Cult Classic: Terry Reid-River.

Music is all Terry Reid has ever known. It’s been his life since he left St Ivo School, in St.Ives Cambridgeshire, in 1965 . By then, it was is if he was destined to become a musician and his breakthrough came when he joined Peter Jay’s Jaywalkers. 

By then, Terry Reid was just sixteen. He had been born in Huntingdon, on 13th November 1949. Growing up, Terry attended St. Ivo School, St.Ives, Cambridgeshire. That was where he joined a local band, The Redbeats.

It was when platting with The Redbeats, that Peter Jay, the drummer from a rival group, Peter and The Jaywalkers first spotted Terry Reid in action. Straight away, he realised he would be the perfect addition to Peter and The Jaywalkers. Peter Jay convinced Terry Reid to join his band, and soon, Terry was a Jaywalker.

Soon, Peter and The Jaywalkers’ star was in the ascendancy, when they were named as the support act for the Rolling Stones, when they played at the Royal Albert Hall. This was where Graham Nash of The Hollies first met Terry Reid.

The two musicians soon became firm friends, and Graham Nash suggested that Peter and The Jaywalkers should sign to the UK division of Columbia Records. Peter and The Jaywalkers didn’t have to think twice, and soon, were signing on the dotted line.

At Columbia Records, Peter and The Jaywalkers worked with producer John Burgess on their debut single, The Hand Don’t Fit the Glove. It was released by Columbia in 1967, and gave the band a minor hit. Unfortunately, by then, Peter and The Jaywalkers had split-up. After this, Terry Reid decided to pursue a solo career.

Fortunately, he come to the attention of producer and music impresario, Mickie Most. He produced Terry Reid’s debut single Better By Far. On its release in 1968, it found favour amongst DJs, who soon, began to play the single on their radio shows.  

That was when Mickie Most decided to take Terry Reid into the studio to record his debut album, Bang Bang, You’re Terry Reid. When it was released later in 1968, it was to widespread critical acclaim. However,  unfortunately the album passed record buyer by. Soon, so did the opportunity of a lifetime.

Terry Reid had come to the attention of Jimmy Page, who had just disbanded The Yarbirds. He was in the process of putting together a new band, The New Yarbirds, and was looking for a vocalist. Jimmy Page had set his sights on Terry Reid, and decided to recruit him for his new band. There was a problem though. 

It turned out that Terry Reid had agreed to tour America with Cream. Terry was the opening act, and as part of the tour, would play the prestigious Miami Pop Festival. Everything was agreed, and Terry was a man of his word. There was no way he could back out at the this late moment. So Terry recommended Robert Plant, a Birmingham based vocalist, as The New Yarbirds to Jimmy Page. Terry’s recommendation, changed musical history. He could’ve been part of one of the most successful rock bands ever, Led Zeppelin. Incredibly, lightning struck twice for Terry Reid.

1969 found Terry Reid’s star in the ascendancy. The American tour and his appearance at the Miami Pop Festival resulted in him becoming popular in America. Terry was also a familiar face in Britain during 1969. He opened for Fleetwood Mac and Jethro Tull, and released his sophomore eponymous album Terry Reid. Although it received positive reviews from critics, the album failed to find an audience. So later in 1969, Terry headed stateside where he opened for the Rolling Stones on their American tour. 

By then, Terry Reid a familiar face in America, and already built up a loyal fan-base. So touring America with the Rolling Stones allowed Terry Reid’s music to be heard by a much wider audience. Night after night, Terry opened for the Rolling Stones as they played sold-out shows coast to coast. The only Rolling Stones concert that Terry Reid didn’t play at, was their biggest and most controversial, the Altamont Music Festival.

Fortunately, Terry Reid wasn’t booked to appear on the bill of the hastily organised Altamont Music Festival. This meant he avoided the bloodshed, chaos and violence. Terry Reid had a lucky escape. However, he might not have been on the Rolling Stones’ tour if things had turned out differently with Deep Purple.

During their 1969 American tour, Deep Purple decided to change direction, and move towards a heavier, rockier sound. Vocalist Rod Evans the other members of Deep Purple though, wasn’t suited to this style. It was decided that Rod Evans would be replaced. He was already contemplating an alternative career as an actor. So Deep Purple went looking for a replacement. The man Richie Blackmore set his sights on was Terry Reid. 

Unfortunately, Terry Reid was still contracted to Mickie Most and had signed an “exclusive recording contract.” Mickie Most had two options. He could let him join Deep Purple, or hold him to his contract. Rather than letting him join Deep Purple, Mickie Most held him to his contract. After all, Mickie Most had plans for Terry Reid.

Musical impresario Mickie Most decided to reinvent Terry Reid, the man who would be known as superlungs as a balladeer. This didn’t go down well with Terry Reid who fell out with Mickie Most in December 1969. Again, Mickie Most reached for the “exclusive recording contract.”

The “exclusive recording contract” that Terry Reid had signed with Mickie Most didn’t expire until 1973. Things had deteriorated to such an extent, that Terry Reid was unwilling to record with Mickie Most and headed to California to take some time out.

Over the next few years, Terry Reid only played a few live shows. This included the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 and later that year, the second Atlanta Pop Festival. Then in 1971, Terry returned to play at the Glastonbury Fayre. Apart from that performance, he kept a low profile as he ran down Mickie Most’s “exclusive recording contract.” By 1973, Terry Reid was free at last.


This left Terry Reid free to sign to Atlantic Records. Soon, he began work on what became River. 

For River, Terry had penned Dean, Things To Try, River and Dream. He cowrote Avenue with John Abercrombie; Live Life with Ray Davies and put lyrics to Miles Davis’ Milestones. These tracks Terry Reid recorded with his own band.

Recording began at Advision Studios, in London, with Eddy Offord producing the River sessions. Eddy Offord who went on to produce Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, was regarded as a perfect fit for Terry Reid. He was no stranger to electric blues, and had produced two albums for Taste, a trio which featured Rory Gallagher. The two albums 1969s Taste and On The Boards had turned out well. So given his track record, surely, the partnership of Eddy Offord and Terry Reid would work out well?

That should’ve been the case. So, with Eddy Offord booked to produce the River sessions, Terry Reid and his band arrived at Advision Studios. He added vocals and guitar during what were  long, drawn-out and frustrating sessions at Advision Studios.

For whatever reason, Terry Reid and his band didn’t hit the ground running. Usually, recording sessions ran smoothly, and weren’t long, drawn-out affairs. The River sessions was a frustrating time, with recording of what was meant to be the River a time-consuming and ultimately fruitless. There was a problem, but nobody seemed to know what? Maybe Eddy Offord was the wrong producer? That’s never became clear. What became clear, is that Terry Reid wasn’t happy with River. He  decided to scrap the album, and head to Los Angeles to rerecord River.

Terry Reid and his band arrived at Wally Helder’s, in Los Angeles. This time around, the band featured drummer Conrad Isidore, bassist Leo Miles and David Lindley on electric guitar, slide guitar and steel guitar. Willie Bobo added percussion on just the one track, River. Engineer Ed Barton acted as a de facto producer. Despite that, Tom Dowd was credited as producing five tracks that made it onto River. Once the sessions were completed at Wally Helder’s in L.A, Terry headed over to Miami, clutching the master tapes.

At Criteria Studios, the final master tapes were assembled. Only two songs produced by Eddy Offord, Dream and Milestones made it onto River. Five Tom Dowd productions made it onto the River, including Dean, Avenue, Things To Try, Live Life and River. These seven tracks became River.

Once River was complete, Terry Reid delivered the completed album to his new label Atlantic Records. They scheduled the release of River for later in 1973. Maybe after two false starts during the Mickie Most years, it would third time lucky for Terry Reid?

That looked like the case when critics heard River. They were hugely impressed by Terry Reid’s comeback album. After four long years, Superlungs was back, with album that married elements of blues rock, folk rock, Latin and rock. It was impressive fusion of styles, with Terry picking up where he left off on Terry.

Critics were won over by what was, without doubt, Terry Reid’s finest hour. As a result, critical acclaim accompanied the release of River. This bode well for River.

When River was released in 1973, it was well received by critics. Many critics preferred the looser sound of River. They saw River as Terry and his band were jamming and experimenting, seeing where the tracks took them. This was very different to his first two albums. Sadly, River wasn’t a commercial success. It stalled at just number 172 in the US Billboard 200 charts. For Terry Reid, this was hugely disappointing. Signed to Atlantic Records and with Tom Dowd producing  River, this could’ve and should’ve been the start of the rise and rise of Terry Reid. Since the release of River in 1973, it’s always been an underrated album.

Opening River is Dean where  guitar is panned right and Terry Reid scats and a crystalline guitar is panned left and provides a contrast to the other guitar. In the middle sits the worldweary, lived-in vocal. Providing the heartbeat are the rhythm section. Conrad Isidore drums and Leo Miles’ bass become one as the vocal continues to  grows in power and emotion becoming needy. Flanking the vocals are the guitars which are the perfect foil for each other and of a vocal powerhouse from th man they call superlungs.

The looser sound is apparent again on Avenue. It’s as if Terry Reid and his small band are just jamming and in search of ideas. It’s a case of seeing where the arrangement leads and this works. As they unleash searing, blistering licks the rhythm section drive the arrangement. Then all of a sudden, Terry Reid seems all in. His vocal sounds quite different to his two previous albums. It’s as if he’s lived a lot since then. Guitars scream and riff and cymbals constantly crash adding an element of drama to the whiskey soaked vocal. All the time, Terry Reid and his band push boundaries and fuse musical genres. Seamlessly rock, blues and even Southern Rock combine on this Avenue.

As Things To Try unfolds, Terry Reid and his band get to work. A steel and slide guitar are panned left as a  probing bass and acoustic guitar are panned right. Thunderous drums pound and sometimes, flamboyant drum rolls punctuate the arrangement. The vocal is gravelly and raspy and it’s hard to believe Terry was only twenty-four when he recorded River. Sometimes, his lyrics are akin to a stream of consciousness. It’s as they’re constantly evolving with each take. Behind him, his crack band of musicians who are in full flow and relish the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents on this genre-melting track where they’re at the peak of their powers. This is without doubt one of River’s highlights.

An acoustic guitar is strummed urgently on Live Life before percussion is added by Willie Bobo and a country-tinged guitar is panned left. The band are at their tightest and get straight down to business and the track just flows. Terry Reid’s vocal veers between tender to powerful and impassioned and sometimes, he sounds like Robert Plant. When his vocal drops out, the band combine country-rock, Southern Rock and blues. They even indulge in a mini jam, before the vocal returns. From there the arrangement veers between dramatic to flowing and briefly, takes on a West Coast sound, as Terry’s vocal powerhouse drifts in and out.

River has a much more understated, laid-back sound and melancholy describes the arrangement. It’s just crystalline guitars and a shuffling rhythm section that combine before a tender, thoughtful vocal enters. This shows another side to Terry Reid. His vocal is clearer as he delivers some of his finest lyrics on River. The arrangement is a fusion of jazz, folk and the West Coast sound as he dawns the role of balladeer. It’s a role that suits him and is the finest track on River.

The last two tracks feature just Terry and his trusty acoustic guitar. Dream features a wistful Terry Reid. Confusion, doubt and emotion fill his vocal. So does hurt. Later, his vocal grows in power. It’s as if he’s unleashing the pain he feels. This is apparent in the way he plays the guitar. He almost pounds the strings as he delivers a soul-baring vocal.

Milestones closes River. Again, it’s just Terry and his acoustic guitar and his finger flit up and down the fretboard. He seems unsure and the microphone picks up him breathing as he thinks about the direction the track is heading. Soon, he whistles and later, scats. It’s as if he’s trying to find an in. Eventually, his tender vocal pensive vocal enters. Quickly, it grows in power as hurt and pain is omnipresent. The playing and singing proves cathartic as he vents his feelings, hurt and pain. His vocal becomes a hurt-filled wail and in the midst of this cathartic outpouring and he plays a couple of wrong notes. This doesn’t seem to matter as it’s a breathtaking vocal that oozes emotion, hurt and pain it’s a potent and powerful way to close River.

Sadly, commercial success eluded River and Terry Reid continued to be one of music’s best kept secrets. Following the commercial failure of River, Atlantic Records cut their losses and he left the label.

By the time that Terry Reid released his eponymous sophomore album music had changed. Progressive rock, heavy metal, the West Coast Sound, folk and Southern Rock were popular but Terry Reid a true musical alchemist went his own way on River.

River sees Terry Reid combining elements of blues, rock, folk, jazz, the West Coast Sound and Southern Rock. Some influences are stronger than others as he and his band jam their way through River. It has a much looser sound than his two previous albums. That’s no surprise. 

During he recording of River, he and his band enjoyed lengthy jam sessions. It was a case of plug in and hit record. They played and saw where the track headed and that is apparent on River. Sometimes, it’s as if Terry and his band see where the track is heading and eventually they find an in. From there, a song takes shape. Especially on the first four tracks.

The first four tracks feature Terry Reid at his hard rocking best and he and the band feed off each other and drive each other on. Although he was only twenty-four, he was already an experienced bandleader  who had had talented musicians at his side as he lays down four explosive tracks. It quickly becomes apparent why Jimmy Page thought Terry Reid would’ve be the perfect fit for The New Yarbirds and  sometimes, on River he  sounds like Robert Plant. That’s until the last three tracks on River.

River is an album where we hear both sides of Terry Reid. The three final songs on River, feature a very different side to Terry Reid as he’s transformed into a balladeer and lays bare his soul on the three tracks. Dream and Milestones feature Terry and an acoustic guitar. It’s akin to an outpouring of hurt, pain and emotion. These tracks are amongst the highlights of River. There’s an element of irony in this as Mickie Most thought that Terry Reid had a future as a balladeer. This was something he resisted. 

Terry Reid balladeer was very different to what he envisaged for his future. He had different ideas what the future held for him. That’s what lead to the split with Mickie Most. On River,  Terry Reid has his cake and eats it  as he showcases his hard rocking side on the first four tracks and is transformed into a balladeer of the final three tracks. That’s why River is such a compelling album.

It provides an insight to Terry Reid as he matured as a singer, songwriter and musician. He was twenty-four when he released River  in 1973. His previous album Terry Reid, had been released in 1969, when he was just twenty. Much had happened in the previous four years. This included the dispute with Mickie Most. During that period, Terry Reid didn’t play many concerts but when he did, they were high profile dates, including the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival, the 1970 Atlanta II Pop Festival and the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre. This meant people never forgot Terry Reid. Sadly, when Terry Reid returned in 1973, his third album wasn’t a commercial success.

Released in 1973, River stalled at number 172 in the US Billboard 200 charts. River which showed the two sides of Terry Reid didn’t even match the success of his two previous albums. Terry must have rued his decision to turn down the opportunity to join Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. That was Terry Reid’s chance to become a member of rock royalty. He certainly had the talent. Sadly, Terry didn’t get the breaks. 

While Terry Reid enjoyed a successful career, he never quite fulfilled reached the heights he could’ve and should’ve. Things could’ve been very different. However, then he would never have recorded River, which shows the two sides of Terry Reid. 

Cult Classic: Terry Reid-River.



  1. Ladyinpink

    Love reading about Altamont. Gram Parsons is one of my personal favorites. This is where he first met the Stones

    • If you like Gram Parsons David N.Meyer’s biography Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music is well worth reading. It tells about meeting the Stones, the Exile On Main Street sessions and recording his two classic albums.

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