Grand Slam Week: Laurence Archer, From Stampede To Grand Slam

Originally formed in the mid-1980s, Grand Slam released their debut album, Hit The Ground, in November 2019. Following numerous inspiring live shows, their new album Wheel Of Fortune is out. Archer and the band continue to bring new life to the Grand Slam project, adapting it to modern times.

As part of MetalTalk’s Grand Slam week, Paul Monkhouse caught up with Laurence Archer in a wide-ranging interview.

I first saw Laurence Archer play with Stampede alongside vocalist Reuben Archer. Stampede were a band on a big rock ‘n’ roll roller coaster ride. I tell Laurence that I am really looking forward to his book. “It will come out one day,” he says.

The Stampede show was around ’82 at the Mildenhall Rock Festival. “I think that was one half of the live album.” The live album was released as Stampede: The Official Bootleg and also featured their performance from Reading.

“I think we did most of it at Reading, actually,” Laurence says, “but I think there were a few of the tracks were from Mildenhall.” I have great memories of that day.

Mildenhall and Reading Festival sets of 1982. Stampede: The Official Bootleg.
Mildenhall and Reading Festival sets of 1982. Stampede: The Official Bootleg.

Looking at Laurence now, I always get the idea that he must have his portrait in an attic, as he does not seem to have aged much at all over the years. Some of us are falling apart, but he is still looking great.

“People do say that,” Laurence smiles. “I was healthy when I was younger, but I wouldn’t say I’ve lived that much of a healthy lifestyle since. Certainly, since I met Phil. I’ve been with, let’s just say, the unhealthiest side of some of the people I’ve played with. Everybody from Phil to UFO to John Entwistle and various other people. It’s not the most healthy of life. I think I’m just pickled from the inside.”

The Grand Slam story started many moons ago after Thin Lizzy broke up. The last concert came in Nuremberg on 4 September, at the Monsters of Rock festival. I saw them at Reading in August 1983. I asked Laurence about the whole genesis of Grand Slam with him and Phil getting together. 

“I had got to know Phil a little,” Laurence says, “because I did a very short stint with Wild Horses when Brian [Robertson] was going through a bit of a period of time. Jimmy Bain called me up and said, would I like to basically fill his shoes for a while.

“We were managed by Morrison O’Donnell, who were the Lizzy management. Phil, I think, was always looking for the next guitar player or the next sort of link, as it were. He came to see us play at the Marquee and got up with us and did a couple of tracks. Then he invited me to the studio. I think Snowy [White] was in the band at that point, I can’t remember.

“They were recording. I might have this wrong, but I think it was something like a Metropolis or somewhere in Central town. Phil asked me up. We had a little bit of a jam session in the studio. I think he’s sort of logged my name down as one of the possible next guitar players.

“I got a nudge that I would be the next Lizzy guy. But at the time, this was right just before the whole Stampede thing came around. Reuben and I formed Stampede very shortly after all that was happening, if not, while that was happening. And that was my trajectory, really.”

Grand Slam
Grand Slam

“So, although I was getting whispers from my management about ‘prepare yourself’, at the end of the day, my goal, I know it sounds stupid… but at the time, I felt as a young man that Lizzy was going sort of away from it. Especially around the Snowy period. I thought their popularity was waning a little bit, if you could say that.

“Obviously, they had their hardcore following. So I, probably stupidly, just continued with the Stampede thing. I sort of hard-nosed the whole thing and just went straight into Stampede. We got signed by Polydor very quickly, and that was really my thing.

“I knew John Sykes quite well. At that point, we used to hang about quite a bit up in town, and we knew it was going to be like me or him. I said, well, I’ve got this project to undergo, and we’ve just been signed by Polydor.

“So that’s how it came about. So, later, as soon as the Lizzy thing finished with John, I got called. By that point, Stampede had finished touring in late ’82, I think. We were sort of sitting on our bums waiting for the next advance from Polydor to do the next album, essentially.

“Phil called me up, and next thing I know, there was a limo outside my door and I got whisked away up to Stringfellows in London. I just came back from actually being very fit. I was cycle training in France. I had cut all my hair off and I looked like a complete pedestrian.

“Phil remembered me, and basically we went up, we discussed it, and within a week or so, I was around his place, and we were writing and rehearsing. That’s really how it came about.

“But I’d known Phil for probably a couple of years at least, personally at that point. It wasn’t too much of a shock to me. But I mean, I had to make the decision that I wasn’t gonna continue with the Stampede thing.

“I went back and we did some final closing shows for Stampede, some farewell shows type of thing. By then, I was already into the recording with Phil.

“We had already started recording and writing with Phil, so that was, I would say pretty early ’84. In fact, I got a feeling it might have been late ’83 when he first started talking to me about it. Because as soon as I discussed that with Phil, I got the offer to go and take Tony Clarkin’s place in Magnum because he had become unstable, health-wise.

“So before we started, I had a bit of a hiatus in it. I went off and toured. I did a couple of tours with Magnum and then came back. I think that was early, mid-’84.”

Grand Slam, Wheel Of Fortune, is out now via Silver Lining Music. For more details, visit https://lnk.to/GrandSlamWheelOfFortune.

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