CULT CLASSIC: AUDIENCE-FRIEND’S, FRIEND’S, FRIEND.
Cult Classic: Audience- Friend’s, Friend’s, Friend.
In October 1969, Audience were offered the opportunity to support Led Zeppelin at the Lyceum in London. For Audience, this was the opportunity of a lifetime as Led Zeppelin had just released their eponymous debut album on 12th of January 1969. It was well on its way to selling over ten million copies. With Led Zeppelin riding the wave of commercial success and critical acclaim, it was almost guaranteed that the great and good of music would be in the audience. This, the four members of Audience thought, could be the break they were looking for.
By October 1969, Audience had already come a long way in a short space of time. The story began earlier in 1969, when Lloyd Alexander Real Estate split up.
They were a semi-professional soul band who played the London club and pub circuit. They even released Gonna Live Again as a single on the President label in 1967. Although it wasn’t a hit, it became a favourite among mods. However, there was no followup, and in early 1969, Lloyd Alexander Real Estate split-up. Like a phoenix from the ashes of Lloyd Alexander Real Estate, rose Audience.
Three of the former members of Lloyd Alexander Real Estate decided to form a new band. Howard Werth, Keith Gemmell and Trevor Williams formed a new band, which they called Audience. There was a problem though. The nascent Audience needed a drummer.
Luckily, the other three members of the band new just the man. Tony Connor had auditioned for Lloyd Alexander Real Estate. However, he didn’t get the gig. This time round, he was in luck, and Tony Connor became the final member of Audience.
With the lineup complete, Audience started rehearsing. Soon, they had a manager. Quickly, everything fell into place. They had a publishing contract, a residency at the still prestigious Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club and signed a recording contract with Polydor. Everything, it seemed, was going well for Audience.
For their eponymous debut album, Audience had penned twelve tracks. Nine were written by Howard Werth and Trevor Williams. They also cowrote Maidens Cry with the other two members of Audience. Howard Werth wasn’t finished. He cowrote Pleasant Convalescence and Man On Box with Keith Gemmell. These twelve tracks were recorded at Morgan Studios, London.
When recording of Audience began at Morgan Studios Howard Werth played acoustic and electric guitar. He also took charge of the vocals. The rhythm section bassist Trevor Williams and drummer Tony Connor who also played vibes. Keith Gemmell played tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute. Producing Audience’s eponymous debut album was Chris Brough. Audience was recorded quickly, and released later in 1969.
On its release, Audience passed record buyers and critics by. Very quickly, Polydor deleted the album, and it wasn’t until much later that people began to appreciate Audience. With its fusion of art rock and prog rock, it’s regarded as an album that was way ahead of its time. Unfortunately after the commercial failure of Audience, a problem emerged.
Audience’s contract with Polydor wasn’t a multi-album deal. Nor did it last for a specified period. It was a one album deal. This meant Audience were back where they started, earlier in 1969, looking for a recording contract.
Fortunately for Audience, their luck started to change. Led Zeppelin had been booked to play at the Lyceum in London in October 1969. They needed a band to open for them. Although Led Zeppelin could’ve had their pick of bands to open for them, Audience got the gig. Their luck was starting to change.
When Audience arrived at the Lyceum, they were knew that the venue would be packed with the great and good of music. There was the possibility that watching, would be someone interested in signing them. So the four members of Audience agreed, tonight, they had to give it their best shot. There could be no regrets after their set.
As Audience took to the stage, they looked out at a sea of bodies. For many of them, Audience were just another unsigned band. By the time they left the Lyceum’s stage, that was about to change.
Unknown to Audience Tony Stratton-Smith was watching. He had just formed a new label, Charisma, and was impressed by Audience. He managed to make his way backstage, where he found the four members of Audience. Tony Stratton-Smith started telling the band how impressed he was by them, and how he wanted to sign them to his new label, Charisma Records. Realising that here was someone who was interested in their music, and believed in them, Audience agreed.
Now signed to Charisma, Audience found themselves signed to the same label as Van Der Graaf Generator and Lindisfarne. Quickly, Audience settled into life at Charisma, as Tony Stratton-Smith made plans for Audience’s sophomore, Friend’s, Friend’s, Friend.
Friend’s Friend’s Friend.
Given that Audience were new to the Charisma label, Tony Stratton-Smith wanted to bring onboard high profile producer to produce their label debut. American producer Shel Talmy was the chosen one.
Previously, Shel Talmy worked with The Kinks, producing All Day and All of the Night, Tired of Waiting for You, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Sunny Afternoon and Waterloo Sunset. The producer had also worked with The Who, producing their 1965 debut album My Generation, and with Roy Harper and Davy Jones who later, would become David Bowie. With such an impressive track record, Shel Talmy looked the perfect producer to transform Audience’s fortunes. They had been working on new material.
For Friend’s Friend’s Friend, the members of Audience had worked on eight songs. Six came from the pen of Howard Werth and Trevor Williams. Ebony Variations was credited to the four members of Audience. Tony Connor and Keith Gemmell cowrote Priestess. Having written eight songs new songs, Audience made their way to Olympic Studios.
At Olympic Studios, the four members of Audience showed producer Shel Talmy their eight new songs. Shel Talmy looked at the new material. Shel Talmy wasn’t impressed. Apart from Belladonna Moonshine, Shel Talmy didn’t like Audience’s new material. He then decided he didn’t want to produce what became Friend’s Friend’s Friend.
Many bands would’ve viewed this as a huge problem. Not Audience. There and then, they made the decision to produce their sophomore album, Friend’s Friend’s Friend. Not at Olympic Studios though.
Instead, the four members of Audience decamped to the familiar surroundings of Morgan Studios. With engineer Mike Bobak in tow, Audience got work. They weren’t complete novices when it came to production. Each of the members of Audience had been members of bands before. This included Lloyd Alexander Real Estate, who had released a single. Members of Audience had also been around studios with other bands, so it wasn’t a new experience. Guided by an experienced engineer like Mike Bobak, Audience felt capable of producing Friend’s Friend’s Friend got to work.
Lead singer Howard Werth, guitar played acoustic guitar and banjo. The rhythm section featured bassist Trevor Williams and drummer Tony Connor. He also played piano, percussion. Keith Gemmell played saxophone and woodwind. Despite never having produced an album before, Audience, guided by Mike Bobak soon had Friend’s Friend’s Friend recorded. All that was left was for Friend’s Friend’s Friend to released.
Audience were hoping to avoid a repeat of their eponymous debut album, when Friend’s Friend’s Friend was released in May 1970. If two consecutive albums flopped, that could prove catastrophic. The worst case scenario was that Audience’s career could be at a crossroads. For a band that had only been together just over a year, that would a disaster. However, Audience had covered all the bases.
Critics discovered that Friend’s Friend’s Friend was a truly eclectic album. There were elements of art rock, country, pop, progressive rock and rock. The mood veered between joyous and witty, to introspective and dark on Friend’s Friend’s Friend. There was something for all musical tastes on Audience’s sophomore album Friend’s Friend’s Friend.
Nothing You Do opened Friend’s Friend’s Friend, and is best described as a fusion of prog rock, folk and classic rock. There’s more than a nod to the Rolling Stones on Nothing You Do. Partly, that’s down to Howard’s mid-Atlantic drawl. He loses this on Belladonna Moonshine, which was released as a single. It has a much more joyous, good time sound. This struck a nerve with record buyers, and resulted in Audience making an appearance on British television show Top Of The Pops. Very different was It Brings A Tear. Wistful and melancholy describes this maudlin mixture of folk, pop, prog rock and rock. Why it wasn’t released as a single, seems strange? One of the highlights of Friend’s Friend’s Friend was The Raid. Not only does it feature Audience in full flight, but features barnstorming perfoemacen from saxophonist Keith Gemmell. It’s a fitting finale to side one of Friends, Friends, Friend.
Side two picks up where side one left off, with Keith’s saxophone driving Right On Their Side along. As Howard delivers lyrics inspired by Enland’s historical past, and tinged with triumph and tragedy, Keith switches between saxophone and flute. He plays a leading role in the song’s success. Ebony Variations was originally inspired by Mozart’s clarinet concerto. It’s very different from the rest of Friends, Friends, Friend. Everything from classical, folk, pop and rock combine, creating a captivating track. The final two tracks on Friends, Friends, Friend were inspired by controversial subjects, mysticism and the occult.
Back in the early seventies, this wasn’t unusual. Many musicians were taking an interest in these matters. Audience were no different. They were reading The Dawn Of Magic, which was written by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. This book influenced the dark, dramatic and otherworldly sound of Priestess and Friends, Friends, Friend which closes Audience’s sophomore album Friends, Friends, Friend.
Although Friends, Friends, Friend wasn’t a hugely successful album, it was a bigger success than their 1970 eponymous debut album. Partly, this was down to Audience’s appearance on Top Of The Pops, where they sung Belladonna Moonshine. Suddenly, a new audience were introduced to Audience’s music. Despite their appearance on what was the biggest music show on British television, it was the live circuit where Audience were most popular.
When Audience headed out on tour to promote Friends, Friends, Friend, they played in front of sell out crowds. It must have been frustrating. If everyone who watched Audience live had bought Friends, Friends, Friend, the album would’ve found its way onto the British charts. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. However, success wasn’t far away for Audience.
Audience released their third album House On The Hill in 1971. It was produced by Gus Dudgeon. Indian Summer was chosen as a single, and reached number seventy-four on the US Billboard 100 charts. Just like so many British bands before them, American audiences discovered Audience first.
The following year, 1972, Audience released their fourth and final album, Lunch. By then, Audience had spent the last three years touring. The band were almost burnt out. After touring with The Faces and Cactus, tensions were running high. Keith Gemmell left Audience, resulting in the band needing a new saxophonist.
Lunch was completed with the help of Bobby Keys and Jim Price, the Rolling Stones brass section. When the Gus Dudgeon produced Lunch was released, it reached number 175 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Lunch became the most successful album of Audience’s career. Sadly, it was also their swan-song.
After four albums and a handful of singles, art rock pioneers, Audience called time on their career. The remaining three members of Audience went their separate ways.
That was the last that anyone heard of Audience until they reformed in 2004. Howard Werth, Keith Gemmell and Trevor Williams played a series of concerts in Germany, Italy, Britain and Canada. By then, somewhat belatedly, Audience’s music was being appreciated and had found a wider audience. For Audience, it was a case of better late than never. Forty years after releasing four albums of eclectic and innovative music between 1969 and 1972, including their cult classic Friends, Friends, Friend their music has found the Audience it deserves.
Cult Classic: Audience- Friend’s, Friend’s, Friend.