The following interview took place in September 2007 just as Mel was setting out on a new musical journey, with shows booked for the spring of 2008 and lots of plans for the future. Sadly this wasn't to be, as in January 2008 Mel found out that he was suffering from terminal cancer. Mel dealt with the next few months with dignity and courage, inspiring his friends and family as he helped them come to terms with his declining health. Mel died peacefully on 1st July 2008. This interview took place when Mel was full of hope for the future, and it remains online as a tribute to him.
MEL GALLEY is part of the highly-respected musical heritage which includes bands such as Trapeze and Whitesnake. Mel toured constantly throughout the 70s and into the 80s but apart from taking to the highwire again with Trapeze in the early 90s he has stayed out of the rocknroll circus for a few years.
But now he's back on the sunny side of the street so GET READY TO ROLL! met up with him for an exclusive interview in which he talks about his career in music, and also about the bizarre day he met a 'soul stealer' face to face!
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Most people will of course know you from the Trapeze/Whitesnake days, and we'll talk about that in a bit, but you recently delighted a sold-out crowd at a club in the West Midlands by getting up on stage with some friends for a performance of the Trapeze classic, Black Cloud - and then joined in again for the encore, Cocaine. As we can see from the video footage, you've still got what it takes! What prompted the rising of this phoenix (pun intended, of course!), and was it a one-off, or can we look forward to more shows?
It was supposed to be a one off but I enjoyed it so much and the feedback was so good that all of a sudden I realised what I had been missing. I intend to do some more after Christmas with a hand picked band and a longer set of Trapeze and Whitesnake songs. I will have a keyboard player I hope too.
How encouraging was it to find the amount of interest there is on the internet from the long-term fans, and how avidly have you been keeping up with the message-boards, forums, MySpace etc?
I could not and still don't believe the amount of interest. It has given me inspiration to play again. I have also heard from some long lost friends from those days as well as discovering new and talented unsigned bands/guitarists. There are a lot of great musicians out there.
The Trapeze/Whitesnake eras gave us so many great albums from constantly changing line-ups which included dozens of prestigious musicians. What are your happiest memories from those days, and what songs are you most proud of and why?
As far as Trapeze, one of the best memories is the three of us rehearsing at Hatherton Community Centre, running through new songs to record which included You Are The Music and other songs for that album. We did it all in about three days! My Whitesnake highlight was playing the Donington Festival.
I am proud of all the songs I wrote! I think the Trapeze and Whitesnake songs stand the test of time very well.
These days its almost as if Trapeze are known as the band that gave Glenn to Deep Purple, Dave Holland to Judas Priest and Mel Galley to Whitesnake, but in fact over in the USA during the 70s you were pretty big. You toured constantly to great reviews, and played bigger and better venues all the time, even after Glenn left in 1973.
Yes, it's funny but true. People always mention the DP, JP and WS connection. Glenn leaving, being the bass player and singer, would have killed most bands off but we sold more records and played bigger live shows after that due to the following we constantly built on with our touring. Hot Wire is still very popular today and I am always getting comments from US fans about it and our live shows from that time. Each line-up and album had its merits and I am proud of them all. Pete Goalby who did the Hold On album and tour (on the Live: Dead Armadillos album) then joined Uriah Heep and did three albums with them. I guess we were kind of victims of our own success so to speak as our musicians kept getting poached!
What are your funniest memories from those days?
When the 3-piece Trapeze used to meet in the rehearsal hall it would take three days for us to get together. I would turn up the first day, wait two hours and then go home. Then I would get a call from the roadies to say Glenn was there. I would go back down and find Glenn had left. We could never get in touch with Dave (no mobile phones back then!). This would go on for three days. Dave was always late. It was like getting Cream together!
What was your most memorable show out of all the shows you played?
Probably one of the most memorable shows from those days was at the Dallas Cotton Bowl in front of around 120,000 fans with Montrose opening, then Trapeze, The Eagles and The Rolling Stones. We went on stage at 1pm and the temperature was 110F. Bill Graham, the promoter, told us before we went on that we had 40 minutes and if we played longer they would pull the plug on us. We finished on time but the fans reception to us was so good that as we came off stage he came over and said "do one more". So we did Sunny Side of the Street. Rather appropriate with that weather!
How important were the Phenomena albums to you, creatively and personally - and why?
The first I thought was great and I was heavily involved in, doing all the demos and original vocals. I was disappointed with the later ones as I always thought the demos were better than the finished album.
The injury to your hand which cut short your time with Whitesnake is probably one of the most devastating things that could happen to a guitarist. How much of a problem/pain/inconvenience is it these days?
It was THE most devastating thing that could happen to a guitarist. One minute I was playing with one of the biggest bands in the world, next minute finding it very hard to even scratch my own arse! Thankfully with the aid of the claw, even though being told by doctors I would never play again, determination made me prove both them and David Coverdale wrong. I don't wear it day-to-day, only to play - and never for scratching my arse!
Lately a bizarre story has come to light about a Mel Galley impostor. He looks nothing like you, but pretends to be you at gigs and in music shops etc., even signing autographs and giving plectrums to 'his' fans, and telling anecdotes about touring and recording sessions - which he was never part of. He apparently even posed as you in a car showroom, looking to buy a Bentley! Tell us how you feel about this, what your concerns are, and what anyone reading this should do if they meet this man?
I recently visited Ken Grimley, the man concerned, and the occasion was on the front pages of both the Derby Evening Telegraph and the Express & Star in the Midlands. (The full article is linked from the picture on the left). It was a very disturbing experience and I feel very sorry for people who were duped by him. I only hope this now stops. If people find him still doing it then they should contact the papers and myself.
How did you feel when you met him?
It was surreal, weird and quite traumatic. Despite signing as Mel Galley of Whitesnake right in front of me before I revealed my real identity to him, he still denied doing it elsewhere. I've had plenty of messages about him on MySpace and now it has been in the papers more bands have told me the same story about him.
Having worked with some of the most accomplished and household name musicians throughout the 70s and 80s, what would be your ideal line-up if you could put a band together, right here right now?
Possibly, Cozy on drums, still Glenn Hughes on bass and vocals, me on guitar (if not me then Jeff Beck), and Geoff Downes on keys even though he released a live cd we got no money from. As Cozy, who was a great friend and also a Trapeze fan too, is sadly no longer with us I would have maybe Alan White (Yes) on drums. The late Jeff Porcaro is another drummer I was impressed with.
And who are your top five (non-musical) heroes?
In no particular order, George Best, Patrick Moore, Ronnie Fraser, Peter O'Toole and Alfred Wainwright. Obviously I would include my parents too.
What are the chances of any new material with Glenn Hughes or MGM, or of you taking part in another stage of the Phenomena project?
God knows! Ask Glenn - he's in direct contact with him, haha.
What do you think of the current lack of music programmes on radio and TV compared to the 70s and 80s, and how much effect do you think the internet has had on that? What other factors do you think have influenced the demise of programmes like Old Grey Whistle Test etc.
I think there are still some programs on but their content is crap. I enjoy the Abbey Road Sessions on TV as they show bands playing live like the Old Grey Whistle Test did. Jools Holland show too. It's now the "business" first in the music business and image, videos and marketing come before true musical talent in a lot of cases. I like people who can write and play their own material and instruments!
What were your favourite music programmes from those days, and why? And is there still a place for programmes like that today?
As a youngster it was Ready Steady Go but the OGWT was the best as it had such fantastic bands and solo artists. Sadly most of the tapes are lost as the BBC recorded over them. Trapeze played on it three times and I also appeared on it with Adj Webber and Terry Rowley but as far as I know the tapes are gone.
What would you like to be doing in five years time?
Climbing Snowdon, being healthy and hopefully still playing a few shows.
© Get Ready To Roll - 18th September 2007