NERO AND THE GLADIATORS JOE MORETTI. TOMMY BROWN MIKE O'NEIL BOOTS SLADE  

                  
 

              

              THE BACKGROUND MUSIC ON THIS PAGE IS PLAYED BY JOE MORETTI.
                               all articles (c) JoeMoretti music International
                                        ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
 
NERO AND THE GLADIATORS        Nero And The Gladiators - what a band. I first met Nero [ Mike O'Neil ] around 1960. At the 2 I's I believe. And He was on the tour I did withGene Vincent etc around 1960. Colin Green was the Original guitarist with the Gladiators and you can hear his fine perfomance on "Czardas" - try playing it !! Colin was and is an extremely talented musician and is now Musical Director for Shirley Bassey. I believe Laurie Jay was the original drummer, and the Quartet was rounded off by " Boots" Slade on Bass. Nero had some crazy but brilliant ideas. Along with Lord Sutch, He was the first to introduce a new image to Rock bands. Up until then band uniforms were rather conventional, usually copied from American Movies etc. Nero had other ideas. You had to get your band noticed in any way possible and he told me that in the first instance he had somehow managed to acquire some Gladiator uniforms from Elstree studios after the filming of " Ben Hur" or " Quo Vadis " or some such epic. Helmets, breast plates, boots, swords, shields, etc. The whole bit. All made of plastic of course but very real looking. And Nero himself wore a long toga and a laurel wreath on his head. Our manager was a nice guy called Joe Roncoroni and the bookings were handled by the " George Cooper " Agency.The first, and perhaps only publicity pictures of the band featured The Guys landing on the shores of Britain on an ancient ship. Nero standing in the bow of the ship reading some charter declaring that the UK was now " Roman Property " and the Gladiators on the beach, with swords and shields, ready to do battle with the Brits. I believe Tommy Brown was the drummer then, and a very fine drummer he was too. The band wagon was named Brutus and just getting into it was like entering a war zone. The guys never cleaned the wagon out, so the crap on the floor was about a foot deep. Empty milk cartons, soft drink bottles, hamburger wrappings, cigarette butts.

                                                          

And we were all nuts as usual. The old story - very little money, long journeys to gigs, so we made up for it by being crazy. Driving 200- 250 miles to a gig was routine, then the same journey back to London afterwards. And we were lucky if we had enough money for a cup of tea on the way home. But it was a lot of Fun. At times we would "secure" certain items at a gig which we thought would be of use to us. This is a polite way of saying we pinched the stuff. After one gig in Brighton we managed to "accidentally" load about 30 metres of curtain material into the truck along with our equipment. I was very pleased because my wife wanted some new curtains. When I arrived home we unrolled the stuff to have a look at it. It was a horrible green colour , filthy, and was full of holes. It was originally used as " Black out " curtains during the war and had been lying in the hall since 1945. and we had 30 metres of it. Served us right for stealing. One of the most embarassing things about our gigs was that the young ladies in the audience were continually trying to look up our " skirts ! " You know,- those short skirts that the Gladiators wore. Of course we always wore dark underpants but it was still embarassing. It was hard to take the gig seriously but the kids enjoyed the fun..The idea was ahead of it's time. Not for another 10- 15 years would that kind of thinking catch on. Unfortunately " Hall of the Mountain King" met with the same fate as "Cadillac" - no air play. This was a composition by the Classical composer, Greig, and that was a no-no then. You just didn't get air play if your version differed from the original. Shame. I believe Ritchie Blackmore dug that record and he was quite influenced by the band. Nice to know that. One unforgettable time was during the Heavy winter of 1962 We had played at Manchester and we got stuck in the snow on the way home. It was freezing that night and gradually the snow built up until we couldn't get the doors to the truck open. We stayed there all night wrapped up in newspapers, uniforms, anything available to stop us freezing to death. I don't exaggerate. We were lucky. A number of people in small cars died that night, The snow drifts from the surrounding fields to the highway covered them up completely.

                                                

Only the car aerials were sticking up through the snow. We were rescued by a bus with a snow plough attached to it's front. We left all the gear behind in the truck and made it to a little town where we cleaned up and had a hot breakfast. Luckily the promoter at the gig had given us our fee and we just spent what was needed. We were supposed to hand the money over to our agent who would then deduct his"percentage" and give us what was left. He wasn't at all pleased when he heard about it. Would you believe ? Not a thought for our welfare, just the money. An old saying describes the situation perfectly- " Ahh, they're only musicians. They're used to being pissed on ! " When we got back to the wagon that afternoon our gear was still there ! Amazing. You wouldn't get that today my friend. So we returned to London a day late and the Agent wanted to deduct the money for breakfasts from our fee and he was stealing 50 percent from our gig money to begin with ! We found that out later, and he was doing it from EVERY gig. Dirty Bastard. I cut one more record with Nero called " Bleak House " by Ken Jones, a very accomplished composer / arranger for Movies etc. but that didn't take off either. That was recorded at EMI in the big studio where we cut " Brand New Cadillac " with Vince Taylor, and "Shakin' AllOver " with Johnny Kidd. The line up for the recording was : Mike O'Neil{ Nero } Piano. "Boots Slade- Bass. Tommy Brown- Drums , and myself on guitar. Boots also did the announcement over the introduction. I suppose I was with Nero for about six months and then I joined Jet Harris and Tony Meehan. I needed the security of a working band as I had a wife and baby to support. That was a very crazy but very enjoyable time in my life. I'm afraid I don't know where the other guys are today. The last time I saw Nero was when we were standing in a queue at the " Hammersmith Odeon " for a Larry Coryell concert around 1966. I'd appreciate it if anyone could tell me where the guys are now. Crazy days.     

                                                   (c)  Joe Moretti…

all articles (c) JoeMoretti music International
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


 

 
                           

 
 
                          

                              
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