols and Brian James and Captain Sensible of The Damned have cited The Fairies as an influence, earning them the title of the ‘Godfathers of Punk’. Their debut album, Never Never Land in contrast, was viewed as a huge disappointment by some members of the band. Russell believes it was a pale shadow of their live performances and that it was very much Twink’s baby. Others were disappointed live favourites such as their version of The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” was overlooked in favour of compositions hastily assembled during the recording process. A lot of the critics were more enamoured with the elaborate sleeve than the actual record, Disc & Music Echo were typical with their assessment, “Pink Fairies have one of the nicest ever covers on their album, but it’s diabolical. A self-indulgent, untogether, unrehearsed row. Shame”. In hindsight Never Never Land is not as bad as some critics made out, it might not deliver the sonic onslaught of a live gig, but the blend of melodic songs such as the Floyd like “Heavenly Man” and “War Girl” interspersed with the thunderous proto-metal of “Teenage Rebel” and the eleven minute “Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout” makes for a varied and interesting listening experience.

Russell in his prime (Photograph courtesy of Russell Hunter)

The Fairies received a fair amount of flak from members of the underground for signing to a major label and supposedly selling out, but they weren’t the only ones. The Edgar Broughton Band hooked up with EMI’s subsidiary progressive label Harvest, Liberty snapped up Hawkwind and every other so-called ‘community band’ based around Ladbroke Grove ended up on one major label or another. In those pre-independent days, it was the only route to getting your music heard and in the shops, unless you had a super-rich benefactor like Mick Farren’s friend Nigel Samuel who was happy to stump up the cash.

The Pink Fairies Glastonbury Faire 1971, Left to Right: Russell, Sandy, Twink & Paul

Over the coming months, The Fairies played many benefits for worthy causes, including the Gay Liberation Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, and against the mass internment of suspected members of the IRA in Northern Ireland. In June 1971 they turned up at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset for the Glastonbury Faire free festival along with Family, Traffic, David Bowie, Terry Reid and the usual suspects Hawkwind, Edgar Broughton, Gong and Quintessence, but this time they were invited onto the stage. Glastonbury proved to be Twink’s last gig, as he was in the midst of an emotional crisis brought on by the breakup of his relationship with Silver Darling. As a result, he disappeared to Morocco, leaving the rest of the band to carry on as a trio. In August they made the trip to the ‘Weeley Festival’ organised by the Clacton Round Table to raise money for local charities instead of the usual donkey derby. Yet again they weren’t billed to appear, but played for the campers on the fringes of the arena away from the main event.

Throughout the summer the band, plus Hawkwind, regularly performed under the newly constructed Westway, an elevated dual carriageway dissecting Ladbroke Grove. Its construction had proved controversial, provoking protests from residents as homes were bulldozed to make way for the huge concrete supporting pillars and the houses that remained were overshadowed by the huge flyover. Hawkwind’s 1974 album Hall of the Mountain Grill was named after the nearby café in Portobello Road, which was a popular meeting place for residents and local musicians alike. It is believed the café supplied the electricity to power the generators for the free shows.       

In August 1971, while travelling to Finland for the Turku Festival, Paul Rudolph fell foul of customs at Heathrow Airport. They discovered his work visa had expired, which caused ongoing problems for the guitarist (it was resolved later when he was granted a Residents’ Permit because his grandparents were British). As he fought extradition, the band drafted in Trevor Burton, formerly of The Move, as second guitarist. Burton stuck around long enough to contribute to their next album, What a Bunch of Sweeties. Recorded at Island Studios in the spring of 1972, Russell was much happier with the band’s overall performances and the slicker production, although he concedes some material was weak. On the whole the critics were positive with tracks such as “Right On, Fight On” and “Portobello Shuffle” plus live favourites “I saw Her Standing There” and The Ventures “Walk Don’t Run” being standouts, the only downside was the terrible out of tune vocals on “I Went Up, I Went Down”.

Before the album hit the shops, Paul Rudolph suddenly quit. It’s been reported he had had enough of the ongoing excessive drug use. By this time Russell was becoming on heroin, a particularly anti-social drug. Although Russell thinks there was more to it than that, such as his ongoing visa problems, and Sandy surmised there may have been dissatisfaction with the Fairies musical limitations. Whatever the reasons, Rudolph wanted out. Initially, Russell and Sandy thought they had found a suitable replacement in Mick Wayne, a former member of Juniors Eyes and the guitarist on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. He recorded an OK single with them, “Well, Well, Well” backed with “Hold On”, but unfortunately the hookup was a disaster which alienated some of their fan base and they had to let him go.

Mick Wayne, The Pink Fairies guitarist, fleetingly

Next up was an old friend of Russell’s, Larry Wallis, who had recently been booted out of UFO for arguing with their singer Phil Mogg. Within weeks of joining, he was tasked with composing an entire album, despite not having written a complete song in his life. Wallis set to work and two weeks later the band entered Chipping Norton Recording Studios with producer David Hitchcock. They came out a couple of weeks later with Kings of Oblivion in the can, Russell’s favourite album. Although Wallis’s vocals aren’t his best attribute, his soaring, fuzzed up guitar more than compensates and the rhythm section of Russel and Sandy are tight and cohesive. Considering the rushed nature of the songwriting, the material was strong. Stand out tracks include the instrumental “Raceway”, “Street Urchin” and “City Kids” which Wallis went onto record with Motorhead.

With a new album in the bag, the expected flood of work to promote it inexplicably dried up. The combination of a three-day week brought on by a protracted miner’s strike, petrol shortages, the fracturing of the counterculture and a change in booking agent left the band high and dry. Not even the return of Twink could muster up much in the way of interest, and in March 1974 The Pink Fairies just fizzled out. 

Russell spent part of his time travelling around South America and on his return the band agreed to a farewell gig at the Roundhouse in February 1975 supporting Hawkwind. The show went so well they organised another date four months later at the same venue with The Pink Fairies topping the bill. The line-up of Hunter, Sanderson, guitarists Wallis and Rudolph, plus the surprise return of Twink, put on a great show which was taped and released as Live at the Roundhouse 1975 in 1982, although Russell was unhappy with the poorly recorded results. After the gig, Paul Rudolph joined Hawkwind, replacing Lemmy who had been fired after being arrested in Canada for drug possession of all things. The Fairies carried on with Wallis on guitar, but he was pulling a double shift as he had joined the recently sacked Lemmy in his new band, Motorhead. However, the liaison came to an abrupt end when he and Lemmy had a falling out and he was replaced by ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke. Wallis returned to The Fairies full-time and toured with them until March 1976, when they played what was supposedly another farewell gig at the Marquee Club with The Stranglers and The Count Bishops.

The Pink Fairies circa 1976, Left to Right: Duncan Sanderson, Martin Stone, Russell & Larry Wallis

Only it wasn’t, as guitarist Martin Stone, formerly of The Action, Mighty Baby and the pub rock band Chilli Willi joined the band and recorded a single, “Between the Lines”. They continued to tour the UK and Ireland and became one of the few hippy bands to find favour with the punks, but Russell had finally had enough and quit in February 1977 taking a job as a barman at Dingwalls in Camden. He was going to be replaced by Steve Broughton from The Edgar Broughton Band, but he pulled out before their first gig in Brighton and drummer Jorge Panchito and guitarist Little Jon of the Lightning Raiders stepped in at the last minute and helped them out.   

The Sadista Sisters in the early 1970s, Teresa D’Abreu in the front

Russell eventually picked up work with the recently formed Teresa D’Abreu Band. Teresa entered the music business with The Sadista Sisters, a political cabaret act that championed woman’s rights, but she left in 1977 when they adopted a punk persona. She formed her own band with her husband Nick Hurt on guitar, Russell on drums and bassist Don Young. They worked mainly in Holland, where the band became fairly popular. The music was different to what Russell was used to, but he found his years playing a variety of covers with The Mob back in Bournemouth stood him in good stead. After releasing a one-off single, “Sister Revolution”, in 1978, the band fell apart along with Teresa and Nick’s marriage. While he was out of work, Russell finally got to grips with his heroin addiction after his girlfriend tragically died of an overdose and when he was clean, he got a job with London Transport as a bus driver.

In 1987, Jake Riviera of Demon Records offered The Fairies a deal to make an album. The band reformed with Sandy, Russell, Twink, Wallis and Andy Colquhoun on second guitar and played a sell-out show at the Town and Country Club in Kentish Town. They recorded Kill ‘Em and Eat ‘Em at Picnic Studios and toured sporadically, squeezing in gigs in between Russell’s bus schedules. Eventually Twink and Wallis left, and at different times threatened to form competing versions of The Pink Fairies, as did Rudolph. To avoid any expensive, drawn out court actions Russell, Sandy and Colquhoun changed their name to The Flying Colours. They called it a day in 1989.   

The Pink Fairies final hurrah occurred in 2014. Sandy, Russell, Andy Colquhoun, second drummer George Butler and Jaki Windmill on keyboards and vocals recorded a fifth and final album, Naked Radio. They played a few gigs to promote it, but brought down the final curtain in October 2015. There is no chance of anymore reunions as Duncan ‘Sandy’ Sanderson died in November 2019, as did Larry Wallis. Paul Rudolph took up cycling and runs a specialist shop back in his native Canada and Twink converted to Islam, changed his name to Mohammed Abdullah and moved to Marrakesh. Mick Farren collapsed and died of a heart attack while performing with a new version of The Deviants on stage at the Borderline in July 2013.

If nothing else, Russell Hunter is a man of contradictions. For several years while he was with The Deviants and The Pink Fairies, he thought nothing of dressing up in drag and makeup while on stage and off, but later in his career he donned a white coat and became a cricket umpire officiating in the Surrey Championship for fifteen years. When he wasn’t being a professional drummer, his jobs included the civil service, a software developer and a bus driver, but while he was behind the kit during the seventies, he grappled with a raging smack habit. During his younger days he was living in anarchy central, running with the movers and shakers of the counterculture, but when it came time to retire, he chose the sedate setting of Eastbourne.

Russell lived in the Ladbroke Grove area for nearly fifty years and is married to his wife of over thirty years, Andrea. He moved to the seaside in 2014 because of his worsening Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) brought on by fifty-five years of heavy smoking. The condition eventually stopped him from playing the drums, as he no longer has the stamina. When he told friends he couldn’t stay in the smoggy atmosphere of London any longer and he was moving to Eastbourne, one wag said, “That’s where people go to die, it’s God’s waiting room”, he replied, “So, what exactly is your point?”.  

Russell Hunter in 2020, with the years fashion accessory under his chin (Photograph courtesy of Russell Hunter)

For a taste of The Pink Fairies try the twelve track Up the Pinks: An Introduction to The Pink Fairies, or if you want to delve deeper into their oeuvre, go with the CD box set The Pink Fairies: The Polydor Years for the first three albums plus bonus tracks.

Special thanks go to Russell Hunter for emails, additional information and photographs.                                              

Russel Hunter Discography

The Deviants Singles:

You’ve Got to Hold On c/w Let’s Loot the Supermarket: Stable (STA 5601) 1968

Fury of the Mob c/w A Better Day is Coming: Shagrat Records (ORC 006 7) 2013 Red vinyl

The Deviants Albums:

Ptooff!: Underground Impresarios (IMP 1) 1968

Disposable: Stable Records (SLP 7001) 1968

The Deviants: Transatlantic Records (TRA 204) 1969

Partial Recall: Drop Out Records (DOCD1989) 1992 Compilation

Fragments of Broken Probes: Captain Trip Records (CTCD-046) Compilation

Deviants 3 / Mona the Carnivorous Circus: Essential (ESMCD 746) Compilation

This CD is Condemned: Total Energy (NER3027) 2000 Compilation

On Your Knees, Earthlings: Total Energy (NER 3031-2) 2001 Compilation 

Compilation Albums Featuring The Deviants:

2001-A Space Rock Odessey: Castle Music (CMDDD094) 2001 2 X CD box set “Metamorphosis Exploration” & “Ramblin’ Black Transit Blues”

I’m a Freak, Baby…A Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72: Grapefruit Records (GRSEGBOX032) 2016 3 X CD box set “I’m Coming Home”

I’m a Freak 2 Baby…A Further Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-73: Grapefruit Records (GRSEGBOX050) 2019 3 X CD box set “Somewhere to Go”

The Pink Fairies Singles:

The Snake c/w Do It: Polydor (2058 089) 1971

Well, Well, Well c/w Hold On: Polydor (2058 302) 1972

Between the Lines c/w Spoiling For a Fight: Stiff Records (BUY 2) 1976

The Pink Fairies Albums:

Never-Neverland: Polydor (2383 045) 1971

What a Bunch of Sweeties: Polydor (2382 132) 1972

Kings of Oblivion: Polydor (2383 212) 1973

Pink Fairies: Polydor (2384 071) 1975 Compilation

Live at the Roundhouse 1975: Big Beat Records (WIK 14) 1982

Previously Unreleased: Big Beat Records (NED 9) 1984

Kill ‘Em & Eat ’Em: Demon Records (FIEND 105) 1987

Live at the Roundhouse / Previously Unreleased: Big Beat Records (CDWIK 965) 1991 2 for 1 CD Compilation

Uncle Harry: Get Back (GET 514) 1998 Italian vinyl release

Live at Weeley 1971: Get Back (GET 527) 1999 Italian vinyl release

Up the Pinks-An Introduction to The Pink Fairies: Polydor (589 898-2) 2002 Compilation

Finland Freakout 1971: Major League Productions (MLP17CD) 2008 Live at the Ruisrock Festival, Turku, Finland August 1971

Live at Granchester Meadows 1971: Headpress 2008 Freebie with the book Keep it Together

Chinese Cowboys-Live 1987: Gonzo Multimedia (HST239CD) 2014

Naked Radio: Gonzo Multimedia (GONZO HAST422CD) 2016

Rare Live Recordings & Radio Broadcasts: Think Pink 50th (TP50-07) 2018

The Polydor Years: Floating World Records (FLOATD6390) 2019 3 X CD box set containing Never-Neverland, What a Bunch of Sweeties & Kings of Oblivion

Compilation Albums Featuring The Pink Fairies:

Glastonbury Fayre-The Electric Score: Revelation Enterprises (Rev 1, Rev 2, Rev 3) 1972 Three vinyl LP’s “Do It” & “Uncle Harry’s Last Freak Out”

His Greatest Stiffs: Stiff Records (FIST 1) 1977 “Between the Lines”

Portobello Shuffle: A Testimonial to Boss Goodman and Tribute to The Deviants & Pink Fairies: Easy Action (EARSBOSS001) 2010 “Do It”

Ten Big Stiffs: Stiff Records (BUY289) 2013 Ten 7” vinyl singles in a box set “Between the Lines” & “Spoiling For a Fight”

Pretty Vacant (Mofo Presents 15 Pre-Punk Nuggets): Mojo Magazine 2016 Compilation “Do It”

I’m a Freak, Baby…A Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72: Grapefruit Records (GRSEGBOX032) 2016 3 X CD box set “Do It”

The Deviants & Pink Fairies Compilation Albums:

Son of Ham: UCHK (UCHK002) 2002 Issued on tape and CD by UHCK magazine

Hogwatch: For a Few Rashers More (Ham Vol. 3): UHCK (UHCK 003) 2003 Issued on CD by UHCK magazine

Single The Teresa D’Abreu Band:

Sister Revolution c/w Carry it Through: Miss Chief (MC 1) 1978

18 thoughts on “Russell Hunter

  1. What a fantastic article and bio. I’m a lifelong fan of PF and had the pleasure of meeting Russell and Sandy in 2014. Saw them in 73 87 and 2014. Really cool guys….

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      1. Great article, I met Larry Wallis a few times when he was living in SE London.John .

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      2. Glad you enjoyed the article John. Russell graciously spent time emailing information for the article, particularly the early days in Poole and his first forays in London, and sent me some of the photographs I used. A great bloke with a devilish sense of humour, John

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      3. Thanks,when I was playing in a band we were due to be guest band to the Pink Fairies at Kings Cross cinema, which was turned into a music venue, usually every Friday night starting midnight to 6am ,however there was a disagreement between our band manager and the owners of the venue, so we didn’t go on stage,oh well got over it now as it was a long time ago.Keep up the great site.cheers John,ps glad Russell has now resided by the sea I have too Hayling island.

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  2. Just found this excellent article whilst searching for the lyrics to ‘Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout’. I’m a big Fairies fan, though I didn’t get into them till around ’73. Saw them at the Empire Pool Wembley at ‘The Hawkwind Party’ where they were billed as ‘Danny and the Racing Cars’ and saw both 1975 Roundhouse gigs. Such a shame, like so many bands, they were done over by Record companies and Promoters – I believe Larry Wallis never got a penny for ‘Kings of Oblivion’, their finest album.
    Was at ‘Boss’ Goodman’s benefit gig to see the lads, great gig by the tribute band Pink FA and I was lucky enough to meet the late, legendary Mick Farren there.

    I’m so glad Russell is alive and well after the sad, recent deaths of Larry and Sandy. Thank you for such a comprehensively researched and well-written review and great to see some of Russell’s original photographs. UP THE PINKS!

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    1. Indeed – Larry told me that he wasn’t classed as a ‘Pink Fairy’ by the record company and classed as a ‘session musician’ so they said he’d been paid originally and therefore wasn’t entitled to performance royalties for the re-issue.

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  3. ladbroke times with steve took and the familly wondering where Joy is ah! well toke up and love all those wonderfull times of the early 70`s = chemical guru= now in the mountains of N Carolina and loving IT

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    1. Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. It’s true some of my article came from that interview, but I was also corresponding with Russell at the time of writing who repeated some of the information in emails, especially about his early years living in Poole and his subsequent move to London. I also gleaned information from the magazine ‘Interstellar Overdrive: The Shindig Guide to Space Rock’ and the book ‘Keep it Together: Cosmic Boogie with the Deviants and the Pink Fairies’ by Rich Deakin. All my sources are referenced on the Bibliography page for anyone interested in digging deeper on any of the artists or bands that I have covered in my blog. John

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  4. Hi. Nice to see a summary biography of Russell Hunter.
    A few things regarding one Steve Peregrin Took …
    1) Steve Peregrin Took’s middle name was taken from the Tolkien spelling of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy – PEREGRIN. No final ‘e’. Unfortunately the standard spell checkers aren’t up-to-speed with Tolkien so they automatically try to make him into a Bird of Prey and not a Tolkien Character.
    2) Actually Steve Took was a good bass player. He played bass and lead guitar while still at school and ‘took’ to the piano at an early age coming from an extremely musical and artistic family, dating back to his grandfather. Took also played Bass Guitar when Tyrannosaurus Rex ‘went electric’ which started to happen in 1969 before Took was sacked for daring to ask that the duo perform some of his songs. Whether he played a descent bass guitar on those Pink Fairies Mark 0 gigs is another matter.
    3) Although Took has frequently been written off as a ‘Junkie’ Russell Hunter admitted that he was far more seriously ‘into Heroin’ when they lived together than Took, as recounted by Russell Hunter in Steve Took’s biography, and I have to admit the terminology in this article is delightful, “he grappled with a raging smack habit”, which I see ended after his girlfriend died of an overdose”. Steve Took’s drug taking was location-based. When in London, with Lemmy, The Pinks et al., Took lived down to his reputation. For the considerable times when he lived in the Canterbury/Margate area he was pretty drug-free, apart from the ‘non-drug drugs’ such as hash and a bit of acid.
    Nice to know Russell is safe and well by the sea.

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    1. Hi Fee, Thanks for the extra info on Steve Took, I didn’t know that he played piano, bass and guitar. Yes Russell has retired and lives in Eastbourne with his wife Andrea. John

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