By Pete Way with Paul Rees
Published by Constable (Little Brown Book Group)
Ozzy Osbourne says that he’s way out of his league when it comes to Pete Way; on the strength of this entertaining book I would say that most certainly is so. Musically, Pete is most famous for playing the bass in UFO, but he’s more famous again for a prodigious appetite for drugs, drink, and the ladies, often all at the same time. The thing that strikes you most reading this book is: how is Pete still alive? To me it proves the existence of destiny… The Vikings were right, when your time is up, it’s up, but not before!
The book is well-written, and very entertaining. Steve Harris provides an introduction and speaks highly of Pete; certainly you can see his influence on Steve.
Pete’s recollections are supported or contradicted by other people who crossed paths with him over the years, including Geddy Lee of Rush, famous photographer Ross Halfin (who surely has a great book in him, brilliant lens man too), Joe Elliot (Def Leppard), and Fast Eddie Clarke.
Pete Way grew up in Enfield, Middlesex., I myself lived there, and went to school there, though not at the same time. I recognised loads of places mentioned by Pete though, so in that respect I got something more out of the book than other readers might.
UFO formed in those early days, and was very much a partnership between singer Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker, and Pete on bass, the guitarist position being something of a revolving door until Michael Schenker was recruited, creating the classic UFO line-up.
The 70s were UFO’s glory years, huge gigs, tons of groupies, drink and drugs on tap – they lived it large. They had the skills, the stage presence and the songs, as Ross Halfin says, and he was there, so he should know; UFO could have been as big as Zeppelin. He puts a lot of the blame on Phil Mogg, who comes across as an abrasive character.
By the time of 1982’s ‘Mechanix’, Pete was out of UFO. Initially he formed Fastway with former Motorhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke, but for various confused and contradictory reasons, Pete was unable to stay with Fastway, and went off to become Ozzy’s bassist. Sharon Osbourne actually wanted Pete to babysit Ozzy and keep him out of trouble! Ye Gods! That was like putting a wolf in charge of a slightly less dangerous wolf: cue much mayhem from the duo.
Pete would go on to form Waysted, who spent various record company advances on having a good time! Pete had previously being very decent to Steve Harris, who returned the favour by giving Waysted a support slot on part of Maiden’s ‘Powerslave’ tour; now that would have been some gig. I saw Steve Harris’ British Lion recently, and Steve really does do the Pete Way thing on stage, and like Pete, is a likeable fellow, albeit a much more sensible one!
Eventually Waysted petered out, and the subsequent years have been full of various UFO and Waysted reformations that come and go with depressing regularity.
Equally depressing is Pete’s mind-boggling addiction to well… everything! Six marriages, four divorces, two dead ex-wives… Really crazy stuff.
Years ago I rescued an elderly gentleman from his house fire. Afterwards I helped him fix up his house and got to know his brother. His brother had been a lifelong hard drinker like Pete and was in his twilight years in a nursing home. So, I used to visit him regularly, and he was just like Pete Way. Always getting into trouble, but it was impossible to be mad at him, because he, like Pete, was extremely likeable and, I supposed, innocent. Reality consisted of when he could drink next.
A truly great innovation of this book is the inclusion of all the people who’ve known Pete: Fast Eddie, Geddy Lee, Joe Elliot, Steve Harris, who pop up to give their version of Pete’s versions of events. Reality can be both entertaining and subjective!
Two suggestions I have to make to Constable. Paul Rees has done a grand job here, and two future projects suggest themselves. The quotes from Fast Eddie in this book are very entertaining, it strikes me that he and Paul Rees could collaborate on an autobiography of Fast Eddie… I would love to read that. And secondly, there really is a need for a proper biography of UFO.
All in all, a great rock ‘n’ roll book from one of rock’s truly great (and as I say, very likable!) characters. We will never see his like again.