By 1972, it looked as if Family were on the verge of making a breakthrough in America. Their fifth album Fearless, released in October 1971, had reached number 177 in the US Billboard 200 charts. It looked as if Family were going to be the latest British group to conquer America. That, however, wasn’t the case. The proof was there for all to see.
As the seventies dawned, Family released their third album A Song For Me in 1970. It reached number four in Britain. This was an improvement on their two previous albums. Family’s 1968 debut album, Music In A Doll’s House reached just number thirty-five in Britain. However, things improved with 1969s Family Entertainment, which reached number six in Britain. By the time Family released A Song For Me in January 1970, it seemed as if they were on their way to becoming one of Britain’s most successful bands. That proved not to be the case.
A Song For Me proved to be Family’s most successful album. Things looked good for Family. That was until Family released Anyway, later in 1970.
Anyway failed to replicate the success of A Song For Me, reached just number seven in November 1970. This to some extent, was disappointing. Family’s fifth album, Fearless, released in October 1971. It stalled at number fourteen in Britain. However, Fearless reached number 177 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Maybe, just maybe, Family were on the verge of making a breakthrough in America? However, Family had been here before.
Back in April 1969, after the commercial success of Family’s first two albums, Family decided to try and make a breakthrough into the American market. Sadly, it all ended in tears.
Midway through the American tour, Ric Grech left Family to join Blind Faith. His replacement was former Animal, John Weider. However, that was just the start of a tour beset by problems.
On their Filmore East debut, Family were sharing the bill with Ten Years After and Nice. Lead singer, Roger Chapman, was swinging his microphone stand, when it flew out of his hands. Unfortunately, it nearly hit promoter Bill Graham. He thought that this was a deliberate act. Given, he was one of the most influential American promoters, Bill Graham wasn’t someone to get on the wrong side of. So, for the rest of the tour, Roger sung with his hands firmly by his side. Roger wasn’t taking any risks. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, it did.
By the end of the American tour, Roger Chapman had lost his voice. What could’ve and should’ve been Family’s breakthrough tour, was peppered with disaster. Sadly, Family never did make a breakthrough in America. Their 1969 tour hadn’t had the desired effect. On Family’s return home, things didn’t improve.
Having returned from their 1969 American tour, Family played two high profile concerts. The first was the Rolling Stone’s Hyde Park concert. Later in the summer of ’69, Family played at the Isle Of Wight Festival. That was one of the last concerts Jim King played. He was asked to leave family. The reason given was his “erratic behaviour.” Replacing Jim, was John “Poli” Palmer, a multi-instrumentalist.
John made his Family debut on 1970s A Song for Me, and played an important part on Anyway and Fearless. During this trio of albums, Family’s music continued to evolve. By 1972s Fearless, however, Family’s music moved towards the mainstream. Fearless was also the last album to feature bassist and guitarist John Wetton.
For Bandstand, the Charlie Whitney and Roger Chapman songwriting team penned seven of the nine tracks. They also cowrote Coronation with John Wetton. The other track was Dark Eye, a Roger Chapman and John “Poli” Palmer composition. These nine tracks became Bandstand, which was recorded at Olympic Studios, London during 1972.
At Olympic Studios, the five members of Family began recording Bandstand. Family’s rhythm section included drummer and percussionist Rob Townsend, bassist and guitarist John Wetton and guitarist and keyboardist Charlie Whitney. John “Poli” Palmer added keyboards, vibes, flute, percussion and guitar. Lead vocalist Roger Chapman added percussion and played soprano saxophone on Bolero Babe. Joining Family, was Linda Lewis, who added backing vocals. Producing Bandstand with Family, was recording engineer George Chkiantz. Once Bandstand was completed, it was released in September 1972.
On the release of Bandstand, in September 1972, the album was well received by critics. They remarked that Family had moved more towards the mainstream. Similarly, the song structure was more conventional than on previous albums. Charlie and Roger admitted relying more on what they perceived as an orthodox approach to songwriting. Allied with Family’s more conventional sound on Bandstand, many thought that Family would reach the heights of 1970s A Song For Me.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Instead, Bandstand reached just number fifteen in Britain. Across the Atlantic, Bandstand reached number 183 in the US Billboard 200 charts. This failed to match the heights of Family’s previous album Fearless. However, Bandstand was the final time Family charted in America. Bandstand Family’s move towards the mainstream, hadn’t proved as popular as Family had hoped.
Family’s sixth album, Bandstand, may have seen the band move towards the mainstream, but it also featured an eclectic selection of songs. Burlesque, a slow, rocky number, had been chosen as the lead single, and reached number thirteen in Britain. It’s about a bar called Burlesque in Charlie and Roger’s hometown of Leicester. Having whetted your appetite, Family spring a series of surprises.
Balero Babe is something of a slow burner. Family stretch their legs, before Roger’s weary vocal enters. It’s later replaced by strings, which help propel the arrangement along. Although not Family’s finest hour, it’s something of a slow burner. Coronation is a slow, thoughtful songs on Bandstand. It tells the story of a man living in an run down flat, wondering about the lives his neighbours live? From there, Dark Eyes is best described as folk tinged, while Broken Nose deals with the British class structure. After this, Family change tack.
My Friend The Sun is a beautiful ballad. This is very different from the rest of Bandstand. The quality continues on Glove, a power ballad with a soulful side. Ready To Go sees Family turn their guns on the British music press. Many members of the music press weren’t fans of Family. By 1972, Family had enough and eloquently, gave their critics both barrels on Ready To Go. Closing Fearless was Top Of The Hill, a slow, fusion of blues and rock. Moody and dramatic, it’s a fitting finale to Bandstand.
Although Bandstand saw Family move towards the mainstream, it’s without doubt their most accessible album. Elements of blues, folk, prog rock, psychedelia and rock can be heard on Fearless. Folk tinged tracks sit side-by-side with tender ballads, power ballads and rocky tracks. The only time Family come close to disappointing, is on Bolero Babe. However, it’s something of a slow burner. Mostly though, Bandstand is an album that could’ve and should’ve transformed Family’s fortunes. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
Bandstand only reached number fifteen in Britain, but reached number 183 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Sadly, Bandstand didn’t reach the heights of family’s earlier albums, on either side of the Atlantic. After Bandstand, Family released just one more album, 1973 It’s Only A Movie. Before that, Family headed out on tour with Elton John.
Elton John chose Family as his support band when he toured America. What should’ve brought Family’s music to a wider audience backfired. Like many support band before them, Family played to half empty auditoriums. Those that were present were only interested in Elton John. For Family, this was a soul destroying experience. Things didn’t get any better after the tour.
When It’s Only A Movie was released in September 1973, it reached just number thirty in Britain, and failed to chart in America. That was Family’s final album. Later in 1973, Family split-up. They’d been together since 1966, and had released seven albums. Sadly, Family never really fulfilled their potential.
While each of Family’s seven albums charted in Britain, with three reaching the top ten, Family should’ve enjoyed greater success. They were a talented, versatile and innovative band. Family were never content to stand still. Instead, their music continued to evolve. Musical genres melted into one on Family’s albums. This, to some extent, was the case on Bandstand. Not as much as on previous albums. No. Bandstand had a much more mainstream sound. This means that Bandstand is the most accessible of Family’s seven albums. It’s also the perfect introduction to Family.
For anyone yet to discover Family, then Bandstand is the perfect starting place. After Bandstand. there’s still Family’s six other albums to discover. These albums are a reminder of one of British rock’s best kept secrets. However, Family’s most accessible album is Bandstand, which could’ve and should’ve transformed Family’s fortunes on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Posted in: Folk ♦ Psychedelia ♦ Rock
- Tagged: A Song For Me, A Song For Me i, Anyway, Bandstand, Charlie Whitney, Family, Family Entertainment, Fearless, It's Only A Movie, Music In A Doll’s House, Roger Chapman