WAYSTED “Save Your Prayers” (1986)
Catalogue Number: HNECD 011
There’s no way round it, the story of ‘Save Your Prayers’ is one littered with controversy; the singer who got no credits on the album for his lyrics. The manager who was dismissed and then wasn’t. The guitarist who was fired…or perhaps quit. Everywhere you turn, this is a tale that is effectively a minefield, but it does make for a rollicking good ride. Oh, and the end of it is an album that still sounds rather splendid.
So, let’s begin with the fact that, after two albums and an EP, vocalist Fin Muir left the band.
“He didn’t like the way the band were developing,” says bassist Pete Way. “He had a project going by then with guitarist Laurence Archer, and we had a couple of gigs lined up that he didn’t want to do. So, that was it for him.”
This was in 1985, at which point enter American singer Danny Vaughn.
“I’d been working with (former UFO guitarist) Paul Chapman in Florida. That was in a band called D.O.A., but we’d run out of money. The writing was on the wall when we turned up for the third day of rehearsals and there was a lock on the door!”
Chapman flew back to London, ostensibly to see whether he could get any interest in the band’s demo from record labels, but he bumped into old pal Pete Way, the result being that he scrapped D.O.A. and joined Waysted.
“That happened in 1984,” continues Vaughn. “By the following year, I was working for the telephone company, when someone told me that Paul was looking for me again in connection with Waysted. Now, I was a fan of the band, and had all their records with Fin, which I thought were really good. Anyway, Waysted’s manager called and told me that they were gonna fire Fin, and that Paul had recommended me to replace him. We had several phone discussions; it helped that I worked for the phone company, as I could make calls to England. The upshot was that I flew over to Wales for four days of rehearsing.
“One thing I do remember is that we were all in a van and ended up in the middle of nowhere. We were all starving and went into this hotel, only to find out that the kitchen was closed. It was something like 8.20pm in the evening, and being from New York, which is a 24/7 city, I couldn’t believe how a hotel could shut its kitchen so early, but they agreed to make us chip butties. Now, I’d never had one of these before. So, while the rest of the band eagerly tucked in, I was just asking, ‘How come there are French fries in this sandwich?’.
“Everything was done on the cheap at these rehearsals. We did them on a farm, and the donkeys had to be turned out of the barn before we could set up! Oh, and I do recall there was also a lot of drinking done.”
Eventually, the band flew out to Tel Aviv, to play at Ramat Gan Stadium. They were on a very diverse line-up of artists.
“We were the only real rock band there,” says Vaughn. “We were on a bill with the Climax Blues Band, Al Dimeola and Billy Cobham among others. There were 15,000 people there, and I’d never played in front of so many before. I wore a outfit that would have made Freddie Mercury blush. I recall getting drunk with (drummer) Andy Parker afterwards, and we were throwing water melons from the hotel balcony onto the pavement, and they made an exploding sound. Now, when you’re in a country like Israel it’s not a good idea to make people think you might be throwing bombs around, and we did have some trouble with Mossad, the Israeli secret service. We certainly learnt our lesson!”
Vaughn’s performance at the gig made a major impact on the local media.
“The next morning (keyboard player) Jimmy DiLella came into my room and threw the papers onto the bed. There was a photo of me on the front page of them all!”
Now a fully-fledged member of Waysted, Vaughn still faced something of a challenge, because the band were still without a record deal. EMI were interested in signing them, but were concerned by the change of singer.
“Actually, there were other labels interested in us, but one had withdrawn after Pete had pissed out of an office window there. It wasn’t an act of rock ’n’ roll bravado. He was just too polite to ask anyone where the toilet was. So, because nobody was around, he just opened the window and relieved himself. Unfortunately, someone came in as he did it!”
To convince EMI of Vaughn’s pedigree and talent, the singer went to Abbey Road with producer Liam Sternberg, who had overseen previous album ‘The Good The Bad And The Waysted’.
“We were in a very small room and I did three songs from ‘The Good…’: ‘Heaven Tonight’, ‘Dead On Your Legs’ and ‘Manuel’. They went to EMI and they were won over. We signed the deal.”
By this stage, the band’s line-up had changed again. Johnny Dee came in on drums, having been put forward by DiLella, who had also been responsible for introducing Vaughn and Chapman (and would soon quit the band after having what Chapman describes as a panic attack).
Now, what was needed was a producer and EMI knew the right man.
“Nick Gatfield, who was head of A&R, strongly backed getting in Simon Hanhart,” says Way. “So, it seemed daft for me to disagree.”
“I was working a lot for EMI at the time,” adds Hanhart. “I’d just produced the Saxon album ‘Innocence Is No Excuse’ in 1985, and then the label suggested that I should work with Waysted. We went down to Rockfield Studios in Wales for four or five days, and got the template sorted out for each song.”
“We actually demoed the whole album at Rockfield,” recalls Vaughn.
“I then had to go to Germany for another project,” continues Hanhart. “While I was away, Paul Chapman and the band’s manager went to Mediterraneo Studios in Ibiza, and thought it was a great idea to do the album there.”
Chapman remembers the studio, which was owned by Judas Priest, with considerable enthusiasm.
“I just loved the whole atmosphere there. I almost cried when we finished. One reason I’d gone over early was to make sure that I got the room I wanted, because it was a residential studio. I just wish you could do an album like that now.”
“Before we left for Ibiza, we did a week of pre-production at a hotel in Wales,” says Hanhart. “This was around March 1986, and we set up a stage in the ballroom, which was huge. In Ibiza, we would start recording sessions at about noon and continue through to midnight, so it was very relaxed. There was time to go out and have a good time as well. We spent six or seven weeks doing the album, but because nobody was booked into the studio straight afterwards, EMI paid for us to stay on in the accommodation.”
Vaughn remembers that he was the victim on more than one occasion of wind-ups from the master tag team of Way and Chapman.
“Once they’d filled the whole of the vocal booth with plants and all sorts of other stuff, and hung a sign that said ‘DO NOT FEED THE BROOKLYN TRACKSUIT MONSTER’. I have no idea where they got all the things, nor found the time to decorate the booth like that. It was hilarious.
“The studio was quite a way from the party area of the island, the location where Roger Taylor of Queen would hold court every day. So, we didn’t get sucked into that lifestyle, but we certainly went out quite a lot and enjoyed the bars!”
The singer, though, recalls that he had problems getting the vocals right in Ibiza.
“To be honest, I think the demos sounded better than the actual album. I nailed the vocals at Rockfield straight away. We blasted through those demos, and I was ready for sessions at Mediterraneo. I was full of myself, but I just couldn’t get things right, and that dented my confidence. I know that Simon also felt my singing wasn’t quite up to the mark, but even he couldn’t tell me why, which didn’t help. It was only when we went back to London to carry on recording that the vocals came together.”
Hanhart, though, has a different view on Vaughn’s vocal performance in Ibiza.
“I don’t recall there being any problems at all, but Danny was a different type of singer to Fin. He was more in the AOR mould, which is what the label wanted, but he had a smoother style than Waysted had been used to, and that bothered Pete. However, it meant more chance of radio airplay.
“Yes, we did do some vocals in London, but that was mainly to get some backing voices on there. We got in Jon Deverill (who would ironically replace Vaughn in Waysted later in 1986) and John Sloman to do those.”
There were one or two studio problems in Ibiza, though, as Chapman amusingly states.
“The monitors were fucked. So the German guy who looked after the studio came up with a brilliant suggestion, ‘Just turn everything up!’. Ha. We also had difficulty getting the tapes out. The studio demanded to be paid first…as if a major company like EMI couldn’t be trusted!”
It was after the recordings were finished that problems began. Firstly, Vaughn was very unhappy when he saw a finished copy of the album.
“We’d just started touring with Status Quo, and were in Norway when I got a copy. I was stunned to see that all the songs were credited to Chapman and Way. I wrote all the lyrics, yet my name wasn’t anywhere. I went to talk about this to the band’s manager, but he wasn’t at all sympathetic. He’d said I’d been paid for my work, and that if I didn’t like it then I could just fly back home to Brooklyn and they’d find a new singer. What could I do? I was very naive and had to go along with it. Maybe the idea was to push Paul and Pete, and show they were still writing good songs? I just don’t know.”
Chapman backs up Vaughn in this assertion.
“I know he wrote the lyrics, and have no idea why he wasn’t credited. Maybe I should have said something at the time. It was very uncomfortable. To be honest, I think this was the manager’s decision. It certainly wasn’t mine. I know Pete came up with a couple of lyrical ideas, for instance on ‘Black & Blue’, but then Danny would take these and make them work his way. I had the same feeling about the cover, which only had a shot of Pete. That gave everyone the wrong impression. Waysted were a band, not Pete’s solo project.”
Way, however, has a different memory of the way the lyrics came together.
“Yes, Danny did write some, but a lot also came from me. So for Danny to claim he wrote them all is wrong. Besides, he was paid for what he wrote and he did do a good job, and he knew all along that the credits would say Chapman/Way. After all, we were the only two who were signed to the label.”
Another problem would arise when Chapman left the band. Again, Way has his own thoughts on what happened.
“He was fired, simple as that. I don’t want to go into what happened, but we were justified in making that choice.”
However, Chapman disagrees with his one-time band-mate.
“It really all started when we all decided to dismiss the manager. We’d hired a lawyer, who told us to serve him with the relevant papers and then he’d do the rest. So, we did it in Buffalo, and then to my amazement Pete went to a tittie bar with the manager, came back and said, ‘Actually, he’s not that bad’. So, Pete felt we should keep him on.
“Anyway, I then found out that the manager had told the rest of the band that I had decided I didn’t want to tour anymore with Waysted and was leaving. That’s just not true. I never said anything.”
Vaughn tried to get Reb Beach (who was just about to start working with Winger) in as Chapman’s replacement, but Way wasn’t convinced he was right for the band. In the end, they chose untried teenager Eric Gamans, but this line-up only lasted six shows, which were basically disastrous. Things soon fell apart completely.
“We’d been doing so well on the road,” sighs Vaughn. “We’d gone out on a big tour in the UK and Europe with Quo. Then did a tour in America opening for Iron Maiden. Steve Harris was a big fan of Pete’s, and couldn’t do enough for us. The album had even charted in the States (getting to number 185 – better than previous records had done), but after the touring was over and we went our separate ways, I had a feeling it was all over. To be honest, we needed an experienced guitarist in there, and Eric was just too young and innocent.”
“Save Your Prayers” was definitely the most commercial of all the Waysted albums, and still stands proudly as testament to the power and potential of this line-up.
“I loved working with the band,” says Hanhart. “We didn’t have any problems in the studio, and the album came out really well.”
“For all the later problems I had over the issues we talked about earlier, I still have a fondness for the album and also for Pete. He’s such a lovely guy, which is why people will always put themselves out to help him.”
So, that’s the story of “Save Your Prayers”. Not so much a rock album as a rock opera – a rock soap opera, that is!
London, November 2012